Mind Shift

by Coalition Board Member Steve Martin

The human brain is one amazing piece of equipment. However, scientists have discovered some alarming flaws in our ability to properly process alternatives and trade-offs when making decisions. The scientists found that we have a “finite pool of worry” that leads us to act on the urgent and important, and ignore choices that have a long term benefit. The reason is that we use differing parts of the brain for decision making, one analytical and one emotional.

I first read about the dilemma in a 2009 article “Why The Brain Isn’t Green”. A study at Columbia University showed that the quality of long term decision making improved dramatically when people worked at the problems collaboratively, preferably seated around the same table.

For some reason when we interact with fellow human beings our brains are able to shift our mental frame from individual self-interest to one of the common good. This was true even when the participants disagreed over the decision or course of action.

It feels like we can’t make progress on the difficult issues related to economic development, the environment, or social policy. What is needed is a framework for addressing these problems and making better long term decisions in a collaborative forum.

In 2010, I joined a group of business leaders to form The Sustainability Coalition, a network of companies and organizations committed to promoting an understanding of sustainability and a consistent application of sustainable business development principles within Elkhart County.

Together we can learn a scientific, objective framework for looking at sustainability and the practical success stories of local businesses who are applying these principles. I believe that education and collaboration lead to innovation and I  invite you to join us at the table.

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