Check the Metaphor: Intersections

Three interesting late-night reads I came across before turning in:

1. NYTimes on Google’s ‘green agenda,’ an investigation of its alternative energy aspirations with frequent references to intersections–‘of energy and information technology’ and ‘of its idealism and its business goals’

2. WorldChanging on Obama as a potential ‘post-environmental’ president who could advocate sustainable solutions without relying on an environmentalist angle

3. NYTimes again, this time on HP and its money-saving (and thus job-preserving) energy-efficient enterprise servers

Yet more evidence that the world is finally waking up to the notion that ‘green’ isn’t just an isolated social cause, an added bonus, a flavor-of-the-month for CSR departments.  Finding ways to operate more efficiently, to use less and waste less, has a fundamental bottom-line implication for organizations large and small.  This is by no means a new development, even in the business community (the US Green Building Council, for example, has a long track record of making this idea real for developers).

But it’s more than money.  Living sustainably, as people like Tom Friedman have recently discovered, is also a democracy issue and a macroeconomic issue and a social issue and a security issue.  To many, our president-elect included, green innovation is held aloft as the golden bullet that can solve all of the above problems.

That sounds great, but of course it isn’t so simple.  Part of the problem is that the meta brand of environmentalism has spent four decades building itself in isolation and opposition to business and government alike.  Stump-speech rhetoric aside, there’s still a lot of baggage and apprehension in the air on both sides.  A lot of social and human capital is still tied up in an uncertain and deeply complex identity trap.

Though the metaphor rolls well in the pages of the Times, this shouldn’t be about intersections.  Intersections are where collisions happen and are cleared away; where isolated causes pass each other in opposite directions.  ‘Green’ has intersected with the mainstream before–in the late 70s and early 90s–and continued on its own way, leaving brief fads and minor progress in its wake.

This current opportunity of aligned circumstances and interests could be just one more moment to move through.  Or, it could be so much more.  We could converge instead of collide.  Merge instead of intersect.

But convergence means making some fundamental changes to the meta brand.  It means openly embracing the narratives and priorities and languages of other disciplines.  It means risking the value already invested in ‘green.’

Is that a corner we’re willing to turn?

© Ryan Cunningham 2008

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thoughts at the collision of business, brand and creativity

I'm Ryan Cunningham. I help companies and culture play nice with each other. At CREATURE we call this Brand Strategy, a term that carries a nice halo of reliability and structure. Here, I'm just another guy who thinks about the world and writes it down from time to time.

The result is a pile of knowledge to be used in, and for, the future. Feel free to sift through the heap for useful connections.

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