In texts from newspapers and articles about sustainability and global warming, there are many moral calls or nudges to change behavior, like “we should better do/not do this or that.¨
Meaningless Calls for Actions
- we should have …. better ideas
- we should …. less short-term thinking
- we must consider …. animal rights
- we should bring … old batteries to a recycling plant
- we have to become more aware of … the finiteness of natural resources
They are well-intentioned but ineffective and at the most cause feelings of guilt and inadequacy. It leaves the recipient of the call for action with a ton of questions. Some examples (behind every call for action our reservations in italics):
¨The upcoming Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meeting, and adoption of the new Global Biodiversity Framework, represent an opportunity to transform humanity’s relationship with nature¨. (Opportunities? How, what?)
“Restoring nature while meeting human needs requires a bold vision, including mainstreaming biodiversity conservation in society.” (Bold vision? Mainstreaming? Our society? What? How? Who?)
In climate policy, we need to “put the foundation in order, improve leadership and culture and strengthen internal and external control and monitoring”. (You mean what?)
¨We should include the economic value of nature in our economical evaluations.¨(How?)
“We have to change course and transform our relationship with the natural world. ¨ (Great idea, but by what?)
¨By living in harmony with nature, we can avert the worst effects.” (Appealing moral call, how to implement ¨harmony with nature¨?)
¨Everyone who decides about the use of natural resources should consider biodiversity¨, (Great resolution, nobody can be against it, but how to organize?)
Could you recognize these kinds of moral calls for virtue, when reading the newspapers or articles? Let´s strive for five, at least.
You may notice that they are all good and at times exciting and perhaps engaging. They are of the same quality as general statements such as: “this problem must be solved”. They are meaningless with no operational details. It is dramatic, but the question of how is still not answered, not even for a solution, an actual action, or a call for better ideas.
Defining a Focus
Calls for Action, especially the moral ones, should be accompanied by a thinking task. It should focus on areas where we need better practical ideas.
Most often moral calls for action lack a focus. They assume that the thinking task is clear. This is not the best approach because. . .
- the current definition of the challenge or problem could be hindering the search for a solution
- there may be unchecked different perceptions between the participants about what the problem or challenge is
- the thinking task could be far too broad or abstract to get concrete ideas
- the idea people might come up with more-of-the-same or poor ideas (¨boring ideas¨) like
Defining the wrong focus can sometimes result in great ideas, but the ideas may not be of the kind that you actually looking for – they do not solve your specific problem. You can also end up with simply poor ideas, like raise taxes, subsidize, hand out fines, prohibited by law . . . Fill in yourself.
¨Above all, we need to make young people more aware of…¨
¨Above all, we need to make young people more aware of the consequences of global warming.¨ (Good point, and now what?) Better: ¨We need to find ways to speak to young people who are getting all their information off a phone, and will not sit down and read a 50-page report¨.
¨We should fly a lot less¨ ….
With higher ticket prices and lower demand, it is possible that the status quo provides a viable alternative. If the additional capacity for international air travel is not available, so that congestion at aero-ports become even worse than at present, the likely result would be even greater use of the high-speed trains, along with teleconferencing to reduce the need for business travel.
When you come across campaign generalistic slogans like Save Our Planet or Stop Oil, then put in a “thinking effort”. How can I make this call more specific?
Make a moral call operational. Give it a focus that invites better ideas. Make it specific.
Whenever there is a call involving negative aspects of growth, ask oneself: what alternatives will arise if we maintain the status quo?
Focus. Coming up with real break-through ideas is not easy and will require some training and experience. However, the trickiest part of an idea generation session is in its first phase: defining the focus. Defining the thinking task is the first task you should undertake when you are trying something.
A 20 Minutes Idea Boost. Many people think that to get ideas it is necessary to move from the working place to a resort in the woods or the beach. It is easy to believe that another environment will free the mind. A structured idea session does not have to take more than 20 minutes and can be held at the office or in a video conference. This post explains how.
Boring Ideas. By prohibiting conventional ideas, you push people to think more diversely. You can take this trick one step further, especially if you or your team seem to be coming up with too many conventional ideas in spite of the prohibition. Make a “Boring Ideas” list and put the conventional ideas on it. Then look at each of those ideas and try to work out what would be its opposite. See also: Nine creative thinking tips that use diversity by Jeffrey Baumgartner