We’ve got it backwards

Natural Leadership

Envision this familiar scenario:  You’re listening to someone passionately presenting their idea for a radically innovative sustainable design. The presentation concludes, obligatory applause follows, and then the floor is opened for Q&A. What usually happens next? What kind of a questions or comments do you expect to hear, or are expected to make yourself?

If your experience is anything like mine, more often than not the audience uses such Q&A sessions as an opportunity for presenting their own opposing (and more clever) idea and/or (cleverly) degrading, dismissing, or discrediting the presenter and/or his/her idea. You and the rest of the audience leave the room feeling smug and/or some level of empathy for the speaker, who leaves the room feeling drained and discouraged, perhaps even humiliated. And everyone leaves dreading the thought of being the next presenter.   

Does this ring true for you? Do you wonder why this is the norm?

Because we get positive feedback for giving negative feedback. Because it is far easier to identify existing problems than to generate novel ideas. Because we are far more comfortable standing solidly in the world of the known (where all problems exist) than plunging in and swimming freely in the boundless open waters of the unknown where innovative sustainable design is born.

Because we’ve got it backwards.

We need to turn it around.

We need to be curious first, critical later.

We need more co-creativity, less condemnation.

We need to embrace the unknown future, not cling to the problems of the past.

We need to expand and enhance before we contract and filter.

We need to put envisioning before analysing.

We need more positive feedback for positive feedback.

Envision that scenario again, this time with a collection of curious creative colleagues who are passionate about sustainability and energized by new thinking and new ideas. Now what do you imagine happening during the Q&A? What kind of questions might you ask? What kind of discussions might emerge? How might you and the speaker feel after the presentation?  

I imagine a lively engaging discussion where the idea presented is explored, enhanced, and enriched; where new connections are made, new ideas emerge and grow, new energies are released, next steps are planned and plotted. I imagine you can’t wait until you’re the presenter and so you can share your budding ideas with this dynamic thoughtful group and watch them burst into bloom and release new seeds. I imagine a team that knows that together they can use systems thinking, design thinking, and creative leadership to move the needle of sustainability.  

If this sparks your imagination, if you want to be empowered and equipped to forward your ideas and ideals — your sustainable designs — in our otherwise conventional world, please come explore MCAD’s MA in Sustainable Design.

Come join us for our next [free] informational webinar 27 February 2018. Register here!


Image courtesy of geralt on Pixabay

Denise DeLuca / Director

Denise DeLuca is director of MCAD’s Sustainable Design program and co-founder of BCI: Biomimicry Creative for Innovation, a network of creative professional change agents driving ecological thinking for radical transformation. Denise is author of the book Re-Aligning with Nature: Ecological Thinking for Radical Transformation, which was illustrated by MASD alum Stephanie Koehler.  She also teaches with the Amani Institute. Denise’s previous roles include Education Director for the International Living Future Institute, a consultant for Swedish Biomimetics 3000, and Outreach Director for The Biomimicry Institute.  Denise is a licensed civil engineer (PE) and holds a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering with a focus on modeling landscape-scale surface and ground water interactions. Denise is based in Montana.