Music and Cinema – The Wedding of the Century?

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Música e Cinema – o Casamento do Século? is the name of the latest exhibition at SESC Pinheiros, São Paulo, paying tribute to the great role of music in our enjoyment of films.

It is not only extremely comprehensive, but also highly interactive, even giving visitors the chance to mix one of three sound-tracks live in an editing suite.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Music and Cinema

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

The exhibition was created by Cité de la Musique in Paris, France, where it was seen by 90,000 people last year. Now in Brazil, it is well worth a visit for all fans of cinema of any age.

Música e Cinema – o Casamento do Século?”
Quando: De 20 de setembro de 2014 a 11 de janeiro de 2015
Onde: Espaço Expositivo (2º andar) – Sesc Pinheiros – Rua Paes Leme, 129, Pinheiros. Próximo ao Metrô Faria Lima
Quanto: Entrada gratuita
Horário de funcionamento: De terça a sexta, das 10h30 às 21h30; Sábados, das 10h às 21h; e Domingos, das 10h30 às 18h30
Mais informações: www.sescsp.org.br

Unlocking Lovelock: Scientist, Inventor, Maverick

Photo: Maria Moraes Robinson

Photo: Maria Moraes Robinson

While Maria and I were in London earlier this month we had the opportunity to spend the day at the British Science Museum. As well as the usual excellent exhibits, we were lucky to catch the Unlocking Lovelock exhibition, dedicated to one of Britain’s most diverse and unconventional scientists, James Lovelock.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

I know many readers of Transition Consciousness will already be deeply familiar with the work of Lovelock, especially Gaia Theory and the Gaia hypothesis he developed in partnership with the late Lynn Margulis. His career of over 70 years has spanned medicine, chemistry, chromatography, geophysiology and scientific instrumentation. The Gaia hypothesis itself would lead to the development of a new scientific discipline, Earth System Science.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

In this article I thought I would show you a few photos from the exhibition, especially as there were many rare items from the Lovelock archive. As one poster mentioned, there are still many more documents to be uncovered.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Goblin in the Gasworks was written in 1935, and was published in Lovelock’s school magazine. The main character saves the day through the application of science.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

At Christmas 1940, as a chemistry student in Manchester, Lovelock was strapped for cash, so he drew Christmas cards, which are shown above.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

These are National Institute for Medical Research notebooks from 1948, which described Lovelock’s experiments with handkerchiefs in order to explore how we catch colds.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

This aparatus was built to test if a detector would work on Mars. In the 1960s Lovelock worked on NASA’s Viking mission to Mars, and built this device in his kitchen. The detector is inside the jar and air is removed to replicate the atmospheric pressure on Mars.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Lovelock published over 90 scientific papers between 1942 and 1964. His job at the National Institute of Medical Research required him to learn about many different subjects in order to help him solve a wide variety of problems.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

This is Lovelock’s gas chromatograph from c. 1971, which he decided to build rather than purchase an expensive one. Air samples were inserted into the top left part of the apparatus, the gases which are then separated in the coil before being measured in the electron capture detector held in the clamp.

Lovelock

Photo: Simon Robinson

In 1972, when Lovelock first proposed this in the form of his Gaia hypothesis, he faced a widespread and hostile rejection. Lovelock then went on to develop the hypothesis with the help of both Lynn Margulis and an ingenious, yet simple, mathematic model, which he called ‘Daisyworld’.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Lovelock’s primary insight, which departed strongly from the prevailing mainstream view, was not that non-biological processes were in control of the Earth, but that living systems were in fact tightly coupled with non-living systems. This means that the conditions for life on Earth are an emergent property of the entire set of processes, that is, the complex processes which occur between organisms, the atmosphere, rocks and water. Lovelock’s theory suggests that the Earth is one single organism, of which we are parts. It is a truly dynamical, holistic and non-hierarchical view of the biosphere.

Reference: Simon Robinson and Maria Moraes Robinson (2014) Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter

Lovelock

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Daisyworld was important, since it became the basis for developing far more sophisticated models of Gaia, such as the long-term climate prediction models of the Hadley Centre in the UK. Harding has developed Daisyworld further in partnership with Lovelock, exploring the question whether or not complex ecosystems are better able to survive and recover from disturbances than less connected and more simple ones. This is now a vital debate, as huge global corporations move over to highly unnatural systems of monoculture, where crops are now seemingly less able to cope with insect outbreaks in tropical countries.

Reference: Simon Robinson and Maria Moraes Robinson (2014) Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter

Unlocking Lovelock provides a unique insight into the life of this extraordinary man and illustrates the enormous value of archives as a resource for future research and runs until April 2015.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Related Articles

How James Lovelock introduced Gaia to an unsuspecting world

Science, Intuition and Gaia: Stephan Harding’s Animate Earth, 2nd Edition

Holonomics: the antidote to reductionism?

Dan Gray

Dan Gray

Dan Gray, author of Live Long and Prosper, has published a great review of Holonomics in which he explores the dynamic conception of wholeness in our book:

Simply put, it’s to view businesses as organisms, not mechanisms – as complex, living, dynamic systems, rather than fixed hierarchical structures. Remove part of a machine and it ceases to function. Take a cutting from a plant, however, and you can grow an entire new plant. As Simon and Maria explain, “There is something fundamentally different about the organization of a plant, whereby the whole is contained within the parts.”

While they certainly aren’t the first (and won’t be the last) to posit the importance of this metaphorical shift, what’s different about holonomics is the ‘both/and’ nature of its expression. The essence of holonomic thinking is to assert neither the primacy of parts over wholes (as per the industrial age paradigm above), nor to do the opposite (a common trap of systems thinking). Rather, in an Opposable Mind sort of way, it’s to hold both the parts and whole in mind at the same time – each part as an authentic expression of the whole, and the whole as an authentic expression of the belonging together of all the parts (no shoe-horns required!).

That the optimum word in all of this should be ‘authentic’ – and that the quality of authenticity becomes ‘known’ through feeling and intuition as much as sensing and thinking – is something that should harbour a natural appeal for anyone making a living in the world of brand and design.

The beauty of the book (at least from my experience of reading it) is that it provides the scientific and philosophical underpinnings for what you always felt to be true, but perhaps couldn’t put your finger on why.

The whole review can be read here: danmgray.wordpress.com/2014/11/19/holonomics-the-antidote-to-reductionism

How Holonomic Thinking Can Help Us Upgrade Our Leadership Skills for the New Economy

This article is written by David Harding-Brown and first appeared on Sustainable Brands.

Sustainable Brands

Photo: Gayle Murphy

On the way into this workshop, I overheard a remark that this was a novel session, and involved working with clay … this turned out to be absolutely true, but more on that later.

Simon Robinson and Maria Moraes Robinson are the co-authors of Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter. The obvious question is, what exactly is ‘Holonomics’? Simon explained that he and Maria had struggled to find a suitable term for the point where ‘wholeness’ and ‘economics’ converge, and decided to create Holonomics, shorthand to describe the way in which we view the outside world, and especially the naturally occurring but complex systems in nature.

Holonomics is about shifting consciousness in how and what we see around us, and the range of human responses that this generates. Holonomics urges us to make the shift towards adopting a different view of the world, then understand the way nature organizes itself through what was described as the ‘Holonomics Operating System,’ comprising Sensing, Feeling, Thinking and Intuition.

To illustrate the point, Simon then asked the audience to identify what was (at first glance) a completely random abstract illustration on screen. Several suggestions were made before it was revealed to be a graphic representation of a giraffe — the point being that once you knew what it was, it became much easier to recognize. Holonomics embraces this pursuit of connecting what may seem to be a series of abstracts into a recognizable picture, and as a metaphor it neatly captures the strong preconceptions people often have about the world we live in — as Henri Bergson wrote: ‘The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.’ And for those that struggle to make the leap from rigid and fixed thought patterns, Holonomics accuses them of ‘needing a new giraffe,’ which is a phrase we’re surely set to hear a lot more of in sustainability discussions.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

And so, to clay — the next exercise required everyone to create an expression of nature, sustainability, and the key things that matter from a personal perspective and translate these thoughts into clay. To make the experience even more sensorial, the entire audience was blindfolded. Despite cries from some that they weren’t at all creative or artistic, the results produced in the 15 minutes allowed were interesting and varied, and generated some debate. Although this was a very simple exercise, the blindfolds, the tactile and cold nature of the clay, and the task of translating thought into form drew a wide range of ideas and shapes from the audience, ranging from an abstract expression of the feeling of walking barefoot through grass, to interlocking globes representing the balance and interdependence of nature’s ecosystems.

In summary, Holonomics is an interesting attempt to draw on the world’s natural infrastructure, and apply those learning to new business models. It’s only through trying to understand these complex systems and connecting the pieces that we can make the leap from an abstract into a complete picture.

The second half of the workshop opened with a stunning video of hundreds of starlings in flight, creating amazing patterns and flowing shapes – yet seemingly in perfect harmony with their position, direction and flight direction.

The video amply illustrated the key values of trust, harmony and flow that Simon and Maria proposed for discussion. When the audience was asked which of the companies they worked for currently demonstrated these values in their business philosophy, there were few takers. But how does a business change this?

Arguably, the usual response would be to concentrate on strong leadership, a heavily structured approach to employee heirachy and rigid ways of working. However, Simon and Maria outlined an alternative approach — that of the Kyocera, pioneered by its founder Dr Kazuo Inamori in Japan in 1959.

This fluid approach can be likened to an ‘amoeba’ management system – every person has a view on the day-to-day running of the business rather than adopting the rigid structures often seen in other mature economies. It’s claimed that the amoeba system is a simple way to inspire self-motivation and encourages movement towards greater leadership skills.

Specific benefits of the system include:

  • Low overhead
  • Greater self-management and coordination
  • Better psychological performance and rewards, rather than monetary
  • Flexibility
  • More precise and open daily operating procedures planning and doing

It’s all about not imposing your own point of view. By concentrating on 5 basic human values (Peace, Truth, Love, Right action and Non-violence), it allows the twin targets of Strategy and Sustainability to converge and cascade down through the organization from Senior Management level.

This integrated and collaborative approach has seen clear benefits in Brazil, for example, where a hospital’s management was restructured into a series of ‘mini management boards,’ each representative of the overall hospital structure and disciplines, with the collective insight and experience of each ‘mini board’ allowing deeper understanding and meaning to emerge once the thought process was unshackled. By setting challenges and also creating the solutions, it defied the stereotype of top-down management.

To close, Simon gave a neat parallel to the Kyocera approach by citing an example of leadership through Brazil’s football team – during the 1970 World Cup, when they beat Italy 4-1, it included a goal that involved 8 players in the build-up. When asked who was the leader, the response (of course) was, “the one with the ball.”

Book Review: Live Long and Prosper – The 55-Minute Guide to Building Sustainable Brands by Dan Gray

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Maria and I had the opportunity to catch up with Dan at Sustainable Brands last week, where he gave us a copy of his compact but extremely comprehensive book Live Long and Prosper The 55-Minute Guide to Building Sustainable Brands. Dan is a management consultant, sustainability advocate and brand strategist and for this reason he is in the extremely interesting position of being able to work out exactly how to lay out the business case to CEOs and directors of large organisations, which was his principle motivation for writing his short guide.

Dan Gray

Dan Gray

The book was co-created by both Dan and Kevin Keohane, and is an extremely different proposition to the majority of books written about sustainability. It does exactly what it says on the tin, a point I managed to prove to myself by reading it in my lunch hour. However, while extremely compact, it is seriously fully of pertinent insights, and for this reason I can strongly recommend it.

Before taking a look at its contents though, I do believe that there are multiple audiences, more perhaps than the “current and aspiring CEOs and other senior executives and the consultancies that support them” who Dan identifies as the book’s primary audience. The essence of Live Long and Prosper is the case for building sustainable brands, and while Dan does mention that his book should be read by both “sympaticos and sceptics” I do believe he has written one of the best introductions to the concept of sustainable brands for those who are sustainability activists who may not actually have so much experience in the realm of business strategy, branding, business development, business model design and innovation.

This is exactly the point Maria made at the end of our presentation at Sustainable Brands on Holonomics, leadership and sustainable strategies, that those of us who are advocates of sustainability have to be humble, and recognise that the reality of business leaders may be one where they have never thought about sustainability (see Holonomic Thinking: Upgrading Leadership Skills and Systems Thinking for the New Economy). In addition, leadership is in crisis because things are no longer happening as they used to, and so many really are looking for a new model or new way of seeing. It is important when speaking with business leaders to take the care to use a language that they can understand, and Live Long and Prosper provides exactly that language Maria was referring to.

Live-Long-and-ProsperThe next thing I would say about Live Long and Prosper is that each short chapter while eminently readable and, as Dan says, without “fluff, filler or jargon” could easily be utilised as ideation sessions, or themes to be used to explore the nature of sustainability in business. While I was reading the book relatively quickly (I am a sympatico after all), I found myself gaining ideas for future workshops, dialogues and provocations on slides, which was also the secondary aim of the book.

To take just one example, in chapter 6 which explores the way in which we can build sustainable brands, Dan highlights the way in which brands nowadays reflect the business model of the whole organisation, and not just specific products and services. This means that we have to “get under the skin of an organisation as a whole, to uncover what is truly valuable about its services, strategy and culture, and arrive at a brand essence that can be embraced and operationalised by all parts of an organisation.”

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Dan cites Interface and Marks and Spencer a number of times as leading examples of what he calls Level Five Global Thought Leaders, and both companies were also at Sustainable Brands, giving excellent presentations on their progress and initiatives. Nigel Stansfield, Chief Innovation Officer of Interface gave a detailed look at how their Inclusive Business concept is helping to regenerate nylon waste from fishing nets which also benefits the local fishing communities, and his talk is definitely worth watching to supplement Dan’s introduction to the new thinking (see Inclusive Business: Creating a Future Defined by Shared Values and Closer Partnerships).

I absolutely agree with Dan when he writes that sustainability starts with the way in which an organisation treats its own people. As Dan says, “a credible commitment to sustainability can only be built from the inside out” and it is only when sustainable thinking is embedded both within one’s own organisation and value chain that authentic credibility can be achieved. Hence businesses now have to prove their sustainability credentials through what they have already achieved, rather than discussing future commitments.

Ultimately, what we could now be seeing is a move from short-term profit maximisation to long term purpose maximisation. The business case ultimately boils down to the fact that “the single-minded pursuit of profit would appear to produce less of it than if it is seen as the by-product of service a higher purpose”. This means that branding becomes strategic, delivering value in the form of social progress and being authentic – authenticity has to be “baked into everything you do”.

While Dan finishes Live Long and Prosper by stating that it is only a starting point, I do feel it is an excellent starting point for various people:

  • CEOs and executives looking to understand what sustainability means for their short and long-term strategies
  • Consultants and managers who are looking for guidance as to how to make the case for sustainability at board level
  • Sustainability activists who are looking to develop a new language to help them better engage constructively with those in business, especially those involved in marketing, branding, strategy and business development

In this respect, Live Long and Prosper is both an excellent and inspiring read, but also a book not to hold on to but to hand on to someone else who may not yet be fully convinced about the case for sustainability. As Dan says, those who choose to ignore the signs and who are waiting for proof will find that they have already been outcompeted. Sustainability is no longer about adding cost to products, but about disruptive innovation and long term survival, both of the organisation and of course ourselves on a planet with limited resources, and there is no better compact book which succinctly makes the case as well as Live Long and Prosper.

Lyf Shoes – A Radical New Sustainable Product Design Paradigm

At Sustainable Brands London last week Maria and I had the chance to spend time with Aly Khalifa, the founder of Lyf Shoes, a company which has implemented an extremely disruptive digital manufacturing revolution in the footwear industry. I therefore wanted to share with you this remarkable case study to show just what can be achieved when entrepreneurial vision meets the desire for a sustainable future.

Aly Khalifa with Maria

Aly Khalifa with Maria

Aly came on to present Lyf Shoes immediately after our own plenary, and began with the stark openion that our current footwear industry is “ugly”. Aly started his career as a designer, and on visiting shoe factories he would get headaches immediately due to the toxic glues. Young women use carcinogenic glues in between two or three heating sessions, which you can see in the slide below, and this is causing birth defects around the world. Other issues are labour conditions, CO2 emissions from shipping and the waste, both in the production process and the fact that 300 million shoes are thrown away at the end of their lives, resulting in landfill.

Credit: Aly Khalifa

Credit: Aly Khalifa

It is difficult to recycle shoes as they are currently manufactured, due to them being a “hybrid of materials which do not really belong together”. Typical improvements such as using safer adhesives are only going to add cost to the process, and are therefore not financially viable. There are therefore many disparate areas that you could look at to be more sustainable:

Credit: Aly Khalifa

Credit: Aly Khalifa

This is a non-systemic picture and so in picking one or two of these to focus on, how do you prioritise? The solution for Lyf Shoes was to treat all of these as symptoms, and addressing them as a complete whole, thereby creating the engine for disruptive innovation:

Credit: Aly Khalifa

Credit: Aly Khalifa

The inspiration for Lyf came from Shinto architecture in Japan which is designed for disassembly, and uses no glue or nails etc. The primary design question Aly faced was how could shoes be manufactured with no glue whatsoever. At the heart of their patent is a “jigsaw puzzle” which fixes the parts together. In addition, without glue each shoe can be put together in around 90 seconds.

Credit: Aly Khalifa

Credit: Aly Khalifa

Here is a picture I took of the shoe parts which Aly had brought along to show everyone at Sustainable Brands:

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

The materials are all natural, for example cork which normally gets thrown away in the wine industry as there had been no uses for them, and are therefore 100% recyclable. And when a customer has finished with the shoes, they can take them back to the shop and receive a 15% discount. Lyf Shoes call their business model the “sustainable figure 8″.

Credit: Aly Khalifa

Credit: Aly Khalifa

Aly suggested that a 15% discount is still not enough to motivate people to return their shoes. What they do is to place a monitor inside the heel which monitors the way in which people walk. So instead of just looking at how people walk when trying on shoes, Lyf are able to develop a shoe which is custom made for the way in which each individual walks.

Credit: Aly Khalifa

Credit: Aly Khalifa

Another remarkable aspect of this particular process is that the manufacturing takes place in the retail shop. This is not just a process though, it is a retail experience in that in their small shop, customers can watch their shoes being made. This becomes possible by placing 3D printers in the shop windows. These printers cost around $2,ooo instead of previous machines costing a quarter of a million dollars.

The next step in developing the business model was the inclusion of the creative community. The patterns are digitally printed onto the shoes, giving designers free range to do whatever they wanted. The designers can create communities around their designs, and also of course generate income as well.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Because this business model is so personalised, Lyf are currently researching sizes, and are able to offer people pairs of shoes which are different lengths or widths because most people’s feet are different, a proposition which is impossible in the traditional manufacturing and retail model.

In terms of investment risk, the colour of the shoes ends up being around 80% of the risk, because you have to predict which patterns and colours will be successful. If not, the manufacturer has to heavily discount stock which failed to sell. The result is an extremely limited product range.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

In the Lyf manufacturing process, the parts are kept separate, and so it is only when the parts are assembled that Lyf incur “fashion related risk”. But since the shoes are not glued, they can be disassembled, and therefore have 1/3 of the costs of traditional inventory. Given that sales assistants are involved in the manufacturing process, it is a profitable business model, and therefore sustainable in the business as well as ecological sense.

Credit: Aly Khalifa

Credit: Aly Khalifa

As Aly remarked, this is actually a traditional business model in that it harks back to the days of having a cobbler in the street making shoes, noting that “cities now need industry to come back into them to make them vital again”.

At the end of his talk, he discussed the ability to scale up this business model. The model is decentralised, and therefore with no central control, the model can be rolled out to any shops, especially given the low cost of the equipment. Aly noted that the future of footware lies in customisation, but the old model can not be adapted to this new reality, so manufacturers need to embrace the new tools to create the new products. For Aly, this is not the “death of capitalism” but a change in the way we think about capitalism, moving to a strong focus on the locval, and a move from thinking about large single entities, to a number of smaller entities.

Aly finished by discussing the biological cell – “what cell just wants to keep growing and growing and growing?” That is called cancer, and so what we now need is self-multiplying, “just following our biology”.

It’s funny as Aly had come on stage immediately after our own presentation where we discussed the “sandals of humility”. Aly opened his talk by saying that he was now going to discuss the “sneakers of creativity”, a point that a few bloggers picked up on.

All the challenges need to be embraced. It is an unbelievable opportunity for you and your brand and the products you are working on, if you take them on as a single entity, and try and mush them all together, all your problems together and attack them as one.

Lyf Shoes really do have a holonomic business model, being inspired by nature, focusing on both people as well as the planet, and finding authentic systemic solutions where all the parts truly belong together.What I really like about this business model is the way in which it is not just about the physical aspects, the flow of raw materials and parts, but the way in which the brand is an essential ingredient, and the way in which the brand is expressed through the lived experience of all people in this ecosystem – the customers, the sales team, the producers and out towards those whose lives will be enriched through the localisation and vitality of their neighbourhoods and towns and cities.

Lyf Shoes is a fantastic case study, and both Maria and I are really grateful to Aly for sharing so much of his time with us and discussing inspirational futures.

Links and Related Articles

Lyf Shoes

Video: Holonomic Thinking: Upgrading Leadership Skills and Systems Thinking for the New Economy

Some Holonomics tweets from Sustainable Brands

Holonomics Plenary 2I thought I would share some of the great tweets and pictures shared last week relating to our workshop and presentation on Holonomics. Both Maria and I would sincerely like to thank all the great people we met over the three days, and for sharing and inspiring us all with new visions, projects and initiatives.