Transform brick walls into new foundations

If you are reading this, you have more than likely hit the metaphorical brick wall erected by conventional business.  You’ve done a brilliant job making the business case for sustainability.  You’ve made compelling arguments for doing well by doing good.  You’ve designed a beautiful sustainable innovation inspired by nature that outperforms anything out there.  You drive ahead with enthusiasm and conviction, then…you hit the brick wall.

Why?  You are trying to forward something radical through a conventional business using conventional models and tools in a conventional culture – an almost impossible task.  If you are incredibly bright and business savvy, you may eventually find success (see Jay Harman’s new book The Shark’s Paintbrush for inspiring examples), but most of us are not that savvy or that patient.

Nature follows continuous cycles of growth, disturbance, release, reorganization, and regrowth (read about Panarchy). When mature ecosystems experience disturbance, they release locked up resources that are then re-organized as new growth in a healthy process of renewal.  Overly-managed ecosystems, like some forests of the American West, have been protected from disturbance and renewal, and have become brittle and highly sensitive to devastating forest fires.

Conventional business tries to protect itself against disturbance — including your radical ideas and innovations. Because of this approach, conventional businesses are becoming brittle and, like the overly-managed forests, can’t renew and face devastation in the face of disturbance.  Business inspired by nature embraces disturbance and thus is resilient.

What do you do if you are locked in a conventional business and are frustrated by hitting the brick wall?  One answer is to quit, let the company fail, and release yourself and your colleagues to reorganize and renew.  Use the rubble from the fallen brick wall to build the foundation for a new business that is inspired by Nature.  Another answer is to re-design for resilience. Use the concepts and tools of business inspired by Nature to create and leverage cracks in the wall, go around or over or under the wall, or become the lichen that breaks down the lifeless wall to create fertile soil and the foundation of an entirely new business ecosystem.

Do you have stories of transformation?  Please share!