10 Mar 2000

System Condition Four -- Technical

From a systems perspective, natural systems are inherently efficient. Unfortunately, human systems today are not. This is where people have a lot to learn from the planet. The challenge is for people to understand the local conditions and boundaries of a given environment and then to find ways to design and use the resources within that environment. Dr. George Basile, Senior Scientist at The Natural Step US, explains, "There is opportunity in system condition four for people to work with and within the system - to be efficient in the same way a tree is efficient.

A tree throws off branches and leaves, blows off water and oxygen, and finally falls flat and sprawls on the ground. Yes, it makes a huge mess, but a tree is still efficient within the system because the 'waste' it produces is used as a resource for something, or someone, else.

We can shift from linear models of infinite resource use and infinite growth to cyclical models of infinite transformation and change. This is how nature works."

For many companies, an important step is redefining their products as services. For example, someone selling lamps might come to realize that what they are actually selling is light. In most cases, this new perspective makes the prospect of redesigning products and operations more appealing. It typically makes throwing out the "stuff" that supplies your service seem like a bad idea. In all cases, it opens, enables, and encourages innovation and creativity. In doing this, companies can make a stronger connection between their businesses and the rest of humanity and the living systems we are imbedded in. Companies come to see their business as in some way helping to meet human needs -- which often brings the concepts of fairness and equity into the equation.