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Meditations on respectful relationships

August 26, 2016

 ‘Continuing to do what we are currently doing but doing it harder or smarter is not likely to produce very different outcomes. Real change starts with recognising that we are part of the systems we seek to change. The fear and distrust we seek to remedy also exists within us – as do the anger, sorrow, doubt and frustration. Our actions will not become more effective until we shift the nature of the awareness and thinking behind the actions…Our willingness and openness to sense our own biases and shortcomings sets a tone for the whole organisation.’ Peter Senge et al, organisation specialist

‘When we are within the presence of living Silence, which is being created every moment by the way we speak with someone, we feel an extraordinary fullness that makes it possible to be within the soul of another without harming the other person with our needs, desires, wants, and fantasies. It is a key to a holy relationship…we experience a presence, a flow of subtle currents between our self and the other person…we begin to anticipate Silence as the most important aspect of our conversation with others.’ Robert Sardello, spiritual psychologist

Amid these fast-moving times, the quality of our communications and inter-relations is often undermined due to our busyness and stress.

Recently, there have been a number of leadership studies pointing to fragmented relations and lack of quality communication between stakeholders as a root cause of the siloed mentality, lack of personal responsibility and blame culture that undermines the resilience and vitality of many of our organisations today.

Nurturing the conditions for authentic and synergistic relations to form through open, expansive and heartfelt communications is not a ‘nice-to-have’, it is core to what enables our organisations to thrive in these fast-moving climes.

future

Leadership specialist Otto Scharmer speaks of a need to shift the social field from ‘absencing’ to ‘presencing’. Absencing is where our social field is largely disconnected and desensitised at personal and organisational levels, due to fragmentation, confusion, anxiety and blame within stressful working environments. Presencing is where we transform the social field and our sense of self within the field away from a heightened ‘ego-self’ of reactivity, judgement and defensiveness towards a more engaged, open, connected receptivity and responsiveness to what is emerging in our midst.

Deep listening and generative dialogue are two simple yet powerful tools that aid this shift from ‘absencing’ to ‘presencing’, and go hand in hand with personal practices that cultivate self-awareness, receptivity, connection and coherence.

These times of local and global breakdown and breakthrough can quite naturally invoke stress, unease, blame, disconnection, desensitisation and the urge to defend, dominate or control. Yet these alchemic times demand that as leaders and change agents we activate a more productive social field through the quality of our communications and inter-relations so that our teams and organisations can let go of old habituated ways while opening up to the fast emergent future.

Hands Holding a Seedling and Soil

This is the humbling importance of leadership in these transformative times – helping metamorph the social field of our organisations so that the deeper nature of our humanity and the deeper wisdom of life can flow more readily through our relationships, meetings and decisions.

The ability to deeply listen and speak from the heart while creating a space for generative courageous conversations is, therefore, a primary aspect of the leadership we need in these times.

At its heart, generative dialogue is nothing more nor nothing less than speaking and listening with our whole-selves while being receptive and responsive to our social field. This is what allows ourselves and others to open up more soulfully for an altogether more human sharing.

‘Dialogue is a conversation…taking the energy of our differences and channelling it towards something that has never been created before [an emerging co-creation] thereby a means for accessing the intelligence and correlated power of groups of people…You relax your grip on certainty and listen to the possibilities that result from simply being in a relationship with others.’  Bill Isaacs, dialogue specialist

Dialogue is like a dance, where the emergent space between the people and between the words shared is all important. The flow of the dance and the depth of openness between the dancing partners is what allows the dance to come alive and for deeper co-creativity to emerge.

Reacting > Co-creating

Our authentic voice is combined with our deep listening to create an expansive emotional (and quantum) space where truth can be co-created.

Difficulties, tensions and disagreements are held in a generative non-judgemental way that provides a deepening of sharing rather than a rupturing of relationships.

As we deepen the receptivity and responsiveness of ourselves, the generative field widens; energy and creative potential is unlocked and the life force of our people and the collective organisation as a living-system flows.

‘In dialogue, everybody wins.’ David Bohm, quantum physicist

It is up to each of us as leaders to seed a culture of dialogue through the quality of conversational inter-relating performed by us in the day-to-day thick-of-it-all.

The more we practice (often stumbling and failing, but learning as we go) the more we become more aware of how we are influencing the generative field of our conversations and also the wider generative field of our stakeholder ecosystem beyond our organisation. In-so-doing, we consciously cultivate the conditions conducive for life to flourish.

In this way, our work-life can be perceived as a powerful learning playground for ourselves to deepen our humanity, dynamic truth and living-purpose while helping others open up and deepen theirs.

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(I would like to acknowledge the work of The Whole Partnership, in particular the e-book Leading Systemic Dialogue by Sarah Rozenthuler and Edward L. Rowland of The Whole Partnership, which contributed significantly to this article.)

Meditations on Truth

August 15, 2016

‘Be a lamp to yourself. Be your own confidence. Hold on to the truth within yourself’- Buddha

‘The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.’ – Jim Morrison, singer

Truth is a difficult thing to convey through words alone. As Ralph Waldo Emerson explains ‘words cannot cover the dimensions of what is truth. They break, chop, and impoverish it.’

Definable static truth can be satisfactorily grasped through our left-brained analytical thinking as neat ‘facts’: either the ‘thing’ is true or false. Yet, if we over-exert our analytical perception of truth without adequately enriching it with a more experiential, intuited, relational and embodied perception of reality, we run the risk of abstracting truth from its lived-in environment, in-so-doing we filter out the subjective relationality of reality, and life becomes drained of its meaning, vitality, flow and purpose: enter the contagion of consumerism in our midst.

beauty

The ancient Greeks (as with all the ancient wisdom traditions the world over) perceived Truth as a transcendent yet immanent quality. An archetypal presence that is eternal yet manifests within our ephemeral experiences of life.

Plato understood that the great step we take towards wisdom is nothing more nor nothing less than a subtle shift in our attention; a shift away from being caught up in the superficiality of our ego whims and reactions – that so often obscure the Truth – towards a deeper knowing: a Gnosis, an embodied intuited kinaesthetic relational and rational experience that is felt as a deep knowing within the core of our being.

The more we allow ourselves to open up to our full selves, beyond our ego-masquerades, the more we allow ourselves to sense what is true for us and what isn’t.

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It is through the quality of our attention that we allow for Truth to shine through us – we participate in the transcendence of Truth, aiding its manifestation within this world through our presence, our relationality, our listening, our thinking, our emotions, our conversations and undertakings.

The psychologist and philosopher, William James asserts that we and reality jointly ‘make’ truth – it is a co-creative act, we participate it the unfolding nature of Truth through the quality/authenticity of our intention and attention.

As the process theologian, Catherine Keller asks: ‘What if truth itself is a way not an endpoint? What if the way and its truth deliver no totalizing absolute – nor deliver us to the indifferent dissolute? What if we have here to find a third way?’

The ‘third way’ Keller points to is of truth as an ungraspable co-creative relational unfolding process, a progressive living journey rather than a static thing.

The campaigner and writer Satish Kumar observes, ‘Truth is not a ‘correct’ belief system. It is not a point of arrival: it is a continuous process, a continuous search and a continuous way of being.’

Truth: not a noun nor a verb but a participle; a dynamic, ever-unfolding way of being, a lived ‘becoming’. Truth, in its splendid feral dynamism, is beyond the controlling, artificiality of our rationalistic left-brained desire to grasp, categorise, box-up and abstract. Truth is, to use Keller’s words, an unfolding of ‘open-ended interactivity’; it ‘isn’t a neon revelation but a revealing illumination’.

Our Truth is personal to us. It is a lived exploration of our revealing illumination as we learn to become ever more authentic, ever more attentive to our Soul’s whispering, ever more attuned to our real Purpose in service of what Life continuously calls us to be/do/become.

nature spiders web

We are living our life so as to reveal our Truth by becoming ever more transparent with the transcendence and ever more intimate with the immanence of this sacred and deeply wise world.

‘Truth is rarely writ in ink; it lives in Nature.’ – Martin H. Fischer

Truth illuminates our path as we learn to live more wisely, more in harmony with Life.

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Phoenix Rising…the time has come

August 11, 2016

Out of the current volatility and uncertainty emerges a new way of doing business

Today we find ourselves called to operate amid increasing complexity, volatility and system stresses. What lies ahead for our leaders, managers and entrepreneurs is an increasing proliferation of ‘non-normative’ ruptures across our interwoven socio-economic, corporate and political operating system: burgeoning debt crises, fragile world economies, volatile stock markets, vulnerable global supply chains, increasing stakeholder tensions, widening socio-economic disparity, climate change, refugee crises, disruptive technologies, increasing ecological challenges, are just some of the inter-related issues heralding a new way of doing business.

7s shift

As Director of the Institute of Statecraft, Chris Donnelly notes the rate of change we are now going through is comparable to what happens in war time; Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, echoes this by noting that we live in a time of great promise and peril, a time of simultaneous breakdown and breakthrough.

Put simply, business-as-usual is no longer an option.  And yet so many of our leaders and managers find themselves entangled in a business logic that keeps us inured in our business-as-usual mind-set, holding us back from placing the new steps of change so vitally needed for our organisations to become future-fit.

A recent report for 21st Century Statesmanship Global Leaders shows ‘executive myopia’ is endemic at senior management across business, government and the third sector: short-termism, reactive aversion and systemic fear, internalised focus on cost-cutting rather than out-of-the-box thinking, cognitive overload and dissonance, top-level reluctance blended with anxiety, frailties and fatigue. This report is by no means the exception, with its findings complimenting a range of research from across the globe, all contributing to a rich-picture of a widening and deepening ‘complexity gap’ as leaders hold on to an outdated logic while seas change.  At a time when we need to courageously transform our ways of operating and organising, we find ourselves entrapped by the very logic that created our problems in the first place.

This is not to undermine a number of positive developments taking place on complex global leadership issues such as the UN Global Goals campaign and the COP21 agreements in Paris a couple of months ago, where a variety of non-political stakeholders helped secure a constructive outcome. Yet, the cold reality is the majority of our leaders – across government, corporate and non-profit institutions – are struggling to cope with current conditions.  And things are only set to get yet more complex, uncertain and challenging.  As the management guru Peter Drucker once famously noted, ‘In times of turmoil, the danger lies not in the turmoil itself but in facing it with yesterday’s logic.’

Yesterday’s Logic                                                             Future-Fit Logic

Extractive                                                                            Regenerative

Mechanistic                                                                        Living systems

Shareholder focus                                                          Multi-stakeholder

Maximise financial returns                                       Maximise  mission

Follow the money                                                           Guided by soul

For-profit                                                                            For-purpose

Top-down control                                                            Emergent

Hierarchy & linearity                                              Panarchy &  networks

Exploitative relations                                                      Reciprocity

Contributes to systemic fragility                        Encourages resilience

Undermines the future for today                        Enhances wellbeing

Egoic operating system                                                 Soul-infused

Fear-based leading                                            Courage-based leading

This age of uncertainty demands new ways of operating and organizing: distributed, networked, anti-fragile, flourishing firms of the future.  This ‘new norm’ reaches well beyond orthodox organisational logic by seeding wholly new ways of doing and being. It is a liberating transformation which happens at all levels of our culture: from the everyday meeting protocols designed for control transforming into more collaborative methods such as hackathons, swarms and open space technology; to top-down control-based bureaucracy transforming into locally-attuned teams of people empowered to adapt to ever-changing conditions within their sphere of operation.

7s ways of doing business

Enter a myriad of organisations thriving amid uncertainty by applying living-systems logic:  the on-line retailer Zappos, the healthcare provider Buurtzorg, the bank Triodos, the employment agency Vaga, the chemicals manufacturer Scott Bader, the global network of social-enterprise community centres Impact Hub, the multimedia provider Sounds True, to name a few.

Running our organisations in more natural, more alive, more creative ways is not some futurist utopian vision, it’s happening now as you read this article. It’s gone mainstream, and we all ought begin to embrace it or we shall soon be yesterday’s news.

Gone with the winds of change is the artificial certainty and mechanistic linearity of command-and-control cultures and ‘human resource’ management, revealing a fresher, purposeful, altogether more human approach to our ways of working.

To aid this transformation, here are five important areas for leaders to focus on in these transformational times:

  • Communication: to commune with others, really listen and share with our peers and stakeholders within and beyond the organisation by creating collaborative networks that do more than just brainstorm by having the remit to prototype the future.
  • Innovation: within the organisation ‘accelerator skunkworks’, ‘incubators’ or ‘innovation hubs’ operate like cocoons in stealth mode (Google X, for instance) where bright out-of-the-box innovators across the organisation can engage in entrepreneurial explorations, with the support of the organisation to invest in these prototypes, testing them out before the activities are either spun off or integrated into the main business.
  • Diversity in the boardroom: yes we need more diversity and inclusiveness in terms of age, sex and race, yet also in our ways of thinking, by bringing in non-conformists that provoke and cajole with different perspectives and insights. This can be achieved through inviting a wider range of Non-executive Directors, having a greater variety of external advisers, and utilising innovative forward-thinking consultants and coaches beyond the traditional mainstream consultancies.
  • Sense of purpose: As Paul Polman notes, we need to cultivate our inner-compass, develop our own coherence within ourselves, taking time and energy to embark on a process of ‘knowing thy self’ so as to understand our deeper sense of purpose beyond our ego-personas and acculturated masks. When we align our outer actions with our inner sense of purpose we allow a deeper creative impulse and authenticity to flow through our work. Ditto for our teams and stakeholders.
  • Time and space: taking personal responsibility for our work schedules and recognising that the continual busyness and stress actually undermines our ability to think out-of-the-box and sense our inner compass. Each of us can be more effective at managing our diaries, creating blocks in our schedule for ‘systemic thinking’ where we can reflect, pause and learn to tune-in to our more intuitive awareness and authentic, soulful selves.

There is no sustainable transformation without leadership. It is leadership that enables us to traverse our own thresholds while helping others traverse theirs. The root of the word leadership is leith which means ‘to go forth and cross the threshold’, to let go of old ways while allowing new ways to take root.

After all, we humans are innately creative, passionate, convivial, collaborative, social, loving creatures. It’s about time we started to live up to our name of Homo Sapiens (wise beings) by metamorphosing our organisational logic towards the wisdom of Life.

Speaker, author, adviser Giles Hutchins’ latest book Future-Fit is now out on Amazon.

‘Essential and timely’ Dr. Scilla Elworthy, Author and Founder of the Oxford Research Group

‘A must-read’ Bob Willard, Author and Speaker, Sustainability Advantage

‘Brilliant’ Richard Barrett, Chairman and Founder of The Barrett Values Centre

‘A masterpiece’ Mark Drewell, Founder of The Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative

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Deep Listening – listening with our whole-selves while connecting to Source:

August 4, 2016

The ability to listen is an essential human quality; it catalyses our ability to be wise, is foundational to the quality of our relationships, and is core to how we manifest our Purpose in the world.

And yet listening is often overlooked in our rush to achieve more purposeful lives or more purposeful organisations.

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Let’s explore four levels of listening (encompassing aspects of Scharmer’s Theory U,  Deep Listening, Way of Council speaking and listening from the heart, non-violent communication, Bohm’s Dialogue, transformative listening, active & empathic listening, systemic and dialectic listening):

  • Downloading (we are listening to information largely to confirm what we already know and in a factual way that is largely devoid of contextual relations e.g. train announcement, or someone speaking to us about day-to-day humdrum while we are half doing something else)
  • Factual Listening (we are listening more attentively as there is specific information we sense as relevant to us e.g. train announcement specifically relating to a change to our schedule – our ears prick up and we listen more attentively, or a colleague is speaking to us about day-to-day stuff yet with new insights or updates that catch our attention.)
  • Empathic listening (we are sensing into what is being communicated, the person is not speaking ‘to’ us, but ‘with’, as we are sensing how it feels for them as they ‘share’. We shift our perspective – if only momentarily – beyond our own judgements, habituations and framing because of our sensing into how the other person feels. We have opened ourselves up to listening beyond our ‘small self’ and started to relationally connect beyond ourselves. The other person senses this either consciously or unconsciously and the quality of communication is enriched as a result. It may still be about the day-to-day stuff, but we have intentionally chosen to enhance the quality of our listening through the depth of attention we are offering the ‘other’.)
  • Generative Listening (we are conscious of our small ‘self’ judgements, personalities, habitual perspectives, emotional baggage, etc. and we allow ourselves to deepen our awareness, our presence, beyond this small ‘self’ as we open up to our deeper Self and the larger relational context or field we are in, by connecting with our hearts, guts, soma and intuition while opening up to the field/source/nature that our self-and-other relationship is immersed in. We sense the wider social, ecological and quantum field between us and beyond us. We give space and time for that which we sense is emerging within the generative field we are co-participating in. As we converse in this way, we open up more deeply to the wider relational context within and all around us – we presence life in an active and alive yet relaxed and patient way.)

‘When you operate from Listening 1 (downloading), the conversation reconfirms what you already knew. You reconfirm your habits of thought: “There he goes again!” When you operate from Listening 2 (factual listening), you disconfirm what you already know and notice what is new out there: “Boy, this looks so different today!” When you operate from Listening 3 (empathic listening), your perspective is redirected to seeing the situation through the eyes of another: “Boy, yes, now I really understand how you feel about it. I can sense it now too.” And finally, when you operate from Listening 4 (generative listening), you have gone through a subtle but profound change that has connected you to a deeper source of knowing, including the knowledge of your best future possibility and self.’  Otto Scharmer, leadership specialist

ways of knowing

In learning to become more authentic, purposeful and soulful leaders, we become more self-aware of the different levels of listening we are applying throughout our daily discourse.  It feels subtly different when we are engaged in generative listening; a ‘flow’ can be sensed in us and in the other people we relate with. We allow subtle synchronicities to come into our perceptual horizon, making wiser decisions as a result.

‘Attention is a moral act: it creates, brings aspects of things into being, in doing so makes others recede. What a thing is depends on who is attending to it and in what way.’ Iain McGilchrist, neuroscientist

Fundamentally it all boils down to our intention and the quality of our attention we are able to sustain during what can be stressful, fast-moving and distracting day-to-day environments.

Deep listening is a simple yet profound practice that helps us become more self-aware of the quality of our listening and speaking.

‘So when you are listening to somebody, completely, attentively, then you are listening not only to the words, but also to the feeling of what is being conveyed, to the whole of it, not part of it.’ Jiddu Krishnamurti, mystic

Deep Listening happens when we give our full attention to the moment, listening to what is being spoken without thinking what we are going to say in reply, giving our full attention uncluttered by judgement or opinions or distractions – presencing through listening – an attentive state of being that is open, alert, calm, and receptive.

alchemy23

We catch ourselves when we sense we are starting to get caught up in thoughts of past or future, or judgements about what the person is saying, or how it makes me feels. We move beyond empathic listening in that regard, as we go deeper than empathising with what the other is saying, into a deeper awareness of allowing ourselves to be clear, un-entangled by any feelings or thoughts that may spawn within us because of what is being said or the way it is being said, we notice how we feel and what is spawned in us, but then we bring ourselves back to the present moment, back to listening with our full attentiveness – undistracted and resonant within our hearts.

A simple practice of deep listening can be undertaken when one person speaks for 4 minutes and the other person listens generatively/deeply/fully, with no interruptions or verbal or bodily cues from the listener. The listener remains still yet attentive, maintaining warm gentle eye contact throughout. Then after four minutes, we swap and the other person speaks while the first person listens attentively.

indras2

Some general guidelines for undertaking this exercise of speaking and listening from the heart:

  • Try not to come too much from the head or over-analysing what you are saying, just speak openly and naturally. Let go of rehearsing what you will say. Trust that would arises from within us is what is meant to be said.
  • Speak in the first person – only ‘I’ – ‘my’ own experience, what ‘I’ and feeling. Avoid using ‘you’ or ‘they’ or projecting opinions/judgements on others.
  • Be self-aware, notice if you are rambling, and notice how coherent you are feeling while speaking and listening – be aware of the sense in your heart and gut.
  • Listen without judgement and opinions – be self-aware of when judging or forming opinions and learn to let go, so you can be fully present. If your attention wonders, gently bring it back to focusing on the person you are listening to, while maintaining warm eye contact, without any verbal or non-verbal cues or body gestures. Remain still, relaxed, present and fully attentive. Enjoy.

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To see more about Giles Hutchins’ latest book, Future Fit , see

About The Books

 

What is life?? Let’s take a closer look shall we…

August 3, 2016

Once upon a time, not too long ago, I had the great pleasure of spending time with Dr Alan Rayner, a first rate scientist and former President of the British Mycological Society.  Alan kindly contributed many insights to my book The Illusion of Separation, about how nature really works once we see beyond our acculturation.

This blog post is a guest post jointly written by Alan Rayner (author of NaturesScope) and Doug Marman (author of Lenses of Perception)

 

In March 2016, a group of biologists led by Craig Venter announced the creation of ‘independently’ living cells with the smallest genome. Their announcement was hailed as a milestone. The big lesson learned by the biologists is that no one can explain why almost one-third of the genes are needed for survival. However, hidden in the subtext of this study, we believe, is an even more important lesson: The most essential ingredient of life may not actually be genes or a substance of any kind, but rather a relationship.

 

In the experiment, the biologists started with bacteria that had the smallest genomes they could find. They then began deactivating genes one at a time, to see which ones were needed for survival. If the bacteria lived and kept reproducing, those genes weren’t necessary and were removed. After years of work, the genome was reduced to half its original size. Every remaining gene has been tested. None can be eliminated. Their goal is now to identify the role of the mystery genes. They hope this will give them a blueprint of what is needed for living cells to survive as independent entities.

 

But there’s more to the story. It turns out that many of the “unnecessary” genes could only be deleted after supplying the petri dish with key nutrients and eliminating potential dangers. As a result, the new cells can no longer survive in the wild because they’ve lost the ability to hunt for food and avoid threats.

 

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Image by: Tom Deerinck and Mark Ellisman of the National Center for Imaging and Microscopy Research at the University of California at San Diego.

 

 

Is it fair to say that these are independently living cells? Don’t they need the biologists to feed them and remove their wastes? This is where the story gets interesting.

 

You see, the genomes of these cells may be tiny compared to other single-celled organisms, but they are still 200 times larger than the genomes of simple viruses. So they aren’t even close to the littlest genomes.

 

Viruses, however, are not considered independent life forms because they can’t survive outside a host cell. They need a host in which to live, and they need the genome of the host to reproduce. That’s why the biologists wanted to study organisms that live on their own. But do they? Is true independent living even possible?

 

All organisms depend on their environment for energy, carbon, and mineral nutrients to grow and reproduce. No plant, animal, or microbe can survive without this supply. Cutting them off leaves them as inactive as a car without fuel. All biologists know this. But if we consider the implications of this deeply, it frames the question of life in a new way and it opens the door to a new explanation for how biological life may have emerged.

 

For example, it shows that treating organisms as if they are self-contained entities, isolated from their neighborhood, is a profound mistake because life doesn’t belong to individuals alone. Life is a relationship between creatures and their environment.

 

If this is right, then finding which genes are necessary for survival will not in itself explain how life works, because genes aren’t the cause.

alan rayner3

Trees create habitats that team with life.  Painting by Alan Rayner, from Mycological Research, 102, 1441-1449.

 

Read more…

Meditations on Purpose

August 1, 2016

‘One must be something, in order to do something.’ – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

‘Purpose is a function of character, and character is something we mostly notice by its absence. The news these days is filled with stories about the absence of character… the entrepreneur who cuts corners or who is aggressive due to his desire to get the job done…I believe that Purpose – not money, not status – is what people most want from work. Make no mistake. They want compensation; some want an ego-affirming title. Even more, though, they want their lives to mean something beyond the superficial…Not just accomplishing day-to-day results but actually making a better world, by making companies more effective and more fully realized in their Purpose…To make better companies, one must start with developing better leaders that stand for something.’ – Nikos Mourkogiannis, leadership specialist

A sense of Purpose is a deeply felt sense of awareness of our Self, our truest nature, our soul-calling – the Work that the world is calling us to do, that calls upon everything we are, everything we experience, everything we believe in.

ways of knowing

This requires us to learn how to listen to the sound of our Soul, which is in-tune with the World Soul (anima mundi) of Nature/Cosmos. It is this ability to truly listen, to tune-in to our Selves, which enables our deeper Purpose to come out of our depths and inform our daily conscious awareness.

This quality of listening into our Selves transforms our ability to listen to others. It enables us to listen with our full attention, while quietening our distractions. And when we listen to others with our full attention, the other person senses this quality of attentiveness and (consciously or unconsciously) begins to open up and share in a more authentic and responsive, less defensive and reactive, way. Our conversing and communing as human beings opens up to a richer ground. It is from this essential quality of listening to our Selves and to others that we fertilise a nutritious ground from which authentic purposeful communication and relationships spawn; this is the essential (yet often over-looked) foundation for purposeful business.

Real leadership galvanises diverse people through a deep sense of Purpose that speaks to their souls. This kind of leadership facilitates the forming of working environments that consciously develop the values that enable the authentic execution of that Purpose in the world.  The Purpose provides certainty, confidence, conscious intent and unity-within-diversity. It informs the work-space for adaptive, self-organising, empowered teams of people to bring more of themselves to work, in-so-doing enabling the teams, organisation and business ecosystem of relations to not just survive in volatile challenging times, but to thrive.

Natural leadership

Once the Purpose within our leaders is clear, and starting to be embodied by the organisational culture, it also needs to be conveyed authentically in the strategy of the organisation. In practice, this is an on-going process, not a static set of documents, but a continual listening to ourselves, to the field of the community, to the relational intention of others. It requires being sensitive to other’s moral imperative, and also understanding the commercial opportunities/dangers of pursuing certain approaches and relationships with other parties who may not resonate with the same Purpose or ethical intention.

The Purpose is lived day-to-day. It illuminates the ‘way’ we go about things, and acts as a powerful differentiator from our competitors, and can allow for superior profits enduring advantage by reducing risk aversion and fear, while improving creativity, innovation and the formation of synergistic relations.

This Purpose is a conscious intent we daily hold dear. It helps guide us in these volatile times, and helps reduce the temptations and distractions of our ego-machinations – fame, greed, jealousy, and material success for success’s sake. It prevents us from being diverted from our Truth by the allure of other people’s praise/criticism, judgements and differing political, commercial or ethical perspectives. Purpose roots us while allowing us to be open and flexible to the Dance of Life – it provides the convergence within the divergence of vibrant living systems.

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Recent findings in quantum physics, sociology, neurobiology and psychology point to our bodies being embedded and embodied in a rich milieu of relationships – physical, chemical, psychological, energetic and quantum relations, with our human and more-than-human world. We now know that our minds do not reside in our brains, but a complex inter-relational gestalt of brain, heart and gut neural networks, our hormonal and lymphatic systems, and our energetic and quantum relations within and beyond our bodies. Candice Pert refers to our mind as the ‘bodymind’, as it is our entire selves immersed within this rich milieu of relations that make up our mind.  And there is now scientific evidence that our conscious intention – and the quality of our attention – influences the coherence of our bodymind i.e. our ability to shift from a dis-eased incoherent state to one of purposeful authentic behaviour that improves our wellbeing and the synergy of our relationships.

It seems from scientific research that when we commit to life-affirming compassionate choices with clear purposeful conscious intention, there is a shift in the quality of our attention, notable beneficial changes in the protein behaviour within our cells, the neuroplasticity of our neural networks, and greater overall coherence of our bodymind (for instance, the attunement of our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, and also attunement of our left and right brain hemispheres, as well as entrainment of our brainwaves with the waves of our heart and gut regions). This coherence has a notable beneficial effects on others within our organizational community (both locally and non-locally within our emotional field).

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There is also scientific evidence emerging that once a threshold of more than 10% of the people within an organisation or community of people shift their conscious intent, the social field of the whole group shifts making transformation quicker, easier, and longer lasting. In other words, it is cheaper and more effective to transform our social systems through purposeful conscious intent than it is through the traditional carrot-and-stick extrinsic factors of conventional organisational development approaches.

This has profound implications for leaders seeking rapid and lasting transformation amid these fast-moving climes. The ability for our leaders to be coherent, clear and true in their sense of purpose, while framing their interventions with conscious authentic intention, greatly enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of organisational transformation.

‘There is a pressing need for leaders to participate consciously, intentionally, and in harmony with life’s processes, channelling our wilful collective action toward the conditions life needs to thrive… How can I serve this unfolding, either by intervening, by planting a seed, by cultivating a freshly sprouted initiative, or by compassionately hospicing something that needs to die?’ Michelle Holliday, organisational specialist

We are essentially flowing as a process of becoming through our ‘being-in-the-world’, as the philosopher Martin Heidegger would say. Perceiver and perceived are co-participating, with the quality of our intention and attention helping the pulsation of flow in our local (and non-local) neighbourhood within this sentient ocean of interconnected life.  How we attend to each moment, the quality of our attention and the purposefulness of our intent, is what governs the quality of our co-participatory relationship with the field within and all around us.

‘The success of the intervention depends upon the state of the intervener.’ Bill O’Brien, former CEO of Hanover Insurance

Bach wrote at the bottom of his compositions, SDG – Soli deo Gloria, ‘to God alone the glory.’ In the composer’s view he was simply being a conduit, a messenger, in service of something flowing through him into his Work.  This was his duty, his purpose, to be in service of this Great Work.  Yet we don’t have to be religious or believe in God to have this sense of deeper purpose, all we have to do is see beyond the meaninglessness of today’s mindless culture and begin to open ourselves up to a deeper way of being, a more mindful, more present, more authentic state of awareness that informs our being-in-the-world. In-so-doing our world conspires to help us, and we sense subtly lit streams of synchronicity; we flow with our receptivity and responsiveness, rather than fire-fighting with energy-draining reactiveness.  Instead of the daily challenges sapping our life-force, our day can nourish and enrich our learning of becoming more of who we were truly born to be. As we open up to our deeper Purpose, we become stewards of Life, in service of this awesome Dance of Life within and all around us.

‘The greatest voyage of our lifetimes, is not in the seeking of new landscapes but in the seeing with new eyes.’ Marcel Proust, philosopher

The medieval word artificer or ‘maker of art’ is where the concept of ‘artisan’ as a creative maker of art comes from. In this artful service of life, the artisan – or craftsman as referred to by social philosopher Richard Sennett, or tradesman as referred to by philosopher and mechanic Matthew Crawford – gains meaningful engagement through the act of creating and delivering something of quality and value to self and society. Sennett views the creative potential for craftsmanship as innate within all of us. The act of doing something well unleashes a deep motivation and sense of wellbeing within the artisan. Through the creative act, the artisan ensures work flows with creative energy and so is a conduit for realising creative potential. Charles Eisenstein in his Sacred Economics talks of ‘the one who bows into service’, recognising the sacred nature of work delivered with loving attention. The work of the artisan is authentic and beautiful, consisting of an intrinsic richness emanating from a co-creative unfolding process of worker and work which necessarily involves an active engagement of heart, mind, body and soul. It is this transforming nature of wholehearted work that brings coherence and fulfilment, birthing a sense of meaning from which happiness and a rightful sense of place and purpose in society derive.

‘The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve’ Albert Schweitzer, Nobel prize winner

The leader enables a diverse group of people to unlock their individual creativity in ways that inform the unifying Purpose of this diverse multiplicity of people.  The leader conveys this Purpose, and also embodies this Purpose through conscious intention and quality of attention, enabling a coherent field to evolve in a co-participatory way for individuality to thrive within community.

In this regard, it may be seen that to be a conscious Leader with authentic Purpose in today’s mindless culture cut adrift from soul and meaning, is THE vital Work of our lifetime.

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Natural Business for A World That’s Waking up

July 17, 2016

 

Albert Einstein threw down the gauntlet for our human evolution when he said,

“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us ‘universe’, a part limited in time and space.  He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

A task not for the faint-hearted, as it requires great courage to widen our circle of compassion amid increasing tension, fear and uncertainty. Not least it requires a fundamental shift in worldview, in how we perceive our sense of self, our relationship with others, and our sense of place and purpose within this world.

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Whether it’s the disciplines of quantum physics, psychology, ecology, organisational development or evolutionary theory, it is now dawning on our contemporary consciousness that life is not simply a mechanistic construct of push-pull factors and selfish genes, where separate organisms compete with each other in the struggle for survival.  Rather, we are now recognising that life is an inter-relational network of inter-being, where everything is in dynamic relation with its environment, continuously communicating and collaborating within an ocean of being. The ‘self’ is not the ‘separate self’ of individualism but the ‘differentiating self’ immersed within a rich milieu of relations.  It is the diversity and reciprocity of these relations which provides for the organism’s resilience and in-turn the resilience of the wider ecosystem.  As the world-renowned biologist Lynn Margulis succinctly puts it,

“Life did not take over the globe by combat but by networking.”

This living-systems view of life is beginning to permeate our corridors of power. There is an increasing recognition that business-as-usual thinking is not going to get us very far. To become future-fit we need to embrace a new way of operating and organising. That new way just so happens to be the way life really works – not the control-based dominate-or-be-dominated mechanistic logic of yesterday, but the real logic of life perceived beyond the illusion of separation: emergence, receptivity, reciprocity, local-attunement, power-with, eco-systemic thinking.

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In practice, this means emancipating ourselves from many of the structures inhibiting our natural aliveness today by embracing collaborative soulful practices, such as Way of Council, deep listening, mindfulness-in-motion, foresight planning, prototyping, multi-stakeholder dialogue sessions, scenario planning, white space technologies and the art of hosting tools, as well as direct inspiration from living systems such as eco-literacy, biomimicry, industrial ecology, circular economics, regenerative and adaptive cycle approaches.

There are a multitude of simple yet courageous undertakings each of us can take to help nurture a more soulful, living-systems approach to work. For instance, how about starting each and every meeting with a minute’s silence, to help centre ourselves and tune-in to more of our natural ways of knowing (intuitive, somatic, emotional and rational) allowing for more than a glimpse of what lies beyond the busyness of our masturbating monkey-minds. How about checking in with our teams at the end of the day to share in a heartfelt way, where we practice meditation-in-motion by listening and speaking from the heart.  How about having a quick round-robin at the beginning of each day for people to share what they feel grateful for at the present time, perhaps sharing who we might like to thank for helping us out in small yet loving ways, and so celebrating the good qualities of ourselves and our community.  How about creating a two hour space in our schedules every Friday morning for our team to sit together in a circle, having the permission to explore and envision new ways of operating that embrace and serve life. How about creating space for a half-day workshop every four weeks with other stakeholders – such as pressure groups, think tanks, customers, suppliers, investors – giving permission for us all to explore together and share perspectives of how to do things better. How about creating a ‘children’s fire’ in our boardroom, so that all key strategic and operational decisions consider the potential impact they have on the next generation, our children. All of these are very real business practices being applied by a range of organisations today.  This is not some futurist utopian vision, it’s becoming mainstream.

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The number one most important thing facing our leaders, managers and change agents today is this shift in logic from an essentially mechanistic, reductive, competitive, control-based, power-over logic rooted in the story-of-separation, towards the logic-of-life, and with it the realisation that our organisations are living systems immersed within the living systems of society which are immersed within the living systems of our more-than-human world.  This is why my latest book Future Fit explores – indeed activates – the qualities required for future-fit business by exploring the practical tools and techniques for this necessary shift in logic from machine to living.  In this way, we deal not just with downstream effects (climate change, biodiversity degradation, endemic social inequality, racism, and so forth) we also deal with the root cause – our very relationship with life, and our sense of place and purpose as human beings in our more-than-human world.

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