Lessons From The Human Body

Miracles happen everyday inside our own skin. Humans can better organize by looking within themselves. The challenges the bodies face relate to the challenges our organizations (and society) face, as well.

Most nights at dinner, I’m lucky to sit next to my mom and dad. On top of being wonderful parents, both have PhD’s in Biochemistry. This has lead to some interesting (and perplexing) conversations over the years.

Mom and Dad study stem and cancer cells, respectively. These cells represent the start and the end for many of us. Stem cells are innovative, giving rise to an indefinite number of functional cells. Cancer cells are relentless — an implosion from our basic building blocks. Quite often, the stories my parents tell about micro-organisms relate to struggles humans face building organizations.

The Greek root word organon means “tool for making or doing” — literally, “that with which one works.” An organization, in a human sense, is a tool for us human organisms to build our organizations. Our body makes and manages innumerable tools for us to experiences the miracle of life.

Cells → Tissues → Organs → Organ Systems → An Organism

The cell is the fundamental unit for life. The body builds millions of cells into an organism with no conscious direction.

“The organism level is the highest level of organization. An organism is a living being that has a cellular structure and that can independently perform all physiologic functions necessary for life. In multi-cellular organisms, including humans, all cells, tissues, organs, and organ systems of the body work together to maintain the life and health of the organism.” — Anatomy & Physiology: An Introduction To The Human Body

Humans → Teams → Departments → Programs → An Organization

Humans are social animals, so coming together is also a subconscious desire. This benefits us greatly in our efforts to do things bigger than ourselves.

However, organizations like our body don’t just fall together. The below reminds us of the amazing things happening everyday inside our bodies. It also poses questions to leaders who hope to build healthy organizations.

Systems To Emulate

There are eleven interdependent organ systems which govern the operations of the body. Each serves important roles and provides questions to consider within our (slightly larger) organizations.

Obtaining & Allocating Resources

Cardiovascular / Circulatory system: Circulates blood around the body via the heart, arteries and veins. Delivers oxygen and nutrients to organs.

Respiratory system: The lungs and the trachea that bring air into the body.

Digestive system: Mechanical and chemical processes that provide nutrients via the mouth, esophagus, stomach and intestines.

  • What is the organization’s lifeblood?
  • Are resources being appropriated allocated within the organization?

Processing, Communicating, and Acting

Nervous system: Collects and processes information from the senses via nerves and the brain and tells the muscles to contract to cause physical actions.

Endocrine system: Provides chemical communications within the body using hormones.

  • How quickly is information communicated in the organization?
  • When necessary, how does the organization react to stimulus?

Healthy Changes

Integumentary system/ Exocrine system / Excretory system: Skin, hair, nails, sweat and other exocrine glands. Eliminates waste from the body.

  • How is waste processed within an organization?
  • How often does turnover of ideas, people, or processes occur within a natural growth?

Protection & Security

Lymphatic system / Immune system: The system comprising a network of lymphatic vessels that carry a clear fluid called lymph. Defends the body against disease-causing agents.

  • How is the organization being defended from attack?

Structural Support

Muscular system/Skeletal system: Enables the body to move using muscles. Bones supporting the body and its organs.

  • Is the appropriate organizational structure in place for success?

Building The Future

Reproductive system: The sex organs required for the production of offspring.

  • How can the organization foster the growth of other organizations?

I hope to continue to explore the framework the body provides us in future writings. The miracle of life within us holds the secrets of miracles to come around us.