I'm still working my way through The Essential Drucker and I'll be writing up a piece on the substantial chapter on Social Responsibility of Business in the next week or two. But in the meantime I couldn't help see the strong  parallels between Drucker's chapter on communications and my own Green Jujitsu approach to engaging people in sustainability.

At its most powerful, communication brings about "conversion", that is, a change of personality, of values, of beliefs, aspirations. But this is a rare, existential event, and one against which the basic psychological forces of every human being are strongly organised.

In other words, are you as great an orator as Martin Luther King Jr? Me neither, so let's not try and convert people to the green movement as we will almost certainly fail.

The only person I know of who has 'converted' people to green in numbers was Al Gore with his presentations and film An Inconvenient Truth, but again few of us can muster the same level of gravitas as a man we know was once the next President of the United States and have the resources to put together such a powerful show. And despite all that effort, he has probably been equalled in impact by the Fox News/Tea Party brigade railing against him.

So, what can we do instead? Drucker reaches back to the Classics:

Socrates points out that one has to talk to people in terms of their own experience, that is, that one has to use carpenters' metaphors when talking to carpenters, and so on.

This is the essence of Green Jujitsu. Instead of trying to convert people to the cause, you translate the cause into a form which the target audience can relate to. Some people try to do this by relating sustainability to familiar domestic situations like  putting out the recycling or grumbling at the kids for leaving lights on, but I find that patronising and tangential.

I prefer to appeal to people's professional identity as it is professional behaviour your are trying to change. This means framing sustainability as an engineering problem for engineers, as an economic issue for economists, as a leadership issue for senior executives etc. I must admit that I have never knowingly run an engagement session for carpenters, but it can only be a matter of time!


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