COMBINING STRENGTHS TO UNLOCK THE BUSINESS POTENTIAL IN THE ANTHROPOCENE

 

Even before the current crisis, many experts on business development agreed that the next ten years are shaping up to be extremely volatile across a range of different sectors and industries. Some have suggested that as many as 40% of the current Fortune 500 companies will no longer be here by 2030.

Without any doubt, what is happening now, in combination with the massive sustainability transformation underway, will mean the end for many companies. But there will also be winners, among those who realize that the Anthropocene is here to stay and consequently transform their business model to one that is relevant in this new context, while at the same time manage to build their capacity to navigate future change.

At Prosperous Planet we help companies who are about to embark on this journey of exploration and innovation, towards a planet-positive future, where being part of the solution is what makes a company successful.

The people who work at Prosperous Planet are a quite unusual mix – scientists specialized in sustainable development in the Anthropocene, working together with management consultants turned entrepreneurs on the start-up scene, and with experts in facilitation, group dynamics and developmental leadership.

Professionals in these fields have rarely shared their turf in the past – for several reasons. Sustainability scientists, in general, like to think things over once more, reluctant to set things in motion before they are sure that they properly understand the complexity of it all (shouldn’t we gather a bit more data first..?). Creativity is valued over efficiency, precision over speed, and facts over feelings (although the latter could of course be studied and factored in).

The management consultants turned entrepreneurs (a quite unusual combination in itself actually), in contrast, are efficient, quick to spot the opportunities, decide, prototype and move on, adding success to success (because failed experiments are also a form of success as everyone in the startup world knows) in their relentless strife towards “The Goal”. While the differences are obvious, these groups at least share a certain belief in numbers.

Which brings us to our experts on group dynamics and leadership. Not that they renounce numbers altogether, it is just that they often see them as quite pointless, if you don’t understand the people who have produced the numbers or the ones who will use them in the end. Spending their time trying to understand what it is that makes us human beings “tick”, and figuring out smart ways of making us “tick” better together, this group of professionals are all about the journey, and what really matters deep down.

So where do we want to say with all this (besides giving you a glimpse of what can be really interesting coffee break discussions at Prosperous Planet)? The point is that, although the areas of sustainability science, innovation management and organizational development rarely have been considered simultaneously in the past, their combination is actually the key to successful business development in the Anthropocene.

Why? Well, it is actually quite simple: Although sustainability is a prerequisite for success in the Anthropocene, stainability work that is not forward-looking and focused on continuous innovation will not be able to bring enough competitive advantage to serve as an engine for business development. And while continuous innovation is essential for companies in a rapidly changing world, business innovation that is not firmly anchored in the Anthropocene context, targeting the real needs of humanity today, risks becoming irrelevant. And finally, changing a company’s business model and trajectory of development (regardless of the direction for this change) requires that you successfully deal with and further develop all that is “social” in an organization.

So the conclusion is that you need a bit of all: the science to properly understand the complex sustainability challenges of the Anthropocene, the ambitious innovation focus to turn these into opportunities for growth and development, and the deep understanding of the human side, at an individual as well as a collective level to unleash creativity and maintain a commitment to the change process over time.

The team at Prosperous Planet is composed of people who have these different skills and qualities. And while we, admittedly, are a somewhat odd bunch, we also truly enjoy this interaction across professional disciplines and seeing how combining our strengths can help companies unlock their own Anthropocene potential.

Founder and CEO at Prosperous Planet AB | Former Stockholm Resilience Centre scientist