4 Natural Ways to Improve Collaboration

Every entrepreneur should be a communication expert

Frustrations, conflicts and failures are almost always a result of bad communication. Be it communication to oneself, to team members, to investors, or to customers.

Efforts go to waste if not communicated well. Stress occurs when you didn’t listen to your internal cues. Unproductivity arises when the team isn’t aligned. Funding is missed when your pitch didn’t come across like you envisioned.

Bad communication makes a dog sad

Effective communication is thus the key contributor to success. This is why every entrepreneur should take at least one course about effective communication (and I believe simply everyone would benefit from good communication skills — imagine what the effect would be: Less depression, less waste, less war). There are many MOOCS around this topic; my recommendation for entrepreneurs is this one from Coursera: Communication in the 21st Century Workplace — It starts on Aug 29th, so you can still enroll!

Last week I finished reading the book Biomimicry in Organizations. For those wanting just the tip of the iceberg or are looking for some idea triggers, I liked this short read. Especially chapter 11 titled Mobilizing the energies towards change: deserts, penguins, leaders and conventions.

The chapter describes the four ways heat is transferred in nature: radiation, evaporation, conduction and convection (good to remember as a good quiz question).

The reason why I liked the chapter is because I see a great connection with communication skills. Communication is a complex topic entailing many layers and elements, but in essence communication can be seen as a transfer of information.

In essence communication is a transfer of information.

So can we learn something about how nature transfers heat (= a form of energy) to improve our communication skills?

1. Radiation

When heat is transferred through radiation, one body of matter emits its heat onto another body of matter.

This can only happen under conditions that allow the generation of energy waves and when these can be transferred.

How can you build a team, set up processes and create conditions in your organization that facilitate positive information (‘energy’ like motivation and constructive feedback) being emitted to others, while negativity (e.g. stress, demotivation, disregard) is not passed on?

Examples in nature:

The edelweiss flower is covered in wooly hairs that give it protection to both the cold and the high energy of sun (UV rays). The filaments forming the hair layer exhibit an internal structure that specifically filters out the UV portion of light by reacting with it, this way protecting the plant’s body from these detrimental light rays. However, other light waves are essential for the plant’s growth, so the hairs are not absorbing these waves.

Edelweiss covered in wooly hairs. From Asknature.org

Penguins are being posed to a freezing challenge: incubating their young during the cold winter months. The way they are able to maintain a normal body temperature while taking care of their young carefully is by social huddling (a long, big group hug). They figured out an efficient system where they continuously reorganize so that every individual of the colony has a chance to stay warm.

Social Huddling in Emperor Penguins

2. Evaporation

Evaporation is the process where a liquid transforms into a gaseous state, e.g. water evaporation on your skin after a swim cools you down.

In conditions of increased circulation of air, you can speed up evaporation.

How can you increase circulation within your team? Do you have processes in place where people can “vent out” when needed?

Example in nature:

The Brazilian sandbox tree has as nickname “Dynamite tree” for a good reason. When the plant dries out through evaporation the seeds, kept inside of the plant, are being catapulted many meters away via a process called explosive dehiscence. The bang it makes is quite enough to convince strangers in the forest that they are under attack. You’d better watch out when this plan gets too dry. However, when the bang does happen, this is actually a good thing, as it is spreading new seeds, and thus potentially new plants, around.

3. Conduction

Conduction happens when different regions of one body of matter have different temperatures. Heat is being transferred from one region to another, until equal distribution.

How can you stimulate the flow of negative energy? Can you find a lifestyle that supports a conductive life, e.g. yoga, meditation? How can you help guide negative energy to flow away in your team mates without affecting the entire team?

Example in nature:

The shell of some desert snails has a unique architecture that facilitates a heat flow through the shell, so that heat does not get trapped at the bottom where it touches the hot soil.

Snail shells regulate temperature. From Asknature.org

4. Convection

Convection is a continuous flow of warmer, less dense, air that rises and cooler air that falls.

How can you create conditions and processes within your organization that support a continuous cycle or an open flow of information?

Example in nature:

The reason why cacti have their distinct ribbed shape is not just for fun, it helps them regulate temperature. The ribs create alternating planes of sun-lit and shaded ones, with accompanying differences in temperatures. This stimulates rising and falling air currents (i.e. convection) and this in turns improves heat radiation. The cactus ribbed shape and its turbulence and airflow patterns results in a heat convection coefficient that is 67% greater than for a smooth cylinder of the same outside diameter.

The ribs of cacti increase their conductive heat loss. From Asknature.org

If you find this article interesting and you would like to think about how these examples from nature could help solve your communication challenges, it would be my pleasure to further brainstorm on this together. Who knows we can create a new organizational structure, or a new venting out process for your team? All I know is that looking at your problem with a Biomimetic view can result in unexpected innovative solutions.

Why not giving it a try?

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