The excerpt below comes from the final chapter of our book, The Integrative Design Guide to Green Building: Redefining the Practice of Sustainability. This chapter foreshadows where we were headed then and speaks to what it is we are really working on now.
A TRANSFORMATIONAL PROCESS
The bottom line is that we need to change the field of development. In the bigger picture we need to change the way that human beings inhabit the planet. The good news is that our experience has taught us that the process of integration is by nature a transformational process. Recently we went back through our work history to identify those projects that were truly successful—that is, those that achieved higher-order sustainability goals on time and in budget. The number was low: maybe around 10 percent. Looking for a common denominator to the success of these projects, we were surprised at how clearly visible it was: first, we realized that we had become good friends with the clients and team members that had achieved the highest levels of success. Then we noticed that every one of these successful projects included a principal team member who was undergoing a personal process of transformation. From Alcoholics Anonymous to marriage counseling to spiritual work, some transformational process was occurring independently, in parts of their lives not directly connected with the project.
Reflecting on this, we realized that to be successful in this work, we have to change—transform. This change cannot be achieved superficially, by just altering our actions. That level of change never holds and is not deep enough; success comes from a more pervasive process of change. Each of us must change our self, our way of seeing the world, and our beliefs—our mind-set. This change is both something that we have to will ourselves to do and something that we must allow to happen. The evolution of consciousness is, after all, instrumental to the evolution of our practice and our field—and, in the bigger picture, instrumental to the evolution of life on Earth.
Folks that have had the experience of working with an integrative process on their projects consistently tell us that their understanding and values shifted during the process. More specifically, their internal world somehow aligned with their vocation, their values reconciled with how they earned their living, and they experienced something powerful. Ray Anderson (founder and former CEO of Interface Inc.), for example, explains this kind of shift in perspective as “doing well by doing good.” Our partner Andy Lau refers to this by using the Buddhist concept of “right livelihood,” borrowing from the Noble Eightfold Path. One of our clients described this experience as follows:
Some esoteric chemistry took place with the team’s willingness to explore new solutions without having to know the answers…My life changed—not immediately, but it was a transformative process over time . . . . We established performance criteria, but we didn’t try to tell anyone how to achieve those goals . . . . It became more than a job—it became a personal passion . . . and this from a career bureaucrat?!?
—Jim Toothaker, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
We like to think about this transformational process in the following way:
To do different things, we need to do things differently.
To do things differently, we need to think about them differently.
To think differently, we need to become different.
The conventional wisdom of our time teaches that if we want to work to save the environment (to do different things), the best thing that we can do is to separate humans from nature—to leave it alone (to do things differently). Throughout this book, though, we have sought to illuminate what we believe to be the most fundamental human imperative: the need for integrating humans with nature—for understanding their interrelationships (to think differently). While reading the previous chapters, you may have asked the question: where do we stop integrating? We suggest that our integration work is not over until we have become a part of nature, until nature is not seen or thought about as something separate, until we become whole again (become different).
Learn more at sevengroup.com.