Focus on sustainability

Business and focus

Every business book that you will get your hands on will tell you this lesson: to be successful, you need focus. What they don’t all describe is why focus is so important. It’s not terribly hard to figure that out though:

  • Having focus means that you can separate the important and unimportant things.
  • Knowing what your focus is helps making decisions, like which customers to serve, what people to hire, what stuff you should buy or outsource, and so on.
  • Focus makes your product easier to understand for your customers.

Focus is not just a buzz-word, you can actually use it to make your company more successful. To give some examples:

  • Discussions and meetings become easier, because you can relate arguments and decisions to the single goal.
  • Explain and repeat to your employees what it is you’re doing – and they’ll help by generating ideas and bouncing off ideas.
  • Tools like scenario planning and the business model canvas can break down your main focus area into smaller, measurable goals.
  • Enterprise architecture helps to break down the company focus into the underlying systems and processes.

On the contrary, if you don’t do all those things, there’s a high chance that your company will fail. And even though focus is not a guarantee for success, most business people do see it as a necessary requirement.

So, if focus is so important, what about society as a whole?

Society and focus

In our society there is no focus. Politicians consider almost every topic a matter of political taste and debate. And worse – they’re even right: as long as we don’t have a common goal (if at all), we can debate endlessly about all kinds of things that probably all don’t matter. Eventually the only thing that matters is who’s in control. Things that threaten or strengthen control become important, such as media, terrorism, mass-surveillance and other things; long-term goals become completely irrelevant. This is how politicians control our country.

Therefore I have a proposal.

If there is one thing above all that seems important to all of us, it’s sustainability.

Definition. Sustainability is the ability for our civilization to keep running until the end of times. Basically this means that we give our children, and the children of our children a future. The moment we conclude that our civilization is not sustainable, it inherently means that everything that we do is meaningless (for the simple reason that we will become extinct).

I believe our focus as a society should be: sustainability.

Politics and sustainability

The good news is that the topic of sustainability gets more and more traction in the world. We know we’re currently not living in a sustainable world, and recognized that it’s a huge problem. There are also some initiatives to reduce CO2 levels, including rules, regulations and economic sanctions.

And there’s more good news. I believe that we currently have the technological know-how to create a world that can sustain itself for a long, long time.

The bad news is that there are ways to bend the rules and instead of aiming at solving the problem at its core. To give a concrete example: in the Netherlands, instead of reducing CO2 levels, the governing political party does not reduce CO2 levels and attempts to fight the resulting economic sanctions in court.

A sustainable environment

Aiming at sustainability is often confused for environmentalism. They’re completely different things. Sustainability aims at making the world habitable for people, but does so regardless of environmental consequences. However, as it turns out, we currently don’t have the technological know-how to do that without a sustainable habitat, which means that we need to sustain our environment. And even though environmentalism is a logical conclusion of sustainability, it is not necessarily the most important thing on our list.

Take for example nuclear power. Most environmentalists will tell that nuclear power is bad, because it pollutes the environment in the long run. While that is true, using nuclear power might also prevent melting ice caps in the short term, therefore improving our chances of survival.

OK, I want a sustainable society, what’s next?

A lot… so more on that later.