Creative Strategies for Survival

I don't need to say why this is important right now. We all get it and experience it every day. Survival is getting tricky for all of us but especially for organizations who rely on grant and foundation money for their bread and butter.

Survival of the Creative

We attribute 'survival of the fittest' to Darwin. And regardless of whether it really was Darwin or not, I would argue that to be creative is what was meant.
The word 'fit' conjures images of cave folk running away from woolly mammoths: the fast ones made it, the slower ones got squished. Or we might think about 'fit' in the sense of having an attractive appearance, and increasing your chances to procreate (there's that creative word again).
But if you look at the fossil record and the history of species on this planet, when the climate changed, or the food supply crawls away or dies off, the species who get creative are the ones who stick around.

What does it Mean?

If you look at the particular methods that have worked for our ancestors, there is an essence to the strategies that they have all used that can be boiled down into one phrase: I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine.
Simplistic? Maybe. Lets look beyond the cliche for the gold.
In his book 'NONZERO', Robert Wright talks about what happens when interactions between two entities (be they corporations, countries, people or platypuses) are handled as win/win (+1:
+1) as opposed to win/loose (+1:-1). What is surprising is the extent to which self interest and survival require that we frame as many relationships as possible in terms that necessitate the survival and thriving of the people and entities that we are in relationship with.
There are two questions that become important:

  1. Who are you in relationship with?
  2. And how can you help set them up to win?

Who are you in a relationship with?

This is not a come on (unless you want it to be - wink wink).
It's a tricky question. We only see ourselves (and maybe want to see ourselves) as being in community with (or being in relationship with) a small percentage of the people, organizations, and entities that we actually share interests with.
Why is this? Because ZeroSum games (win/loose) are what we have been indoctrinated by. So we might see that there are people that we want to establish better connections with (namely organizations who are swimming in cash), but the rest of the folks we either ignore or see ourselves in competition with. Unfortunately, because it's a no-brainer to hit people up who have cash, and there are a vast majority of people who don't like to use more of their brains than that, right now everyone is hitting up the big money.
You and your organization have WAY more to win by looking at the people who actually benefit from and engage with your work for a way to creatively exchange resources and energy.

Case Study: You got your peanut butter on my chocolate!

Once in our earths history, there were two types of organisms that led relatively happy lives in their environments. One was a type of fungus, and the other was a type of algae, and they really did not have anything to do with one another at all. The algae was bathed in water which they relied on to bring them nutrients and keep them wet, and the fungus lived in soil, and broke down nutrients in the soil for plants who would trade the nutrients for plant carbohydrates.
Until the temperature changed.
All of a sudden the plants died off, and although the fungus was still able to perform an important function (breaking down rock into a form that is digestible for carbohydrate producing organisms) there were all of the sudden no plants around who required it's services...
And in the same vein, the algae was dying up, and there was no longer plentiful water around to bring (and digest) food for the algae.


Over time, and with the right introductions, the algae and the fungus whom here-to-for had nothing to do with one another decided not only to collaborate, but to do it on a grand scale.
Cha Ching. Lichen. Everywhere: rocks in the desert, trees in the forest. Lichen is virtually indestructible (and edible, by the way).
The bottom line is that there are loads of organizations and people around who you do not see as relevant or important to the work you are doing and the survival of that work.
The lesson is that they are around, and they do matter. It's up to all of us to find creative ways to make those connections...

And then...?

So you've found them, now what do you do? Well, start by figuring out where their backs are and how they like to be scratched...
In other words, the more people who come to realize what an asset you are to their own survival, the more they're going to want to make sure you stick around. This can take the form of connections within their networks, financial support, energy/time, services, and sex.
Yup, I said sex, and actually meant what I said: in two respects: a) the things that you are best in the position to offer people (and that they need) will not always be obvious, and b) once you find it, you'll realize that it's actually a lot of fun...

Procreation = Pro + Creation.

Sparrow for president!