Traditionally, we view businesses, teams, and organisations as separate, distinct and centralised. We build them and then determine how they will relate to their surroundings, how they will form relationships with customers, suppliers and investors, and how they will recruit new employees or members. Our model resembles our own sense of ourselves, with a leadership “brain” coordinating everything else: limbs to make, distribute and deliver, a mouth to communicate approved messages and senses to check that all is going to plan.
But other models are possible and may even be more useful.
In his excellent bestseller “Entangled Life; How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, And Shape Our Futures“, Merlin Sheldrake takes readers on a wild adventure exploring the profoundly different world of fungi.
Sheldrake illuminates the strange collective intelligence of mycelium, and the brainless coordination of the hyphal tips that advance and retreat as they explore their environment, merging with other fungi and plants to create underground exchanges for sugars, minerals, water and information.
As the author immerses himself in the fungal world, he paints a picture of fused identities, merging and separating, combining, collaborating and trading. “Integrating” information is a key theme, as researchers struggle to determine how fungi combine information from around their network to inform behaviour – does a fungi “decide” to modify its structure in response to external conditions? Researchers still do not really know the answer to this fundamental question.
What is clear though is that fungi are the masters of relationships, collaborating with each other, and with plants and even animals. They have thrived through each extinction event, adapted to the most toxic environments, and, Sheldrake argues, even domesticated early humans with their magical ability to create both beer and bread.
As you consider how to help your organisation grow, take a tip from fungi.