The subject area of Human Ecology questions the dualistic anthropocentric way of thinking, as being to mechanistic and narrow-minded. For example, humans are building ever larger fishing fleets and more efficient fishing ships, so that ever more fish can be harvested from the seas. It seems as if the business development thinking is limited to how the respective company can catch more of the available fish. Looking at what actually happens it seems as if the modern society has forgotten the fundamental importance of the maintenance of the fish population and ecosystems. One background reason why this happens is that the systemic effect is invisible when the fish meat is sold in supermarkets.
During the industrial era it seems as if the most influential humans have been promoting technological development and business growth for its own sake, hardly thinking about the consequences. This is not so strange when the connections are invisible and the main business development idea is to promote efficiency improvements through a focusing on the core business (only) and ever more lean (mean) production, within what is being done.
Statements such as Sloan's “The business of business is business” and Porter's reasoning that, “those companies which are able to achieve competitive advantage – that is, above-average performance in an industry sector – are able to reinvest this additional profit into the activities that created the advantage in the first place” have often been (mis-)interpreted to have a single-minded focus on (short-term) profit. It is important to think more intelligently about what it actuality was that created the advantage. Obviously, it was not the profit of present kind of production, but the creation of the present business system, based upon past profits and earlier learning and renewal oriented investments.
To enable a sustainable development it is necessary to invest an appropriate part of the present profit in development of businesses for the future. However, it has always been difficult to change the established structures and the conventional ways of thinking. In Schumpeter's vision, there is a need for innovative entrepreneurs to enable the kind of change process that is needed to achieve the kind of development that we now talk about as a sustainable societal business development.
This paper builds on experiences from four case studies of entrepreneurship and collaboration as means for sustainable innovation. The case studies include experiences from advanced leadership training, the Øresund Science Region innovation system, mobility of sustainability expertise and Swedish business developments for hardwood. The studies focuses on recent attempts to enable a more effective learning, collaboration and renewal and the case studies are based on 3-20 years background experiences in developments within the respective companies and clusters. Two of the cases employ “triple helix” collaboration between companies, research and the public sectors. A basic theory for how the connection to the future is accounted as investments and depreciation of capital is used in analogies that explain why investment thinking is relevant also within the climate dimension and how the understanding of material recycling can be used as a metaphor to clarify the global warming significance of motivation and learning.
Earlier studies have evaluated the entrepreneur as a driver in renewal oriented development processes. This paper focuses on investments in explicit developments and their visualisation as a tool to enhance the prospective motivation among the people within the local communities, companies and clusters where the investments are being made.