The mismatch between what science knows and what business does
There is a time to admire the grace and persuasive power of an influential idea, and there is a time to fear its hold over us. The time to worry is when the idea is so widely shared that we no longer even notice it, when it is deeply rooted that it feels to us like plain common sense. At the point when objections are not answered anymore because they are no longer even raised, we are not in control: we do not have the idea; it has us.
Punished by rewards
These were the opening words from Alfie Kohn’s book ‘Punished by Rewards – The trouble with gold stars, incentive plans, A’s praise, and other bribes’. These words rang a bell with something I had been questioning for some time. My studying of, and work with, Marshall Rosenberg’s concept of Non-Violent Communication had lead me to question the use of superficial praise such as ‘thanks for the great presentation’ or ‘that’s an excellent report’.
When I discuss the shortcomings of such communication with people in my close environment, they can relate to what I say, but nonetheless appear content, or even get a short-lived kick, out of such superficial praise. I can’t help but think that we are missing out on so many opportunities to have more meaningful and life-enriching communication.
So it was with much interest that I picked up Alfie Kohn’s book, in my search of a better understanding of the impact of rewards and praise in our society and in particular in our workplaces. In a book packed with notes and references to articles and field studies I found what I was looking for. Read more…
My interest in environmental matters goes back to sometime in my early teens. It started with saving electricity by turning off lights at home when growing up in Ireland, to getting more into recycling when I moved to Germany in early adulthood. It has continued to evolve over the years as I became more conscious of the ecological impact of my ways and found alternative and more sustainable ways of living.
By the beginning of 2007 I held the belief that the environmental situation was getting steadily worse and that if we didn’t start to address some of the issues in a more concerted manner our lives were going to get uncomfortable, retirement in 30 years time would not be pleasant and our children would be asking us why we didn’t act sooner.
A wake up call
Then I picked up a copy of Al Gore’s film entitled ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. While watching this film I realised that a number of these environmental degradation processes are not at all linear and that the degradation process is not a steady one. I understood that we have set in motion a number of vicious circles (e.g. the melting of the permafrost which releases methane – 21 times more damaging than CO2 – into the atmosphere) and potentially even a number of tipping points (e.g. the Atlantic heat conveyor).
This new realisation encouraged me to redouble my own efforts to reduce my ecological footprint. I sold my car, reduced my flights and switched to green electricity. In 2006 I produced 12 tonnes of CO2. Two years later I had reduced that figure to 7 tonnes. I had increased my percentage of organic purchases and I had encouraged a number of initiatives at my workplace which were starting to take effect.
But I could also see that these efforts were not enough for several reasons:
- As a inhabitant of a developed country my 7 tonnes of CO2 was below average but disastrously high compared to the world average;
- My 7 tonnes only included the energy related carbon footprint component. If I were to calculate the carbon footprint from my consumption we are talking about a multiple of this; and
- I still wasn’t including the toxicity generated through my consumption nor it’s social impact.
In addition when I looked around at my family, friends, colleagues, neighbours and the world at large I still felt very much part of a minority community who was seriously concerned with ecology. I figured that this minority was not enough to have the impact that I believed we needed. Read more…