Exploring cities can feel like walking through an old forest. The hidden streets and mystical wonders of the cities can only be found by those who are curious and aware. Awareness is the simplest most powerful tool we have, but also claimed to be the biggest scarcity of our generation. Our lack of awareness has disconnected us to many natural wisdoms of this world, like our connection to the forest.
Life in the forest will always evolve at a natural pace. In our city-life the pace of change is increasing, with growing fragmentation and complexity. There is an urgency to tackle the climate crisis, new geopolitical disruptions and an incredible acceleration of technology. In the scope of these 21st century planetarian threats, what capabilities and mindset do we and organizations need in order for humans and forests to thrive and co-exist? How do we lead and design curious organizations that secure sustainable growth and continue to discover the future in the best possible way?
Today the ecosystem in the forest is imbalanced due to our lack of attention to Mother Nature’s warning signals. When an organization is imbalanced it is often due to lack of attention to external changes or missing awareness of the organizational blind spots. Practicing our awareness nurtures curiosity and learning, which plays a significant role in leaders and organizations ability to process failures, adapt to changes, take the right action and thereby evolve sustainably.
The forest thrives when the ecosystem is balanced and supported. Organizations thrive in a balance between psychological safety and accountability. Trust, respect and awareness is the foundation of any high performing team. Like trees, curious organizations grow successfully through effort, learning and persistence. These facts will also provide the needed organizational value foundation, a meaningful vision, and the ability to execute on strategy and cater for an ambidextrous focus on cost and growth.
In the 21 century we see a needed shift in leadership capabilities. Leaders must still possess the powers of logic, reasoning and strategic forecasting, but they also need the skills of awareness which means presence, deep listening and empathy. As the pace of change and technology is accelerating, leaders must balance being receptive to new insights and innovation, alongside facilitating for authentic human connection and collaboration.
Trees and forests have healing powers on our wellbeing and longevity. For many centuries we were disconnected to this wisdom, but in recent years it has been brought back to our attention. The same also holds for the ancient Eastern practice of awareness and mindfulness. This is why I decided to become a yoga teacher alongside working in Bjella Investments. Being present, creating a space where people feel safe and accountable to their yoga practice, is a teacher’s most important role.
Forests have long held a spiritual significance to our hope of a better future. For example when the United Nations was founded, the delegates held a ceremony in the Muir Forest outside San Francisco to contemplate the ancient redwood trees as they envisioned strategies for a lasting world peace. Hope is also vital in fighting climate change. The art project “The Future Library” deep in the woods of Norway, is a co-creation project between international artists, government and business leaders. Every year people from all over the world gather with the mission to inspire long term hope and to revitalize the ancient wisdom of the forest. In a hundred years time from now, The Future Library will contain the key to 100 unread books – all to inspire hope and trust – delivered by some of the most prominent international writers and poets at the time.
Artists and scientists hold a curiosity to see the world from different angles and can often sense insights ahead of their time. They do not know the answers, but they dare to hold space for wondering and the reimaging of possibilities. What can we as leaders and organizations learn from this kind of mindset? How can we facilitate more “forest gatherings” in our own lives and organizations that create space for authentic human connection, healing and hope?
The health and future of a forest is dependent on connected communication and sharing of collective wisdom between old and young trees. The ground breaking research proving trees to be social creatures and in many ways acting like human society, is shifting our opinion of trees and the way we care for our forests today. As we see with this research, introducing complexity to a subject can bring humility to our own knowledge, make us curious and shift the way we perceive and operate in the world. Being humble to what is not in our scope of awareness, training our ability to relearn and shift perspective, is just as important as what we pay attention to. The health of our global human society is deteriorating and growing more complex. In order to bridge solutions for the 21st century challenges, we need to stay humble and receptive to our collective wisdom.
Wisdom begins in wonder. Wonder connects, gives hope and discovers the future. Our future depends on the collective wisdom and long-term actions we implement – from curiosity to realization. Creating a curious mindset and allowing that in organizations takes courage, and is an art and a balance between freedom and constraint. Awareness around this skill should be practiced in ourselves as leaders, just as much as we support it in our organizations.
- Stanford Executive Program
- Richard Powers: Overstory
- Anne Beate Hovind: Future Library
- Adam Grant: Think again
- Suzanne Simard: Finding the Mother Tree