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5 ways to tap nature to build a better business

U.S. Forsest Service proposing  limits on filming and photography in federal wildernessU.S. Forsest Service proposing  limits on filming and photography in federal wilderness
Trees in the Roosvelt National Forest reflect off of the water in Red Rocks Lake in the Indian Peaks WildernessPhotograph by RJ Sangosti – Getty Images

Lower your health costs

After Summit Technical Solutions moved in January from a downtown office to new headquarters in Colorado Springs, the defense and space industry contractor organized a monthlong -fitness challenge. Participants who walk 1½ miles on a trail and do exercises alongside a scenic stream next door get to wear workout gear to the office on those days as an incentive. This challenge and others are having an impact. “Our prescription-drug costs have gone down, and wellness visits to the doctor have gone up,” says Kelly Terrien, Summit’s CEO.

Clear air, clear mind

When Anne-Marie Faiola needs to make tough decisions as CEO of soap-making supplier Bramble Berry, she takes long runs through the woods at Lake Padden Park, near her office in Bellingham, Wash., to reconnect with nature. That approach gave her clarity recently when she was trying to decide what to do with an ailing business unit at the firm, which has about $14 million in annual revenue. “I was able to come up with a concrete plan of action,” she says, “to sell the struggling unit off.”

Adapt to survive

Ask Rachel Ross, VP of Mandala Homes in British Columbia, about Charles Darwin’s axiom. After the recession struck, Mandala shifted emphasis from 3,000-square-foot circular, prefab houses and commercial buildings to models as small as 600 square feet, which more customers could afford. “We were able to survive where a lot of other homebuilders didn’t,” says Ross. And by 2013 the 14-employee firm was able to pivot back to selling larger homes.

Try new organizational structures

Steven Johnson was ahead of his time when he wrote Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software. As he pointed out, ant colonies and beehives don’t have a lot of organizational structure. Neither should your company. If you let your teams self-organize without heavy layers of management, they’ll innovate more—which will make your company grow faster. This is precisely what the award-winning gaming-software company Valve is doing and what W.L. Gore, maker of Gore-Tex fabrics, has practiced for decades.

Use biomimicry in office design

It’s no surprise that Frank Gehry incorporated the outdoors throughout Facebook’s (FB) headquarters, from skylights to a rooftop garden. Research shows that bringing the outdoor environment into the workplace lowers employees’ stress, while sunlight improves creativity. Smaller firms can do the same thing. At Summit, which has some 420 employees and $27 million in annual revenue, glass walls offer a view of Pikes Peak for every employee to enjoy. “People seem a lot more ­motivated,” says Terrien.

Verne Harnish is the author of “Scaling Up.”

A version of this article appears in the August 1, 2015 issue of Fortune magazine.