I haven’t finished reading today’s Wild Card book, but I like what I’ve read so far. Pink has a unique take on the typical how-to business book. If you’re a visual person, or not a typical business person, this is a great book for you. Using analogies and visual images from the rainforest, Pink applies business strategies and shows his readers how to take their businesses to the next level.
However, this book isn’t just for business owners. Anyone–and I’m thinking particularly of authors here–who wants to think of new ways to maximize their productivity and creativity can benefit from reading this book.
and the book:
Excel Books (October 7, 2008)
Michael Pink is the founder of Selling Among Wolves, a Biblically based sales training and development firm specializing in adapting Biblical strategies and principles to the business development process. He has recently launched The Rainforest Institute in the Republic of Panama to distill and pass on amazing business lessons from the most productive, fruitful and diverse ecosystem in the world—the rainforest. Michael has consulted with or trained companies from small, family owned businesses to companies on the Fortune 100 list. He does seminars and/or serves clients in Europe, Central America, the Caribbean, Canada and the United States.
Visit the author’s website.
List Price: $ 21.99
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Excel Books (October 7, 2008)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Better Than Gold
Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.1
E verything you need to learn about business can be learned in the rainforest. Those words landed on my soul like distant thunder with an authority only a father can bring, yet I was alone. They were at once reassuring and at the same time seemingly preposterous. How could anyone learn anything about business from observing an ecosystem as yet untouched by man? My own question contained the seeds of the answer. It was a system, an “eco” system.
The night before that thunderous idea hit my soul, my wife and I were enjoying some fresh seviche, a local favorite consisting of tropical fish marinated in citrus and served with lightly salted chips that made our arduous journey to the mountain village of Boquete, Panama, well worth the effort. It’s a top retirement choice for many Americans due to its eternal springlike climate where temperatures seldom get above the mid-eighties by day or below the mid-fifties by night. The air was thick with the fragrance of orchids, and the sounds of exotic birds enchanted our every moment.
As we dined in an open-air café under the slowly turning ceiling fan, watching the sun kiss the mountains good night, I overheard two women discussing their travel that day into the rainforest. Their voices were filled with wonder and utter amazement at what they had seen. They described another world, a world I had never seen. It was Jurassic Park but not as dangerous. I knew I had to see it as soon as possible. It wasn’t their description of beauty and exotic life-forms that grabbed my attention, but rather it was their observation of cooperation and relationship between species that piqued my interest.
They spoke in hushed, reverential tones about the symbiotic relationships between various insect species and how when you get about 100 feet inside the forest, you are enveloped by peace and quickly lose track of not only your sense of time, but also, as I later discovered, of every worry, concern, and stress that so easily plague us in our day-to-day lives. I was hooked! I had to get to the rainforest and experience this for myself. For that to occur, we would have to return, as our time there had come to an end.
Upon returning home, one of the first things I did was look on the Internet to see if anyone else had ever considered the notion of the rainforest as a business model. Immediately I found, What We Learned in the Rainforest: Business Lessons from Nature by Tachi Kiuchi, chairman and CEO Emeritus of Mitsubishi Electric America, and Bill Shireman, chairman and CEO of the Future 500. These guys had parachuted into Costa Rica and other rainforests, and what they observed changed the way they ran their businesses. They maintain that “by gleaning information from nature—the very system it once sought to conquer—business can learn how to adapt rapidly to changing market conditions and attain greater and more sustainable profits.”2 Wow! Maybe that thunderous thought I heard in Panama wasn’t so far-fetched after all! Maybe the answers to my business challenges could be found in the rainforest.
Like many of you, I wanted to know how to survive and even thrive in the junglelike environment we compete in every day. I wanted to know how to succeed using the most time-proven principles of all, the principles built into nature itself. And like many of you, I was constrained by lack of resources. My vision outstripped provision, and I needed to find a solution.
Interestingly enough, the word ecosystem is derived from the words oikos (which is Greek and means the home or household) and system (which is a set of interacting or interdependent entities forming an integrated whole). In other words, an ecosystem is a model of a complex system with multiple components executing varied processes to achieve a unified purpose. That sounds like business to me! In one very real sense, the rainforest is a business. It manufactures pure, breathable air for everyone on the planet to enjoy. Acting like lungs, the rainforest converts vast quantities of carbon dioxide (a poisonous gas that mammals exhale) into cool, refreshing, life-sustaining air through the process of photosynthesis.
In the rainforest, energy flows through various levels, ensuring the transformation of materials from one state to another. It begins with nonliving matter like gas, water, or minerals and turns them into living tissue in the form of plants. These are consumed by animals producing more tissue and ultimately waste as it’s recycled through the system over and over again, teaching us among other things a great deal about efficiency. Just studying the processes that make this possible can revolutionize manufacturing alone, as Kiuchi and Shireman attest.
The word economics combines the Greek word oikos (household) with nomos (custom or law) to give us “the rules (or laws) of household management.” Ecology goes one step further by studying the science, the “logic,” the source code if you will, of what makes household management really work. When we look at economics, we explore the relationship between supply and demand, between producers and consumers, between spending and earning, between giving and receiving and what people can do to maximize their goals within that framework. The rainforest provides an excellent model for observation of these relationships.
What’s interesting about ecology is that it goes beyond observing laws and interactions to arrive at the discovery of ways or principles that transcend time and place and can be applied anywhere. It’s more than rules. It gives life and animates whatever is touched by it, be that business or family or government. When we study ecology, we peer into a higher form of learning, complex yet simple, dynamic and at the same time constant, and lush with principles, models, and even strategies waiting to be discovered. It gives us a glimpse into the mind of infinite wisdom, expressed in a myriad of ways through the things that are created.
Ecology and economies happen within a context—the context of community. Those communities or systems may well be a forest or mangrove, a coral reef or a family, a village, or even a city or business. When we approach the rainforest, we do so knowing it could represent any number of other communities from business to government to social circles. For the purpose of this book, we will look at the rainforest with entrepreneurial eyes to glean principles and strategies to help us succeed in business while at the same time getting in touch with the wisdom behind the systems. While I believe the rainforest is a picture of an economic system as a whole, I will focus on the specific truths that can turn companies into thriving enterprises while giving us all a greater sense of accomplishment in a context of more peace and greater meaning.
For centuries explorers have hacked their way through the jungles in search of gold, unaware they were surrounded by something better than gold if they only had eyes to see. There is so much information, so much revelation waiting to be harvested by studying the created order and, in particular, the highly abundant, lush rainforests found in tropical regions around the world. In recent years scientists have begun exploring the rainforest in search of cures for all manner of diseases—and with much success too. They have begun to recognize some of the wealth hidden in the primitive rainforests the world over. Companies like MonaVie and XanGo have turned to the rainforest to find exotic blends of natural berries full of powerful antioxidants to increase vitality and enhance life.
But there’s more, much more. As we move beyond the industrial economy to a more knowledge-based economy, business is beginning to recognize that the real profit to be earned from nature comes from the principles by which it flourishes, more than the exploitation of its resources. The rainforest is the most fruitful, productive, and diverse ecosystem on the planet despite having limited capital. (It has limited, poor-quality topsoil.) So the question beckons: How does the rainforest deliver so much fruitfulness, so much productivity, and so much diversity from relative scarcity? The answer to this question is what every business owner, entrepreneur, and household manager needs to know, and I intend to show you!
By rightly discerning what makes the rainforest so fruitful and productive despite having to work with limited resources, and by wisely interpreting the systems of the rainforest, we can begin to assemble a model for business that has tremendous potential to revolutionize our businesses and our lives. Indeed, the way forward in business and life is to become more like a complex living system that adapts to change, conserves resources, and produces abundance—all without breaking a sweat!
Consider this: The Royal Library of Alexandria in Alexandria, Egypt, founded in 283 b.c. by Ptolemy II, was once the largest library in the world. It had over half a million documents from the ancient world, including Assyria, Greece, Persia, Egypt, India, and many other nations. Over one hundred scholars were said to have lived on-site working full-time to perform research, write, lecture, or translate and copy documents. This incredible treasure trove of ancient knowledge was burned to the ground in 48 b.c., with Julius Caesar being the most likely culprit. It has been considered the greatest loss of knowledge in history, but now, every day a greater source of knowledge is being destroyed in a misguided quest for gain.
According to the organization Save the Rainforest, “A typical four-mile square mile patch of rainforest contains as many as 1,500 species of flowering plants, 750 species of trees, 125 mammal species, 400 species of birds, 100 species of reptiles, 60 species of amphibians, and 150 different species of butterflies.” They point out, “There are more fish species in the Amazon river system than in the entire Atlantic Ocean.” And, “A single rainforest reserve in Peru is home to more species of birds than the entire United States.”3
Here are some more facts from their site:
At least 1,650 rainforest plants can be utilized as alternatives to our present fruit and vegetable staples.
Thirty-seven percent of all medicines prescribed in the US have active ingredients derived from rainforest plants.
Seventy percent of the plant species identified by the US National Cancer Institute as holding anti-cancer properties come from rainforests.
Ninety percent of the rainforest plants used by Amazonian Indians as medicines have not been examined by modern science.
Of the few rainforest plant species that have been studied by modern medicine, treatments have been found for childhood leukemia, breast cancer, high blood pressure, asthma, and scores of other illnesses.4
I am not a tree hugger by nature, but I have come to understand the importance of the ecosystems that sustain us and the responsibility we have to sustain them. With stunning disregard to our own mutual welfare, we have destroyed nearly half of the world’s rainforests and, with them, most of the indigenous peoples dwelling therein. In Brazil alone, just five hundred years ago, there were up to ten million indigenous people living in the rainforest. Today, there are fewer than two hundred thousand left alive. We have increased nature’s normal extinction rate by an estimated 10,000 percent, mostly in the rainforest where thousands of species are becoming extinct every year. Our corporate disregard of the natural order is currently causing the largest mass extinction since the dinosaur age, but at a much faster rate. We need to wake up!
Tropical rainforests circle the equator, maintaining a surprisingly cool, but comfortably warm temperature of roughly 80 degrees, with rainfall ranging from 160 to 400 inches per year, depending on location and terrain. Untouched by previous ice ages and maintaining constant warmth and water intake, tropical rainforests are home to an estimated sixty to eighty million different life-forms. Talk about diversity! But here’s the dirty little secret that people like the Rainforest Action Network want us to know—more than an acre and a half of rainforest is lost every second. That’s like burning an area more than twice the size of Florida every year!5 I hope we figure it out before we cut it all down and lose not only a critical life-sustaining natural resource, but also all the wisdom that could have helped us going forward.
Speaking of wisdom, did you know that Solomon, the wisest man in history, had a passion to study and learn from the created order? According to Hebrew Scripture, Solomon “spoke of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall. He spoke also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes. And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom.”6 What is interesting is that Solomon let them determine the fee to be paid him for his wisdom. In one year alone, the weight of gold that came to him “was six hundred threescore and six talents.”7 (That’s over $1 billion in today’s money at current gold prices.) Besides that, he received revenue from the “merchants, and from the traffic of the spice merchants, and from all the kings of Arabia, and from the governors of the country.”8 In short, he was a very prosperous man.
Now, do you think the kings of the earth came to Solomon to learn how to prune an apple tree? Or is it possible that Solomon understood, like other towering figures of history, that the invisible traits of the unseen God are clearly seen by the things He has made?9 That the wisdom of God can be learned in part by studying and reverse engineering the creation around us? That the created order is a textbook without pages containing more wisdom than we can uncover in a million lifetimes?
Come with me on this journey and discover, as Bill Shireman, president and CEO of Future 500, said in a 2002 keynote address to World Futures Society, “Yet despite this scarcity—or because of it—the rainforest is the MOST EFFECTIVE value-creating system in the world.” He wasn’t the first to see it, nor the last. Thankfully, more and more business executives are waking to this truth. In the process, two things occur: First, we begin to value, then preserve, the rainforest as both a repository of wisdom and a storehouse of renewable, replenishable food and medicine with remarkable curative properties. Secondly, we begin to apply the lessons we learn from the rainforest and build enterprises that are self-generating, self-replicating centers of profit that provide immense value and harm none.
Since my first trip to the rainforest, I have been back to Panama a number of times. I have also explored the rainforests of Belize, Costa Rica, Tobago, and even Vancouver Island in British Columbia. The things I learned, we began to immediately apply. In fact, as noted on our Web site www.secretsoftherainforest.com
You will discover as you read this book what it means to be “rainforest compliant.” It’s a business term I have coined referring to businesses that purposefully employ business lessons from the rainforest. They are businesses that, where possible and feasible, mold and conform their practices, strategies, and operating principles to those observable in the rainforest and reap substantial, measurable, and lasting profit. As part of a larger study, I am currently working with a nonprofit entity to raise funds for a new breed of business school called the Spire School of Business. They have a global mission and require a substantial endowment to get started.
The foundation charged with raising the endowment for the school retained me to set up the structure and systems to achieve their endowment goals. My first order of business was to make them a working model of a “rainforest compliant” business and study the impact on revenues and profits. Prior to my involvement, in their first few years of existence, they had built an endowment of approximately $10 million. Since deliberately applying specific rainforest principles to their endowment growth, that amount has quintupled in only seven months to over $50 million.
If these principles and practical strategies adapted from the rainforest can actually help a former sales trainer (yours truly—www.SellingAmongWolves.
I expect when you are finished reading this book, you will have had a few “Aha!” moments. Make sure to write down any ingenious ideas you get right away. Don’t expect to remember them later. You won’t. When you read this book, have a notepad with you to jot down ways you can apply the lessons to your business enterprises. When I travel in the rainforest, I carry a pen and pocket-sized notebook so I will be sure to capture the inspirations that seem to hang off every tree like ripe fruit just waiting to be picked. If you would like to join one of our rainforest expeditions where we explore the rainforest in the morning, then return to an upscale hotel near the rainforest to process what we just saw and discuss how to apply those lessons to revolutionize your business, then contact us at 877. 254.3047 or through www.RainforestStrategy.com.
I invested $50,000 to learn growth and management strategies in the rainforest just so I could improve my business. Although I received many times that investment back in short order, I also received the bonus of less stress going forward. On future rainforest quests, we plan to have proven business leaders who have successfully applied rainforest principles to their business pass on their wisdom in a classroom setting back at the rainforest hotel, and help us all grow strong and thriving businesses. The education won’t be cheap, but ignorance is far more costly!
Step into the rainforest with me, and explore the unsearchable riches of wisdom safely embedded in all things living. Business fads come and go, but the wisdom in these pages has been around for a very long time and will not cease to be relevant in the future. Ignore at your own peril and proceed at your own risk, because it takes guts to act on what you are about to read. But if you act, even if you fail, you will learn invaluable life lessons that will serve you well in the future. The rainforest is a blueprint for success, but the execution is up to you, and poor execution, even with superb plans, can still result in failure.
Everyone wants to know the key to the incredible growth and productivity of the rainforest. Many assume it must be the rain. After all, it’s a rainforest. Others assume the topsoil must be rich and plentiful, but it’s not. Still others attribute it to the warmth of the tropical region or abundant sunlight. While it’s true that warmth and light and water play an important role, they are, in fact, supporting roles for something so powerful the rainforest would be sparse without it. It is so subtle it is easily missed or ignored. It is so amazing that when you understand the significance of what it is and how it works, your business will never be the same again. I call it the fungus factor. But to understand it, you must first break the rainforest code.