Designing a Company Using Ecological Principles — Stage One: Discovery
Companies that mimic nature are grounded in principles — the same ones Nature uses to manage the complex adaptive system we count on every day. In 2008 I started down the ecological pathway to organization design by combining investment advisor Joseph Bragdon’s LAMP index (Living Asset Management Performance) with seeing deep dynamics and interdependent yet connected interactions. Jay Bragdon’s work validated the outstanding market performance of companies that exemplify biomimicry management while offering insights and data on performance and practices. His second book, Companies That Mimic Life: Leaders of the Emerging Corporate Renaissance, featured seven exemplars and the principles that they use to manage and lead. We did our first series of interviews in 2009 for the Evolutionary Provocateur podcast which explored the imperative to adapt to the conditions we are seeing today. In 2016 we did a podcast episode just before Companies That Mimic Life came out and in 2017 I wrote this article for the HuffPo Great Work Cultures blog.
Companies that mimic life adhere to biological principles shared with all life and with all living systems. These principles guide decisions on culture, strategy, and management philosophy. This is an excerpt from a discussion with Jay Bragdon about the design of Southwest Airlines (2009).
1. Organization: All life is organized on network principles. Our bodies are complex networks of cells. The most efficient networks are the ones that are decentralized. Inside corporations, this is also true. They empower people on the front lines to make decisions, to spontaneously self-organize in response to changing conditions. If you diagnose Southwest’s culture by the way it works, it will look more like a cluster of double helixes rather than the typical corporate pyramid: networks within networks swirling around an adaptive core structure.
2. Managing by means: Building capacity that will strengthen the organization rather than trying to produce numbers of growth or…