Today I had the tremendous pleasure to speak in an elite group of a well known business club of high level business executives of known multinationals. My speech was announced as being focused on “sustainability” while my true purpose of being there was to address the potential of creating a local for local energy cooperation.
Twenty odd people attended the weekly diner in a top restaurant in my neighboorhood and each had a different background. I found an interesting mix of top executives of multinationals, successful entrepreneurs, retired business people, representatives of global creative and art communities, etc.
The contrast of all these top people surficed rapidly as I started to speak. My introduction was relatively short (for my doing anyway) and some discussion was allowed by the chairman. I explained the reason to be of my foundation and the complexity of creating co-creative, multi-disciplinary platforms for issue driven sustainable progress. I finalized with the referred proposition arguing that fossil energy was rapidly running us into problems, that concentration of power in global systems makes us dependent on those systems and that technology is available to become self sufficient.
It was interesting to see a few key standard stereotype firm position to be taken:
1. The large multinational states that energy based on fossil resources is not an issue. We will react with innovation and plenty of energy is available for many years to come. No need to be self sufficient. We can trust that availability will persist through global investments of the mighty.
2. The price conscious business focus (procurement). Energy “a” costs 100, energy “b” costs 105, energy “c” costs 120, etc. I go for 100! Who pays for the difference in costs if I go for another price, whatever the motivation?
3. The local organization that want to be self sufficient and independent in energy all together. No worry about costs and economy of scale of large investors, the fact that one is in control oneself is best.
4. The business that looks at the big picture, not just oneself (cost) but also surroundings and politics (issue).
5. The curious who just watch and listen.
Between the first four all kinds of arguments arise of….. what has been tried before, what publications should be accepted or not, what should be done or not done. Everyone seems to be right and everyone is wrong in the eyes of the others. And in essence they are.
In such setting no progress can be made. The powerful stand up and overshout the others, the ones without vision but prenty of statistics provide proof and the curious just follow.
Who is right?
The ones that proclaim progress as usual and trust the system as it innovates along the way?
Or those who claim the need for a transformative attitude and vision as business as usual will get us into chaos and disaster?
Those two worlds clash. Business as usual has the benefit of the doubt because it has proven itself for many decades and contributed to the Western economies of today. Transformative business is always risky as it demand guts and issue driven vision that could be wrong and needs still to prove it is right.
It became clear during my speech that I was the tremendous minority of the transformative world arguing in the business as usual setting. Sustainability was a word everyone could live with (whatever they mean with it) but self supportive local 4 local 4 global systems, including energy was beyond their scope of mass concentration of power and economy of scale.
Bottom up or Top down? Do we purposely neglect the signs by digging up those scientific reports that prove us right or do we act in the transformative way by using those arguments that prove us right? Bottom up and Top down are two different worlds that will meet somewhere through the thick layer of people who just look at costs (the easy way) and those who have no clue (the difficult way).
What I find promising is that the circumstances are there now that the comfrontation occurs for the first time, sometimes in unbalance in favor of one stream or the other, but more and more on levels of equality. That I think is the basis of true progress where people take responsibility and become willing to see what happens, one way or the other, without imposition but by true determination, proof of concept and ideological motivation.