Why Sustainability is Now the Key Driver of Innovation will rank up there with Core Competence of the Corporation as a must read article IMHO. R. Nidumolu, C.K. Prahalad and M.R. Rangaswami provide us with a 5 stage sustainability roadmap in their Harvard Business Review article to gauge where an enterprise is along the journey.
1. Viewing Compliance as Opportunity
2. Making Value Chains Sustainable
3. Designing Sustainable Products and Services
4. Developing New Business Models
5. Creating Next Practice Platforms
In the beginning of any major shift there is a plethora of information without a good framework in which to put it all in perspective. This has been true for two management arenas - sustainability and innovation. Continuous innovation has long been thought of as the key to enterprise sustainability but what is different here is formally linking the two.
Business Objectives - Beyond green and CSR
Nidumolu and colleagues are no strangers to deep enterprise transformation work or the fundamental reinvention required to attain new business models (stage four) and next practices (stage five). We see some of the usual culture change suspects executives must face – asking tough questions; what should the business be, how can we meet customers' needs differently, what are the implicit assumptions behind current practices?
Their survey of 30 companies resulted in a few simple rules for getting started:
- Don’t start from the present
- Ensure that learning precedes investments
- Stay wedded to the goal while constantly adjusting tactics
- Build collaboration capacity
- Use global presence to experiment
The article makes clear that a sustainability journey is beyond “green” and “corporate social responsibility", a pattern which is clearly emerging from a variety of venues.
It’s Time to Reinvent - Take Action
In the past few week’s, cover stories have featured:
- Fortune, New Rules for Recovery - CEO’s taking action to re-invent their businesses
- Business Week, A radical re-think of R & D
- The Atlantic - from health care to health and well being
- NY Times, Venture Fund’s Green Fund’s Top $1billion Khosla Ventures, a major venture fund taking a bold stake toward investing in “science experiments” to reinvent our infrastructure and not be afraid to fail if we are to reduce the carbon footprint
- Sloan Management Review, Beyond Green - Flourishing Forever an interview with John R. Ehrenfeld
He challenges our thinking about typical "sustainability measures" as actually:
Common to all of these stories is:
- Acknowledgment that something needs to be different (our world has changed)
- Willingness to experiment with a new approach
- More than CSR, green or sustainable development
- Whole system (beyond the enterprise boundary), and
- An expectation of failure before success.
Workable Models for Executives
Another sustainable innovation leader is Janine Benyus who coined the term biomimicry – using nature's design for innovation. There's much to learn from a system that has been around for 3.8 billion years!
And our own CORE™ model, featured in The Sustainable Enterprise Fieldbook , to bring stakeholder networks together for innovation.
There are many methods to push ourselves to reinvent, restructure, and become sustainable enterprises, but only whole systems approaches will make a difference. We can not afford to keep nibbling and patching problems while hoping for different outcomes.
I ‘m preparing a presentation on Sustainable Globalization for the Organization Development Network Conference in October with fellow co-author Karen Davis. We'll demonstrate our "6 Lenses for Sustainable Globalization" approach to assist leaders in understanding the whole system in which their enterprises operate. Combined with the "5 Stage Sustainability Roadmap" and the insights from thought leaders mentioned above, executives can take away a fair diagnostic of where they are and where they need to go. These are approaches that work.
Wikisourcing Sustainable Enterprises and Influencers
In order to capture more of the “next practices” colleague Jenny Ambrozek and I have launched Wikisourcing Sustainable Enterprises, a crowd sourced initiative to profile enterprises and people who are creating the “next practices.”
We know there are more than the well known organizations challenging their old models and we want to hear about and share them with others. Add your examples of inspiring sustainable enterprises and the people influencing your thinking. Then send the link along to others to contribute too.
Collectively we can make a flourishing sustainable future.
~ Victoria G. Axelrod