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Circular Insights #37 – how to succeed with new ideas

Increase your success with new ideas | The Secret Life of Stuff | Circular business ‘sprint’ beta | BlackRock’s Circular Economy Fund | Seth Godin on recycling | Podcast 68 with Kresse Wesling

I hope you enjoyed the Christmas break (if Christmas is a ‘thing’ where you live), and I send you my best wishes for a happy and healthy 2022. Here’s our last news round-up from 2021:

  • New ideas for 2022? How to increase your chances of success
  • Good reads – The Secret Life of Stuff
  • Want to get started with the circular economy in your business? Sign up for my free 4-week ‘beta’ challenge!
  • Listening – #1 BlackRock’s Circular Economy Fund
  • Listening – #2 Getting stuck on a broken cycle – Seth Godin on the myth of plastic recycling
  • Listening – #3 – Circular Economy Podcast episode 68 with Kresse Wesling, a circular economy hero
  • Circular Innovation – using RFID tags to track reusable on-the-go food containers

As we near the end of 2021, many of us are wondering how we can best make a positive impact in 2022 – making sure our businesses are on the right pathways to be resilient, agile and future-fit, and thinking about changes in our personal lives too. Sometimes, the challenge feels never-ending – there is always something else we can do to reduce our footprint, to help regenerate nature and resources, and to improve awareness about ways to achieve a fair future.

Often, the changes seem easy, but still make us feel as though we’re losing out. Just this morning I was reading about the issues created by monoculture almond farms in California (including their impact on bees, as well as water use), and realised I ought to stop buying almonds and almond butter (spread on toast, it makes a nice breakfast).

Even when we can see lots of personal benefits from a new idea or other change, we can still find it difficult to support it – especially if it requires effort, emotional energy, or we feel it is being imposed on us by others. A new book, The Human Element, aims to help our ideas get traction by focusing more on the barriers instead of the plus points…

New ideas for 2022? How to increase your chances of success

A new book, The Human Element, aims to help new ideas ‘lift off’ and stay in flight, by reducing the ‘frictions’ that hold the idea back and create resistance. The authors are organisational psychologist Loran Nordgren and David Schonthal, a practitioner of entrepreneurship, design, and innovation.

Nordgren and Schonthal believe that most of who work to create change focus on the wrong priorities. Whether we’re marketers, innovators, executives, activists, or other changemakers, we tend to believe ‘that the best (and perhaps only) way to convince people to embrace a new idea is to heighten the appeal of the idea itself. Instinctively, we feel that if we add enough value, people will say “yes.”

This instinct means we try to convince people to get on board by focusing on the idea’s positive features and benefits or finding ways to increase ‘the sizzle of the messaging’. However, we’re only solving part of the equation. The authors explain that “when people hesitate to embrace a new idea, there are two broad explanations. Either the idea lacks appeal (insufficient Fuel), or a Friction is blocking progress.”

Let’s imagine a rocket or a jet engine taking flight. Propelling forces – such as kerosene (fuel), thrust the object forwards, while constraining forces like gravity and wind resistance, push back. Nordgren and Schonthal see similar forces playing out when we launch new ideas or change projects. ‘Fuel’ – making it more attractive and compelling – propels the idea forward and helps spark our desire for change. But on the opposite side of the equation is friction, working against the change. We may not see these frictions, but they are there, ‘quietly acting as a drag on innovation’.

The book unpacks four frictions that push against new ideas and change:

  • Inertia – the powerful urge to stick with what we know, despite its limitations
  • Effort – the physical or mental energy (real or imagined) to make the change happen
  • Emotion – the negative emotions created by the idea or the proposed change
  • Reactance – our natural impulse to resist ‘being changed; the pressure we feel

For our audience (and for all of us), fuel is important, but it’s less important than friction. Often, people ‘home in’ on the friction Our human nature means we look for the negatives, and then allow these overrule the positives. Psychologists call this the negativity bias – even a single negative element can instantly block out all the positive observations that preceded it.

It’s also worth noting that fuel can be expensive, requiring investment in marketing, discounts, extra product features, and so on. Often, it takes a lot of money to supply enough fuel to trigger the desired actions.

In summary, applying fuel isn’t the crux of the problem, but because most of us fixate on how to find and add fuel, it’s become an over-exploited strategy. Crucially, it means that resolving points of friction can improve your chances of success, and even give you a competitive advantage. So, try to get clear on the four dimensions of friction, and work out how you can smooth or remove them – then your fuel will be much more effective!

Read more:

Why Our Instincts About Innovation and Change Are Working Against Us, By Loran Nordgren and David Schonthal (2021), From

Loran Nordgren and David Schonthal, The Human Element: Overcoming the Resistance That Awaits New Ideas, 28 October, 2021, The Next Big Idea Club

Interesting reads

I’m making slow and sticky progress with my next book, with too many ideas about things to include. I’ve known that FOMO (fear of missing out) is one of my downfalls, and for the book it shows up as a long list of books to read, that sound as though they offer good insights or information. And of course, when I read them, I’ve scribbled lots of notes highlighting all the stuff I could include…

My latest reads were published a few years ago. I’ve finished and enjoyed The Secret Life of Stuff: A Manual for a New Material World by Julie Hill (currently Chair at WRAP, the UK’s Waste and Resources Action Programme). Published in 2011, it is full of relevant information and Julie is a skilled communicator who makes it easy to understand why we’ve got to this state of over-consumption, and how we can create a new and better material world. The book is focused on the UK, but many of the issues explored are relevant elsewhere – for example, did you know there are around 40 different types of plastic in a typical modern car? (In searching for a reference for that fact, I found this article from 2019). Julie also mentions Daniel Goleman’s ideas for ‘radical transparency’ – read his 2009 essay in HBR here.

Now, I’m reading Collision Course: Endless Growth on a Finite Planet, by Kerryn Higgs, an Australian who is an Associate Member of the Club of Rome. More on that next time…

Taking your first circular steps…

Want to kickstart circular economy ideas and opportunities for your business in 2022? I’m still planning to do the ‘beta’ version of the 4-week online ‘Circular Economy Challenge’ in January – probably kicking off on 27 January.

I’ll use parts of the forthcoming book to help people in businesses who want to understand how the circular economy can help their business become more future-fit, and to work out where to start. Each day (20 days) there’ll be a short (~5 minute) video and a challenge, related to your business. There’ll be a ‘community’ element to it, so you can share ideas and issues, but you don’t need to worry about being asked to publish your thoughts on the challenges or other potentially confidential stuff.

Before I launch it out to the wider world, I’m running this free Beta version, in January 2022, for a small group of people in small and medium businesses. There are still a few places left – so if that sounds right for you, please get in touch on LinkedIn, or email 


#1 BlackRock’s Circular Economy Fund

I’ve mentioned BlackRock, one of the world’s biggest investment funds, in earlier newsletters – and now there is a BlackRock Circular Economy fund. You can hear more about it in a recent Circularity Capital podcast episode – Investing in the Circular Economy – Part 4, interviewing Evy Hambro of BlackRock

Evy Hambro explains why resource efficiency is key, and how BlackRock looks at potential circular investments in one of three categories: adopters (companies developing circular products, materials, or business models), beneficiaries (companies that benefit from this, such as specialist recyclers), or enablers (including platforms, technology providers, and so on).

BlackRock sees the adoption, understanding and recognition of the circular economy all rising at a rapid rate. BlackRock’s website has a useful summary of the Megatrends they see as important for investors.

Episode timings:

[3.08] Areas most attractive to the fund

[4.25] What clients think about trade-offs between sustainable investing and growth of fund

[8.45] Huge value capture is possible

#2 Getting stuck on a broken cycle

Catching up on Seth Godin’s podcast – Akimbo – I enjoyed his take on the ‘Convenience, shame and the myth of plastic recycling’.

Play it from the website – S 9 E 6 Getting stuck on a Cycle of Convenience June 16, 2021

Find Akimbo on your favourite podcast app – here’s the iTunes link

#3 Circular Economy Podcast

Episode 68 features one of my original circular economy heroes, Kresse Wesling, CBE. Kresse is co-founder of Elvis and Kresse, which rescues and transforms discarded materials into luxury lifestyle products. Kresse was among the first circular economy entrepreneurs I met, in 2015. I loved her story of how she started Elvis and Kresse back in 2005, to rescue and transform decommissioned fire hose, from the London Fire Brigade, into bags, wallets, belts, and other high-quality products.

I’d not yet dared to invite Kresse onto the podcast… so I was very impressed when Nicole Rudolf, who joined our team earlier this year, got in touch with Elvis and Kresse after researching it for one of our case studies for the Circle Lab Knowledge Hub. Thanks Nicole!

We hear about Kressel’s ethos for product design and business models, including Kresse’s design brief for the ‘perfect product’ (captured in this adaptation of her presentation slide from 2015, featured in A Circular Economy Handbook).

Kresse shares the ‘why’ of Elvis and Kresse, and how the company has evolved, now collecting 12 different waste materials to transform into high-quality, durable, beautiful, and engaging lifestyle products. It’s a B Corp and donates 50% of the profits from its collections to charities related to those rescued materials.

We hear about Kreese’s belief in collaboration and why it’s important to design a system, not just a product.

Episode and show notes here:

Find the podcast series on iTunesGoogle PodcastsPlayerFM, Spotify, TuneIn, or search for “circular economy” in your favourite podcast app.

Don’t forget, you can use our interactive, searchable podcast index to find episodes by sector, by region or by circular strategy. Plus, there is now a regular Circular Economy Podcast newsletter, so you get the latest episode show notes, links and transcript delivered to your inbox on Sunday morning, each fortnight. The newsletter includes a link to the episode page on our website, with an audio player. You can subscribe by clicking this link to update your preferences

PS We’d love it if you could post a review, and help other people find us!

Circular innovations

Using RFID tags to track reusable on-the-go food containers

In late December I spotted an announcement from podcast guest Beth Massa, owner and founder of Ozarka B.V. and ARK Reusables, and the general manager and licensee of

Ozarka is now using RFID combined with the Cuploop smart return machines to track and manage its reusable on-the-go food packaging, across Benelux. Beth says “What distinguishes Ozarka is our intense focus on the customer experience. We’re thrilled to announce our next big step in making it trivially easy for customers and restaurant partners to transition to reusables.”

Beth is developing reusables in several ways, and explains that “Ozarka is a circle economy, Reusables as a Service company that replaces single-use, on-the-go food packaging with reusable packaging. We also offer infrastructure solutions for packaging collection, wash and sanitizing, and redistribution. ARK Reusables are our proprietary, 100% silicone, reusable eco-containers designed specifically for to-go and for takeaway. The design is ultra-sleek. They can go in the oven, freezer, dishwasher, and microwave.”

Ozarka offers returnable, responsible, sustainable, zero-waste takeaway boxes for prepared food businesses, through food outlets in Amsterdam and Utrecht in the Netherlands. Its ARK Reusables food-to-go containers are made from reusable recyclable silicone, and pack flat so they are easy to carry.

You can hear more about Ozarka in my interview with Beth Massa, back in episode 13 of the Circular Economy Podcast.

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We help entrepreneurs, companies and business leaders discover and use the circular economy – to build profitable, resilient, sustainable and successful businesses.  We believe in a circular economy that is fair, transparent and inclusive, to create a better world for everyone. 

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