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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.


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.

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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.

This is a profound shift that affects every one of us, from boardroom to shop floor.

I refer to this shift in leadership as an ontological and epistemological threshold; a threshold in our ‘being’ and ‘knowing’ which then informs how we think, do and act.

Ontological ‘being’ threshold: this is about us becoming more receptive, authentic and open. Through daily practices we can shift our state of being (our ‘beingness’ in the world) from an overly left-brained, overly analytical, overly egoic, reactive and defensive mode of attention, to more left/right brain hemispheric integration, along with more head/heart/gut integration, and ego-soul integration, which allows for a more receptive and responsive way of being, and with this enhances grace and presence we encourage generative dialogue and empowerment within the teams we lead.

Epistemological ‘knowing’ threshold: as we open up to more of our natural authenticity, and learn to get out of our left-brained reductive heads, we enhance our natural ways of knowing. Carl Jung referred to our natural ways of knowing as our intuitive, our rational, our emotional, and our somatic intelligences. We are born with these intelligences; they are the natural gift of life.  Yet, because of the overly left-brained managerial logic we have got ourselves and our organizations caught up in, we have largely suppressed these other ways of knowing. We can create the conditions within ourselves and within our teams and daily meeting conventions to encourage more of these natural ways of knowing to flood into our interactions, decision-making and relationships making our organizations richer and more resilient for it.

The good news is, this shift is asking for nothing more, nor nothing less, than for us to open up to our human and more-than-human Nature – to learn to become who we truly are as human beings in our more-than-human world.

‘The purpose of life is to live in agreement with Nature’ – Zeno, ancient Greek philosopher

Let’s briefly look at Nature through the lens of organizational and leadership development.

The leading-edge of living systems theory, complexity theory, facilitation ecology, quantum physics, gestalt field theory, trans-personal psychology, neurobiology, bio-poetics, organizational evolutionary development and vertical leadership development are all pointing to what enables our organizations to become vibrant, purposeful, resilient living systems.

In short, living systems need a blend of ‘divergence’ and ‘convergence’ to thrive amid volatility:

‘Divergence’ through: the inclusion of a diversity of perspectives from diverse people spanning silos within and beyond the organizational boundaries (facilitated through generative stakeholder dialogue approaches); empowered self-organizing teams adapting to their local terrain, freed from cumbersome bureaucracy and control-based hierarchy (facilitated through self-management team dynamics); bottom-up emergence nourished by an improvisational, participatory and exploratory cultural mind-set (fostered by a blend of appreciative inquiry, action research, art-of-hosting, white space/swarm approaches, and heart-based communication methods).

‘Convergence’ through: a life-affirming resonant sense of purpose (that resonates deeply with a threshold of people within and beyond the organization); a clear strategic intent that guides and governs the over-arching direction-of-travel (a shared understanding of the organization’s unique value-creation and delivery niche, and how this relates to the wider stakeholder ecosystem); a soul-based culture that underpins and infuses the day-to-day meeting conventions, management protocols and behavioural values (regularly revisiting how the organization’s soul is being embodied in practice, and how we each learn to reveal our deeper human nature while at work).

The ‘divergence’ provides the vibrancy, creativity and effectiveness, while the ‘convergence’ provides the mission-driven intent and soulful purpose of the organization. Both together provide the aliveness, agility and purposefulness for the living system to thrive amid volatility.

This tension of divergence and convergence is what leaders across all levels of the organization need to be conscious of, so as to optimally allow value-creation and delivery to flourish amid this tension. It becomes an art: An artful mastery of creating the conditions conducive for life to flourish within our organizations while adapting to an ever-changing terrain in authentic and purposeful ways.

There are now ample tools, techniques and case studies we can take inspiration from in starting to allow our organizations to become a vibrant future-fit living organisation. In my latest book Future Fit I bring a range of these tools together with practical case studies and the over-arching narrative for how to become a life-affirming future-fit business.

‘One of the most urgent challenges for individuals, organizations and the whole human family, is to transform human consciousness so it is fit for the world of the 21st century.  Giles Hutchins has written eloquently in all his books about ways of bringing together individual and organizational transformation. In this his latest book, Future Fit, Giles has provided us with a treasure-trove of approaches, methods, models and living examples of ways of creating the regenerative organization of the future, drawn from leading writers, practitioners and pioneer companies from all parts of the globe.’ Peter Hawkins, Professor of Leadership, Henley Business School and author of Leadership Team Coaching and many other books

Future Fit is like an Encyclopaedia of anecdotes, practical exercises, reflective questions and real life examples set in a very uplifting context to prepare us for the time to come. It transitions seamlessly from a personal transformation guide to rich resource for an organisational development journey. It is a must read for all change agents, entrepreneurs, and organisational leaders.  This book appeals and adds value to all aspects of my life; it will now be my first point of reference for all my personal and professional interventions.’ Darshita Gillies, Coach, Consultant, Entrepreneur & Co-Founder of Blu Dot

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


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