A Review by: Laurel Hansen, Director, Client Experience, Me to We
Graduate Certificate in CSR/Sustainability (Class 2018/2019)
Stevenson’s book is based on the position that our current systems are failing. He argues that “Old models – for education, health care and government, food production, energy supply – are creaking under the weight of modern challenges.”
Clear Application of Systems Thinking
The book highlights innovators from around the world in each of these fields who have identified inefficiencies and even dangers in existing systems, and found sustainable solutions that are flourishing. The examples in this book are intensely varied, from a grieving American family who leveraged real patients and their data to change how the medical world understands the cost of drug trials, to an Austrian mayor who revived his community by giving them autonomy over their energy supply. One common thread that I noticed between all of them was a clear application of systems thinking to their approach.
In each case, innovators have developed solutions with a keen eye on the big picture and possible feedback loops and consequences. It was interesting to see this process come to life in so many different scenarios. In the example from Austria, while the mayor could have financed his project exclusively with grants from the EU, he intentionally focused on financing the project from inside the economy as much as possible to keep the money in the local economy and stimulate economic growth for everyone as he was revolutionizing the energy industry. He realized that energy independence would revive some local industries, but would not bring his community back to life for the long term if most of its citizens were still unable to thrive there.
Strong Purpose to Create a More Sustainable & Equitable Future
Another common element across all of the innovators that Stevenson features in his book is that they are driven by a strong purpose to create a more sustainable and equitable future. This purpose is clear from the outset and carries them through the challenges of their journey. Beginning from that point there are many similarities between the Transformational Company 19 Principles and the organizations that each innovator is building. For example, these organizations are by nature solutions oriented as they have been built to address an issue identified by an individual or group. Throughout the book the reader learns how these organizations are achieving sustainability through employee engagement and stakeholder accountability, while engaging with the public plays a significant role in all of the examples Stevenson shares. What is even more encouraging is that success is being achieved as economic and social benefit. For example, by creating a tool to allow patients with specific medical conditions to report on their experience with certain drugs, one innovator was able to use day-to-day structured computable health data to beat the ‘gold standard’ of clinic research to its conclusion “at a fraction of the cost.”
Innovators Persist and Hone their Business Case
“In short, change might sound possible in principle, but we can only believe it when we see it.”