Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Designing a better world

One thing I know is we’re not going to get a better world by bossing people around. That’s why business needs to take a lead in our search for sustainability. Rational laws, sensible regulations and well thought-out policies have their place, but they ignore one huge fact. People run on emotion. Intuition and gut feeling are how we pick our way through life. We find ourselves attracted to this and repelled by that. If you’ve picked up a newspaper or magazine in the last six months, it’s becoming absolutely clear that just being responsible is no longer enough. Today we have to become inspirational. We have to attract the heart as well as the head so that people want to make the choices that make a difference.

In a competitive market where the struggle for differentiation is relentless and everything is at parity, percentage points matter. Just 10-15 percent of consumers need to make choices guided by sustainability to have a massive impact. Our challenge as sustainable enterprises is to inspire consumers to make such choices. That’s one of the reasons I’m such an advocate of design. Take this brilliant transformation of the Plain Jane, long-term light bulb by Hulger, a small electronics company based in London. Tell someone about the energy savings they’ll make with long-term light bulbs and they may buy one to shut you up – and put it in the laundry. Design a long-term bulb that they love and they’ll buy them for life. These stunning prototypes are just waiting for an inspired manufacturing partner.

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