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Creating a climate of change

The recent release of the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was met with the rapt attention of the world’s media. While scientists continue to debate the details, this historic document was the final stamp of consensus that we are living in an era of human-induced climate change. The now established concept stands as a powerful banner which unites the disparate and complex views of scientists, politicians and society behind a single, simple vision.

Clearly identifying this phenomenon and naming it was extraordinarily critical to building consensus around the hypothesis and mobilising people behind it.

Science’s changing role in society, providing solutions to questions rather than dictating areas of interest from ivory labs, means that for science to be effective, it has to communicate effectively. Thought leadership is increasingly critical to generating consensus and behaviour change. 

AR5 is a powerful reminder to business of the value of engaging a movement of people behind a vision and with it the power of thinking big.

Thought leadership is all about sticky, shareable ideas that can change the way we think, and in this respect, climate change can be held up as one of the finest examples. Where science has learnt from business, in return business must now learn from science.

Science has evolved, overcoming the struggle to communicate the uncertainties of a discipline where conclusions are always uncertain and research is never finished. Similarly in business, the economic turbulence of recent years has taught us that the days of ‘high-performance delivered’ thinking, following a clear blueprint for success, are all but gone. In its place is a need to be more agile to plan future outcomes around wider uncertainties. Thought leadership today means learning how to communicate contingency: businesses without all the answers need to look at how to engage with diverse scenarios and the biggest of questions keeping their customers awake at night. Outside-in thinking is the order of the day.

This huge mind-shift can’t be underestimated but there are few better inspirations than the achievements of the climate change movement.