Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Think Different - 4 initiatives

Rosabeth Moss Kanter is a renowned Harvard professor of strategy and leadership in the famous business school of the same name. I came across many of her articles and writings during my MBA studies. It is also interesting to see new perspectives of management over the years. One of her most memorable pieces include the Change Master, which talks about how to bring about changes in a corporation's culture. Change is one of the hardest things to employ in any organization. In her latest article entitled "Thinking Differently in the Recession: Today's Whole Earth Catalog," she blends management, leadership, organizational dynamics and environmental concerns together in the light of today's tough economic climate. She links four strategies necessary not only for organizational survival but environmental sustenance. She hopes that such initiatives can inspire innovation and present an opportunity for people to think differently.

She writes:
"That counter-culture's elements hardly seem threatening today. Respect the land and learn to grow your own food — how radical! Recycle garbage into compost to fertilize the gardens — doubly radical! Make your own herbal tea, cut electricity use, preserve water, ride bicycles or walk — how revolutionary! Share your living space with other people and create a sense of community — over the top! Be skeptical of establishments, and value the earth more than earthly assets — too much! Make love, not war — what will they think of next?"
In it she says that there is hope in four ways, namely;

1) Green Awareness
2) Self-Sufficiency
3) Healthy Behaviors
4) Communal Living

Firstly, efforts must be invested to recycle, reuse and rethink ways to make old things new. This contrasts with a throw-away culture where businesses simply adopt convenience over conservation of scarce resources. I will venture to argue against the problem of low cost. In my experience, when things are cheap, people tend to buy more and throw more. Recently, I saw a special sales offer at a major supermarket that sells chocolate milk at 99cents per litre. In contrast, a larger gallon of milk retails at nearly $5. If we do the math, it is cheaper to buy four small bottles of chocolate milk at $3.96 compared to $5 for one large container. The waste generated from four to five small containers may be marginally less than 1 large container. However, multiply that with the many families that do the same and we have a larger pool of waste to deal with. Low cost is no friend of environmental considerations. Another problem is plastic bags, where many places simply use them like public water.

Secondly, she advocates more focus on equipping people to do it themselves, such as DIY kits, even the growing of food. She suggests that products that 'build capabilities' rather than increase dependence are sorely needed.

Thirdly, a healthy lifestyle. The other day, I was watching a documentary on CBC entitled: "Ten Trillion and Counting" about the rising financial deficit the US government is incurring. Based on current and projected spending on healthcare programs like Medicare and MedicAid, the country is increasingly making not themselves in debt, but their children's. Indeed, it is better not to even need to tap onto health insurance programs, to keep oneself healthy in the first place. For in the future, it is likely that even if one is eligible to make a health insurance claim, he/she may have to wait in line for a long time.

Fourthly, communal living is even more important for an aging population.

Looking at these four areas, businesses will be wise to focus their resources on caring for the planet, to equip people in DIY programs, to embark services that promote healthy living and to live in community. These four things are acceptable initiatives as far as the Christian is concerned. It is also biblical. The first instruction from God to Adam is to care for the earth. We need to learn to be environmentally conscious in all of our actions. Reuse. Recycle. Renew our natural resources. The second point about equipping others is also something very consistent with Paul's exhortation to the churches. Empower one another to do the will of God. That' s what spiritual gifts are for, to build up. Thirdly, the care of the body is also a consistent Christian virtue. After-all, isn't the body a temple of the Holy Ghost. Finally, the emphasis on community. This should have been championed by Christianity first and foremost, instead of being reminded by business dons at Harvard. I am not sure about Professor Kanter's religious background, but these four initiatives she suggested are beneficial for all to adopt. Let's think differently.


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