Monday, July 11, 2011

Do more, better sustainability ideas come from Imagination, or Experience?

People can come up with more uses for technology than IT can imagine. That's the crux of idea #2 in an Information Week article about Randy Mott, recently departed CIO of Hewlett-Packard.

From the article: "To really understand a technology's potential, IT needs to put it in end users' hands." From Mott, in 2003: "It's tough to imagine fast enough. You have to experience it to imagine what's possible."

I believe this applies doubly to using technology to enhance sustainability. People who care about the planet are intrinsically motivated to excel where their work involves enhancing sustainability. The experience of imaginative, engaged people creates more solutions than imagination alone.

Most technology that reduces waste or saves energy, for example, also reduces costs. That's good for the company. Enhancing sustainability is good for the planet, which matters to the employees who made it happen. This combination of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation should, at least in theory, get workers super-engaged in making sustainability efforts work.

But of course, this line of thinking in itself contradicts my key point, in that it has risen completely from my imagination, and not from experience.

So, let's put some substance into it. If you've been engaged in sustainability efforts at your company, does your experience bear out my premise?

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