Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading

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Guest blog by Steve Jones, PhD

I’m pleased to be designated Faculty at the Future Fit Leadership Academy. Allow me to introduce a concept that meshes well with the spirit and purpose of FFLA. As a forester and doctoral-trained applied ecologist, and a former university CEO, I am devoting my life to championing the cause of nature-inspired learning and leading. My ultimate intent is to enhance lives and enterprise success, even as my efforts sow the seeds for responsible Earth stewardship. FFLA has a parallel mission.

Nature-inspired learning and leading accepts and promotes that every lesson for living, learning, serving, and leading is either written indelibly in, or is compellingly inspired by Nature. I hold that every human enterprise can benefit from applying Nature’s wisdom. However, most individuals and businesses are blind to that natural wisdom. How can we overcome the blindness, and awaken the senses to so that we might achieve enterprise success?

Parallel to core tenets elaborated in Giles Hutchins’ latest book Future Fit, I propose three essential steps for seeking and ensuring enterprise success:

  • Viewing your business as an organism within an ecosystem
  • Learning to LOOK, SEE, FEEL, and ACT (discovering the business soul as per Future Fit)
  • Establishing a Vision (a regenerative Future Fit vision)

The second step, learning to look, see, feel, and act, addresses overcoming the blindness:

  • Look – Nature teaches that true awareness of our operating environment is essential to enterprise survival and success. Are you among those who are blind to the world around you? Are you slave to electronic devices and the continuous flow of content (drivel) whose immediacy masquerades as urgent and important? Are you willing to jettison the comfort of your blindness?
  • See – Seeing is more than a superficial glance and acknowledgment. Essential Seeing peels away the layers of debris and extraneous matter. Seeing requires a deep examination, appreciation, understanding, and assessment. Unless you LOOK and SEE, your enterprise risks never truly knowing its place.
  • Feel – Looking and Seeing are necessary for your success, but not sufficient. Unless you see deeply enough to stir empathy, prompt emotion, and generate sentiment and stimulation, then chances are that nothing will happen to alter your enterprise trajectory. Nature instructs that we FEEL deeply enough to motivate movement. Feeling comes naturally when we seek it. Enterprises perform best when they are purpose-driven, passion-fueled, and results-oriented.
  • Act – Deep Feeling inspires, propels, and enables you to ACT… with purpose, passion, and a fierce determination. You will learn to adopt a results-oriented philosophy, a relentless compulsion to make the most of your personal and professional ecosystem. You will act on behalf of your enterprise and the larger ecosystem in which you operate.

I fully embrace Future Fit’s early stage-setting: “The root cause of our carcinogenic corporate mind-set is a corrupting logic that sets us apart from, and in competition with, our own true nature, each other, and the world around us.” We are blind to so much of Nature and the world’s magic, wonder, awe, and beauty… factors that should inspire, motivate, and energize ourselves and our enterprises.

Future Fit introduces Module Four with a quote from Boyatzis and McKee, who hit the nail on the head: “Great leaders are awake, aware, and attuned to themselves, to others, and to the world around them… (They) seek to live in full consciousness of self, others, nature, and society.” I have long opined that we are not apart from Nature, but must accept that we are one with Nature. We have unfortunately grown away from that awareness, and continue to do so at our peril – individually, our enterprises, and humanity.

I found resonance in Future Fit’s premise, “This wisdom of Nature is far beyond anything our rationalizing minds can grasp,” quoting Confucius: “He who is in harmony with Nature hits the mark without effort and apprehends the truth without thinking.” Such is the premise and core philosophy of my first book, Nature Based Leadership (LifeRich 2016), and is likewise weaved through my second, Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading (submitted April 2017 to LifeRich Publishing).

Albert Einstein observed, “Look deep into Nature, and then you will understand everything better.” If only individuals and enterprises broadly could see and appreciate such wisdom. Here is the vision that FFLA, my writing, and my firm (stevejonesGBH.com) share: That soul-infused, regenerative, future-fit organizations get it, practice it, and spread the gospel.

Helen Keller, a brave, remarkably soul-infused 20th-Century icon said, “Life is a daring adventure, or it is nothing.” Our quest for a better, future-fit tomorrow is a daring adventure. I’m pleased and honored to be affiliated with FFLA. Ms. Keller also observed, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen nor touched but are felt in the heart” (Future Fit, page 117). Our daring adventure is informed by our head, yet is led by our heart. We are daring to see the invisible; only then can we do the impossible!

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