Underground Network

Unseen networks sustain visible action similar to the life underground supports the visible plant
Are your unseen networks supporting your visible action?

The title, Underground Network, might sound a clandestine or malicious; but it isn’t. It is a term borrowed from the plant world. Grounded Change reflects upon a wide breadth of knowledge including the wisdom in nature. Lessons learned and borrowed from nature sustain the practices employed for change efforts. In this post we see how life in a forest symbolically lends greater understanding of human networks.

How often do you think about the soil of the earth? Consider that this earth we travel upon is truly living. Recent research of forests illuminates the activity within the soil base. Not surprisingly, botanical life beneath the soil share mutually to ensure optimal health of all species. Professional networks ideally foster mutual interests. Life underground informs our informal professional networks.



Mycorrhiza is the name for a symbiotic relationship between botanical roots and fungus. These active partners create mutualistic dynamics among the abundant life underground. Chemical communication between a host plant’s root and the fungus advances the health of the soil. This subterranean activity sustains life above the ground. This is achieved through a number of its functions.

Botanically speaking, mycorrhiza builds immunity and improves health of botanicals underground. This allows other plants to to absorb more water and flourish above ground. Mycorrhiza also minimizes the stress of plants and improves its fertility. Essentially this unseen microscopic life shares information quietly to share its cellular strengths to both improve another life-form’s well-being while also performing its own mission of biological colonialization. How do you nurture relationships within your larger sphere of influence?



Mycorrhiza’s symbolic lesson for our networks is that we two-leggeds can establish invisible dynamic relationships to mutually meet respective goals. These relationships are hidden because persons are outside of their usual social network that others associate them with. Invisible networks can make a large difference, even if they don’t have the usual earmarks attributed to success. Everyone associates with people regularly who are outside of their domain. These people know many people of many talents and expertise whom we can establish mutually beneficial relationships with. The key is in recognizing this and building the relationships. This comes naturally if you are open and gregarious. However it might require intention followed up by actions for others more reserved.

A corporate example of recognizing and using a hidden relationship is Disney World. They wanted to provide more services to guests at the time and place that they needed it. The eureka moment was when they realized that they had a fantastic asset in their sweepers. These service providers had a largely unseen role. However, trained to keep their ear out for guests who needed to directions, food, or other needs sweepers were positioned to respond immediately to provide a large role for the customer. Innumerable examples exist in marketing. Linking your needs with another’s expertise, talent or potential skill are the keys.

For me, this is technique that needs an ethical caveat. My personal ideal is the invest in developing relationships from the heart. Building a relationship solely with the intention for gain is a flat and opportunistic. Bringing a smile and understanding to another is a joy.

How do you describe the quality of the network/s you are member of? Who are the most influential yet unseen members who might be able to assist you with your mission? How active are you at expanding or nurturing your network?

You can find your Underground Networks where you might least expect it. There are few simple steps to utilize your underground networks effectively.

  1. MINERALS. Plants optimize together to provide nutrients. * Identify what you need to sustain your well-being and growth.
  2. LIFE FORMS. Synergy between many lifeforms form the plant’s underground network. * Identify the many services you employ to function fully in your life.
  3. SUPPORT. Underground life builds networks to support mutual goals. * How can you help another of your network? Can you motivate another to help you?
  4. RELATIONSHIP. Sustain the relationship based on mutual interests. * How do you sustain your network/s?
  5. COMMUNICATE. Maintain the relationship; the botanical underground network thrives on continuous connections. * Are you willing to stay in touch with your network to both give and receive?

No matter how humbling it might be to examine our life direction from the perspective of a bacteria or fungus, it relates to goal setting. Through this lens of mycorrhiza, our potential patterns are magnified to influence and mature the well-being of the entire system. These underground networks demonstrate that giving [within the boundaries of one’s capability] without concern of reciprocation can be mutually healthy; that other forms of life reciprocate and all thrive. Author Dacher Keltner reminds us that we gain power by sharing it.

What’s growing under you?



D. Keltner, The power paradox: How we gain and lose influence. Penguin Press; 2016.

K. McCaskey, Permaculture thinking for indie biz growth, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015

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