5 things we've learnt about transforming business

10 February 2014

With preparations underway for our 2014 Conference, we’ve reflected on the outcomes from our 2013 Conference on Transforming Business, held at Te Papa in Wellington in September.

Here are five things we’ve learnt about Transforming Business.

1. We need to convert new technology to successful business models

There are plenty of technological solutions already available, some of which we heard about during the course of the Conference. However the real challenge is how to convert these solutions to new business models and/or new financial models for delivery. To facilitate this process we’ve initiated the SBN LABS – a series of workshops to help companies take ‘eco’ products to mainstream markets.

2. We need networks to connect people and organisations

We need to unite people in a new set of behaviours and priorities so together they can be part of the ongoing progress that is sustainability. There is tremendous diversity of activity – some very innovative and some very isolated – which is very encouraging. We need now to support this progress better through networks or systems which connect people and organisations.

3. ‘Outliers’ will be leading tomorrow’s economy

People and companies that disrupt the old and create the new are likely to be the leaders of tomorrow’s economy. The consensus appears to be that business and community will lead the movement towards sustainability – and that governments will follow. They are often challenged by the entrenched infrastructure and models. To support this transition to a sustainable economy we need to create a new ‘story’ around success that will test the status quo.

4. Most business leaders don’t realise the degree of transformation that is needed

Research in the sustainability space suggests that there is a difference in understanding around the degree of transformation that is needed. Surveys indicate that while there has been a growth in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) work (where reasonability and licence to operate have seen a growth in good systems, policies and big business commitment to operating as good corporate citizens), there is still a large gap in understanding and appreciation of the degree of transformation that is required.

It’s certainly tempting for business to focus simply on CSR, since changing whole systems required radical rethinking. Yet this is needed to transform and create a truly sustainable world. We see a tendency for vested interests to dominate and a large gap in the transformation required by business.

5. Sustainability is an ‘infinite game’

Sustainability is a long game, or, in the words of psychologist Niki Harré, an ‘infinite game’. Unlike ‘finite games’, where there is an ending and often a winner, infinite games are fluid and inclusive, and everyone has a part to play. We tend to be most involved in finite games but we should remember the role they play within the bigger, infinite game. Businesses need to consider how to keep infinite values in play, examining value sets to bring about genuine transformation.


What next?

We’re preparing for a Conference to be held in Auckland in July 2014. It will explore the latest global trends, examine model companies, enablers and system change with international and domestic business leaders, to develop strategies and projects that will produce tangible results for business and the community.

Aimed at both ‘thinkers’ and ‘doers’, our 2014 Conference will provide you with tools to start building transformative activity. Further details will follow soon.