We’ve had high temperatures and water shortages in the Monterey metropolitan area recently, so the vegetation, fauna and residents are starting to feel it; a few days ago luckily that was reversed and we had heavy rain. The above got me thinking about what we can learn from nature about organizational strategy.
I want to highlight an event that caught my attention: with the rain that began to fall, the vegetation of the hills that surround the city, as well as the gardens, began to turn green. This means that if resources are allocated where there is a greater opportunity to generate value, we can increase the possibility of achieving the company’s persistence over time. It is necessary to understand the requirements of existing and new customers and how we can be a solution for them in the face of the challenges they face, which will make our company suitable for them and, very likely, their first option for future requirements that will generate relationships.long-term and reliable rather than short-term transactions.
An organization will hardly be able to generate value without incorporating digital technology in some processes that allow reducing the time and cost of providing solutions to the customer or improving communication with suppliers to contribute to the efficiency of operations or that allow analyzing of large amounts of information to understand in a flexible way how to have a suitable value proposition for customers. Resources, however scarce they may be, must also be allocated to the development and quality of life of associates, investing in the generation of knowledge that will allow them to contribute to the generation of value in the organization’s production processes and in the care of them to generate conviction to stay with the organization for a long time.
From nature we can learn that nothing is lost. Living things that complete their life cycle are inputs for other living things in a systemic and dynamic balance. The same must happen in organizations to achieve sustainable growth; a by-product of a production process can be a key input for another process, so that more is not taken from nature than is returned to it, or rethinking patterns of urban life. For example, a button: do we need a vehicle regardless of the energy used to move it, or do we need a mobility system in cities that is efficient and non-polluting?
Nature has a great ability to adapt to changing conditions. The strategy is the means of constant and increasingly rapid adaptation of the company to the environment. This strategy requires constant development of associates who will be designers and implementers of strategic actions that achieve customer acquisition in a profitable and sustainable manner.
Nature evolves and renews, tests through some mutations of its species, some work, some don’t. In a business context, this refers to new business models that are tested in a secure context and that do not represent a catastrophic loss to the organization if they do not work. In the context of organizations, this is called minimum viable product which is used to target customers, learn from the process and evolve to more sophisticated stages.
Nature is strict and self-regulating; all its resources have a reason to exist, and if not, they evolve or disappear. This is valuable learning for organizations; being rigorous means having what it takes to operate sustainably and investing in what has a good chance of generating more value. Organizations that are not rigorous either evolve their management model or risk disappearing. In the same sense, some animal species conserve resources to withstand adverse conditions, camels accumulate water that allows them to travel long distances in the high temperatures of deserts; other species hibernate to conserve energy as the winter months pass. For organizations, this is learning in terms of saving resources, allowing them to overcome eventualities or fund the development of new offerings for their current or future customers.
As a synthesis of these reflections of business strategy application, let’s develop the ability to observe in contexts other than those of the organization to find lessons that are useful for our organization.
The author is director of the Monterrey branch of EGADE Business School and professor of strategy and leadership.