Firms of The Future – inspired by and in harmony with nature
‘Business as usual’ is no longer an option for those wishing to thrive in the volatile times ahead. As individuals and organisations we can either a) retrench (clinging fearfully to outdated mind-sets) or b) transform (embracing new ways of operating). It reminds me of the ancient Chinese Proverb:
In times of great winds, some build bunkers others build windmills.
The good news is that the answers to our pressing challenges are all around us in Nature. Over the last 3.8 billion years, Nature continues to flourish through volatility by networking and collaborating. Diversity, flexibility and inter-relations, we find, are core to the interwoven evolutionary journey of life – the driving forces that provide resilience and regeneration. The Nature of Business covers off how we can transform from the old logic, what I refer to as ‘the firm of the past’ to the new logic of a ‘firm of the future’ – one inspired by and in harmony with nature. It is worth noting that there is much to learn and carry forward from the past. For instance, the characteristics of a firm of the past – stable, predictable, atomised, easy-to-control, risk-adverse and so forth are useful in business and yet, on their own, wholly inadequate for dealing with the volatile seas ahead.
Resilience is fast becoming the Holy Grail — in understanding how our organisations can thrive in uncertain times through becoming more decentralised, distributed, diverse and locally attuned – much like Nature is. Applying nature’s life principles from the Biomimicry Institute, business principles for the firm of the future have been developed as follows: -Building in resilience; local attunement; adaptiveness; ecosystem thinking; navigation by values; and a life-supporting sense of purpose. There is much to learn from Nature, and we also need to look inwards deep into our own human nature, after all we are expressions of Nature. The Nature of Business explores human-nature characteristics and the important role of leadership in the firm of the future – characteristics being: empowerment, inter-relations, encouraging local attunement, improvisation and co-creativity — this is a far cry from much of the top-down command and control, quantity-obsessed management thinking still pervading so many firms of the past. Here I share two business examples to bring this to life: The CEO of Coca-Cola was charged with transforming the hierarchic and silo’ed global organisation into something nimble, agile, creative, responsive and dynamic that could learn and adapt while exploring new markets…the transformation was most successful when bottom-up empowerment and emergence allowed high-performing, locally-focused diverse teams to flourish in a self-organising way. Another quite different example is Semco, the multi-billon dollar Brazilian manufacturer where there are no job titles, no written policies, no HR department and the CEO duties pass around from person to person every six months, all employees are associates and free to attend board meetings and they share in the profits while given classes on how to read the company’s financial statements, and vote for their managers with all meetings being voluntary. The status quo in Semco is challenged at every step and so ensuring diversity and innovation are embedded into the organisation enabling them to out-perform the market in difficult conditions. In these challenging (yet pivotal) times for business and humanity, we must realise that to become truly sustainable, human organisations have to become scientifically inspired, emotionally connected and soulfully entwined with Nature. Natural Business does not seek to reduce organisational behaviour to biology, rather it suggests qualities that echo the deep wisdom of life itself. Natural Business is innovative, inclusive, liberating, improvisational and fun – setting free our creative potential in these challenging yet exciting times. It is time for us to open ourselves to the living knowledge that the answers to our many pressing challenges are all around and within us. To explore ‘the new paradigm’ further, join the Face Book community here View a short video clip on business inspired by nature here