Category Archives: Sustainable

„Change Fixes the Past. Transformation Creates the Future“

With a striking sketching and a short title, Tanmay Rova  captures in a few words one of the crucial differences between change and transformation.

“Change fixes the past. Transformation creates the future”  —Tanmay Rova

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John Palinkas from CIO Insight gives us additional insight that differentiates transformation from change:

“Change uses external influences to modify actions, but transformation modifies beliefs so actions become natural and thereby achieve the desired result.”

—John Palinkas | http://www.cioinsight.com | @JohnPalinkas

I love the French word “clairvoyance” for the term vision. My native French combines “clair” meaning “clear” and “voyance” meaning “vision” or according Wikipedia, “the alleged ability to gain information about an object, person, location or physical event through extrasensory perception. Extrasensory perception has nothing to do with any Cartesian Excel sheet, a business plan or a to-do-list. It is the combination of a vision, motto and credo that touches our heart and moves us emotionally towards action.

All the musical technique (mastery of an instrument, knowledge of scales, harmony and chords) involved into a bebop Jazz musician improvising on Dizzy Gillespie’s wonderful classic “A night in Tunisia” is irrelevant to most listeners. It is the sound, the colorful melody line, Dizzy Latin influence, the dynamics and the way the theme and music transports us into the delight and pleasure of listening (for those of us who enjoy Bebop Jazz).

We’ve all experienced this emotional inner drive that compels us to buy “things” we don’t need. Organization alike should consider this emotional side of humans and translate it into a clear vision, mission and value statement. An inspiring company vision will rally its workforce towards a cause that transcendences religion, beliefs, personal idiosyncrasies or well known disagreements between Sales and Product Development. Company vision is difficult to express when one of the core priorities is the next quarterly “Frankfurt Main share-value.” The transformational vision given by management should inspire, motivate, and move the entire workforce behind a common clear (clairvoyance) vision. Simon Sinek comes here to the rescue with his excellent insight, pointing out the importance of our dreams (clairvoyance) that inspire people and move them towards action:

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Vision does not express itself best within a business plan, an Excel table or a to-do-list. Transformation goes beyond physical change; it is first a mental or “spiritual” exercise. Our western business models are built on rationale and for the most part non-renewable and non-sustainable short term profit. Character traits such as empathy, forgiveness, love, and unconditional altruism towards others are rarely part of a job interview! These character traits belong to the necessary building block any organization needs to display in order to thrive and grow. How should we then quantify and ratify character traits such as empathy, forgiveness, love, and unconditional altruism towards others into a business plan or an Excel table?

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That’s where an organization’s culture comes in. A company culture reflecting an organization’s vision, mission and values based upon extrasensory perception for each individual to identify himself or herself with! An Organization’s culture all co-workers, partners, and customers can identify with and support.

 

 

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Ten Lessons Aspiring Social Businesses Should Learn from a Spider Web (Part 2)

We often consider spider webs a nuisance … something annoying, but we often dismiss the very skillful show of one of our planet’s state-of-the-art technologies.  In Part One, we reviewed five remarkable characteristics on how an aspiring Enterprise 2.0 could learn from spider silk properties.  Let’s look at five more lessons a discerning observer should be willing to consider:
 
6. Spider Silk combines both tensile strength and ductility (stretchability)
 
Scientists at Arizona State University (ASU) have decoded the secret of spider silk’s strength and what makes the fiber at least five times as tough as piano wire. “Spider silk has a unique combination of mechanical strength and elasticity that make it one of the toughest materials we know of,” said Professor Jeffery Yarger of ASU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. The tensile strength of spider silk combined with its ductile i.e. elastic properties (stretching and retracting) is well worth appreciating. For any of us, it would be hard to imagine grabbing a man-made bar of steel and stretching it to an extra forty per cent to its original length. The fact that this exceptional biological polymer (related to collagen) perfectly combines tensile strength and ductility is mind-boggling to say the least.
 
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Image credit: http://www.bbc.co.uk/science
 
How do we set up company structures that are more flexible? Businesses that can “stretch” (such as a spiderweb capturing prey) when customer demand grows, but also businesses that can “retract” when its demand decreases?  How should these businesses embrace structural changes and seamlessly rebound when disruptive trends kick in?  Such theoretical questions are difficult to answer and ratify. An adaptive (stretchable and retractable) enterprise roadmap would be even more complex.
 
7.  The Spiderweb silk has stickiness properties
 
Spiders produce five main categories of silk.  One of them is the capture-spiral silk, used for the capturing lines of the web.  This sort of silk is sticky, extremely stretchy and tough, which should make us wonder how a spider can avoid entangling itself in its own web.  To this day, scientists are still not sure how it is possible for them not to get caught in their own trap.
 
What is the level of cultural stick-to-itiveness that companies have to offer? How does the Human Resource department attract, motivate and retain talent while minimizing personnel turnover?
 
8.  Spiders create exceptional spider web architectures
 
In Science Daily’s column “New Light Shed On the Mysteries of Spider Silk”, Dr. Kristie Koski and her colleagues from the University of Stanford report: “There has never been anything quite like spider silk.  Stretch it.  Bend it.  Soak it.  Dry it out.  Spider silk holds up … it can expand nearly a third greater than its original length and snap right back like new.  Ounce-for-ounce spider silk is even stronger than Kevlar, the human-made fiber used in bulletproof vests.”  Koski goes on to write: “The complete elastic response of spider silk is described by five elastic constants that define how the web reacts to any possible combination of forces –stretching, bending, soaking, pulling or twisting.” 
 
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Image credit: http://www.redorbit.com
 
How about our business structures? How far can we stretch them, bend them, pull them or even twist them without destroying them?  Have we ever considered the wisdom of a spider web and all its hidden attributes?  Have we ever tried to apply some of those principles to the form-functions of our schools, universities, government and businesses?
 
9.  Spider webs can capture water from the air
 
In the journal Nature, Chinese scientists have reported that silk is not only renowned for its strength, but also outstanding at collecting water from the air: “Sparing the creatures the hunt for a drink”.  We are here witnessing the awe-inspiring beauty of one of the most incredible sights God’s engineering hand has ever created.  “A tapestry of bright pearl-like water drops hanging on thin spider silk in the morning after fog” says Lei Jiang, the scientist from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.  He goes on to say: “The spider silk can be several tens of micrometers in diameter, whereas the water drops can be thousands of micrometers wide.  The silk properties change as it contacts water, which causes the bumpy silk fibers to smooth out and drives the water towards the bumpy knots in the spindle, where it gathers into large droplets.” 
 
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Image credit: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science
 
Do we conceive products with compelling beauty and majesty while promoting safety, health and sustainability?  When considering some of the shoddy architecture I’ve personally seen in Paris, London, Los Angeles, Manila, Osaka, Beijing, Moscow, Barcelona and New York, I do not think they contribute to the beauty and enhancement of our environment. Do we boost technology by making it sustainable, durable and of compelling beauty such as the pearl-like water drops hanging on thin spider silk? Or does our industry prefer to plan the breakdown of specific parts for purpose of future gain and enrichment?  
 
10. Spider silk has antibacterial properties
 
In their research article: “Evidence for antimicrobial activity associated with common house spider silk”, Simon Wright and Sara Goodacre, from the school of Biology at the University of Nottingham, researched and proved the antimicrobial quality of some spider silk when confronted with micro organisms.  In Heimer, S. (1988). Wunderbare Welt der Spinnen. Urania. p.14, we read that the peasants in the southern Carpathian Mountains used to cut up tubes built by Atypus and cover wounds with the inner lining.  It reportedly facilitated healing, and even connected with the skin.  This is believed to be due to antiseptic properties of spider silk and because the silk is rich in vitamin K, which can be effective in clotting blood.
 
Do our company products and services sustain our livelihood?  Do our business protocols provide our workforce with physical and emotional assets in form of education, personal growth and vision?  Does middle management nourish the strength and potential of its workforce by facilitating information taxonomy and its distribution?  Or do most structures suffer from a command-and-control mentality going back to the enlightenment age and war room strategies?  
 
Much more could be written about spiders, but I hope that we all could gain a better appreciation for the sustainable world which is just around us.  May we strive to contribute and make our work and world a better place where more sustainable values become the drivers of our business endeavors.  In the meanwhile, we continue to deplete our earth from the very resources that sustain our physical lives.  One thing is certain:  the air we breathe, the food we eat, the sleep we need and the love we cherish, none of these components will ever be digitalized.
 
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10 Lessons Aspiring Social Businesses Should Learn from a Spider Web (Part 1)

We often consider spider webs a nuisance… something annoying, or we look at them as the irrefutable evidence that we have not done our housekeeping properly. We often forget or dismiss the masterful exhibit of one of our planet’s state-of-the-art technologies. Most likely, the majority of us have no particular knowledge about arachnology (the scientific study of spiders). To tell you the truth, I did not even know the word until I looked it up in Wikipedia: “A spider web, spider’s web, or cobweb is a device created by a spider out of proteinaceous spider silk extruded from its spinnerets. The spinnerets are the glands spiders use in order to produce silk. Some spiders are capable of manufacturing up to eight different silks during their life time.”
To conceive such an engineering exploit is a technological tour de force. Spider webs are so stunningly complex that their study has become a science. Around the world, arachnologists analyze the physical properties of spider silk. They consider its scientific uniqueness and the technological input it may bring to future man-made woven materials. We can learn a lot from spider webs and spider silk. We can draw many analogies between their properties and the properties our private and professional communities could and ought to display.
 
1. Spider silk is one of the toughest bio-materials yet known
 
The tensile strength of spider silk is greater than the same weight of steel. Spider silk is five times stronger than steel and three times tougher than Kevlar. Spider silk starts as a liquid protein, which is too small to see without magnification, then hardens to a solid when exposed to air. Spider silk can be stretched significantly (one fourth of its length) before it breaks. It can withstand temperatures from -40°C to 220°C.
How resistant and resilient can our organizations be? How are our business communities confronting adversity and bouncing back from defeat? How expandable and stretchable are our enterprises, businesses and societies? How far can they “spread” and “stretch” before they finally break or collapse?
 
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2. The spider web has the ability to adapt to different levels of stressOne of the remarkable keys to the stability of the spider web is the fact that “a spider web design, and the unique properties of its silk, allows just a single thread to break so the rest of the web remains unharmed.”  Can we say the same about our education systems, our management models and our manufacturing routines?  Someday, could a giant corporation like Apple tumble or “break”?  Could it be the reason that the unpredictable and creative genius of a Steve Jobs is not around anymore?  Could this cause a threat to Apple’s long-haul business strategy?  In “Apple Might Have a Bad 2013: 10 Signs of Trouble Ahead,” eWeek columnist Don Reisinger wrote:  “Apple could be in for trouble, as there are signs that iPhone demand is waning and its mobile market share is starting to slide.” If a corporation is threatened, will it adjust and adapt the same way a spider web can?
 
3. The silk’s molecular structure allows it to stretch
 
When a filament is pulled, the silk’s unique molecular structure unfurls as stress increases, leading to a stretching effect… The durability of the web is not just controlled by how strong silk is, but also how its mechanical properties change as you stretch it” says Dr. Buehler.  Darwin’s bark spider can weave a huge web over flowing rivers, stretching from one bank of the river to the other.  In order to stretch from bank to bank the Darwin spider must weave anchoring lines of up to 25m!  They weave such large tapestries by using one of the toughest, most energy-absorbing silks ever discovered, tougher than any other known biological and most man-made materials.  How tough and resistant do we train our workforce to be?  What sort of company culture and vision do we impart to them?  How far do we allow our workforce to stretch their minds and broaden their outlook?  How do we build bridges between departments and company silos?  How can we overcome isolated competitiveness for the benefit of community success?  When purchasing deliberately keeps a low inventory to earn CFO strides, production is postponed, client delivery is late, client production lines stops.  Does this sound familiar?  Unfortunately, it sure does to me.
 
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4. The breaking of a single spider silk thread never threatens the entire web structureResearching on the spider web functionality, Dr. Buehler, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology goes on to say: “If a building, a car or an airplane is exposed to large mechanical stress, it typically breaks as a whole and the entire structure becomes dysfunctional.” He continues: “Each individual thread of silk could be ‘sacrificed’ to maintain the overall structure.  How far can our communities stretch before they break?  How much stress can they take?  Why did Kodak file for bankruptcy in January 2012?  Didn’t the management foresee the technological trends and the reality that sooner or later cameras would be digitalized?
 
5. Spider silk becomes spider food
 
Did you know that spiders can nourish themselves from the silk they produce? Spiders produce a large quantity of silk, roughly 59.43 meters (65 yards) a day or 70.81 km (40.44 miles) in their entire lifetime.   We could compare spider silk’s double functionality (web weaving and food) to bamboo which is commonly used for scaffolding in Asia but also consumed as a delicious plant.  Will we ever see the day when a man-made product will be used both as building material and food?  When will shareholders understand that greed destroys our planet?  It’s time to replace polluting manufacturing plants with clean sites and an environmentally biodegradable production output.  How much longer can we pollute, destroy and loot the very planet that sustains us?  Companies, entrepreneurs and leaders should bear in mind that short term greed will soon destroy our children’s right to live abundantly!  One thing is certain:  the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink… none of it will ever be digitalized!

In part two, we will look at five more spider silk properties and the physical and spiritual lessons they discretely continue to teach us, should we want to observe and learn.    

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Why Sustainability is the Core to any Successful Long Term Social Business Enterprise 2.0

Back in 1995 during a visit in Sugar Creek Ohio, in the heart of the renowned Swiss-German Amish Community who migrated to the US in the late 17th century, I traveled with an old friend of mine: John Miller aka “Johannes Mueller” owner and CEO of Superb Industries.  Back then John Miller, a former Amish Community member, was living near Bonn in Germany but grew up in Sugar Creek:  an idyllic little town populated by a large Amish community.  While visiting there I picked up some incongruities on how the Amish community was going about its daily life.  I noticed some of the shortcuts they were taking to beat their own belief system.  John Miller made an unforgettable statement about his former community: “Why have it the easy way when one can have it the German way?”  Having lived in Germany for more than 25 years I could really appreciate his dry sense of humor because, just like Germans at times, the Amish community tends to make things difficult for itself.  But let me stop pointing the finger to some of those anachronisms and take a realistic look at the way I run my life in my so-called modern digitized world.

1. Our modern societies rarely promote sustainability

At the dawn of our digitized 21st century we still endorse manufacturing practices we have acquired during the industrial age dating all the way back to the 19th century!  We have managed to “industrialize” just about everything we transform or produce: manufacturing routines and processes, educational paradigms and finally agriculture.  Because of our cultures being mostly non-sustainable we all pay a price, which is phenomenal: emotional stress, physical stress, mental illness and potentially deadly physical diseases while imprisoning ourselves in non-sustainable megacities:  and the list could go on and on …  Humans fully understand that our world’s fossil energy consumption is not a sustainable one, but to this very day we still classify our countries’ economies with an antiquated measurement system: the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

In her article:  “Instead of GDP,” Carolyn Brajkovich writes about the Rio+20 environmental conference and reports how “UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon discussed the need for the world to move past the antiquated GDP measuring tool that has failed to show the true prosperity of nations.  Instead of measuring the tangibles of ‘wealth’, which do not show the true measure of ‘success’ at the citizen’s level, he agrees that we need to create a broader measurement that also covers the social developmental aspects of humanity as well as an added health measurement for our planet and its integrated eco-systems.”  Such antiquated industrial measurement practices should have been abandoned a long time ago, but unfortunately our voracious human greed still promotes a never ending appetite for more.  In her article:  “13tn hoard hidden from taxman by global eliteHeather Stewart writes:  “A global super-rich elite has exploited gaps in cross-border tax rules to hide an extraordinary £13 trillion ($21tn) of wealth offshore – as much as the American and Japanese GDPs put together – according to research commissioned by the campaign group Tax Justice Network”.

On the other hand sustainability is everywhere:  Any of us can observe sustainability by just pausing and admiring nature all around us:  No cables, no programming updates, no rewriting on how a spider could improve on more sustainable web manufacturing routines.  No need to check the self-sustaining burning limits of our sun star situated at the core of our solar system.  Our sun star (1.392K km / 864K miles diameter) is made of a mix of three-fourth hydrogen while the rest is mostly helium, but also oxygen, carbon, neon and iron, among others. There is no hauling of raw materials; no “manufacturing” processes subcontracted to different parts of our universe!  It sounds crazy, but please bear with me for a second and think … This is exactly what  “intelligent humans” are doing on the planet that sustains their very physical lives!

2. Our educational system comes out of the Enlightenment age

We do not respect the idiosyncrasies of our young people and literally destroy their creativity by the time they are 25!  Children are pretty much all taught the same thing without considering their proclivity, talents, likes and dislikes.  We tightly join them together:  boys and girls sorted out by “manufacturing dates” i.e. year of birth.  Our educational system mostly emphasizes linear non-creative thinking such as mathematics, sciences, philosophy and chemistry.   All are geared towards nurturing a manufacturing based society and its commonly known industrial output.  Young educated people for the most part have been stripped of their human creativity.  They have been transformed into societal tools which are aimed to support the necessary “industrial output” our society expects.  Character, principles and ethics remain non tangible assets and of little interest for our daily industrial output.

3. Manufacturing routines based on 19th century industrial revolution

Our societies are still based on business models coming right out of the industrial revolution; our countries’ education paradigms are fueled by linear thinking systems going all the way back to the days of enlightenment.  Both company productivity and success are measured in monetary values solely determined by our international financial markets.  Financial success or failure is tightly connected to the profit company shareholders make and this regardless of how sustainable or unsustainable our manufacturing routines are.  In his article:  “Tim Cook’s Freshman Year:  The Apple CEO Speaks,” Josh Tyrangiel’s writes:  “In Cook’s first 16 months on the job, Apple has released next-generation iPhones and iPads and seen its stock price rise 43 percent.” Right at the beginning of his article, Josh Tyrangiel proves Tim Cook’s performance by equating his success to a 43 percent growth of Apple’s stock’s price Share Value.

4. Local agriculture transformed in agro-industry 

We have lost the respect towards the environment that sustains our lives. Are industrialized ways are careless about our planet’s fragile ecosystem and the fact that it gives us the very air we breathe the water we drink and the food we eat!   Our agro-industrial food manufacturing methods are destroying our environment.  The resulting “fast-food” culture is only one of the tragic examples our western cultures have credited themselves with.   Chipotle states: “It’s all fun and games until someone wrecks a planet.”  We need to reestablish a culture of local food markets.  We also need to replace our industrial farming techniques and pesticides with sustainable and ecological ways of growing food otherwise who knows what the consequences will be.

So how do we turn this around? How do we contribute to our planet and environment’s survival?  What can our businesses do in order to promote sustainability and avoid industrial waste?  In this new article series, we will look at ways management, workforce and clients alike can benefit from applying sustainability.

Follow Bruno Gebarski on Twitter: https://twitter.com/BrunoGebarski@brunogebarski or on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/brunogebarski

Related posts to Social Business i.e. Enterprise 2.0:

-4 Reasons Why Human Resources Must Become the Control Center to any Social Business Enterprise 2.0 Transformation (Part 1)
3 Ways to Promote Your Employee Engagement and Increase Your Social Business Enterprise 2.0 Productivity
4 More Ways for Leaders to Promote Personnel Engagement in Social Business Enterprise 2.0
Why Are People, Processes and Platforms the Three Fundamental P’s of Any Social Business Enterprise 2.0 transformation?
Why Company Culture is The Foundation to Any Social Business Entreprise 2.0
Understanding the 4 Fundamentals of a Social Business Enterprise 2.0