Innovation for Positive Sustainable Development, with Nadya Zhexembayeva – PS018

Episode Overview

Nadya ZhexembayevaBusiness owner, author, speaker, international consultant on innovation, leadership and sustainable development, Nadya Zhexembayeva talks about her experiences working in the field of  innovative, intelligent resource development.  Nadya has written about her findings in her latest book, Overfished Ocean Strategy: Powering up Innovation for a Resource Deprived World.  

 An appreciative inquiry practitioner, she collaborates with business leaders to help them redesign their businesses to thrive in a world that values all resources. Nadya shares five design principles that will delight you and challenge your thinking.

POPositivity Lens NotebookSITIVITY LENS for this Episode

Download Nadya's suggested “positive activities” for this episode: Hint- it’s about applying the 5 re-design principles for sustainable development.


positivity lens


Downloadable Resources and Tools

Enter your details for instant access to this content

Click the button below to open your activity sheet for this episode:


Events and Choice Shape our Destiny

Nadya Zhexembayeva is an internationally acclaimed author, speaker and subject matter specialist on the topics of innovation. leadership and sustainable growth.  As a young adult, she experienced dramatic change and hardship in her native country of Kazakhstan.  The country, as it struggled to adapt to its new state of independence after the collapse of the Communist block in 1991 was a story survivability.  What makes a country sustainable or survivable were questions Nadya pondered.

Even though Nadya lived with questions around national sustainability, her own path to become a global consultant and business owner with a mission of sustainability was never in her professional plans.  She earned a scholarship to study in the USA and was strongly encouraged to pursue a Ph.D. commencing in 2001.

Appreciative Inquiry

In common with a number of other Positivity Strategist Podcast guests, Nadya’s professional trajectory was influenced by the teachings of Professor David Cooperrider once she began her Doctorate Degree in Organizational Behavior at Case Western Reserve University. Professor Cooperrider is the thought leader of the organizational change methodology,  Appreciative inquiry.

Listen to the episode to learn how Nadya became a founding members of the forum Business as an Agent of World Benefit (BAWB), and continues on the Advisory Board today.  This forum began as a global inquiry into the positive role that business can play in bringing about peace and prosperity in the world.  In 2001, BAWB’s inception year, Nadya says they could barely find three positive examples that showed sustainable alternatives to prosperity and growth without resulting in a negative impact on the environment.

Changing the Language

Since 2001, Nadya celebrates that we have made tremendous strides in sustainable product development, practices and policies.  Back then, they could barely uncover three success stories in one year.  Today, she tells us, tens of success stories come to her attention daily. And while there are tremendous innovations happening in businesses today, what will speed up progress even more is to shift the language around sustainability.  We need language and stories that inspire people in business to want to invest in more of the innovations that are making a difference in our lives and in our world.

Positive Change

Making sustainable development an exciting, desirable objective, where middle managers encourage and seek out conversations on the topic of sustainability, is what contributes to positive change.  Nadya explains, however, that the way most business talk about sustainability today is generally de-energizing as they see the issues as struggles:  any efforts to change for the good are perceived as punitive, costly, and appear at the periphery of core business.

Them Vs Us

On this issue of sustainability, once we accept that we can no longer point the finger at them – “they” who are causing this, but recognize that it’s all of us –  “we” who are consumers and voters, we’ll wake up to the reality that sustainability is a beautiful thing.  If “sustainability” is an ideal, then we can be strategic about how we live into such an ideal.

What is Sustainability?

Sustainability has many definitions.  At its core, it is the ability to sustain, to exist, to be here today and tomorrow.  Over and over, we know that people are inspired by what’s working, not what’s broken.  There are so many amazing companies today that are making it happen and making lots of money at the same time.

Financial Sustainability

Sustainability has many dimensions.  Financial sustainability is a crucial dimension of sustainability.  If a business is not financially sustainable, it will not last. The leadership of organizations that put sustainability on their strategic agenda are innovating to ensure their products and services work to respect all resources across the entire value chain.   So we live in a beautiful time of amazing possibilities for innovative solutions.

A business can only be sustainable if its clients, vendors, partners are all of the same mindset, meaning they share a similar mindset on waste or pollution, for example.  Sustainability is systems driven – a whole systems view is required, because everything is interconnected. What used to be considered external to a business is not longer so.  All externalities have a direct impact on our ability to survive. Listen in to learn why a particular bank needs to be worried about bees disappearing.

Overfished Ocean Strategy

In her latest book, Overfished Ocean Strategy: Powering Up Innovation for a Resource-Deprived World, Nadya shows us an alternative to our throwaway-economy, which has no future anymore.  The book is  a reflection on the progress sustainability has made, and clearly outlines why we need a new language and different set of tools around sustainability.  Fresh, innovative ideas, such as the concept of a sustainable economic system is exactly what our resource-deprived world needs right now. The book shows how far we have come and how heaps of money has been earned in changing the business model to one that respects intelligent resource development.  Nadya points out that business is forced to be honest – it’s binary system – it’s either making money or losing money.

Listen in as Nadya describes why the ‘Red Ocean Strategy’ and the ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’ are no longer relevant.  Trying to kill off the competition in an existing market (Red Ocean) or create a brand new market place (Blue Ocean) is no longer possible if our resources are diminishing. The oceans are already overfished, hence the ‘Overfished Ocean Strategy.’

Intelligent Resource Development

This books is chock full of fabulous stories, innovations, leadership examples, products and services that focus on intelligent resource development.  It asks every business leader and manager to ask themselves if they have the resource base to develop the strategies to support what they do.  These resource bases include everything:  raw materials, human resources,  stable climate and social stability, are some examples.  Without resources there can be no strategy. Nadya talks about some of her current favorite businesses (they change often she says, because she learns about new exciting innovations every day) – Rolls Royce, Mudd Jeans and Knauf Insulation.

Listen in to what these organizations are doing currently that are exemplary models of intelligent resource development.

Five Redesign Principles to Sustainable Development and  Innovation

Listen to this episode to hear Nadya eloquently and fluently explain the five redesign principles she outlines in her book.  These five principles have been identified through her research into what leading, innovative companies are successfully embracing in this world of diminishing resources.  These five principles are helping them thrive economically in this new world while living up to the ideal of sustainability.  You will be delighted and your thinking will be challenged.

The Future

By way of conclusion, Nadya is hopeful that she will look back in twenty years to see how much progress we have made.  Young people all over the world today, where possible, are active in designing how they want their futures to to be.  One such movement that she helped found is Challenge Future a community where youth across the world are connecting virtually, coming together in meetings, collaborating and co-creating ways they want the world to be.

Links Mentioned In This Episode:


Books Mentioned In This Episode

“[amazon template=iframe image&asin=0804775540]
Embedded Sustainability: The Next Big Competitive Advantage”

“[amazon template=iframe image&asin=1459678443]
Overfished Ocean Strategy”