Shifting to dramatically more sustainable systems is an unconventional or wicked problem, encompassing multiple actors, disciplines, and values. Yet to date, sustainability initiatives have been tackled primarily by means of conventional managerial approaches. We contend that these approaches are ill suited for achieving sustainability transformations. We propose an alternative approach founded upon the sociological concept of robust action. In robust action, leaders embrace ambiguity (rather than striving for clarity), focus on short-term accomplishments (rather than long-term goals), and are satisfied with oblique movement (rather than linear progress). We elaborate on three robust strategies: participatory architecture, multi-vocal inscription and distributed experimentation and investigate their effectiveness in three sustainability related contexts: wind power, sustainability reporting and microcredit. We conclude by discussing the applicability of robust action to other contexts, and the complementarities between robust action and other forms of leadership towards sustainability.
Dror Etzion, Joel Gehman, Fabrizio Ferraro, Miron Avidan