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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.

nature - human 1

 

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.

human nature morphesus

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.

butterfly true

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.

To explore ‘the new paradigm’ further, join the Face Book community here

The Illusion of Separation – the cause of our current crises

January 10, 2017

‘I regard the grooves of destiny into which our civilization has entered as a special case of evolutionary cul-de-sac. Courses which offered short-term advantage have been adopted, have become rigidly programmed, and have begun to prove disastrous over longer time. This is the paradigm for extinction by way of loss of flexibility.’ Gregory Bateson.

 

What has become widely referred to as ‘Western civilisation’ has brought great technological advancement and social change over the millennia. Its underpinning scientific-philosophy is now the dominant paradigm in most parts of our world, regarded by many as the only viable way ahead and a panacea for all our ills.

The cultural belief has grown that, with enough time and money, all problems can be solved through this science and technology. One has only to be reminded of the great strides we have made in, for instance, computing, manufacturing, medicine and food production to recognise the attraction of this creed.

Yet something is amiss. We seem to be facing increasingly insurmountable social, psychological, economic and environmental problems of epic proportions. Many are now recognising that these problems run deep and wide. These are pivotal times for humanity. And yet the regular reaction to our plethora of problems is to find scientific, monetary or technological fixes way downstream from the inherent problems themselves. All too often these downstream fixes actually exacerbate the underlying problems. As the scholar Joseph Milne notes, There is a tendency in our age to rush to change the manifest effects of wrong actions without seriously considering the root causes’.

Have we become addicted to a pathway that undermines our very evolution? Are our sustainability initiatives optimising inherently unsustainable strategies? Would it not be wiser to take sufficient pause to explore and reveal the root causes of our many crises and remedy them there rather than trying in vain to deal with their ever deepening, spreading and complicating down-stream ramifications? By stepping back to ponder, we can start to identify the ensemble of intrinsic, culturally embedded problems within our social, economic, scientific and philosophical Western paradigms – for convenience referred to collectively herein as the ‘Western paradigm’.

Far from our Western paradigm being the grand solution-provider to all our ills, many prominent thinkers in business, politics, education, society, the arts and sciences point to its role in actually fuelling the multiple crises. For instance, the much admired award-winning former Chairman and CEO of Interface, Ray Anderson explained,

‘We have been, and still are, in the grips of a flawed view of reality – a flawed paradigm, a flawed world view – and it pervades our culture putting us on biological collision course with collapse.’

Christine Lagarde, Head of the International Monetary Fund points out that

‘we are currently subsidising the destruction of our planet on an enormous scale.’

And contemporary writer C.J. Moore notes that:

Many of our accepted practices and beliefs have brought us, and our planet, to a place of extreme vulnerability and dire ugliness  …  Governments and institutions that should have been protectors of society and landscape, have played into the hands of commerce and short term profiteering.

While this Western paradigm has brought much material betterment (details of which are well versed) it has an insidious, cancerous quality causing it to undermine our very existence. Its historic tendency has been to colonise new lands and ’markets’ in a way that is fundamentally destructive of its host, like cancer does. Put bluntly, our prevalent way of attending is systemically anti-life. There are ample books, research papers and scientific studies exploring in detail the damage inflicted by modern humanity upon our biosphere and it is assumed the reader is either aware of, or can find out with ease, the current demise of life on Earth which goes far deeper than the hot topic of climate change.

For instance, bio-diversity loss on Earth is now assumed to be happening at a rate of somewhere between 100‒1000 times faster than background rates. Another obvious warning sign is the gigantic ‘plastic islands’ now coalescing in our oceans. The one in the Pacific Ocean known as the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ is thought to be larger than the size of France and growing by the day.

This systemically anti-life behaviour begs the questions, ‘Are we able to change our way of living to one that is supportive of, rather than destructive to, life? If so, how and how fast?’ These are pivotal questions for our time. This book takes us on a journey upstream to find root causes and then sets about exploring ways of attending to life that could overcome these corruptions.

Clearly a small book cannot hope to provide definitive answers if there were such things – and indeed, as we shall explore, the quest for certainty through definitive logic is at the root of our present difficulties – yet in The Illusion of Separation we provide an accessible exploration of:

  • How the Western paradigm developed in the way it has done and what the root causes of this carcinogenic way of attending may be (by ‘attending’ is meant our overall experiencing of life – analysing, perceiving, relating, engaging, and embodying);
  • Ways to rectify these root causes at source;
  • A way ahead which does not constrain itself with the same thinking that caused the problems in the first place.

In Part One we start from the present day situation of consumerism which we seem so hopelessly dependent upon in the West. We explore how the Freudian desire to control the irrational aspects of our psyche influenced a perceived need to manipulate society through consumerism.

Then we take a step upstream, back in time, to Darwinism and the way in which we came to view the world through the lens of competition. We explore how this perception originates with the abstraction of separating content from context and how this goes hand-in-hand with capitalism and the desire for control through socio-economic systems.

From here we go further upstream to the Scientific Revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth century. We explore how our Western mind became predominantly materialistic, whereupon Nature was perceived as a collection of objects to be controlled and manipulated.

From here we venture yet further upstream in search of the formation of Western philosophy in ancient Greece. We also explore the rise of Christendom in Europe during medieval times and its effect on our way of perceiving life.

Then finally, we forge further upstream to the springs of civilisation and the invasions of Neolithic Europe in search of how domination and control came to pervade Western culture.

Having identified potential root causes and their restrictive effects, in Part Two we start to re-view life beyond these restrictions, unshackled as it were from ingrained cultural habituations. We start off by exploring Nature’s myriad ways of relating.

Then we take a brief look at the exciting discoveries of quantum physics and how our perception of space, energy and matter can deepen beyond mechanistic materialism. This leads us on into exploring some interesting Western theories about the relation of consciousness and matter.

We then explore some profound developments in Western thought which point to life beyond the tidy confines of objectified science: phenomenology, process philosophy, participatory consciousness and ecological psychology.

Then our own psyche and conscious awareness is explored within a journey of self-realisation. This leads us on to a deeper perspective of our imagination, heart and soul. And then, the ancient yet timeless wisdom of indigenous cultures is related to all that has been understood so far in our explorations.

Finally, the concept of a ‘paradigm shift’ is discussed along with what leadership capabilities this may call upon. Having explored Western conceptual thinking, we can then dive into a new way of embracing life in Part Three.

You can find independent reviews about The Illusion of Separation on Good Reads here

 

Here is a short 2 minute video about it:

The Illusion of Separation can be found on Amazon across the globe – here is it on Amazon.com

 

Meditations on Patience, Tensions, Relationships and Seeing Everyday as a Learning Lesson

January 6, 2017

 

‘We tend to think of meditation in only one way. But life itself is a meditation.’ Raul Julia

‘What is within us is within everything. Once we understand this truth, we step outside of the parameters of our individual self and come to realise the power that is within us. This shift in awareness is a very simple step that has profound consequences.’ Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

‘We are all living in cages with the door wide open.’ George Lucas (paraphrasing Rumi)

‘When you judge another, you do not define them you define yourself.’ Anon

Depth psychologists refer to the ‘small self’ and the ‘true Self’ within us, which relates to what other practitioners such as Maslow and Barrett refer to as the ‘ego’ and the ‘soul’.  In this Meditation we shall be exploring (amongst other things) the relationship between our ego and soul within us, and how this ego-soul dynamic influences the quality of our relations with others.

The ‘small self’ is our ‘ego persona’ which has been developed through our experiences, learnings, education, social conditions and acculturations. It pervades our daily waking consciousness and is there to help us deal with the challenges and opportunities of everyday life.

That said, it can actually hinder us, and regularly does, as it has a tendency to dominate our daily awareness to such an extent that it can suffocate our ‘true Self’, in-turn undermining the potential for our deeper essential nature (consisting of our unique creativity, wisdom and love) to shine through us. This is because the ‘small self’ seeks to protect us and keep us safe, but in so doing, it keeps us ‘small’ as its natural tendency is to react to change and tension in a defensive way, seeking protection and security. Yet change and tension bring the opportunity for transformation and learning if we so choose to embrace them responsively rather than reactively.

{NB – As an aside, there is interesting research by leading neuroscientists suggesting that the nature of our left and right brain hemispheric awareness can contribute to an already overly dominant ego-awareness i.e. if we are more predominantly influenced by left-brained awareness we focus in, mechanise, reduce and polarise situations, and this polarising tendency comes with a heightened sense of separation of self from other, heightened oppositional mind-set, and heightened ego-awareness, which then crowds out the more relational, embodied, kinaesthetic, somatic, intuitive, soulful awareness of the right-brain hemisphere (which is more open to the wisdom of our heart, gut, deeper bodymind and Nature).  Put simple, we are more centred, open, authentic, creative, wise and compassionate when we have a more balanced left and right brain hemispheric awareness then when we are more predominantly in left-brained awareness.  Modern culture, digitisation, reductionism and materialism exacerbate left-brained awareness according to Iain McGilchrist and other leading neuroscientists, heightening an already overly dominant ego-awareness within an increasingly individualistic culture. This tendency is actually undermining our personal and collective potential as Homo sapiens – Greek for ‘wise beings’.}

During our life-experiences we have picked up habituations, patterns of behaviour and judgemental projections that form a part of our ego-persona. Also, during our life we have attempted to deny or suppress mannerisms and feelings because we find them unsuitable for the ego-personification we seek to portray in order to fit-in and be accepted by our ‘tribe’. These suppressed aspects form what psychologists sometimes refer to as our ‘shadow’ – aspects pushed out of the light of our daily consciousness into the shadowy depths of our ‘unconscious’ yet still influencing us through our emotions, reactions, and interactions in often uncontrolled or partially mediated ways.

We react to situations with well-trodden habits. The more our behaviours are ingrained in us the more difficult they are for us to acknowledge and transform. While these well-trodden behaviours may give us a certain security and consistency in our persona, they can undermine our personal development. They can also undermine our relations, as our defensiveness, judgemental perspective, impatience and reactivity actually undermine the potential for synergy that could result from relational tensions as we go about our day-to-day.

Hence, our personal development is intimately entwined with our communal and societal development.  No man is an island.

Read more…

It’s Time to Get Radical and Confront our Problems

December 23, 2016

Arguably, we have lost our way, cutting ourselves adrift from our sense of place and purpose in the world. Cue the contagion of consumerism, the polarisation of politics and the ecocide of our environment.

Often we focus our attention on downstream effects (such as climate change, rampant social inequality and rising stress in the workplace) instead of paying adequate attention to the root causes. In the words of the Persian Poet Rumi, ‘We are searching amongst branches for what is found only in the roots.’

Woven into our scientific-philosophy and socio-economic thinking at deeply subconscious levels is a fundamental corruption, a flawed logic setting us apart from each other and Nature. Einstein spoke of this as an optical illusion of consciousness, which is now manifesting a devastating delusion. Large swathes of modern humanity are inured and institutionalised by the illusion of separation. It creates the belief that life is innately competitive, whilst evolution is a process of selfish ascendance. Breeding fear, polarisation and egotism, it creates carcinogenic behaviour hallmarked by a desperate desire for competition, consumption and ownership.

Peter Drucker once said, ‘In times of turmoil, the danger lies not in the turmoil, but in facing it with yesterday’s logic.’ Frequently attempts to achieve well-intended solutions apply the very logic that created the problems. The new spirit of business, politics and socio-economics must be rooted in a new logic that transcends this illusion.

By stimulating this new rationale, we liberate ourselves from the restrictions of the self-limiting mind-set that originally created the problems, enabling a shift to occur: from egotism to empathy; from separation to synchronicity; from power over to power with; from fear to courage. This shift enables new ways of leading, focusing on facilitating a learning environment where we can develop our capacity to become authentic co-creators within a life-affirming future.

It simply requires our undivided attention and a deep love for life. Making space in our busy schedules to get out into Nature or retreat to a quiet place is a good start. Like the great minds of Einstein, Da Vinci, Pythagoras and Confucius, we too can allow ourselves to tune in to the inherent wisdom flowing throughout Nature. It’s time to activate this timeless wisdom today.

HutchinsIllusionOfSeparation

In humanity’s hour of reckoning these times of breakdown can create the conditions for individual breakthrough. If we have courage.

We are in the midst of a seismic paradigm shift, where the challenge of our time is to create space within our manic schedules for a real embodiment of the innate wisdom life affords us, thus increasing our awareness to the shift already afoot. Whether we’re activists or accountants, engineers or entrepreneurs, midwives or musicians, these transformational times demand we trigger this consciousness now.

Watch a 3min video about The Illusion of Separation see here. For a longer 10min talk see here.

Giles Hutchins, is Chair of The Future Fit Leadership Academy and blogs at www.thenatureofbusiness.org

IF you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…

December 10, 2016

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

IF – by Rudyard Kipling, source: http://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/poems_if.htm

 

It’s Time to Get Radical and Deal with the Mother of all our Problems

December 5, 2016

If we are brutally honest for a moment we may be prepared to square-up to the fact that collectively we have lost our way.

As a civilisation – with its prevalent way of living – we have cut ourselves adrift from our sense of place and purpose in this world.

Enter this contagion of consumerism, the polarisation of politics, and the ecocide of our environment.

human nature morphesus

Yet, so often we focus our attention on downstream effects (of which there are plenty, such as climate change, rampant social inequality, rising stress in the workplace, and neo-liberal economics) while not giving adequate attention to the root causes.   In the words of the Persian Poet Rumi, ‘we are searching amongst branches for what is found only in the roots.’

So let’s cut to the chase.

Woven into our scientific-philosophy and socio-economic thinking at deep and partly unconscious levels is a corruption of the most fundamental degree.  It is a flawed logic that sets us apart from each other and Nature. It is what Einstein spoke of as an optical illusion of consciousness which now manifests a devastating delusion. Large swathes of modern humanity are inured and institutionalised by this illusion of separation; an illusion that creates the belief that life is innately competitive and evolution is a process of selfish ascendance.  It breeds fear, polarisation and egotism creating carcinogenic behaviour hallmarked by a desperate desire to ‘have’, ‘want’, ‘own’, ‘consume’, ‘out compete’.  It is a dreadfully inadequate logic that is costing us life on Earth.

Peter Drucker once famously said, ‘In times of turmoil, the danger lies not in the turmoil, but in facing it with yesterday’s logic’. So often, we find ourselves applying the very logic that created the problems to our design and delivery of well-intended solutions. The new spirit of business, politics and socio-economics must be rooted in a new logic that transcends this illusion.

nature trees in trees

In activating this new logic, we liberate ourselves from the restrictions of the self-limiting mind-set that created the problems in the first place, and provide for a shift to occur: from egotism to empathy; from separation to synchronicity; from power over to power with; from fear to courage. This shift activates new ways of leading unshackled from illusion that, paradoxically, are less about leading and more about facilitating a learning environment where each of us learn how to open up the permeability of our egos to something greater, and develop our capacity to become authentic co-creators within a life-affirming future.

The good news is we can activate this new way for free.

It requires nothing more than our undivided attention and a deep love for life. Making space in our schedules to be in Nature or in a quiet place is a good start. Here we may allow ourselves to tune-in to the wisdom of Nature flowing through each evolving moment. Great minds such as Einstein, Da Vinci, Pythagoras and Confucius all knew of this inherent wisdom flowing throughout Nature. It’s time to activate this timeless wisdom for today.

For instance, last Sunday, in the frosty crisp winter sun of an English wooded valley, 14 diverse folk came together to explore this illusion of separation, and left feeling more open hearted, more alive, more connected, and altogether more human as a result. See here.

Within a handful of hours we can – if we so choose – learn to see beyond the illusions we create in our own mind while opening up to the awesome Mind of Nature within and all around us.

This is humanity’s hour of reckoning. These times of breakdown can create the conditions for breakthrough in each of us, if we have the courage to create the space and time to sense and see differently, and then do differently.

While it may not always feel like it (as there is much to be down-beat about these days) we are in the midst of a seismic paradigm shift.  The challenge of our time is less about intellectualising adaptations utilising yesterday’s logic and more about creating space within our manic schedules for a real embodiment of the innate wisdom life affords us.  This will open up our awareness to the shift already afoot. Whether we are activists or accountants, engineers or entrepreneurs, midwives or musicians, these transformational times demand we activate this consciousness now and for all time.

HutchinsIllusionOfSeparation

To watch a short 3min video about The Illusion of Separation see here, and for a longer 10min talk about it see here.

Author of The Illusion of Separation, Giles Hutchins, is Chair of The Future Fit Leadership Academy and blogs at www.thenatureofbusiness.org

What is the hidden unity within the diversity of life?

November 23, 2016

For many years now our Western understanding of ecology (nature’s patterns of relationships) has been founded on the core principles of competition and separation. But now thankfully there is a much broader discussion forum with worldviews emerging that could be of interest not only to ecologists but also to business. Let’s take a look at how our understanding of ecology has evolved over the last century or more.

In 1857 Charles Darwin’s seminal work set the scene for defining the unit of ecological evolution as the organism separate from and in a competitive struggle with its environment.

Hands Holding a Seedling and Soil

In 1902, the Russian evolutionary theorist Peter Kropotkin felt that aspects of Darwin’s work had been mis-represented by powerful elites wishing to embrace societal governance mechanisms rooted in competition. Through his extensive studies, Kropotkin found that in both animal and human societies cooperation and mutual aid yielded prosperous outcomes far more than competitive behaviour. In 1916, the biologist Frederic Clements further explored the role of cooperation, mutualism and community within biotic life at an ecosystem level. Yet it was the work of the American biologist Henry Gleason and his focus on competition at the organismic level that gained wider acceptance in the early 20th century. More recently, Neo-Darwinism has de-emphasised certain aspects of Darwin’s findings and emphasised others along with Gleason’s work, namely the innate competitive nature of all organisms along with the selfish tendencies of genes that command these organisms. The prevalent ecological mind-set of the West has become essentially competition-based. Nature is all about dog-eat-dog competition, everyone knows that, or have we been misleading ourselves?

The discrete definition of the organism separate from its environment is what Gregory Bateson viewed as the basic flaw which corrupts the thinking that flows from it, as for him the inter-play of the organism with its environment is paramount to its health, viability and evolution.  He viewed comparing one species against another in a struggle for survival as insane. He likened our Western worldview of survival through competition as ‘an ecology of bad ideas’ which breeds parasitic humans, purely self-centred and destructive of their host.

leonardo 2

All the time new findings bring fresh perspectives to how we view the evolution of life. Far from the genome being a rigid set of building blocks and innately selfish we realise it is a fluid system of dynamic localities that evolve by interplaying with its environment. We recognise that evolution is essentially co-creative, fluid and variably connective. Rather than organisms struggling for survival they thrive through dynamic relationship.

‘Life did not take over the globe by combat, but by networking.’ Lynn Margulis

Biologist Lynn Margulis has extensively studied cell behaviour and contends that symbiosis is a major driving force behind evolution and that cooperation, interaction and mutual dependence among life forms are what allow for the global expression of life we see around us. Far from life being driven by an innate competitive struggle it cooperates to form richer environments for life to further evolve. ‘Facilitation ecology’ is an emerging area of focus where ecologists are studying how facilitation happens between species at an ecosystem level. Traditionally we assumed that species would become more competitive as environmental conditions became tougher, but from recent studies in this field, it seems the opposite is closer to the truth, with species becoming more cooperative in stressful times.

It is worth noting that only one out of every ten cells within our bodies is actually human. Our bodies are a good example of the extensiveness of interplay, inclusivity and partnering that goes on throughout the biotic world. Without the help of the ‘friendly’ bacteria within our bodies we would utterly fail at life. It is also worth noting that in times of strife, like the hurricane-induced flooding in New York for instance, we humans transcend perceived boundaries of separation and seek to cooperate and help each other where possible.

Forester Suzanne Simard has been exploring the soils beneath our feet and found extensive mutuality amongst bacteria, fungi and plants. Trees within forests share nutrients with other trees aided by mycelium networks of fungi underground.  Young trees trying to grow in areas of the forest that are deficient in certain nutrients and lacking enough sunlight, can be provided the nutrients they need from other trees (of completely different species), ensuring the overall ecosystem benefits.

nature trees in trees

The evolution and sustainability of biodiversity depends both on processes of individuation and integration in continual dynamic interplay: there is no binary opposition of one against the other. Life did not originate through enmity like our prevalent Neo-Darwinian paradigm assumes, but through this co-creative interplay that enables life to diversify by forming partnerships in correspondence with differing capabilities and availability of resources. There are a great variety of relationships, patterns and dynamics that inter-play into life’s rich tapestry and continual evolution.

At this point a very clear distinction needs to be made between the abstract concepts of competition and co-operation, which are predicated on an assumption of independence of content from context, and the arguably more natural concept of co-creation, which includes both individuation/dissociation and integration/association processes, and recognises that these arise fundamentally from the needfulness, NOT the ‘selfishness’ or ‘altruism’ of life forms.

Quite simply, any form of life needs to be able to gather in, retain, explore for and redistribute supplies of energy from its neighbourhood. It cannot choose to be independent from its neighbourhood, no matter how much it might desire (in the case of ‘civilised, rational’ human beings) to be so. Nothing in nature is separate from its environment, everything has a variable boundary which serves to interface inner world with outer. This dynamic interfacing is fundamental to natural sustainability. Likewise nothing is in competition with its environment; everything is in a state of dynamic co-creativity with its environment.

‘The whole philosophy of Hell rests on a recognition of the axiom that one thing is not another thing, and, specifically, that one self is not another self….it means the sucking of will and freedom out of a weaker self into a stronger. ‘To be’ means ‘to be in competition’. C. S. Lewis

Our current economic paradigm is founded upon the principles of competition, separation and scarcity. Yet this is not how life truly is. Excessive competition destroys diversity and innovation – a lesson it seems that many politicians, company executives and economists have yet to learn.  It’s about time we started to wake up to the inherent grammar running throughout life on Earth – the unity within our diversity is our ability to work with NOT against each other in all aspects of life: business and beyond.

To explore ‘the new paradigm’ further, join the Face Book community here and for more on the Future Fit Leadership Academy visit www.ffla.co and for Giles Hutchins’ personal website www.gileshutchins.com