Lake Lessons 3 (Final)
Four days aboard an 800-foot Great Lakes freighter transporting 30K tons of limestone and iron ore was an unexpectedly rich experience. As with the lessons shared last week, this final batch carries relevancies to other kinds of journeys, including those Foresight undertakes on its projects.
Insights, inspiration and opportunities to create a more vibrant and resilient future.
Filtering by Category: Insight
Lake Lessons 3 (Final)
I was reluctant to disembark. Fulfilling a childhood ambition, I spent 4 days last week traveling from Detroit to Duluth aboard an 800 foot lake boat. Viewing issues from one, often narrow, perspective, is one of the pitfalls of working on sustainability challenges. New approaches are often adamantly embraced without having considered the full spectrum of ramifications. The wisdom and experience of those caught in the potential transition can be overlooked. Aboard the ship, I was afforded an intimate, upstream perspective of the "extractive economy” upon which so much of our affluence fundamentally rests.
I suspect collusion. The paper napkins I’ve been receiving at several lunch establishments I frequent have gotten noticeably thinner. I blame my dry cleaners. They have directly benefitted from this backward trend, as my business with them has increased. With this, my pants are wearing out more quickly. So maybe those manufacturers are in this as well?
Growth Etudes 4: Hiring Uncertainty
I fought for my first job. I'd never before been in that kind of competitive position, wanting to do everything I could and knowing there was little I could do. Hiring is an imperfect process of risk reduction. Given the often intense, multidimensional nature of Foresight’s projects, and our relatively small team, identifying the right person is essential. As much as I might interview a candidate, check their references, and get to know them, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s nearly impossible to predetermine a good fit.
Growth Etudes 3: Finding Lucrative
The panoramic view captivates me. Easily distracted by all the city movements below this borrowed 40th floor conference room perch, I would get little done if I worked here. I don’t covet the digs, but I do the resources behind them. Sustainable innovation is often distanced from robust profit. Those of us who practice it constantly have to bridge the gap, make the connection to the economic, demonstrate that the social and environmental does ultimately translate into dollars.
Growth Etudes Part 2: Consonance and Dissonance
There have to be some edges. An effective consulting project, like a compelling musical performance, isn’t the result of pure harmony, but rather the navigation of the right creative tensions. Studying cello in my youth, I found the seeming glamour of the soloist’s perch the most appealing, but performing in small ensembles the most satisfying. Achieving any kind of significant sustainability-focused innovation requires a team. The work I produce at Foresight is made better by the input of my colleagues.
Growth Etudes Part 1: Discernment
Intentional career trajectories puzzle me. A well-defined vocational path has never seemed relevant. I launched Foresight to create my own opportunities, with little regard for where it might lead in the long-term. Foresight has grown, and isn’t just about my vision and skill set anymore. We’ve started to more intentionally consider the organization's trajectory, with my voice being but one of several. This process requires reviewing many elements, including the nature of our individual ambitions.
Bit By Bit
Go big, or go home. I used to be enamored by the allure of fostering large-scale change that would catalyze more sustainable behaviors and practices. However, the potential of more modest shifts has been occupying my attention lately. I’ve experienced this in my yoga practice, finding that a series of smaller, more accessible adjustments can add up over time. Striving for bigger ones often resulted in fatigue, injury or frustration. Achieving these more minute inflections, however, demands a more focused and disciplined level of concentration, and forfeiting the yearning for the ego-gratifying big win.
I forgot my computer. Today’s Forecast is being written by hand. Very few of these weekly missives have been drafted on anything but a keyboard and screen. Identifying viable alternatives requires space and perspective. Walking to the studio early this morning, I realized I didn’t want to go all the way there just to get my computer. I began to consider the options, including using the pen and notebook that I did have with me.
The Rewards of Listening
Don’t look down. The impulse has become innate; no reminders required. Working for a small innovation studio in an emerging field, risk and uncertainty are constants. They have become familiar friends whom I’m not sure I really like anymore. What was their initial allure? I would ask them to leave if their mystery weren’t so compelling. If I let them stay a little bit longer, they will perhaps, finally, surface their secrets.
Certain phrases make me cringe. For example: “now more than ever,” and “the world’s most pressing challenges,” invoke instant consternation. They are, of course, almost always hyperbole. Accurate language and perception is important to the social and environmental innovation work to which I’m committed. A portion of the challenge is to see the context and barriers clearly. A lack of urgency is often exactly what we strive to address!
From the Jaws of Defeat
A common foe unites opposition. The federal government’s dismantling of its previous climate efforts is disturbing. Each new demise reminds me of the line from Joseph Heller’s novel: "Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can’t stop them from doing.” This dynamic can work both ways.