Some B-School Tools to Sustainability Policy-Making

The informal, last session of URBDP 598 was great. Some good conversations were flowing. As a pert outsider to the topics of Urban Planning, Real Estate (and Sustainability to an extent) I was seeing the challenges discussed through the lens of a B-School guy (wonder what I was doing [not wearing the B-School hat] during previous ten sessions).

One, I believe these tools are not patently unique to B-School or Business world (just that I learned them, put them to use there). And, another important thing that would merit consideration here would be that the practicality of these tools and how they could be adapted for sustainability policy-making. Without further ado, here they are:

  • 20-80 Rule – states that “in general” 20% of input/effort is required to achieve 80% of output/result. This tool could help identify not only the battles worth fighting for, but also concessions that could be used to gain the ones that will have most impact for sustainability.
  • 4 Corners Analysis – A tool from Ethics world, this helps in analyzing and identifying how different constituents employ ethics (means or ends-oriented) in their decision-making to support a position or not. For example (thanks to AP), there is the dichotomy/divergence of disciplining (kids) and parenting kids to be well-behaved. If the goal is to support “parenting for well-behaved kids”, you identify parents (constituents) who are means-oriented and agree with them on the virtues of “means” (Immanuel Kant’s Deontology) and reinforce the means that will achieve our desired goal, even though they might not agree with our end-goal; you also identify parents (constituents) who are ends-oriented and agree with them on the virtues of ends (John Stuart Mill’s Tele0logy) and reinforce the benefits of the end-goal, even though they might not agree with all the means you would like to prescribe; the third of four corners is the one constituent that already supports your cause and your goal; and the important aspect of four corner analysis is that knowing who falls under the fourth corner – the one that neither supports your cause nor your end-goal, and staying away from trying to convince this group (probably, you require 80% of effort to achieve 20% of result!)
  • Speak to Customer’s Need – a simple, but not often practiced rule. You might have come up with a wonderful product/solution/idea; but don’t just talk about how ground-breaking the idea is, how you got it (though they are good and have their place), instead talk about how it addresses the customer’s (policy-maker/project or program manager/public) need. In other words, tailor your message to the audience; or idiomatically, cut the cloth according to the coat.

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