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Business Guilds [Growth
Posted on December 23, 2013 @ 08:15:00 PM by Paul Meagher

An icy rain continues to impede my xmas travel plans, so I'm thinking happy thoughts of the gardening techniques I will try out when spring arrives. One Permaculture gardening technique that I'm quite interested in is planting a guild. This is where you plant multiple species of plants together in such a way that they benefit each other in some way. Sort of like companion planting on steriods. Some plants will be nitrogen fixers, others will be nutrient cyclers, others will attract beneficial insects like bees, others will repel unwanted insects like aphids, others will supply food for us to eat, others will supply mulching material, and others might just be planted because they look good. Instead of just concerning yourself with one planting at a time without focusing on how it relates functionally to your other plantings, you think about the community of plants you will be establishing and how they might alll work together in a low maintenance and productive manner.

Permaculture PA is a good YouTube channel to learn about Permaculture-based growing techniques. Here Phil Williams, permaculture consultant and designer, illustrates how to install a guild based around his fruit trees. Often when we plant fruit trees we stop at putting some mulch around the base of the tree but there is much more that can be done if you view the fruit tree as one component in a guild planting. Note, I'm not advocating using Round Up to install a guild system like he does but I admire his honesty in coming clean and also appreciate his pragmatic approach. Also, Phil clarifies that permaculture is not affiliated with any specific approach to agriculture such as organic gardening.

Here is an update on how the guild turned out.

So why am I talking about Guilds in what is supposed to be a site about business investing? Like my last blog on Edge Effects, I think that nature potentially has lessons to teach us about how to grow a business. In business investing we use the metaphor of "growth" all the time but the phenomenon of growth is not as simple as putting a seed in the ground and watching it thrive and take off through its own individual initiative. The phenomenon of guild planting provides a different view on how business growth can be achieved - by seeking out good companion companies to grow with so that you all thrive together because one supplies what another company is missing. Microsoft has been good at planning growth strategies at an ecosystems level and chastised open-source as a weed that would destroy the whole guild they had put together. This was a bit self-serving but I give Microsoft credit for offering up a more metaphorically sophisticated view on how their growth was achieved.

The concept of a guild goes beyond companion planting because it looks at more than just the relationship between two plants. Often there can be 5 to 10 plants involved in a guild. Many companies exist within supply and retail chains that mean this number of companies may not be unrealistic for some business guilds. The concept of "supply chains" and "retail chains" seems a bit too linear to map onto the concept of a guild as it exists in nature where mutually reinforcing activities seems be going on simultaneously. Perhaps business is a bit more linear than nature and we have to accept that the reinforcing activities between companies are often more linearly organized? Or should we be attending more to nature's example?

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