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Chaos, Collaboration & Sustainability

Notes from my presentation at the Sustainable Business Network Conference 2016

Chaos, Collaboration & Sustainability

 Great things can come with a little chaos.

There’s a short exercise I often run when I’m speaking and training. I give twelve to fourteen volunteers a simple brief to create a certain formation together but without communicating. When I ask them how they think it’ll go, “Chaos” is the word that normally arises from what they perceive is an impossible task. However, in less that two minutes, they complete the task and it’s mind-blowing!

I then ask them, “What made that work, and how does it link to leadership, collaboration and sustainability?” Their answers define key principles under each of those three headings.

From speaking at the Sustainability Business Network conference in Auckland, here are the key principles from the exercise linked to sustainability.

ONE: Common Goal

When people are potentially pulling in different directions, it’s easy to see chaos in motion. However if there’s a common goal involved that everyone is working towards, then the goal works as an anchor and the people involved operate as a self-referencing system – adjusting their behaviour in reference to the goal.

Sustainability question: What’s one common sustainability goal that different businesses can actively collaborate on together?

TWO: Collective Intelligence

Greater possibilities arrive via Collective Intelligence, many minds from different businesses working on the same goal. Through this, greater possibilities are faster and more effective.

Sustainability question: How do we fully connect our collective-business-genius to achieve our common sustainability goal?

THREE: 100% Commitment

The exercise I run works for many reasons, one of which is 100% commitment. People engage in the process, adapt to the changing environment and keep moving to achieve the common goal.

Sustainability question: What are the barriers that prevent 100% commitment to sustainability goals and how do we remove them?

FOUR: Learning Economy

As people move through the exercise, they latch on quickly to the fact that when they make a big move within the group, it creates a ripple effect through the exercise. With this comes more caution, an awareness of how they are impacting others. This is called a learning economy and is a major insight when it comes to sustainability. How does my business impact others, and is it useful?

Sustainability question: How do we communicate to self-adjust as-we-go and have the right impact on others to co-evolve our sustainability missions?

FIVE: Courage

We live in times of challenge, threat and opportunity. On the road to sustainability, we need the courage to travel through new territory and learn fast.

Sustainability question: How do we build courage to move through the chaos and uncertainty?

SIX: Quiet Leadership

As with the exercise, quiet leadership is essential – holding the space that a common goal provides, define the parameters for people to succeed within and supporting people to figure out the ‘how to’.

Sustainability question: Who can hold the space, encourage and stretch us? My answer to this would be organisations like SBN.

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