Healthy Business Growth
Now that I’m a business owner, I think a lot about growth. You kind of have to if you want your enterprise to grow beyond your living room, right? But at the same time, I find myself wary of hearing economists in the media waxing on about “growth”. After all, isn’t all that perpetual growth responsible for the massive environmental and social destruction initiated by corporate greed? I’m continually looking for alternative models that can create more balance between growth and prosperity.
So I was thrilled to be introduced to the concept of biomimicry through the book The Nature of Investing, by Katherine Collins. Though her writing is mainly focused on the financial industry, it’s a fascinating inquiry into how biomimicry can benefit us all going forward in society and business.
What is biomimicry?
Biomimicry is the concept of imitating nature’s processes and systems to develop solutions to our own human growth problems, whether they be economic, social, or otherwise.
Why do we need a new system? Because according to economist Wolfgang Streek, ever since the post-WWII boom, we have become so conditioned to expecting constant economic growth, we now believe it’s our democratic right as citizens. But contrary to popular thought, democracy and capitalism are not actually designed to co-exist so easily.
Isn’t abundant growth what we want?
“Growth” feels very natural to us as humans. After all, we plant a seed in the ground, we want it to grow, grow, grow, so it will bear fruit, and then we’ll have lots to eat. Abundance equals happiness, right?
Well, maybe not. According to Collins, if something in Nature grew without ever dying off, it would be considered a cancer. A core concept of biomimicry is that Nature does not grow infinitely. It replicates and evolves, but it also has a natural built-in destructive process to kill off what is no longer useful. It optimizes itself over time. And it’s constantly asking itself “what is the purpose of this growth” and adjusting within context. Think of that same plant as dying off after harvest and reseeding itself for the following year…
Where the “triple-bottom-line” left off.
Do you remember hearing about the “triple bottom line”? Back in the late 90s, when scientists were making their first discoveries about global warming, some progressive corporations took it upon themselves to incorporate social and environmental cost-benefit analysis into their bottom lines.
But biomimicry takes it to a whole new level, by using nature as the central model for every business decision. As Collins says in the book, nature is “the ultimate in sustainability, going on 3.8 billion years strong.”
What would Nature do?
The pinnacle question behind biomimicry is: “What would nature do?”. And the book goes on to describe in detail the properties of natural evolution and how they can be used in forms, processes, and systems, from the micro to meta.
Some of the fundamental properties of Nature are described as:
-Being resource and energy efficient
-Using life-friendly chemistry (ie. biodegradable)
-Integrating development with growth so they work in tandem
-Being locally attuned and responsive
-Adapting to changing conditions
-Evolving to survive
This gives me a lot of food for thought as I build Wizard Wear, and applies to everything from launching new products, to removing old ones if they become obsolete, to continually testing with local mamas, to sourcing new materials as technologies develop. The concept that my business can evolve and thrive, rather than simply grow, grow, grow, is not only rejuvenating, but in some ways even more interesting!
If you’re interested in reading more about biomimicry and how it might apply to aspects of your own life or business, you can check out Katherine Collins’ book here (yep, that’s our new Amazon affiliate link!), and/or the following resources below. Happy inspired reading! 🙂