Intuitive Intelligence: The New Mindset for Sustainability


In their recent article Why Sustainability Is Now the Key Driver of Innovation [Harvard Business Review September 2009], Ram Nidumolu, C.K. Prahalad, and M.R. Rangaswami argue that sustainability isn’t a burden on the bottom line; instead, they make the case that going green can lower costs and increase revenues.

They make the point we have been making at The Human Company for some time now: only companies that make sustainability a goal will achieve competitive advantage. Corporate sustainability does not bloom without effort, however, and the authors describe a 4-phase maturity model for the process:sustainabilitystages.gif

In our experience, we find most that far too many companies view sustainability as a “corporate social responsibility” and not as an engine for growth.

Let’s call this STAGE 0: GreenWashing – paying lip-service to sustainability. In this phase,companies view sustainability as a PR exercise, as a community building initiative, but they let it fall far of its true potential. For them, this is corporate citizenship, not competitive advantage.

At this phase, we also see that there is no accountability for sustainability. Often, it is the CEO’s job.  This is a cop-out of course, but the data is clear:


To add insult to injury, the next step often ends up with the “coronation” of a corporate “sustainability officer” – which again is simply the wrong approach.

Fortunately there are examples of companies that are using intuitive intelligence to challenge their traditional assumptions and create real solutions for lowering costs, eliminating waste, creating new products and services, and even changing their global business models.

Wal-Mart, for example has  taken the greening of its supply chain very seriously. The release of data on its scorecard for the environmental
friendliness of its vendors’ product packaging
, is a clear, measurable initiative which is already impacting over 2000 suppliers.

The Wal-Mart scorecard evaluates the “green quotient” of product packaging based a number of attributes, such as:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions related to production
  • Materials used
  • Product to packaging ratio
  • Cube utilization
  • Recycled content usage
  • Innovation
  • The amount of renewable energy used to manufacture the packaging
  • The recovery value of the raw materials and emissions related to transportation of the packaging materials.

Wal-Mart also announced plans for an
similar scorecard for their electronics suppliers in 2008. Criteria for the electronics scorecard includes:

  • Energy efficiency
  • Durability
  • Upgradability
  • End-of- life solutions
  • Size of the package containing the product
  • Ability
    to use innovative materials that reduce the amount of hazardous
    substances, such as lead and cadmium, contained in the product

View a Wal-Mart green supplier scorecard here>>

Then there’s GE.  Of course, we’ve all seen their “ecomagination” campaigns on TV and print, but they have have taken that all important real step to transforming their product innovation process in ways that can only be described as radical.

Instead of appointing a GE Tsar of sustainability, Jeffrey Immelt brought in Professor Vijay Govindaran as their Chief Innovation Consultant. His job, to work with specific divisions to identify real opportunities for global products and services.

The approach they created “reverse innovation,” is outlined in How GE is Disrupting Itself (Harvard Business Review, October 2009). VG describes their thinking as follows:

More information on the process here >>

Why does intuitive intelligence help you think in sustainable terms?

The answer is very simple.

Our instinct is responsible for the survival of our species. We can reasonably say that human instinct is pretty reliable because it’s helped us survive successfully for thousands of years.

Our modern thinking, however, relies on our analytical intelligence. It’s brought along the prowess of the scientific mind. The problem with this approach is that without genius scientific thinking can be very linear and very exclusive – to the point that it excludes our instinct not complying with reason.

Intuitive Intelligence blends our analytical mind with our instinctual aptitudes. Necessarily, it brings balance to our thinking. The  Intuitive Compass™ facilitates sustainable business thinking and helps us design sustainable business models.

Intuitive Intelligence can be learned and developed, provided we accept that today most of us are not thinking but simply being logical, we can open up to this new mindset.

Why is it necessary to use intuitive intelligence?

Because we will not be able to solve current problems with the outdated way of analytical thinking that created these exact problems.

We face a sustainability imperative. We have to develop and use an intelligence that can think in sync with our ecosystems – in other words an intelligence that understands and respects the creative process of life.

All great scientists recognize that the history of our universe is the consequence of a number of fundamentals laws explained by science as well as a long series of unexplained accidents. Logic alone cannot explain everything. The same goes for business.

In order to help you engage the creativity of your teams, in order to inspire long lasting respectful relationship with consumers, in order to design innovative, sustainable and profitable business models, in order to lead organizations into a successful and sustainable future we developed an original model: The Intuitive Compass™.

How does the Intuitive Compass™ help companies achieve breakthroughs in sustainable innovation?


We use the The Intuitive Compass™ as a tool to assess and
chart progress as companies (and executives) learn to harness intuitive
intelligence in four key areas:

Strategy: how to employ
intuitive intelligence to create sustainable, innovative business
models which deliver real value to customers in their local environment.

Leadership: the transformative power of intuitive intelligence energizes and builds movements – with clarity of vision and purpose.

Work Culture: the ecosystem health of your business culture is reflected in your bottom line results. The Intuitive Compass™ helps create the open culture you need to succeed in the intelligent economy.

Consumer Needs: map your customers needs and wants using The Intuitive Compass™ – creating a value innovation agenda for your customers.

We help companies and leaders get a “southwest” perspective, and focus on creating sustainable value. Our mantra: sustainable business is a the core of future business success.