Interview with Bob Doppelt: Psychology + Ecology

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Interview with Bob Doppelt: Psychology + Ecology

I was fortunate enough to grab Bob Doppelt during his week of vacation from DC for a quick phone interview.  We talked about The Resource Innovation Group (TRIG), his books, his workshops, and how environmentalists could be more effective.  Bob is an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and Presidio Graduate School, teaching systems thinking and global warming planning and policy.  Just six months after its release, his first book, Leading Change Toward Sustainability was deemed one of the “ten most important publications in sustainability” by a GlobeScan survey of international sustainability experts.  In 2010, Audubon Magazine named his second book, The Power of Sustainable Thinking, one of the eleven most important books on climate change. 

Bob writes regular columns on global warming for the Eugene Register-Guard and the Salem Statesman-Journal newspapers and is a frequent speaker at workshops and conferences.


Working at a National Level


[audio:] If you don’t have the Audio plug-in, click here to listen (6 min) Bob Doppelt NATPCS.mp3

  • Bob combines training as a counseling psychologist and environmental scientist
  • TRIG helps organizations learn how to apply, implement, and measure change strategies
  • They motivate themselves, stakeholders, constituents they work with to address complex issues, like climate change, by bringing together divers groups
  • National Partnership for Climate Solutions working with senior officials to host a national climate assembly that will speak directly to the American people
  • Report on job creation potential of climate solutions available here (PDF)

Leading Change is About
The Individual (You)


[audio:] If you don’t have the Audio plug-in, click here to listen (7 min) Bob Doppelt Leading Change.mp3

  • One mistake we make is to think of climate change as an environmental issue… it’s actually a symptom only of a dysfunctional economy, energy systems, etc.
  • We need to shift the focus to “Which jobs do you want to promote… and which ones do you want to destroy?”
  • Each of Bob’s 3 books naturally followed the unanswered questions of the times… shifting to individuals over time…
  • Leading Change Toward Sustainability is a popular textbook on organizational sustainability
  • The Power of Sustainable Thinking covers stages of change that people go through
  • From Me to We digs into personal belief systems and how they limit environmentalists
  • The pyramid of change has “Results” at the top… but those are dependent upon the base of the pyramid… people having new/different “Experiences” and “Beliefs” and “Values” and “Assumptions”

leading changePower of Sustainable Thinking_Bob DoppeltMetoWe-210

A Flawed  Perspective


[audio:] If you don’t have the Audio plug-in, click here to listen (7 min) Bob Doppelt Neo Liberal.mp3

  • How do we help people change?  Bob worked with cancer researchers on the trans-theoretical model of individual change
  • Westerners have a basic flawed perspective on how the world works… “neo-liberal” or primarily individualism with a distaste for social collectivism… which we depend upon for actual survival
  • Started off positive, addressing issues of the times… but has been corrupted for political purposes

Awareness of Interdependence


If you don’t have the Audio plug-in, click here to listen (7 min) Bob Doppelt Interdependence.mp3

  • Your Aha! moment – coming to grips with the law of inter-dependency + the law of cause and effect
  • Others have valid points that may affect how you think and act… not always the other way around
  • What stage of change are they in… but also, what stage of change are YOU in?

How to Hone Your Skills


[audio:] If you don’t have the Audio plug-in, click here to listen (8 min) Bob Doppelt Hone Skills.mp3

  • It depends on the person and their situation… but yourself is the best place to start practicing these skills
  • Evaluate your own issues of concern — where do you stand, what stage of change?  Understand your own process
  • It will help you connect and empathize with others
  • One strategy is listing all the pros and cons — then label them as “permanent” (1%) or “temporary” (99%) — then come up with a “transition strategy”
  • Practically, organizations need to see the entire value chain

What Change is Possible?


[audio:] If you don’t have the Audio plug-in, click here to listen (5 min) Bob Doppelt Change Possible.mp3

  • There is a tremendous amount going on under the radar that can cause the change we need
  • If 1 million new people understood this tomorrow… we could hit the level of “social contagion” needed to shift the system away from the old guard of politics
  • Making these commitments — will see a tremendous upsurge in engagement — moving into the “Doing” stage
  • All we need is an opening at the top and strong leadership to successfully address things like climate change



Adam Hammes is the executive director of the Iowa Sustainable Business Forum, a consultant, author, and motivational speaker. He specializes in helping businesses and sustainability professionals with environmental and social performance.

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