A recent article published in Medium talks about the importance of the source of ideas and initiatives.
Having tried Inventing for the Sustainable Planet, co-founding an eco-village and working with leading edge economic and sustainability thinkers I feel I qualifies me to say a few things about how it is to be the source.
It’s a lot of things, amazing, stimulating, but rarely fun for long. It is lonely.
I am not saying this out of bitterness or anything, I hope that my experiences will help people understand that originators and sources are often unusual personalities and will be highly productive under the right conditions.
I printed a number of copies of the book about inventing for sustainability and gave them to friends for feedback. Lukewarm reception. As with the website, although from far afield, I got some interest so I carried on.
Look. I used my own judgement. Would I as a late teenager or university student, or when I was a science teacher have picked up and bought the book and found it useful? Yes I think I would. That’s where the feeling lonely comes in.
Anyway. The point is I was interested to see if it was helpful. What I wanted to do was to contribute thinking and designs that people who were longing to do something sustainable would be able to use. That was all, that was my motivation. It didn’t seem to be helpful so I didn’t update it. I always had the ambition to update the book with new chapters, already prepared etc. Anyway, I did a short video explaining the main aspects of the inventions from the book. I thought the invention might be of interest and helpful even if the novel was hard to follow.
A TV producer rang me up and wanted to do a program with me in it, featuring the inventions. I cancelled my meetings for that day and waited for the car to pick me up. Cancelled. Heard no more.
I still find that the insights from the work on the book are relevant. And the consulting company I started did manifest some of the ideas into walking maps.
I was invited to Stockholm City management to talk about the maps, and suggested that the most sustainable thing the city could do was to declare itself the walking capital of Scandinavia and set up walking routes using our methodology. I got the reply that they had had the idea to make Stockholm the Capital of Scandinavia and that they were experts at walking cities anyway.
The move to make itself the capital of Scandinavia created a lot of bad will with Copenhagen and Oslo. And the only innovation in terms of walking is that maps on streets show walking distances…. sort of.
As to the eco-village, the basic concept of Eco-Unit, developed by Folke Gunther is genius, and one that lay at the centre of the eco-village project I helped found. However, today, the group do not want to be associated with eco-unit. They have many very good reasons why not and will argue the point many times over. What they did not do was to consult the originator (me) to hear why I thought the way I did. From my perspective they missed some stuff.
What can we learn from this?
- Firstly people with ideas and inventions mostly do it out of a feeling of being helpful. This is important. All organisms in eco systems are helpful to the system in one way or another. So inventiveness, origination is natural.
- Proper feedback is important. It is good if it is appreciative of the good parts – it is always a work in progress – and constructive for the way forward. Sources do not mind criticism if it is helpful. They love it because they are being taken seriously and it means they were not wrong in their intuition.
- Sources need people around them to help them do the next steps. In the case of the walking city innovations, I had a business partner who took the idea and helped me sell it as well as deliver the mapping services.
- innovators often seem totally mad. They are too, I know I come over as really crazy to some people. Often they seem mad because there is no way of making their insights reality. However, do not let it stop there. Ask yourself if there is some aspect that can be realized. You will often find that there are next steps that you can take with the innovation that are fairly low investment and can be taken further.
- Before changing anything it is good to listen, deeply, to the originator. They will discuss at length, happily, but do to respond well to being dismissed, especially when people find “good reasons” and make these the only reasons without weighing everything. The advantage of listening is the originator may change their minds. Remember they just want to be helpful and are often not married in an ego way to their creation. Often they feel that what they originated came not from them but through them.
- People closest to you the originator are often the worst to work with, and ask for feedback. Let’s face it they know you and think you are crazy. That’s not a good start!
- The ideal would be to have some kind of center where ideas are listened to, given feedback, and tested/realized on a small scale – even if it is just putting it through a basic business case calculation. Everyone learns from this.
We need insights, we need ideas, we need the crazies. If we let them be lonely they will just invent less and less or find a way to exploit you and make a lot of money for themselves. Or they become bitter and cynical. Handled right, they have many gifts to give, and will keep on giving!
Technology died today. Not the machines, but the paradigm. The belief that delivering high-tech creates jobs, prosperity and shareholder value got killed. The news hit this morning in Sweden’s newspaper SVD among others, that Sweden’s flagship, Ericsson, is shedding thousands of jobs and shutting down manufacturing in Sweden. The decision is sending shock-waves through the municipalities where Ericsson units are one of the largest employers. The likely effect is that whole communities will suffer in a domino effect decimating local suppliers then local services then house prices. And it’s probably the best thing to happen to Sweden for a long while. More on that later. First to the situation. Read More…
According to recent newspaper reports, Sweden’s largest exporter, Ericsson, is about to – in the worst case – shed all manufacturing in Sweden, sack half its employees and be broken up and sold. This is bad news for sustainable Sweden; with its internet of things and wide R&D capabilities Ericsson has the competence and potential to be a major contributor to the Swedish Government’s ambition to be fossil-emission free by 2045. With this latest news it is looking more and more like Sweden will fail to “cross the chasm” keeping its high material standard. It seems, though, that very few really care to do what is necessary. They would rather let small local initiatives pick up the pieces.
Ericsson just lost its CEO and with no-one at the helm of this giant spaceship of a technology company I’d like to offer the board some insights and advice. I’m biased as I worked there for a while; it was a period of personal growth for me and a lot of fun. My basic message is that the company needs to get back to its Swedish cultural roots and back to doing what it does best: providing needed advanced services and technology to people in societies that aim for social and environmental good. Read More…
I come from the Islands of Britain where we find ourselves in a major pickle.
We have a few short years to solve defossilisation, food security, reformation of the economic system and to redress a lot of badwill being stirred up by our Brexit and all the austerity our Island peoples suffer from.
We can fix this if we remember what we have and why we are here. We ave a great place to live. We are Peace-loving and pragmatic. Let’s focus on what we want and from that take responsibility for our communities and our Islands. Starting with where we live.
What the business of business is has long been debated. Put simply people might say businesses provide services that people need in a way that employs people and gives them wages so they can buy what they in turn need.
If that is the case, it isn’t working very well is it? Zero hours contacts, wages below minimum, and jobs outsourced all mean that people don’t have money in their pockets to buy the necessities. That depresses the market, reduces demand and that reduces business opportunities. And it looks as if people are stressed and depressed – even those with jobs and money. Could it be that business is actually missing what people actually want? Read More…
In My Humble Opinion:
Put a price on phosphorus now to create a circular economy before it is too late
I’ve been thinking about some interesting feedback on food prices. At a recent meeting, I presented my case: dividend-bearing import surcharges on scarce substances can encourage reuse and recycling. The received opinion is that that anything that makes food more expensive cannot be done. And shouldn’t. Read More…
Some time ago, a group of scientists, dieticians and other concerned individuals got together to ask themselves if there was a diet that was optimum for health and for the environment. Their concern was mostly around the state of the nitrogen cycle in Europe as well as health issues from over-consumption of animal products.
The idea of a declaration of what was needed for a healthy diet and environment was developed on 29 October 2009 at Barsac, France at a workshop of experts convened by the EU NinE and BEGIN programmes. The works has come to be known as the Barsac declaration. Read More…
Henry George, perhaps the best-known economist from the end of the US Wild West era, pointed out that with progress comes poverty. This is ever more true today. Communities, once places that were home to people with the skills and tools to provide most of what you needed, from midwives to undertakers, from roofers to foundation layers, are now mere dormitory units serving in a global network of corporations. As the fortunes of corporations change, and their hunt for cheaper labour takes them offshore, it can happen that dormitory areas are thrown into poverty. Poverty, then, is the other side of the coin of progress. And most seem to accept it.
But attitudes are starting to change. People are starting to understand that living local economies can withstand the whims of corporate relocation. People are starting to see that helping each other is a better deal than finding ways of getting people to pay for literally everything in a monetarized world rapidly going nowhere.