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Natural Business and True Sustainability

3p Contributor | Friday June 27th, 2014 | 1 Comment

interconnected natureBy Giles Hutchins

Whereas once evolution was viewed as little more than a struggle for survival through dog-eat-dog competition, many now see nature through a more collaborative lens: networking, feedback loops, behavioral 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 is giving way to a deeper understanding of what drives the individual, organization 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, silos and objects to be quantified, measured, controlled and then maximized, while largely overlooking 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 recognize 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 organizations from rigid, tightly managed hierarchies to dynamic living organizations that thrive and flourish within ever-changing business, socio-economic and environmental conditions.

While, on the surface, diverse, interconnected, open, emergent organizations 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 behaviors rooted in core values and clarity of purpose. It is this shared value set of core ethics that ensures self-empowered diversity naturally emerges towards delivering the value creation goals of the organization, while maintaining flexibility, adaptability and sense of purpose.

Increasingly, as the organization is required to become more emergent, so leadership is more about empowering, empathizing and encouraging interconnections, innovation and an active network of feedback. As organizations and business ecosystems become more self-organizing 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 organization 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. After all, true sustainability means being in harmony with nature, anything less is, ultimately, unsustainable.

Giles Hutchins blogs at www.thenatureofbusiness.org and specialises in the transition to a new logic in business and beyond – a logic inspired by and in harmony with Nature.


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  • Catherine Cameron

    GIles Hutchins argument is a sound one: Businesses need to adopt an `adaptation en route approach’, recognising interdependency. Much harder to do than linear planning and execution, but much more likely to succeed
    than just aiming for short terms wins.