Four Things We Don't Need More Of

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Over-using our resources the way we do now only means bad news for the future -- especially when this use is not based on actual need for anything more than simple excess; taking more because there is more to take (for now).

As the authors Rob Dietz and Dan O'Neill discuss in their book Enough is Enough, that's a big problem that we seem to be blind to. As examples, the authors list four surprising things of which we have more than we need (and the damage done with the excess):

1. Priuses.
The Toyota Prius has become a popular ride, capturing more and more market share each year. These vehicles use less fuel per mile traveled, but the lower operating costs encourage additional driving, a circumstance which can undermine (or even overtake) the original gain in efficiency—this is the rebound effect.  More technology and greater efficiency have their place, but they are not enough on their own.  We can't consume our way to sustainability, even if that consumption consists of cooler cars.

2. Attention paid to GDP.
GDP has become the most watched and most misinterpreted of all economic indicators. GDP is just a measure of money changing hands, and it doesn’t ask what that money is actually being spent on.  It could be spent on good things like bicycles and education, or bad things like war and disaster cleanup.  It turns out we’re spending more and more money on things in the second camp, and calling this "progress."  It's time to ditch GDP and measure what really matters—the health of our societies and the ecosystems that support them.

3. Infrastructure Projects.
Unlike the successes of FDR's New Deal, many of these projects turned out to be unproductive, and they failed to provide jobs over the long term.  The U.S. has also been directing funds to infrastructure ("stimulus" spending), mostly in fossil-fueled urban areas.  Society needs jobs, but creating them through wasteful and obsolete build-outs is a dead end. For example, an ultra-modern, cable-stayed bridge provides an easy way to get across the harbor of Hamada, Japan.  The only trouble is that not very many people want to get across the harbor, resulting in a wasted expense of public money and amassed debt to build infrastructure with little purpose.

4. Cheerleading for Growth.
When a newscaster says, "The market has turned bullish, pushing the Dow Jones Industrial Average higher," the most common response is, "Whoo-hoo!"  But if Boeing’s stock price increases because it is expected to sell more weaponry, or if Exxon Mobil’s stock goes up because it can exploit tar sands, is that a good thing?  All “growth” is not equal and definitely not beneficial to society even if it is to the stock markets.


Looking for Potential in the Wrong Places

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Authors Don Maruska and Jay Perry challenge traditional methods for identifying high-potential employees and developing their talent. In their new book, the authors argue that talent development can extend to all members of an organization at all levels and not just a select few elites.

To help us with some of the factors we need to be aware of, Don and Jay compiled this list of Five Ways "Traditional" Talent Development Programs Remain Ineffective In Actually Locating and Developing Talent:
1. They apply an outmoded, mechanistic view of people and organizations.
The organization-employee relationship has undergone, and continues to undergo, a profound evolutionary and generational shift. Thinking of organizations as machines and people as filling slots in them doesn’t fit with today’s fast-paced innovation economy. Employees at all levels need to take personal initiative and be nimble and creative. Younger generations are accustomed to being more independent and are able and eager to find needed information and create applications.

2. They try to “drive” results from the top down.
The idea of driving behavior as if people were cattle isn't effective and promotes a culture of dependence. Such strategies focus on what management or the organization is doing to fire up its employees. The reality is that employees have the talent. Workers need a culture that encourages them to discover it and the self-motivation to apply it.

3. They focus on “high-potential” candidates and ignore others.
When talent development comes from the top down, management’s available time and resources limit its scope. As a result, resources focus on “high potentials.” Picking a few winners among a large workforce creates an “us-them” dynamic, which undermines engagement and diminishes critically-needed contributions from everyone else.

4. They create transactional relationships, which prompt employees to withhold rather than offer their best.
The cash for tasks approach to encouraging employees to apply their talents triggers fearful behavior. In that kind of environment, people are loathe to take risks and often keep knowledge and inventive practices to themselves in order to keep a competitive edge. Everything is a negotiation that no worker wants to lose.

5. High levels of disengagement and unused talent remain.
If traditional approaches were working, we’d see better results. Instead, levels of disengagement remain persistently high. Based upon a Gallup survey of U.S. workers in 2011, 95 million employees are not engaged or actively disengaged. What’s more, even high performers in excellent organizations tell us that 30 to 40 percent of their talent remains untapped. Since people don’t join organizations with the intention of being unhappy or unfulfilled, it’s time for a change.