girl sweater

It is not often that you meet someone or discover an idea that literally opens up your mind to a whole new way of seeing the world. This happened to me a few years ago at a conference on sustainable business in London. I had seen many presentations over the years at conferences and had been exposed to some fascinating ideas. But, this particular talk would be the beginning to a whole new chapter in my learning about sustainability and social change in fashion.

John Marshall Roberts is a behavioural scientist whose work explores worldview thinking and communication strategies for behaviour change. He gives advice to business leaders and sustainability strategists who are trying to create change in their organisations or with their customers.  He is a great speaker and is very engaging, and definitely practices what he preaches!

At this conference, he explored the importance of ‘voice’ when trying to create behaviour change.  He used examples of leaders from history who had authentic ‘voices’,  such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King. The reason these leaders are so rare, is that most of us limit ourselves and ignore our own intuitive ‘voice’. We literally silence ourselves because we are too afraid to speak up. Yet, we all recognise when someone speaks their truth, like Ghandi or King did, and we change our behaviour or culturally norms accordingly. These ideas overlap with the work of people like Simon Sinek and his concept of Why – the more clarity you have about your own passions and values, the more effective you will be as a leader and change maker.

The notion of worldviews and individual beliefs was a revelation to me, but it wasn’t until I undertook my own doctoral research a few years later that I fully understood the importance of Robert’s ideas. My own journey through the sustainability literature, and experiences as a facilitator and change maker in the fashion industry, clearly revealed that any engagement with sustainability requires both ‘outer’ and ‘inner’ work.  Many insights, about the right action to take towards sustainability in the fashion industry, or about myself as a human being with an authentic voice, would come from deep reflection and ‘going within’. I also understood that in order to contribute positively to society and to change behaviours, I needed to look after my own individual well-being.  After all, we are all part of the larger system of nature, and so individual well-being is deeply connected to collective or organisational well-being.

There is a recent interview done with Roberts here which gives you a taste of his great ideas and engaging speaking style. He also has a new book coming out about ‘voice codes’ –  a tool for ‘radical re-alignment’ with your own authentic voice.

Image: Elisabeth Toll from Trendtablet