Designing for Green Adoption
Two approaches for making sustainability mainstream
Lara Lee, Bruce King-Shey and Peter Mortensen, Jump Associates
Virtually every company on the planet, if they haven’t already, will soon have to tackle the
challenge of sustainability. We may soon (or already have) hit peak oil production for the world,
global warming is real, and the era of cheap resources is rapidly coming to an end. If we want to
survive on this planet we need to drive sustainability through the fabric of our society. That’s a
monumental task. It’s no understatement to say that success in sustainability will ultimately
require the reinvention of technologies, cities, food chains, and lifestyles.
In response to such an overwhelming problem, companies, universities, and governments have
begun to invest heavily in green energy technologies, praying that one of them will save us, be it
solar, wind, hydrogen or something yet more exotic. As ambitious and inspiring as these efforts
are, such an approach on its own will never be enough.
The reason for this is simple – no idea ever makes an impact upon its inception. The first
microprocessor went on sale in 1971, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that American lifestyles were
transformed by the use of personal computers. The first functional automobile was demonstrated
in 1801, but cars came to redefine the culture in the 20th Century, not the 19th. The electric light
took a century to take hold in the American home. Quite simply, no single innovation conquers
the world all at once. Prices of initial ventures are always too high, performance inevitably
underwhelms, and people take a long time to warm to genuinely new-to-the-world ideas.
To achieve the necessary changes in society – and make money in the process – our opportunity
today isn’t simply in the development of new technologies. Instead, it might be more important to
drive the adoption of existing sustainable solutions. In so doing, we can make a major impact on
our environment, create jobs, and reduce the costs of promising innovations.
In late 2007, growth strategy firm Jump Associates defined six design strategies for creating
products and services optimized for success at different points in an innovation’s diffusion. Now,
we’re ready to offer guidance on designing for the adoption of green products and services. In
this paper, we provide best practices for companies in two very different situations: legacy players
trying to understand when and how to green an existing category and pioneers seeking to
accelerate the adoption of a completely new product or service. By following these strategies,
companies can make green technologies profitable more quickly, renew differentiation in existing
categories, and make the world a better place.