Mother Nature’s Killer Apps
During the past couple of weeks, I found myself, for a second time, working my way through Thomas L. Friedman’s Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations. Friedman, also author of The World is Flat, uses his latest book to analyze the dizzying pace of change and the tectonic shifts reshaping our world.
Friedman takes a deep dive into three forces that are all accelerating at the same time: technology, globalization and climate change/loss of biodiversity. While the trends showcased are somewhat ominous, the good news is that we have much we can learn from Mother Nature to heal what ails us and to manage the worst impacts being predicted worldwide.
Searching for solutions, Friedman looks to Mother Nature for ways she has survived the worst of times by employing a number of killer apps. Mother Nature employs each of these killer apps to build more resilient systems capable of absorbing shocks while still moving forward.
The first of these apps is adaptability. According to Amory Lovins, a world-renowned physicist, “99 percent of experiments that Mother Nature has tried didn’t work and ‘got recalled by the Manufacturer'”. To be sure, Mother Nature is not dogmatic. Instead, she is forever agile, entrepreneurial and experimental as she adapts to changing conditions.
A second killer app utilized by Mother Nature is diversity. G. David Tilman, a leading expert on biodiversity, has found that “greater diversity leads to greater productivity, greater nutrient retention in ecosystems and greater ecosystem stability”. Mother Nature recognizes the importance and value of having a large pool of ideas and options if we are to identify the best solutions available to us. The more the faces around a table look different from one another, the greater the likelihood we will identify the optimal paths forward.
Among the other killer apps used consistently by Mother Nature are ownership (when you are an owner, you care, you pay attention, you build stewardship and you think about the future); sustainability (nothing is wasted and everything cycles); and patience (you can’t condense the four seasons into two).
In the concluding pages of Thank You for Being Late, Friedman speaks to the growing importance of leaders in promoting inclusion and adaptability, and in emulating the proven best practices of Mother Nature. Back in the day, when the world was simpler and the pace of change seemed more manageable, it was often said that “you needed a plan to fail”. Today, we need a plan to succeed, on both a political and a personal level.
At a time when there are apps for almost everything, what apps will allow you to contribute to a world that works for you, your colleagues and those you share the planet with?