Book Review Part Two: Life Changing Conversations by Sarah Rozenthuler

sarahrozenthulerThis book review follows on from Part One, in which I introduce both Life Changing Conversations, and also the author Sarah Rozenthuler who was a good friend of mine while we studied Psychology together at Nottingham University. In this review review I would like to move on to the meat of the book, in which Sarah explores the seven different strategies for having a “big conversation” – one that Sarah defines as “happening only when we express what we are really experiencing”.

The seven strategies are

  • Calling up you courage
  • Creating a container
  • Intending the message you send
  • Connecting with respect
  • Speaking your truth
  • Surrendering your story
  • Finding closure

I don’t plan to examine each of these strategies in detail in this review. What I would like to do is look at one in particular, to help bring out the way in which each is structured, explored and utlises specific tools and exercises to help readers really accomplish the tasks each strategy is designed to help them achieve.

Life Changing ConversationsIn the strategy for speaking the truth, we follow the case study of Tim who is a graphic designer in his thirties, with a young family but who feels stuck in his career and role of director at the small graphic design agency where he works. Tim needs to have a Big Conversation with the owner of the agency, Alison, but how to do this when facing conflicting pressures, especially in difficult economic times when it is not so simply just to up and move jobs which are now becoming harder to come by in many industry sectors?

As Sarah says, failing to speak our truth can be a major source of stress in our lives, and if we bottle things up, it can impact on us physically:

When we wear a mask rather than express ourselves authentically, we are trapped in acting out a role. Instead of being who we really are, we become a counterfeit version of ourselves. This makes us drained, down and desperate.

Life Changing Conversations is full of small but well-thought-out checklists for each strategy, and in this case there are four different ones to help us (and Tim) discover our personal truth. I probably am focusing on this chapter since it deals with one of the core issues we face in our personal lives and at work, and this is the situation where we often confuse our opinions with objective truths. And so Sarah provides us with a truth inventory to help us explore the differences, and also a Wheel exercise to help us discover how we are truly feeling.

One of the core strengths of Life Changing Conversations is that in addition to the checklists etc in each chapter, Part Three of the book is a compendium of eighteen different in-depth exercises, each one of which is highlighted in the main text of the book with a real example. This is what makes the book so immensely practical, not just for those who may be reading the book in roder to prepare for a big conversation, but also those of us who may also be in positions where we can help others to have big conversations as well.

The Holonomic Operating System

The Holonomic Operating System

In our own book Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter we work with the four ways of knowing – thinking, feeling, sensing and intuition. I therefore particularly enjoyed the passages in chapter seven which highlight the differences between emotions and feelings. As Sarah points out “whereas negative emotions can disrupt a dialogue, feelings can catalyse a conversation”. Whereas emotions can often hold us back, feelings can take us “deeper into ourselves” and whereas emotions are typically our reactions to things we may not understand, “feelings by contrast are a form of higher understanding”.

As Sarah concludes, “a conversation is a humble tool that’s available to every single one of us. Yet it can truly be a portal through which we call forth a magnificent reality”. It still does though seem that many of us can at times really struggle to have conversations which lead to more meaningful and fulfilled lives, and Life Changing Conversations is a wonderful book full of practical advice and structured exercises to help us make those shifts we both feel we need and also truly deserve.

Related Articles

Book Review Part One: Life Changing Conversations by Sarah Rozenthuler

Classic Paper – Dialogue: A Proposal

The Ladder of Seeing Part 2: Finding Creativity in Conversation

A Short Tour Through the British Science Museum and a Deep Walk Through Time

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

As you will have seen from my article Unlocking Lovelock, Maria and I recently had the opportunity to spend a wet Sunday afternoon at the British Science Museum. This was geek heaven for us, and so I thought I would share a few photos of what is currently on display.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

On the ground floor I was really interested to see Making the Modern World, a huge showcase of the development of technology from the last 250 years, which along with the major exhibits such as Stephenson’s Rocket, also had an extremely illuminating series of panels divided into nine key areas:

  • Enlightenment and Measurement, 1750 – 1820
  • Manufacture by Machine, 1800 – 1860
  • The Industrial Town, 1820 – 1880
  • The Age of the Engineer, 1820 – 1880
  • The Second Industrial Revolution, 1870 – 1914
  • The Age of the Mass, 1914 – 1938
  • Defiant Modernism, 1930 – 1968
  • Design Diversity, 1950 – 1965
  • The Age of Ambivalence, 1960 – 2000
Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Each of these ages had it’s own glass display, and this one above for the Age of Measurement caught my eye for it contained a quote from philosopher Karl Achard who in 1782 asserted that:

The philosopher who does not measure only plays, and differs only from a child in the nature of the game.

It was economic development which was driving the desire for ever more accurate measurements, weights and standards, in addition to those requirements of the British navy and military overseas, demanding new mapping techniques for example. And so London became one of the major centres for the development and manufacture of elegant and ever more practical measuring devices.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

An interesting bifurcation took place during the Age of the Engineer, since at the start of this ear it was still possible for individual engineers to become superstars, their inventions such as steam trains and viaducts being highly visible to the public, but by the end major projects had grown to a level complexity which was beyond an individual’s ability to grasp.

Whereas the first industrial revolution was based on coal, steam and iron, the second industrial revolution saw a leap in the complexity of technology and materials. Life at home and at work became transformed by the transmission of electricity, and this era also saw the invention of synthetic dyes, chemical fertilisers, plastics, textiles and new drugs such as aspirin.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

This whole exhibition was not a pure and unadulterated celebration of modern technology. Indeed the display examining the move into mass production explicitly stated that many people at the time were wondering if the modernising economies were becoming too machine-like. Would science perfect warfare, or would it contribute to the solving of societal problems?

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

It’s interesting as in the post-war period there was a huge amount of creative design effort to produce low-cost solutions for austere economic conditions. However, it is interesting that this exhibition ends with the idea that towards the end of the twentieth century people had ambivalent feelings towards technology, not knowing if it would be a force for good or for worse, with mentions of advances in biological engineering and the emergence of the surveillance state.

Which is an interesting point to mention the second exhibition currently on show, Information Age, celebrating more than 200 years of innovation in communication and information technologies. I began work in 1992 at BT Laboratories, still one of the centres of the development of the world’s most sophisticated telecoms network technology, and the first two week’s are an induction into how global telecommunications networks are designed, built and deployed. So it was fabulous for me to see such a wide-ranging exhibition with some rare equipment on display, such as these early telegraphs:

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

I remember learning about Babbages Difference Engine and Analytical Engines at school, and here they were.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

I graduated in Psychology, so it was also great to see Charles Babbages’ brain, satiating the amateur phrenologist in me.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Of course the exhibition goes right up to the development of smart phones and tablets, and has a few important milestone innovations from the 1990s such as Simon, IBM’s 1995 smart phone.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Although Making the Modern World mentioned surveillance, Information Age, as far as I could tell, did not. This was a great missed opportunity I feel, although the British Science Museum is about as Establishment as you can get, so nothing too major here to rock any boats. But for those interested in the history of the development of the technology, it really cannot be faulted.

Having spent time in the exhibitions, we also went to see a very amazing film at the IMAX cinema at the museum. IMAX cinemas are basically the largest cinema screens in the world, ones so large they have their own format of films. Pretty much all normal cinema films are never shown in this format, it is one more for specialist ‘edutainment’ short documentaries, and the one we chose to see was Hidden Universe in 3D.

For the first time this film brings together the most spectacular footage from the world’s most powerful telescopes in 3D. It starts with the most incredibly detailed photography from Mars, and then we fly into the deepest regions of space, via the most sophisticated computer modelling and animation yet developed, taking us back to the origins and evolution of the universe. Billions of galaxies all with billions of stars.

When Maria and I arrived back from our trip to London, the following weekend we were back immersed in Holonomics, giving a course with our great friends at Insituto Jatobás in the countryside near the town of Pardinho, a couple of hours drive from São Paulo. (For those of you who are interested, I will be letting you know more about this course in the coming weeks). One of the exercises we did with everyone was to take a walk through deep time, going all the way back to the Big Bang.

We write about the Deep Time Walk in our book Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter and there are instructions on how you can create your own one. The idea is simple but incredibly powerful: when dealing with the vast dimensions of time and space, we are often unable to grasp the magnitude quantitatively, just through studying the numbers. A Deep Time Walk allows us to walk the time line of the history of the Earth and also universe, and thus for example, on a walk of 4.6km, if we start with the birth of Earth, each step of 1m represents 1m years.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

For our Deep Time Walk, we started in a deeply atmospheric grotto, which we then emerged out of and along a gloriously beautiful walk through the grounds of Fazenda dos Bambus.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Renata Safon

Photo: Renata Safon

Every so often along the walk we stop to contemplate key events in the history of the evolution of life on earth, such as the start of autopoietic life, the jump from single celled life to multi-cellular life. And then as we reach our endpoint, evolutionary events start to fly at us, just within the last 100 metres or so.

Photo: Renata Safon

Photo: Renata Safon

Now here is the thing, and it’s remarkable. All the science I discussed at the start of this article, indeed the entire history of science, starting with Pythagoras, Plato and Aristotle, on a 4.6km walk, pretty much fits inside the space of a couple of millimetres or so. That is all. The history from the industrial revolution onwards is no longer than the width of a finger nail.

The trip to the British Science Museum was amazing and I can highly recommend a visit if you are able to do so. I am sure we missed a lot and if I was back living in London I am sure I would be going at least a few times each year to be able to take everything in.

But sometimes we need to remember not just to study the history of science intellectually. We need to understand the qualities of life, not just to measure and weigh life, and to do this we need do things like go on a Deep Time Walk, where we learn to experience, connect and understand through feeling and intuition.

And sometimes we just need to find somewhere dark and to look up at the stars again.

Related Articles

Unlocking Lovelock: Scientist, Maverick, Inventor

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.