My problem is that, even as I write this, I realise that the statement is hollow. It's full of hollow words, like "innovate" and "sustainability" - empty vessels that can be filled with whatever meaning you want to fill them with.
The hollow words are a bit of a warning sign. They usually come out when good intentions go home. I suspect we've all experienced this - anybody ever been inflicted with "high performing teams"? We get a bit cynical when the words appear. They are usually foils to continue with precisely the opposite. Or nothing.
Let me clear here. What I have in mind is that we MUST find new ways of doing "waste" to stop this ceaseless (but rational) flow of materials through our society. That "MUST" has the passion behind it of a full-blooded scream from a cliff top.
How might it be done?
I suspect the innovation we need will not be achieved by decree. It won't happen through 5 year plans, or centralised command and control systems, or some sort of industry focus group. It also probably already exists. Just not where you'd go looking for it.
For me, I think the innovation we need will emerge out of a foment of ideas. An unexpected connection made between two seemingly disparate ideas. I don't know what the connection might be, which ideas might be banged together, but I DO know that you're more likely to find it if you keep knocking the ideas around.
|Foment 1 by Arvid Wangen. From http://painting410.blogspot.com.au/|
Where do the ideas come from?
Ideas will come from all over the place. As I've suggested above, the next incredible thing probably already exists, but not where you expect it. Let it come to you by exploring all different fields. Follow your nose. Let your interests take you to someplace new.
For me, I love the ideas swirling around emergent design. There are some great thinkers on Google+, Facebook and Twitter. So for me, ideas come from listening to what they have to say, contributing to the conversation, sharing where you can.
For others it will be different. I've had people suggest ideas from science-fiction, from movies, even chats with their mates over a BBQ. The point is not whether the ideas are intellectual or not, but whether they make interesting connections.
Again, the more ideas that bounce around, the more likely it is you'll find connections.
How do you bring that into business?
"This is all very well Adam", you might think, "but I have a business to run, and we can't just sit around and dream up new ideas.
True. But that's not really what I'm referring to. What I have in mind is creating a workplace culture where new ways of doing things are continually sought after, tested and then evaluated.
It is creating a workplace where ideas are tested BEFORE they are evaluated. It is creating a culture that assumes most ideas won't be quite right and a very few are awesome, but doesn't presume to know which is which.
It is creating a certain diversity of function, or background, of personal views and giving each equal autonomy to create. And reinforcing that the only judge is the customer. An idea might seem a dud to all within the business, but be a raging success with the customer. That idea is just as good as one that all staff vote on as being the best idea. And even better if the best idea (as voted by staff) isn't also a raging success.
To get to this point, ideas must be small enough to be "fail-able". There's no point in testing an idea which, if it fails, will bring down the business. I suspect this is where the cleverness comes in. Just as the smart part of science comes in designing experiments to test an hypothesis, the clever part of innovation is designing trials that test an idea.
What do good ideas look like?
I think around to ideas that I've tried or seen tried in waste. One was mattress recycling. Offered $10 per recycled mattress, staff didn't bother with high-tech solutions, but instead got a stock of knives and developed a system to dismantle mattresses by hand.
Similarly timber recycling. I had presumed that the best idea was to recycle timber to woodchip for supply to particle board manufacturers. Indeed, that was (and is) a good idea, but it relied upon chicken growers to buy the dust screened out of the woodchip. And this byproduct market was actually more reliable than the primary market.
It goes on. The best ideas, best markets, best technologies are never (or rarely) what you expect. The best you can hope to do is create the space for them to be tested, and to move in response to your testing.
Why are you telling us this?
I'm writing this to explore the idea for myself. Clearly. But I also write to explore the idea for my Garbologie business. I want this business to make real the thoughts I'm expressing here. To be the space where ideas can be tested, to be a skunkworks through which innovation can explode to change the face of waste.
To this end, the thoughts are expressed to gather ideas. I would appreciate any suggestions, past successes, actualisation frameworks.