Business lessons from nature #1 – Nature-Inspired Entrepreneurship
You may have never thought about a possible association between nature and your (future) business. Nonetheless, there is a lot we can learn from nature that can help improve the way we do business. Nature is all around us and if we just pay more attention we can get inspired endlessly. Therefore, we would like to introduce you to nature-inspired entrepreneurship, which means we draw an analogy between a natural system and a human organisation. This analogy is the basis for The Green Startup – Business Lessons From Nature article series. We will elaborate on why and how you can learn from nature in this article (Business lessons from nature #1 – Nature-Inspired Entrepreneurship) and the articles to come. We will also explain how to use this to build a successful (startup) business. Get inspired to change perspective and see the possibilities of acquiring knowledge from a source that has been optimising for billions of years: nature.
What is meant by ‘nature’ exactly?
We all know and use the word ‘ nature ‘, but to explain what we mean by ‘ Business lessons from nature ‘, we will firstly remind you what the definition of ‘nature’ exactly is. According to the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, the definition of nature is “everything in the physical world that is not controlled by humans, such as wild plants and animals, earth and rocks, and the weather”.
What do wild plants and animals, earth, rocks and the weather have to do with making money from goods and/or services?
Well let’s take a step back. Just like in the human part of the world, in nature knowledge is being passed on from generation to generation. Not just through genes, but also through learning from each other. Not just within the same species, but also between different species. Through natural selection nature has selected the most efficient, resilient, and beneficial techniques and ways of living. Despite our human technologies and knowledge, there is still a lot we don’t know (this is something we tend to forget). The level of complexity that develops from billions of years of evolution is too much for our brains to grasp and too complex for our technologies to mimic. If you look at nature and our human body with the wonder it deserves, you will realise it is insanely genius. You might still wonder how this relates to business lessons from nature. Well, business ideas, business model designs, supply chain efficiency, management, hr and many more business aspects can all be inspired by nature’s genius ways.
How did we lose touch with nature?
Modern humans have been around for 150.000 – 200.000 years. Most of this time humans lived as hunters and gathers, in harmony with nature. Only approximately 12.000 years ago the agricultural revolution took place, which was the start of our more distant, relationship with nature. In the last thousands of years humans have drifted away from nature at an increasing pace. At some point we started to see our species as something independent from and superior to nature. It seems like most people have forgotten our history. Now we see nature as our food on our plates and as our recreation areas that we visit on our weekends off. When we look in the mirror we see our ego looking back at us instead of the reflection of an ingeniously designed human body. We have gotten to a place in which we have raised our minds above nature and lost most of the wonder for our surroundings and ourselves. For now, I will further elaborate on two consequences of this.
What are the consequences of the fact that we lost touch with nature?
Firstly, it means that we have been endangering the future of our own species due to forgetting that we are dependent on other living species as well. We have distanced ourselves from nature to the extent that we started to exploit it. This led to consequences like air pollution, climate change, ocean acidification, ozone depletion, disruption of the nitrogen cycle, loss of fertile land, loss of biodiversity, etc. At the moment, the biggest victim of these consequences is still nature. However, it is coming back to us and will soon make an end to the inhabitable Earth as we know it. We are already experiencing the consequences of our actions and these will continue to increase exponentially. It is not too late to minimise the consequences, but disruptive large scale change is necessary in the coming decades. With your (future) business you have the opportunity to be a part of this change. Every bit helps.
Secondly, the gap between the natural world and our world also means that we miss out on all of the wisdom nature holds. Why reinvent the wheel when nature already has developed the best ways to do things due to interconnected evolution. Also from a business perspective there is plenty valuable lessons that nature holds. Just like we can learn about human behaviour from studying animals, we can learn about human organisation from studying nature’s systems. Think of lessons about sustainability, resilience, efficiency, productivity and many other essential topics for your business. These are all characteristics that nature has been optimising for billions of years.
Intriguing, isn’t it?
In the coming blog articles, we will elaborate further on what you as a (future) business owner can do to help build a more sustainable world. We will also pay attention to what you can learn from nature about sustainability, efficiency, productivity, resilience and other essential topics for your business. Subscribe below to stay up-to-date.
Inspired by: “The 8 master lessons of nature: what nature Teaches us about living well in the world” by Gary Ferguson