A Fundamental Disconnect

Let’s just say at the outset we were not prepared for this. Nobody thought life would be disrupted this way. The only folks who haven’t felt the heat are nature and its inner circle. Yeah… you know, the trees, birds, dolphins, and all sorts of two and four legged creatures and of course the air and water systems. Basically, everyone minus us humans—because we are the outer circle. We are not nature. 

In a VUCA world, the business environment is constantly changing. There are and will always be newer technologies, thought processes and businesses emerging out of them. Isn’t it the most frequently heard statement in the past few years? Yes, you are right, it is ever changing and evolving. But not just the environment we have been so blanketly discussing in our boardroom, coffee, seminar/webinar, conference etc. conversations. 

The pandemic has brought forth more perspective… even a tiny creature that is invisible to the naked eye has the capacity and intelligence to learn and evolve faster than any technology we have ever invented… don’t buy into what I’m saying? Here’s some more perspective… “it took us 5000 years to put wheels on our luggage” (I loved what William McDonough said in his Ted Talk… he maybe has a pass to the inner circle already). And only a few decades to bring the planet to this crisis.

Through businesses, we’ve built a system which is linear and which feeds from a parallel system which has evolved over billions of years and is the most intelligent and sophisticated system–the natural system. The other issue is, we have mostly forgotten and, where not forgotten, ignored the sanctity and circularity of natural systems. This has disrupted the very way nature has been functioning and we are all witnessing the consequences. Moreover, we’ve been de-naturing nature’s resources and then by being so engrossed in our own businessosphere, we have forgotten our relationship with the mothership. I came across a very good example of this today… how people in Bengaluru who looked after their lakes and never faced any water issues completely forgot about the lakes that nourished them once the Cauvery water found its way into their homes through the government pipelines. Peoples’ relationship with the lakes ended and a new relationship with the pipeline emerged. The result? Cauvery, a perennial river, dried up for the first time last year and most of the 2000 lakes have dried out in Bengaluru.

So, is it too late? 

“Design is a signal of intention.” Every strategy, plan, change, invention, process, practice, tool—you name it, and all are geared to fulfill an intention by design in business. There are no coincidences. So, can we design for sustainability and not just for business? Sustainability, unfortunately has gained a reputation of ‘cutting back’ and ‘CSR’. But, in essence, just like nature, it means sustained growth and evolution that lasts not just for a few years or decades but for everyone, businesses included, to thrive for generations to come. This by working in harmony with natural systems.

So with a lot of humility, I request all the thought leaders, business gurus, consultants, change makers and everyone else, at all levels to not stop at asking ‘What is the business goal or objective you seek to achieve’ but also ask ‘What is the intent and does it make us a part of the inner circle?’

It’s high time.

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