Peter Senge recently spoke at the 2012 'Better by Design' CEO Summit and the message he conveyed was alarming. He was speaking to corporate America and advised them that it is high time for them to develop good long term strategies.
What is good strategy?
Good strategy is based upon a realistic set of assumptions about the future we are moving into. Good strategy is also a plan that positions you to be in harmony with forecasted establishing trends.
The trends we have been traditionally following have been based largely on historical data. Peter Senge's message is that the path for humanity's development cannot continue down the path we have followed over the last few hundred years. He refers to it as the continuing industrial revolution dominated by materialism and consumption.
We have heard this before - over and over. But what does it mean?
How do we understand the world around us?
So let's look at the data Peter Senge presents.
He refers to the Earth's ability to sustain life as 'Carrying Capacity'.
Since humans have occupied the Earth we have grown and hunted for our own food, cut down trees for warmth and cooking. Pretty basic stuff right? Not really, now 80% of North America's population is urbanized and depends on the food distribution and energy sectors to provide those necessities of life for us. Needs are delivered and the nasty business of harvesting, milking and slaughtering food is out-sourced.
As we look closer at 'Carrying Capacity' we should think more along the lines of how much land is needed to support one person with healthy harvest vegetable, meat and other healthy food staples.
1. According to Senge we are currently over achieving the Earth's natural ability to provide food for our Global population by 150%. Industrial food production is a required technology to sustain our human population.
2. If China's population were to rise to the material affluence and waste of the West this number rises to 200% of the Earth's 'Carrying Capacity'.
3. If India follows suit then we rest at 300% 'Carrying Capacity' of the Earth's natural ability to sustain life on this tiny speck of space dust that we lovingly call Earth.
This is just food consumption - Now let's look at water.
1. Currently there are One Billion people that do not have access to clean drinking water.
2. According to the World Health Association by 2020 it is expected that there will be Two Billion people that don't have access to clean drinking water.
Senge shares another data point with us.
If you add up all of the people killed through war, genocides, homicides and murder (any act where one human kills another) that number is exceeded annually three times by suicide. People are taking their own lives today three times more in number than all of the other deaths by war and murder combined every year.
We are on the cusp of a social and ecological crisis where our food supply and distribution systems are being strained. One significant drought starts a chain of events in food costs that we all feel in our wallets. According to Senge we are also starting to experience a human crisis of the magnitude we have never seen before. People are just killing themselves...
Senge states that the idea of living on a world where one billion people do not have access to clean drinking water does not make him feel secure about the future. Add another billion to that ballance in approximately eight years and insecurity might turn into desperation. The implications are very unsettling.
What does this mean for you or your organization?
You need to have personal (or corporate) goals and aspirations that are ultimately in harmony with the world we are leading into. That is what defines good strategy.
Senge notes that the future is very unlikely to look like the past. I can personally vouch that change has caught up to us in Pacific North West British Columbia and many of us are spinning at the dramatic pace it brings with it.
The path of human development as it has done over the past several hundred years is simply not going to continue.
Senge reminds us that we do not have two or three Earths - We have One. Human beings need things like water.
Technology is generally about enabling things.
The question is... What do we want to enable?