Nature, left to its own devices by humans, is the most remarkable self-regulating system and here in Africa its lessons are so easy to see and learn. It is so available, so varied and so dramatic.
Power – sheer killing power – is evident everywhere. Lions hunting in prides, or as individuals, kill buffaloes of twice their fighting weight and more; wild dogs in running packs kill smaller antelope almost indiscriminately; dwarf mongoose mount dawn to dusk vigilance lest they and their young fall prey to eagles soaring above in search of food; spiders like the Golden Orb spin tough webs to trap insects, and even kill and eat their male mates after mating.
But power isn’t what drives the system. It plays an essential role, but the system focuses upon energy, better still on synergy – not power. What is amazing is how carefully and judiciously nature uses power and how exquisitely it maintains the balance of power between those that are scarce and more powerful, and those that are abundant, but occupy a lower rank in the power hierarchy. Therein lies a lesson for humans and especially for those who occupy positions at the top of human hierarchies – governments, corporations, schools and even families.
But the really exciting lessons that nature teaches are about maximising energy – finding synergy, exponential energy – enhancing the life experience for all who are part of the system. Key to synergy is diversity and nature knows that every blade of grass, animal, insect and leaf is unique.
When a browsing antelope approaches a tree in fresh leaf in spring or early summer, the tree is threatened. Its survival is at stake. It quickly responds by sending tannin to that part of itself that is being browsed, the leaves become bitter and the antelope moves on to a nearby tree. But, remarkably, the nearby trees have been forewarned and have already raised the tannin content of their leaves closest to the approaching antelope. Trees caring for one another!
And lichen provides a lovely example of two unique living organisms choosing to live together in lifetime harmony. A fungus processing food for both itself and its companion, an algae processing air to breath together.
Many human systems exist on power alone but they don’t appear to be sustainable. Slow death seems a certainty. A few understand synergy and energy – willing, positive, free human energy – and they seem to thrive. They can strike a balance between the necessary but limited use of coercive power and authority, and the infinite potential of positive human energy. They have understood the difference between a yacht with a small auxiliary motor and a jet ski with no spinnaker – or the difference between a high-powered motorcar and a light aircraft. Most important of all is that they see all humans as unique and in that uniqueness lies the formula for synergy. The horizons become unlimited and the fuel is largely free – riding ahead of the wind and riding on air.
All organisations know how to wield and teach power – families, schools, businesses, governments and even brothers and sisters and husbands and wives. Maximising positive human energy seems to have been forgotten. Synergy, the reward for diversity, is almost a swear word.
We remind participants about what they always knew – that each one of us is unique and any two of us can find wonderful synergy if we really seek it, and that high-synergy people in high-energy relationships create high-energy families, schools and businesses. They multiply possibilities and potential. Low energy/high power people subtract and divide. That is what we teach best.