May 6, 2015

I am Radically Nuanced

Guido is often asked to explain the circular economy in a single, simple sentence. In his blog he explains the necessity of nuance when it comes to discussing the Circular Economy: simplifying things too quickly may prevent you from taking the right decisions.

A blog by Guido BraamThe first thing any elevator pitch guru will tell you is the importance capturing your audience’ attention with a clever punch line.

On the many events I speak at, I’ve seen experts practicing it all the time. “There is only one way…”, they announce confidently. And luckily for us, they then always gladly share their ultra simple answer to major global challenges with their audience.

When I am interviewed by journalists, they require the same from me. Countless times I have been asked to “please explain the circular economy in one sentence and give our readers three simple steps to become circular.”

I know that we live in a mediacracy and your message only counts if it fits in a single tweet. But I guess I am not the best person in the world to come up with one liners.

I believe the biggest strength of Circle Economy is that we decided three years ago to put the circular economy principles into practice. By doing that we create inspiring and meaningful examples. And moreover this approach provided us with the opportunity to learn and discover. We learned what is possible and what is not, or not yet. And we discovered numerous new insights, ideas and trade-offs.

We often have hotheaded discussions on our team about the circular economy concept, and we believe it is not easy to turn the concept into a working reality.Where other experts seem to have found the holy grail - or at least give the impression that they know the way to go - we see so many nuances on the road to circularity. Our doubts and questions cause us to be less radical in our expressions and therefore it is sometimes difficult to get a clear message across.

Nuances in the circular economy are difficult to explain. For example, when people proudly announce that the recycling percentage went up to 70%, I have the tendency to explain that the goal is to upcycle, that there are more valuable cascades, that you have to take the amount of energy into account, et cetera. And that is not exactly the encouraging message people want to hear I’ve noticed.

But if I am honest, I prefer to be inconveniently honest. If you simplify things too soon, you might hurt the truth. You might not do the right thing. Yes, when you nuance things like I do, you doubt. A lot. I never feel I am are sure enough. But that drives me. To more questions, more answers.

“One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.” – Bertrand Russel

I believe doubting your beliefs is an undervalued quality. Olympic athletes are always full of doubt and that makes them push harder every day. The last three years of doubting gave the Circle Economy a lot of nuanced insights, that we now try to share via the tooling and framework we developed. We have experienced the Dunning – Kruger effect several times and as soon as we have the feeling that we are on top of it, we will probably find out, that there is a whole new domain that we know nothing about.

However, there is one thing I am very confident about and that is that the circular economy is inevitable. How to get there is a path full of doubts, and in the meantime we live and learn. And that is why I am proud to be radically nuanced.


P.s. We need more radically nuanced people, since there is so much more that still needs to be discovered and learned in the circular economy. It is time for the for the radically nuanced people to stand up! Be clear that nuances are the way forward! And that we are the ones they have to listen to!....

Or maybe not, I am not sure, but I am curious to hear your doubts. I prefer hearing experts talk about their uncertainties, because that is the part we can learn the most from.

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