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The Essential Ingredient for Future-Fitness

February 13, 2018

I have been in business now for over twenty years, and now – at the age of 45 – my business career has consumed more than half my life.  During that time, I have seen so many aspects of our current business paradigm, from investment management, project management, change management, leadership development, business intelligence, business process improvement, sustainable business, conscious business, Teal/evolutionary business, purposeful business… you name it – I have immersed myself in consulting-speak acronym city, and worked with the C-Suite of all sorts of organisations from start-ups to global monoliths, from non-profits to multi-billion machines.

I promised myself upon entering the city that I would not lose my connection with what really matters. By the skin of my teeth, I have just about made good on that promise.

Because, for far more than twenty years I have deeply felt in my heart and soul that what pervades our plethora of problems – whether it’s rising mental illness in the workplace, rampant consumerism or the widespread violation of life on Earth – lies a deeper root problem. It is root problem we ignore at our peril. And yet this is all-too-often exactly what we do – overlook what is before our very eyes, so caught-up we have become.

The root problem – the Mother of all Problems – is dis-connection: disconnection within our own selves (our deeper sense of selfhood), with each other (the relationality of our community), with life itself (the rich tapestry of human and more-than-human life – the physical, phenomenological, psychological, imaginal, soulful and transpersonal).

This dis-connection pervades our inner and outer worlds in varying ways.

Our outer world perspective is influenced by the stories we tell ourselves about how we think the world works. Our cosmologies and worldviews influence our socio-economic narrative which influences how we behave in our organisations and communities, which influences our home life.

Our inner world dis-connection manifests in how we attend to each evolving moment in our midst: the quality of attentiveness, coherence and presence we bring to bear on life.

Here and now, 2018, numerous studies point to a crisis within our inner and outer worlds.

It would seem we are living through a supreme moment in our human history; a moment of simultaneous breakdown and breakthrough.

The stories we still tell ourselves about how we think the world works are starting to crumble, giving way to a richer deeper understand of reality.

All sorts of shifts are happening at deep and partly unconscious levels calling in to question our dominant worldview, and our sense of place and purpose within this world. At once it is a tumultuous time of upset, fear and disturbance as well as an unfolding rebirthing, reconnecting and remembering.

All change please – the crisis of our inner and outer worlds offers the chance to see into the eye of the storm.

This is how our outer worldview is undergoing a metamorphosis:

Today, our dominant worldview is still rooted in separation, control, hyper-competition and domination. We still serve up a largely Neo-Darwinist logic of separateness in many of our schools and business schools today. Yet, at the forefront of myriad scientific disciplines we now know that this out-dated logic has had its day. A deeper understanding about how the world works is dawning upon us.

Worldviews and socio-economic narratives twist us down certain behavioural pathways. Habituations, constrictions and acculturations filter our inner-scape, narrowing-down and warping how we attend to ourselves, each other and life.

A worldview rooted in separateness creates a mechanistic objectifying logic in business, which then infiltrates our personal life. We get caught up in a feedback loop of dis-connection, and before we know it, we believe hook-line-and-sinker a story of separation, control and competition, without realising it is nothing more than a projection we are projecting on to the world. Worldviews create worlds. We don’t see life as it really is, but how we have engrained ourselves to see it.

We now know that life, evolution and consciousness have far more to do with co-creation, participation and inter-relation than objectification, separation and control.

What we thought we knew about how the world works is now looking inadequate and outdated as a richer and more coherent worldview is shape-shifting not just our cosmological, scientific and socio-economic narrative but also how we perceive organisations and leaders.

No longer is it adequate to view the organisation as a machine sweating its assets, we are beginning to see the organisation as a living system creating value in an interdependent emergent world. The exponential rise in the purpose movement, conscious capitalism, sustainability, values-driven business, Teal-Evolutionary and B-Corps, for instance, exemplify the early stages of this metamorphic unfolding into a worldview that sees connectedness, not separateness, as essential to life.

Likewise, our inner-scape has the potential to metamorphose from an increasingly dis-eased, fragmented, distracted and overly-analytic attentiveness into a deeper more coherent connectedness.

The exponential rise in mindfulness in the workplace, wellbeing at work initiatives, the search for personal purpose, consciousness-raising approaches, transformative learning journeys and vision quests, embodied practices such as yoga and T’ai Chi, as well as extreme sports or silent retreats, is all part-and-parcel of this unfolding metamorphosis of inner-outer connectedness.

This is good news.  While it can often seem confusing and unsettling as the status quo safety slips away amid volatile choppy times, we are birthing change within our inner-outer worlds at personal, organisational and societal levels.

Many pioneering business leaders speak to this shift now upon us. For instance, John Mackey, CEO Whole Foods:

‘Perhaps the greatest change that we humans are experiencing is our rising consciousness. To be conscious means to be fully awake and mindful, to see reality more clearly, and to more fully understand all the consequences – short term & long term – of our actions.’  

And the business futurist John Naisbett:

‘The greatest breakthroughs of the twenty-first century will not occur because of technology. They will occur because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.’

Ringing in our ears is Einstein’s heavily-hackneyed insight – we cannot change today’s problems with the same level of consciousness that created them in the first place. This is a perfect insight for the manifold problems we face today and our way beyond them.  Yet, so often we find ourselves doing just this, applying an outdated logic to today’s solutions. We simply don’t have time for this erroneous behaviour any more.

This is humanity’s hour of reckoning. It’s time to get radical and deal with the root cause, our pathological inner-outer dis-connectedness.

I believe that those of us reading this article in privileged positions, either within organisations or society, have a humbling responsibility to engage with, experience, embrace and embody this metamorphosis – to help catalyse this shift in consciousness unfolding within our inner and outer worlds.

This is urgent work. And yet it requires our relaxed attention, our innate receptivity.

First and foremost, this means gaining a personal perspective of what this connectedness – receptive attentiveness – feels like. Through our first-hand experience, we experience how this simple shift influences our way of relating with our selves, with others, and with our world.

Within this viscerally felt, embodied receptivity, we transcend the very consciousness that created our problems, and bring to life a richer perspective – a more holistic relationality.

Tapping in to our innate receptivity is the fertile ground from which a coherent and authentic responsiveness to our challenges arises. At root, we mitigate the risk of unwittingly applying the logic to our solutions that created our problems in the first place. The famous management specialist, Peter Drucker, knew this all-too-well when he noted:

‘In times of turmoil, the danger lies not in the turmoil, but in facing it with yesterday’s logic.’

We know this in our hearts, and yet we so often skip past this truth in our hurried dis-connected rush to get-on-with-it. And so we create more problems, more to-do lists, more holidays to take a break from the to-do lists…

What is now called for, in this hour of reckoning, is a step change in how we see the world, in how we attend to life.

With this shift in consciousness, we embody a deeper sense of place and purpose within this inter-relational world.  Only then will our solutions tackle root causes while simultaneously mopping up downstream effects.  Climate change, plastic oceans, racism, sexism, and the rest, are downstream effects which can only be effectively dealt with through a level of consciousness that doesn’t create the very separateness that causes them.

It is well within our capacity as human beings to wake up to this deeper level of consciousness – a receptive inter-relational attentiveness – it requires nothing more, nor nothing less, than us creating the conditions for our humanity to authentically flourish.

I have created mini-learning journeys to explore first-hand just this. I have been struck by my findings.  Leaders of all sorts of backgrounds enter into Nature-immersions with me while exploring future-fit leadership, and they come away with this felt-sense of receptive connectedness – a shift in consciousness occurs.

Several people have asked me to further explore consciousness-shifts as ‘one-offs’, and more enduring sustained shifts, specifically in terms of how this relates to transforming our inner-outer worldview and our approach to our systemic wicked problems.

Watch this space for more on this action-research during the weeks ahead.

Findings from a Conscious Business Lab I recently co-facilitated in London with Sara Vaughan highlight ‘vulnerability’ as an important quality for conscious leadership.  Vulnerability is an opening-up of our inner-nature through our outer behaviour; an integrating of our inner-outer authenticity or wholeness within ourselves. This vulnerability helps create the safe space for others to feel able to be more vulnerable, and so helps catalyse their authentic integration towards authentic wholeness. Vulnerability is us opening up with receptivity, whereupon we find ourselves more able to respond authentically to what emerges in our midst; receptivity enlivens our responsiveness.

In a recent conversation I had with Jayn Sterland, the CEO of Weleda UK, we touched on the work of Parker J Palmer and his emphasis on integrating our ‘backstage’ inner aspects with our ‘onstage’ aspects of our self, so that any sense of separation within ourselves can be integrated. Creating the safe space where people feel able to be vulnerable in the workplace – to be more of who they really are, rather than projecting masks and conditioned bias behaviours – is central to cultivating a more human workplace. It is enabled by leaders being courageous enough to be vulnerable themselves.

As the writer Paul Levy notes,

‘The word ‘vulnerable’ is related to the Latin word vulnus, which means ‘wound’; it is only through our being vulnerable, which can be a wounding experience, that we become able to heal…When we get in touch with the deepest, most true part of ourselves, it is the part of us that is most unique and personal, while at the same time, there is a universal aspect, in that it is the same Self that is incarnating through everyone. To experience this paradox consciously is itself the expansion of consciousness which initiates a transformation in ourselves, and by extension, the world around us.  This is to paradoxically step into being a genuinely autonomous, independent being, while at the same time realizing our interconnectedness and interdependence with other autonomous, independent beings. It is this ‘shared felt sense’ that deeply connects us with each other, cultivates compassion, helps us see through the illusion of the separate self’

This vulnerable unfolding to life through our innate receptivity is not just a ‘nice-to-have’, it is essential for our future-fitness, it’s essential for the evolutionary potential of our organisations, and rather more importantly, it’s essential for the evolutionary potential of life on Earth.

This is the essence of what is now required within ourselves, within our relationships, within our organisational cultures and leadership development approaches.

A revolution in consciousness no less

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

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 13, 2018 9:03 pm

    Thank you for sharing this brilliant piece .You seize the essential issues with a remarkable clarity which is deeply appreciated.


    Jon Kramer

    On Tue, Feb 13, 2018 at 12:33 PM, The Nature of Business wrote:

    > Giles Hutchins posted: “I have been in business now for over twenty years, > and now – at the age of 45 – my business career has consumed more than half > my life. During that time, I have seen so many aspects of our current > business paradigm, from investment management, project ma” >

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