Natural Business Design Principles

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Natural Business Design Principles

1. Observe and interact

  • By taking time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.
  • Understand the relationship to the natural cycles (sun, wind, water, plants...), Observe in all seasons.
  • Use protracted and thoughtful observation rather than prolonged and thoughtless action.
  • Observe the "site" and it's elements.

2. Design from natural patterns to details

  • See the whole picture first, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.
  • Look for the natural patterns...ecosystems, energy flows, trends, changes, seasons...
  • Design for specific sites, clients and cultures.
  • Work with nature not against it ...use information from #1 above.

3. 3X Connections

  • By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.
  • Place the elements of your design in ways that create useful relationships and time/energy-saving connections among all parts.
  • It is the number and quality of connections that creates a healthy and diverse eco-system, not the number of elements.
  • Connect the elements to the natural cycles in ways that work with the natural systems.
  • Living systems usually advance from immaturity to maturity, and if we accept this trend instead of fighting it, we can save work and energy.
  • Integrate rather than segregate...because connection is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.
  • Co-operate don't compete...share best practices, information and knowledge

4. Catch and store energy and materials flows

  • Identify, collect and hold useful flows.
  • Every cycle is an opportunity for yield
  • Every gradient (in slope, charge, temperature, etc) can produce energy
  • Try to match supply of resources and demand for resources in quantity and timing. If not possible, develop systems that collect resources at peak abundance and store them so they can use them in times of need.

5. Obtain a 3X marginal yield

  • Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the work that you are doing.
  • Reinvesting resources (yields) builds capacity to capture yet more resources.
  • Design for both immediate and long-term returns from your efforts.
  • Setup positive feedback loops to build the system and repay your investments

6. Produce no waste

  • By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.
  • Waste takes many forms...matter and energy are the exact same thing...just seen from a different relationships
  • This work moves the design towards a closed ecosystem...like nature...no waste.
  • What is 3X waste?

7. Each element performs multiple functions

  • Choose and place each element in a design to perform as many functions as possible.
  • Beneficial connections (relationships) between diverse components create a stable whole.
  • Stack elements in both space and time.

8. Make the least change for the greatest effect

  • Understand the system you are working with well enough to find it's "leverage points" and intervene there.
  • This is where the least creates the most.

9. Use biological and renewable resources

  • Make the best use of nature's abundance to reduce our consumption and dependence on non-renewable resources.
  • Renewable resources (usually living beings and their products) reproduce and build up over time, store energy, assist yield and interact with other elements.
  • Favor these over nonrenewable resources.
  • Start by conserving...reduce ecological footprint...accept responsibility

10. Use and value diversity

  • Preserve and increase biodiversity of all types
  • Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.
  • Value edges, marginal and small...small and different can be vital for innovation and finding a sustainable future
  • The intersection of two environments (eco-systems) is the most diverse place in a system.
  • This is where energy and materials accumulate and are translated/transformed by other environments and eco-systems
  • Optimize the edge, increase or decrease the edge where appropriate.

11. Build change into the system

  • We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing, and then intervening at the right time.
  • Apply self-regulation and accept feedback
    • Start small and learn from change...avoids expensive errors
    • Establishes a feedback loop for long-term sustainability
    • Information is energy
    • Continuous improvement is natural and powerful
    • We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well.
  • Expect the unexpected ... it's good (e.g. If something holds water at some point it won't! Rob)
    • Store energy for the low-energy season
    • Risk analysis ...have deep roots to sustain

13. Grow naturally

  • Start with mature small-scale intensive systems..."start at your doorstep with the smallest system that will do the job."
  • Grow by "chunking"...that is, developing a small system or arrangement that works well and repeat it, with variations.
  • Similar to nature (fractals)...e.g. a leaf on a tree.
  • Slow, steady growth is naturally sustainable.


Natural Business Attitudinal Principles

1. See solutions inherent in problems

  • Constraints inspire creative design and most problems usually carry not only the seeds of their own solution within them, but also the inspiration for simultaneously solving other problems.
  • The biggest limit of abundance is creativity
  • The designer's imagination and skill usually limit productivity and diversity long before any physical limits are reached.

2. Mistakes are tools for learning

  • Evaluate your trials and build in feedback loops
  • Making mistakes is a sign your trying to do things better.
  • There is usually little penalty for mistakes if you learn from them (and they're small).
  • <gg> only failure is a mistake you don't learn from and make your failures so they're not fatal

3. Creatively use and respond to change

  • The future will be different

4. Energy comes in many forms

  • Energy has many forms that are equally important
    • People ... ideas, time
    • Skills ... stored energy
    • Relationships - give and take energy
    • Money...stored energy
    • Information is energy...inaccurate information destroys energy (see Wheatley)
    • Materials stored energy...matter and energy are the exact same thing...just seen from a different relationship
  • Energy flows...energy is constantly moving...nothing ever stays the same
    • Relationship interactions ... laughter, joy, conflict
    • Work and Play ... released energy
    • Money transaction
    • Negative energy flow...taking more energy than it gives is not sustainable in the long-run

Still to be integrated

  • Water: conserve and increase all sources and supplies of water, and maintain and ensure purity
  • Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and producing more sustainable outcomes.