Bringing about change. Being a change agent. Pursuing innovation. These strategies seem to be the new approach to leading an organization. Barbara Stymiest, the new board chair at RIM, advocates this in her plans for RIM’s board by stating in a recent interview, “Driving change in an organization means a high-performing board and a high-quality management team.”
In a world where access to distant markets has become more accessible and competition has become more fierce, companies today are faced with many challenges; social media can spell disaster for a product launch that misses its mark for customer appeal; the speed of communication provides little opportunity for second chances; product failures, even one, can mean a long road back to prosperity, a road RIM is about to embark upon. Add to this the pressure for companies to make their numbers quarter by quarter to keep the market happy, avoid these potential market pitfalls and engineer themselves to become more sustainable in a world of dwindling resources. Today — companies need to do more with less. The solution? Drive change. Become more sustainable. Innovate… a daunting task — or is it?
Our first order of business (and what should be priority number one for any company) is to define the buzzword sustainability. In today’s day and age, this word has become muddled with meanings, from its direct correlation to the word green — to its application in business terms. Here, first and foremost, we return to its definition, rooted in the dictionary; sustainable: “able to me maintained at a certain rate or level.” Ultimately, businesses need to find the balance of constantly innovating while maintaining sustainable practices where necessary in order to thrive (much in the same way a civilization must do this to survive).
With that established, and moving forward into sustainability in the business world, we must not forget that companies are nothing more than people, working together within their ‘community’, toward a common goal. We have been sustaining ourselves in our current evolutionary form, homo sapiens, for over 200,000 years. Behaviorally, we reached our full modernity over 50,000 years ago. For what is sustainability? At its most fundamental level, sustainability is the capacity to endure…
However, there are many examples in our human history where civilizations have chosen not to live sustainably within their environment, with devastating consequences. Perhaps the most striking is the first known agrarian civilization of Mesopotamia. While seemingly innovative with their diversion of both the Euphrates and Tigris rivers for the purpose of irrigation, the end result became catastrophic. Over-irrigation of the flood plain to increase crop yield resulted in the eventual destruction of the soil due to mineral salts left behind by irrigation.
Now, back to the 21st century. According to a report by Accenture for the 2010 United Nations Global Compact study of chief executive officers, 93 percent of global CEOs believe sustainability issues will be critical to the future success of their business and 96 percent believe sustainability issues should be fully integrated into the strategy and operations of a company.
The lesson? A group (whether it’s a civilization or a company) must recognize the boundaries of their current practices and analyze what effect pushing those boundaries will have upon the community prior to embarking upon a path of change. From a company or NPO point of view, the organization will need to consider how to operate sustainably within its environment prior to developing a change strategy and pursuing innovation to meet the strategic goals outlined in the change policy. In other words, organizations, companies and businesses need to find the fine balance of creating ultimately sustainable practices that will keep them running for years and years to come while simultaneously delving into the realm of change and innovation wherever possible.
Have you considered how your organization will function more sustainably to meet the challenges of pursuing change through an innovation strategy?
Want a hint? Talk to us about the Business Model Canvas.
This post was brought to you via the wonderful Shaun Lowcock, a Look-Solutions contributor.