On sustainability, are you running with the herd or swimming against the tide?
Humans are herd animals. You can see this in every political scandal, such as the current antisemitism row in the Labour Party, where otherwise intelligent people will defend indefensible behaviour by a colleague – behaviour which they would condemn vociferously from anybody outside their clique. This herd instinct is a natural one – in prehistoric times, sticking together no matter what kept our forebears alive and we wouldn’t be around if they hadn’t.
In modern organisations, however, this instinct manifests itself as what I call institutional inertia – and it can make the life of the change agent very difficult not least for sustainability practitioners. We often feel we are (swapping metaphors mid-blog) swimming against the tide, slowly exhausting ourselves until we get swept along with the rest.
However, as every schoolchild will tell you, if you get caught by a tide, you shouldn’t swim against it, but at 90° until the combination of the tide and your efforts get you to a point of safety. This is the thinking behind my Green Jujitsu approach to employee engagement – don’t fight the current culture, but find a way to work with it to get where you want to go.