Sustainability: Closing the Circle

Barry Commoner, scientist-activist, whose ability to identify and explain complex ecological crises and advocate radical solutions made him a pillar of the environmental movement, died last week. Source

Commoner whose seminal 1971 book, “The Closing Circle: Man, Nature and Technology,” argued for the connectedness of humans and the natural world.

Commoner was particularly known for boiling down his philosophy to four simple principles as he wrote in “The Closing Circle.”

Four simple rules that still have huge relevance today in the world of built environment sustainability and resilience:

  1. Everything is connected to everything else.
  2. Everything must go somewhere.
  3. Nature knows best.
  4. There is no such thing as a free lunch

Simple Rules:
Through facilitated workshops, we can help you explore a ‘simple rules’ approach to dramatically improving effectiveness of your processes and procedures, increase buy in whilst reducing red tape bureaucracy.
Behind seemingly complex issues there are simple rules. The concept of Simple Rules is a key principle within complexity and emergence thinking. The oft cited simple rules being those for flocking birds. 
This blog series will explore application of simple rules to sustainability and the built environment. Based on the premise: if we were to discard all strategies , policies, processes, procedures, work instructions and checklists, what simple rules would emerge or would we need.
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Simple Rules: Addressing Sustainability

Addressing climate change, environmental harm and sustainability can seem far to difficult and complex to tackle, so often we dont, or we do so with approaches that are masked by process and checklist.

Daniel Goleman, in Ecological Intelligence gives us three simple, yet remarkably comprehensive rules for reducing impact:

1. Know your impacts

2. Favour improvement

3. Share what you learn

Imagine the power of everyone in your organisation fully understanding the environmental impact of what they do, favouring improvement to address (over doing nothing) and continually sharing with colleagues, supply chain, clients and the wider industry.

In respect for sharing, social media has enabled unparalleled learning and sharing for sustainable improvement, something the built environment is just awakening to.

Does your organisation have Ecological Intelligence and a set of simple rules for reducing environmental impact?

Simple Rules:
Through facilitated workshops, we can help you explore a ‘simple rules’ approach to dramatically improving effectiveness of your processes and procedures, increase buy in whilst reducing red tape bureaucracy.
Behind seemingly complex issues there are simple rules. The concept of Simple Rules is a key principle within complexity and emergence thinking. The oft cited simple rules being those for flocking birds. 
 This blog series will explore application of simple rules to sustainability and the built environment. Based on the premise: if we were to discard all strategies , policies, processes, procedures, work instructions and checklists, what simple rules would emerge or would we need.
Next: Simple Rules for Business Improvement
 

twittering on the edge of chaos?

It seems everyone is trying to understand and analyse  twitter at the moment, so after nearly a year of twittering , here are my thoughts:

Perhaps it is a little more than coincidence that Twitter has been named after our feathered friends,  as it is very close, in my mind, to the classic edge of chaos example of how birds flock.  

Birds flock  through following a set of unwritten, uncommunicated simple  rules.  Flocking birds have no manual, no procedures to follow, no dos and do nots, no bird etiquette, they just do it , and do it by instinct and in spectacular fashion. 

And they all do it. (Have you ever seen one bird turn the wrong way at the wrong time to create a mangle of free-fall bird feathers – no, never).  

And so it is, could, should? be with Twitter

It works at so many different levels for so many different purposes, and here is its power, it is all things to all people and brilliant for it, and we twitters like them boids, don’t need lists of dos and donts, guidance, rules or twitterquette, we just do it,  we just twitter.  (Maybe this is why many say they just ‘dont get it’ – there is a sense of jumping in and using twitter and see what emerges, rather than a calculated action plan) 

Indeed it is the relationships between the agents (us as twitters, or the birds) and the scope for emergence are is so important in keeping twitter at the edge of chaos.

Chaos theory is often illustrated through the butterfly affect ( a butterflies wings flapping in Chile can cause storms in Europe, a concept I have called small in large out – SILO)   Again Twitter demonstrates this concept incredibly well – one tweet  can spread through the global twitter community probably faster than any other form of communication known. (eg news stories broken through twitter) 

So is twitter really an application of complexity theory in practice, a demonstration of the ‘edge of chaos’ paradigm?   I think so, and  having long used the concepts of complexity theory (simple rules, agents, relationships, SILO and emergence) to allow management system processes and procedures to become so much more effective and efficient, (eg where many ‘control’ procedures can be replaced with a few simple rules)  I see twitter applications having a future within management systems, just not sure exactly how yet!

But … others more learned in the complexity / chaos theory may like to comment, agree  or correct me ?

Oh, and since tweeting I have, through twitter,  purchased a chicken coop, won and let work contracts, helped others win work,  learnt so much, made new friends and contacts, been inspired and shocked, eaten humble pie once or twice and hopefully shared something of use in return.  Fellow twitters have shared births, deaths, job losses and job finds, sadness, anger and great happiness ….. Brilliant.