Tuesday, October 30, 2007

With or Without You: 6.6 Billion Reasons to Change

Anyone who reads this blog will know that I believe we all need to help make the world a better place for everyone to live in. That’s probably the reason I noticed a particular phrase in an article I read recently called “A trolley load of food fears”. The topic was our growing anxieties about food and the comment was, “Food won’t cost the Earth or save the planet”. Perfectly true, but this thought sparked a different perspective for me. The fact is that the challenge we face is not saving the planet. The planet will continue existing with or without us. Even without us, it will have a functioning ecosystem, though maybe not one that will support people. The grandeur and complexity of this world we live in can sometimes feel a little chilly, but I believe we need to feel inspired by this beautiful planet to make serious changes in how we live and connect.

I find close parallels between where Sustainability is today and where the Quality movement was 25 years ago. At first, no one but dreamers thought they could afford Quality or that Quality was even necessary. Dr Deming had to develop his ideas in Japan, not his native United States. As the pressure from competition and lack of differentiation increased, people started to make token gestures to Quality. I’m thinking of quality inspections at the end of the process cycle when a product can only be accepted or rejected. Today Quality is embedded everywhere - in innovation, production, distribution and marketing. It is part of the flow of the market.

Toyota shows the next stage of evolution. Just as they led the Quality movement, their relentless spirit is now firing up a quest for Sustainability in leading innovations like hybrid technologies. Within a decade, I believe Sustainability will be embedded in every industry and it will happen by people making choices, not by legislation or regulation. Command and control won’t work for 6.6 billion people.

So let’s not get sidetracked into believing we can ‘save the planet’. What we should be doing is saving ourselves. It’s like that moment of instruction you receive in an airplane before take-off. “If an oxygen mask falls down in front of you, put on your own mask first before attending to others.”