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Change Agents?

February 24, 2012

The MBA Sustainability Bootcamp with The Natural Step engaged the 25+ MBAs from across Canada with the question, “How have you been a change agent”?  I was lucky enough to join a group that included Bob Willard, author of The Sustainability Advantage, and  others who were willing to talk about the philosophical basis of sustainability motivation — or, possibly, demotivation.  During the conversation, I plotted our ideas on a flip chart. Two levels emerged:  1.Philosophy/motivation and 2. Actions.  In order for motivation to transform into ideas, we suggested that motivation had to pass through an imaginary barrier.  Sometimes, this was permeable and let the ideas bloom from its roots, and sometimes, it was impermeable and blocked those ideas.  We also started asking some big questions, such as, “Are unsustainable systems the result of not knowing any better”?, and “Do we do what we do out of habit, and can we change”?

The key seemed to be systems thinking.  If we can step back and look at the big picture and stop focusing on small parts, we may do a better job of seeing how things work and where we are interfering with its efficient action.  The pictogram below is a reproduction of our flip chart doodles. (NOTE:  I am NOT a professional artist!)

Change Agent

If the roots of an idea passed the barrier, it grew into a vine that bloomed into ideas.  Some of the ways we felt we had been change agents are noted here, like creating green teams in our organizations, writing books on sustainability (The Sustainability Advantage by Bob, and CSR and Ethics in the meetings and events industry co-authored by Elizabeth, forthcoming Sept. 2012), using game mechanics and design to create engagement and change sustainability behaviour, and creating sustainable accounting systems.

What barriers prevent sustainable ideas from blooming?  How have YOU been a change agent?


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