Step Changes In Mindsets And Behaviours Wrap-up

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This post is part of series of newsletters was originally written for Katerva, an NGO dedicated to the identification, evaluation and acceleration of disruptive sustainable innovation; it was first published 25th June 2020.

In our newsletters … we address not the science behind climate change, nor the technologies required to create change, but why change is happening so slowly and which cultural shifts are required before we can exist sustainably. When the science is clear and accepted, why do governments, consumers, businesses and others not act as if the world as we know it could come to an end?

This is how we started out 2020 newsletter series back in October 2019.  Not many of us would have been able to imagine then just how quickly our world could turn upside down; how quickly economies could grind to a near halt, arresting the economic growth that had been the be all and end all for the past two centuries; how quickly new ways of working, that had previously been discussed and debated at length and declared not to be possible or even feasible, could be embraced in a matter of days, globally.

The few voices that had been warning, pleading that we prepare and take the threat of pandemics seriously, such as Bill Gates in his 2015 TED talk, or infectious diseases expert Michael Osterholm in an article in Foreign Affairs magazine a decade earlier, in 2005, were blissfully ignored.

Bill Gates’ TED talk on “The next outbreak? We’re not ready | Bill Gates” 3rd April 2015
While so many call for a rapid ‘back to normal’, there can be no such thing. That is actually very precious gift, because it is perhaps the last opportunity humanity has to set the planet on a different course, one in which humans can live in harmony with the rest of the planet. As Otto Scharmer, Senior Lecturer at the MIT Management Sloan School, co-founder of the Presencing Institute and creator of Theory-U stated, “Our society must move from ego-system to eco-system economics. This requires that we shift from ego-system silos to eco-system awareness that considers other and includes the whole.”
In the video below he talks about this in in dialogue with Walter Link of Global Academy Media.
Otto Scharmer and Walter Link in conversation about “Leading From the Emerging Future”.
You can access also access the video, including a transcript here (), and a read the introduction to his book, ‘Leading from the emerging future’, that describes this journey here.

The reassuring thing is that the wisdom as well as the solutions that are needed already exist; we just need to remember the wisdom, and find the solutions, then nurture them and accelerate their impact – which is of course why Katerva exists.

What is critical in this necessary shift from ego to eco is that all aspects of the system are being addressed, not just one, and most certainly not only technology. This is why Katerva’s awards categories range from Cities & Mobility, Energy & Environment, Food & water to Education & Human Resources and Heath & Wellbeing. It is a combination of hard and soft shifts, of transformation of technologies and mindsets.

While the buy-in into the need for transforming technologies is taken for granted, there is less awareness and understanding of the need for mindset changes – hence here a reminder of the required changes in mindset and behaviours we have written about; they are now even more urgent than before:

  • Understanding connectedness and thinking in systems – We must address global problems by thinking in systems, moving beyond an outdated linear approach to problems. Newtonian Physics, and the resulting way of interacting with our environment, is no longer sufficient. Instead we need to embrace the world of quantum physics, which acknowledges connectedness, unpredictable interactions, non-linear relationships, and multiple possible outcomes. It is the insights and concepts from chaos and complexity theory that will help us address the challenges we face
  • From control to emergence – While technological progress nurtures our belief that we are in control, the further we go back in time, the more we were aware that we but part of a system that has its own dynamic and rules that are beyond our reach, and which we would do well to respect; volcanic erruptions, wildfires, and increasingly frequent and severe storms and with flooding remind us of this.
  • Thinking further into the future while acting now – In the world of business, short-termism is a reality that is widely bemoaned, as business guru Peter Drucker pointedly declared in a Wall Street Journal editorial in 1985: “Everyone who has worked with American management can testify that the need to satisfy the pension fund manager’s quest for higher earnings next quarter, together with the panicky fear of the raider, constantly pushes top managements toward decisions they know to be costly, if not suicidal, mistakes.” Not much has changed since then and, therefore, “We are living in an interminable succession of absurdities imposed by the myopic logic of short-term thinking,” as said Jacques Yves Cousteau.
  • Give more importance to the feminine side – Before saying anything else: it will take all of us to save us.  The call to give more importance to the feminine side it not about ‘better or worse’ nor ‘right or wrong’. It is also not about ‘women versus men’ but about female and male values, both of which are in all of us. It is about looking at what is ‘different’, and what might be most appropriate in each situation, given the complex world we live in today.
  • Believing in contribution, not entitlement – The essence of this mindset shift is captured in the quote of John F Kennedy from his presidential inauguration in 1961 when he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”.  Given our sphere of influence – our community, and the wider context on which we depend – the planet, this should really be expanded to “Ask not what your community, country or planet can do for you – ask what you can do to enhance each of them!”
  • Embracing sufficiency while nurturing abundance – In essence, this shift is to ask ‘how much do I really need’, rather than feel the need to accumulate more and more. It is a shift from a growth economy to a steady-state economy, via de-growth, a term first introduced in 1972, the same year the book ‘The Limits of Growth’ was published by the Club of Rome.


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