Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Unleashing Your Inner Green Hero, Part 3

So how do you create a culture of heroes in your organization? How do you inspire more employees to think about sustainability, and to share their ideas more broadly? Here are some suggestions:

Start the Green Team. Create a task force of representatives from various parts of the organization to meet regularly to discuss, prioritize and implement organization-wide sustainability initiatives. Think twice about staffing this team with executives. Find the people most passionate about sustainability – those who will most actively mobilize and empower their respective organizations to participate fully in identifying organization-wide opportunities to reduce waste and environmental impact.

Focus on problems and solutions. Many cross-functional groups (no matter what the topic or charter) spend too much time discussing the problems, and not enough time identifying or discovering solutions. Build a set of ground rules for your Green Team, one of which is that problems cannot be discussed or presented beyond the team unless solutions are also provided. It’s OK if those solutions haven’t yet been researched or fully vetted, but it’s important to create a team that’s focused on action and progress, not just opportunity identification.

Make idea solicitation easy. Members of the Green Team are mere facilitators and representatives of their organizations. Create tools and processes where employees throughout the organization are encouraged to identify and submit opportunities for consideration. Make it easy and fun to be part of the process.

Find low-hanging fruit. Start with what’s easy, both to gain momentum and to show quick progress. There’s no better way to ignite the passion and creativity of a wider audience of employees than to show quick momentum and success from your sustainability efforts. No opportunity is too small as long as the effect is positive and measurable.

Reward the heroes! This may be the most important part of creating an ongoing, fun, and productive sustainability focus throughout the organization. Reward and recognize your heroes. Give them something for their desks, and recognition from company leadership. Associate them with the idea and initiative from start to finish, and ongoing if necessary. Will one of your employees be responsible for $35 million in global energy savings someday? Maybe…

And don’t forget to get your customers to become heroes too. Great ideas for your organization and brand – inside and out – don’t just come from employees. Starbucks is the latest company to directly engage customers in idea generation. (Click here to read more about their initiatives and innovations, and how they’re making their own customers into innovation heroes.)

This is a mere start to what’s possible. Now let’s do as we say, and start the interaction. In the comments section below, share a bit about your organization’s opportunity. What can you do – starting today – to encourage employees and customers throughout your organizational ecosystem to become Green Heroes? What one thing will you do before the end of the day today to get things started?

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