Since the industrial revolution, we have achieved great feats of economic, social and technological advancement for which we can be proud.
However, these are volatile times and new challenges now face our businesses, economies and societies, relating to resource scarcity, environmental destruction and ever-increasing population pressures.
Our current business paradigm has exacerbated the imbalances, tensions and volatility we face today. Albert Einstein observed: “We cannot solve the problems in the world with the same level of thinking that brought them about in the first place.”
To operate in the world we now live in we need fresh approaches to businesses that are fit for the present and future.
Good business is fundamentally about seeking out opportunities for value creation, not about trying to get something for nothing. As our social, economic and environmental landscapes become ever more volatile, business approaches need to adapt and evolve to optimise the opportunities for value creation.
And, in the words of environmentalist Paul Hawken, “business and industry is the only institution that is large enough, pervasive enough and powerful enough to lead humankind out of this mess”.
Therefore, the re-evaluation and transformation of our business paradigm is fundamental to the successful evolution not only of business, but of our species as a whole.
In times of pressing challenges, in this “perfect storm” of social, economic and environmental volatility, it requires great courage to break rank from a paradigm that is ingrained in our business mindset. Transformational times call for transformational change.
Akin to living systems
To succeed in business we must be agile, creative, alert, spontaneous and responsive – often operating in completely new ways. Today’s rapidly changing business environment calls for businesses that thrive in rapidly changing environments: businesses more akin to living systems.
These 'firms of the future' can learn and adapt; they are not structured and siloed, which stifles learning and agility. These firms are bottom-up, decentralised, interdependent, multifunctional, emergent, self-organising units – not the centralised, top-down, hierarchically-managed monoliths of the 20th century. Put simply, the business models and management approaches that served us well in the past are no longer fit for purpose in a business context where dynamic change is the new norm.
The years to 2020 will see organisations that “get it” adapting and evolving, and those that do not perishing or being acquired. Bold firms of the future do not try to tightly manage change, they empower a culture of collaboration to unlock the creative potential of their own workforce, their partners and the communities they serve, initiating virtuous cycles of collaboration, innovation and value creation for all stakeholders.
The result: more value, bigger margins and higher well-being.
It is this “redesigning for resilience” that drives the transformation to a firm of the future. The firm of the future is one that:
- Drives transformation through values-based leadership and stakeholder empowerment using the catalysts of education, innovation, inspiration and collaboration.
- Encourages synergies across its business ecosystem, engaging with multiple stakeholders in an open, transparent way; where common values create connections enabling mutualism.
- Harnesses the power of social networks and the “pull” media; uses crowd sourcing, co-creation, open source collaboration platforms and transparent branding for differentiation.
- Evolves ecological thinking for innovating and new ways of operating and generating value for every stakeholder within the community it serves; where waste equals food and nature inspires people, processes, products and places.
The pressure for change is increasing all the time. Well publicised forward-thinking companies are already making headway on their transformational journey – Unilever, Puma, InterfaceFlor, GE, Patagonia, Nike and Marks & Spencer, to name a few.
The more our working environments become values-led and life-enhancing the more alive the organisations and the more aligned we become to the true nature within us and around us. This helps unlock the creative potential within us; individually and collectively re-connecting with our authentic selves and so perceiving business challenges as opportunities for life enhancement. The challenging business environment becomes a sea of opportunities.
The new business paradigm is about encouraging business activity at a personal and organisational level which creates conditions conducive to life; no longer tolerating activity which is knowingly toxic to life. Unified visions, strong culture, corporate transparency and stakeholder dialogues ensure values-led sustainable business becomes everyday business. This requires a transformation in business mentality, in business models and organisational culture. This is the future of business and it is inspired by nature.
Giles blogs on ‘business inspired by nature’ at www.thenatureofbusiness.org.
2degrres members can buy a discounted copy of Giles' book The Nature of Business for £10 (RRP £14.95) with free p&p (UK only) from www.greenbooks.co.uk/natureofbusiness. Quote code NBGH in the promotion box at checkout.