Think about who was behind the development, construction and commericalisation of :
Who drove the design and delivery work that made it a desirable consumer product?
The systems that deliver the products and services we use every day go back centuries. Their environmental impacts were multiplied and magnified by the Industrial Revolution. Then they were further accelerated through the 20th century.
Their primary problem is that they are fundamentally 1-way, mine/make/use/dump designs. Making them "more efficient" is like slowing down the speed of the car you're driving over a cliff.
To survive, you actually need to change direction. You need smarter, fairer safer systems - circular, renewable systems that restore and regenerate BY DESIGN. You need to change whole industry mindsets.
Industrial innovation at scale isn't typically delivered by democratic national governments.
Western democratic governments aren't "in charge" of the design of industry. They can set policies and - to a certain extent - regulate what business does.
Who is the primary force in designing, building and delivering the majority of products and services you consume every day?
Who directly briefs the engineers , designers and technologists who work out how to provide us with transport, clothes, energy and communications?
Research and development may be done in laboratories and think tanks using government funding . However, scaling a product or service for a national or global market is primarily done by canny business innovators.
These innovators are at all levels. They can be an entrepreneurial head of a global manufacturing corporation; the owner of a family construction business; or a collective of citizen entrepreneurs delivering a renewable energy coop.
It's surprising how few climate "experts" seem to know this - but we do. According to one analysis, simply by scaling 80 existing, commercial, no-government-required solutions we could be carbon negative by 2050.
This is what Paul Hawken found when he was preparing to release the first Drawdown report on reversing global warming in 2017:
“While we were finishing the book I spoke with three of the best-known international climate change experts—professors and authors who have been leading this field for the past 25-30 years. I asked them to write down their top 5 solutions for global warming. It took them a long time.
Moreover: They were all wrong. Their top solutions are not the top solutions according to the data of the leading institutions as we have researched those.
Here’s my point: We are 40 years into global warming. It is the most serious problem humanity has ever faced. We have created it and the authorities in the field cannot name the top-5 solutions. That’s an astonishing anthropological fact. There is no plan…” (emphasis added)Paul Hawken in The Optimist Daily
The problem experts don't know the answers. If they did they may still not have the supply chain smarts to turn good technology into great products and services.
It seems likely that the most powerful place you could campaign for climate action is inside an entrepreneur's head.
You can still march on climate strikes.
You can still use your vote to send a political message.
You can still reduce your meat intake and your car miles.
And when you've done those things you can do more!
You can learn about the existing, actionable solutions that are being collected under titles like Circular Economy and Regenerative Business.
AND you can do more than protest, vote and eat more veggies - you can take the best solutions to work and use them to build your career (or business)!
Find out more at my sister website Balance3.
"A bad system will beat a good person every time."W. Edwards Deming, pioneer of continuous improvement
One of the reasons that our Inconvenient Species is so slow to respond to global warming has to do with the power of the systems we live and work within.
20th century thinking about human behaviour considered individuals as rational, consistent and relatively unchanging.
21st century thinking acknowledges that - overall - humans are heavily social creatures evolved to operate in groups.
Most of us, most of the time want to look good and not look bad - because we experience rejection in the pain centres of our brains.
(Myers-Briggs suggests at least 75% and Diffusion of Innovation suggests 85%)
This isn't just a hypothesis - it has been backed up by substantial and substantive neuropsychology research.
It also isn't "conniving" or "cowardly" - the physiology of our perception in group situations is neurologically wired to peer behaviour.
Outside of the research lab, this need further backed up by investigations into institutional abuse of children, the disabled and the elderly.
As Kate Raworth wrote recently in The Doughnut Economy, humans are more like octopus, with their behaviours and opinions changing to match their social settings.
Thanks to our neurodiversity we have a sprinkling of "under/non/anti social" individuals in our species - enough to see the world differently and design new solutions.
We have always had weirdos exploring "the whichness of the why" - from the flinty innovators who chipped the first stone spearheads to the 19th century's top-hatted balloon pioneers and to the 21st century's first biomimicry practitioners.
But while they can be world-changers, they are in the minority. Most of the people, most of the time, are heavily influenced by their immediate social contexts.
Einstein is said to have defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and expecting different results".
What do you do differently when you know that the majority of the human race meets their social needs FIRST most of the time?
In updating his initial work on influencing, Cialdini added a 7th principle of persuasion - Unity.
What creates most influence for the most people is being a tribe member.
"Sending out a message" isn't enough.
Overall, blame and guilt do great harm - they create resistance and denial in their targets as well as victim-hood in their user.
All too often, we aim them at the person in front of us - NOT the person in power.
Remeber how, in the early days of COVID-19, retail workers were attacked for situations totally outside their control?
Use the insights of Diffusion of Innovation - and especially of Crossing The Chasm
Aim to win over a powerful, innovative member of the Early Majority - then let their testimony work for you. A (gradually) increasing number of campaigners know the names "Ray Anderson" and "Interface" - but few have heard of Jim Hartzfeld.
Identify a need that is immediate and pressing. Find the most sustainable solution. Deliver your solution to that niche.
You never change things by fighting the existing reality.- Richard Buckminster Fuller
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.
Start with the hypothesis that "the system is broken". Then you can work to understand and change the system.
Way too many environmental campaigns have been all about symptoms. It's understandable, human - and horrendously incomplete.
Yes, if someone is bleeding to death you apply a tourniquet. But then you look deeper. Bandaging a compound fracture without setting the bones and cleaning the wound is a recipe for gangrene, amputation and death.
Skill up in Systems Thinking and Human Behaviour - and apply them to delivering new systems that make the old ones obsolete.
Some starting points that I like are:
We're not in an environmental mess because we don't have better, smarter, safer options.
We've been building technology solutions for over a century. Solar panels have been around since the 1880s and EVs were already on the market in the early 1900s.
Powerful systems solutions and smarter implementation practices have been developing for decades - at least since the publication of The Limits to Growth in 1972.
The underlying reason we're in an environmental mess is that the self-protecting human systems we call “business” and “the economy” have been stuck in 19th century design thinking for way too long.
The same evolutionary biological forces that make mature forests stable ecosystems also impact human behaviour.
We don’t have time to upgrade the global human psyche.
And we don't have to.
Instead, if we leverage the leading edge of the expanding “soft tech” revolution, we can make the improvements we need to make with the human race we currently have.
Following quietly behind the Information Revolution is a whole new world of human understanding. Some examples include:
When we acknowledge what the human race is (and especially what it ISN'T) - then we can get on with the job, applying the wealth of solutions we already have.
It's time to take a good dose of Radical Acceptance, then get to work applying the best solutions from fields as disparate as Systems Thinking and Generative Innovation.
Within multiple disciplines - old and new - the tools exist that can help us make the human systems changes that will regenerate the ecosystems we need to survive.
You win anyway, regardless of how the future develops.
The skills that will shift us more rapidly to a smarter, safer, fairer Regenerative Economy will also enhance your relationships, your career and your working life.
Because the overall ability to get things done in human groups will help you thrive in any environment - from corporate jungle to rural outpost.
I've been building a library of resources on both Regenerative Business solutions and Innovation Delivery skills for years, and now I'm building this blog - An Inconvenient Species - to explore the human in the global warming equation further.
If you'd like to be part of making a world where our Inconvenient Species thrives along with the rest of nature, then sign up for updates to get ideas in your inbox.
Talking TO someone is just so much better than staring at myself in a video screen. (Great change from writing, too). When they ask real questions too – so I have a better sense of what interests THEM and what THEY want to know about – it's even more fun.
It’s much easier to explain what you do / why you do it in an audio recording where you're talking TO someone – especially with a good listener like Mark Spencer of Climactic.fm His questions get me out of my habitual patterns, reminding me what a crucial communications skill LISTENING is.
I sat down to talk with Mark about "the how of the how" of reversing global warming - getting smarter at innovating the human systems that underpin the delivery of the products and services we use every day.
Despite what 20th century thinkers will tell you, global warming is something we can all act on. Our individual actions compound into worthwhile results when they’re based on good information – especially when we multiply them with skilled innovation delivery.