Compression Thinking

What has to change to address the Challenges of Compression?

Doing better with less will require changes in the way we think and how we run our organizations.

Compression, the book, merely primes Compression Thinking. It’s not a fixed body of knowledge, so contribute to it yourself. Tune into how nature is actually working, not as we wish or hope, and to how it keeps changing. Look at what human organizations physically do today, not in some bygone era. Suspend belief in old explanations framing how things must be, and dig for credible sources. Unfortunately, none of us can see the whole picture with our own eyes.

We are near a turning point, the end of expansion as we have known it. Population is expanding on an earth with finite resources. Old thinking from the industrial revolution presumes that we can continue growing indefinitely, that more resources can always be found – somewhere — and that having more and using more is a sign of success.

Today both public and private economic discourse is guided by financial thinking. Those into lean thinking break from that a little. They remove from work processes waste that can be seen directly, not as represented by costs. Compression thinking has to step beyond this. Physical actions and their consequences must take priority over financial motivations.

How this ends is up to us. What do we have to do to deal with Compression?

Conceptual basics are well-known, but practice is slow to take hold. First, eliminate waste, things that add no value to anyone. Then conserve (reuse, repair, remanufacture, recycle and so on) and contain (hazardous material). Many individuals want to decrease their resource footprints, but until working organizations create practical systems they can use, their effect is minimal.

Compression begs for fundamentally new economic thinking — Compression Thinking. Its challenges are interrelated. Conditions will always be changing. Even the best organizations have barely started. Some do a little, but claim a lot, opening themselves to charges of “greenwash.” Much more imagination is needed. Our biggest challenge, always, is us.

So start to look behind financial facades to see the physical reality of what we do. Then dream of what can be done.

Compression Thinking– What’s Different?

It takes a working organization’s operational view. Don’t view “environmental interests” as dooming the status quo with no way out. What do working organizations really have to do? Where do they start?

Adopt global-scope systems thinking, or process thinking. Thinking of just my company ducks the challenges.

Compression Thinking does not hinge on environmentalists’ touchstones – Bruntland definitions, etc. Environmental concerns are only one reason to make systemic changes. Increasing complexity of much work today calls for a different mindset.

Technological advances with the same business thinking are insufficient. The system will keep undoing itself. Working organizations have to be guided pragmatically, but scientifically. We even need pragmatic ways to eliminate the waste from our own behavior at work.

We have to move beyond the case for change — why — and get on with what and how, blending innovation from many sources. .
Finally we need to think of these challenges positively. They are very difficult, but mankind has met big challenges before.

Further Reading

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