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I feel really stupid. For the last 40 years I've worked to help organisations grow.
Now, after all this time, I've come to realise that growth cannot be sustained. We need a new business model that creates more sustainable things. Things that based on infinite assets that make us stronger as they are used rather than weaker as they are used. These assets include knowledge assets, relationship assets, culture assets, brand assets and thinking assets.
We have built nearly everything we believe in business on the story that growth can continue ad infinitum. Earth scientists and mathematicians know that this is nonsense.
I love the story told by Dr. Albert A. Bartlett in "The Most IMPORTANT Video You'll Ever See." He asks us to imagine bacteria growing steadily in a bottle. They double in number every minute. At 11.00 AM there is one bacterium in the bottle. At 12.00 noon the bottle is full. The question he asks is: "If you were an average bacterium in the bottle, at what time would you first realise that you were running out of space?" The answer is as follows:
At 11:54 AM the bottle is 1.6% full and 98.4% empty (tons of room, no problem)
At 11.55AM the bottle is 3.1% full and 96.9% empty (tons of room, no problem)
At 11.56AM the bottle is 6.3% full and 93.7% empty (tons of room, no problem)
At 11.57AM the bottle is 12.6% full and 87.4% empty (still tons of room, no problem)
At 11.58AM the bottle is 25% full and 75% empty
At 11.59AM the bottle is 50% full and 50% empty (a little more crowded than it used to be, but we still have half the bottle to go)
At 12.00 noon the bottle is 100% full.
Imagine the Earth is that bottle. The best estimates from Earth scientists shows, at the rate we are currently extracting resources, we are already past 12.00 noon! They calculate we currently extract 1.4 planets to sustain our living standards. If the Earth was a company it would be bankrupt. Even if miraculously we found a whole new planet of resources it would also be empty by 12.01 PM. See why the growth story is nonsense?
I'm not sure when the crunch comes. We may have a year, or a decade or even a generation. But whenever it is, we are so close it make no sense to rush any faster towards it.
People accuse me of being pessimistic because they see that a future without growth calls for a very different sort of business model. I am not pessimistic, I'm an optimist who sees a much brighter future. In the future I see, organisations will stop aiming for things people don't want or need (like out-of-control consumerism) and produce things that people do want and need (like more depth, more connection, more understanding and more meaning).
At the very least you need to help your organisation become more resilient, breaking down silos and developing staff so they can thrive no matter what changes occur. Do this and staff will love working for you and clients will love buying from you.
The best new business model I've come across so far is based on the Blue Star Future. It is about making a making a better future through:
Virtual Group Business Consultants
free phone: 0800 4 virtual or +644 570 0727 or Skype Bruce.Holland
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Key words: Leadership, leadership development, leadership management, leadership training, leadership program, leadership skills.