‘Sustainable’ is a magic word. Inevitable seat at the table of of ‘correct language’, 21st Century version.
Many things have contributed to its magic. Here are just two close to home.
One. The realization, visualization or fear of …the lack of. We are not 100% sure what sustainable means, but we fear, reject or have anti-bodies against the unsustainable. Examples: unsustainable consumerism and an unsustainable planet. Other? unsustainable debt, unsustainable policies etc.
Two. In management, the problem is a mirror. We want to make change sustainable, a culture sustainable, a decision sustainable. The opposite means failure, unfinished, bad management, waste of time. And we have lots of them.
How interesting. Sustainability is the default desired state.
But, in management, sustainability without qualifications is a cancer. Very sustainable business models, very sustainable cultures and very sustainable leadership may end up in very poor response to markets, embedded inflexibility and lack of reaction and rigid views of the world with an unmovable vision leading to disaster.
Sustainability in management needs to come with the ‘but not to much’ warning in the label.
The trick is to create a Company Operating System that allows for change and sustainability, but has Reboot and mechanisms of renewal built-in. (Many of my appliances at home will stop working when overheated. Why don’t we have the same in our companies?)
The antifragile frame described by Nassim Taleb, and which he never developed fully as far as the organization is concerned, is the best we have to at least force us to think in terms of change that changes itself, sustainable-to-a-point change.
Make management and culture shaping a sustainable enough business, but not too much.