Nature Works – two key questions

What are we doing?

In my keynote presentation I display several images of real scenes from around the world. They’re each poignant, and snapshots of moments I don’t think most of us would be proud to know that we’re a part of or have contributed to.

A seal looks at the camera, its neck restricted by some plastic it has become caught up in; a controversial country leader grins proudly; a surfer rides a huge wave among plastic, litter and pollution; a homeless person, cold and hungry pleads as passers by ignore him; a forest felled for its wood, animals fleeing from what was once their home. These scenes, and many much closer to home, or witnessed in the news and reported by the world’s media, often lead us to ask: “what are we doing?”. Which is frequently followed up with: “why are we doing it?”. Those questions are easy to ask from the comfort of a sofa, distanced from the reality and without any real, purposeful questioning as to how we might be cause of some of those problems.

However, those two questions: “what are we doing?” and “why are we doing it?” are questions that I encourage all businesses I work with to apply to as many points of their systems and processes, and indeed the decisions they make and even with interactions with their colleagues – as often as possible. Stop; pause for a moment and seek a sense check. We don’t stop often often; we don’t pause when we absolutely can, without any detrimental effect. But nature does. Winter time is a stark and harsh reminder; not simply a metaphor but a real-world, active reminder, that pausing can often be a period of renewal. To reset if that’s required, but also just to review. By all means continue as you were, but give yourself the opportunity as an individual, or as a business, to ask yourself what on earth you are doing, and why you are doing it.

Gardening sees us nurturing something that’s living, and growing. It is often vicariously dependent on us. It never ends; a continual process, which gently offers planning for the future, and hope. But more importantly it connects us with nature. Evidence shows us that gardeners are happier than those who do not garden* and those who are active in other ways (running, swimming etc) also rate as happier. Physical activities and connecting with nature make us happier. Yet so many of us, at home and at work, sit, indoors, and without any real connection to the nature world. Perhaps not enough people know this, as we seem still so drawn to information, stimulation and entertainment at our fingertips – digital content appeals to our innate, human laziness.

Businesses can create more engaged, effective, and happier workforces by asking two simple questions: “what are we doing?”, and “why are we doing it”?.


*BBC Gardener’s World magazine ‘Happiness Report’ [2013]

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