When I explain my Green Jujitsu Sustainability engagement technique to others, many give me a look as if to say "well, that's the most obvious thing in the world." And then they stick 'do your bit to save the planet' posters up on the wall, resplendent in green clichés, and wonder why they get ignored.
Green Jujitsu is the art of tapping into people's strengths, interests and habits in order to make Sustainability relevant to them. The analogy is that most attempts at engagement are like boxing – trying to batter the other person into submission. Jujitsu experts adjust their techniques to match their opponent, for example using that person's momentum to power a particular throw.
Think about it. The people you need to engage are those that don't 'get' Sustainability. If the combined forces of Al Gore, Jonathon Porritt and the Prince of Wales haven't convinced them, what chance have you got?
Well, plenty in fact. The problem with all these 'rock stars of Sustainability' is that they preach – and only the converted like being preached to. You've got to be smarter, and that's where Green Jujitsu comes in.
An engineer gets out of bed in the morning to solve problems, a nurse gets out of bed in the morning (or the middle of the night) to care for others, a journalist gets out of bed in the morning to make the news. Green Jujitsu finds the overlap between Sustainability and those deeply emotional driving forces to find the sweetspot of relevance.
So, to take an example, for engineers we adopt engineering language, tools, imagery, stories and, most importantly, set those engineers Sustainability challenges. I love nothing more than watching a room full of a client's engineers working away to solve their organisation's Sustainability problems – the energy is tangible. You get true, deep engagement – and a whole load of great technical solutions to boot.
Likewise, in the healthcare sector, we constantly link Sustainability to the health agenda, whether that's the health impacts of climate change or the health benefits of walking/cycling to work. We transformed the Sustainability programme of one of the UK's major media groups by adopting journalists' techniques for communicating Sustainability internally.
The only difficult thing about Green Jujitsu is the humility required to realise that what you, as a Sustainability expert, know and think is not important. What is important is the translation of Sustainability into a form that means something to the audience in front of you. That 'letting go' can be a wrench, but, trust me, it is worth it.
To learn how to apply Green Jujitsu to any organisation, check out our new online training course: Green Jujitsu: Smart Employee Engagement for Sustainability.