What if management was inspired by permaculture?
Monday 15 February 2021
What if management was inspired by permaculture? by Delphine Masson for “Observatory of Business Competence”
Are you familiar with permanagement, an association of permaculture and management? The term appeared in 2018 under the pen of Guillaume Pérocheau, expert researcher in innovation and founder of Maryposa, “metamorphosis cabinet”. Since then, he has gained followers. Jérôme Doncieux, founder of the ETX Studio content creation agency, has made it his hobbyhorse, convinced of the merits of “the more you mix, the more it grows” to meet the challenges of today’s world. Emmanuel Delannoy, permaeconomy theorist, also uses it within Pikaia, an expert firm in biomimetic solutions. As for the Institute for a Bio-animated Company (IEB), it was created in February 2020 with one objective: to draw inspiration from the living to manage people. Michel Bacquet, co-founder, tells us more about this innovative approach.
What is permanagement?
It is the application to management of the twelve principles of permaculture. Some are more easily transposable than others. I will cite three of them: using diversity and valuing it; integrate instead of separate and, finally, use borders and enhance margins.
Applied to the company, what does this give?
In permaculture, placing different plants side by side promotes their growth and enriches the soil. In business too, diversity is important. But it is lacking. Some, known to be benchmarks for central or polytechnicians, always recruit the same profiles. Others do not respect the male-female balance. Diversity can also relate to work practices, remote or face-to-face, or office layouts. ETX studio, for example, has different spaces adapted to the uses of employees, some silent, others favorable to exchanges. Its scope is very broad.
What about borders and margins?
In permaculture, the richness of soil and life resides in areas that delimit two environments, two landscapes. In humans, this corresponds to the area of interaction between two services or individuals. Hence the interest in business to no longer work in silos but to operate in project mode with people from different departments who bring their skills and knowledge. This zone must also leave room for the diversity of opinions and the fertilization of ideas conducive to creation and innovation.
This ties in with the idea of integrating instead of separating…
It’s the opposite of divide and conquer. It is a question of welcoming but also of accepting the difference. In coaching, we talk about inclusion. But you have to dare to open up to the other, to the difference. For fear of the unknown, the man prefers to rub shoulders with those who are like him. Hence the interest, in order to achieve this, to focus on the personal development of both the manager and the employees.
All these aspects are taken up by other management schools or methods. Is permanagement just one more concept for consultants seeking notoriety?
Admittedly, a consultant seeks to differentiate himself and to “market” his positioning. But it is also a matter of conviction. In line with biomimicry, we believe that nature invented everything and that it suffices to tap into the properties of living things to create more efficient and less polluting products. Nature has indeed acted, for 3.8 billion years, as a laboratory of innovation and experimentation to ultimately select the most efficient adaptive modes within a given ecosystem. Its systemic and interconnected modes of organization and operation are excellent examples for companies looking for a sustainable, agile and efficient organization. Thus, permaculture has largely proven itself. It gives much better yields than with fertilizers.
Permaculture also seals the alliance between man and nature. What are the qualities of a good permanager?
In a garden, the permaculturist creates favorable conditions for it to grow and then leaves it to act. It involves accepting not to decide everything. The good permanager is not about ego or omnipotence. He demonstrates humanism, humility, patience but also firmness. He must indeed be able to part with an employee who would harm the proper functioning of the group. In a garden, out of ten plants sown, only seven can survive. The selection is natural. Not in business.
You also highlight the principle of co-evolution…
This is the principle of mutual aid. Each provides what the other needs. Thus a company will rely on an employee to develop but it will also help him to grow or achieve personal goals. This is what Thierry Marx, author of the book “the strategy of the dragonfly”, practices. The chef conducts development interviews, not evaluations.
Are these bio-inspired approaches appealing to other companies?
They are in tune with the environmental, economic and social expectations and challenges of our time. They are also important for attracting young talents in search of meaning. Today there is a real dynamic around bio-inspiration and so-called learning or empowering companies. This is good news for economic performance and for the well-being of employees.