Take a moment to think about the differences between systems that gain from the extraction and exploitation of a primary resource (like money, natural resources, or talent), and systems that gain through other means.
In the first type of system, resources are limited, therefore individuals and organizations compete to protect their self-interest and own benefit. Since there are a limited number of resources, the more some people have, the less other people have. In these systems, people who use these resources for their own good often make them into things, and claim them as their own.
In the other type of system, dynamics are based on principles of abundance and generosity rather than scarcity. These examples are evident in nature. See, ecosystems in nature become more diverse as they evolve. And this diversity generates more resources (rather than fewer) in a system.
This is because different plants and animals need different nutrients to grow well, and they all make plenty of resources that can be shared. They soon figure out that if they work together, they can get what they need. Instead of getting everything they need from the soil, they start trading with other species or plants. This change from competitive to cooperative relationships creates the conditions for a system based on abundance.
For those of us who have grown up in a world where things are scarce, it can be hard to imagine a system that is based on abundance. Still, nature has made whole systems of mature coral reefs, old-growth forests, and mature prairies that are full of different kinds of life. These systems are built on interdependent relationships in which resources are regularly traded because it is more efficient and helps keep the whole system healthy.
Nature's mindset: Diversity is abundance
Why do we see difference as a threat when it comes from the "other"? It might be because we've been told for a long time that being the same or "blending" is safer and better. The status quo is supported by management theory because it works well. Conflict is bad for productivity, so management doesn't like it. Since assembly lines were made in factories and time-motion studies looked for ways to get rid of waste, efficiency has been the most important part of management theory. So, one reason we see diversity as a threat is that we have been taught that it causes trouble.
On the other hand, change is at the heart of leadership. It knows that arguments and disagreements are normal in a system that is changing and trying to get better. Leadership is more about impact than efficiency. And nature isn’t all about efficiency either. Nature is complicated, always changing, and dependent on other things. It looks for strategies that work to help the system heal itself and make it possible for future generations to live. Nature's evolving system is based on diversity and rewards cooperation. This shows us that systems with more variety are more stable.
Leadership based in diversity and abundance
Think for a moment about a team in a place that values diversity. What would change about how they treat each other? How could they handle conflicts differently? How would it feel to know that your team would support you and that resources would be shared instead of kept from you?
Now is the time for a fundamental shift in the way we think about diversity and resources. It's time to get rid of the ways we usually think so we can be better leaders in our organizations. We need to stop thinking that diversity is a threat and start seeing the real value and benefit of having different people in our system.
Nature shows us that diversity is important for a system that can heal itself. It's time to take what we've learned from its 3.8 billion years of research and development and use them in our own lives, relationships, businesses and communities.
Design inspired in nature's principle of abundance
Nature has a lot to teach us about how to design things that are both beautifully efficient and breathtakingly elegant. Let's take the example of permaculture.
Permaculture is based on a radical understanding and feeling of abundance, a belief that there is enough on this rich planet to meet everyone's needs. This is very different from the sneaky feeling of lack that is common in our current consumerist culture. Here, we live in fear that there won't be enough, so we end up hoarding, judging ourselves and others by how much we have or consume, and putting our worth on how much we have or consume.
When we can see life as it is, moment by moment, instead of how we'd like it to be, we can see how perfect it is right now. Living fully in the moment helps us appreciate what we already have; abundance is trusting in sharing.