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Meditations on Metamorphosis, Soul & Spirit – Finding our True Nature & Letting it Flow

June 19, 2017

‘There is a soul force in the Universe, which if we permit it, will flow through us and produce miraculous results.’   Mahatma Ghandi, activist

The seat of the soul is there where the inner and the outer worlds meet’ Novalis, poet

‘The true ground of all being is the infinite, intangible, spirit that infuses all living beings’  David Bohm, physicist

‘This divine ground is within and all around us. We need to create a sanctuary within ourselves to listen to its guidance’  Anne Baring, psychologist

Beyond our day-to-day world, beyond our usual human experience, lies a vast and fathomless world. Sometimes we call this the Tao, sometimes Source, sometimes Consciousness. But, whatever we call it, we find it wise, powerful, deeply intelligent, compassionate, and loving. The spiritual journey is about gaining access to this vast world, harking to it and finding it, and about what it entails in our everyday life.’                Professor Brian Arthur, Stanford scientist and Santa Fe Institute Founder

The Great Spirit, Tao, or That Which Cannot Be Named, flows within and all about us. We each have souls, intelligent apertures that open up our psyche to this Spirit pervading reality.

Within our psyche lies the ego, which orientates and polarises much of our daily awareness.

Sigmund Freud defined the ego as a ‘reality function’ in that it brings our awareness into the sharper space-time dimension from the more intangible, fluid depths of the largely unconscious imaginal realms, where our soul, as the source of our essence, resides.

Carl Jung refers to this soul as the Self, the unconscious depths that the ego brings to light in our everyday consciousness as it seeks to comprehend our deeper perturbations,  intuitions, imaginal dream states, reveries, mythopoetic images, emotional sensations, heart and gut knowing’s and other somatic and soulful sensations. And yet the ego often seeks to grasp, control, manipulate, repress or split-off from these unconscious depths within us due to a combination of fearing historic wounds and insecurities, desiring certainty and security, planning for what hasn’t happened yet, and seeking conformity to cultural norms and daily routines.  We may notice how much of our daily interactions are pervaded by projections, judgements and perspectives that filter what is deemed useful or what ought to be resisted. This filtering is an important part of what makes us human, and a well-developed ego is a useful part of good leadership, and yet we need to ensure the ego is readily open to and informed by the insights and wisdom of the deeper soulful Self.

A central aspect of advanced spiritual leadership development is the cultivation of a healthy ego-soul relationship, where we learn to sense into our soulful depths and bring this insight into our everyday experience. This allows us to manifest our dharma – our right path – and become authentic leaders while realising our destiny.

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How to embody Teal for Real – Part One – Embracing business with love

June 9, 2017

Transformative times can invoke fear, a desire for control and a search for certainty and security. And yet such times can also be emancipating as they can provoke us to open-up, dig-deep and reach beyond the limiting norms of the day while pioneering into the future.

 

Frederic Laloux’s timely and important work around Teal gives us guidance on the style and tenor in which we can embrace the future for those of us courageous enough to break-rank and prototype the new in these times of change.

 

The three principles of Teal can act as guidance for us as we learn to transform ourselves and our organisations amid these choppy VUCA waters:

 

  1. Evolutionary purpose – what is our purpose at personal and organisational levels, and how do we best allow this sense of purpose to deepen and evolve as our context and learning-journey inevitability deepens and evolves?
  2. Authenticity and wholeness – how do we create the conditions, both inside ourselves and within our organisations, for a deeper quality of authenticity and wholeness to emerge within us and through our relationships with others?
  3. Self-management – as our relations and organisations become more purposeful and authentic, we are required to transform our command-and-control mechanisms into governance dynamics that empower and ignite rather than control and predict. How do we best embody these self-organising methods within ourselves while deepening our personal responsibility, sense of purpose and wholeness, and bringing this into our inter-personal relations and team dynamics during day-to-day tensions and emotionally charged situations?

 

These are challenging questions, and are the body of our learning journey towards Teal.

 

In my experience as a field practitioner engaging with all sorts of different shapes and sizes of organisations embarking on this ‘path beyond paths’, I often witness how easy it is to unwittingly apply the very same logic to our learning-journeys that created the very challenges we are trying to move beyond.  Einstein’s well-hackneyed insight about being unable to change systems with the same consciousness that created them is all-too-pertinent here.

 

In our desire to get-on with making Teal our new reality, we look for tools, frames of reference, methods and structures outside of ourselves – cultural values charters, mission statements, decision making protocols, holacratic methods, for instance.  This has its place of course, and yet there is often an overly eager tendency to find solutions to our problems ‘out there’; that with the right toolkit we can ‘fix it’.  This is part of the inherent problem of our current paradigm, an imbalanced focus on the ‘outer’ at the expense of impoverishing the ‘inner’.  And then, we ‘show up’ with this impoverished ‘inner’ while attempting to make hip-and-cool ‘outer’ initiatives work well in the midst of our daily stresses-and-strains.  The business world is now littered with examples of wounded organisational cultures that have embarked on painful out-of-kilter paths of transformation.  We can take learning from this.

First, we need to recognise this tendency to seek solutions ‘out there’ to our problems. This can encourage too much of a focus on fixing the symptoms downstream from the underlying causes, while often leaving the root causes inadequately addressed.  We see this tendency manifesting in all areas of our socio-economic system from leadership and organisational development, political activism, management education, health and well-being, combating climate change, corporate responsibility, you name it.

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Future Fit leadership: Sensing into our Emerging Future Today – Synchronicity and Beyond

May 12, 2017

Today’s leaders and leadership teams are facing an unprecedented level and pace of change, with many of the business challenges we face being quite different in their systemic nature from those before.

There is now a dawning realisation amongst forward-thinking leaders, organisational specialists and leadership experts that our traditional methods and modes of organisational learning and leadership development are inadequate for the business environment we now face.

A new way of learning, adapting and evolving as leaders and organisations is now demanded by our business context.

‘In order to do well in the emerging new business environments, organisations and their leaders have to develop a new cognitive capability, a new learning capacity for sensing, embodying and enacting emerging futures: ‘presencing’. Presencing means to use your ‘higher Self’ as a vehicle for sensing, embodying and enacting the future as it emerges.’ – Peter Senge, Otto Scharmer, et al, leadership specialists at MIT and the Society for Organisational Learning

Leaders able to master this new cognitive ability are the leaders that will be fit for the emerging future. Leaders also need to host learning spaces for others within their organisations to master this new learning capability. It is these leaders and organisations that will be the ones that not just survive but thrive in the increasingly challenging times ahead.

 

What does this mean in practice?

Read more…

Welcome to the Paradigm Shift of the Century

April 12, 2017

The way we relate with ourselves, each other and the world around us is metamorphosing in front of our very eyes.

‘A paradigm can be thought of as a constellation of concepts, values, perceptions and practices shared by a community, which forms a particular vision of reality’ – Fritjof Capra

Human science disciplines over the past four decades have been preoccupied with the way these concepts, values and practices shape how we see ourselves in the world and the stories we tell ourselves. If these stories are taken for granted and never questioned then they tend to be reproduced over and over again. The social and scientific revolutions in modern, early modern and even ancient ages have left their legacies with the modern mind and ultimately the ‘stories’ it unwittingly defaults to.

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For example the early modern period, in the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, saw major revelations in scientific discovery and philosophy from Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Descartes, and Darwin, which greatly influenced the modern western view of the human in the wider cosmos and universe. Man powerfully became an external actor disconnected from the very fabric of the natural systems to which he had previously been a part. Interestingly these events were both profoundly liberating for human societies, but also enormously disenchanting. Other major transformations in rapid industrialisation and urbanisation continued to reinforce a sense of separation between society and nature, human and non-human worlds, lived-in lands and pristine Edens. It is arguably this sense of separation that has enabled society to capitalise on the fruits of science, industry and global economics. Conversely it is also what underwrites the parallel dysfunction and destruction of our social and ecological systems.

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The ecological, social and economic crisis now upon us is as much a crisis of spirit as it is a crisis of resources. Indeed part of the crisis of spirit is because modern society and industry tends to perceive the Earth as a set of resources, and values it as such. What scope is there therefore for this paradigm to change in order to perceive the Earth as an animate, living system in which humans play a constructive, not destructive, part?

Indeed we may see how the politics of human-nature relations relates to the politics of human knowledge systems. Increasingly we are questioning what an overly mechanistic and reductive logic obscures from view and how it conditions our knowledge. Other knowledges of Nature exist outside of a modern western philosophy, for example ones related to holistic science and practices by traditional cultures.

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Advances in science have allowed humans to manipulate, manage, interpret, document and indeed now literally create life with technology (with developments in synthetic biology). Science in its mechanistic form has revealed an ecological crisis, but the question of whether it is wholly equipped to reverse this crisis is doubtful. The solutions are social, cultural and economic, not just technical. This perspective doesn’t propose to undo science, yet asks that it is reflective of its own limits. It is equally crucial to pose challenges such as ‘how far’, ‘how fast’; ‘which way’, ‘who says’ and ‘why’; not a question of balancing a ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ position.

Leonardo

The same reflexivity is just as important in business.  Since what is required is a radically new way of doing business – one that honours and values intrinsically (rather than financially) the global nexus of social and ecological systems – we could also argue that this is only one (yet important) factor within a much wider transition in collective consciousness.

In 2010 The Royal Society of Arts, a British Enlightenment institution founded in 1754 coined their new strap line, a 21st Century Enlightenment. Matthew Taylor, the RSA Director proposes that the core ideals, values and norms that the initial Enlightenment enabled may no longer be adequate or ‘fit for purpose’ for the contemporary challenges society faces. In order to live differently, he argues, we must think differently, and this relates to the way that we see ourselves in the world. Change may not be so much an act of will, but a consequence of a subtler shift in fundamental scientific, cultural, philosophical, and even spiritual factors. The push and pull forces for such a shift are as likely to be a series of positive and negative cyclic feedbacks across the social, technological, scientific and political fields, in much the same way as they have been in historical transitions.

If these inclinations do point towards something meaningfully transformative in respect to the nature of reality, ways of being and collective thinking then the question is how do we begin to interpret, explore and promote radical thinking in the fields in which we work, be they business, education, environmental governance or social policy? Cultural communicators in diverse fields and institutions seem to point in the direction of radical transformation in some shape or form.

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There are many profound questions facing us. This blog and the articles offered here touch on some of the root causes – specifically the relationship between human-nature and nature in a business context – yet does not try and answer them; more it explores the challenges business is now faced with, the limitations of our prevailing business paradigm and approaches to help individuals and organisations positively adapt in the face of these challenging times.

(This article is based on a section co-written with Louise Carver)

Giles Hutchins latest book is the much acclaimed Future Fit

The world of business is changing and fast. Complex, inter-related challenges now face all our enterprises. Future Fit is a response to this: a workbook full with practical tips and case studies, suitable for anyone who is involved in for-purpose enterprise, whether an entrepreneur or seasoned business executive.

 

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

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

‘Inspiring, uplifting, superb’ Euan Smith, former COO, Sky Deutschland

‘Unique and insightful’ Oliver Greenfield, Convenor, Green Economy Coalition

‘A treasure-trove’ Professor Peter Hawkins, Henley Business School

‘I cannot recommend this powerful work highly enough’ Dr Lynne Sedgmore CBE, CEO of Centre for Excellence in Leadership

‘Brilliant’ Norman Wolfe, CEO Quantum Leaders

‘A masterpeice’ Mark Drewell, CEO Globally Responsible Leadership

 

For a 3min video on Future Fit see here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzAtglvBNmM

 

 

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Radical Business – The Power of Love

February 26, 2017

Linear thinking and its rationalising objectification provides an important tool for us, helping us abstract our thinking from the here-and-now for analysis, planning, forecasting, scientific empirical examination and material exploitation. This thinking has helped us construct our civilizations.  No problem, unless this way of attending begins to dominate and so crowds out our other ways of knowing (sensing, feeling, embodying, intuiting).

ways of knowing

The ‘thinking tool’ has a grasping tendency that, if left unchecked, usurps our attention to such an extent that we lose touch of the deeper wisdom within and all around us – we perceive only the abstractions of our analysing mind, missing the wood for the trees.

‘We have created a sufficiently strong propensity not only to make divisions in knowledge where there are none in Nature, and then to impose the divisions on Nature, making the reality thus comfortable to the idea, but to go further, and to convert the generalisations made from observation into positive entities, permitting for the future these artificial creations to tyrannise over the understanding.’  Henry Maudsley

With this come out-of-kilter perspectives that bring us out of conscious attunement with life’s rhythms and wisdom. We begin to find it harder to align with our deeper sense of self-other-Nature. And so our relations warp from the inherently empathic, biophilic, compassionate nature of Homo sapiens into portraying only the self-absorbing egotistic-traits of selfishness, greed, competition and narcissism.  So caught up in our own self-reflexive ego-chattering illusions we become, that we increasingly numb ourselves from embodying the deeper intrinsic inter-relational reality of life.

Alas, this is what is happening on a global scale with deleterious consequences for all life on Earth. Any meaningful transition towards a more sustainable and civilized future for humanity needed to involve our re-membering a more balanced way of attending to life: yin/yang, receptive/responsive, open/closed, flowing/specific, dynamic/objectified, presencing/abstract, intuitive/rational, feminine/masculine, and so forth.

‘The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, the rational mind its faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift’. Albert Einstein

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This re-balancing allows us to contribute to a rebalancing in our organisations, communities, socio-economics and ways of governing.

There are a great variety of ways to enhance a more balanced yin-yang, receptive-responsive awareness in our lives. For example: bringing more stillness into our busy minds by sitting quieting, feeling the space between our heart-beats, feeling the in and out breath in our nostrils, meditating, chanting, drawing, playing a musical instrument, dancing, reading or writing poetry, practicing somatic awareness, yoga, Qi Kong, T’ai Chi, etc.  And there are ways to bring this more embodied awareness into the workplace too – hence the work on Steps Towards a Deeper Ecology of Business we explored recently at Ashridge Business School.

7s ways of being

For me, I like immersing myself in the natural world, finding stillness within the movements of Nature, along with some gentle T’ai Chi and yoga movements. The more I develop this deeper sense of presence the more noticeable it is when my rationalising, abstracting and often distracting ego monkey-mind interferes and so the more conscious I can be in allowing my rational mind to serve as a useful tool rather than trying to dominate.

Feeling the creative energy within my bodymind helps me re-member that I (like all expression of Nature) am energy. This energetic presence within (and all around me) is receptive and responsive. I can enhance this receptivity and responsiveness by attuning my bodymind through developing what is often referred to as ‘heart-awareness’ due to our bodyminds finding their centre-of-awareness in the heart area.

The Heart – A Powerful Organ of Perception

Much research has been undertaken into the heart as an organ of perception (along with the gut and brain, also increasing scientific recognition that each and every cell in our bodies contains mind-matter aspects with capacity for sentience and memory).  The heart is the body’s most powerful electromagnetic sensor and transmitter, continually decoding the vast array of electromagnetic and quantum signals radiating in our lived-in environment. 65% of the cells in the heart are neural cells which are wired into the nervous system, gut and brain.

The heart governs our bodymind’s sensory, neural, nervous and instinctual systems. There is now scientific evidence pointing to the heart perceiving and decoding intuitive information from our surrounds first and foremost (‘direct perception’) and then updating the brain and gut, which then respond to this information – hence, intuitive feelings, premonitions and also ESP phenomena are detected through the direct perception of the heart (see one such scientific study here).

Read more…

Natural Business: Conscious business the way Nature intended

February 12, 2017

Our understanding of how life works is undergoing a transformation. And with it, so is our understanding of how organisations find resilience in times of volatility.

Recent findings indicate that life is intricately inter-related, deeply sentient and purposeful.

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Whether it’s the cells within us, our human bodies, the wider socio-economic and ecological ecosystems we live within, or the organizations we attend for work each day – all these living systems display specific characteristics and traits.

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Life abides by the way of Nature. The more we understand Nature’s principles, relating them to our own organizational living systems, the more we allow our living organizations to thrive in time of volatility and uncertainty.

Nature’s principles applied to business are: resilience, optimizing, adaptive, systems-based, values-led, life-supporting.  Integrating these principles into our organizations enables us to become future-fit.

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Yet, underpinning these ‘ways of doing’ is an underlying strategic and operational intent, a leadership mind-set that creates the nutritious soil and safe space for our team dynamics and ways of working to come alive.

To cultivate this nutritious cultural soil, we need an approach to leadership that is quite different from the traditional leadership development and managerial approaches many of us have been trained and practiced in: A ‘new norm’ of leadership.

The most fundamental shift facing our leaders and managers today is a shift in our way of being, knowing and thinking. This shift is foundational to any meaningful transformation towards a resilient, life-affirming business.

Natural leadership

This shift is a worldview shift that at one level is a shift from seeing the organisation as a machine to recognizing the organisation is a living system; at another level this is a shift in our sense of place and purpose in the world – from seeing ourselves as separate individuals and organizations vying for control through mechanistic management techniques and meeting protocols, to recognizing ourselves, our teams, organisations and stakeholder ecosystems are all inter-related, co-participatory and emergent, unfolding and evolving beyond our control. Rather than control-based hierarchic logic and fear-based carrot-and-stick approaches, as leaders we have the humbling responsibility to create the conditions conducive for life to flourish through empowerment, local attunement, self-management, humility, love, respect, courage and authenticity. Read more…

Soul Business for a World in Transition

January 17, 2017

‘What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls the butterfly.’ Richard Bach, author

Since the industrial revolution, we have achieved great feats of economic, social and technological advancement. The structures and strictures of old have served us well in many material ways. But, as Bob Dylan would say, ‘times they are a changing!’

We now face increasing volatility on numerous fronts: enter the world of commodity spikes, resource scarcity, widespread environmental degradation, social inequality, economic turbulence, population and migrant pressure, changing demographics, the internet of things, disruptive technologies, climate change, and more.

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Over half the world’s population is now younger than 30 years old. Two generations have now grown up with the internet. It doesn’t take a degree in anthropology to notice that the world is very different today than it was 30 years ago.

In 2010, 1.2 billion people were online globally. By 2020, that number will reach 5 billion. Nearly 4 billion more people, along with their collective intelligence, will be available for value creation via smartphones, tablets and internet cafes. The capabilities being unleashed are unprecedented.

Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles; Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content; Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory; Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation-provider, owns no real estate. The institutional and ownership powers of old are being challenged by the empowering effect of the network.

The best people do not want to work in bureaucratic organizations. They want to be in an environment that is creative, exciting, empowering, purposeful and passionate. They want to feel a meaningful connection with the value they create, rather than feeling like lost corporate cogs enslaved in the monolith of machine mentality.

What many of us crave for are more meaningful moments and life-experiences. More time to spend following our curiosity; to feel alive and explore our authenticity. More time to build nourishing relationships; to really experience the world as well as what is around us here and now. More time to enjoy the simple things in life; to be present with our loved ones, with our friends, acquaintances and strangers we meet along the way. Yet much of the time our working life starves us of what is most precious to us, the time and space to become who we truly are: social, curious, playful, creative, loving and purposeful humans.

So let’s cut to the chase. The root cause of our carcinogenic corporate mind-set is a corrupting logic that sets us apart from, and in competition with, our own true nature, each other and the world around us. We have become inured in a flawed philosophic and socio-economic worldview which pervades our daily consciousness to such an extent that much of our collective activity assumes it to be just-the-way-life-is.

MDG : Green Economy and Forests REDD : hills of burnt out brown and deforested land in Thailand

What we consider normal business practice is often pathological. We struggle to see beyond this pathology, caught up in our own illusory hall of mirrors creating what Albert Einstein called an optical delusion of consciousness. We are engaged in a kind of deluding neurosis with devastating implications for human society and the wider fabric of life on Earth. And, our ingrained approaches to education, economics and organizational management are, in the main, infected by this neurosis, exacerbating the acculturation of our insanity.

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Time is not on our side. If we wish to ensure anything resembling a successful outcome for our organizations, wider socio-economic systems and general civilization, we need to get radical and deal with root causes while also attending to downstream effects.

Such a shift challenges us at deep and partly unconscious levels. It challenges powerful and complex influences within our own psyche and cultural consciousness. It challenges the status quo structures of governance, engrained patterns of power relations, and dominant ways of leading, managing and operating within our organizations. It challenges the very way in which we relate as human beings in our more-than-human world.

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Let us pause for a moment.

Recall a recent conversation at work, and reflect on how we were listening and sharing. If we are brutally honest here, we may well be able to recall when we were not actually being our authentic selves, perhaps skewing the conversation through our judgements, personal agendas, defensive positioning, desires to get our point across, manipulating our presentation in a way that ‘sells’ our view in the best light. In some respects this is normal human sociality, yet if ‘over done’ it hinders the emergence of deeper soul-to-soul improvisational sharing.

To be vulnerable, undefended, open-hearted and free from ego-encroachments requires our conscious attention, determination and courage. And when we do open up whole-heartedly and put our agendas and judgements to one side, the other person (consciously or unconsciously) will sense this and feel more able to open up themselves, inviting in an opening for soulful sharing. The life-blood of our firms of the future is this soulful sharing through the day-to-day conversations, the adhoc feedback, the listening intently, the corridor chat, the collaborative gatherings, the stillness within meetings, and empathic email responses.

‘To be here requires attention, listening, and gazing deeply without assaulting each thing seen with a conclusion. The silence here is not just in the ‘what has been’, it is most deliciously waiting, too, in the ‘what will be’.’ Cheryl Sanders-Sardello, phenomenologist

The continual challenge is to remain grounded and centered as situations unfold. A loving interest in each unfolding moment provides for an active creativity which is calm yet energised, patient yet passionate, devoted yet tolerant.

Amid these times of upheaval and challenge, we are midwifing the birth of our authentic selves, simultaneously midwifing a metamorphosis of our humanity within our organizations, global community and more-than-human world. And birthing always comes with surrender, pain and then the beginning of a deeper, wider vista of remembering why we are here: to live in love and wisdom.

‘Awakening to the original seed of one’s soul and hearing it speak may not be easy. How do we recognize its voice; what signals does it give? Before we can address these questions, we need to notice our own deafness, the obstructions that make us hard of hearing; the reductionism, the literalism, the scientism of our so-called common sense… For the soul is not a measureable entity, not a substance, not a force – even if we are called by the force [of its] curious thought, devotional feeling, suggestive intuition, and daring imagination.’ James Hillman, psychologist

 

Giles Hutchins  is a thought leader, speaker and adviser on the future of business.  Recently, Global Sustainability Director for Atos, and previously a management consultant with KPMG, he has helped transform a wide range of organizations (corporate, third sector, public sector and start-up) and is author of the books The Nature of Business and The Illusion of Separation.  His latest book is Future Fit, watch a short 3 minute video about it here.

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