Due to a number of business drivers, organisations now need to ‘redesign for resilience’ if they are to succeed in these volatile times, transforming to organisations that are more emergent, inter-connected, values-led, organic and inspired by nature. Ecological principles act as guidelines for how nature works and how ecosystems develop resilience. These same ecological principles can help reshape our businesses and economies, in fact they will become the foundational principles for any new ‘Green Economy’ that has a chance of being resilient in these volatile times.
In his new book ‘The Nature of Business’ (and subsequent BBC documentary of the same title), Giles Hutchins explores how organisations of the future, of all shapes and sizes, are ones that:
1. Drive transformation through values-led leadership and stakeholder empowerment using the catalysts of education, innovation, inspiration and collaboration;
2. Encourage synergies across their business ecosystem, engaging with multiple stakeholders in an open, transparent way; where common values create connections enabling mutualism;
3. Harness the power of social networks and the “pull” media; use crowd sourcing, co-creation, open source collaboration platforms and transparent branding for differentiation;
4. Evolve ecological thinking for new ways of operating; where waste equals food and nature inspires the people, processes, products and places.
Over the last 3.8 billion years, nature has survived and flourished through times of radical change and disruption by dynamically networking and collaborating among species and throughout ecosystems. Competition and constraints help shape nature, yet it is collaboration and synergy – not competition – that are responsible for nature’s sustained success. The species most able to survive and evolve are those most able to sense and respond, adapt and align, and work in partnership with and within their ecosystems. Diversity, flexibility and collaboration, we find, is core to the interwoven evolutionary journey of life – the driving forces that provide resilience within species and ecosystems.
The more we explore nature’s wisdom the more we find insight for the transformation our organisations need. Industrial ecology, for example, challenges the over-exploitative nature of the current ‘take–make–waste’ industrial paradigm. It uses inspiration from nature in exploring how systems can be more interconnected and less linear – where waste of one part of the ecosystem is input for another, and hence there is no need for wasteful emissions of any kind (whether gas, liquid or solid waste), as long as the right interconnections are in place.
Biomimicry as a school of thought suggests that we can learn to play by the rules of nature, which offer a very rich source of inspiration to challenge our current unsustainable business practices and invent new strategies based on ‘nature’s business principles’. A Business Inspired By Nature is one that is resilient, optimising, adaptive, systems-based, values-led, and life supporting – these are ‘nature’s business principles’.
These principles do not seek to reduce organisational behaviour to biology, rather, they suggest a set of behaviours and qualities that simply echo the law of the system – Earth – upon which our lives and our businesses depend. They recognise the complexity of human nature and nurture, and are neither a model nor a theory, but rather a philosophy that reminds us that while humans are a special species on Earth, we are still part of nature and subject to its law. If we do not conduct our business within the constraints of the system, we will inevitable go out of business.
Core to a ‘Green Economy’ or for that matter a new business paradigm is our relationship with ourselves (our human nature) and our human relationship with nature. The wise words of Confucius, 500 BC, speak volumes ‘He who is in harmony with nature hits the mark without effort and apprehends the truth without thinking’.
In these challenging (yet pivotal) times for business and humanity, we must realise that to become truly sustainable, human and business life has to become scientifically inspired, emotionally connected and spiritually entwined with nature and Gaia. Nature and business (as with nature and humanity) must be symbiotic and operate in mutualism for there to be anything resembling a suc-cessful outcome. The sooner business realises the opportunities that come with being connected to and inspired by nature, the better for humanity, and for all species.
‘Giles Hutchins has taken a big idea, and in nine easy modules, peppered with examples and checklists, takes the reader on a journey to a resilient firm of the future, starting today.’
Catherine Cameron, Director of Agulhas & Senior Associate at the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership
‘The Nature of Business’ is not just a very entertaining read, but also a redoubtable sparring partner. A must read for everyone involved in the business of the future…. and aren’t we all?
Mick Bremans, Chairman, Ecover
‘Giles takes us through this remarkable world of business seen through the eyes of nature. Finally a guide to take this to the next level!’
Gunter Pauli, Founder of ZERI & The Blue Economy
This is a brave book and a must read for those seeking to make positive change happen in business and beyond.
Hunter Lovins, President of Natural Capitalism Solutions & Co-Author of Natural Capitalism
‘This book is important for anyone seeking a roadmap to the future.’
Tim Smit, Founder of The Eden Project
‘There is an energy, a pulse, a reverberating urgency that calls us to reflect and then take action in this book…. This book scores a line in the sand and invites us to step across, raise our voices, become visible, and engage.’
Tim Macartney, Director of Embercombe & author of Finding Earth, Finding Soul
Giles Hutchins is now embarking on a BBC/Open University documentary of the same title and subject as the book. He regularly writes for a leading European and North American blogs, as well as lecturing at a number of leading Business Schools and Universities (including Schumacher College). You can find his personal blog at www.thenatureofbusiness.org
To pre-order your copy of The Nature of Business at 35% off, plus free P&P (UK only), please visit www.greenbooks.co.uk/natureofbusiness. Use the voucher code NATURE35 and click ADD to apply the discount to your basket. Voucher code valid until 20 September 2012 and excludes eBook.