It's not about the product; it's about the relevance of the product and who would miss it if it was gone.
That's the message Dr. Göran Carstedt delivered in an afternoon strategy session last Friday hosted by the Whistler Centre for Sustainability and attended by local business leaders, stakeholders and committed Whistler citizens.
I've always had a bit of a hard time considering my town a product, but Carstedt quickly acknowledged it's not the product's brand that is key, it's the people involved. Actually, it's the "community" of people that is the strength of this place. It's the community of Whistler that makes this place relevant and the passionate people populating this community that represent the collaborative strength making Whistler resilient faced with any challenging situation.
Carstedt, who co-founded the Centre for Organizational Learning with Peter Senge, and formerly headed national divisions of IKEA and Volvo, was impressed on his first visit to Whistler. Not only was he impressed by the mountains, clean air and resort infrastructure, he was amazed at the entrepreneurial drive and passionate community collaboration which have, over time, turned this place from a beautiful grey and green hanging valley to a beautiful grey and green hanging valley complete with four season destination resort infrastructure hosting over 2 million folks a year - all this, in one generation.
"The key question is, 'Why are we here, and who would miss us if we were not here?'" Carstedt posed this question to over 150 Whistlerites who packed the Telus Whistler Conference Centre ballroom for a Friday evening community strategy session. Following an in-depth presentation on the urgency to lead from a collaborative point-of-view, which highlighted global climate change as the driving factor for a sense of urgency, Carstedt facilitated a discussion between community leaders from Whistler Blackcomb, Tourism Whistler, the Resort Municipality of Whistler and the Whistler Chamber of Commerce.
The community leaders assembled stressed that while business might be a challenge for the short term, we need to focus on strategies which will bridge short term issues to a positive future we can all share, built from the foundations that have existed here for millennia - clean air, impressive vistas, healthy, functioning ecosystems; creating and supporting businesses built on that foundation that are operating to enhance and protect the legacy upon which Whistler is built.
As an idea hatched from a Bob Barnett-authored Pique editorial, the evening session with Dr. Carstedt presented a massive opportunity for all of Whistler - from the greenest environmentalist to the "greenest" capitalist and everyone in between. To succeed and sustain ourselves in the face of any challenge is all about collaboration.
As Carstedt's colleague Senge describes in his book The Necessary Revolution , a learning organization is one in which "people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together."
Whistler2020, our shared vision for a successful, and ultimately sustainable future, is a community-built and implemented plan, process and toolkit to enable Whistlerites to co-create our collective aspirations. Our community is lucky, Carstedt said, to have a comprehensive sustainability plan that allows and supports Whistler's evolution, encouraging co-operative implementation of the future results we truly desire.
Organizational strategist Juanita Brown defines community in a way which fits well with our Whistler2020 vision and dovetails nicely with Carstedt's urgent call to continued, deeper collaborative action: "The word 'community' has old roots, going back to the Indo-European base mei, meaning 'change' or 'exchange.' Apparently, this root is joined with another root, kom meaning 'with,' together producing an Indo-European word kommein: "shared by all."
There are things in Whistler we all share: it is the nature of this place which drew us, including folks from around the world, to this valley. Now, our urgent call to action is to share and enable our collaborative Whistler2020 vision with each other and deepen our journey to the successful, sustainable future to which we all aspire.
To collaborate with others in our community, or to see how our journey is going, visit www.whistler2020.ca.