After the Storm: Regeneration in Nature and Brands

By Doug Studer, CEO and Biomimicry 3.8 Specialist, Deskey Branding

Welcome to our final deep dive into following nature’s lead not only to survive but also to thrive in a crisis using the three Rs: resilience, responsiveness and regeneration. 

In this post, we’re talking about regeneration, which, in the natural world, is the renewal or restoration of a biological system (such as a plant, an animal or an entire forest) after injury or as a normal process. In the business world, regeneration is about making organizations and communities whole again, taking the opportunity for evolution where it naturally occurs. 

We haven’t reached this phase of the pandemic yet, but let’s explore what could be. 

Take one last example from our good friend, the California redwood. We mentioned in the previous post that giant sequoias need fires to regenerate as seedlings. Coast redwoods, on the other hand, hardly ever grow from seedlings given the thick understory they thrive in. These redwoods regenerate by cloning themselves, sprouting new trees from their trunk base and also from their roots, creating families of trees that further stabilize the grove. Even in death, coast redwoods are nurse logs that sprout new trees and host some 9,000 other organisms.

In the corporate world, grocery store chains like Kroger and Whole Foods have changed entire retail locations into fulfillment centers. This new form of distribution to consumers could create new habits and have lasting impacts on the role of online grocery shopping in daily life. 

Moreover, after watching grocery stores enter the restaurant game, some restaurants turned the tables and got into the grocery game to fill a hole in the damaged ecosystem. When Panera realized that people were struggling to get groceries, they expanded their offerings to include dairy, fruits and vegetables. It remains to be seen whether this response makes sense as an enduring offering operationally. But from a branding point of view, providing fresh, pure ingredients automatically provides Panera the halo of being more “like homemade.”

A whole new whole
Some species we would consider primitive have the wondrous ability to regenerate, repair or even regrow themselves when wounded or injured. You may have heard about the ability of starfish to regrow arms lost to trauma. A bit closer to home are vertebrates, including many salamanders and lizards, that can lose and regenerate tails and limbs over and over after giving them up to escape from predators. Some salamanders, such as the Mexican axolotl, can even regenerate parts of their brain and heart. That’s some superpower! 

Many corporations such as Nike have sought to make themselves whole by filling in retail sales with online sales and digital engagement. The company expanded its reach to new and loyal consumers by making its online subscription service Nike Training Club free for everyone and by promoting digital, safe-distance workouts. Challenges like the Living Room Cup let everyday athletes test their skills against professionals to encourage continued healthy activity and connection. This level of digital engagement, coupled with new online shopping habits, is likely to continue even as retail reopens. 

No one can know for sure what is going to happen next. Anyone who claims they do is speaking with the hubris of a human being and would perhaps do well to take a pause, listen to the natural world and learn a little something. 

What we do know is that there is no one answer. Stay open to opportunities. Don’t get bogged down in one solution or how others are doing it. And don’t strive to return to the status quo—look for ways to build an even better world. 

We know that you can’t control the future, but you can do what it takes to prepare for the best possible outcome. Nature teaches us to take the long view, to try lots of things and to always take care of ourselves, our families and our communities.

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