Nature in its purest form is a great model for how to make life sustainable, circle of life, and so on. Early humans lived a nomadic life as they followed the natural abundance of food as those food sources changed seasonally. They hunted, fished and gathered plants and nuts, but rarely settled into villages. Growing crops enabled our ancestors to create community, to create a home base, to have larger families, to eat better and more consistently.
Our desire to create a home base drives a lot of economic development in modern times, so I am not proposing that we stop developing homes nor am I suggesting that we stop agriculture as we know it be able to sustain our world by getting back to the diversity that Nature has created.
There is an interesting article in the New Yorker about extinction. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/05/20/climate-change-and-the-new-age-of-extinction We are becoming blasé to hear about yet another species that has become extinct. We feel helpless to stop it. As our climate changes, not every species of plant and animal will be successful in the “after” micro-climates. This contributes to our feeling overwhelmed by the uncertain future of the planet.
We know that one type of plant/food source does not grow successfully in every micro-climate. Soybeans, for example, are actually quite diverse across the planet. Some soy varieties require less water, or less warmth, or less fertilizer, and so the successful soybeans in one area may not succeed in another. https://cen.acs.org/business/agriculture/newest-food-trend-ground/97/i21 Nature also teaches us that mono-culture agriculture is also more susceptible to disease- so that acres and acres of the same successful variety for the micro-climate may also be setting up the agriculture industry for a potential disaster. Should a disease or blight start in one area of a field, there would be nothing to stop its spread or protect the rest of the fields in the area. In areas where fields have diverse plantings, often fewer pesticides and less fertilization are needed. For those of you with backyard gardens, think about marigolds planted with tomatoes or clover, nitrogen producers, planted next to nitrogen users, like grass.
So why am I talking about agriculture and species extinction when I really want to write about Diversity and Inclusion in organizations? Maybe Mother Nature knows best. Politically, we drift towards only listening to the opinions with which we agree. Our schools and neighborhoods drift towards mono-cultures. (There is a great article on NPR about how important it is for black children to have black teachers, to model higher education as a possibility for each child). And thanks to the hard work of several business women’s organizations, many of the US corporations, both privately and publicly held now have, more women in leadership and board positions than ever before.
Like in Nature, the most successful companies are also the most diverse. So look at your own organization, whether for-profit or not-for-profit, and see how close you are to the demographics of our country, a place where women out-number men in the majority of colleges and universities. Is your board even 30% female? Is your board made up of even 30% people of all backgrounds and diverse cultures? We need to improve opportunities for highly talented and skilled people to advance their careers, as well as improve the diversity of opinions, skills and experience on every organization’s board.
Let’s get creative about solving the complex challenges that will face our planet as climate change happens, so that we can sustain our planet for future generations. Let’s also get creative about increasing the diversity of ideas, cultures, personalities and appearances within our organizations, so that we can sustain our economy for future generations. Remember, good ideas can come from many unexpected sources, so let’s encourage everyone to participate in making the world a better place for people (and for plants and animals).
Innovation is often inspired by Nature. As Nature evolves, so does innovation. Some innovators are not the originators of their products, but they are the improvers of those products. Apple Computer did not invent the personal computer, nor did they invent the portable phone. But with great engineers and designers, they made the products that have dominated and led the markets for personal computing and mobile telephones.
[By the way, not all innovations advance the public good. Eli Whitney’s cotton gin created a technology that allowed farmers in the South to grow and harvest a type of cotton that previously had been so labor intensive that most of the acreage had gone fallow. The whitens technology made the cotton agriculture economically viable, as long as there were slaves to work the fields. Thus, the cotton gin is credited with the rejuvenation of slavery and with being one of the causes of the Civil War, according to “The Top Five Causes of the Civil War” (read more on americanhistory.com January 26, 2012).]
We all don’t need to be inventors, but we need to help improve the ideas of others, including others that may not look like you, and make the best ideas accessible to all. Together we can help improve the quality of life for all.
If you are a person who wants the place where you work, play, age, live or learn, to be ready for an uncertain future, or to contribute to solving challenges rather than ignoring them, please contact us through our website, or call our Boston/Cambridge office. We would love to help guide you on the journey to a better, more successful space that can enhance your life, and the life of the planet.
Please send us your comments, thoughts, ideas, and challenges!