In this post I’ve translated 10 tips for sustainable development as written down by Caroline Van Leenders for transitionmanagement.
The 10 tips are meant for everyone who wants to start actions to make this world a more sustainable place.
1) Live in parallel worlds
Innovations happen in different places, on different levels and in different domains and sectors. In real life and on the internet, in the minds and hearts of different people.
To live sustainable is to understand these different levels and living in these parallel worlds.
2) Start underground
Starting small… It may appear counterproductive to start underground when you want to have an impact. We want to make big structures, make everyone aware of our actions, our missions,…
Don’t! Start underground and stay there until you’re strong enough. The system has the tendency to counter new things. skeptics will unite and people who profit from the current way of business will lobby against you.
Fly under the radar, give yourself a insignificant name (community or practice instead of Task-force or ETB). You should also start with a small budget in order to attract the right people.
Once you’ve created a strong base (and your name gets passed word of mouth) it’s time to reveal yourself.
3) Eyes on the future, feet on the ground
Sustainability requires system innovations, who need time. In the end sustainable innovation is all about updating existing products, processes, areas or structures.
This means you need a vision towards the future. A vision is a longing of people for something about to unfold. A good vision is able to unite people. It creates a team spirit and commitment far greater than individual ego’s.
Once the long term goals are defined you have to keep the team focussed by combining short term successes with the longing for the long term vision.
4) Unite and connect
Sustainable development can only be achieved by working together. By bringing different worlds together, new solutions will appear. The most common way to do this is by combining NGOs with the business world. This way the 3 P’s (Planet, People, Profit) are brought together fairly easy.
A new (and very important) trend is bringing the usergroup into the design process. More than ever it is important to define WHY you’re doing WHAT you’re doing and for WHO you’re doing it.
The synergy of a multidisciplinary team will bring you projects to a much higher level (nothing is accomplished alone).
5) Let go of ideas – From copyrights to open source
Sharing is the next big thing. Almost everyone knows this except the big businesses. By sharing everything you do you’ll generate a public far greater than ever before.
The collective brain is far more interesting than the narrow mind of just 1 specialist. Use this collective brain. Blogs, StumbleUpon, Twitter, Facebook,… the ways of connecting with the world nowadays are immense.
6) Use the procedures
Let’s talk about bureaucracy. Filling in all the right forms, waiting weeks or months for replies, more stuff to send back,… . Use those procedures, no matter how tedious they are. By using the rules you will be able to (fairly easy) avoid criticism.
Basically this is Aikido. Instead of fighting a big, powerfull (time consuming) system you use its power. Use the rules, surprise skeptics and convince them not by fighting them but by telling they’re right.
7) Use what exists
Because it’s a waste of money to invest in stuff that already exists. Open source platforms (like this blog) are free and often as good as custom made, expensive alternatives
8 ) Turn it around
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”
– Albert Einstein
Look at a problem from different angles, turn it around, upside down and inside out. By looking at problems as opportunities you will notice tons of new ideas and solutions. One of my favorite ways of looking at stuff differently is by asking nature (asknature.org).
9) Different layers of society
Don’t focus on just one kind of person. Innovation is everywhere, therefore you should encourage it everywhere.
If you’re able to communicate effectively with the different layers of society, innovations will also spread faster. You should not focus on working only bottom-up or top-down. If you have motivated people in every layer of a company, there will be more engagement from everyone.
10) Give it time!
Patience is a virtue. Looking at the state of the world it is normal you want to act fast. But as stated before, system innovations need time. If you want to rush things people might feel threatened. Change is a good but uncomfortable thing, make sure people have time to adapt to new stuff.
As far as the state of the world is concerned, there’s still time to make things right. The only time we don’t have is time to waste.