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Natural Wisdom — The Organic Organization™

by Jim Cathcart, CSP, CPAESeveral generations now have been raised on the assumption that organizations behave as machines. Our language reflects this: “output, supply chain, production, human resources, organizational structure, departments, divisions, work units, person hours, efficiencies, raw materials, finished products, inventories, re-engineering, etc.”.

The problem with the above is; organizations are living systems. They behave as organisms, not mechanisms. Think of your organization as I give the following description of an oak tree. See how the description parallels the functioning of your company, institution, organization or team.

An organism:

  • Grows toward opportunity, dropping its unproductive parts and growing new parts where the opportunity is greatest. Its new growth is the most flexible and also the most vulnerable. Its old growth is the most solid and also the most rigid.
  • Sends out a root system to connect with needed resources. As the roots grow, the branches are able to grow even more. The roots never stop reaching out, for if they did, the tree would stop growing.
  • Goes through predictable seasons and cycles. It grows quickly at some times and becomes almost dormant at others. Its growth responds to the environmental changes around it. It is dependent on and a contributor to the environment in which it lives.
  • Bears fruit. It produces acorns and leaves which enrich the environment and contain the seeds of future growth. Even its old limbs can be used as fuel or lumber to continually serve others.
  • Every cell contains the same genetic code. From the deepest root to the tallest branch it is oak all the way. None of the leaves are maple or pine. None of the roots seek cedar nutrients. All parts work together and separately to perpetuate its success as an oak.

How did it fit? Did this describe your organization? Do you wish it did?

Our society has reached the stage of advancement where we need a more realistic approach to leadership, management and organization. We are ready to explore the natural order of things and to see the links between nature and “nurture.”

Let’s discard the old organizational charts with lines and boxes (even the inverted ones). Let’s replace them with a tree. One which shows the roots and resources, which indicates growth cycles and expansion. One which enthrones our “genetic code”: the values, beliefs, vision, mission and culture that make us who we are.

It’s time we learned to: discover our nature, explore our nature and nurture our nature for optimum growth.

Each person is like an acorn in that they contain a package of possibilities and are predisposed to be very good in certain areas and not as good in others. The key to developing the individual is much the same as developing the organization: discover their nature, explore their nature, and nurture their nature.

The Acorn Principle™ is: People who know themselves grow themselves, (those who don’t are miserable.) So Nurture Your Nature.

The stem of the acorn represents its history and background, its roots. The cap represents its parents, teachers, mentors, and managers. The seed represents its potential. The seed separates from the cap only when it is ready to take charge of its own growth. From there, it may grow a forest full of other acorns.

Biology tells us much more than physics when it comes to understanding the nature of growth. Study the biology of business and the nature of yourself and others.

To a machine, change is a threat because the mechanism must be re-engineered to cope with it. For an organism, change is the spice of life. Every day presents new connections, new opportunities and self-directed transformation. It never stops evolving in cooperation with its environment.

Jim Cathcart is author of The Acorn Principle™,
CEO and Founder, Cathcart Institute Inc.

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Jim Cathcart