Some people ask me why the radical change from working on spiritual/value-based leadership at Spirit in Business to sustainable development and innovation. My answer has been that there’s no fundamental change at all! They are strongly inter-related.
System innovations are commonly related to products and processes we do, but the real innovation in a system comes when we redefine the way we relate those things more than creating them. For instance, understanding ourselves as part of the natural system and how we interrelate is key to personally exploring new grounds and a good move towards a whole system innovation.
Most people talking about sustainability issues and actions are concerned about time and urgency. Those are words that keep flying around the room together with explicit declarations of not really caring about the motivation behind people’s action towards sustainability, as long as some action is made.
Although it’s important to start acting and different people are motivated for different reasons at different times, the base of a real system shift comes from sub-systems subscribing to a new way of thinking, a way of being what we are – part of a larger natural system.
This implies that motivation is very important. No shift can come from a fear-based leadership, where actions are born from forecasting your personal or societal situation in the future as being undermined. Again that does not mean that we shouldn’t start from what we have, but we definitely do not need to use an apocalyptic discourse to make sustainability an issue. Even if the first actions taken by a fear-based leader seems to be in the right direction, as soon as some other greater (eventually short-term) fear comes along, actions will change accordingly and, sincerely, we can’t complain, since that’s what we ask for the person in terms of personal commitment.
We should look at sustainable development as tree where we first will collect the low-hanging fruits, specially because it’s nice to see your investment returns. This can be made by sitting down on a picnic and taking the apple over your head, or by eating that apple while building a nice ladder to climb higher. It’s not only about moving on the right direction today, it is about system change, about a well design ladder to get the fruits hanged up there.
So sustainable development and innovation are both intrinsically connected to the leadership that is emerging, setting up a new paradigm.