Biology of Business : Creating prosperity for People & Planet

What a totally inspiring weekend I’ve just had in Auckland. A last minute decision to stay in town and go to see Elisabet Sahtouris speak, has turned into a full on learning experience which I’m really grateful for.

Image courtesy of Lexicon of Sustainability

Let’s take a step back – the last 50 or 60 years has been a pretty formative time here on Earth, with a couple of competing ideologies having diverged how various nations have approached creating prosperity for their citizens. I grew up in the ‘Western world’ which took a Capitalist approach to things. Undoubtedly there has been significant advancements in standard of living, and drastic shifts & innovation in many industries. Only now, however, is mass awareness emerging for how this value is being ‘created’ and at what cost.

 

From my understanding, it’s fair to say a lot of this prosperity has been borrowed from Earth & borrowed from our future. Capitalism has ramped up the Industrialised way of ‘manufacturing value’ over the last 50-60 years, which could be characterized as largely ‘extractive’ and linear in it’s approach to creating good & services; extract, process, trade, dispose. We’re now seeing around the world that this paradigm is not only unsustainable with a growing global population, but is in fact simply a race to the bottom.

 

This conference titled ‘The Biological Business Model’

Image courtesy of weretable: http://bit.ly/H6uUQa

began with the basic idea of regeneration of environmental, social & cultural capital, to create prosperity for People & Planet. It identified, of course, that people & planet are inseparable as we exist in a Living System, and therefore what’s good for the planet is also good for us.

 

We delved into Dr Sahtouris’ 16 principles for a business or organization which can create Regenerative value, which are inspired by her work in the deep study of nature, and the billions of years in which evolution has happened. Some people call the application of nature’s principles “Biomimicry”. I want to share these principles (which are available on Elisabet’s site) with you all as I find them really insightful:

  1. Self-creation (autopoiesis)
  2. Complexity (diversity of parts)
  3. Embeddedness in larger holons and dependence on them (holarchy)
  4. Self-reflexivity (autognosis/self-knowledge)
  5. Self-regulation/maintenance (autonomics)
  6. Response ability to internal and external stress or other change
  7. Input/output exchange of matter/energy/information with other holons
  8. Transformation of matter/energy/information
  9. Empowerment/employment of all component parts
  10. Communications among all parts
  11. Coordination of parts and functions
  12. Balance of Interests negotiated among parts, whole, and embedding holarchy
  13. Reciprocity of parts in mutual contribution and assistance
  14. Efficiency balanced by Resilience
  15. Conservation of what works well
  16. Creative change of what does not work well

The interesting part of this for me, is beginning to form a model for how we can build better businesses in c21st.

Image courtesy of gijsbertkoren : http://bit.ly/H6uUQa

How do we build businesses based on the fundamental needs of our global society rather than short term fads and wants? How do we ensure our businesses really create value (social, environmental, cultural & economic combined) rather than taking from the future generations? How do we build the future of business in the mold of mature ecosystems (cooperative & incredibly efficient) instead of pioneering ecosystems (competitive & wasteful)?

 

We’re going to be taking some great learnings away from this conference and seeing where we’re working well and where we can improve. We can already see there’s some good elements to our model, but we think we can do more, inspired by 3.8 billion years of evolution.

“No Business has ever faced a challenge that a Rainforest has not already created a solution for.”
~ Elisabet Sahtouris

 

If any of that is interesting to you, make sure you check out:

Elisabet Sahtouris’ website
Biomimicry Design Inspiration : AskNature
Biomimicry 3.8 : the portal to all things Biomimicry
Ashton Wylie Trust – hosts of the event

2 thoughts on “Biology of Business : Creating prosperity for People & Planet

    • My pleasure, it would’ve been great to have had you there Tim! I think there’s some really great stuff that can be taken away by all sorts of organisations (I hesitate to say, ALL organisations), and of course enspiral is already starting to evolve with a lot of these facets as fundamental building blocks of the organisation which is very exciting to me!