An Example of Resilience Thinking

The project I told you about in May of 2012 was to develop a process to solve a complex problem involving a natural system of the restored Cuyahoga River, the Cleveland Cuyahoga County Port Authority’s responsibility for managing the disposal of sediment dredged from the river, and the community’s obligation to pay the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for dredging the material in the first place plus building more combined disposal facilities (CDFs) to store it – a cost of tens of millions of dollars.
The Port saw an opportunity to put these problems together into one solution process, since each stakeholder was somehow connected to the sediment.To solve all their problems at once would mean that the River would stay healthy, the Port would manage the disposal well and the community would pay less or have more benefit.
The Port began investigating options related to harvesting sediment from the moving water upstream from the ship channel.The idea was that if the sediment didn’t get to the c…

Reflections on the Course I Just Finished Teaching

I haven’t written a post since the end of January when I told you about the course on which I was embarking.Here, and in the next few posts, are some of my reflections.

The course I told you about at the end of January has filled my mind and my days.It ended last week and has been a joyous, if hard slogging, ride.I loved the design of the course – from the flow from high level skills overviews, through the focus on three ways to view human systems that are placed in and interact with the environment, the team projects and our 11 amazing speakers, including a panel of four from the Flats Forward Project.The students in this MBA course were top-notch and delivered high quality projects to their clients in a celebratory last class.
One change from the original concept was clarity about not designing solutions.The effective and ethical thing to do when faced with a problem that spans one or more boundaries, is to design a solution process, or even just the start of a solution process.Old-fa…

Where's the Soul of Sustainability?

This post was originally written in May, 2011.

What's wrong with environmental sustainability?  Why do so many people think it's bogus, unworkable, too costly or just plain unscientific?  Why don't people flock to Sustainable Cleveland 2019, Entrepreneurs for Sustainability or the Corporate Sustainability Network?  Why do we have "debates" about global warming, climate change and the worthiness of the EPA? 

One reason may be the religious fervor with which some proponents speak.  When we hear that we're all going to hell in a handbasket, that the planet is going to burn up, that this fire and brimstone future is due to our immoral, greed-based, selfish way of living and that self-sacrifice and doing good works (such as installing CFL or LED light bulbs and riding a bike to work) will save us, is it any wonder that people turn their backs on us?  Haven't we all heard this before?

Why should those who have faith in an almighty God join this sustainability con…

Urban and Rural Paradigms

This post was originally written in January of 2012.

This morning I attended a forum on the controversy surrounding horizontal fracking. The session was offered by a community minded church to educate the publicon the issues involved in the controversy. The panel was well-organized, prepared and diverse.  The hosts had invited people from the energy/fracking industry to come, but they declined.  So, it seemed that a fairly homogenous crowd gathered - homogenous in this case meaning urbanites against fracking. 

Now, with my background in dangerous manufacturing, I’m sure that there are ways to safely extract gas from shale. If we apply OSHA-like regulations to the storage of the wastewater, then that storage could be done safely as well.However, I'm really skeptical of energy companies’ willingness to protect people and the environment without regulation and mandated accountability requiring them to do so. 

But something else bothered me. There were several comments about rural people…

Teaching a New Course

Having grown weary and wary of sustainability, I withdrew from practicing in this field for a few months to recalibrate... well, recalibrate my soul, really.  Then I was offered the opportunity to teach a course in John Carroll's MBA program.  Here's an overview.  Please tell me what you think is worthwhile in this design and what you think could be improved.

MN/MK 581 is a cross-referenced course in the MBA Program, responding to needs of students with Management and Marketing concentrations.The purpose of the course is to answer this question:
If you want to have an impact within social-ecological systems, how do you design and promote it?

The course takes a critical thinking approach to complex problems in social-ecological systems, using three lenses.One lens is whole systems/resilience thinking which is deliberative and, perhaps, designerly.A second lens is sustainable business/sustainable value based on the premise that business (especially multinational corporations) is sp…

New Leader Integration Process

Are you the new leader of a company or department?Are you about to hire a new leader for your firm?Would you like to accelerate this transition and realize amazing enthusiasm for what’s next?Here are the steps one manufacturing plant took to get their new plant manager, and everyone else, up to speed.

First, the new leader, Pat, and the management team wrote responses to a confidential survey to get their expectations and issues out on the table.This process made sure the new leader and the whole team would be aware of and address the “real” issues in the plant that crop up every day. Confidentiality meant the tough, politically difficult questions could be asked:

1.Is there anything you need to know from Pat right away in order to do your job better?
2.What do you want Pat to know about the direct report team?
3.How do you feel about being a member of this team?
4.What is the organizational "secret" that Pat needs to know to be more effective?
5.Who are your customers and what …

Why Start a Business?

Did you know there are four times as many entrepreneurs per capita in Peru than there are in the U.S.? Who knew?!

In fact, who knew that there are more entrepreneurs in agriculture-based locations than in metropolitan ones? More per capita, that is. It turns out that Laramie, Wyoming is the entrepreneurial capital of the country. All of which hinges on the question, "who is an entrepreneur?"

Entrepreneurs, according to Merriam-Webster and Scott Shane, PhD, (Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University and author of the book, The Illusions of Entrepreneurship: The Costly Myths that Entrepreneurs, Investors, and Policy Makers Live By) are those people who organize, manage and assume the risk of a business or enterprise. That covers a lot of territory.

I’m reading this book as part of my research on entrepreneurship and here’s what I’ve learned - Entrepreneurship is much more commonplace than we might have suspected. Take a look at these statistics: Over 11% …