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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

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

November 10, 2016

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.

Picture1

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.

sophia1

This is humanity’s hour of reckoning. These times of breakdown can create the conditions for breakthrough in each of us, if we have courage.

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.

You can access a podcast series on this shift in our midst here bit.ly/1Gj31TL

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

Love: A New Business Paradigm

November 1, 2016

It is now self-evident for many influential people across a number of disciplines – business, politics, education, science, philosophy – that our current prevailing logic (hallmarked by linear-thinking, silo’ed mentality, dog-eat-dog competition and control-based separateness) is exacerbating the very problems it is seeking to solve.  It keeps us distracted from the very wisdom we need to tackle the crises in our midst.

indras5

Love is a much mis-understood and mis-used word. We live in a culture high on lust yet lacking love.

Rudolf Steiner is one of the great modern philosophers who set about trying to synthesize what it means to practice living with love. His concepts have been applied to great effect in education, agriculture and medicine. For Steiner, the discipline of living with love is attained through the direct perception of the heart, where our soul (the aperture to our authentic being within Spirit) opens up allowing a deeper, more authentic, passionate and compassionate attentiveness to become embodied by us through our ways of being and doing.

Bernard Nesfield-Cookson is the author of the book Rudolf Steiner’s Vision of Love which lucidly explores Steiner’s spiritual science. Here Nesfield-Cookson notes that Steiner warns against intellectual speculations which can divert us from the path of living with love. Steiner points to artistic introspective quiet contemplation as the best preliminary condition for this path. When in this state of contemplative presence, we may feel love emanating from the soul found within the heart. It is this Love that then permeates our entirety, enlightening our ego for right thought and deed.  And so it is through a gentle stillness and introspection that we allow an opening of our heart which can then infuse each inter-relational embracement and we go about our daily activities. Only this way, is this Love made manifest into the world. The power of love empowers, enriches and enchants our way of attending to and relating with everything we do: our ‘being’ and ‘doing’ are infused with love.

‘When we tie in with the life force it rights us from our distractions and reconnects us to the rapture of life.’ – Richard Strozzi-Heckler

Step 1 – Slow down; embrace stillness and silence. Create a safe space for the subtle perturbations of the soul to be felt/heard. In allowing head-thinking intellectualisations and mental distractions to calm down, we develop the capacity for inner-sense: sensing the bodymind’s receptivity as we develop artistic introspection and heart-awareness.  This is the preliminary condition for living with love.

three hares3

This simple first step is not necessarily easy, in fact can so often feel like a great challenge in the midst of today’s busy humdrum of mass distraction, anxiety and egoistic posturing. It requires great courage not to succumb to the corrupting allures of our acculturated habituations. Yet, each of us is our own jail maker and jail breaker. It is up to you and me to take responsibility for our own awareness. In fact, taking responsibility in this way helps transform victim and blame mentalities (which keep us inured in fear-based control-based stories of separation and dualism) into self-understanding, self-loving, self-mastery, foundational to any wholesome relationship with others.

‘Disciplined empathy is not self-dissolving but self-opening’ Catherine Keller

The first step in righting ourselves towards a more balanced way of being and doing, is developing this ‘heart-awareness’ within our everyday living.

Step 2 on this path of awakening to the love of life is an embodied knowing of Nature and her wise ways: the ebbs and flows of seasonal sea changes nested at all levels of life; sensing the tensions and emergence of life; sensing and responding through a gnosis of life – the original Greek sense of the word meaning a heart-felt bodymind knowing beyond any head-based intellectualisation. This dynamic wisdom of the heart is ancient yet fresh, imminent yet transcendent. For instance, all ancient shamanic cultures are rooted in a deep heartfelt understanding that shows humility and respect for all relations.  It is what these transformational times demand of us now.

‘The purpose of life is to live in agreement with Nature’ – Zeno

Steps 3 on this path takes us into the most sacred of inner sanctums at the heart of all ancient wisdom traditions – the Holy of Holies, the quest of the Holy Grail, the philosopher’s stone: an alchemic attunement of the masculine and feminine qualities innate within life; personal mastery embodied through our communal inter-relations. Here, our organisations and communities become the manifestations of this wisdom in practice. This is the beginning of truly sacred, sustainable business – soulful business where real value (beyond the abstraction of short-term shareholder value) is realised through purposeful, intentional undertakings in service of life. It is a sense of place and purpose built on trust, humility and service where fears, envies, vanities and self-absorptions fall away – personal mastery through communal service; a place of being and doing where barriers to love are consciously permeated.

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

The Evolution of The Living Organization

October 24, 2016

Every generation experiences significant change due to innovations, disruptions and shifting perspectives. Yet there has been more significant change in the last 50 years than in the previous millenium.  These recent advances have created tetonic shifts challenging what we do and the way we do it, calling into question our sense of purpose, and demanding wholly new ways of operating and organizing.

7s shift

For organizations to thrive and flourish in these times of fast-moving change, our leaders need to be equipped with how to enable their organizations to appropriately adapt and respond to these unprecedented times. If you aren’t thriving you’re not surviving.

 

In this paper you will learn the why, the what, and the how.  You will learn a new way of thinking about your organizations that will make you and your organzations more impactful.  You will discover guidelines for assessing your organzations and a path forward that enables flourishing amid times of unceasing volatility and change.

 

Where we came from

The start of today’s dominant business paradigm coincides with the creation of the modern corporation around the turn of the twentieth century.  Its roots can be traced back to the industrial revolution which grew out of the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, which heralded rapid advances in scientific, political and philosophical thought.  This shaped a certain mind set that influenced how we approached business management during the Industrial and post-Industrial period of the 19th and 20th century. A mind set that included the reductive logic of empirical analysis, process management, control, predictability, replicability, efficiency, win-lose competition and economies of scale. These formed the backbone of Frederick Taylor’s Principles of Scientific Management published in 1909. The scientific approach of Taylorism became hugely influential in setting the context for viewing the organization as a machine. 

 

Machines perform better when optimized for efficiency.  The responsibility for optimizing the organizational machine became management’s domain and their primary concern.  This mechanistic logic coupled with economies of scale, centralization, and control-based thinking, led to the hierarchical organization structure with its silos and bureaucracy we know only too well today.  Employees were relegated to the role of efficiently performing the duties as defined by management. As management seeks to improve the efficiency of the machine, they unwittingly undermine the creativity, agility and empowerment of people in the process.

 

When you think of your organization and the challenges you face, where do your thoughts take you?  You might start with thoughts of increasing revenues, reducing expenses or even improving services to customers.  If you are like most business leaders, as you think further of how to implement such objectives, you will be thinking in terms of how you can get more with what you have (or less).  How you can maximize the efficiency of your organization.  If your thinking goes there, then it is enmeshed in the Machine Paradigm.

Read more…

Living and working with Nature – steps towards super-coherent living systems

October 12, 2016

There is an old saying, ‘May you live in interesting times’.

When someone said this to you it was viewed as both a blessing and a curse, because to live in interesting times means to face both danger and opportunity, to simultaneously embrace both breakdown and breakthrough, which is exactly what these transformative times demand of us.

The UN Secretary General refers to these times as the Great Transition; Joanna Macy, Thomas Berry and others have referred to it as the Great Turning.

‘Throughout the ages, people have said that the world is in the midst of big change.

But the level and degree of global change that we face today is far more profound than at any other period in my adult life. I call this period the Great Transition… I believe we face a unique opportunity.

Because the changes we face are so profound – the decisions we make will have a deeper and more lasting impact than perhaps any other set of decisions in recent decades. We have no time to lose.’ – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon

My own contribution to this Great Turning is to shed some light on our relationship with Nature, to help illuminate the way we live and work with Nature.

Read more…

The Organisation is a Purposeful Living System

September 23, 2016

We are in the midst of a metamorphic period of change unlike anything the world has seen since the Late Middle Ages. With “meta” (meaning “form”) and “morph” (meaning “change”), the word suggests the transformative change in form of human institutions now emerging as we awaken to the realities of climate change and the destruction of ecosystems we have long relied upon for our survival. As the organisation specialist Peter Drucker insightfully said, ‘In times of turmoil, the danger lies not in the turmoil but in facing it with yesterday’s logic’.

Easter-Island-1

Nowhere is this metamorphic change more evident than in the way business organisations are being managed and led. The ideal of ‘organisation-as-machine’, which was dominant throughout the 20th century, is now giving way to an ideal of ‘organisation-as-living-system.’

Increasingly, as our organisational context requires us to become ever more emergent, innovative and adaptive, so leadership must become more about empowering, empathising, encouraging interconnections, innovation, learning, local attunement, reciprocating partnerships and an active network of feedback. As such, the aim of leaders becomes more focused on nurturing conditions where the organisational living system can unlock its creative potential, learn and flourish in a purposeful and coherent way, so that it can create and deliver value while being mindful of the wellbeing of all the people it serves and the wider fabric of life it relates with. This is not some utopian dream, it’s happening now as you read this article.

Natural leadership

Enter a myriad of organisations thriving amid uncertainty by applying living-systems logic:  the healthcare provider Buurtzorg, the bank Triodos, the employment agency Vaga, the hi-tech manufacturer W.L Gore & Associates, the global network of social-enterprise community centres Impact Hub, the multimedia provider Sounds True, the Brazilian manufacturer Semco, to name a few.

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

  • Communication: to commune with others, really listen and deeply share with our peers and stakeholders within and beyond the organisation by creating space for soulful sharing and 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, diverse stakeholder representatives, a greater variety of external advisers, and utilizing innovative forward-thinking consultants and coaches beyond the traditional mainstream consultancies.
  • Sense of purpose: as leaders 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. And when our organisational sense of purpose resonates with our personal purpose, truly extraordinary things spark – we develop what living-systems scientists refer to as ‘super-coherence’, enabling us to thrive amid volatility.
  • 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.

front cover

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.

Speaker, author, adviser Giles Hutchins’ latest book is Future Fit:

‘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

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