I’m happy to present our graphic blog series, featuring the six transformations of finance that form the core of The Nature of Investing. These ideas have emerged from the six sets of principles of biomimicry – the natural guides to life itself. When taken together, these six evolutions illuminate a path towards investing that is reconnected, resilient and regenerative, in service to life.
The idea of transformation from mechanical to mindful has to do with the natural principle of adapting to changing conditions. Everyone understands that, as conditions shift over time, we all need to adjust – whether in our human endeavors, natural ecosystems, or business processes. But what is it that makes this kind of shift possible? What is it that makes adaptation easy as opposed to a real burden?
The sub-principles of “adapt to changing conditions” are:
These might sound like obvious theoretical statements, but I want to focus on two elements that are especially important.
The first is the word embody. We must embody resilience. I have had many conversations with business leaders and investors in recent months, and we all seem to want resilience. The trouble is, there’s no resilience store: resilience can’t be bought or acquired. Resilience requires ongoing practice. It requires a different type of priority to be woven throughout all of our daily activities. So that word “embody” is very crucial.
Secondly, I want to emphasize the notions of redundancy and decentralization. In a business setting, these can be very threatening words. When we say “decentralized,” many of us hear “uncontrolled”. Yet decentralization does not mean it’s a free-for-all; it means there is distributed decision making and power.
Similarly, redundancy is usually a very negative word in business settings. If someone tells you that you’re “redundant”, it usually means you’re about to be fired. But in natural systems, redundancy is a necessary element of resilience: if water distribution is vital to an ecosystem’s health, you’ll see rivers and streams and capillary action of roots in the soil and absorption and release of water in the air, too. Three or four ways to perform that vital function, not just one.
My favorite example of redundancy and decentralization in the natural world is the Knobcone Pine tree. At first glance, this looks like any other pine tree you’ve ever seen. But this particular family of trees lives in the Western US, where there are a lot of wildfires. So when you look more closely, you see that the Knobcone Pine has a second set of cones that are attached to the trunk itself. It looks like they’re super glued on there, like a kid just came along and assembled it as part of an arts and crafts project.
If you were an efficiency expert assessing this tree, even if you looked for 10 years or 20 years, these cones would be a real mystery. They seem to be completely redundant, and in fact, useless. But if you waited long enough, until the wildfires came, you’d see that these cones against the trunk, sealed up tight, open only in very intense heat. When it gets to be 200 degrees, these cones explode open like fireworks, and it’s these seeds that help the species to survive catastrophe.
Are they efficient? In traditional business language, maybe not. But are they essential? Absolutely. This is exactly what we mean when we think about redundancy contributing to resilience, enabling adaptation over time. We need some forms of decentralization, some layers of redundancy in all of our endeavors, because hyper-efficient centralized systems, which are fine when all is steady, tend to strain – and even break – when conditions change.
* With great thanks to the Guts and Glory team for the fantastic design work!