the vibrant voice quarterly newsletter spring 2015
Five lessons leaders can learn from nature
by Denise DeLuca and Linda Graf
What if you could bring nature to work and be a better leader for it? Here are just a few lessons from nature to help you get started.
Adapt or die
Our tendency to resist change also inhibits our ability to adapt. Through cross-pollination and trial and error, nature ensures survival of its systems through times of change. Leaders can build adaptable, enduring organizations by fostering diverse thinking, experimentation, and cross-systems learning.
The early bird gets the worm
This adage reflects our sense of scarcity as well as greed and fear. But birds, even early birds, take only what they need. The success of the ecosystem depends on it. As the bird and the worm demonstrate, nature’s relationships are inter-dependent and self-balancing. In organizations, many of us feel the need to grab as much as we can, whenever we can; if we don’t, someone else will.
When leaders cultivate awareness and trust in themselves and in their teams, tension, greed, and fear can be replaced by open collaboration and creativity.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
Leaders who are pressured to produce often seek more people and resources to get the job done. Nature does more with less by fully utilizing the unique and diverse capacities of every organism.
A leaf’s main job is to photosynthesize; however, it might also provide shade, manage moisture and heat, redirect rainfall, and provide food or shelter for other organisms. And it does so in concert with other leaves on the plant. In nature, every capability is utilized. There is no under-employment in nature.
Rather than seeking more, leaders can increase the productivity of their teams by fully developing and engaging their unique and diverse interests, imagination, and capabilities.
Two heads are better than one
Many organizations promote collaboration; however, most employees are also required to compete with one another. Competition exists in nature, but it’s far from the predominant relationship. (How many times have you seen a “dog eat dog”?) Instead, nature relies on synergies to build efficient and resilient systems, allowing each individual organism to do less. Your own body doesn't have to do most of its own digesting – microbes do that for you.
Leaders who model and encourage collaborative skills, such as curiosity and effective listening, will reap the benefits of sustained innovation as well as increasing engagement and reducing stress.
Be a human being, not just a human doing…and get more done
Close your eyes for a minute and imagine you’re outdoors, in one of your favorite places. (Go ahead, take a minute.) How do you feel? Chances are, by just thinking about being in nature your body began to relax and your thoughts became a little more expansive.
Human beings are part of nature. When we take time to connect with nature – even for a moment or two – we become more responsive and less reactive to all the decisions and interruptions that come at us during the day. Less reactivity leaves more energy to get things done. Research shows that connecting with nature also increases creative thinking*.
Try it. Next time you’re stuck on a problem, get up from your desk, stare out a window, or go outside and take a walk while considering your issue. Let nature inform you. There’s a good chance the solution, or at least a fresh perspective, will arise.
* Berto R (2005) Exposure to restorative environments helps restore attentional capacity. Journal of Environmental Psychology 25(3): 249–259. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2005.07.001
Summer 2015 Executive Wisdom Quests
Watch a brief video to find out how nature inspired Waggl CEO,
Michael Papay in how to lead his tech company. [video < 2 min.]
Join us this summer... and reconnect to your purpose, passion and what matters most.
Glacier Park, Montana | June 20-25 (early registration savings ends April 30!)
Lake Tahoe, California | August 3-7
Glacier Park, Montana | September 15-21
How much trust & creativity do you see in your teams?
Nature is wildly successful at adapting to changing conditions, optimizing resources across systems, managing unpredictability with resilience, and innovating by leveraging diversity.
Like nature, our leadership programs address immediate challenges while focusing on the future.
Like nature, our solutions are scalable; we work with leaders as well as their teams.
Like nature, the results are self-renewing, ever-evolving, perpetually inspiring.
Bring the Vibrant OS "Creative Burst!" program to your teams, organizations or professional associations to jumpstart creativity while building leadership capacity.
Why biomimicry now?
Why do we need biomimicry right now? We all know in our hearts that something isn’t right. Most of our environmental and economic problems result from an out-of-date way of doing business. Nature, on the other hand, constantly evolves, reinvents itself, adapting and beginning anew with irrepressible optimism.
Jay Harman shares this wisdom, along with engaging stories of his adventures, bio-inspired inventions, and entrepreneurial forays, in his book The Shark’s Paintbrush. Not only is it an entertaining, informative, and inspiring read, there much to be learned between the lines, as well.
Along the way to becoming a highly successful inventor and entrepreneur, Jay encountered his share of the challenges all inventors face, as well as some perplexing, enigmatic barriers. Even when they asked for it, even when it was dropped in their laps, and even when they desperately needed it, most organizations resisted -- if not outright rejected – his innovations and innovative thinking. Jay knew his technologies would be successful (and he was right); he wasn't so sure about these business-as-usual organizations.
Jay was successful because he was able to learn from and then apply nature’s strategies to design radically innovative, and sustainable, technologies. Leaders today can learn from and apply nature’s strategies to redesign their teams and organizations to be continually innovative, sustainable, and resilient, and to “begin anew with irrepressible optimism”.
On the road...
Come see us when we're out and about! Here are a few things we're up to in the coming months.
Living Futures Conference
April 2, 2015 | Seattle, WA
Denise DeLuca will be co-facilitating the workshop: "How would nature design adaptive human communities?"
with Ilaria Mazoleni and Tamsin Woolley-Barker
Int'l Society of Sustainability Practitioners
April 14, 2015 | online webinar
Denise DeLuca will be presenting a guest lecture: The Nature of Change
Part 2 of the 4-part series "Biomimicry: Pathway to Innovation | Learning from Nature" taught by Mary Hansel
Bay Area Book Festival
June 6-7, 2015 | Berkeley, CA
Denise DeLuca will be joining Jay Harman, author of The Shark's Paintbrush, on a panel to discuss biomimicry.