Hyper Efficient

Successful companies will take their design from nature, their values from their customers and their discipline from the market place, says Amory Lovins, co-author of Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution. They will also require a world where we rethink “security,” says this co-author of “Brittle Power,” the definitive unclassified study of domestic energy vulnerability.

Mr. Lovins and RMI are known around the world for innovative approaches to efficient and restorative uses of resources -- particularly energy -- to create a secure, prosperous and life-sustaining world. This former physicist co-founded the non-profit Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) in the early 1980s and continues as their CEO (Research). He is also Chairman of Hypercar, Inc.

He sees today’s pressing question as: How do we use the latent and emerging potential of our tri-polar world of government, business and civil society? For starters, be glad. This spread of power gives us more ways to make things happen. Since the three often work in pairs, find ways any two can address the deficiencies in the third. Speak to the motives of each group -- governments want to be re-elected: businesses seek more profit and less risk; civil society wants better lives for kids and communities. Don’t fight with your opponent, dance with your partner. It all makes sense and it all makes money, he says, so what are we waiting for?

Mr. Lovins and his co-authors focused “natural capitalism” on business leaders because they’re the ones who can save the world fastest and make money on the deal, Mr. Lovins remembers. He delights in putting “the fear of Adam Smith” into companies, spreading ideas of natural capitalism through competitive forces -- innovators’ rivals follow suit or lose market share. (Natural capitalism adds “nature” and “people” to industrial capitalism’s narrowly defined idea of capital as “financial” and “physical.”) Mr. Lovins demonstrates the approach’s success with a wealth of stories where companies achieve stunning competitive advantage, people in organizations are more happy, motivated, creative and effective, and customers are happier. It’s all good business and profitable, too, he smiles. Hypercar, Inc. is a promising example.

Mr. Lovins calls for the non-violent overthrow of bad engineering -- he wants to change both how engineering is taught and how it is practiced. Whole-system optimization is his solution. The ideas that work in businesses also work in buildings -- Rocky Mountain Institute’s home in Snowmass, Colorado, is so energy-efficient that the staff regularly offers surprised visitors home-grown bananas and papayas in a building that has no furnace.

Of course, all of this requires a level of individual and societal security. That, Mr. Lovins is convinced, means we have to rethink what “security” means and how we get it. His prescription? Start with conflict-prevention or avoidance. Follow with conflict resolution. Then, if all else fails, offer non-provocative defense to defeat aggression without threatening others. In short, remove the incentive to go to war and you have an environment in which natural capitalism can flourish.

[This Program was recorded August 19, 2002, in Snowmass, Colorado, US.]


Amory Lovins


    ... Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) co-founder and CEO (Research); Chairman of the Board of Hypercar, Inc. and a former physicist. Mr. Lovins is a pioneer known world-wide for his ideas about alternative resource production and use. His publications include Natural Capitalism, co-authored with Paul Hawken and Hunter Lovins, and Small is Profitable. Mr. Lovins' work across public and private sectors promoting more effective uses of and innovations in resource generation and conservation has generated many major awards around the world.


Conversation 1

Malcolm Gladwell tells Paula Gordon and Bill Russell of his great interest in "social power" (as compared to economic or political power) and explains why he thinks the people we admire are more important in our lives than the people we envy.


Conversation 2

Explaining the origins of The Tipping Point, Mr. Gladwell sets his work in the context of his family history. He describes why he found the power exercised by women in their 60s and 70s a riveting subject. He gives vivid examples. Mr. Gladwell describes personalizing ideas about non-linear systems and network effects on which he'd reported previously. He talks about fundamental ways in which people are connected, describing the experiment which launched the idea of six degrees of separation.


Conversation 3

Mr. Gladwell describes himself as a student of people who are "connectors" and explains his concept using personal examples of how powerful such individuals are in holding the world together. He describes how his ideas now affect his everyday perceptions of the world. Mr. Gladwell gives examples of "mavens" and amplifies on the concept. He considers the vital importance primal social structures still have for humans.


Conversation 4

Describing how complicated the world has become, Mr. Gladwell describes the socially marginal kid who once ran the school movie projector growing up to be the much-sought-after computer whiz. He expands to show how a more complicated world involves more kinds of people in social interactions, then relates his general observation back to middle aged women. He makes a case for a new role for new technologies. From this vantage point, Mr. Gladwell champions the concept of affirmative action, with examples of why he thinks it is vital. He comments on both the up and down side of the power in his ideas. He suggests the role charisma plays in his ideas and expands with examples. He distinguishes between enhancing one's abilities in these realms and being born with them.


Conversation 5

Anyone trying to get an idea across can benefit from the ideas he's presented, Mr. Gladwell contends, as he explains why he would not be comfortable as a consultant. He describes today's world as quite different than commonly assumed, with potentially dramatic consequences for individual power. He explains how important integrity is to many of his observations, as is personalizing shared information. He suggests that people's choices are usually based on what feels right, not rational analysis. He tells the story of Paul Revere (from the Canadian perspective) to amplify his observation that ideas are susceptible to epidemics.


Conversation 6

Naming the audience of two for whom he writes, Mr. Gladwell describes The Tipping Point as one long happy surprise. He remembers and shares the hopes with which he went into the project.




Mr. Lovins graciously welcomed us to Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) during one of his rare visits home. We delighted in the opportunity to talk with him amidst the bananas, papayas and ferrets and we thank him. We applaud his and his colleagues’ ongoing and vitally important work creating viable alternatives for the earth’s future. We look forward to continuing our conversation on many fronts.

Our thanks, also, to Missy Morgan, who coordinated our visit and made us welcome despite her own active recovery from the accident for which her horse was not responsible!

A special “thank you” to James T. (“Jimmy”) Mills, Emeritus Chairman of the Board of RMI, for introducing us to Mr. Lovins. Mr. and Mrs.Mills’ early leadership in creating alternatives to and opposing the nuclear generation of power is a shining example from which we all can learn.

And, as always, we treasure our friendship with industrial leader and visionary, Ray C. Anderson, of Interface, Inc. and thank him for all he has done for us and does for us all.

Related Links:

For a wealth of useful and accessible information, take advantage of all that is available at the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) website.

There is information on that site about the Hypercar(TM).

The report from the National Energy Policy Initiative is also available on the web.

"Climate: Making Sense and Making Money" to which Mr. Lovins referred in this Conversation is available as a pdf.

Natural Capitalism:  Creating the Next Industrial Revolution is published by Back Bay Books, a division of Hachette Book Group.  There is also a website devoted to natural capitalism.

Paul Hawken steadfastly continues to work for justice and the environment.   And Ray Anderson is continuing to provide leadership in the corporate environment as well as the environmental community.

Quick buttons .............

© 2009  The Paula Gordon Show.
All materials contained on this website are copyrighted by The Paula Gordon Show and may not be used for any commercial purpose without the express, written consent of Paula Gordon.  Non-commercial use is permitted and encouraged provided that credit is given to The Paula Gordon Show, appropriate urls cited, links are provided where possible and meaning is not altered by editing.