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What did the climate scientist say to the business person?

Michael Mann speaks at Smeal

The markets are really heating up!

I know, I know. I haven't posted for awhile due to so much running around and I return with that!?

Anyway, Smeal had renowned climate scientist Michael Mann give a talk this week and indeed, markets and everything else are heating up. A climate scientist at the business school was just one of many recent opportunities I have had to see the magic that happens when disciplines are combined, instead of held in isolation.

Ingredients are Best Mixed Together...

I remember going to Sweet Frog (a frozen yogurt shop) with my daughter when she was younger. She would often mix together a huge variety of yogurts and toppings. I thought it ended up looking like an inedible mess. She said "all the flavors are best mixed together." Maybe she was onto something.

Something disruptive, uncomfortable and special happens when we mix with those who think differently or see the world differently. Our once certain worldview cracks open a bit and is revealed for what it is: a necessary, convenient but in the end inaccurate representation of the world.

Just this week I have spent time with scientists in:

  • climate (Michael Mann's talk)

  • materials (I have a talk on "circular economy" at the Materials Research Institute)

  • environmental economics (I met with Karen Fisher Vanden, noted scholar in integrated economic modeling of climate change)

...then Baked for the Right Time and at the Right Temperature

I have been seeking ways Smeal can combine business with science to help companies accelerate their efforts to address the world's most pressing environmental and social problems.

This will happen in the new center we are launching in 2020: the Center for the Business of Sustainability (working name). More on the center in future posts. We would love to get your input to help shape the vision.

I must say I feel like there is virtually nothing Penn State cannot help companies with. We have incredibly smart people doing everything. For example, we read about plastics in the oceans and we have people in every aspect of this issue:

  • supply chain

  • strategy

  • marketing

  • materials

  • water

  • epidemiology

  • entrepreneurship

  • petroleum engineers (in the case of oil-based plastics)

  • agriculture (in the case of bio-based plastics)

They are just not well connected....yet. The center will be a key convening place where expertise surrounds tough sustainability business problems--and solves them.

But as in baking, all these ingredients need to be brought together in the right way, with great facilitation and project management, and for the right amount time. Then magic truly can happen and "all the flavors are best mixed together."

The Right Ingredients to Change the World

Author Steven Johnson has traced the history of innovation and concludes that "chance favors the connected mind" so it could also be said that chance favors the connected organization.

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