[This is the third installment in a 12-week series exploring Business Through the Lens of Permaculture. Using the principles of permaculture, a design framework that brings greater connection and understanding of the way elements within a system work together, we will undergo a study about how each of these principles can be applied to the systems of business. This series will focus specifically on small business, where an owner’s way of working impacts every facet of the business.]

Last week, we explored the second principle, Catch and Store Energy. This principle is about utilizing the energy that is available in smart ways and storing it away for future use when needed. In the context of business, energy includes things like human energy, human capital, money and financial flows, information, value that is created in multiple ways, and building capacity and resiliency into communities.

This week we’re exploring the principle Obtain a Yield.

The ways that we Catch and Store Energy in business help to Obtain a Yield. When we do anything, take an action, start a business or a project, there is something we plan to receive from the work. The energy and attention we invest go to produce a yield, or output, that is useful.

The thinking behind this principle is that “you can’t work on an empty stomach.” Therefore, it’s crucial to ensure there are clear outcomes and results as part of your work.

Often from the business perspective, obtaining a yield means making money or turning a profit. Yet, for there to be healthy and resilient systems, yields mean much more than money. There is a purpose served by what we create through our work. Beyond profit, what is it that our work contributes to the greater systems? It could be fostering goodwill within your spheres of living, community building, reaching out of your comfort zone to serve those in need, extending your reach and your arms out to those you don’t know to understand their needs and support their wellbeing. What are we creating that contributes to a better world for all beings who live here?

What do we want to produce? How do we feel about what we produce and the process that happens to support this creation? How do we serve from a place of our strengths so we not only support ourselves, but we also give back to the larger flows around us?

When we obtain a yield, we’re thinking about creating something of useful value. Yield means many things. This doesn’t have to be something physical, or tangible, this can be energetic, too. What kind of energetic yield are you creating and tending? This might be growing ourselves as leaders and culture changers or growing our capacity to serve and leave a legacy.

Yields serve beyond self-interest.

The yield can be expanding our own capacity, the capacity of our team members and the larger communities to which we belong. Yield can be transformation and change – not only in our direct experience of the world but transforming the systems that we’re part of at a bigger scale – government, the culture of business, education, healthcare and the well-being of citizens across the globe.

Foundational ethics of permaculture are earth care, people care, and fair share. Earth care is about being responsible stewards of the planet we all live on – this includes the hundreds of thousands of species that are part of this incredible place we call home. These species all have a function they perform for the benefit of all. It’s our job to steward the planet to be a place that supports each and every species.

People care is about acknowledging and taking responsibility for our interdependence. It means taking care of all human beings with loving support and creating systems that allow us to thrive and live with dignity and mutual respect for our common needs as well as honor what makes us different.

Fair share is about knowing where surplus exists and distributing it. Say we have too many customers to serve – do we expand our business to serve more customers? Do we need more customers? Do we pass those customers along to service providers who have the talents and capacity to serve them? What is balance? What is enough?

Yield can mean better information flows across systems – getting the right information to the right people at the right time so they can make better decisions and create better structures to serve all beings who are on the planet. We all serve a niche and give back to the ecosystem and our living systems. What is your role in this? How about the role of your business?

A theme running through all of this is the HOW of the yield. HOW is the yield created? Is it in integrity with your own ethics, values, and the way that you want to contribute? Or do you do whatever is needed to reach the outcome you want? So often the how is ignored with the philosophy “the ends justify the means.” I’m more of the mind that “how we do anything is how we do everything” and the energy of how we do things is infused in the process and the outcome, therefore the how of the creation process matters immensely. Obtaining a yield mean much more than the yield or outcome alone.

Obtaining yields enables generosity.

Through the process of obtaining yields, we make mistakes, learn, accrue tools and experiences that we can then share with others to support them on their journey. This collective wisdom can serve many more who are on various stages of their path. There are always those who can benefit from what we’ve learned and we benefit from what others have learned. We’re all in a supportive net of energy and wisdom from which we feed each other and grow, but only when we are generous with our mistakes and wisdom.

What are other ways you think about obtaining a yield? What else is important to keep in mind as we design our business to produce important outcomes? What new parallels are you drawing between your experience and this framework? Share your insights in the comments. This will be the yield from this work – many people from different backgrounds coming together and sharing the kinds of yields that sustain ourselves and our communities.

It is my intention that understanding the application of permaculture principles to business will create better-designed businesses that work harmoniously within the business itself, but also in how the business engages with the world at large.

Thanks for being along on the journey and for your contributions to breathe more life into it. Have any feedback to share? What are you learning? Has it sparked any insight for you? Share in the comments.

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