Applied to our own endeavors, my wife and I have found that the simple queries introduced in this blog have changed our priorities and redirected our efforts. In our home, this line of thinking has changed our goals and aspirations. On our farm, it has reinforced some of our practices and altered others. I experimented with different ways of evaluating our efforts before settling on the four questions. They provided sound guidance in almost every setting I could think of, more effectively than any of the other possibilities I considered.
Of course there are no standard answers to these queries. Their application depends completely on the people involved. The point of the exercise is to initiate change. The queries don’t describe our destination, except in very general terms. We aim to create a sustainable, beautiful and abundant future for ourselves and the other creatures dependent on this planet. The queries may help us identify our next few steps. Some individuals and organizations will make bold, pioneering decisions. They will go off in bold, pioneering directions. Others may make only small, incremental changes in the ways they are doing things, laying firm foundations for more dramatic change later on.
The potential for broad impact is greatest among those who approach change tentatively – because that’s bound to be the largest group. Innovators are always rare. The sea changes temperature one degree at a time. Most people and organizations change slowly, in small increments.
Over the next few weeks, I will offer here three case studies of how the queries might direct change within three very different organizations – our own Rancho Cappuccino; the business I run, Ogden Publications; and (at the extreme other end of the size and influence spectrum) Google, Inc.
Our farm is a small private enterprise with an implicit concern for public benefit. It’s our home as well as a small business.
Ogden Publications is a private company that, among other things, attracts audiences interested in sustainability. Even though concern for the future is woven into the business’ DNA, we buy a lot of paper, ship a lot of magazines and fly our employees and associates all over the world. It’s not easy to be an environmentally responsible business.
And Google is, arguably, the most powerful institution of the digital era, massively prosperous and profoundly influential through the way it distributes access to information on the Internet.
The queries don’t give answers. Those have to be provided by the people involved. The idea is to raise interesting issues and provide a framework for great conversations.