Let nature be your teacher

By living systems and their interdependencies we can find wonderful solutions that work for us. 

The concept of living systems is at the forefront of science and is being applied to economics, management, teamwork, politics, design, medicine and law.

Take the internet as an example of a system. It operates like the ‘wood wide web’ where fungi, trees and other plants share information and resources in a ways that are decentralised, diffused and horizontal.

In contrast, most human societies and organisations are structured like our bodies – with a brain, or a top-down control centre, and various different organs governing specific functions. This leaves us vulnerable to organ failure and system collapse when individual brain-bodies don’t serve the needs of the whole.


Making the shift to a living systems approach, and aligning with the overarching patterns and processes of nature is essential to for our species to live in harmony with life on earth. 

Nature has developed elegant, complex-adaptive, network-based solutions to a variety of predicaments and we can apply these to strategy, teamwork, cooperation, system design, circular supply chains with a thinking tool called biomimicry.

Making the leap

Here’s the surprising way to learn about biomimicry: the craft/process of improvisation.

Improvisation is an adaptive system for human interaction. It’s a technique more than an artform, and it’s based on the same principle of sense-and-respond loops of learning found throughout the living world.

Exploring the non-performance aspects of this craft, that is to say training with activities not based on scenes and stories, is a thoughtful way to explore how we can actually adopt a more improvisational approach to the way we do things – our culture – in life and at work.

One such activity is called ‘Oh Mighty Goddess!’ where we ask a group of say 6 people to cooperate to make a shared physical shape such as a tree or elephant. It’s a deceptively simple activity that is rich in learning and over a few attempts groups go from lots of discussion and slow agreement and some fairly pedestrian results to quick, silent agreement and surprises.

Teams are often surprised at how much they discover about leading, following, shared intent and common purpose just from this simple activity. It’s spontaneous and improvisational but it’s nothing to do with entertaining an audience, although the people involved and watching will no doubt enjoy the spectacle!

Hat tip to Jamie Tott for the coming up with the word Thoughticulture many moons ago!

Photo by Imat Bagja Gumilar on Unsplash

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