Sunday, March 2, 2014

Humanity 4.0 and Thrivability

Humanity 4.0 from Michelle Holliday

The Quest

What if every organization were guided by the question: how can our actions best contribute to life’s ability to thrive at every level – for employees, for the organization, for customers, for community, for the biosphere?   What if our guidance in this intention came from the ways life itself operates, in all its effortless creativity, order and resilience?  What if this were, in fact, a better path to productivity, competitive advantage and success?  And what if, along the way, each of us could feel a meaningful sense of connection and contribution to the whole of life?

Our goal would be not only profitability and not only sustainability – but  thrivability.

As it stands, this is not the explicit intention and modus operandi of organizations today, or for the past hundred years.   Instead, organizational DNA is programmed to create something less than life thriving.  After decades of operating from this pattern, life is in the balance.  My life.  Your life.  All life on Earth.  (OK, the cockroaches will probably be OK no matter what, but that’s not very reassuring.)

The good news is that, around the world, there are examples of positive mutations to organizational DNA.  Companies operating from an altered pattern, with promising results.  Even better, there are masses of people hungry to know about and propagate these mutations.

What’s needed is some means of charting this emergent DNA pattern so that others can replicate not best practices but best principles.  This is the full mission of the Thrivable World Quest.  In over a decade of research and client work, we have identified ten fertile conditions that organizations must cultivate for life to thrive.  These will be the themes we will explore.  They will be our treasure map.  The quest is to add multiple perspectives and stories to make the map fully robust and to help the pattern spread.

Positive mutations.  A core map of the mutation pattern.  Masses of people eager to integrate that pattern into their own organizations.  If we put all of these things together in a way that embodies the grand collaboration, playfulness and engagement needed, we might just figure out how to have every business on Earth be fully in service of life on the planet.

Let’s start designing organizations as if life were precious. As if the viability of our species depended on it.  As if life’s infinite wisdom were readily available to us. It’s time to calmly, creatively, and joyfully regenerate, renew, repair, and reverse some of the disastrous trends on our planet and nurture new organizational mutations that help us to do that.


Thrivability is a growing global movement, with passionate champions around the world.  We define it as the intention and practice of aligning organizations with how living systems thrive and how people thrive.  It’s the recognition that organizations work the same way living systems do – living systems like our bodies, rain forests and coral reefs – because they are living systems.  And when we bring what we know about thriving living systems to our organizations, we get amazing results.  Results like joyful and effective collaboration, inspired innovation, shared learning, adaptability to changing circumstances, and just plain getting stuff done.  The more you understand about how life thrives – and the more you align your organization with those patterns and tendencies – the more of these results you can expect to see.  Most importantly, your organization will be inherently in harmony with life, aiding its own sustainability and contributing to life’s ability to thrive on the planet.

How does thrivability work?

In practice, thrivability is about identifying and committing to your organization’s own best means of enhancing life’s ability to thrive.  And it’s about aligning with life’s core operating patterns across every aspect of the organization.  In many cases, this involves familiar strategies and tactics, but it also calls for new approaches of participation, playfulness and flow.  The bottom line is that when people understand that their organization is in meaningful service of life and when the way they work feels vibrantly alive and effective, it’s a powerful formula.

Why is thrivability important?

Understanding how life works – and how to support that pattern in our organizations – opens up tremendous new possibilities not only for organizations, but also for society and for the future of life on the planet.

The dominant guiding story about organizations continues to depict them as machines, separate from people and nature.  Our belief is that the limitations of this story are at the root of most – if not all – of society’s problems, and that our failure to recognize the life in our organizations is intricately linked to our decreasing ability to sustain life on the planet.

Though organizations do have mechanistic characteristics, there is also life within them.  And it’s their aliveness that enables compassion, creativity, collaboration, collective intelligence and resilience to emerge.

For this reason, thrivability is ultimately a rally cry to set our sights beyond profitability, corporate responsibility, and even sustainability to the larger goal of “enabling life to thrive.”  After all, you get what you aim for.  And how you aim for it also affects the outcome.