Monday, July 20, 2009

Nature’s 10 Simple Rules: Part 2

Here’s the second half of my thoughts on Nature’s 10 Simple Rules for Business Survival (read Part 1 here). Send me your views on this list. Also, make sure you pin it up on your wall, your company’s survival may depend on it.

Nature’s # 6. Integrate metrics. Nature brings the right information to the right place at the right time. When a tree needs water, the leaves curl; when there is rain, the curled leaves move more water to the root system. OK, I’m not a big metrics guy. Experience has shown me that a quick decision grounded in intuition often beats the 100 page report and meeting from hell. But I also find inspiration in understanding how the world works, and for that big picture we need numbers – just numbers from a lot of different sources. Smart, revealing, insightful numbers. For example, James Dyson worked through around 5,000 prototypes before coming up with the wildly successful Dyson vacuum cleaner. Let the truth of that number hit you around the head. When did any of us make 5,000 attempts at anything? If all you read are balance sheets, that’s how you’ll see the world and you will fail. Too many factors impact on us for any one perspective to show the way forward. If you think otherwise, ask a banker about subprime.

Nature’s # 7. Improve with each cycle. Evolution is a strategy for long-term survival. The long-term is the only term if you want to survive. Short-term thinking – like the ridiculous obsession with quarterly earnings – has taken more eyes off the ball than a couple of streakers at a football match. The magic mix? Big, long-term ideas combined with the spirit of "Fail fast, learn fast, fix fast". We can all learn from the frenzied world of fashion. In my first job at Mary Quant, we had nine months to conceive, produce, launch, sell, and then discontinue, a complete line. We got better at it – I promise you.

Nature’s # 8. Right size regularly, rather than downsize occasionally. If an organism grows too big to support itself, it collapses. If it withers, it is eaten. When businesses start there are usually just a few people doing everything. Then there comes a time when more people are on the job than can comfortably fit around the lunch table. Thus middle management kicks in and, as Kurt Vonnegut put it in Slaughterhouse-Five, "So it goes". Right size is such a great term. The right size of a business depends on the business. This is where business gets specific and where clarity counts. If you want to manufacture cars for the world to drive, your right size is nothing like that of a boutique fragrance. The key though is to know what’s right – right size, right people, right choices – and to take action.

Nature’s # 9. Foster longevity, not immediate gratification. Nature does not buy on credit and uses resources only to the level that they can be renewed. Since joining Saatchi & Saatchi, one of my great pleasures has been the opportunity to speak to the P&G Alumni. These are people who have worked for P&G and believe in P&G principles. Best of all, they keep the P&G flag flying long after they have left the company. They are in it for the long-term and the long-term extends beyond a job at P&G and even their working life. They are an amazing renewable source for P&G that promotes the company, attracts more great people to work there, and connects P&G in rich and complex ways to the communities and countries it works in. Longevity is about making a worthwhile contribution. Gratification is about an immediate sensation.

Nature’s # 10. Waste nothing, recycle everything. Some of the greatest opportunities in the 21st century will be turning waste — including inefficiency and underutilization — into profit. This rule can transform businesses, regions, nations, and people. One area of waste that I take very personally is the waste of human potential. That’s why TYLA – Turn Your Life Around – is very close to my heart. This remarkable program based in New Zealand helps kids at risk start to make positive choices about their lives. We use mentors, fresh opportunities, experiences, support – whatever it takes to transform these young people into hard-working, energetic and joyful citizens. In today’s tough climate, we want every hand to the pump. Waste not, want not.

4 comments:

braziliancoffee said...

Such a great insight! I've been thinking about "lessons we can learn from nature" for a long time. I believe there is more we can learn from nature than 10 rules, but I really like the simplicity behind them.

Thanks for that!

@ said...

Thanks KR,

More than a post, it's a poster.

A real keeper.

Erm... got 10 more?

Blog on!

Cheers,
Amar Trivedi

Hannah said...

Where's part 1? Awesome!

Elle Fagan said...

The Kevins are always right - well, almost always! Thanks for this list -
the statements plunked the right strings.

elle smith fagan
ellefagan.com