How the living world can inspire our organizational models

What if the observation of ecosystems and a renewed relationship with nature opened the way to new adaptation strategies? They are a valuable source of inspiration for thinking differently about change based on the principles of natural systemps. CREA Mont-Blanc has developed with its partner Holomea, consulting firm specialising in organisational transformation, a set of methods to accompany companies and higher education teachers on this innovative path.

Understanding ecosystems can help us think again about our organizations transformations : this is the principle behind the work done at CREA Mont-Blanc with Holomea on bio-inspiration. For CREA Mont-Blanc, this approach originates in the mobilizing approach developed by the association to raise public awareness of the challenges of mountain biodiversity. Scientific knowledge of the functioning of living organisms and sensitivity to natural environments are indeed a good starting point for redefining our own modes of functioning, as Irène Alvarez, director of programs, explains:

“Mountain ecosystems have very strong adaptive and resilience capacities to multitudes of shocks, and they are experiencing a major shock with climate change. By observing them and opening our eyes to what is happening in nature, we can explore ways to solve the challenges facing our societies and economic models.”

From a machine approach to an organic vision of issues and solutions

This approach does not seek to strictly reproduce the mechanisms of ecosystems. Not all the principles of natural systems are applicable to human organisations, and certain notions are rather specific to human organisations such as social justice or intentionality. The idea is to draw on some of their characteristics to work on notions such as diversity, interactions between individuals or species, redundancy, performance or cooperation.

With this in mind, CREA Mont-Blanc has devised a methodology with Holomea, a specialist in ecological and social transition projects, to bring companies, schools and universities to open up to other ways of operating based on the observation of nature. “We are touching the limits of the current organization of collectives, inherited from the industrial revolution. In our exchanges with CREA Mont-Blanc, we realized that the questions that arise in living ecosystems are actually very similar to those found in organizations,” explains Christine Ebadi, co-founder of Holomea. We propose a common approach to bio-inspiration in which CREA Mont-Blanc brings its scientific legitimacy and the sensitive relationship with nature that makes it unique, and Holomea its skills around organizations, transformation issues and collaborative tools.”

A necessary step backwards

This methodology is aimed at managers and those responsible for transformation projects in companies, but also at university or college professors. It is available in different formats, from conferences or webinars to introduce the subject to stays of several days in the mountains. “In 4 days, we take the participants into the field so that they can experience the functioning of ecosystems through observation, based on the CREA Mont-Blanc study topics. This helps to make them receptive to their surroundings,” says Irène. This is followed by a deconstruction phase in which they make the link between what they have observed and the subject that concerns them, and then a reconstruction phase in which, based on the major principles of life, they can rethink their team relations, their CSR approach, project management.”

In this spirit, some 15 university, business school and engineering school teachers took part in a trip to the Mont Blanc massif last summer 2022 to make this journey.
We feel that this type of experience opens doors,” continues Irène. The mountain setting, in an unusual context, the fact of exchanging ideas with peers, all this contributes to freeing up speech and to bringing out new ideas.

The challenge afterwards, when they come back down, is to integrate this approach to nature into the daily life of the organization. Christine Ebadi shares this feedback: “Transformation is an extremely complex subject to which no mechanical answer can be given. Bio-inspiration allows us to take a step aside to look at things differently, and discover other ways to operate with other principles.”

In view of the multiplicity of current challenges facing companies and universities, this activity is set to expand. Future programs are already being prepared. We invite companies or institutions of higher education who wish to live this experience with us, around their subject(s) of the moment, to contact us.

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