Avoid Being Boring

Oliver Batten

Oliver Batten

Lead – Destination Strategy & Sustainability

Borrowing Brilliance and NOT Talking About Sustainability (kind of).

In his speech titled, “Be brave but don’t be boring – Explaining the path to a more sustainable future in a city”, Per Grankvist, Chief Storyteller, Viable Cities starts by encouraging us to steal more. So I am going to do just that!

Having recently watched this speech from the City Nation Place Global 2023 event in November, there were a number of key messages that made me laugh and really stood out to me as ways to communicate sustainability more effectively. Per is hilarious, so if you have access to the presentations, it is definitely worth a watch. Otherwise below are my takeaways – that are hopefully not too boring.

There’s a growing conversation about reframing our approach to sustainability and the future, and I love it. The shift in focus is not about discarding the importance of sustainable practices but about emphasising the quality of life and the strength of community as the driving force behind our actions. Let’s delve into a perspective that encourages us to steal ideas liberally, laugh often and communicate in a way that touches the heart rather than just presenting cold, hard facts.

The Art of Borrowing Brilliance

Innovation isn’t always about creating something entirely new; it’s also about smartly adapting existing ideas to new contexts. Encouraging people to ‘steal’ ideas is a nod to the sustainable principle of recycling — why reinvent the wheel when you can build upon a foundation that already exists? It’s about sharing knowledge and solutions that work, which can lead to viable, vibrant destinations.

Viable Destinations, Bold Visions and Organised Chaos

Viable destinations are those that adapt and thrive. They’re not built on rigid blueprints but on the dynamic interactions of their inhabitants. A bold mission can sometimes lead to ‘organised chaos’ as people try different things to achieve a common goal. This process can be unexpectedly effective as the chaos begins to coordinate and solutions emerge organically. Not only this, but there is inspiration in the unknown – it’s a testament to the human spirit’s desire for exploration and adventure. So be bold!

Beyond Boring Goals

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are necessary for measuring progress, but they’ve never sparked joy in anyone’s heart. Instead of dull metrics, we need to paint the future in hues that aren’t frightening. To use a direct example from Per’s speech, what if the aim for a destination’s community was “To live a good life within planetary boundaries”? I don’t know about you, but this instantly makes me feel happier.

Emotional Truth Over Facts

Facts alone are not enough to convince people. We need stories that make emotional truths felt. For example, asking how a destination feels on a weekend can evoke more personal reflections than statistical data could. Localising the narrative also makes it more relevant to people’s daily lives. Food, for instance, is a localised topic and sharing stories about it can create emotional relevance and stir interest.

Simplicity Breeds Trust

People trust what they understand. Simple language and emotional resonance are critical in making a message relatable and talking about feelings rather than facts can make a concept more accessible and impactful. There is also comfort in the familiar. It’s not about making the narrative dull but about making the content relatable, like everyday life. Which is a good segue to my final point…

Bravery Over Boredom

The cardinal rule in this approach and the punchline to Per’s speech is to be brave but never boring. Key messages should be delivered with courage, innovation, and an unwavering commitment to improving the human experience, all while keeping the audience engaged and hopeful. People want to hear how their quality of life will be enhanced, with examples that are emotionally engaging, locally relevant, and scientifically sound.

Let’s shift the sustainability conversation to one that puts communities at the heart and centre of our destination strategies. By fostering an environment that values laughter, simplicity, local relevance, and emotional resonance, we can encourage a collective movement towards a future that feels not only sustainable but also deeply satisfying and joyously attainable.

Thanks for the inspiration Per!