Shinrin Yuku: The Language of the Future.

Written by Performance Development Associates for COCOONERS N.10

April 26, 2024
3 min read
A man who in walking in a wild field.

This article was first published in COCOONERS N.10 by Performance Development Associates, one of the most valuable organizations one could walk with along the way to organizational change and evolution.

Cocoon becomes butterfly and spawn more Cocoons.

On the Cocoon Pro journey, Performance Development and I are new passengers. Our paths crossed in 2013 at a conference in Vienna. The theme of that conference was “Designing Thriving Organizations: Resilience, Partnerships and Enablement”. How amazing that this theme would still be relevant nearly 10 years later. Cocoon both thrived and enabled others to thrive. Since that moment, thriving, resilience and partnerships have become the watchwords for what was to come.

Resilience has been tested, and only those most adaptive have been able to surf the current pandemic and its ensuing chaos. I am always amazed how the Cocoon LiquidO framework has functioned and enabled Cocoon to thrive (the second element of the 2013 conference). These two concepts go hand in hand, you cannot have one without the other. Thriving means growing, and through our partnership we have introduced complex adaptive systems, socio-technical systems, whole-scale change and so much more.

Our partnership has been symbiotic. The definition of a great partnership, in life and in work, is that you (as one party to the relationship) always feel like you are getting more than you are giving. It is an eternal fountain of energy and inspiration. This describes Cocoon and PDA perfectly. Over the course of these past 7+ years we have discovered Adaptive Work Systems, Digitalization, Organization Design, and so much more. We have moved from understanding mechanical models of organizations to walking trees and embracing living systems models, from mechanics to biology. Organizing by nature, and using natural systems as a learning vehicle, has enabled us to bring so much more meaning to the conversation. Our projects have become living systems and experiments.

One of the most profound ideas that has been born out of this relationship is the concept of Forest Bathing. Forest bathing is the practice of immersing yourself in nature in a mindful way, using your senses to derive a whole range of benefits for your physical, mental, emotional, and social health. It is also known as Shinrin-yoku: ‘Shinrin’ means forest and ‘Yoku’ stands for bathing. Forest bathing allows you to become one with your ecosystem and heightens your awareness of things around you. The art of forest bathing allows you to uncover and see things that are not immediately visible (warm data, perhaps?).

When I look out over the horizon, I envision many things. Most are hopes, not truths. In the moment they are invisible or perhaps “hidden in plain sight.” First, I imagine a world that is collectively focused on making a difference, to the planet and to each other. Our collective energies are attuned to making everything better. We call that “repairing the world.” In the Jewish faith it is called Tikkun olam (Hebrew: תיקון עולם‎, lit. ‘repair of the world’), interpreted as an aspiration to behave and act constructively and beneficially. Tikkun olam has become synonymous with the notion of social action and the pursuit of social justice.

Secondarily, I see a flipping or tipping point, where the best of what we dream for is the rule, rather than the exception. Today the popular literature is full of books and articles espousing a better future, for organizations and the organization of work. Each of these quotes is an example, exemplar, of an organization or way of working we should all embrace. These examples are wonderful, if not limited. What if they were the norm? What if we were able to reach the tipping point where these idols were the norm? There is a growing movement. I have seen it before though, only for it to lose its way, lose its energy. So we have to reach “escape velocity” in the next ten years, or we will be stuck again, in the old….hindered by the gravitational pull of the old.

Finally, the world is a more transparent network of networks. We have mastered the ability to see networks, eco-systems and nodes. We are able to leverage what today we can only feel, in ways unimaginable today. Our human microscopes have become capable of discerning warm data, relational and inter-relational happenings. Our human sensing is now able to see what before was invisible to the naked eye. We can now act in concert with the universe, the forest, and the trees.


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