A system can grow until it reaches a limit of resources (mei). If the system wants to grow beyond the limit, it has to develop in different ways.
Because every system is part of other systems and also contains other systems, it is limited by the possibilities inherent in those other systems. For example, the amount and quality of grazing land limits the number of animals that can be sustained by that land. The physiology of a person imposes limits on how much he or she can work before falling asleep. Climate change is the result of exceeding the level of greenhouse gases that sustain the evolved ecological balance.
A limit to growth is also referred to as carrying capacity. It is a measure for the amount of growth that a system can sustain at a specific level of development.
Sustainable development implies staying within carrying capacity.
If a system wants to grow beyond its limits, it needs to develop – i.e. use the available resources differently or harness new ones. For example, an area of land can sustain a certain number of persons as hunter and gatherers. If the same land is used for subsistence farming, it can sustain more people. Industrial agriculture can feed an even larger population and information based agriculture (e.g. computer controlled, genetically engineered) a still larger one. Each stage of development requires technological development as well as different capabilities and ways of organising.
The survival of humanity depends on understanding the limits to growth inherent in nature and on developing sustainably (i.e. within those limits).
relevance for the change manager
The existing human and technological resources of an organisation pose a limit to the continued business growth. If an organisation wants to continue to grow and develop, it needs to expand its internal capacity accordingly. Thus business and organisation development go hand in hand.