The fifth growth force found in nature that we are exploring in this series is symbiosis. Each growth force, when applied to our life can increase the potential for health and growth.
Symbiosis describes what happens when two different organisms, living in close proximity, share in a mutually beneficial relationship.
For example, when a tree ages and its roots loose the capacity to gather nutrients from the soil, a certain fungus grows on the roots that helps transfer nutrients to the tree. In return (since the fungus cannot produce chlorophyll itself), the tree then transfers carbohydrates and oxygen to help the fungus grow. The tree and the fungus experience symbiosis that helps sustain both.
Another example highlights how two great things combined can produce a whole new thing. Remember the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup ad that imagined the way chocolate and peanut butter “accidentally” came together? Both chocolate and peanut butter were individual favorites, but the combination created was fantastic!
The same principle works with food courts. You might think putting multiple food outlets in one small space would create so much competition that no one would survive. But in reality, the draw of multiple options attracts more people to the space, and all the food vendors thrive better than they would on their own.
Symbiosis seems to be at the heart of the universe. And it’s equally powerful with people as it is in nature and marketing. Symbiosis takes place when people or groups engage in mutually beneficial relationships.
Cooperation is a key component of symbiosis. Whether its birds who benefit from aerodynamic flight formations or societies that are healthy, it is clear the world is based on cooperation AND competition. Perhaps we have put the em-PHA-sis on the wrong SYL-la-ble.
As Tom Shadyac pointed out in his documentary, I AM, Charles Darwin observed one far more than the other. In The Descent of Man, he mentioned, “the survival of the fittest” twice, and the word, “love,” 95 times! Though survival (competition) is most referenced from his nature studies, he actually wrote more about the principles of cooperation, conciliation and in essence, “the golden rule.”
Most of us have been schooled that competition is natural, so we are threatened when we think our ability to win is in jeopardy.
Perhaps we need to rewire our orientation so we look for new ways to collaborate.
Consider these symbiotic questions:
- How might I bring a win-win attitude into various situations?
- With which relationships could I/we collaborate together for mutual advantage?
- How can I be a bridge between people and groups?
- Where have I put up walls through competition that could be lowered through cooperation?
- In what situations do I personally need to shift to a win-win attitude?
- Who do I need to develop a cooperative relationship with in order to be more effective in my efforts?
The principle of symbiosis challenges us to move toward greater potential—for both ourselves AND others!