Getting into a Sustainability Mindset
To act without knowing why; to do things as they have always been done, without asking why; to engage in an activity all one’s life without really understanding what it is about and how it relates to other things – this is to be one of the crowd.
Meng Tzu aka Mencius 379-289 BC
What Mencius (the most famous interpreter of Confucius) was getting at is our innate tendency to do what we have always done and/or what everybody else does. This is the key barrier to sustainability and why ‘business as usual’ has such inertia.
The green movement has its own blinkers as well, and its inability/refusal to see the world through the eyes of the person in the street is a key barrier to it reaching its own objectives.
So how do we broaden our minds to overcome these forms of inertia? Here’s some ideas that work for me:
- Read everything and anything about change – many of the most influential books on my shelves eg Nudge, Switch, have little to do with sustainability and everything to do with psychology. I’m currently reading Thinking Fast & Slow by Daniel Kahneman;
- Every book you read, seek out the counter argument, if any, and consider the arguments;
- Do this with the news too – if you read the Guardian, then scan the Telegraph too, or vice versa;
- If a statistic seems to good/bad to be true, seek out the raw data – journalists, campaigners and activists are no strangers to cherry-picking;
- Learn to filter out dogmatic views, green or anti-green (reading James Delingpole is just a waste of vital seconds of your life, some green drivel is just the same);
- Train yourself to always ask Why? Use the Toddler Test – ask Why? 5 times and you’ll get to the true reason;
- Challenge people to solve problems – if they get the kudos for the ‘win’, it seriously breaks down the mental barriers to success;
- Interact with others – particularly those who challenge your assumptions. My Corporate Sustainability Mastermind Group is based on interaction, not one-to-many teaching;
- Set stretch targets – incremental targets encourage incremental thinking, stretch targets make you raise your sights;
- Be an intelligent contrarian – if someone blithely parrots received wisdom, gently challenge them;
- Choose your words carefully – don’t close down options before they’ve been explored;
- Allow people to be creative – workshops are much more powerful than meetings.
That should be enough to be getting on with, but if you have any more, add them to the comments below: