Fear of Failure: Soccer & Sustainability
Another World Cup, another round of disappointment, anger and dismay as a group of individually talented English players fail to play to their potential and crash out. As a non-Englishman living in England, my diagnosis is that the England team have always feared losing too much to play properly and then, paradoxically, they do lose. No-one ever seems to want the ball and, when they get it, they seem desperate to offload it asap, often in a square pass to a team-mate who is in a similar or worse position. All too often, those passes are hit without conviction and fall short, giving the opposition a clear run at goal.
Of course, fear of failure pervades much human endeavour. One of the key challenges in sustainability is dragging organisations away from the comfort blanket of ‘business as usual’. Despite what they claim in their glossy corporate reports, few businesses are truly innovative when it comes to tackling their environmental performance. Going back to our football analogy, instead of firing long, raking passes into space on the wings to give their side forward momentum (as the German team did so beautifully yesterday), they knock the ball back and forward in a congested midfield until they lose it. Business as usual may feel safe, but as BP are finding out just at the minute, it eventually becomes a liability.
Within organisations, it is really hard to drag people away from what they know – people keep doing what they have been doing for decades, many manufacturing processes haven’t changed fundamentally in a century and we get the same old same old. What we need of course, is a whole raft of disruptive innovation – approaches that redefine the way we do business or even live. Apple’s iPad could have been a complete flop – it was an innovative product, fulfilling needs people didn’t know they had, but Steve Jobs and his team of wizards are bold, talented and confident enough to make it work.
Are there businesses out there that will step up to the plate on sustainability, providing us with clean energy, new ways of working, new ways of flourishing within natural limits? Yes there are, and, without fear of failure, they will be the winners.