For those of you who know me, ‘slowing down’ isn’t exactly my life motto. My own mother gave me a book for Christmas called Vivre Vite (‘Living Fast’) in the knowledge that I’m more of a ‘three-phone-calls-at-once’ kind of person. Earlier today I was leaping at the prospect of meeting the amazing people behind the organisation We Don’t Have Time.
It’s true – we’re running out of it; and our anxious hands, our thirst for the future and our Tik-Tok-style compulsion towards ‘new content’ doesn’t allow much room for the recycling of old messages, let alone the pursuit of wisdom.
But a spirit of urgency is not incompatible with taking the time to do things right. Thoughtful action is what Kite stands for. We believe in slowing down on purpose rather than by default or because of innovation burnout.
When E.O. Wilson reminded us that we have ‘palaeolithic minds, mediaeval institutions and godlike technology’, he was not suggesting that humans should attempt to act at the speed of our latest AI software and churn out answers like ChatGPT. Instead, says Tristan Harris, we should embrace our palaeolithic brains and search ourselves for the wisdom to use our tools well, for the benefit of humankind – a principle that applies to all forms of climate and sustainability action.
When I asked ChatGPT why human intelligence is ‘superior’ to AI, it listed six qualities: creativity; social interaction; ethical decision-making; adaptability; intuition; and innovation – all reassuring evidence of the fact that our palaeolithic minds are still our best tools, and more than fit for purpose!
How, then, can we slow down intentionally; maximise our receptiveness to other forms of knowledge; and deploy more thoughtful solutions? Here’s a rough guide for 2023 and beyond…
- Dare to debate with voices that disagree with your organisation’s mission and / or business model. Transformation has never been comfortable for anyone! Seek out debates that challenge the status quo, break down silos, and hold the majority view accountable (you may also create more mental space for empathy in the process). Consider, for example, why Africa should undergo a green transition if it can leapfrog to a green revolution.
- ‘The only way out is in,’ they say! Listen to Jo Confino’s brilliant podcast. Use the Inner Development Goals as a supportive tool for new leadership models, embracing our “messy feelings” to catalyse change and growth from the inside out. Cultivate mindsets that might feel foreign, including, if you overlap with the agricultural, energy, and / or construction sectors, indigenous wisdom and manifestos; systems thinking and writing; systems transformation platforms like our friend Phoebe Tickell’s Moral Imaginations.
- Make radical collaboration a priority and seek out partners who represent a blind spot for you or your organisation. Kite will be joining, for example, The Radical Collaboration Initiative. Source, if you can, some ideas from nexus thinking initiatives like GenderSmart and The Rallying Cry; publications like The Drawdown Review; and inspiring conversations like Outrage and Optimism which celebrate ambivalence, contradiction, and opposing, but not mutually exclusive, emotional reactions to global issues.
Thoughtful action cannot occur without constructive conversation and empathetic debate. In an increasingly polarised world where opinion is replacing fact, where emotional politics and over-zealous, empty rhetoric wins out and disinformation is everywhere, it has never been more important to create opportunities for diverse actors – across business, policy, finance, international institutions, law, activism – to convene, listen to one another, and consider another side.
I’m aware this letter is starting to feel rather a lot like a Tik-Tok read – but I wanted to send a personal message. No comment, for now, on climate impacts, the energy crisis, and growing inequality gaps – just a reminder to keep convening, solution-building and acting thoughtfully; and to seek, as James Nestor encourages us to, the lost art of breathing.
A very happy New Year to all of you!
With Kite love,