“All organisms are living systems. Like human bodies, corporations only direct flows of energy, to transform them into desired results.”- Norman Wolfe, executive business consultant
People think of a corporation as a machine without a soul, concerned only with maximizing profit.
Many corporate organizations have optimized their ability to produce, at the expense of their ability to contribute.
The Living Organization is different.
“Through the lens of The Living Organization®, we can see the solutions to many of our challenges as a business and within society. A business as a machine does not, and cannot, have any social consciousness or social responsibility. A business viewed as a living entity is, like all people within a society, a citizen with a social and moral responsibility to both itself and society. A machine does not learn and adapt to its environment, but adaptation is the very essence of all living entities. Machines merely produce, they cannot innovate, while living entities can actually dream of and create a healthier future.”John Mackey
The nature of evolution is that fields of energy, taking the form of living organisms, evolve to higher levels of complexity and sophistication.
Through the lens of The Living Organization®, we can see that markets consist of groups of such organisms – companies, competitors, and consumers – coming together to serve a common goal, all within a larger entity or market. Zooming out, markets form societies, societies form our planet, and on the hologram goes.
Like the Russian dolls that neatly fit one within the other, The Living Organizations® carry within them other living organizations – departments, teams, and people. This demonstrate the fractal property of self-similarity, because the rules of energy that apply to one Living Organization apply to all living organizations.
This is a core premise of The Living Organization methodologies:
What is true for the energy of an individual is true for the energy of an organization.
Cells – People
Organs – Departments
Human Body – Corporation
What "The Body of the Organization" Means
When a corporation organizes, it is “incorporated.” That word derives from Latin roots and literally means, “to create a body.”
Enlightened business leaders believe that organizations are bodies in more than metaphorical terms; they are bodies that house living beings. Even our court systems treat corporations as “persons” with the same rights as any individual.
Like all forms of life, organizations create by taking in energy and transforming it into something else.
In plants, it’s called photosynthesis. With corporations, it’s called production. Both of these processes allow the organism to serve something greater than itself.
Like people, plants and other living organisms, corporations are born, grow old, and die. They are governed by the same laws of life as other living beings and follow the same hierarchy of need fulfillment as people do. They are an intrinsic part of life, particularly in our post-modern society. They marry through mergers and give rise to offspring (or spin-offs). When they mature, they have the choice of rebirthing, of branching off in new directions (new markets, new products or totally new business models), or withering away and dying (when they are sold off or go out of business).
Each life cycle event leads The Living Organization® to the possibility of a new, more expanded way of life. This more developed stage hopefully contributes to the society around it and the living cells, the people, which give life to it. Like all living beings, corporations will either adapt to a changing environment or be driven to extinction. Yet even in dying, they can open the way for new companies to prosper and grow as they provide the seeds for new organizations to sprout to life.
The Living Organization® model views the organization as a complex, adaptable, living being. It is modeled after the greatest organization alive, an organization that manages trillions of workers as they perform their individual and collective functions in one of the most complex yet highly efficient and effective collaborative efforts ever imagined: the magnificent and magical human body.
Every living body is affected by physical laws, by the laws of pressure, volume and temperature. Our blood flows according to the laws of fluid mechanics, and our mental activity is measured by electro-magnetic currents. But just because our bodily functions can be explained by the laws of physics, does that make us a well-oiled machine?
We are more than machines, and so are our businesses.Like human beings, organizations are governed by the same laws of physics that define how mechanical machines operate. Therefore elements of the traditional machine paradigm are still necessary and valuable, and we must continue to embrace them. While necessary, the old and insufficient model of the organization as a machine will no longer provide extraordinary results.
We’ve allowed corporations to turn into mindless machines that only do what others tell them to do. They take their orders from the shareholders, the marketplace (or the market manipulators), from the speculators and government regulators. In the machinistic model of the corporation, it only follows orders, doing what it is told, and nothing else.
Since the 1980s, the only objective for most corporations has been to maximize shareholder value. And this they’ve done, as all machines do, as efficiently as possible.
But in our expanded worldview, where corporations are viewed as living beings, we can see that the best results come not from outside our organizations but from deep within them. They have within them, from their moment of creation or birth, some “purpose for being.” Like every living being, The Living Organization® wants to see its purpose realized. It wants to make its mark, fulfill its purpose and maximize its contributions to the customers it serves. Living organisms, and organizations, are in a relationship with their environment. They recognize that they depend on their environment as much as their environment depends on them.
Many company founders understand that the true purpose, power and importance of the company reside in its potential to make valued and transformative contributions to society, not in its ability to turn a profit.
If we can look beyond the nature of profit, we can transform businesses around the world into environments that support and enhance the dignity of the human spirit, as they collectively express this spirit in service to society.
This is a new perspective for leaders who view the organization as a living system, and manage that system by directing the flows of energies within that body of people.
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