Tag Archives: radical

A call for boldness

If Einstein is right and we can’t solve problems with the same level of thinking that created them, then our tentative shuffle forward as a society to answer the clarion call of climate change will never provide us with the chasm leap required to address an overheating world.

We shouldn’tbold be surprised at the tentative shuffle – we have designed our social mechanisms to maintain the successful status quo.  Businesses and governments are set-up to create stability – not to provide the breakthrough thinking required to solve the biggest challenges of our time. But, we can’t wait around for the odd start-up or crazy pioneer to radically reinvent our systems. Technology and Elon Musk will not save us.

We need to break through institutionalised mind-sets and deliver change within the frameworks of our existing social mechanisms. We need to harness the power of the biggest social constructs we have – businesses – to be able to unleash resources, at scale against our societal challenges.

And of course it is in the interest of business. How can these large transactional mechanisms survive in a world of shrinking resource base, dying customers and migrating employees? Climate change is in the words of Stern “the world’s greatest market failure”.  Of course, there is also the other side – the carrot if you like – for those who act sooner to create the capabilities, source the technologies and thereby realise the opportunities inherent in the future we are moving towards.

Yet anyone that has ever been on a diet or started a new fitness programme knows that change is really, really hard. And even harder when it’s herding many organisations and individuals towards a new outcome. Here are some thoughts to support business boldness:

  1. Join forces: More and more coalitions and collaborations exist to support businesses and the systems they operate manage a transition to a low carbon world. Whether it is as specific as refrigerants or materials or generic as a Sustainable Cosmetics Forum, opportunities exist to operate beyond traditional organisational boundaries and work together to make far-reaching changes.
  1. Set external targets: Nestle (in a rare case of providing exemplary role modelling) links its corporate goals to the SDG’s. Other companies, including Natura and Unilever are looking at the BCorp structure to provide an external framework to guide their business actions. It is of little use to have internal targets in a connected world. The ability of business to thrive is dependent on the health of everything around it.
  1. Set 100% targets: Ikea shifted the target of 50% FSC certified wood to 100% across all products. This provided such clarity for suppliers that the original goal of 50% was met 2 years early. Each purchase decision made by a large business (or government) sends a long ripple of influence through the world. Use it.
  1. Leverage innovators within: Within every company there are people already with answers to tomorrow’s problems. These ‘intrapreneurs’ are motivated to align social purpose and organisational goals. By identifying, mobilising and connecting these individuals,  pockets of possibility are created that ultimately shift corporate culture towards the new.
  1. Change the game: In a world of boring, ‘me too’ %-based reduction targets, Interfaces resolution to ‘Reverse Climate Change’ is exactly the bold move required to reframe the game and demonstrate leadership. It ignites employees and customers and sets out new ways of innovating, competing and doing business.

If we started with Einstein – let’s end with Goethe… “Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now”.

Nicola’s first role working against climate change required her to come up with ideas for new businesses across all sectors in the Uk that could demonstrate the commercial case for a shift to low-carbon. She is still using commercial innovation to  change the world.

Natural Business for a World That’s Waking up

Thoughts from the wonderful Giles Hutchins –

Albert Einstein threw down the gauntlet for our human evolution when he said,

“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us ‘universe’, a part limited in time and spaceHe experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

A task not for the faint-hearted, as it requires great courage to widen our circle of compassion amid increasing tension, fear and uncertainty. Not least it requires a fundamental shift in worldview, in how we perceive our sense of self, our relationship with others, and our sense of place and purpose within this world.

Whether it’s the disciplines of quantum physics, psychology, ecology, organisational development or evolutionary theory, it is now dawning on our contemporary consciousness that life is not simply a mechanistic construct of push-pull factors and selfish genes, where separate organisms compete with each other in the struggle for survival. Rather, we are now recognising that life is an inter-relational network of inter-being, where everything is in dynamic relation with its environment, continuously communicating and collaborating within an ocean of being. The ‘self’ is not the ‘separate self’ of individualism but the ‘differentiating self’ immersed within a rich milieu of relations. It is the diversity and reciprocity of these relations which provides for the organism’s resilience and in-turn the resilience of the wider ecosystem. As the world-renowned biologist Lynn Margulis succinctly puts it,

“Life did not take over the globe by combat but by networking.”

This living-systems view of life is beginning to permeate our corridors of power. There is an increasing recognition that business-as-usual thinking is not going to get us very far. To becomefuture-fit we need to embrace a new way of operating and organising. That new way just so happens to be the way life really works – not the control-based dominate-or-be-dominated mechanistic logic of yesterday, but the real logic of life perceived beyond the illusion of separation: emergence, receptivity, reciprocity, local-attunement, power-with, eco-systemic thinking.

In practice, this means emancipating ourselves from many of the structures inhibiting our natural aliveness today by embracing collaborative soulful practices, such as Way of Council, deep listening, mindfulness-in-motion, foresight planning, prototyping, multi-stakeholder dialogue sessions, scenario planning, white space technologies and the art of hosting tools, as well as direct inspiration from living systems such as eco-literacy, biomimicry, industrial ecology, circular economics, regenerative and adaptive cycle approaches.

There are a multitude of simple yet courageous undertakings each of us can take to help nurture a more soulful, living-systems approach to work. For instance, how about starting each and every mmasteryeeting with a minute’s silence, to help centre ourselves and tune-in to more of our natural ways of knowing (intuitive, somatic, emotional and rational) allowing for more than a glimpse of what lies beyond the busyness of our masturbating monkey-minds. How about checking in with our teams at the end of the day to share in a heartfelt way, where we practice meditation-in-motion by listening and speaking from the heart. How about having a quick round-robin at the beginning of each day for people to share what they feel grateful for at the present time, perhaps sharing who we might like to thank for helping us out in small yet loving ways, and so celebrating the good qualities of ourselves and our community. How about creating a two hour space in our schedules every Friday morning for our team to sit together in a circle, having the permission to explore and envision new ways of operating that embrace and serve life. How about creating space for a half-day workshop every four weeks with other stakeholders – such as pressure groups, think tanks, customers, suppliers, investors – giving permission for us all to explore together and share perspectives of how to do things better. How about creating a ‘children’s fire’ in our boardroom, so that all key strategic and operational decisions consider the potential impact they have on the next generation, our children. All of these are very real business practices being applied by a range of organisations today. This is not some futurist utopian vision, it’s becoming mainstream.

The number one most important thing facing our leaders, managers and change agents today is this shift in logic from an essentially mechanistic, reductive, competitive, control-based, power-over logic rooted in the story-of-separation, towards the logic-of-life, and with it the realisation that our organisations are living systems immersed within the living systems of society which are immersed within the living systems of our more-than-human world. This is why my latest book Future Fit explores – indeed activates – the qualities required for future-fit business by exploring the practical tools and techniques for this necessary shift in logic from machine to living. In this way, we deal not just with downstream effects (climate change, biodiversity degradation, endemic social inequality, racism, and so forth) we also deal with the root cause – our very relationship with life, and our sense of place and purpose as human beings in our more-than-human world.

28 Days of Inspiration – Day 21: What’s for lunch?

Feeding the future

James discovers zero carbon farming – underground!


Here at 6heads we love food and we love the pioneers blazing an innovative trail in making our food more sustainable. On our harvest hike last autumn, Kate from GrowUp talked about how they are making their vision of closed-loop, hydroponic, rooftop, urban farms a reality. Or our friends at Hodmedods, a recent start-up seeking to encourage people in the UK to fall back in love with the humble fava bean as a low carbon protein source that can be grown here, in contrast to most other beans which are imported.

Perhaps most counter-intuitive is Zero Carbon Food’s current initiative to grow salad greens underground in an old London bomb shelter! As Stephen Drink points out it a Guardian article about the initiative: “Open field and greenhouse farmers are affected by low light, weather, pests, all of those issues”, says Dring. “Between 2009-2012 food inflation ran at about 32%. That’s because of issues with crop production and failed crops … down here we have no pests and a consistent temperature of 16C. Once we’ve put all the LED lights in they give off a little heat that will take us up to about 20C, perfect growing temperature.” The lights are currently powered by a renewable energy supplier, but they plan to generate their own renewable power on-site using wind and solar energy.

28 Days of Inspiration – Day 20: Grow your own… building

Grow your own building

James wonders if the buildings of the future be built from bricks biologically engineered to grow themselves from plant waste and fungal cells? 


Co.exist thinks so with their recent interview of David Benjamin, the creator of Hy-Fi, a giant circular tower that creates a cool micro-climate for pedestrians in searing city heat.

Hy-fi will be built this June at MoMA PS1 in New York using bricks, produced by the startup Ecovative, are grown from mycelium, or mushroom cells that grow upwards and outwards like a branch. Combined with agricultural waste like corn stalks, the materials fuse and shape into a solid brick–or into whatever shape the architect wants. And like other biological materials, when no longer needed as bricks, they can be composted and used as fertiliser.

The building is not just about using cradle-to-cradle thinking in material selection. The design itself turns the usual way that brick buildings work upside down. Lighter, porous materials are used at the base drawing cool air in, while hot air is vented from the top.

Given the high carbon-intensity many building materials (such as cement), this use of biological processes in construction results in a cheap building material that emits no carbon and creates no waste…

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28 Days of Inspiration – Day 12: Made by you

Made by you

A new industrial revolution

Carolyn Wensley reflects on the blurring boundaries between designer, manufacturer and consumers …

This blurring removes barriers of access to manufacturing. It may revolutionise many industries, including the way homes are built. This offers an opportunity to transform community well-being and provide affordable housing.


WikiHouse (http://www.wikihouse.cc/) is an open source construction set. It allows anyone to design, download and make houses. These can be assembled without any bolts or screws and minimal training.

This technology has been adopted and developed by designers and users around the world – adapting to different locations reflecting the diverse environmental, cultural and historical contexts. It has been used for post-earthquake development in Christchurch, New Zealand and, Facit Homes (www.facit-homes.com), has been one of the first companies to digitally fabricate and manufacture an entire house on-site in the UK.

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And in the spirit of “Made by you”, please feel free to contribute an inspiration by sending an email to info@6-heads.com. 


28 Days of Inspiration – Day 10: Hungry for change?

Hungry for Change?

Challenging accepted cultural habits


Isabella challenges your current eating habits by introducing the idea of eating more sustainable food, or more precisely eating protein in the form of insects. It might not immediately appeal to people in the western world, but insects are already eaten regularly by 80% of the world. Entomophagy (the consumption of insects) is seen by many as a solution to the challenge of feeding a growing population.

Insects are also entering the UK food market – last year, Mexican restaurant chain Wahaca put grasshoppers on their menu and asked costumers for feedback on the experience. Food start-up Ento are working towards getting people to eat insects by designing exciting food experiences that also raise awareness of insects’ manifold benefits for our health and the environment. I have personally tasted Ento’s products and can highly recommend them!

Hungry? Almost lunch time – what will you choose?
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The next, next thing…

Yesterday, I spent a wonderful morning with the super-smart Sonny Masero learning about Cleanweb.  This is – the overlap between big data and clean tech.  Or – how to use the power of information to change the world.

It reminded me of the Scandinavian strategic response to EV’s – “we will invest in regulation and infrastructure around electric vehicles – however, our national strategy is to own the expertise, globally, in the technology underpinning their operation”.

And it seems to touch on exploding innovation spaces:

  • it powers the sharing economy space by providing platforms to share e.g. Zipcar, AirBnB
  • it provides the way to collect and transfer mobile information between phone holders and providers e.g. between bankers, weather forecasters, education providers and almost every Kenyan
  • it will be the real revenue earner behind innovative new energy management products e.g. Nest

The case is made stronger by the recent acquisition of the Climate Corporation by Monsanto for $1bn.

What data could help you/us/them develop solutions for positive social and environmental change?

Ideas?  Please send them through…

Interested?  Keep watching this space… 

Defying definition – Innovation expanded

“Innovation, as part of the core brand value, is something that really does set us apart” said a Volkswagen Director.  He may have missed how many other companies have innovation as a core value – including competitors, Cadillac who state “Innovation is a core value for Cadillac”.  Yet, despite the rhetoric, there have been no major changes to the internal combustion engine since the time of Henry Ford.

Barak Obama, follows a long line of politicians appealing for innovation with his speech: “If we want to win the future, America has to out-build, out-educate, out-innovate and out-hustle the rest of the world.” (Barack Obama, Feb. 2011). Yet, to date, there are no stand-out ideas delivered from Obamas time in office.

If innovation is expounded on by heads of companies and heads of state, one might well ask what this all important term actually means.  And I did – to varied responses : “Something that’s better then what came before”, “Turning new ideas into action”, ‘Fresh thinking”, “Seeing gaps and filling them”, “Thinking outside the box”, “Finding new solutions to problems”, “Engaging the right side of the brain”, and “Taking ideas to the market place”.

Applying the definitions above mean we stretch the word across multiple types of change.  We use it for a new flavour of soft-drink, a fresh idea and stretch it out to apply to large-scale systems intervention.

But can we really use the same word for a hamster powered vacuum cleaner that we use for the technology that powered rockets to the moon or the invention of communism? And can we nod blithely as yet another executive or politician uses the term as a panacea to different issues?

Academics differentiate between different types of innovation (including: incremental, step-change, radical and systemic). But I’m certain that none of the executives or politicians using the word would be comfortable replacing ‘innovation’ in their speeches with anything that implied less than large-scale (and inspirational) change.

Innovation is often used to explain how we will address the challenges facing the planet.  If we are serious about innovating our way out of problems of resource scarcity, climate change and social inequity,  we need to reclaim the word ‘innovation’ and apply it against achieving real change.

To be aligned to their stated values, Cadillac and Ford would need to radically change transportation systems.   They may be able to learn from River Simple. Its networked governance structure, open-source design approach and hydrogen based engine is a far cry from traditional personal transport solutions. Perhaps, if these executives applied innovation in its truest sense, transport could move beyond  being a source of carbon and contributor to dangerous climate change and  become a source of clean water and social equity.

America does need to “out-innovate”.  The US is one of the biggest contributors to resource concerns – including carbon, water and precious metals. Yet it is lagging the progressive policies of countries as diverse as Denmark and Korea in investing in green infrastructure.

If innovation is a core value and the recipe for winning – lets win big. Lets redefine the word to drive valuable change.

Links –

Hamster Powered Vacuum Cleaner – http://sciencelawyer.com/blog/?p=10)

River Simple – http://www.riversimple.com/