Life is inherently a very dynamic process and, therefore, a constant balancing act both at the individual and group level. Consequently, for an enterprise to succeed its systems and practices need to have the flexible capacity not only to support its business goals but also the physiological and mental needs of its members.
Accomplishing that feat effectively requires us to take a step back into our evolutionary past. In essence, it is high time that we become much more familiar with our biological/neurological make up and how it has advanced our wellbeing over time. This is especially fitting considering the tremendous progress that has been made in neuroscience in the past few years. The best way to get started is to understand the multiple dimensions of homeostasis and how it relates to business success.
The term homeostasis is generally understood to signify the tendency of a biological entity to maintain its internal stability (such as body temperature and blood pressure), based on the coordinated responses of its components, to any situation or stimulus tending to disturb its normal condition or function. For higher level animals, such as humans, this also includes maintaining a state of psychological equilibrium attained when a tension or a drive has been reduced or satisfied.
Homeostasis, however, is a much more complex process than the definition above might suggest and involves not only every component of our physiological makeup but also extends beyond our bodies. Therefore, from a management perspective we need to be cognizant that every individual in an organization is constantly “innately” seeking to maintain his/her homeostasis far beyond pure biological needs.
What has become increasingly evident by the latest research in neuroscience is that biological entities, including humans, cannot and should not be fully controlled. They are emergent and constantly evolving complex adaptive systems. In fact, there is evidence now that attempts to control people stifle innovation.
Thus, for innovation and productivity to thrive in an organization people need to be immersed in flexible biophysically and socially supportive environments. Put another way, all members of a business should benefit “equitably” (not to be mistaken for equally) by being occupied in a well-balanced sociocultural homeostatic system that is supportive of their life processes. Therefore, when attempting to develop effective organizations we need to be less dependent on Industrial Age cause-and-affect thinking and, instead, begin to rely more on the dynamic principles of self-organization.
It should not come as a great surprise that traditional management concepts seldom work any longer especially when it comes to knowledge workers. That is mainly due to the continued use of cause-and-affect theoretical constructs. People are not machines by any stretch of the imagination. They are organic self-organizing entities from their DNA molecules to their interactions with the external world.
Today evolutionary psychology and social neuroscience are converging. Accordingly, if we want to expand the innovative and productive capacities of our organizations we need to pay much closer attention to human nature. Reinventing traditional methodologies will not help us advance any further even if they may have given us some success in the past. The new science of the brain and DNA is helping to rewrite not only the origins but also the innate behavior of our kind. That’s where our attention should also be from a business perspective.
Complex adaptive systems’ thinking is vital today in order to properly address never before anticipated organizational problems and opportunities. Where conventional approaches consistently fail to bring success, more pragmatic approaches need to be found based on the latest multi-disciplinary research in such fields as evolutionary psychology and social neuroscience. Therefore, it’s prudent that we place greater emphasis in our organizations on sociocultural homeostasis that benefits all members equitably.