Integrating Nature and Business is an ROI Natural
“The future will belong to the nature-smart — those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real.” ∞ Richard Louv. Nature and Business are a natural fit.
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Growing up as a teenager in the early 80’s, there were no such things as cell phones or texting. Facebook was not yet even a glimmer in Mark Zuckerberg’s eye — heck, he wasn’t even born yet! There was no GPS system to help you find your way. There were no home computers until the release of the Commodore 64 in 1982. And there was certainly no email or SKYPE.
We listened to music on our Walkman – the teenage epitome of cool. While CD’s came out in the early 80’s, it took a few years before the consumer market truly accepted them. Besides, CD players were too expensive – especially when you could just listen to the radio.
We did have a TV — and yes, it was in color – although we did need rabbit ears to tune into the 5 channels available to us. Cable television became more affordable as I was approaching my junior year of high school – about the same time MTV launched itself into the world.
It was a simpler time. It was a quieter time. And without doubt, it was a slower time.
But the times…they have changed!
MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, Tweets, Texts, SKYPE, Pinterest, Google +, iThis; iThat…the list continues to grow. We have computers in our offices – at work and at home – and just in case we can’t get enough done between those two locations, we have laptops – portable computers that we carry with us when we travel to faraway lands — or dare I say – a shorter trip to the bathroom. For those of us who no longer desire to carry the weight of a laptop, pads and tablets are now available. And if the pad or tablet is too cumbersome, you can just use your Smart Phone.
There is the Kindle; the Nook; and the electronic book. Cable television now has 100’s of channels. And if that is not enough to choose from, a Roku or a satellite dish will give you 1,000s of options.
You can listen to music on your iPod, MP3, computer, Smart Phone, or via satellite radio while driving in the car. Better yet, plug your iPod into the auxiliary and you can listen to your favorite songs over the voice of the GPS who is speaking to you with a British accent while Siri tells you an important call is coming through.
Let’s not forget video games. Back in the day, most of us were content to play Ski Ball or perhaps a pinball game. I remember the first home video game I ever played. On the TV screen, in black and white was a solid vertical line down the center of the screen. There were two smaller vertical white lines on each end of that divided screen and a little white ball that you would hit back and forth with your component. The name of the game – Pong; it came well before even Pac Man hit the market.
Nowadays video games are not only in color, they are digital. The graphics are fast and the sound effects are loud. And you don’t necessarily need joysticks anymore to operate them. Use your body instead.
Indeed…times have changed. And with these changes, we need to consider how all of these different electronic gadgets have helped us…and hindered us.
There is no doubt that the world has greatly benefited from the progress made in the field of technology. From hand-held computers to touch phones, advancements in the field of communication are never-ending. Speed has increased. Audio is clearer. Images and video are more “life-like”. Knowledge sharing is faster, easier and smarter. You can communicate through numerous options including voice, video, texting, and email. Technological advancements have made the world a smaller place, creating ways to keep us more connected than ever. Or has it?
Not according to Richard Louv who believes that the more high-tech we become, the more nature we need. And I am in agreement. There is no doubt that the human race has experienced a Nature Deficit Disorder. It is time to rethink the way we live. The traditional ways that humans have experienced nature are vanishing. The future therefore belongs to those of us who understand The Nature Principle.
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What is The Nature Principle?
The Nature Principle is a statement of philosophy which holds the view that a reconnection with the natural world is fundamental to human health, well-being, and survival. A growing body of academic and empirical research increasingly shows that the restorative power of nature has a direct impact on our senses, mental acuity, creativity and intelligence over and above the benefits it brings to our physical and emotional health and well-being. Individuals, families, businesses and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of nature will thrive while those who choose the path of nature-deficit put themselves at great risk.
The Nature Principle in Business
We’ve all experienced that eureka moment when the brain is in a relaxed, positive state. NPR commentator, John Hockenberry referred to this when he reported the research that “revealed greater mental acuity after a nature walk”. Hockenberry pointed out that “two of the most brilliant people who ever walked the face of the earth” – Albert Einstein and mathematician Kurt Godel – “used to famously, every single day, take walks in the woods on the Princeton campus”.
And there is so much more research suggesting that exposure to the natural world enhances intelligence, stimulates our ability to pay attention, think clearly and be more creative.
Take for example the study conducted by Rachel and Stephen Kaplan in the 1970s, showing that “direct and indirect contact with nature can help with recovery from mental fatigue and the restoration of attention.” Contact with nature can actually restore the brain’s ability to process information. In following participants in Outward Bound-like programs, “subjects reported experiencing a sense of peace and an ability to think more clearly.” As Steven Kaplan described in a paper he wrote with Raymond DeYoung: “Under continual demand, our ability to direct our inhibitory processes tires. This condition reduces mental effectiveness and makes consideration of abstract long-term goals difficult. A number of symptoms are commonly attributed to this fatigue: irritability and impulsivity that results in regrettable choices, impatience that has us making ill-formed decisions, and distractibility that allows the immediate environment to have a magnified effect on our behavioral choices.”
The best antidote to this fatigue brought on by too much directed attention? Involuntary attention – what the Kaplan’s call “fascination – which occurs when we are in an environment that fulfills certain criteria:”
- The setting must transport you away from your day-to-day routine
- The setting must provide a sense of fascination
- The setting must have enough available space to allow exploration
In short, the Kaplan’s work suggests that “nature simultaneously calms and focuses the mind, and at the same time offers a state that transcends relaxation, allowing the mind to detect patterns that it would otherwise miss. “ A fine example of the possibilities of combining Nature and Business
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In 1977, Edith Cobb maintained that “geniuses share one trait: transcendent experience in nature in their very early years.” Louise Chawla of the University of Colorado expands on Cobb’s contention. Chawla’s work involves what she calls “ecstatic places” – locations and times when we “stand outside ourselves”.
“Ecstatic moments are radioactive jewels buried within us, emitting energy across the years of our lives. Such moments in nature are often experienced during formative years. But because of the brain’s plasticity and individual sensitivities, they can happen throughout life. And so can the creation of new neurons — the brain cells that process and transmit information. It’s reasonable to speculate then that time spent in the natural world…may lead to bursts of new neurons.”
And there are many more studies…
- Marlis Mang and Terry Hartig, University of California, Irvine whose research showed improved proofreading performance in those who went on a wilderness backpacking trip vs. those who went on an urban vacation or took no vacation at all.
- A study done by the University of Michigan which demonstrated that participants’ memory performance and attention spans improved by 20% after just one hour of interacting with nature.
- A Canadian study showed that institutions with green grounds experience reduced absenteeism and improved learning and behavior in addition to improved teamwork and expanded learning opportunities.
- Got Dirt? – the title of a recent NYT article and a study conducted at the Sage Colleges in Troy, New York has found that “mycobacterium vaccae, a natural soil bacterium commonly ingested or inhaled when people spend time in nature” when given to mice, helped them navigate a maze twice as fast. This more recent research suggests that “outdoor learning environments where M. vaccae is present may improve the ability to learn new tasks.”
Can you see the benefits of The Nature Principle in business as well as in all aspects of your life?
- Improved performance
- Increased memory and attention span
- Reduced absenteeism
- Improved and expanded learning opportunities
- Improved behavior and teamwork
- Better problem-solving ability
- Greater sensitivity to embedded patterns
- And creative genius; “not the accumulation of knowledge, but the ability to see patterns in the universe – to detect hidden links between what is and what could be.”
Richard Louv believes that we are entering the most creative period in history and that “the twenty-first century will be the century of human restoration in the natural world.” Tapping into the power of nature will not only boost our intellect, creativity, health and well-being; it will build smarter and more sustainable businesses, communities and economies — where the “human race can and will thrive.”