Sense-and-Respond vs Plan-and-Execute
By: Denise DeLuca - 01/02/2011
Learn how nature's emergent approach can be transferred to a business setting, leading to creativity, innovation and positive business outcomes.
If you have a new idea for a business, conventional wisdom says that you need to write a three-to five-year business plan and then execute that plan. But for all of the business plans written, how many are executed successfully unaltered? In fact, in these increasingly volatile and transformational times, anyone who could write a successful three- to five-year business plan that could actually be executed as written (meaning they could successfully predict the future for the next three to five years) certainly wouldn’t need to be writing a business plan as they would be wildly successful already!
What is nature’s alternative to the old 'plan-and-execute' model?
Nature, actually, has many alternatives to that, one of which is to sense-and-respond. Nature’s organisms and systems are full of feedback loops constantly operating at all scales of time and space – feedback loops that are composed of perfectly matched sensors, receivers, and responders. The sense-and-respond approach allows appropriate positive outcomes to emerge in nature rather than pushing pre-determined goals forwards, regardless of changing conditions.
Sense and respond (Image: Giles Hutchins)
How does that feel in a business setting?
First let’s imagine a typical staff meeting where someone presents a new idea. In the business world (and in our personal lives) it is far easier and safer to be the one who points out all that is wrong with the new idea and why it won’t work. The standard response to a new idea is “Yes, but...”. The discussion of the new idea is typically in offense-defence mode from which there are only two possible outcomes – win or lose. Given how compelling it is to point out what is wrong, the new ideas is much more likely to lose than to win. People leave the meeting feeling smug, angry, defeated, victorious... but certainly not creative and certainly not successful.
Nature does not dwell on what’s wrong. It is much more interested in seeking positive outcomes, whatever that may be for a given set of conditions. So instead of pushing one idea or plan, nature constantly senses and responds, always moving toward individual and common good.
How might this work in a business setting?
Imagine that same staff meeting, but instead of saying “Yes, but...” the standard response is “Yes, and what I like about that idea is... and we could also...”. The new idea is accepted, respected, explored, sensed and responded to. The group leverages its collective intelligence and creatively and collaboratively moves the original ideas towards a positive outcome. With this approach, there are many possible positive outcomes. People leave the meeting with increased energy and creativity, and with feelings of collective success.
When creativity, innovation, and positive outcomes are needed, try sensing and responding with a “Yes, and...” approach and see how it works.
- Polly -
About this blog
'Business Inspired by Nature' is an emergent, resilient, dynamic new collective of individuals with a unique combination of skills, experiences and insights. We have a common goal of creating a healthy vibrant world by bridging business and biology, in other words, ecological thinking for radical transformation. We aim to transform industrial supply chains into business ecosystems, and to merge business ecosystems into natural ecosystems.
'Business Inspired by Nature's' collaboration of professional change agents, biologists and design professionals work with clients to apply nature's principles to business products, processes and systems.
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