Distressed by Business Inefficiency? Look Out the Window.

By Deanna deBara Posted November 22, 2019


The natural world offers a number of lessons in leadership, productivity, and efficiency—all of which can be applied to help your business thrive.

As a business owner, executive, or department manager, you’re always on the lookout for ways to make your organization more productive, efficient, and successful. And one of the best places to look? 


The natural world offers a number of lessons in leadership, productivity, and operational efficiency—all of which can be applied to help your business thrive.

So what nature-inspired lessons can you apply to your organization to take your business to the next level?

Nature-inspired business lesson #1: Many will always be more powerful than one

ants working together as a team

Ants are incredibly small insects. Individually, they’re limited in what they’re able to accomplish. And yet ants are some of the most efficient and productive in nature, accomplishing everything from building huge colonies to gathering and storing food that’s 10x their size. 

And the way they do it? By recognizing that many will always be more powerful than one.

Ants are one of nature’s most successful examples of teamwork in action. In ant colonies, it’s not about the individual or what the individual can do—it’s about what the team can accomplish together.

How it applies to your business

This is a powerful lesson for any business. While there’s no doubt that each individual on your team brings their own unique set of strengths and skills to the table, if everyone works as an individual, your efficiency (and your overall ability to achieve) will be limited. 

Efficiency is maximized when teams start working together, combining their individual strengths and skills in new and different ways that better serve the organization. It’s only when the team starts thinking and working at one that you’ll be able to really make an impact and take your overall efficiency (and your business) to the next level.

Nature-inspired business lesson #2: Disaster can be a catalyst for new growth

catalyst for growth forest fire

There’s no denying that forest fires can be devastating. But while fires obviously cause immediate damage to the forest, in the long run, they can actually be beneficial to the forest’s growth.

Naturally-occurring fires have a number of benefits on the forest ecosystem. Fires clear out dead trees, turning them into ash that enriches the soil and allows for new, healthy trees to grow. Fires clear out thick layers of underbrush, allowing more sunlight to hit the forest floor. And as the forest grows following a fire, it typically attracts a more diverse set of plants, animals, and wildlife.

Forests use a variety of systems and processes to drive new growth after a disaster. Through the fire, they’re able to get rid of what’s no longer working and emerge stronger. The ways forests rebuild following a fire are a prime example of efficiency in the face of challenges—even devastating ones.

How it applies to your business

Every business—including yours—will, at one point or another, have its own version of a forest fire. But it’s important to remember that your business is like the forest; while it can certainly feel devastating at the time, your challenges (or your “forest fire”) may actually be an opportunity to overhaul your systems, let go of what’s no longer working, and learn, change, and grow—and when the fire clears, you’ll be stronger, healthier, and more efficient than you were before.

Nature-inspired business lesson #3: Everything is always changing—and if you want to survive, you need to adapt

arctic fox white adaptation

Nature is in a constant state of flux. Seasons change. Conditions change. Ecosystems change. And in order to survive, plants and animals need to continually adapt to those changes. 

Trees slow down their growth, energy, metabolism, and other activities during the winter (in a process called dormancy) in order to survive the lack of sunlight. When the temperature drops and food is scarce, many animal species (like birds) migrate to warmer, more fruitful climates. Some cold-weather animals, including arctic foxes and snowshoe hares, actually change color as winter approaches, from darker colors to white, which can offer the animal a higher level of insulation from the cold and protection from predators.

In other words, plants and animals evolve to be more efficient in response to the changes that occur in their natural environment. It wouldn’t do those plants or animals any good to dig in their heels and refuse to adapt; not only would that be inefficient, but it could literally kill them.

How it applies to your business

Just like the natural world, the business world is also in a constant state of flux—and if you want your company to thrive, you need to adapt, too. Maybe that means pivoting your marketing strategy as your audience evolves. Maybe it’s offering remote work options to attract new talent that values flexibility in the workplace. Or maybe it means adjusting your product offerings to keep up with a changing market or industry. 

Just like the natural world, the business world is also in a constant state of flux—and if you want your business to succeed, you need to not only accept that things are constantly changing but to look for ways to adapt to those changes and continue to evolve. 

It doesn’t matter if something worked in the past. Just like plants and animals in winter, it’s not going to do your organization any good to dig in your heels and refuse to adapt to how your industry or the market is changing. If you want to succeed, you need to make like an arctic fox and evolve to be more efficient in response to whatever is happening in your environment.

Nature-inspired business lesson #4: A unified purpose will help you thrive

unified honey bee colony queen

Honeybee colonies are extremely efficient. Every colony has a Queen Bee. And that Queen Bee has one responsibility—laying eggs. This is known as the Queen Bee Role, or QBR.

The QBR is essential in the growth and survival of the bee colony. And the rest of the bees recognize the importance of the Queen Bee being able to lay eggs. And so, everything the bees do is in support of the QBR. 

They provide the Queen Bee everything she needs to fulfill her egg-laying duties, from shelter to food to protection. Taking care of the Queen Bee—and helping her fulfill her QBR—is the honeybee’s main goal. Only when the QBR is fulfilled do the bees move on to other activities, like maintaining the hive, regulating the hive temperature, or caring for the young.

The lesson here? The reason that bee colonies are able to function so efficiently (growing their hive, producing honey, and the like) is because every bee is unified under a single purpose—supporting the QBR. And because every bee supports the Queen Bee in laying eggs, the colony thrives.

How it applies to your business

It’s the same idea as your business. Your entire organization should be unified under a single purpose—your point of difference. 

Think your point of difference as your brand’s “special sauce;” it’s what sets you apart from the competition and makes you special, different, and unique.  And everything you do, whether that’s launching a new marketing strategy or developing a new product, should tie back to that point of difference. By uniting your team and operations under this single unified purpose, you’ll be able to get everyone and everything on the same page and moving in the same direction. Regardless of what someone’s individual role is in the organization—whether that’s marketing, product development, or customer support—they know that, ultimately, what they do on a day-to-day basis needs to be aligned with that purpose. 

And just like the bees and the QBR, this will make your entire business more efficient—and ultimately, more successful.

Take a cue from nature—and use it to take your business to the next level

You want your business to be as productive, successful, and efficient as possible. And as it turns out, everything you need to make that happen? It’s right outside your window.

So what are you waiting for? Look outside, take note, and use these nature-inspired business lessons to take your organization to the next level!

Deanna deBara

Deanna deBara is an entrepreneur, speaker, and freelance writer who specializes in business and productivity topics. When she's not busy writing, she enjoys hiking and exploring the Pacific Northwest with her husband and dog. See more of her work and learn more about her services at deannadebara.com.

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