Universities and colleges may have a top down pecking order, but that’s where the resemblance to business stops — while selling ideas to “a team” of individuals is tough, selling ideas to a “team of teams” takes a cultural revolution.
The business sale to a team of individuals means including in your proposal what each team member needs and secondly making sure your presentation is formatted to fit their receptors:
- Executives want a summary of the offer along with the bottom line,
- Implementers need to know how much time it will add to their already packed to-do list,
- Users (with their sound bite attention span) need to be entertained to keep them engaged.
In business, the team is pretty clear cut — one person from each area bringing their one personality from which they view the process.
Team selling to another team — when the team members keep changing on both sides.
That’s the situation in the academic world when it comes to sustainable practices — those who want to sell their colleagues on mainstreaming sustainability are bumping into the team-selling-to-teams brick wall. To further complicate things, the team champions change from school to school. The initial activism might be coming from students or the faculty or the administration or operations. There was no conclusion as to which group was most effective to get the ball rolling, success was offered from all sides. Regardless of where the momentum started, however, it got stuck when the dots between silos of effort couldn’t connect.
The sustainable campus sale is moving, but not working…
In the corporate world of top-down management, if you sell the top person(s) they will command and control the rest of the sale throughout the institution. That works well in an established business with established employees and users, but a school has constant turnover of admin, faculty, staff, and students. Momentum gets lost as ‘start over’ efforts sap the energy out of the system. Add to this mix, the online culture of free-spirited contribution is coming in conflict with the fixed world of academic accomplishment. It’s a race to the future with our shoes stuck in the muddled past of that’s-the-way-we’ve-always-done-it.
How do we get this team to team sale unstuck? Understand the new rules.
This week, the American Association for Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE.org) held its national conference in LA. It was a refreshing dip into how our future universities may look, teach, and operate. About 1700 administrators, faculty, operation staff, and students representing hundreds of colleges and universities debated on how to break the bricks and rebuild schools that are leaner, smarter, more agile, and more sustainable for a moving target economy.
Yet, as nimble and forward thinking as this group is, how to embed sustainable thinking throughout the campus culture continued to allude them. There were many one-off ideas that were working within each sector, but few ideas that brought the whole package together. Oh yeah, and then Hunter Lovins spoke…
Still with me? Are You Excited or Exiting?
If you’re still reading, by now you can see the layer upon layer of issues that are holding up real, embedded sustainability at our institutions. The desire for change is often met with the dire predictions that climate change is a done deal and by the way, so are we… It’s hard to be positive when the drive to bunker down seems more reasonable. The first step is to throw Albert and Margaret out and put Yoda in.
At AASHE, Einstein’s Definition of Insanity was quoted often: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
It’s been overused as much as another go-to quote by Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
We firmly agree that we can’t keep doing the same thing, and small groups can’t create a tipping point, only big group actions — maybe we should follow the other wise person with bad hair…
Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.
–YODA, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
We’ve been thinking too small – GO BIG. Look at everything from a campus-wide perspective and how a sustainable campus would function AFTER the world turns green. Clearly the top-down management framework isn’t working, so what kind of business model would replace it?
The “DO” game rules which will change the game.
Up until now, the teams selling to other teams were using small examples of one-off events, or they were arguably the R&D squad; but with the help of AASHE STARS and SEED Green Genome the ooey/gooey nature of change is being locked down fostering more meaningful team conversations.
STARS is the scorecard program for Universities, and SEED‘s Green Genome is the self-assessment tool for community colleges. Both offer checklists of doables when it comes to defining how sustainability will happen on a campus and to what level. No matter which campus team you’re on, it’s best to look at both programs — there are some crossovers with STARS leaning towards operations and SEED leaning towards learn/work curriculum.
With STARS and SEED providing a common language and matrix for measuring success – essentially it’s replacing the top down command and control with a framework for understanding. The “teams selling to teams” sales game just became a whole lot easier to manage.
Let the revolution begin!