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Use Edges and Value the Marginal

Use Edges and Value the Marginal

The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable,  diverse, and productive elements in the system. As someone who enjoys dreaming up systems composed of systems connected in synergistic ways,  this  Principle is one of my favorites. The practice of “stacking functions” provides compounded value when we can find multiple uses for each element, creating synergy within our systems. This principle applies to nearly every aspect of life or business but requires an open and creative mind. Everything exists in proximity to something else,  either physically or conceptually. The more we observe and contemplate each peripheral component’s needs and values, the more we learn to see where their overlap provides new potentials for innovation and growth.   It May Be Small But It Could Be the Game Changer We can apply this to maximize potential between two or more things that are already in proximity to each other, or we can use...

Use and Value Diversity

Use and Value Diversity

Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides. Look, we’re all different. Our physical characteristics, preferences, habits, and cultural norms differ, as do our economic resources, language proficiency, fashion sense, temperaments, etc. It is simply how the universe is designed. As nature develops and changes, so do our capacities, skills, and preferences. That is a vital part of our growth and evolution as a planet. Diversity breeds resilience! If one species, technique, or initiative doesn’t work in addressing a problem, another may. The Power of Diversity Designing diversity into our food systems, lifestyles, and businesses is a sure way to increase chances for security, productivity, and wellbeing. Look at it as a type of insurance. We can see the converse in action with modern monocropping practices, which have proven to be incredibly fragile and prone to disease and pests.   A diet...

Use Small and Slow Solutions

Use Small and Slow Solutions

Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and producing more sustainable outcomes. One can easily argue that large and fast solutions are sometimes needed. Emergencies happen, and we should contemplate appropriate responses within context. It’s also important to note that “small” and “slow” are relative terms, and we should consider everything in scale. Sometimes, starting too small can inhibit growth, impact, and success. However, speaking from my own life experiences, I can see no shortage of times when I’ve invested time, energy, or money to make something happen all at once, just to find that I got ahead of myself and ended up wasting resources to some degree. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. The wisdom here is a discipline that some of us would do well to write on our walls. It’s so easy to get excited and jump into a big project or solution.   One Step At a Time However, it’s often more valuable to take advantage...

Integrate Rather Than Segregate

Integrate Rather Than Segregate

 “By putting the right  things in the right place, relationships develop  between those things, and they  work  together to support each other.”  One  of my favorite ways  to apply  this principle is in “stacking functions.” Stacking functions is an effort to make sure that each of the elements in a design performs multiple functions, and that more than one element support each vital function. It’s the efficiency builder. When we’re about to make any effort or learn a new skill, it is good to ask, How many different benefits will this provide? How many systems will this support? If I did it differently or elsewhere, would it save time or effort later? Thinking this way opens the door to a multitude of creative options that might be overlooked by using a default or out-of-context solution. Integration allows complementary qualities to support each other.   Why Do People Segregate? So, if the integration of ideas and elements is such a great idea,  why do we tend to segregate so...

Design from Patterns to Details

Design from Patterns to Details

By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society.  These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.   This Principle is where we apply what we’ve learned from our observations and interactions into our systems’ designs. By designing our systems based on the patterns in our environment, we can save a tremendous amount of time and energy. We can observe these patterns in the arc of the sun, with the tides in different seasons, by designing our personal routines around our children's school schedule, or when we adapt our company's business model to leverage our team’s strengths.   How to Design from Natural Patterns What are each individual’s natural patterns, and how can you best work with them? How can we widen our perspective, expand our understanding of the details, and look for patterns that invite creativity? Simply taking the time to design is another inherent element of wisdom in this Principle. A bold idea can turn into a...

Produce No Waste

Produce No Waste

By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.   This Principle continues the practices of using renewable resources and further closes the loop. As our consumption patterns change and we adopt more efficient business practices, we evaluate what remains and go deeper. The more that we practice thinking this way, the more we can find usefulness in what we once considered waste. Current research shows that among the 251 million tons that Americans throw into the landfill,  besides the 20% food scraps that we could compost instead, our landfills are filled with nearly 50% of paper waste products. Also, much of what is in a modern landfill is plastic bags.  It is estimated the US uses 380  single-use plastic bags per year,  and there are as many as 1 trillion used annually across the globe. By reducing our waste, reusing, or sharing what we can, composting, recycling, and stuffing what’s left into bottle bricks, we can eliminate a...

Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services:

Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services:

Make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources. The natural world creates ongoing regenerative processes essential for the survival of the earth and its inhabitants. Worms aerate the soil, clovers & legumes provide nitrogen through their roots, and the leaves, seeds & fruits falling from trees (when left to decompose) provide nutrients for new life (including those worms and clovers). Early humans existed for hundreds of thousands of years, mimicking these naturally cyclical tendencies and living in-kind. We Are Part of the Problem Today, the logic of this Principle is disregarded. At some point, humans started using less-evolved methods for short-term gain. The information age is finally showing us, en masse, the devastation wrought by the shortsighted ambitions of the industrial age. In a short time, humans have managed to exhaust a stunning percentage of the planet’s resources and diversity of...

Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback

Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback

We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well. Self-regulation, or self-control, empowers us to be more accountable and effective human beings. It can also lead to greater efficiency in business. Feedback is essential for personal and professional growth. By understanding the effects of our actions, we can make better decisions. This Principle encourages systems to be self-regulating and continually accept feedback so the system can be maximized for efficiency and abundance. The Benefits of Self-Regulation and Feedback Acceptance Individuals or businesses that cannot take feedback and self-regulate leave themselves open to struggle and stagnation. In contrast, promoting these elements can reduce stress, increase efficiency, create healthier home/work conditions, and improve relationships. Tips for Implementing Self-Regulation & Encouraging Feedback Ways in which we might encourage feedback and apply  self-regulation include: ...

Obtain a Yield

Obtain a Yield

"Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the work that you are doing." There are many different types of yield that can be collected from the fruits of our efforts. Whether it’s turning last year’s composted kitchen scraps into this year’s garden beds, enjoying your youth and the health of your family while you have it, or choosing to plant fruit trees instead of ornamentals at the office, it’s important to design systems around you to best leverage your efforts. Businesses naturally think about this principle when planning their investments and assessing cash flow.   Don't Get it Wrong However, when practices are used that are exploitative, distorting, and see profit as the sole focus, obtaining a yield in this context is out of balance. Beyond money, other types of value can be created as well. Let’s take a look at what those might be.   Cultivate increasingly beneficial relationships and a more enriching home or workplace, by paying compliments or...

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Recap Building Resilient Communities (Season 1 Recap, Part 3)

Recap Building Resilient Communities (Season 1 Recap, Part 3)

Welcome to the third installment of our Season 1 Recap series, where I’ve been reviewing what we’ve learned from a dozen interviews with veteran landowners throughout Costa Rica.   In today’s episode, we’re going to take a dive into the concept of ‘Community’, our...

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