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October 26, 2006 | Andrew Winston | Jump to: Comments (0) | Post A Comment

Sustainable Innovation (Part II): Change and Chaos

Some additional tidbits and thoughts that came out of Sustainable Innovation ‘06 in Chicago.

3) The world is “turbulent,” and businesses and society need to be “resilient” Joseph Fiksel of Eco-Nomics described how resilient organisms or systems have the “capacity to survie, adapt, and grow in the face of turbulent change.” Fiksel took his logic on turbulence to the point of saying that “strategic planning” is dead. That may be a slight exaggeration but it’s not totally out of whack with what Fortune Magazine recently had to say in a recent cover story on chaos. Most telling is a chart that shows the S&P equity ratings in 1985 and today. 20 years ago 41% of SP 500 were given “low risk” ratings, definted as “ability to achieve long-term stable earnings growth.” Today only 13%. In 1985, 35% were high risk. Today 73%! The rest of the article goes on to describe how quickly business models become obsolete (and opens with Bill Ford’s recent company-wide e-mail saying that the car giant’s business model doesn’t work anymore.

4) “Wal-Mart is the fall of the Berlin Wall” Green guru Hunter Lovins is always thought-provoking. Watching her talk is like drinking from a fire hose of ideas, facts, and quotes. But this statement stood out for me. The recent environmental initiatives at Wal-Mart are likely another indication of the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning, or whatever you want to call it. I’d add to the “last straw” the actions of the moneymen, such as major banks’ compact called the Equator Principles, which include environmental reviews of project finance loans, or the insurance companies intense efforts to raise awareness of the risks of climate change. But the world’s biggest retailer makes the biggest splash, so Hunter’s point is well taken.

Chaos, change, falling walls — these all create enormous opportunities for those who can jump quickly. Won’t the Wal-Mart suppliers who can provide green products quickest at the cheapest price get the most play in stores? Won’t the car companies that can move from the dead business model to a new chaos-loving one, profit the most? Oh, wait, Toyota’s already thereā€¦


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