In her classic paper “Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System”, Donella Meadows pointed out that one of the most powerful places to change a system is in how it thinks about itself (“the paradigm out of which the system arises”).
Environment = Opportunity
We have an exciting new paradigm – the result of 30+ years of creative R&D – that makes sustainability “The biggest opportunity since the invention of money” (Alan AtKisson).– The tools for delivering this new design thinking are showing up under a range of new names – The Blue Economy, The Circular Economy, Industrial Ecology and the Regenerative Economy.
Where best to install “Opportunity Thinking”?
So what changed their heads? It turns out that (like all humans) it was challenges from those they respected and cared for :
- Ray Anderson of Interface, who had to address his senior team in an internal sustainability working party set up in response to customer demand. (Told in “Business Lessons from a Radical Industrialist”)
- Darren Pearson of Diversified Property Group, who was challenged by a business mentor and his small daughter (who stopped speaking to him because he was cutting down the beautiful trees on his developments)
Shift your thinking on where to influence
Despite these results, a lot of sustainability thinking is stuck in 20th century paradigms of how change happens. Again and again you will read demands for action aimed at:
- “the Government” (usually state and national, sometimes global)
- end consumers of products or services
Neither of these groups are powerful in changing the design of the products and services we consume. (Not just our opinion, but also backed up by Paul Hawken in his work on Project Drawdown rel=”nofollow”.)
Your new mission: shifting an entrepreneur’s head
A much more powerful place to influence is the engineers, architects and designers – and the people who influence them are their bosses. Create the shift in an entrepreneur’s head to “the biggest opportunity since the invention of money” and you’ll make a serious difference.
Ray Anderson’s global corporation Interface has stayed profitable and viable, and has moved beyond designing carpet tiles made from their competitors’ used product to reclaiming nylon fishing net from the Pacific Islands.
Once you hook a smart designer or an entrepreneurial CEO into the elegance, efficiency and opportunity of regenerative thinking through the Circular Economy, Industrial Ecology or Blue Economy, you’re on a regenerative business winner.