Why ‘once upon a time’ is dead
The average human attention span is now apparently eight seconds. We are bombarded with adverts, with information and our brains constantly have to decipher fact from fiction. How, in a world with so much happening, can we take a step back and apply human and technological skills to solve the most pressing environmental and social problems facing the built environment?
Well, this is what the Future Leaders’ Course is teaching us to do. We’re over half way through and so-far it’s been a rollercoaster of excitement, frustration and, more recently, triumph as our group innovation projects start to come to fruition.
Our most recent workshop was on the importance of storytelling. Personally, I found this session the most enlightening and inspiring. We are told storytelling is an art and very few people have a natural ability but, apparently, we can all learn. As I tend to be introverted and am not confident at storytelling, it’s a skill I’m keen to learn. One by one we get up in front of our peers and start talking candidly about what drives us to work in the built environment. To be surrounded by likeminded people all sharing their own stories and bubbling with a sense of purpose feels special. And then it’s my turn. As I start speaking my nerves leave me. I suddenly realise I’m not having to tell a story to entertain people, I’m talking about reality, my reality and my experience. Then it struck me: the most compelling stories are those grounded in truth, not fantasy, just like the best fairytales. However, in the fake news era, telling and hearing the truth is becoming harder.
The Future Leaders course has taught me why sustainability storytelling is vital. We don’t live in a fairytale, we live in a world where, by 2030 we will need 50% more energy and 35% more food. If we don’t start to reduce carbon emissions we may not even have a world we can live in by 2100. We can’t afford to tell stories where everyone lives happily ever after. We need to tell stories grounded in facts and, most importantly, stories which reflect the urgency of our situation. Quite simply we need a compelling narrative about what can be achieved if human and technological skills are fully applied and what will happen if we don’t rise to this challenge. So, I invite all of you to consider what stories you can share to help us reach this goal.