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Reflecting on the upcoming Juneteenth holiday, the words of highly-regarded sociobiologist, futurist, and author Rebecca Costa come to mind. In her book, “The Watchmen’s Rattle: Thinking Our Way Out of Extinction,” Costa writes: Any drive toward singularity is a drive toward extinction. Nature’s billions of years of success in maintaining diverse systems shows this to be true. Diversity is a natural solution that contributes to success through resilience, stability, productivity, functional redundancy, innovation, and creativity, all of which are necessary for civilizations to survive and thrive.

We cannot erase modern civilization’s tendency toward singularity that has left a blood-stained trail of genocide, racial violence, and social injustice. But we can do better and Nature shows us the way. 

True, there is much work to be done and many have gone, and are going, in the wrong direction. Just this week, College of Charleston graduate student Lauren Davila discovered that in 1835, 600 slaves had been sold in one South Carolina auction, surpassing the previously largest known slave auction by 164 human beings—and marking a new level of atrocity in America’s already horrific founding stories. And last Wednesday, Texas Governor George Abbot signed into law a bill banning diversity, equity, and inclusion offices in all state-funded colleges and universities.

But in the brilliant diversity that Nature thrives upon—and remember, we humans are part of Nature—there is no room for racism. Her drive is not toward singularity because she knows diversity is a natural solution that contributes to success, is critical to success, for it brings:

  • Resilience: Natural systems rely on diversity to enhance their resilience and adaptability. A diverse ecosystem is better equipped to withstand disturbances such as climate change, disease outbreaks, or habitat destruction. When one species or component of an ecosystem is affected by a change, other species or components can step in and fulfill similar roles, minimizing the overall impact.
  • Stability: Diversity contributes to the stability of natural systems. Different species have unique requirements and play specific roles within their ecosystems. Through their interactions, they form complex webs of relationships that help regulate populations, nutrient cycles, and energy flow. If one species is negatively impacted or disappears, it can disrupt the entire system, leading to imbalances and potential collapse.
  • Productivity: Diversity enhances the productivity of natural systems. In ecosystems, different species have distinct ecological niches, occupying various levels of the food chain and utilizing different resources. This reduces competition for resources within the same species and promotes efficient resource utilization. As a result, diverse ecosystems tend to be more productive, supporting higher overall biomass and biodiversity.
  • Adaptability: Natural systems constantly face changing conditions, and diversity provides the necessary genetic variation for adaptation and evolution. Within a diverse population, there is a higher likelihood of individuals possessing traits that enable them to survive and reproduce in different environments or under changing circumstances. This genetic diversity allows species to adapt and evolve, increasing their chances of long-term survival.
  • Functional redundancy: Diversity in natural systems ensures functional redundancy, which means that multiple species can perform similar ecological functions. If one species declines or disappears, others can step in and fulfill the same roles. This redundancy provides a safety net, reducing the vulnerability of the system to the loss of any single species. It also enhances the efficiency and stability of ecosystem processes.
  • Innovation and creativity: Diversity brings a wealth of different perspectives, strategies, and solutions to natural systems. Each species has its own unique characteristics, behaviors, and adaptations. This diversity of approaches can lead to innovation, creativity, and new ways of solving ecological challenges. It fosters a rich pool of genetic information that can be drawn upon for the survival and success of the system as a whole.

In these VUCA times, these are strategies and tactics we can use to optimize for success in our business leadership and organizational structures (not to mention mental and physical health, but that’s another article).

As the apex species on planet Earth, we have the capacity to steward our collective future and natural systems can guide and inspire us to meet the challenges of the times. A critical piece of wisdom to follow is Nature’s commitment to diversity, not just because now that we as a global citizenry know better, we can do better but also, because diversity promotes the functioning and adaptability we need to not just survive, but thrive—as individuals, businesses, and a species. So this Juneteenth, ask yourself what you can do to promote diversity in your teams, organizations, and communities, and then get started today.

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