I read this piece this morning by Pascale Finette who writes brilliantly as The Heretic on the startup world and building things that matter.
Building things that matter has always been important – who would argue with that? Yet in this period of huge evolutionary shift that we now find ourselves in, it is a hot topic, and quite rightly so. And those who feel so passionately about it, they devout their lives to raising awareness, are known as change-makers. They exist to help us see that there is a different way to live. To be. To do. To act.
Creations, causes and effects are happening at break-neck speed and we often feel we can’t keep up with it all. It gives rise to feelings of depression, anxiety, helplessness and a lack of empathy as we struggle to cope with the bombardment of negativity and destruction. We’ve written plenty about that here on this blog and last week we attended a great first event organised by Adventure Uncovered, a change-maker organisation, which shares inspirational stories and journeys to help us better understand critical social and environmental issues requiring our urgent attention and action. In hearing their speakers share thoughts and solutions to some of the most complex issues we face as part of this evolutionary shift, what struck me the most were the talks on plastics. We now dump 12 million tonnes of it into our oceans each year. Coca Cola produces 110 billion single use plastic bottles a year. One million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in our oceans. I could go on. It’s a disgrace and each of us turns a blind eye to it every time we buy something that comes wrapped in it.
It’s a complicated thing to pin down in terms of it’s first development, but the first plastic based on a synthetic polymer was made from phenol and formaldehyde, with the first viable and cheap synthesis methods invented in 1907, by Leo Hendrik Baekeland, a Belgian-born American living in New York state. Did he ever think that when he began working on his product, that 110 years later we’d be in the situation we are in now? Using it so much as part of our everyday lives that it causes disruption of hormones in human beings, mass killing of wildlife due to the pollution of it in our oceans? Or likewise, did Alexander Fleming ever think, that the penicillin he was developing in 1928, would become so overused that we would become immune to it?
Probably not, in both cases. Which is why Pacale’s piece drew my attention this morning.
“Ever so often you hear people talk about the side effects of an action they have taken. Sometimes we refer to these side effects as “unintended consequences” or, in military terms, “collateral damage.” Typically the word is used as a way to shrug your shoulders and move on with the primary cause of action.
A lot of Uber drivers making barely enough money to scrape by? Just a side effect of the sharing economy virtues.
Letting someone steal half of American’s private data? Somewhat unavoidable side effects of the digital age.
Increasing discrepancies in the wealth of the top 40% versus the bottom 60% of income earners? Oh well, just a side effect of the way the markets work these days.
Let me call bullshit on this.
There are no side effects – there are only actions and effects. Moreover, we, as leaders in this world, have a moral obligation to take responsibility. We are the ones who are designing these systems (or at least influence them), we are the ones who are building the next paradigms. Moreover, as such we are required to do the hard work and consider all effects our actions have – not just the ones which we like, get us to the outcomes we aspire to and make us feel and look good.
I keep telling audiences around the world in my sessions that the future is unwritten. That it is on us to build the future we want. That we create the world, we want to live in. We are privileged to be in this position. Moreover, with these great powers come great responsibilities.
You can only build what truly matters if you take responsibility for all your actions. Build What Matters. Pascal ツ”