Language, being and the business of sustainability

At the heart of all sustainability challenges is the core system requiring an upgrade – the human system.   “Business”, “the economy”, “the supply chain” etc. are ultimately processes where human beings act and interact in social systems.business_sustainability

Understanding HOW humans go about the process of organising themselves as individuals and in groups (their ontology)  is critical to sustainability at all levels – from personal effectiveness to leading edge regenerative business practice.

The fundamental game is human behaviour

Without an understanding of and acceptance of the realities of human beings and human systems, all the good intent and technological know-how we have accumulated will have limited success.

Without an awareness of the physiology, neurobiology and language structures that create our beliefs and limit our possibilities, how can we aspire to effectively and elegantly implement regenerative systems?

Survey the last 40 years of sustainability thinking and you will find that we have all the answers we need to develop profitable regenerative business models that build community resilience and support ecosystem regeneration.  The challenge isn’t in the knowing – it’s in the doing!

Skill up in human systems

There’s an increasing recognition of the importance of systems thinking in developing sustainable solutions – stepping up from the narrow process specialisations of the 20th century to optimise systems efficiencies.

ALL our systems are human systems – robust, self-conserving human systems.  Learning how they work and developing the skills to transform them is the real game of sustainability.

It doesn’t take a Masters in Psychology or Organisational Development to do this. There are many models and tools now available and accessible.  They’ve developed from many sources including: ontology, linguistics, neurobiology, marketing, psychology and philosophy.  They’ve been developed to an advanced level and are straightforward to learn and apply.

Download our reading list for our favourites…

Give up on ‘they should’

Building designers have given up on people being perfect – with automatic doors, sensor lights and sensor taps.  They build systems that take human imperfection for granted. The resource efficiency created by one switched-on designer vastly outweighs any single, feasible consumer action.

While we play the ‘should game’ – government should, consumers shouldn’t, business should – we trap ourselves in a fog of 20th century assumptions about human cognition and human rationality that have been disproven by 21st century neuroscience research.  (We strongly recommend Gregory Berns’ extremely readable book “Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently”.)

“Business needs to see the numbers” is just one of the powerful myths that we’ve inherited.  Businesses are run by rationalising human beings responding to their own core needs and the norms of the social system they are embedded within.

Could you be a regenerative economy change-maker?

Fundamental shifts in community and business sustainability occur when switched-on change-makers take on the reality of the human systems they want to change.  They get results from smart thinking and systems-based strategies, developing win/win/win regenerative solutions. From InterfaceFLOR to the Borough of Woking, effective engagement with human systems and motivations produces big payoffs.

Are you ready to take on the challenge of being the change you want to see in the world? Becoming a proactive, positive, engaging achiever working on constructive solutions that allow for the worst as well as the best in human beings?

If you’re not getting the results you want, maybe it’s time to take a break from “pushing” and explore the latest in practical, straightforward know-how about innovation delivery in our one-to-one program Conversation Skills for Change Makers.

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About Leigh


Leigh is the principal of the business innovation practice Balance3 and her clients have included corporations such as Amcor, National Foods, Dair, SPC Ardmona, Kobelco, Corporate Express and New Balance as well as a range of smaller businesses and individual clients.