Natural Business – True Sustainability
Our understanding of nature has evolved over the past few decades, from viewing Nature as little more than a struggle for survival through dog-eat-dog competition to one of networking, feedback loops, behavioural qualities and interdependencies within and throughout ecosystems. Nature adapts within limits and creates conditions conducive to life. Likewise, in human systems, the old logic of Social Darwinism underpinning hyper-competitive business practices and management approaches is giving way to a deeper understanding of what drives the individual, organisation and ecosystem in its ability to sense, respond, adapt and evolve. Yesterday’s logic is of top-down, hierarchic, command-and-control, risk-adverse, competition-oriented, control-based thinking. It is a mechanistic worldview based on reductionist logic that fragments reality into abstract definitions, silo’s and objects to be quantified, measured, controlled and then maximised, while largely over-looking the interrelated, fluid, connective, collaborative, participatory nature of Nature.
In drawing inspiration from Nature, we may step beyond our narrowed-down view of life and re-cognise the intrinsic patterns and reciprocal relations in our midst. These patterns can often seem confusing or complex for our reductionist mind, yet for our intuitive logic they are quite natural to cohere with – we are, after all, expressions of Nature. Such patterns and flows are, by their nature, regenerative and sustainable. In applying this inherent logic of life, we no longer need to superficially bolt-on sustainability initiatives to unsustainable modus operandi. In going with the flow of Nature, we re-design for resilience, ensuing sustainability – in all sense of the word – is ingrained in how we operate and innovate.
Natural business creates the conditions conducive to collaboration, adaptability, creativity, local attunement, multi-functionality and responsiveness; hence, enhancing the evolution of organisations from rigid, tightly managed hierarchies to dynamic living organisations that thrive and flourish within ever-changing business, socio-economic and environmental conditions.
While, on the surface, diverse, interconnected, open, emergent organisations may appear more chaotic and difficult to manage, they are vibrant places for people to become self-empowered and to inspire others – self-managing through mutual understanding of correct behaviours rooted in core values and clarity of purpose. It is this shared value set of core ethics – an ethos – that ensures self-empowered diversity naturally emerges towards delivering the value creation goals of the organisation, while maintaining flexibility, adaptability and sense of purpose.
Increasingly, as the organisation is required to become more emergent, so leadership is more about empowering, empathising and encouraging interconnections, innovation and an active network of feedback. As organisations and business ecosystems become more self-organising and self-empowering, the working environment and culture becomes more emotionally and mentally healthy, where business goals are met without sacrificing personal values and integrity. Quite the contrary, in fact: work acts to reinforce personal integrity in providing a rich emergent experience for individual and collective learning and ethical growth.
The role of leadership is to actively participate in enabling and facilitating local change, by encouraging effective communications through clarity of understanding of how to behave, act and interact. Each of us plays our part in leadership-of-the-future by helping others to co-create towards positive outcomes. Here, future outcomes are beyond pre-definition: it is the co-learning journey rather than the pre-defined destination that brings transformative value to the organisation and wider ecosystem of partners involved; real benefits beyond ‘doing less bad’. This approach to business walks-its-own-talk by embracing a living, regenerative, empowering, co-creative, ecological way of being and doing which is aligned with our authentic human nature and deeper Nature.
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View a short video clip on business inspired by nature here