Sunday, December 20, 2009

If the earth could talk

I am not an environmentalist. I probably wouldn't tie myself to a tree. And sometimes I forget to recycle. But I do believe that all things are connected. The earth, the sky, the organisms in the ground, and the human beings who inhabit the earth.

Biology 100 says that we are all connected. It was the last class of my degree. I left it to the bitter end because I dreaded the sciences. But that class, ironically enough, has been the foundation of my philosophy in my life and my work.

Trees are connected to the earth creating a network for another living set of organisms to exist and fulfill their purpose. Every living being has a purpose to sustain the earth.

Take the seed for example. It begins with a single cell, and then it grows, layering life upon life until the DNA building has completed, and it is ready to deliver on its purpose.

People are like that. We develop in the womb, as our DNA falls into place. The color of our eyes, the tone of our skin, the color of our hair. It's quite remarkable because no two people are exactly the same.

Each one of is is born therefore with unique qualities. After we are born, the process continues. We grow and learn about our values as people. We become who we are by what we stand for. What we will abide. And what we won't.

We experience life, but how we react to life is what tells the story of who we are. If we were a tree, we would have rings. As we become more industrialized, urbanized, economized and technologically dependent, are we losing sight of the reason we are here at this time in this time of the universe's evolution?

The business world is another ecosystem of organisms, ideals and philosophical questions. Business is based on metrics. Hard facts of a measurable nature that measure progress. In the balanced scorecard way of thinking, these are usually focused on people and culture, the value of the product or service being offered, society's perception, and of course financial performance. Supposedly, values which describe the philosophical metrics are the overriding factor, since presumably all activity occurs in the context of the values or organizational philosophy.

But values / philosophies and actions / metrics are not inextricably linked. As the saying goes, "what gets measured gets done." And by virtue of what we decide to measure, we are actually choosing what to ignore. It is still possible to achieve business targets and ignore values, because values tend to go unmeasured. Unchecked. Values are voiceless because they tend to be emotional and subjective, as opposed to their objective, hard-nosed relatives the metrics.

Ignoring values will work in the short term. But over the long term, the ramifications are significant. And we can say an organization is value based, but actions speak louder than words. As one keynote speaker once said, if you want to see what a company values, look to the balance sheet.

We mine the earth for resources, but we don't always invest in the revitalization part. We often do not respect the earth and our connection to it by the things we do. We mine the value out of people sometimes, but sometimes we take that for granted and do not invest in them appropriately before we discard them. We see our physical and cultural differences as problems at times. We seek to conquer, rather than to understand.

It takes no difficulty and no time to see and recognize that which is on the surface. We are impatient. We do not take the time to understand and to celebrate the living experience. We tend to pluck it before it can grow up to become whatever its DNA says it should be. There is a voice that we are missing, and that is a common understanding of why we are here and why today matters.

After thousands of years of living on this planet, I wonder how we would answer the question - "We are here to . . ."

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