Process scientists study three stages of organic evolution. These are: natural evolution, human evolution, and business evolution. Evolutionary biology theories and the laws of physics serve as a starting point for the process science discipline. Process science helps us to see businesses as living organisms, just like those found in nature.
Many process improvement methodologies take a fairly mechanical view of organizational structure. Process science, however, has its roots in the natural sciences. Drawing on evolutionary biology theories, and the laws of physics related to energy and motion, process scientists see the world around them in three stages of evolution. These stages are:
- Natural evolution
- Human evolution
- Business evolution
Each of these stages leads into the next, resulting in a sort of “evolutionary hierarchy”.
Natural evolution and nature’s flow
Many of us learned in grade school science classes about the big bang theory (describing how our universe came into existence), and evolutionary theory (how early life forms developed into the variety of natural species we see today). What we didn’t learn was how these theories relate to process science.
Process science is the study of how energy flows through processes to create value. That is quite literally what is happening in the process of natural selection, which was famously written about by Charles Darwin in 1859. But Darwin didn’t connect the ever-increasing complexity of the evolution of plant and animal species to the universal patterns of energy flow which permeate everything around us.
Natural evolution differs from the other two stages of evolution in one key way. In natural evolution, a living organism type can only evolve from one generation to the next. That is because living organisms which evolved prior to humans primarily exist in a single state: that of being whatever it is that they are. In his book, Becoming a Conscious Business: Expand Your Life & Work Through the Science of Energy Flow, process scientist Samuel Chin terms this the doing flow.
Processes evolve because new information is added to the process, allowing it to improve its capacity for value creation. In the doing flow, there is no new process information being added. That is why in nature, new process information can only be added with the birth of a new plant or animal with slight variations in their genetic makeup. This changed with the evolution of humans and their ability to think in new ways.
Human evolution and human flow
When humans developed out of the natural evolution cycle, a new factor was added to the mix: cognition. This is what Chin calls the thinking flow. Unlike earlier developed species, humans are able to operate in both the doing flow (which in humans we call the knowing flow) and this new thinking flow. Through their ability to tap into the thinking flow, humans can access new process information and add that into their own internal processes. This allows individuals to evolve themselves over time in addition to participating in the generational evolution which occurs throughout all living species.
This is where we get the idea of personal development: improving and optimizing our human processes through adding knowledge and removing obstacles to our energy flow (such as past emotional wounds, mindset issues or trauma). This is also related to the concept of cognitive flow, or the flow state. Humans in a flow state are in their knowing flow. They have increased the flow of energy moving through their processes, giving them greater focus.
The drawback to the way humans evolve is that it is time-consuming. In order to optimize and evolve a human process, the individual must pause their doing flow, shift into the thinking flow, get new process information, add it to the existing process and then resume the doing flow again.
Because of this, humans began to come together in groups to accomplish tasks more effectively. These collective units can allow individual members to take turns pausing their processes to think, while the other members of the group sustain the doing and knowing flow of the unit as a whole. This is how business organisms came into existence.
Business evolution and business flow
Business organisms operate on a hive mind principle. A business is a collection of living processes, sustained by human energy. Businesses evolve because humans have bonded with each other to create a new type of process. In a business organism there are two modes, just like the thinking flow and knowing flow in humans. In businesses, we call these modes projects and operations.
Operations are the ongoing processes which keep the business alive. Projects are opportunities to shift into a thinking flow and collect new process information which can be added back into the business process and evolve the business’s capacity to create value.
Because a business is made up of multiple human organisms, it is not constrained in the same way as a human is when shifting between the project and operations flows. Rather, it can do both simultaneously (provided enough energy is flowing throughout the business as a whole). This is called dynamic evolution.