How to stretch people on Sustainability
As I write this, a team of crack builders are busy constructing the new Terra Infirma Towers (OK, it’s an extension on our house with a new home office, but let me dream). Our neighbours are, touch wood, remarkably happy with the size and shape of the new build, but it wasn’t always that way. The initial plan was much more obtrusive (I was a bit uneasy about it myself), and after some complaints, we reigned in our ambitions and everyone was happy.
I sometimes muse on what would have happened if we had presented the current plans first – would our neighbours have liked the proposal as much if it had come at them cold? Psychologists such as Daniel Kahneman suggest not: we tend to assess things relative to what we know, rather than in absolute terms.
One of my Mastermind Group members says he deliberately presents people with two options on any Sustainability issue – an incredibly ambitious ‘nuclear option’ and a more modest one which he would be happy with. Most tend to plump for the latter, but if he gets the former or in between, he’s delighted. If he didn’t present options, then people would compare what he was proposing with ‘do nothing’ rather than comparing ‘ambitious’ with ‘very ambitious’. At best his proposal would get diluted, or ignored.
So if you want to be ambitious on Sustainability, always go ‘over’ rather than ‘under’ and present what you want as a compromise issue. Try it!