The Nature of Business

The longer I work in the environmental business – the more I see opportunities and lessons from nature crossing over into organisations and that (often) most unnatural thing we call business.
Years of working in a grey melamine cuboid environment gave me frequent lapses of concentration, headaches and precipitated many a mood that I’m sure led to poorer decisions being made and (if I were not alone in this state) an instant capping of much human potential at that particular moment or event.
All things natural used to be recreational – a weekend thing. For many it still is. Now however – all I see, action, research and trawl through as part of my ongoing work – reinforces three main teachings about how better mimicking nature in organisations might be the best thing we could do:

Lesson One:
Seeding. I’ve been researching seeds recently. I won’t bore you with why. Suffice to say – seeds are amazing. They are one of the few organisms on earth that even when totally desiccated – when re-hydrated, they “remember” how to re-assemble their cell structure and form. The whole purpose of a plant or a crop is to replicate, adapt and survive. Plants will continually refine how to disperse and maximise their seeds. Whilst around the world we have seed banks – the best way to ensure plant species survival is for them to get out there in the ground and thrive!
So.. if you imagine your people in your business or organisation are seeds for a moment? How well do you look after them? Do you rely on one type – or are you creating different strains that build in resistance? Are you making sure their reach (however far) means that wherever they land (doing whatever it is they do) they will reproduce for you and ensure your longevity? Are you respecting all the right climatic conditions for maximum seed production – or are your plants a vanity project – a ‘one shot wonder ‘ that looks amazing but will produce little for tomorrow?

Lesson Two:
Interdependence. If all organisation’s worked like a rain-forest – people in them would be far happier than they are – I’m convinced of that. In such environments – from the fungi in the soil – to the very top of the leaf canopies – there is a festival of inter-dependence between the species. Plants gathering water and nutrient attacked to the trunk of a sky-scarping tree at precisely the right point for collection. These plants providing habitat for the mighty tree’s vital bio-diverse helpers. The only time a rain-forest “down-sizes” is when humans come and cut it down! Left to their own devices – it is regenerative and eternal – a continual factory of harmonious cooperation.
So.. have you this level of collaborative interdependence? Are you allowing your plans, your budgets, your directives and your ‘reactions’ to short-term events stifle what comes naturally to people?

Lesson Three:
Regeneration. People assume as I work in environmental work I am some form of recovering tree-hugger (though I have to say there are trees I’d prefer to hug than some people). However, I always challenge the cry; “save the planet” with “the planet doesn’t saving – we do”. Don’t worry about nature – it always adapts. The exclusion zones of Fukushima and Chernobyl are a living testament to nature reclaiming space in spite of the ‘over-whelming’ odds. Micro-organisms in the soil were wiped out by man-derived radiation around Chernobyl and are still in remission. Fallen trees, leaves and other organic matter do not break down properly creating a tinder dry ‘fire-risk’ carpet in the hot summers. If the fire catches – radioactive burnt matter will be scattered far outside the exclusion zone. That matter will re-seed and settle in new surroundings. See? We are the only ones at risk.
So.. what is your regeneration strategy? How are you growing people to thrive tomorrow? Do you know what will be different about tomorrow?

Having nature in your space is like suddenly sharing a home with happier, fitter, wealthier people. It’ll rub off on you. People trust nature – and mimicking nature can help them and you. Nature is more ‘results orientated’ than any management team will ever know how to be!

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