Earth911 Podcast: William Ulrich on Learning From Y2K To Design the Circular Economy
What do the response to climate change and the Y2K computer bug — which required hundreds of thousands of technology workers to spend several years fixing in the 1990s to prevent catastrophic errors when the date turned over to Jan. 1, 2000 — have in common? Both are complex problems that reach into every corner of our lives. Y2K showed humans they can overcome huge challenges using self-organizing groups that span companies, nations, and many languages. Meet William Ulrich, president of Tactical Strategy Group and co-founder and board member of the Business Architecture Guild, a global, not-for-profit association of business professionals dedicated to enabling strategy execution and business model transformation. Bill worked extensively on the Y2K solution and has developed an approach to creating sustainable, circular businesses based on his decades of work on the practice of business architecture.
Bill wrote two papers that apply business architecture thinking to create circular economies in the auto industry. We talk about how those ideas can be applied to “product-as-a-service” businesses that take responsibility for the materials used to build, for example, a car or smartphone, over many generations of products. Bill emphasizes that patience and transparency are necessary to help companies make adequate progress toward low- or no-carbon operations. The climate crisis will not be solved by silver-bullet solutions but broad transformation of our infrastructure and economy. This requires disclosure of information so that everyone, including entire supply chains and the consumers that rely on them, can learn and improve. If anything, it can help identify the unknowns that can upend our progress.