gearing up for transformation: on mindsets

mindset gears study, click for larger

Personally, I love stuff that resonates with the interiority of sustainability. The stuff we sense inside.

Things like our mindset, as recently explored in the Avastone Corporate Sustainability Study (via 2 steps forward).

Avastone looked at the mindsets of business leaders, and how they influence where a business is heading, and how they help or hinder progress.

Says study co-author Cynthia McEwen, mindsets refers to "interior patterns of mind, or frames of reference, from which individuals see sustainability and its importance."

"This has never been done in the sustainability field", says McEwen in a greenbiz radio interview.

McEwen maps companies’ engagement in sustainability across five gears that advance from rudimentary to very complex activity, and finds that gear 'up-shifts' are evident, yet a real and significant gap remains.

Here's the gears:

McEwen's results show that all companies are operating in the low to mid-level gears, though all are in the process of up-shifting to higher gears of sustainability, with none having fully reached the highest gear, which is embedding sustainability in the business.

In addition, says McEwen, "most do not recognize or view as 'business relevant' this highest gear, which focuses on large-scale systems shifts and recasting of market and institutional frameworks critical for addressing the overshoot of planetary limits.

According to McEwen, moving up through the gears calls for "an expanded view regarding boundaries of consideration and the systems (and meta-systems) that are being impacted...and represents a progression from:

McEwen's work underscores the importance of two 'attentions of leadership':

  1. Translation, which involves framing sustainability in terms that others understand where they are now (from their mindsets), in concert with enhancing their capabilities for effective action.
  2. Transformation, which refers to the potential for leaders to up-shift their own perspectives and capacities through vertical development.

McEwen's conclusion is this: A central sustainability dynamic is the corresponding interplay of interior and exterior realities, which serves to either fuel or constrain the gearing-up processes.

McEwen frames the 'up-shift' this way: The exterior shifts realized—the activities and forms that sustainability takes—directly reflect the interior mindsets and capacities of those involved.

Put simply, an activity mindset dynamic rests at the center point of progress.

As McEwen notes, "this dynamic lies under the radar of both study companies and the field at large. While some authors mention mindsets in the context of sustainability, most appear to not fully understand their nature and development."

According to McEwen, "this misunderstanding constrains up-shift progress and limits potential."

Lots of brain food here.

Published by Ken on December 16th, 2007 tagged Systems Thinking

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