Building Sustainable Legacies


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What is the role of business to contribute to a world worth living in?

House of ReligionsToday I spoke at the beautiful House of Religions in Bern, a wonderful open space for dialogue across cultures. Together with an engaged public, we discussed the decoupling of the many corporate responsibility efforts on one side and the pretty poor state of the world on the other side. The Business Sustainability Typology (BST) developed by Thomas Dyllick and me served as welcome framework for the discussion. It allowed to channel and focus the various perspectives and enabled a positive, solution-oriented nature of our discussion. The BST differentiates between three types of business sustainability and challenges organizations to fundamentally rethink their corporate strategy to become “truly sustainable”. This BST 3.0 ideal state invites business to adopt an outside-in perspective and to start by considering burning societal issues and evaluating what relevant resources and competencies they have to help solve these challenges. Or, as Peter Drucker said: “Every single social and global issue of our day is a business opportunity in disguise”.

Much time was spent considering alternatives to address and resolve the European refugees crisis and besides overcoming a defensive fear that is well present, we concluded that most urgently of all, we need a space where stakeholders discuss this problem and explore avenues of solutions. I concluded by referring to the 50+20 vision which out this responsibility squarely into the hands of public universities. With their unique convening power and the right stakeholder engagement facilitation (see the collaboratory solution), universities and also business schools can create the space to ensure that we start the dialogue now about how to integrate large numbers of immigrants into a Europe that has just become a new entity we need to redefine and embrace pro-actively.

On my way home, I have embraced my little part of an action: I will mobilize relevant stakeholders of European business school to issue a Call of Action for b-school to provide immediate and non-bureaucratic scholarships to refugees stranded in Europe, irrespective of their visa situation. And I am considering housing such a student at my place when Business School Lausanne will accept such students as early as next February. Obviously, I feel inspired! Thanks for a great afternoon.

 

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The human rights approach to water sustainability in luxury industries

Collaboratory about the issue of WATER in the Hospitality & Luxury Industries

Some 70 stakeholders from business, industry, NGO, government, academia and civil society gathered to discuss the current issues and future potential solutions around the water issue in the hospitality and luxury industries, of course touching also on the water issues in general and what is means for individual, communities, organizations and countries. The event started with contributions from the following experts:

  • Carlos Carrion-Crespo: Senior specialist public services, International Labour Organization

Employment in The World Water Development Report for 2016

  • Jean-Benoit Charrin: Executive director; WaterLex

The human right to water and sanitation in water governance

  • James Holleran: Professor of Sustainable Tourism

Sustainability in the tourism sector

  • Christopher Cordey: CEO of Futuratinow and professor, BSL

Sustainable Luxury Management; Ethics & Sustainability in Business

  • Mark Smith: Director, IUCN Global Water Programme

Ecosystem conservation, sustainable water supply and implications for the Human Right to Water

After an hour of engaged stakeholder discussion broadening and deepening the understanding of the issue including many participants from the audience, the challenge was obvious: how to find solutions for such a complex issue? The visioning process, which followed, builds on the understanding that new solutions cannot be developed from the same mindframe that generated the problem, thus the irrelevance of problem-based solutions. The stakeholder community present came up with a broad understanding of how a world would look like with the water problem solved. The word cloud below is a simplified reflection of this common vision:

Water as a meeting place; Education of young people = a sense of urgency; Water for all living beings; Water is free, good and available; Breakthrough in water purification; Using the water of the oceans; Us as human beings rather than consumers; Harmony of water-nature-humans; Full of life; Everybody is aware of the value of water; Water is as much appreciated as wine; Water doesn’t belong to anyone; Pricing of all goods reflects all costs (including water); Imagine everybody living without water for one day!; The future is a noisy place full of debates and dialogue

In a next phase, the creativity of the community was unleashed, with a co-creative brainstorming session using a back-casting approach, imagining new prototype solutions derived from the common vision we had previously imagined. The ideas where flowing and can be summarized as follows:

  • The role of women in resolving the water issue (building on water as an ancient meeting place)
  • Scaling up a CEO initiative on water (building on existing initiatives)
  • Developing a sense of personal ownership & responsibility for the use of water (many examples of how to make a personal difference)
  • Raising awareness around the complex issue of water in general and in the luxury industries in particular (do handbags really need to be made out of leather?)
  • Creating courses at all levels (primary, secondary and tertiary education) around experiential learning with water (both local and in regions of water scarcity or pollution)
  • Developing relevant and game-changing regulations and incentives

Participants organized into groups of 3 to 6 members around the above prototype ideas and jointly developed concrete approaches and potential solutions for each of these. Our collaboratory session ended with a lot of enthusiasm, new ideas, friendship rekindled and new contacts made, and the follow-on buffet provided food and drinks for further discussions that ran into the very late night. Some impressions here and more picture available online:

 


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My favorite book this summer!

Among the large pile of books I read through this summer, one stood out and has left a pleasant after-taste: REINVENTING ORGANIZATIONS by Frederic Laloux (Belgium). Frederic has attempted to do mission impossible and has actually come up with something of incredible value. He took the human development perspective and applied it to business. The idea is simple and has been considered for centuries: human beings develop over a life-time and societies develop over centuries into increasingly developed forms and belief systems. Why not organizations as well. Based on much work done by Integral Studies (Ken Wilber et al but also many other developmentalists such as Jean Gebser, Don Beck, Jean Piaget), Frederic developed first a historical overview of the development of organizations and then created a white space of the organization of the future. And here comes the magic – rather than just leaving things there, he went out and found a dozen companies of all sizes and from various industries and developed small case studies to understand how these companies are living already today partially or fully the principles of the organization of the future.

But don’t take my word for it, here is an excellent New York Times review on the book

We are running a Collaboratory event that I will facilitate together with other BSL colleagues featuring Frederic Laloux, Christian Felber and others on November 21-22, 2014 in Vienna in association with LiFT and the Zentrum für Integrale Führung led by Christiane Seuhs-Schoeller. If you are interested to join us, please let me know!

 

 


“Why School?” Collaboratory in Stockholm

We arrived in Thursday evening, August 21, 2014 for a 4-day Collaboratory event. The water looked dark, deep and much colder than turqouise water I have just returned from. Yet in great contrast, the people are super friendly and engaging. The four days ahead were structured as follows: Day 1 was our LiFT internal pre-collaboratory callibration day, Day 2 was the big public event of the “Why School?” Collaboratory. At the end of Day 2 we would leave to „the island“, Ekskäret is a private island transformed into a personal and societal development center by its visionary owner Thomas Bjorkman, where we would be staying for Day 3 and 4.

During the preparatory Day 1, we learned about the specific challenges around the school issue in Sweden. I was surprised to learn about how badly the voucher system works (each student is free to select his/her school of choice and brings the related government funding to the chosen school). This liberal practice seems to have brought down the educationsl level due to the fact that a number of venture capitalists have invested in new educational institutions and have focussed on maximizing their return rather than investing in facilities and quality teachers. And I had always thought that a Voucher system could help innovate the Swiss schooling system.

In addition, the facilitation team walked us step by step through their vision and resulting schedule for the next day. They had made interesting changes to the basic Collaboratory and I became very curious about how this amendment to the Collaboratory would work out.

Why School Collaboaratory in Stockholm

Picture 1: Pre-collaboratory day among LiFT team with Collaboratoy books in center

The 1-day Collaboratory session moderated by Jonathan Reams (Norway), Christiane Seuhs-Schoeller (Vienna) and Anne Caspari (Basel) started in a plenuary setting with a short film on being “awe-struck”. Jonathan set the stage for the day with his deep, reflective introduction hinting at the opportunity that schools could be places that kids leave “awe-struck”. Both his reflective tone and future orientation brought a light energy that somehow guided us through the entire day.

Overview of the large meeting space

Picture 2: Overview of the large meeting space

The room was large enough to have three different spaces set-up in advance. The 70+ participants shifted from the plenary to the Collaboratory circle setting (see picture 2), where selected experts highlighted important critical perspectives on the subject of school in Sweden (see picture 3). We had the founder of the School-Spring movement, an enlightened teacher, a school-drop out with an appetite to bring about change in the school system, a highly committed CEO who was concerned about graduates, an academic from Austria with a European perspective on school challenges and responsible leadership. What surprised me most was the significant degree of mutual respect, the appreciative inquiry among these experts. While there could have been much reason for debate and dispute, the tone was incredibly constructive.

The Collaboratory Circle

Picture 3: The Collaboratory Circle

In a next phase, these insights were discussed and reflected on in eight small group sessions of 6-8 participants, allowing again for each participant to be heard and to remain engaged. Leaders from each team shared back in the Collaboratory circle after lunch their key findings, setting the stage for the visioning phase that Christiane mastered beautifully, taking us on a journey of creative exploration.

Rather than debriefing the visioning in the circle, the facilitation team introduced a highly effective, one-to-one debriefing and sharing by having people get up and reflect on 3 key questions in every-changing pair settings (see picture 4). This brought not only movement and thus energy into the room, but also allowed every single participant to be personally concerned and involved, bringing individual and collective visions and ideas quickly to the surface.

Picture 4: Inter-active, dynamic debriefing after the visioning exercise

Picture 4: Inter-active, dynamic debriefing after the visioning exercise

In a dynamic open brainstorming session, the many ideas were first collected and subsequently grouped into major themes. Using open space and the law of two feet (you go where you feel you are adding most value), a variety of theme-teams formed to work on prototypes to translate these ideas into concrete projects that could be implemented. I was most touched to see how the CEO and the drop-out student had hit it off and how they collaborated naturally and easily together in a new exiting project. My secret guess is that beyond everything we had achieved for the school issue in Sweden, that we had witnessed a match made in heaven between these two individuals and I am willing to bet that we are going to hear great things from this young high potential who had shown courage beyond imagination when dropping out of school a few years back to figure out where and how he wanted to spend his energy and drive (I am leaving out names on purpose).

Picture 5: our transfer on a small taxi-boat to the far-away island Ekskäret

Picture 5: our transfer on a small taxi-boat to the far-away island Ekskäret

At the end of the long Collaboratory day, our international LiFT team took off in taxi-boats to Ekskäret (see picture 5), the amazing small island a good two hours away from Stockholm. Karin Finnson, our local LiFT host, had arranged the transfer and for the host Thomas Bjorkman to welcome us to this magic island.

We spent two more days at the island with day 1 focussed on evaluating the „why school“ Collaboratory event and learnings for next sessions and day 2 looking forward to our next Collaboratory session scheduled in November in Vienna, Austria where we were going to look in „the future of organizations“. The playful attitude we had all developed around the Collaboratory methods had worked well. Increasingly, our LiFT team has become comfortable with the philosophy and methodology (see chapter 22 in the „Collaboratory“ book[1] where I had used our Norway LiFT collaboratory to outline a narrative roadmap for designing and delivering a collaboratory).

Picture 6: Welcome with hot tea in the Collaboratory circle at Ekskäret island

Picture 6: Welcome with hot tea in the Collaboratory circle at Ekskäret island

[1]  Muff, K. (ed) (2014) : “The Collaboratory – a co-creative stakeholder engagement process for solving complex problems”, Greenleaf Publishing, Sheffield UK


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Kicking off Collaboratories in Asia – Towards “Green Living in Hong Kong”

Riding up the elevator of the brand new building of the Design Faculty at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University sets the stage: 4th floor Collaboratoy, 8th floor Innovation Think Tank. I haven’t seen the use of “Collaboratory” formally used to designate an entire floor of a building! We must be in the right space! Clearly Cees de Bont from the Design Faculty and Alison Llyod from the Business School are not only an experienced but also a very creative and effective team. Everything was set for a memorable first Collaboratory event in Asia!

Cees’ design students have worked over the past weeks to create more than half a dozen of benches made out of recycled or repurposed material. Special acknowledgment goes to Claudius Bensch, Art Director of the project, for developing the original Bench Circle installation concept. As we walked into the space, our jaws dropped at the sight of these benches! True beauty and an astounding variety! Each bench was designed by a known designer and produced by design students. Here is a short time-laps film that shows them at work:

Allison’s business students had masterfully arranged the space into the signature inner circle held by two rows of outer circle chairs. They had helped to mobilize the key stakeholders for the event and ensured that all concerned parties in Hong Kong concerned by “Green Living in Hong Kong” were not only present but had been briefed in great detail on what to expect. An energized group of approx. 50 engaged citizens, representatives of business, consulting, real estate, NGO, social entrepreneurship as well as various relevant faculty members and students was curious to see what would happen next. Everything was set for an intense 3 hours of co-creation!

The first hour served to lay out all the different perspectives on the topic of what Green Living in Hong Kong might mean, why it was possible, impossible, covering current important issues such as air pollution and the impact of the increasing inequality, the high dependency on the “Hong Kong shopping center”, the dramatically negative impact of the recent frugality strategy of the Chinese and the sky-high real estate prices that drove social entrepreneurs out of town. Yet, the fact that 40% of the land was labelled as national parks and only 30% of the surface was actually built, opened up a discussion around the potential of Hong Kong with its 70+ islands, beaches and many hills and hiking trails for every level of difficulty. We heard stories of permaculture, roof-top gardens, and the need to go beyond organic food to radically re-localize food (the footprint of organic food not being sufficient to balance population growth). A young social entrepreneur shared his initiative of in-house gardening and tourist operator a dream around eco-tourism. The elevator was introduced as a highly sustainable solution to save land (vertical city) and elegantly delegating the cost of mobility infrastructure from government to private investors (well, that’s the real-estator’s perspective). The idea that if green choices need to come more attractive (adding a price on unsustainable living), they would take off. The question of how design can help advance green living in HK. The dilemma of the importance of education and the fact that it takes too long to produce results. The businessman’s pragmatic perspective: “how much are we willing to pay to make Green Living a reality?” countered by the psychologist who believes that it is all a question of behavioral change. One sentiment expressed the rather upbeat sense of the discussion best: “If there’s anybody who can do it, it is Hong Kong!”, this despite the fact that a concerned voice reminded us that returning to a simple living also implied consuming less and that companies would need to radically reinvent themselves. A final voice made a historical comparison, reminding us that in 1972 the Hong Kong government campaigned against corruption which was considered mission impossible and today in Hong Kong corruption was largely gone. So why not campaign against unsustainable living? Well…

After a break, we shifted into the visioning phase of the process and went on a journey where we collectively dreamt up a Hong Kong that had realized Green Living. The traditional sharing round among all participants was among the richest I have experienced today: a new vision for Hong Kong came alive! A vision where Hong Kong would adopt Singapore’s positioning as an education hub to become Asia’s Sustainability or Green Living Hub. Conscious of the fact that Hong Kong in many ways plays a role model function for many cities and people of mainland China, the power of such a transformative change was palpable. Descriptions of such a future vision of Hong Kong included clean air and blue skies, a slower pace and fresh vegetables at hand anywhere to eat. Shopping as a way to secure happiness was replaced by more profound offers that would lead to a more sustainable well-being and happiness. People would come to Hong Kong to “slow up”, to recharge, re-energize and to co-create and develop great ideas.

In the final third phase of the Collaboratory, we asked the question: so what can we concretely do in the next 2-3 months to make steps towards this utopian future. To enable this, we transformed the center space into an entrepreneurial brainstorming space: at least 20 ideas were developed and any last signs of Asian shyness disappeared. The spark of a shared and embodied vision had triggered not only enthusiasm but also creativity. I was challenged to summarize and group the many ideas into 8 main prototypes of which each participant would choose one he or she wanted to spend the last hour of the Collaboratory exploring. We initially thought to vote the best 4 of these 8 ideas but there was enough energy for all of them that we split the circle into 8 sub-circles and empowered each group to self-organize and further develop their ideas. After 40 minutes each team was ready with a solid prototype idea and had identified one responsible person among them who was willing to carry-forward the project until Alison and Cees would decide on how to proceed with a next Collaboratory event to further develop if not all, at least some of them.

Here is an overview of all the ideas:

  • Introducing positive discrimination coupled with transparency to enable green organizations to perform better and attract the talent and to individuals to the incentive to change behavior. A radical shift requires radical support including the development of broader well-being measures on the macro and micro economic levels (lead: Shrikant Ramakrishnan, four members)
  • Eco-tourism: slow up in Hong Kong and relax into great ideas! Various steps needed: a) turning the city green (greening the roofs), accessible hiking trails for all levels, transforming hospital into wellness clinics, turning public spaces into oasis, taking the noise out, developing eco-tourism in the islands, etc. (lead: Stella Kwan, four members)
  • Transforming universities into practical learning centers in society, by reducing the current disconnect particularly in CSR, changing the pedagogy to include in-company learning, integrating self-realization as an integral part of learning (lead: Alison Lloyd, nine members)
  • Fostering cross-sectional stakeholder dialogue through collaboratory discussions: not a solution in itself but an enabler to contribute to a new mind frame and to rally for a common vision (lead: Philo Alto, two members)
  • Copy-cating the best green solutions and branding for massive globe scaling, by applying a rigorous process of a) what is the problem), b) who is the leader in the world to solve this, c) how can we adapt to Hong Kong, d) how can we brand to enable scaling, e) how do we commercialize globally – example: Starbucks vertical farming wall (lead: Lydia Guett, six members)
  • Developing a sharing culture towards a new governing model by bringing in relevant ideas to Hong Kong and by working with students as activists and promoting a culture of sharing, e.g. electronics (lead: Ming Ho, three members)
  • Becoming a personal role model first and then contribute to the sharing culture (see 4), supported by government actions such as theme Sundays to re-develop relationships at all levels as they used to be (lead: Match Chen, six members)
  • Developing a new mind frame: business needs new managers and leaders, current people in charge can’t lead the transformation, a higher consciousness is needed, achieving this by a significant focus on personal health for every employee at all levels (top particularly) since a better life will result in a better business as it triggers a shift in focus; also: embracing the consumer-side of the people by initiating new consumer demands which will result in new business opportunities (lead: Eric Chu, 2 members)

Cees and Alison have expressed an interest to integrate the first three into their current project development structures which are available in both Faculties. Furthermore, the PolyU business school has platforms on which other prototypes could be further developed. Both of them will communicate with everybody involved in the Collaboratory shortly to ensure that these prototype will start to be realized where possible and where the teams feel energized to further work on them.

IMG_1975

Walking into the Silverbox Conference room at the ICON hotel in Hong Kong the next day felt VERY similar to walking into the UN RIO+20 PRME Business Education conference back in June 2012 when we launched the 50+20 agenda: 3 benches were lined up as I walked off the elevator towards the registration desk and the back of the room was displaying with 6 more benches. Awesome! It is amazing what kind of difference some real art can make. More on the conference: http://www.bsl-lausanne.ch/news/school-news/events-and-conferences/bsls-dean-gives-keynote-speech-at-conference-on-renewing-business-education-in-asia


Speeding up for the 50+20 Collaboratory for Asia at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Mont Blanc

12 hours after having seen the gorgeous Mont Blanc stick out above the clouds in the dark blue evening sky, I find myself flying past small fishing villages on the way in from Hong Kong Airport to Kowloon. The air is freezing cold inside and like a steamy sauna outside. I had wondered about dress code and I am still wondering – a choice between freezing and sweating with no way of avoiding one or the other.

The airport express train shows a techie video far ahead of any discussion I have access to in the West: they are discussing a complex new way to automate food and health care deliveries in developing countries, fully banking on latest internet connectivity, showing young hi-tech talents talking excitedly about saving the world. Wow! If we could bring in these brilliant brains into the Collaboratories I am to introduce here. Our idea of places where engaged citizens meet to solve burning societal issues – or, in other words: the university of the future!

Hong Kong

Things are happening faster in this part of the world. I had a similar sense three weeks ago in Beijing. Suburbs of Hong Kong larger than Switzerland. A train travelling at mind-boggling speed. I am grateful for the blue sky that connects me with where I come from. What if we found a way to accelerate our Collaboratory idea? What if we could connect to innovation hubs where new solutions are worked on? Where are these? How do we connect?

In the meantime, I have moved from the fast train to a free hotel shuttle – all perfectly well sign-posted and with no waiting time. One hour after touch-down I have arrived at my hotel – mind-blowing! Time for a shower before my first dinner appointment – from breakfast right to dinner… Time is shifting differently. Let’s feel the flow of a river that is rushing forward, onward… Let’s see where this journey takes me!


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Deep “new” change vs. changing the titans – a comment on George Monbiot opinion on Unilever

Let me be honest – I love Monbiot’s columns: they are sharp, edgy, provocative and to the point. They challenge present thinking and strive for more. I also think that Unilever is one of the way to few examples of a multinational working honestly on making the world a better place. I think we should clone Paul Polman – he is that good! So Monbiot’s critic on Unilever certainly got my attention – if you haven’t read it, here it is: http://www.monbiot.com/2014/04/08/loved-to-death/. As usual a real Monbiot piece of work. And I think he makes the point well in many ways of challenging Unilever for not yet having managed to be as coherent as they probably wish across all brands and divisions. I can think of a bunch of examples that would greatly support Monbiot’s case. Yet, I also think that Unilever more than any other similarly large multinational has initiated significant change both inside their organization and in their markets including consumers and investors. But, or better, and, there are still dark and blind spots. Look at Nestle and you see more dark than bright spots, despite their Creating Shared Value (CSV) claim – what they do with their water strategy and what they claim outrages me! It is tough for a large multinational to change course – maybe impossible. Just a few degrees of change, however, brings significant leverage and change due to the sheer size and relative impact of such large organizations.

Of course a few degrees is totally insufficient – we need radical, deep change. And we need it now. But, much like in any other industry or field of practice – business schools included – such radical and deep change does not happen in the established, large organizations with the famous brand names. Transformational change happens in the fringes, with small, relatively unknown players who have little to lose and much to gain. Such organizations are still lean, agile, fast and thus innovative. Like sailing boats compared to streamliners! I am in favor of supporting those streamliners who dare to embrace change, even if its just a few degrees and I am willing to celebrate those who are ahead of the pack and are undertaking radical big change that from the outlet looks impossible, yet inspires others to follow (and Paul Polman at Unilever is leading such radical big change). I believe we should focus our criticism on those who are fast asleep and have not yet woken up to the new realities of a resource-constrained, climate-changed world. Our criticism should tear them out of their sleep and their comfort zone, shake them up and get them to sit up straight and think – fast. Our students have created a consumer opinion poll to show companies in the food sector what consumers think of their sustainability initiatives – vote here to express your opinion, share the link and we will ensure the world hears about the results!

Monbiot talks about a critical issue: the lack of healthy food. Lets take a look at it. Indeed, since food has become a processed and heavily industrialized item, “healthy food” has become an oxymoron. To get the nutritious value an apple had in the 1950s, we would today need to eat 25 apples we buy in our supermarkets – “an apple a day” won’t keep the doctor away anymore! Sugar, salt and fat are our top 3 societal enemies that are and will be costing us not only unimaginably big health bills but are also ruining us as healthy, capable and caring human beings. Just take the combination of stress and sugar – it will turn anybody in a monster, unable to breathe, care and slow down. I recently wrote about this in the Transatlantic Blog. The pharmaceutical industry must love all of this, the number of emerging new conical deceases  are sky-rocketing, assuring life-long medical dependencies and revenues. Read what Michael Moss (salt, sugar, fat) has to say about it! I believe that the single biggest opportunity for food companies today is to turn their practices upside-down and to step back from feeding the world junk. To remove all the unhealthy, addictive ingredients and to serve us healthy, nurtious food that supports our well-being, happiness and health. There is chocolate without added sugar (thanks to Villars in Switzerland, a hugely innovative, small chocolate producer at the fringes!). It is possible! It is also unacceptable – I agree with Monbiot – that food companies including Unilever boycott and prevent proper “traffic-light” labelling of our enemies sugar, fat and salt. They managed to prevent a law to pass in Switzerland and I am sure in many other countries – scandalous! It feels like back in the days when tobacco companies tried to manipulate research that proved that smoking was bad. Unilevers of this world: embrace the challenge and return healthy food to us with your great distribution and brand power that you have. You can not only save the world, but build the foundation of a society that can start to heal itself and become well again. BSL is a place to help make it possible: we are a platform where engaged citizens work on burning societal issues. Our food-waste collaboratory on May 6th is such an example: we are committed to reduce consumer food-waste by 50% by 2018. What could you do in your space and what are you going to do to make a difference?