Thursday, July 17, 2008

Environmental optimism

If you've read my blog for a while, you may you wonder: why do I spend so much time talking about environmental issues on a business blog?

The answer is simple: business operates in the environment, and we have no choice in the matter. The environment seems poised to make a few changes right now. That seems fair; it's apparently doing it largely in response to changes we've made. In times of transition, there are usually economic winners and losers. We've seen that building inefficient SUVs is not a winning strategy now (or, presumably, ever again); I want to help you (and me) think about the areas in which we can win.

Which brings me to my main point: optimism. Sometimes I post items that could seem depressing; I think my previous posting fits that description.

There are two steps to change. The first involves becoming motivated, and the second involves doing something. Facing up to the facts, as best we know them, is arguably the first thing we have to do. As we continue to get new data (even as the fundamental message hasn't changed in a while), I think it's important to keep looking at the science so we base our actions on the best insights we have.

I happened to see Great Read! Important Read! in Tom Peters' dispatches from the new world of work. While I haven't read Amanda Ripley's The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why, the subject of his post, yet, I think the concept meshes well with my idea that we are the ones who can make a difference. We can do it through business, we can do it personally, and we can do it through our governments. I think it's important to push forward on all three dimensions and not to let difficulties in one of those three areas prevent us from making progress in the remaining ones.

Is that a call to become dour prophets of doom? I sincerely hope not. While I think we have to make changes soon, I think we can and should do it with cheer, energy, and a spirit of optimistic entrepreneurialism. That's one of the things I liked about teaching at Bainbridge Graduate Institute: everyone there had an upbeat, infectious approach to life, to business, to social justice, and to the environment. That's one of the things I like about Bernie DeKoven's Junkyard Sports: he takes trash that no one wants and turns it into the stuff of play. That's one of the things I like about the growing interest in wind power, photovoltaic arrays, and high-efficiency transportation: the business system is responding to a real need. I'll let you have fun and success finding (or, better, creating) more examples.

What do you think?

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2 Comments:

Blogger Glen Hiemstra said...

Bill, I spoke a week ago to transportation officials, laying out what I believe is the real situation with oil and with the environment, which means that transportation must change in the next decade and a-half.

Afterward, though people liked the speech, I was told they were "depressed."

Today, speaking with a director of the Cambridge U. program on business and environment, I mentioned this, and got a nice lesson. Suppose you were told you were sick and needed to do something. First reaction - of course you would be depressed. Options? Pretend there is nothing wrong. Give up. Or get on with treatment in hopes it will work. Which do you choose?

17 July, 2008 18:59  
Blogger Bill Harris said...

Glen, thanks for stopping by.

I won't answer your question directly; hopefully it's obvious which we should do. In that light, I've gotten some benefit from Dale Emery's article on the Satir change model.

I also like Rosabeth Moss Kanter's book Confidence: How Winning Streaks and Losing Streaks Begin and End in that respect. She makes the point that knowing the real situation is the first step, and there are steps that follow which we need to be successful.

17 July, 2008 22:04  

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