What nature can teach us about doing business kindly

Did you know there’s a theory that leaves, branches, even flower petals grow in spirals so they don’t block the sun from older leaves or petals? What if that’s how we ran our businesses? Making sure every idea and person in our community had enough to thrive?

That’s how nature runs the ecosystems on this planet. (Isn’t it reassuring that we have a successful example to follow right in front of us?)

For example, did you know that every living being (both human and more-than-human) is both a living system and an essential part of larger ecosystems? If we run our businesses as ecosystems, they can become more successful as well as kinder.

Understanding how living systems function is key, so here’s the “I’m a business coach not a biologist.” description of how they work…

Living systems (ecosystems) follow certain practices to function well. They are interdependent, cooperative and share resources so they flourish. They nurture diversity and flexibility so they are resilient.

Plants, the very ones that can grow leaves in spirals, are living systems. When the parts of the plant thrive, the whole plant thrives. Each part – leaves, roots, stem, flowers – has a unique role to play in keeping the plant flourishing.

Our plant friend, a Spruce tree, is tucked into a forest which is also a living system. The Spruce plays a specific role in helping the forest to thrive by absorbing light, water and nutrients for photosynthesis, providing shelter for birds, small game and insects and providing food for creatures such as squirrels and spruce grouse. It also gives off oxygen into the atmosphere.

This thriving forest is part of a larger watershed ecosystem, which is part of another yet larger living system and on and on until we reach the living system that covers this whole planet.

Janine Benyus, biologist, innovation consultant and author says, “Life creates conditions conducive to life.” In other words, ecosystems in nature cooperate, share resources and nurture their diversity and flexibility to create the conditions conducive to continued living.

Here’s where we arrive at understanding what nature can teach us about doing business kindly.

By observing living systems in nature, we can learn how to “create conditions conducive to life” for our businesses and our communities.

Here are some steps to follow:

  • Cooperate – bring our voices together to advocate for change or to lift up struggling community members
  • Share Resources – things like a good place to present a workshop, best scheduling app for yoga classes, experience with build-it-yourself websites, tables and chairs for an event
  • Nurture Diversity – of people, viewpoints, ideas, solutions
  • Encourage Flexibility – so community members can respond resiliently when change happens
  • Cultivate Interdependence – consider how our actions and choices will affect the living system of our local and global community

What could be more kind?

Tracie Nichols writes poetry and facilitates group writing experiences from under the wide reach of two old Sycamore trees in southeastern Pennsylvania. She is the co-founder of the Embodied Writers writing group and a Transformative Language Artist helping women write themselves home. You can find Tracie on her website.

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