Use the scientific keys to success to unlock life’s mysteries


Released 7 hours ago

Submitted by CSR International

How does the world really work? How does nature work? How are societies changing? How do economies rise and fall? These are questions that have led me to a lifelong research and career in sustainability. After more than 30 years of wrestling and wrestling with theory and practice, I still don’t have all the answers, but I do have a map with clues to where the treasure is buried. The Treasure Thrives – the way nature can regenerate, societies thrive and economies thrive. The clues are six scientific keys to unlocking the mystery of how life not only survives, but thrives.

The Six Keys to Success are based on the modern science of living systems, which in turn grew out of centuries of intellectual research, including the science of Leonardo da Vinci, organismic biology, the theory of holism, cybernetics, tectology, and general systems theory, synergetics , complexity theory, chaos theory, fractal geometry, autopoiesis and social systems theory. As a result, we now understand much better how nature and society function as dynamic, living systems. Now it is time to put this knowledge into practice.

The first key to success is complexity. This means the networks and relationship patterns in living systems. It’s all about interconnectivity. The more connections there are between parts in a system, the more complex it is. In complex systems, be it in nature, society or the economy, small causes can have large effects. Think of Greta Thunberg and the climate strike movement. In addition, local causes often have non-local effects. A plastic-eating bacterium discovered at a recycling plant in Japan could help tackle the global problem of plastic pollution.

The second key to success is circularity. In nature we see that everything runs in cycles. We have big cycles like the water cycle or the carbon cycle, and we have small cycles like the life cycle of plants or animals. In circulatory systems, there is essentially no waste. The residues from one process become nutrients for another process. Waste becomes food. To align with this principle, we need to move from our current linear economy (take, make, use, waste) to a circular economy (borrow, make, use, give back). With less than 10% of global production and consumption today being circular, we still have a long way to go.

The third key to success is creativity. Unexpected behaviors occur in complex living systems. This creativity drives adaptation and evolution. It’s what species do to survive and thrive. The most important enabler of creativity is diversity. Novel combinations of different elements of a system, accidental or intentional, produce cross-pollination and hybrids. In society and organizations, diversity of all kinds (gender, ethnicity, knowledge, skills, etc.) reduces the chances of “groupthink” and increases the likelihood of finding creative solutions to problems.

The fourth key to success is coherence. Every system has a central function or organizational purpose. In nature this is often encoded by DNA or guided by the tendency towards dynamic equilibrium, but in society and organizations we can be more conscious. Our cultural values, societal goals, and purpose in organizations provide the glue necessary for a system to function. Research suggests that if there is between 5% and 25% common goal in a group where others are acting incoherently, it is enough to move the rest of the group in the same direction.

The fifth key to success is convergence. This is one of the least understood and most underestimated principles of complex systems. Simply put, it’s what happens when certain trends or actions reinforce each other, resulting in accelerated change in the system. Scientists call these positive feedback loops, and they often lead to tipping points where sweeping changes happen very quickly. Today we have a convergence between global risks, political reforms, technological innovations, financial investments, market opportunities and social movements.

The sixth and final key to success is continuity. All life is designed to perpetuate itself, either through individual survival strategies or through the survival of the collective, such as a species, organization, city, or country. Here it is important to focus on strategies for resilience (how to survive shocks and disasters) and long-term thinking (having goals that span decades or even generations). McKinsey & Co research shows that long-term companies outperform others in terms of earnings, sales, market capitalization and job creation.

These six scientific keys can serve as a successful test for any proposed decision or action. Does it increase connectivity, networks and relationships? Does it create circular flows of material, energy and knowledge? Does it increase diversity and encourage innovation? Does it align with a compelling and inspiring purpose? Does it reinforce and accelerate positive trends? Does it increase resilience and a long-term perspective? Together these keys will unlock the regeneration of nature, society and economy that is the true treasure of life.

dr Wayne Visser is a world-renowned Cambridge Pracademic, Poet, Possibilitist and author of 41 books including Thrive: The breakthrough movement to regenerate nature, society, and the economy (Fast Company Press, 2022). To learn more about his work and writing, visit

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CSR International was founded in 2009 with the mission to be an incubator for CSR 2.0, which means Transformative Corporate Sustainability & Responsibility (CSR). Since then, we’ve conducted CSR training courses around the world, welcomed many people to our internship program, shared hundreds of CSR research digests, and licensed CSR 2.0 assessors and consultants.

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