Learning from Nature

I’ve spoken a lot about how we live in a VUCA world and the only way to get ahead is to reframe the situation. Instead of worrying about how things are Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous, we need to see opportunities as being Vibrant, Unreal, Crazy and Astounding. Notice that none of these words suggests anything close to ‘stability’ – and that’s just the way it is. The unexpected is part of life, but it makes a lot of people frantic.

Nature is a great teacher when it comes to learning how to adapt. We can learn a lot about managing risks by simply taking a look outside. Take the octopus for example. It is nature’s king of adaptation. You can’t argue with 3.5 billion years of experience adjusting to the curve balls of life.

While we become fearful in times of crisis and prefer to wait for instruction, octopi take things into their own tentacles. Rather than the brain issuing orders, each cell of their body changes color independently. They call it common sense. We call it distributed decision making. It’s like Wikipedia vs. Britannica – it works better when everyone’s involved. The octopus also has the ability to not only notice when there’s a problem, but respond with multiple solutions. It can change color, squirt ink, and even squeeze its body into a bottle for shelter. That’s what I call being flexible. Having all those options you can turn to when things get tough is one of the tricks to surviving a volatile environment.

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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