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Time to Reinvent our Humanity, and Learn to Turn Tensions into Crucibles for Evolution

November 25, 2020

It is indeed a fascinating and also challenging time to be alive. 

 As COVID-shocks erode edifices of normality, underlying systemic fragility becomes easier to see.  It’s not just COVID, or the American Presidential election, mushrooming global debt, imploding commercial property values, monstrous market volatility, rising mental illness, soaring suicide rates, or the immediacy of the climate emergency.  It’s all of these combined, and so much more.

Such levels of stress in all systems create a pivotal moment where we either adapt and evolve out of this breakdown, or hold-on to the crumbling status quo, facing into the inevitable car-crash.

It’s a supreme moment in our human history!

Break-down naturally invokes fear, and an ever tightening-grip of holding-on to the safety of the status quo. Saving the status quo is too late – even if we’d wish to. Afterall, evolution is all about evolving through such transformative periods of break-down with break-through.

Are we up for evolution?

Scientists have long realised that evolution experiences fits and starts – relatively long periods of steady-state incremental change, and then significant shifts of breakdown leading to breakthrough- its known as ‘punctuated evolution’, and it’s how life on Earth adapts and evolves. 

Breakthrough involves a shift from status quo thinking – a reaching beyond our current bubble into a deeper and wider worldview, whereupon we evolve as humans. This breakthrough moment can be a time of immense innovation, not just at the product/service or business model level, or structural ways of working, but in terms of our worldview, of how we perceive ourselves, and our sense of place and purpose in the world.

All change please!

It’s what this supreme moment asks – demands – of us.  Can we rise to the challenge of the day?

Profound shifts are affecting the way we work, how and why we do things and the purpose and meaning we bring to our organisations and social systems.  What’s shifting goes way deeper than digitisation, agility and product innovation.  As the futurist John Naisbett notes,

‘The greatest breakthroughs of the 21st Century, won’t occur because of technology. They’ll occur because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.’

Whether it’s the swift shift to digital ways of working, the rising demand for authentic leadership, the increasing interest in agile purposeful organisational cultures, or the need for people to gain coherence and focus amid distraction, the blurring of home/work-life, or rising stress-levels – the desire for a root-and-branch transformation of how and why we do things is afoot.

The danger of being distracted by the noise of break-down is the inability to hear the songs-lines of breakthrough beckoning us beyond system-collapses into new ways of thinking, and new ways of perceiving – new ways of being human.

Necessity is the Mother of all inventions! 

It’s time to reinvent our humanity.

We are being prodded, cajoled, woken-up from our status quo slumber, so that we can awaken a deeper perception beyond our current bubble.

We are in need of reinventing not just our products, organisations, political institutions, economics, urban-planning, education and health systems – but all of it and more. This tumultuous time invites us to reinvent our purpose, to re-find, renew and reconnect with what it truly means to be human.

What an epic time to be a leader?!  So much of what we thought we knew is open for question.

Let’s not rush, or be hurried into panic, projection, blame, or fear-based thinking, as such hurried fearfulness merely entraps us in status-quo thinking.  To think outside the box, and beyond the bubble, we need to relax, let-go, open-up and become more present, more coherent, more connected.  Hence why the leadership immersion work I do here at Springwood, where we immerse leaders into a deeper sense of presence, with digital distractions and every-day noise left behind for a few hours, has such a catalytic effect on shifting leadership consciousness amid these transformational times.    (For more on such Immersions, see here)

The answers lie before our very noses if we so choose to see – the Logic of Life is here to help us shift into a new way of working, leading and operating.  Laura Storm and I explore this is in the book Regenerative Leadership, packed full of business examples, tools and techniques to help us become more life-affirming in business and beyond.   It really is the only viable way for us to evolve and breakthrough as leaders, while helping our organizations thrive and our people come alive amid increasing volatility.

Let’s invite a pause into our lives, a stepping back, so that we can gain perspective of what is unfolding, ahead of 2021 – which will be a pivotal year of breakdown-breakthrough.

In this supreme moment, we might wish to ensure we are not all-too-frantically shuffling deck-chairs on the Titanic with the music of yesterday still reverberating in our ears, deafening our capacity to hear the future beckoning us forth.  For the future has already been shown to us, if we so choose to see with fresh eyes. It’s the Logic of Life, nothing more, nothing less. It’s all around us, and its deep within us. It’s in our hearts and minds, if only we’d dare to listen with clear ears, and see with fresh eyes.

The reality is, the human psyche is involved in a world of tensions. Our developmental learning happens in this world of tensions.   We might wish to seek ego-control of these tensions, by collapsing the tensions into right/wrong, black/white surety and certainty, yet this breeds one-sidedness through projection and polarisation. It creates separation and exclusion, the very logic which created our problems in the first place. 

If we seek to up-stretch beyond breakdown into breakthrough, then this struggle for evolution starts right here, right now, in our own hearts and minds, by seeking learning within the tensions not collapsing the tensions into surety yet one-sided imbalance and dis-harmony.

Holding the tension open allows evolution to unfold, for something new to emerge out of the tension.  This is the essence of the Logic of Life.

Collapsing the tension before it’s fully-pregnant, creates prematurity, half-cut learnings, and an undermining of life’s learning potential. The risk here is, we get stuck in breakdown, unable to reach beyond the tensions of the day, caught up in status quo thinking, not quite crossing the threshold, no quite entering the new dawn of deeper realisation.

Alchemising Tensions

Tensions of difference are an inherent part of this duality-of-experience we live within, here are some of these tensions we experience day in, day out:

Yang – Yin

Outer – Inner

Masculine – Feminine

Me – We

Reductive – Relational

Doing – Being

Responsive – Receptive

Light – Dark

Summer – Winter

Action – Reflection

Neither side of these tensions is more right or more preferable than the other, and each situation invites us to bring in more of one side than the other.  We can become conscious of the tensions and therefore notice when we may wish to bring in a bit more of the other side of the tension to ensure harmony, rather than one-sidedness. It’s an alchemic dance, a communion of opposing tensions. The dance of Life – where the space between the notes informs the music just as much as the notes themselves do. 

By example:  it’s become fashionable in some circles to talk about a shift from Me to We – and yet this need not be a swing from one-sidedness (‘me’ – individuality accentuating into individualism) to one-sideness (‘we’ – collectivity accentuating into collectivism).

We perhaps all in our hearts know (when we deeply ponder on things) that we need a mix of both the social/collective ability to live together in harmony, and the personal and entrepreneurial freedom of expression for our unique individuality to thrive.  It’s the diversity-and-inclusion, the diversity-and-unity, not one at the expense of the other.   

When we become too entrenched in one side being right and the other side being wrong, we undermine the richness that the tension affords us.   What lies before us now is so much more than old polarities like capitalism v socialism. For sure we can learn from our socio-economic experiments with capitalism and socialism, this can inform what lies beyond the tension.

A ‘middle way’ can emerge, where a healthy dose of individuality and collectivity work in tandem, in harmony.  Inevitably, it means a pendulum swinging or spiralling flowing from a bit more ‘we’ focus at times, and then a bit more ‘me’ focus other times – this is the nature of life.    No stasis, only the movement of non-equilibrium while questing for harmony.

As the founder of VISA, Dee Hock, notes:

‘When we behave as though the linear, mechanistic, separatist, cause-and-effect perspective is the only way to understand, we mentally disconnect from the beautiful, magnificent flow of life and retreat into ever smaller compartments of specialized denial.  We no longer affirm the mystery of endless connectivity and wholeness – awareness that we, the quark and the universe, are both one and many, both infinite and finite, both particulate and whole.  We begin to shrivel our life into the whining, puerile, pitiful little concepts of ‘me’ and ‘mine’, ‘get’ and ‘keep’, ‘win’ and ‘lose’. Life is emptied of content. Self-interest and greed become worthy of emulation. Winning is all that matters. Wealth, fame, and power become deities to worship. It is a desperately sick society that does so; a society that turns its back on life and moves toward destruction and death. It is just such a society we are creating.

It is an equally sick society that denies separability, individuality, and difference. Such a society loses the creative force of conflict, the formative tension of opposing forces, the vitality of change, the creativity of difference, and the beauty of distinction. It sinks into uniformity, conformity, and indifference. It would be a great mistake to sink into such a grey miasma in an effort to correct present ills.’ – Dee Hock, Founder and former CEO of VISA

Life affords us rich tensions.  And the breakdown we are living through allows tensions to surface more readily, and in-so-doing we can rise to the challenge, and allow these tensions to reveal deeper wisdom that impels our evolution. Breakdown stimulates breakthrough.

The reality of today’s situation is – we have a major shift in worldview happening.  An old worldview dying and a new one being born.

The old worldview finds its roots in the scientific-worldview of Newtonian cause-and-effect, reductionism and linearity. This influenced the organisational-worldview of Taylorist organisation-as-machine and the socio-economics of Freidman’s short-term profit maximisation for some at the expense of the many.  It fuelled the pitiful trade-off mentality of ‘win’ and ‘lose’, ‘me’ versus ‘you’. When he was CEO of Unilever, this is what Paul Polman noted about such a mentality:

‘Too many people think in terms of trade-offs, that if you do something which is good for you, then it must be bad for someone else. That’s not right and it comes from old thinking about the way the world works and what business is for: Milton Friedman’s optimisation of short-term profits. We have to snap out of that old thinking and move to a new model.’  – Paul Polman

The much admired award-winning former Chairman and CEO of Interface, Ray Anderson said, ‘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.’

The old worldview is a collective myth – a dream or vision that is no longer relevant. While great strides in material betterment have been achieved through the mechanistic separatist worldview, we now realise it has come at great expense – pollution and stress of our inner and outer worlds.  The dream becomes a nightmare, as the unconscious psyche cajoles us into a new dream.

This new dream is within us, its birthing through us. It’s a new way of living on this planet that aids evolution of life on Earth.

As the great mythologist Joseph Campbell knew:

‘One thing that comes out of myths is that at the bottom of the abyss comes the voice of salvation. The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come.  At the darkest moment comes the light.’

The darkest moment is upon us, and it invites us to hear the real message of transformation. The new myth, the new vision, that forms the basis for the new worldview breaking through, is the vision of allowing the individuality of each person’s own maturation to inform and contribute to the collective capacity of our human society to work in harmony with Nature.

 ‘The only myth that is going to be worth thinking about in the immediate future is one that is talking about the planet, not the city, not the people, but the planet, and everybody on it. And what it will have to deal with will be exactly what all myths have to deal with – the maturation of the individual, from dependency through adulthood, through maturity, and then to the exit; and then how to relate to this society and how to relate this society to the world of nature and the cosmos.’ – Joseph Campbell

As former CEO, Dee Hock knew – it is a desperately sick society that turns its back on life. And today’s society is that sick society, as it’s turned its back on nature, no longer able to sense into the Logic of Life.  Yet this sick society is breaking down and the new is breaking through.  Let’s be careful, to ensure the new society emerging does not lose the vibrancy of opposing forces, the creativity of difference, and the beauty of distinction.

The trials of life are what bring new possibilities. The field of what it means to be human is deepening, if we have the courage to hold the tensions rather than collapse them.

What helps us hold the tensions and see beyond them?

We have two tools to help us as we journey:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Systemic-awareness

Self-awareness is first-and-foremost about us getting to know ourselves, so that we can build our trust in life. As we become more conscious of our projections, insecurities and shadows, we enrich our engagement with life, and reach beyond yesterday’s bubble.

Thoughts, opinions, assumptions, and worries about what has been (the past) or what might be (the future) can stir up emotions inside us which trigger anxiety, stress, and distraction. Before we know it, this mental noise has created a version of life that is not reality – not what is happening right before us. If we were able to release ourselves from this mental chatter, we could experience life in a less distracted, more present, and more conscious way.

‘Above all, to thine own self be True’ – William Shakespeare

When we draw our awareness out of the reactive ego-mind and gain perspective on its ramblings, habits, annoyances and projections we become able to assess situations more calmly and wisely.  We sense tensions for what they are, learning platforms. Life becomes less about oppositional conflict and more about integration and reconciliation.

‘Authentic selfhood of the human being is neither created nor does it evolve in some Darwinian or quasi-Darwinian fashion, but it is alchemically integrated from the opposites of light and dark, good and evil, masculine and feminine, conscious and unconscious. It is not by simple extension or a lineal path of growth, but by the oppositional conflict and eventual reconciliation of the oppositions that the fullness of being is restored within the individual soul…the growth of the soul has as its goal a state of integrated wholeness rather than a condition of moral perfection.’ Stephan Hoeller

The more we become aware of our mind-chatter, and the more we notice tensions within and all around us as crucibles for learning, the more we allow space for our true nature and inner vitality. We are then able to reach beyond separateness and sense interconnectedness. We can start to tune in to the Living Systems Field – what quantum scientists call the ‘quantum field’ which is all around and within us, all the time.

Just as the dawn breaks right after the darkest hour, so too does the dawn of our psychological inner-awakening occur after the darkness of tension reveals the light of illumination.

Hold the tension to allow illumination.

‘One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.’ – Carl Jung

As we learn to cultivate our self-awareness, our dominant mode of perception shifts from a largely left-brain hemispheric rational-analytic ego-awareness – that senses only separateness and linearity – into a more balanced left-right hemispheric rational-intuitive ego-soul awareness – that senses inter-relationality and systemic complexity. We become more authentic, more in touch with our inner nature, more in touch with the complexity of living systems all about us, and can sense our participation within life. This helps us attuned to Life.    It’s our birthright as human beings. It’s our natural capacity to sense harmony with life, as long as we help ourselves reach beyond the bubble of our outdated worldview.

As the author of Holism and Evolution, Jan Christiaan Smuts, insightfully notes in his ground-breaking and profoundly influential work, “the apparently individualist Mind is in reality deeply and vitally influenced by the universal Mind.” And as another influential explorer Gregory Bateson knew, it is through attuning our mind with the Mind of Nature (aka, the Logic of Life) that we learn to live in harmony with Life.  Bateson posits that the most important task today is to learn to think in this way of nature, to learn to be attuned with nature’s wisdom. Hence, the power of leadership immersions in nature, as they allow this inner coherence of ego-soul awareness.

‘True wisdom consists in not departing from nature, but in molding our conduct in accordance with Her laws and model.’ – Seneca

Alongside self-awareness, is systemic awareness, our 2nd tool to help us navigate breakdown into breakthrough.

Systemic awareness is a natural capacity we all have as human beings. Systems nested within systems are the very stuff of life. Systemic awareness is our ability to sense into the networks of systems within the living organization and throughout the wider stakeholder ecosystem, including our family and friends, local community and wider ecology of life. 

“Learn how to see. Realize everything connects with everything else” Leonardo Da Vinci

It is through this deeply felt sense of life’s complex inter-relating system dynamics, that we attune ourselves with a new way of seeing the world.  It helps us shift our perception from viewing the organization-as-machine to realizing the organization-as-living-system. 

In Complexity Theory, there is the notion of strange attractors. A system can reach a threshold, a limit to its capacity, after which it bursts and transforms into its next-stage of evolution. The field shifts, and the system starts to behave in a different way, influencing different parameters across the organization.  When it comes to human behavior, this calls for a need to unlearn what we had been learning about the organization’s behaviors and observe its new behaviors as the organizational field shifts.   

Systemic awareness goes hand-in-hand with enhanced self-awareness, coupled with what we call in the book Regenerative Leadership  Activating our Super-Nature, where we allow an integration of different intelligences within us to open ourselves into a systemic way of attending, where we can more subtly sense life beyond separateness.

Regenerative Leadership Consciousness: The Alchemy of Self-and-Systemic Awareness

When we alchemize the dynamics of self and systemic awareness we step in to Regenerative Leadership Consciousness.

Regenerative Leadership Consciousness invites in a calm inner grounded-ness and awareness of one’s own triggers, habits and shadows combined with an intuitive sense of the inter-relationality of living systems. This consciousness seeks authenticity, thinks systemically, designs for complexity, works with tensions, spawns life-affirming futures, and understands the Logic of Life.

The alchemy of self and systemic awareness creates the Regenerative Leadership abilities to:

  • tame and train the ego;
  • gain perspective on shadow-aspects, triggers and habitual behaviors;
  • sense our inner knowing;
  • embrace life as a learning journey;
  • deal gracefully with adversity; 
  • seek wisdom beyond rationality – embracing the intuitive, complex, ambiguous, non-linear nature of reality;
  • become comfortable with the uncomfortable;
  • not simply ask a question and seek a solution but live a question and sense the synchronicities that respond to this lived question;
  • strive for wholeness by cultivating the masculine and feminine aspects within us;
  • deepen our relationship with life/nature, tap into the Living Systems Field, and apply living-systems insights.     

(Source: Regenerative Leadership, Hutchins & Storm)

Education-based methods today are largely orientated and shaped by the old worldview of separation, control and materialism. Today, what is urgently needed, are education-based methods that inspire rather than suppress our attunement of self-awareness and systemic-awareness, and that enrich our self-other-Nature integration. It’s why I focus much of my work on leadership immersions in nature (see Leadership Immersions).

The Latin root for the word ‘education’ is educere meaning to ‘bring out’ or ‘lead forth’. The pioneering British economist E.F. Schumacher recognised that humankind’s greatest resource is education and the West’s state of crisis may in part have to do with its wrong approach to education. For Schumacher, it is the wisdom that education produces which is paramount; a wisdom which allows each of us to be true to our authentic nature while enhancing the quality of our interrelations, or as Schumacher put it, becoming truly in touch with our centres, where our daily conduct shows a sureness which stems from this inner clarity.

To summarise:

We are currently facing a whole array of wicked systemic challenges, ranging from climate emergency to mass biodiversity loss, from COVID to widespread mental illness, mushrooming sovereign and personal debt mountains to economic models that debase and corrupt the social and ecological fabric we all depend on. The current system is at breaking point; continuing down the status-quo road brings the inevitable car-crash. We won’t navigate our way out of this status-quo road without changing the logic and worldview by which we operate. Today’s dominant leadership logic and rationalistic-reductive worldview is rooted in a mechanistic mind-set that spawns from a worldview of separation, domination and hyper-competition.

We need to call upon a different logic – a different quality of consciousness – than that which created our current problems in the first place.  We need to look beyond status-quo thinking and invite in something deeper, something all-together more human and more natural.   Today, there are signs of such an awakening; cracks of light emerging that reveal a new way of attending to life beyond separateness and mechanistic-thinking.  The Logic of Life – the way nature has been working for billions of years – enables us to reach beyond mechanistic thinking. This living systems logic draws from a worldview of relationality – aka ‘inter-being’ – recognising that we are all participating as inter-relational living beings within the interconnected super-organism of Gaia, our home – nothing is entirely divorced from anything else. From quantum entanglement to ecosystem relationality, everything participates.

We are but weaves within this interwoven tapestry of life, and by becoming conscious of the depth and breadth of this tapestry, we learn to live in right-relation with life and its inevitable tensions. This brings us vibrancy, vitality, growth and meaning in our lives – sources of real and lasting happiness. The worldview of participation, and its Logic of Life, can be applied to how we lead and operate in business and beyond.   It’s what we call the Regenerative Leadership DNA Model in our book.

“The world is changing fast and organizations are not keeping up with the pace of transformation.  This book – Regenerative Leadership – invites leaders to catalyze the necessary regeneration to not just catch up, but to lead the world into the 21st century.”  – The former Executive of the UNFCCC, Christiana Figueres

Regenerative Leadership is a quality of leading and living that draws upon the Logic of Life, and enables our organisations to come alive and our people to thrive amid these times of increasing volatility and turbulence.

The alchemy of self-awareness and systemic-awareness enables us to cross the threshold in leadership consciousness from mechanistic to living-systems and shift our worldview from one of separateness to one of interconnectedness.  

When we are tapping into Regenerative Leadership Consciousness we allow tensions to reveal deeper insights. The dualities of life – like yin/yang, masculine/feminine, me/we – do not get polarised into dualisms, instead they are alchemised to allow the creative unfolding of life’s potential. The crucibles of tensions reveal insight and illumination.  It’s time to reach beyond the tensions of left versus right in politics or individual versus collective in society or competition versus collaboration in business.  It’s time to open up to the insights that the dualities of life afford us, as we expand our human-awareness, and become more human, more alive, more consciousness. This is what our future beckons forth in us, if we so dare to cross the threshold into a new story and a new logic.

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

Feel free to join the Leadership Immersions LinkedIn group if you have not already:

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Giles Hutchins is a pioneering practitioner, coach, keynote speaker and senior adviser at the fore-front of the [r]evolution in organizational and leadership consciousness and developmental approaches that enhance personal, organizational and systemic agility and vitality. He is author and co-author of several leadership and organizational development papers, and the books The Nature of Business (2012), The Illusion of Separation (2014), Future Fit (2016) and Regenerative Leadership (2019). Chair of The Future Fit Leadership Academy and Founder of Leadership Immersions, he runs a 60 acre leadership centre at Springwood Farm, an area of outstanding natural beauty near London, UK where he holds-space for clients to create life-affirming futures for themselves and their organisations.

Reinventing Human Beings  – Creating the Greatest Breakthrough of the 21st Century

August 1, 2020

Amid these fast-moving and volatile times, how do we enable ourselves to become more purposeful, creative, agile and wise?

How do we help our humanity not get overwhelmed by the ever-widening and deepening challenges of the day, and instead consciously adapt and evolve, so we thrive amid volatility?

I came across this image recently and it sums up some aspects about the future we face.


There are two pathways ahead of us – 1) baton-down the hatches with fear and control, sicking to Business As Usual (BAU) and hoping the waves will pass (they won’t they will only get bigger until we wake up) 2) open-up and realise what these waves are wakening us to, while learning to surf on the edge of chaos by becoming more human, more alive and more wise.

Pathway 1 chooses fear and degeneration. Pathway 2 chooses life and regeneration.

Read more…

The Time Has Come To Cross The Threshold – death/rebirth of self and system

July 10, 2020

Amid this time of upheaval and systemic challenge, we can reveal wisdom-seeds of a new way starting to spawn deep within us and within our social systems.

All transformation starts with a rupturing of the status quo. Breakthrough is preceded by breakdown.

This is what we are experiencing today.  From mass migrations, social unrest and increasing mental illness through to pandemics, climate change, ecological degradation and economic turmoil – a civilisation is dying and a new one being born.

At the heart of this systemic shift is a transformation in worldview upon which our beliefs are founded – a shift from a mechanistic worldview of separation to a participatory worldview of interconnection.

In short: the dying yet still dominant worldview today perceives life as a purposeless random affair, where separate individuals and competing organisations struggle for survival in a dog-eat-dog world. The lens of perception through which we perceive ourselves and the world around us is a narrowed-down lens. It objectifies the world into separate objects and deterministic push-pull relationships. It assumes life is like a clockwork machine that can be understood by examining the parts.    We have trained ourselves over generations of schooling to see this narrowed-down view.  It has become acculturated in us to such an extent that much of the time we don’t even question it, thinking it’s the way life really is. We analyse, extrapolation, categorise and manipulate the world around us, and lose our inherent empathic connection with life.  This creates a sense of separateness and insecurity that then fuels an ego-need to compete, control and dominate in order to be safe in a fearful world.   This atomisation of life, society and the individual desensitises us creating imbalances in us. We attempt to satisfy these inner tensions through outer material betterment and techno-fixes, unable to see that it is our inner imbalance that is the source of the problem.

The new worldview being born dares us to open-up this narrowed-down lens of perception, so we can perceive more of how life really is and enliven our empathic connection with all of life.

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” – Albert Einstein

This task that Einstein refers to, is the key to solving the social, environmental and economic challenges we face today. It involves a widening of our perceptual horizon that shifts the way we interrelate with ourselves, each other and life.  It’s a shift in consciousness from separateness to interconnectedness.   It is a home-coming, as it re-engages us with more of who we truly are, and how life really is. With it comes freedom, expansiveness and a humbling responsibility to find accord with life through our own coherence and connection.

Crossing the Threshold

This opening-up to more of reality, is a threshold-crossing, where the old sense of self starts to die, and a new sense of self is born.  It’s a psychological death of letting-go that welcomes in a richer experience of life.  It is as radical as the metamorphosis of the caterpillar to the butterfly.


“How does one become butterfly?’ Pooh asked pensively.

You must want to fly so much that you‘re willing to give up being a caterpillar,” Piglet replied.

You mean you die?” asked Pooh.

“Yes and no,” he answered. “What looks like you will die but, but what’s really you will live on.” 

– A. A. Milne


To die and be reborn is the task of our time: individually and collectively.

The Journey of Crossing the Threshold lies at the heart of all world myths and wisdom traditions. It is the Journey of overcoming the inner challenges amid a world of opposing tensions.

To begin to sense the wisdom contained within the alchemy of life’s tensions is to sense the wisdom that pervades life.

To apply a contemporary framing to Crossing the Threshold, we can draw upon MIT’s leadership specialist Otto Scharmer and his Theory U, which draws from ancient wisdom tradition.  We have to journey down the U by letting-go and opening-up our mind, opening-up our heart, and opening-up our will, so as to connect to Source at the bottom of the U. From this place of inner coherence and connection, we can start to engage in right thought, right relation and right action. A new, richer perception unfolds, and our orientation of self-other-world shifts.

(source – Presencing Institute)

We cannot expect ourselves to come up with real and lasting solutions to today’s challenges without first knowing how to let go and connect to Source.  Yet how widely taught is this in our Universities or Business Schools today?  We are all-too-consumed with the dying worldview that objectifies the world with machine thinking – the very thing that skews our capacity to connect to Source. Hence, fashionable movements like Agile, for instance, get mechanised and superficialised into the outer ‘doing’ techno-fix part. The inner dimension of how we more effectively open-up, collaborate and engage systemically, is often overlooked and so the well-intended movement fails to truly transform ourselves and our organisations in any deep and lasting way.

Connecting to Source

Right at the heart of crossing the threshold is the capacity to tap into the life-force or Source within and all around us.

This inner connection to deeper parts of ourselves and reality is a very natural capacity we all have as human beings.  For the large part of our human history we lived with this deep connection to Source, yet as we became more mechanistic in our thinking, we drew ourselves away from this interconnectedness.

There are many methods and practices to help aid our reconnection with Source.  Practices such as meditation, walking in nature, playing a musical instrument, dancing, singing, sleeping under the stars, and such like, can aid us.  Yet to have a deeper more lasting transformation from an old separate sense of self into a more interconnected sense of self, requires an intentional practice over a longer time period, often involving a ‘dark night of the soul’ – months perhaps years through which we may experience depression or inner-shifts that feel uncomfortable and challenging, yet are part of a death/rebirth process.

Intentional practices where we work on letting go of the old self, connecting to source and creating space for the new self to be born and nurtured within us are useful.  I have found that Vision Quests in nature are powerful in this regard – a well-held intentional space of being in nature for atleast a day and night, preferably longer, where we allow our awareness to soften and our perceptual horizon to open-up while being in nature, connected close to the earth, and receptive to the plants, animals, clouds and sky around us while gaining space from everyday habits, routines, distractions and to-do lists.  I have experienced my own ‘dark night of the soul’ and also enjoyed many nature-based vision-quests. I have personally felt the wisdom innate within nature, and the healing and transformative power this wisdom provides. I have also applied this wisdom and healing through the coaching work I do to aid people through their own threshold crossings and dark nights of the soul as they go through important life inflection points, while finding deeper purpose and coherence in their lives.

‘We have today to learn to get back into accord with the wisdom of nature’ – Joseph Campbell

Gaia Theory, Facilitation Ecology, Quantum Physics, Depth Psychology, Neurobiology, Systems Thinking, Cybernetics, Complexity Theory and other 20th century scientific discoveries illuminate the systemic, participatory and interconnected nature of life and consciousness.

Today’s dominant yet dying worldview still holds-on to separateness, and sees consciousness as something limited to within our own brains, even though Nobel Laureates and award-winning scientists now know otherwise.

The task of our time is to learn to let go and connect to Source so that we can get back in tune with the wisdom innate within nature.  It’s this wisdom (and its medicine) that we desperately need to help us find solutions to today’s challenges; solutions unencumbered by the same logic that created the problems in the first place.

It can seem a bit paradoxical to suggest to the busy business mind that the wise course of action for the leader is to stop, pause, take time out, breathe deep, connect and then sense and respond.  But this is what is needed now, amidst all this cacophony and confusion.

The other side of complexity is a beautiful simplicity.

In my latest book co-authored with Laura Storm, Regenerative Leadership, we explore how to connect to Source and access the wisdom of nature – a process we refer to as Activating our Super Nature.

Pioneering psychologist Carl Jung extensively researched different human intelligences everyone has access to:  intuitive; rational; emotional and somatic

The intuitive way of knowing has often been related to the element fire, and also to SQ or quantum intelligence – this intuition informs us as we bring this insight into our daily awareness, influencing our decisions.  Opening up to this intuitive intelligence requires us to reach beyond the grasping busy-mind of our daily awareness, to quieten, and still ourselves, so we can better cultivate this receptivity.

The emotional way of knowing has often been related to the element water, and also to EQ – the feelings within us, ebbing and flowing, inform and enrich our daily awareness, influencing our decisions.  Opening up to this emotional intelligence requires us to not simply react to feelings but sense-inward, allowing our feelings to have space, so we can consciously respond to these feelings. It is a subtle yet important shift from reactivity to responsiveness, from blind emotional outburst to informed emotional intelligence.

In 1995, Daniel Goleman’s work on Emotional Intelligence highlighted the importance of emotions and emotional intelligence (EQ) for leadership development and organisational learning. Goleman found that how we cultivate awareness of our own and other’s feelings and unconscious bias, then consciously respond to these feelings and filters in appropriate ways, helps our leadership potential.   Studies show that EQ out-performs IQ as a predictor of job success and performance capability.

Then in 1997, the neuroscientist Candace Pert’s ground-breaking work Molecules of Emotion provided more insight into the integration of body-mind sensations, feelings and thoughts, in what Pert referred to as the ‘psychosomatic network’ – an integrated system of psyche and soma. The psyche comprises the nonmaterial aspects such as mind, emotion and soul, and the soma comprises the material aspects such as the cells, organs and tissues.

This brings us on to another of Carl Jung’s ways of know: somatic intelligence. Our somatic and sensorial way of knowing has often been related to the element earth, and also to PQ.  This is the sensations we have in our body, for instance, gut pangs, or tickle in the throat, hairs on the back of the neck, or chest perturbations. Our soma (as Pert scientifically explored) is full of psychosomatic sensations that inform our psyche. As we allow ourselves to quieten and sense into the somatic intelligence within us, we enrich our conscious awareness and invite intelligence into our daily awareness, so as to be better at sensing and responding to changes within and all around us.

And finally, Jung’s fourth way of knowing, is the rational analytic intelligence – which has been related to the element air, and also to IQ.  This tends to be the dominant intelligence we call upon  in today’s busyness. Our head-logic, the analytic mechanisations it creates, is what dominates today’s meetings, conversations and decisions. It is but one intelligence within our human repertoire, yet when it dominates too much, it can suppress our other ways of knowing.

When we allow these 4 ways of knowing – intuitive (fire), rational (air), emotional (water), somatic (earth) – to cohere, we allow these 4 elements of nature to integrate in their rightful way within is. As we integrate these 4 elements of nature, we open ourselves us to the 5th element, the Akasha, or what the brilliant scientist David Bohm referred to as the ‘ground of all being’ – a generative field that permeates space, it is the Source within and all around us all the time, if we so choose to tap into it. We tap into a quality of time/space that accesses wisdom.

To summarise: By integrating our 4 ways of knowing, we tap into the 5th element: our true nature, and the wisdom of nature within and all around us. This provides access to the synchronistic and systemic capacity we need to thrive in times of increased volatility.   We tap into the generative field of life – what the ancient Chinese called the Way of Nature. This is our super-nature. It is well within our natural capacity, and all it requires is for us to integrate our natural human repertoire within us and find accord with nature around us. It’s an inner-outer attunement calling upon and enlivening self-awareness and systemic awareness.

This is the important basis for awakening our humanity, and for dealing with the root cause of our plethora of crises (whether it be climate change through to rampant social inequality and structural racism) what lies at root is a flawed way of attending to life that needs addressing at source.

What is happening to us biologically when we activate our super-nature?

The Neurological- Biological Threshold Crossing

By placing electrodes over the body and taking blood samples, etc., researchers have found that our brain-wave frequencies, neurological networks and hormones change dramatically when we cross the threshold and connect to Source.

A shift in brain-wave frequencies (beta-alpha-theta-gamma-delta) occurs. It can be summarised as a shift from a dominant beta-state to more propensity for alpha, theta, gamma, while beta is still present. We have access to a wider bandwidth of brain-wave frequency, rather than it being narrowed into beta-state.

This opening-up comes with a ‘sweet spot’ of left-hemispheric and right-hemispheric brain integration. The corpus callosum coming alive, and there is an electromagnetic alignment at the head-heart-gut level.  Our bodymind coheres.

With this neuro-biological-electromagnetic coherence, brain scans show a sharp rise in high wave amplitude brain wave-energy. It seems the brain’s way of being shifts into a new stage of consciousness.

Our capacity to access consciousness from the ‘field’ enhances.  Likewise, our systemic-awareness of what is happening in our team and organisational dynamics greatly enhances.

As a brief aside: At school we may have been taught to see the brain as the originator of consciousness. Advanced neurology and consciousness studies now indicate something quite different.  The brain is an ‘inhibitor’. Its primary purpose is to inhibit the sea of sentience/consciousness of this reality we find ourselves immersed within.  It tunes-out frequencies, signals and resonances that are deemed irrelevant or unhelpful for our day-to-day functioning and survival.

It tunes us out of the immensity of the ‘field’ we are immersed within, so we can separate out what is important to us, narrow-down, focus-in, and delineates the otherwise fluid connective reality we inhabit. This is radically different from the brain being seen as the sole originator of consciousness.

It has been said that looking for consciousness inside the brain is like looking for the radio announcer inside the radio-set. Yes, we need to attune the radio-set to ensure the right connectivity, but that does not mean to say the radio-set suddenly becomes all-there-is, far from it.

As we activate our super-nature, the ‘inhibitor’ function of the brain is loosened, so that our ‘bandwidth’ for connection is widened – we can access more ‘radio-stations’, to use that analogy, while still being able to tune in to specific stations as we wish. Our consciousness becomes like a super-power, whereupon we can learn to detect more of what is useful for us to tune-in to, so as to help us understand what might need attention in different parts of our selves and social systems we live and lead in.

If not handled correctly through time-honoured practices and approaches, this super-power can become over-powering, even maddening – too many felt-senses, energies, images, voices, resonances – confusing the hell out of us, overrunning our capacity for coherent purposeful engagement with life.

The opposite is also true.  If the inhibiting brain is too tight, too grasping, too narrowed-down in its inhibition, it can tune-out the very essence of life that informs our sense of place and purpose as human-beings. We get caught up in an illusion of separation, and see only individualism, materialism, anthropocentrism and egotism.  This leads to the contagion of consumerism we are inured in today.  It is our present malaise of the mind.  We are inhibiting too much of reality, focusing too much on our own self-reflection – enter the story of Narcissus.  Yet, just as there is hope contained within Narcissus’s fate, as he falls in love with ‘self’, falling into nature in the process, there is evidence of our narrowing-down scientific rational-analytic attention piercing its own hall of mirrors.  At the macro-scale in astrophysics, the micro-scale in quantum physics and the meso-scale in morphogenesis, facilitation ecology, neurobiology and developmental psychology,  our narrowing-down razor-sharp focus is cutting through to see the innate inter-relationality of our reality.  Our ‘return’ back into real life.  The Journey of Separation starts to arc back towards Reconnection.

Back to the neuro-biology of what happens within us during this activation of our super-nature, as left and right brain hemispheres cohere and brain-waves cohere with the deeper waves of the heart and gut: in the instant of this brain energy surge, neurological and hormonal transformation happens both in brain and body.

And within the centre of our brain, the pineal gland is activated.

‘The greatest breakthroughs of the 21st century will not occur because of technology. They will occur because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.’ – John Naisbett

Let’s look at what is actually going on biologically when this pineal gland activation happens.

Pineal Gland Activation

Scientists from the URSI General Assembly – Baconnier, Lang and Seze – have found small calcite crystals, less than 20 microns in length within the pineal gland.  These seem responsible for electromagnetic transduction that takes place in this pineal heart of our brain.

The pineal gland is a transducer, a neuroendocrine transducer to be precise. It’s an antennae and reverberator. It receives an incoming signal from this deeper electromagnetic field we are immersed within.  Then, it reverberates, like a tuning-fork, which informs a shift within us.

Put another way, as the inhibiting tendency of the brain opens-up to the field, the pineal gland, like an antennae on a radio-set, picks-up a signal from the field. As it is a transducer, it starts to pulsate, reverberating with this energy it has picked up, like a tuning-fork.

This is called a ‘piezoelectric effect’, which occurs within the tiny calcite crystals. These tiny crystals pulsate, creating an electromagnetic field in the pineal gland that excites a change in hormonal activity and a change in neurological  and nerve activity throughout our bodymind, emanating along the spinal nerve and throughout peripheral nerves, emanating this energy to our tissues and organs, and in turn, to every cell and sinew of our soma.

In terms of the hormonal change this piezoelectric reverberation triggers, it seems that this electromagnetic change influences a ‘methylation’ process, a chemical transformation (one might say, ‘alchemy’) where methyl compounds undergo transformation. These methyl components are key to so many activities such as DNA repair, rational reasoning, the activation and deactivation of genes, and our ability to fight off infections. As a direct consequence of the pineal gland piezoelectric shift, methyl compounds in the hormones melatonin and serotonin are affected.

The production of melatonin (which invokes receptivity, relaxation, contemplation, introversion, sleep) interweaves with the production of serotonin (which invokes responsiveness, energised aliveness and extroversion).

As melatonin goes down, adrenal cortisol levels go up, and vice versa. Adrenal cortisol increases our focusing-in, assertiveness, desire to move-forward, and progress. Too much can lead to a sense of grasping, which can warp into impatient pensiveness, stress and anxiety, in certain circumstances hedonism or mania.

Chronic stress affects the natural levels of melatonin and serotonin and the process of methylation that sees melatonin and serotonin shift between each. Chronic stress creates incoherence rather than head-heart-gut coherence, and this incoherence tunes us out from the field. We get caught in high-beta brain waves, which increase the propensity for fight-flight amygdala-hijacks which breeds further stress.

Heart Entrainment

When we cross the threshold, and connect to Source, we allow our brain-waves to entrain with the deeper waves of the heart. This is called ‘heart entrainment’ which shifts the body’s electromagnetic coherence, along with shifts in the nervous, endocrine and neurological networks throughout the body.  Hormones change. The production of DHEA increases. DHEA is known as the ‘mother hormone’ due to its influence on other hormones like oxytocin, and the increase in empathy, trust and connection this creates in us. We shift our consciousness from separateness to connectedness.

Much research has been undertaken into the heart as an organ of perception (along with the gut and brain.  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 (‘direct perception’) and then updating the brain and gut, which then respond to this information. Hence, ‘extra-sensory perception’ in the form of intuitive feelings, premonitions and clairsentience come on stream through the direct perception of the heart (see one such scientific study here).

‘And now here is my secret, it is a very simple secret, it is only with the heart that one sees rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.’ – The Little Prince

With pineal gland activation and head-heart-gut coherence, we become more alive, more conscious, more coherent and more open to nature’s wisdom.

It seems we receive a biological upgrade which enlivens our capacity for relationality, self-awareness, systemic-awareness, empathy, receptivity and responsiveness. This, inturn, when conducted regularly with life-practices amid shifts in our Life Conditions, can provide advancement in our ‘adult developmental psychology’. We can shift from what psychologist Clare Graves’ research refers to as Tier 1 to Tier 2, characterised by a worldview shift from Separation to Inter-connection.

At the personal level – this bio-psycho-socio-spiritual boost may or may not contribute to a persistent and lasting up-stretch into a different level of psychological maturation. This depends on how we integrate this ‘shift’ into our daily life.  Through daily practices of living-systems-being (see Chapter 8 of Regenerative Leadership) we can learn to cultivate coherence and connection to Source more frequently, thus enriching our general self-awareness and systemic-awareness to become Regenerative Leaders.

I would like to finish this article with a rather long yet insightful quote. I believe it is highly relevant not just for what lies in the recent history of the United States of America, and so informing some of today’s ruptures, but for what lies within all Western cultures.

This letter was sent in 1855 by Native American Chief Seattle of the Duwamish Tribe to Franklin Pierce, President of the United States in response to an offer to purchase the Dwamish lands in the North East of the US, currently Washington State.

The Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. The Great Chief also sends us words of friendship and good will. This is kind of him, since we know he has little need of our friendship in return. But we will consider your offer, for we know if we do not so the white man may come with guns and take our land. What Chief Seattle says you can count on as truly as our white brothers can count on the return of the seasons. My words are like the stars – they do not set.

How can you buy or sell the sky – the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. Yet we do not own the freshness of the air or the sparkle of the water. How can you buy them from us? We will decide in our time. Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing, and every humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people.

We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and when he has conquered it, he moves on. He leaves his father’s graves and his children’s birthright is forgotten. The sight of your cities pains the eyes of the redman. But perhaps it is because the redman is a savage and does not understand.

There is no quiet place in the white man’s cities. No place to listen to the leaves of spring or the rustle of insect wings. But perhaps because I am a savage and do not understand – the clatter only seems to insult the ears. And what is there to life if a man cannot hear the lovely cry of the whippoorwill or the arguments of the frogs around a pond at night? The Indian prefers the soft sound of the wind itself cleansed by a mid-day rain, or scented by a pinõn pine: The air is precious to the redman. For all things share the same breath – the beasts, the trees, and the man. The white man does not seem to notice the air he breathes. Like a man dying for many days, he is numb to the stench.

If I decide to accept, I will make one condition. The white man must treat the beasts of this land as his brothers. I am a savage and I do not understand any other way. I have seen thousands of rotting buffaloes on the prairie left by the white man who shot them from a passing train. I am a savage and do not understand how the smoking iron horse can be more important than the buffalo that we kill only to stay alive. What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, men would die from great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beast also happens to the man.

All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth.

Our children have seen their fathers humbled in defeat. Our warriors have felt shame. And after defeat they turn their days in idleness and contaminate their bodies with sweet food and strong drink. It matters little where we pass the rest of our days – they are not many. A few more hours, a few more winters, and none of the children of the great tribes that once lived on this earth, or that roamed in small bands in the woods will remain to mourn the graves of the people once as powerful and hopeful as yours.

One thing we know that the white man may one day discover. Our God is the same God. You may think that you own him as you wish to own our land, but you cannot. He is the Body of man, and his compassion is equal for the redman and the white. This earth is precious to him, and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its Creator. The whites, too, shall pass – perhaps sooner than other tribes. Continue to contaminate your bed, and you will one night suffocate in your own waste. When the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses all tamed, the secret corners of the forest heavy with the scent of many men, and the view of the ripe hills blotted by the talking wires, where is the thicket? Gone. Where is the eagle? Gone. And what is it to say goodbye to the swift and the hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival.

We might understand if we knew what it was the white man dreams, what hopes he describes to his children on long winter nights, what visions he burns into their minds, so they will wish for tomorrow. But we are savages. The white man’s dreams are hidden from us. And because they are hidden, we will go our own way. If we agree, it will be to secure your reservation you have promised.

There perhaps we may live out our brief days as we wish. When the last redman has vanished from the earth, and the memory is only the shadow of a cloud passing over the prairie, these shores and forests will still hold the spirits of my people, for they love this earth as the newborn loves its mother’s heartbeat. If we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it as we have cared for it. Hold in your memory the way the land is as you take it. And with all your strength, with all your might, and with all your heart – preserve it for your children, and love it as God loves us all. One thing we know – our God is the same. This earth is precious to him. Even the white man cannot escape the common destiny.

And so to summarise:

When we lose our connection to Source, we become ungrounded and up-rooted from the wisdom of life, and lose our innate biophilic empathy for life.  We lose our inner coherence and our head, heart and gut are no longer in alignment. The pineal gland is no longer activated, and our hormonal balance is affected, and high-beta brain wave patterns form, tuning us out of the intuitive, emotional and somatic intelligences within us. We grasp at an ego-sense of ‘self’ in outward material ways – status, job position,  number of likes or fans on social media posts, selfies, etc. Enter the world of hollow consumerism.  Signs of a dying civilisation that struggles to smell the stench of its own decay. Yet decay breeds new life, a rebirth.

To find real and lasting solutions to today’s trilemma of social, economic and ecological stress and strain, we need to rebalance the inner and outer dimensions of life by reconnecting with our true nature within and with nature all around us.  Then we Activate our Super-Nature and bring a quality of consciousness to our solutions fundamentally different from that which creates today’s problems in the first place.

A powerful tool to help is a well-held Vision Quest or overnight solo immersion in nature, where we engage in simple yet powerful practices to let-go of our old ego-self, connect to Source while activating our super-nature.

Then, we see a beautiful simplicity the other side of all this complexity and stress in today’s world.

‘The greatest voyage of our lifetimes is not in the seeking of new landscapes, but in the seeing with new eyes.’ – Marcel Proust

It is only then, that we can truly begin the path of turning the Journey of Separation into a Journey of Reconnection and Regeneration.  This helps our selves, our families, our organisations, our communities and the wider fabric of life on Earth, as we wake up to the magnificence of existence and begin to see the sacredness in everything – and then the words of Chief Seattle and other Indigenous Elders do not fall on deaf ears. And we remember the Way of Nature, caring for it as the newborn loves its mother’s heartbeat.

Nature immersions and vision quests can enable this threshold crossing by opening-up our consciousness, and enriching our innate biophilic, empathic, participatory engagement with life. From this place, we seek solutions that deal with root causes as well as down-stream effects.

The time has come, to cross the threshold.

For a series of short youtube podcasts that explore the Illusion of Separation and our way beyond it, see here.

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Giles Hutchins is a pioneering practitioner, coach and senior adviser at the fore-front of the [r]evolution in organizational and leadership consciousness and developmental approaches that enhance personal, organizational and systemic agility and vitality. He is author and co-author of several leadership and organizational development papers, and the books The Nature of Business (2012), The Illusion of Separation (2014), Future Fit (2016) and Regenerative Leadership (2019). Chair of The Future Fit Leadership Academy and Founder of Leadership Immersions, he runs a 60 acre leadership centre at Springwood Farm, an area of outstanding natural beauty near London, UK where he holds-space for clients to create life-affirming futures for themselves and their organisations.

Structural Racism, Climate Emergency and the COVID Crisis – what connects them?

June 13, 2020

In this article we explore what underpins any lasting system change, and in the process illuminate how structural racism, the climate emergency, and the COVID crisis all share an underlying root which when dealt with can improve the health of our organisations, society and life on Earth.

Systems scientist Donella Meadows researched system interventions. She observed that the highest leverage point at which to intervene in a system is the worldview/mind-set out of which the system arises.

Unless we address today’s dominant yet out-dated worldview and the leadership logic that flows from it, then all our best endeavours for new ways of working and more sustainable, ethical and inclusive business models will be short-lived.

As co-author of Quantum Leadership and long-time specialist on Flourishing Enterprises, Chris Laszlo notes,

‘When a business announces that it will cut carbon emission 50% next year, it is really saying that it will harm the environment less. A more accurate way to think about such business efforts is that they are only slowing the rate of unsustainability. This should not be conflated with making positive impact, by which we mean creating economic prosperity, improving wellbeing, and contributing to a regenerative natural environment.’

Shifting business strategies from doing less harm to strategies that create flourishing for all life requires a root-and-branch transformation in how we perceive the organisation and its purpose, and how we perceive ourselves and our purpose. It’s a worldview shift.

This worldview shift is already unfolding.  Here are some signs of change:

Read more…

Re-booting the system won’t work

June 5, 2020

Who would be a CEO today? Put yourself in the shoes of the CEO of a Financial Services organisation facing the increasingly toxic cocktail of spiralling bureaucracy, increasing regulations, rising mental health issues, and a growing demand for ESG related investments from clients, all amidst the COVID-19 crisis where planning for a second-spike and beyond is open to so many unpredictable variables.  Yet instead of locking-down with a command-and-control response, he opens-up and crosses a threshold, stimulating a culture of collaboration and out-of-the-box thinking. Creativity starts to bubble, and innovation percolates throughout the hierarchy. The organisation gains a deeper sense of purpose, attracts and retains talent, growing while others contract.

In another sector, the CEO of a Housing Association also faces a toxic cocktail, this time of spiralling social challenges for its client base coupled with ever-changing government regulation and funding challenges, all amidst the COVID-19 crisis. Instead of reacting with command-and-control mechanistic levers she opens-up and crosses a threshold, creating a coaching culture where people start to thrive and the organisation comes alive. Soon the organisation wins awards not just for its culture but also for its best-in-class client services. It grows while others contract.

These anecdotes are drawn from real situations to illustrate an approach that my co-author Laura Storm and I have dubbed Regenerative Leadership. This is the future our organisations can achieve by unlocking brilliance from the inside-out.

Re-booting the system won’t work

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to create pandemonium worldwide. No doubt the after-shock will be felt for some time across our interconnected global economy. This is clearly front-of-mind for leaders across all sectors and sizes, no one is spared. Yet it is but one of a broad range of systemic challenges today’s business leaders now face in this ‘new norm’ of radical uncertainty.  Just as Covid 19 interlinks with rapidly changing environmental and social conditions, dis-ease in our organisations interlinks with an increasing need for purpose and meaning, health and wellbeing, authenticity and creativity, diversity and inclusion, resilience and regeneration.

The science, economics and ethics all align on one thing: we can’t continue with business-as-usual.  Its business-as-usual that is contributing to the systemic challenges we now face. Re-booting the existing system post-pandemic is not an option for the future vitality of capitalism. It just kicks the can down the road; a can that has already been severely dented by the Global Financial Crisis of 2008.

The leaders I liaise with want healthy organisations which employees are proud to work in; resilient organisations that provide richer futures for ourselves and our children; regenerative organisations that add real value rather than undermining the social and ecological fabric upon which we all depend. I think we all want this.

In the Thick of it

How do we create this new reality while keeping the wheels-on-the-road amid increasing uncertainty and volatility? How do we prevent a retrenchment to old-style capitalism amid pandemic-pandemonium when wisdom says capitalism needs to evolve towards life-affirming futures? Exemplifying this is the B-Corp movement and also Inclusive Capitalism – global movements gathering momentum with leaders across business, government and civic sectors.

Back in 2010, I was busy making the ‘business case for sustainability’ as Global Head of Sustainability for a major corporation. Now, in 2020, as leadership coach, I find the agenda around sustainable business has matured somewhat, along with that of organisational purpose and agility.  Recently, one leader shared with me how corporate responsibility now reaches well beyond the sustainability department, joining forces with strategy, culture, purpose and future-fitness.  Another leader acknowledges how competitive-advantage is gained by baking sustainability into the strategy.  Another leader recognises good progress being made on the top-down ‘technical stuff’ of supply chain and operational metrics, mission-statements and decision-making methods, with the challenge now being how to live it from the inside-out. Inclusive Capitalism is far more than a mission-statement, management report and metrics-pack. It’s something to be embodied in the day-to-day thick-of-it.

Busting out of silos to lead in toxic times

As we face into the Exponential Decade ahead, organisations need to work seamlessly across until-now separate silos of strategy, sustainability, culture and personal resilience.  Transcending these 4 silos calls upon a new kind of leadership – Regenerative Leadership – which draws from a different kind of logic than many of us are used to applying in business: a living-systems logic rather than a machine-logic.

Yesterday’s machine logic seeks to control the organisation through top-down power-based hierarchies, push-pull cause-effect levers and linear metrics. Yet this disempowers and undermines the future-fitness of the organisation. It encourages siloed thinking and reduces down the responsiveness of the organisation to change.  It triggers leaders to retract and react in times of volatility rather than open-up and respond.

Today’s business context requires organisations to become ever more emergent, innovative and adaptive.  Embracing a living-systems logic opens up our perceptual horizon to see the organisation as a relational adaptive system that is governed by the same laws that govern all of life.  This is a profound shift in our perspective; one that will take us from solely optimizing the machine for efficiency through command-and-control and hierarchic power structures to also optimising relationships through empowerment, connection and co-creativity.

This is not some utopian dream, it’s quietly going mainstream, and the business examples packed into the book Regenerative Leadership is testament to that.

“This book invites leaders to lead the world into the 21st Century” – Christiana Figueres

“This is the must-read book of the year. I couldn’t put it down. The clarity, inspiration, synergy and wisdom of this book is breath-taking.” – Dr Lynne Sedgemore CBE

To summarise, we are in the midst of a metamorphosis. Profound shifts are affecting the way we work, how and why we do things and the purpose and meaning we bring to our organisations.  The more conscious leaders are of silo-busting through living-systems thinking, the more organisations become future-fit in these volatile times.  The future of business, and the future of capitalism, demands Regenerative Leadership.

You can download the first chapter of the book Regenerative Leadership for free here.


Giles Hutchins is a pioneering practitioner and senior adviser at the fore-front of the [r]evolution in organisational and leadership consciousness. He is author and co-author of several leadership and organisational development papers, and the books The Nature of Business (2012), The Illusion of Separation (2014), Future Fit (2016) and Regenerative Leadership (2019). Chair of The Future Fit Leadership Academy, cofounder of Biomimicry for Creative Innovation and Regenerators, he runs a 60 acre leadership centre at Springwood Farm, an area of outstanding natural beauty near London, UK.  Previously held corporate roles – Head of Practice for KPMG, and Global Head of Sustainability for Atos (150,000 employees, over 40 countries).

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Stress in all Systems – A Unique Window of Opportunity

May 19, 2020

Every leader, organisation and society around the world has been affected by the COVID-crisis. We have all been affected by the same challenge at the same time. It’s remarkable. Yet, we have each had very personal experiences and varied losses.

Routines and ways of living and working have been upset. Many have been altered permanently, with no possibility of going back to ‘normal’.  We might question what is ‘normal’ anyway.  Suggesting a ‘new normal’ may provide some solace that things will settle into a new rhythm, and yet the astute and prescient know this is illusory.  Perhaps one might speak of a ‘new natural’ where we adapt to a way of living and leading that can embrace shocks, upsets, volatility and instability as part of the natural context of life as ever-changing, intimately interconnected and ultimately uncontrollable.

One thing is certain, we can expect more systemic shocks to come. Regardless of whether we get a new vaccine on-stream quickly, we face a long list of systemic risks of which harmful viruses are but one.

Today’s world is characterised by multi-dimensional stress – economic stress, personal and social stress, ecological and climate stress.

Economic stress – Economies the world-over are reeling. Sovereign, corporate and consumer debt is mushrooming to unprecedented levels. Global supply chains have shown how fragile they are to supply shocks. Businesses are folding, redundancies are rising, with the inevitable repercussions this creates. The system is being stressed to near breaking point.

Social and personal stress – Mental and stress-related illnesses across developed (and many developing) economies were rising exponentially before COVID hit, and things have not magically improved. People have suffered all sorts of psychological stresses and strains amid lock-down. That said, people are in no rush to get back to how things were before lock-down. A recent YouGov poll in Great Britain showed only 9% of people want to go back to ‘normal’. A sense of loneliness in urban environments was already a rising theme before COVID, and interestingly – amid social distancing – some people have felt more connected to others due to a common feeling of us all being in this together. Rather than caught up in the usual must-get-on rush from one task to the next with little time to pause and listen to those around us, many have found moments when they can actually be present to what is going on within their neighbourhood and family. Yet others have found family and community relationships strained at times. Before COVID, 1 in 4 people in England were on addictive prescribed drugs, a trend that is rising.  Things are far from healthy.  No wonder we don’t want to go back to ‘normal’ when ‘normal’ is far from sane. New ways of working are now emerging due to COVID, as is the meshing of work and family life, which brings a range of risks and opportunities. I’m a coach with a diverse client base of varying age, culture, gender, privilege, seniority and background. During lock-down, it has been interesting to observe the emotional roller-coaster many people have been experiencing. Post lock-down may be no less challenging. Many people are asking deeper questions about to whom or what is their work actually serving? More and more people are starting to question why our economic system is creating futures no one wants. Why is economic growth undermining the wellbeing of ourselves and our social systems? Why would we wish to go back to ‘normal’ when ‘normal’ is damaging ourselves, societies and ecologies?

Ecological stress – We all know the Climate Crisis has not gone away due to COVID, nor have any of the other systemic challenges we face, such as the impending water crisis, plastics in our oceans, global biodiversity loss, widespread deforestation, desertification, soil erosion, peak phosphorus, etc. Put simply, we are plundering our planet at an alarming rate. Yes, general awareness of this ecological ruin is increasing. Yet, in the desire to kick-start our own enterprises and the wider economy post lock-down, will this plundering ramp-up again?  Many of us have found ourselves noticing nature more as a result of lock-down. We notice the reduced air and noise pollution. We  see pictures of polluted water-ways running clear again, like the seas around Venice or the River Ganges where porpoises have been seen for the first time in years. Many are questioning whether all the rushing around, consuming, manufacturing, travelling and working we do is actually serving us. How we emerge post-COVID in terms of economic stimulus packages that trigger sustainable investment and innovation while reducing ecological and social degradation will be telling. Can we learn and evolve from this situation or will the desire to ‘get the wheels back on the road’ out-trump are innate love of life and our children’s future? Some scientists have made the indirect link between ecological degradation, ecosystem fragility and the rise of pandemics such as COVID.  Might we see that how we consume, work and behave interrelates with the health of our planet?

This triage of economic, ecological and social/human stress creates a trialectic context that has the potential to invoke a meaningful and lasting step-change in our evolution at individual, organisational and societal levels.

In short, the situation we are in, can cajole us out of the dominant status quo, or freeze us caught-in-the-headlights of our own global car crash. The stress can trigger our evolution or it can suck us into stuckness. The choice is ours. This is a supreme moment. It’s far more than a ‘war on the virus’ or a ‘war on carbon’. It’s so much more. It’s about our humanity, about who we truly are, and our capacity to evolve as Homo sapiens – wise beings. Can we live up to this name of ‘wise beings’? The window we are now in will define us.

Read more…

Can we learn, evolve even, from this pandemic?

April 15, 2020

Interesting times indeed!

So much is uncontrollable, so much is unpredictable, so much is new and unforeseen.

For sure, what these times do call for is real leadership – leadership of the conscious and authentic variety.

In times of crisis, sometimes it can become clearer what we really need: Leadership that actually works with the currents of life, rather than swimming against the stream and stressing ourselves and our social and ecological systems; a way of leading that enables us to create futures that we all want, futures that enhance society rather than undermine it.

The Covid-19 pandemic will go down in history, for many reasons. One fact that will not go unnoticed is how the prevalent-normality of rushing around has had to pause. A significant reduction in global and local travel, along with a reduction in activities of all sorts beyond the essential, has had a dramatic effect on pollution levels and the stress we place on our ecological systems day-in-day-out. One person recently said to me, ‘it’s as if the world has been able to breathe deep and rest easy for a moment.’  Our frantic socio-economic model of rampant consumerism gone-mad has slowed.  And this has been beneficial for the fabric of life we all depend on.  Rivers have run clear again in polluted areas, and ecological systems start to repair themselves from over-use.

Yet this may only be a short-lived pause.  And of course this pause has created untold economic upset, and ruined many businesses and livelihoods. Supply chains have been affected across every industry.

Debt levels have risen. The already fragile economic ‘recovery’ (if there ever really was one since the Global Financial Crisis of 2008) has ended.   The financial implications of this pause will be felt for a long while post-pandemic.

This pause has ruptured our hedonic-economic model, yet the non-human world seems to breathe a sigh of relief.

We might question how much of our activity actually contributes to enhancing our lives beyond superficial materialism and short-lived pleasure seeking.

Might the wit of our humanity be able to see the pearl of wisdom this pandemic is revealing?

Each challenge in life reveals wisdom, just as each virus aids evolution in the adaptation it triggers.  Can we evolve from this virus?

Or will our incessant urge to revert to the norm mean we fail to learn in any lasting way?

My co-author Laura Storm lives in Denmark which went into lock-down ahead of the UK and is now preparing to come out the other side, with schools preparing for children to go back this week.

Does that mean things start to return to ‘normal’?  What actually is ‘normal’?  Surely what we called ‘normal’ before this pandemic can now be seen in a different light if we so choose.  We might be able to gain perspective on how we lead our lives, how we lead at work, how we wish to be in the world, individually, as families and friends, as a human-collective. We might question how our work is actually enhancing our lives and also the lives of others, and the wider fabric of life on Earth. What actually are we working for? What makes us truly happy? What gives us a sense of meaning and fulfillment in our lives?

This time – amid pandemic and beyond pandemic – is a time of transformation.

This is why Laura and I offer the first chapter of our book on Regenerative Leadership for free download here so any one who feels interested can start to activate next-stage leadership today.

Regenerative Leadership is a way of living and leading that puts life at the centre of things. A way of leading that creates the conditions conducive for life to flourish, for ourselves to become more whole, vibrant and purposeful, and for our organisations to come alive while all our stakeholders thrive. It is rooted in the Logic of Life, honed by 3.8 billion years of R&D, drawing upon advanced adult developmental psychology as well as leading-edge research on organisational and leadership development.   Laura and I have research many different organisations, and worked with leaders across all parts of society who are blazing a new way.  This is what Regenerative Leadership activates – futures that we all know in our hearts is achievable in the here-and-now if we so choose.

In this book Regenerative Leadership – the DNA of life-affirming organizations geared for the 21st centuryLaura Storm and I combine pioneering frameworks, case studies, storytelling, tools & practices: Everything the leader needs to contribute to a future where organisations flourish, people come alive and ecosystems thrive again.

“It’s about time leaders wake-up to the realities of our world. It’s time they step-up and into a new leadership-logic where organizations leave more value than they take and become a true force for good. But how? This was the question we heard again and again so we decided to join forces, connect the dots between the insights of pioneers and offer a new tangible regenerative leadership framework easy to apply and integrate to gear organizations for the 21st century”  – Giles Hutchins & Laura Storm


The former Executive of the UNFCCC Christiana Figueres who steered the negotiation process towards a successful Paris Climate Agreement is thrilled about this Regenerative Leadership framework: “The world is changing fast and organizations are not keeping up with the pace of transformation.  This book invites leaders to catalyze the necessary regeneration to not just catch up, but to lead the world into the 21st century.”


The former CEO of the 157 Group and the Leadership Centre of Excellence, Dr Lynne Sedgemore CBE says, “This is the must read book of the year. I couldn’t put it down. The clarity, inspiration, synergy and wisdom of this book is breath-taking”


The Head of the Scientific and Medical Network, David Lorimer notes, “This book is a brilliant and succinct synthesis of leading-edge scientific, philosophical and ecological ideas with practical examples of how readers can apply regenerative leadership to their own working lives. It is written with admirable clarity and articulates exactly the regenerative vision we now require to work with the principles of nature. Sustainability is no longer enough – we need to co-create a regenerative future and this highly informative book lays out an implementable road map ahead.”


To download for free Chapter One of the book visit the book’s website here.


“Both Giles and Laura have captured the vision and practical skills regenerative business leaders need today, to create a climate fit for life, tomorrow.” Nigel Stansfield, President of Interface EAAA

“A must read for anyone who wants to shape a regenerative organization, the only one type which will survive.  This practical book elegantly brings together different theories helping leaders grow to the level of consciousness needed to build the regenerative solutions the world absolutely needs.” Jean-Claude Pierre, CEO Scott Bader



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Giles Hutchins is a pioneering practitioner and senior adviser at the fore-front of the [r]evolution in organizational and leadership consciousness and developmental approaches that enhance personal, organizational and systemic agility and vitality. He is author and co-author of several leadership and organizational development papers, and the books The Nature of Business (2012), The Illusion of Separation (2014), Future Fit (2016) and Regenerative Leadership (2019). Chair of The Future Fit Leadership Academy and Founder of Leadership Immersions, co-founder of Biomimicry for Creative Innovation and Regenerators, he runs a 60 acre leadership centre at Springwood Farm, an area of outstanding natural beauty near London, UK.  Previously held corporate roles – Head of Practice for KPMG, and Global Head of Sustainability for Atos (150,000 employees, over 40 countries). He provides coaching at individual and organisational levels for those seeking to transform their personal and/or work lives. He is also a keynote speaker on the future of business.



Can the Darkness of Crisis Reveal a New Dawn?

March 22, 2020

We live amid great upheaval.  The Pandemic of Covid-19 is creating upset worldwide and this will be felt for many months to come. Often it is the most vulnerable who are most greatly affected.  Yet a global crisis at every level and across all levels can be leveling.  We are all in this together. We are all experiencing a tremendous change to daily routine.  We are all connected in this crisis, paradoxically, while keeping our distance from each other.

The phrase ‘social-distancing’ has been used. I have also heard the term ‘physical distancing’ being used in some circles, in recognition that we can still be emotionally and psychologically connected while maintaining an appropriate physical distance.  We can reduce physical intimacy yet still be socially ‘in contact’ with each other.

Some people I have spoken with over the last few days have fed-back how they have actually felt more socially-connected with some people in their lives – parents, young children, spouses, neighbours – thanks to the virus-crisis.

I do not wish to overlook the immense stresses and strains this crisis is creating within us individually and as a society – for key workers, health systems, vulnerable people, entrepreneurs, employers and the self-employed (no one is spared).  And yet, I do wish to invite an opening-up to the possibility that this crisis can reveal an opportunity for us to learn, grow and connect more deeply. It can reveal shadows and strengths that aid our individual and collective development.

I suggest that if we come out of this crisis the same as we went in to it, we shall have missed the pearl of wisdom that this virus-crisis offers. However, if we come out of this crisis fundamentally different from whence we came, then the gift of this crisis reveals itself.

In short, I sense this crisis contains within it an initiation – a threshold crossing – for us as individuals, families, neighbourhoods, societies, and wider human-civilisation. And with the obvious respite it provides the ecological life-support systems of our heavily polluted and over-stressed planet. For instance, fish have been seen in the sea near Venice, the first for a long while, and NASA’s satellite pictures show pollution clouds over Italy and China have temporarily lifted.

This Covid-19 virus can teach us many things if we so choose.  After all, to sense into challenges and see learning and development is what life is all about.  I re-emphasise – I do not wish to overlook the immense stresses and strains this pandemic unleashes nor to ignore the pain and potential fatality it has for people.

What I do see and hear – amid my many conversations through phone, internet and physically-distance in-person conversations– is people sharing how they have never experienced anything like this before in their lifetime.  Many of us are noticing an oscillation of feelings, emotional reactions and physical responses amid this unique time.  We might one minute be feeling great anxiety, and the next feeling a sense of liberation as we see beyond the normality of groundhog-day style routines.  One minute we might feel a sense of separation and isolation, the next a sense of deep connection with self and others due to the ‘new norm’ of this crisis.  One person may find themselves losing their temper with someone not respecting an appropriate physical distance in a supermarket queue, for instance. Then, the next moment catching someone smile or wink, revealing a connectedness that we are all-in-this-together.

I invite us to pause amid this oscillation. To notice within the moment what we are feeling, what is arising within us.  Not to judge it. Not to assume a feeling of anxiety is wrong and a feeling of liberation is right, or vice versa. Just to pause and notice what is arising within.

How often do we give ourselves this gift of simply noticing and being with our own selves in such an intimate and non-judgemental way amid our everyday busyness?  The ‘must get-on!’ vibe of the usual groundhog-day routine can itself be put-on-pause if only for a split-second, so a deeper reality which we all participate within can reveal itself.

And then there is the oscillation of the need to survive, and look after ourselves amid crisis; while also feeling a need to be of service, to help others amid crisis.

This oscillation of survival and service is not new to us. In fact, I believe it is core to who we truly are as Homo sapiens (which means ‘wise beings’). I suggest that as human beings we can reveal wisdom by surfing this tension of survival-service, rather than collapsing the tension into one side (overly survival-orientated = selfishness, greed, individualism, egotism which leads to the undermining of society) or the other side (overly service-orientated = excessive altruism, self-crucifixion and martyrdom which comes at the expense of our own self-survival).

It reminds me of health-and-safety in-flight videos we all got bored of watching during the pre-pandemic days of flying planes. The videos advise us to put our own oxygen mask on first before turning our attention to those around us, as otherwise we cannot adequately help others.  And yet, when we grab for the proverbial oxygen-mask and hoard up food for the uncertain future, we take from others around us. I am reminded of key-workers who find empty shelves in supermarkets because others have got their first and hoarded, leaving nothing for those who are actually helping everyone. It is an interesting time, and we are each being tested, just as our collective systems are being tested.  I have hope and faith in humanity and our innate sense of community which I believe is more pervasive than that of competition.  Competition and self-survival we find throughout all levels of life, and yet the closer we sense into the Logic of Life the more the wisdom of collaboration, facilitation and contribution to the whole is revealed.

To emphasise why I feel that surfing this tension of survival-service is fundamental to what makes us human, I turn to Anne Baring and Jules Cashford who have spent decades painstakingly researching our human history through the lenses of anthropology, mythology, cosmology and archaeology.  They note:

‘Our ancestors had two fundamental kinds of vision: the myth of the goddess, which is the image of wholeness and eternality, and the myth of the hunter, which is the myth of survival. Both these myths are essential to human experience. When the myth of survival is contained within the myth of meaning, all life is experienced as sacred. But when the myth of survival gets split off from the myth of wholeness and eternality, we suffer the loss of soul and lose our sense of the sacred.’

I suggest that this crisis can act as a gift for us to learn about this tension in life of survival-service. Each of us, all of us, are now being put in a situation that might just help us collectively wake-up from the individualistic, fractured, consumerist society we have become inured in.

This virus-crisis brings tension and challenge. It can also reveal in us a new dawn, a new way of perceiving life within and all around us.

As this virus challenges the status-quo norms at all level, it can be a great humbling that challenges our hubris. It can be a great grounding that strengthens our connectedness.

While I oscillate between fear, anxiety, survival, service and love, the image that this virus most vividly creates inside of me is one of the journey towards wholeness. This journey is not neat-and-tidy, it’s a messy affair, with trip-wires and muddy threshold-crossings.

We can learn to live up to our name as Homo sapiens – wise beings – by allowing the grit to become the pearl of wisdom within our daily attentiveness.  To pause and notice our human feelings, oscillations, tensions, and give ourselves some compassion, so we may find the space for empathy with others while they inevitably oscillate with tensions.

Out of dis-ease we may find wholeness, out of separation we may find reconnection, out of pollution we may find regeneration.  This is the hope we carry as human beings.  Not some mere wishful-thinking, but a real capacity to manifest the future we know in our hearts can become reality.

Out of the darkness a new dawn is revealed. We open up to wholeness, each day, each hour, every moment. I am thankful to be alive amid this crisis.

Here is a quote, purported to be from a Hopi Elder. Laura Storm and I refer to it in our book Regenerative Leadership, as it is apt for our times of breakdown/breakthrough:

“You have been telling people that this is the Eleventh Hour, now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour. And there are things to be considered…

Where are you living?
What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in right relation?
Where is your water?

Know your garden.
It is time to speak your truth.
Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for your leader.

Then he clasped his hands together, smiled, and said, “This could be a good time! There is a river flowing now very fast.

It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer greatly.

Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water.

And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey come to a halt.

The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word ’struggle’ from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

For more on how to live and lead amidst these times of breakdown/breakthrough, you may find the book Regenerative Leadership a useful practical guide and toolkit to read while working from home, see Regenerative Leadership for more information.

Best wishes to one and all during this time of crisis,

Love, Giles

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Giles Hutchins is a pioneering practitioner and senior adviser at the fore-front of the [r]evolution in organizational and leadership consciousness and developmental approaches that enhance personal, organizational and systemic agility and vitality. He is author and co-author of several leadership and organizational development papers, and the books The Nature of Business (2012), The Illusion of Separation (2014), Future Fit (2016) and Regenerative Leadership (2019). Chair of The Future Fit Leadership Academy and Founder of Leadership Immersions a 60 acre leadership centre at Springwood Farm, an area of outstanding natural beauty near London, UK.  Previously held corporate roles – Head of Practice for KPMG, and Global Head of Sustainability for Atos (150,000 employees, over 40 countries).


What a start to the decade… How to best respond ?

March 13, 2020

We live in interesting times!  What a start to the decade – its only March, three months in and so much has unfolded already.

Some nation-states attempt lock-down, some organisations try and control who travels where, others blanket-cancel external events while allowing internal events, some schools are closed while others are open. Many are confused what to do. Old rules no longer apply.

Having spent time with senior leaders this week, one can viscerally sense which are consciously sensing-and-responding to the unfolding nature of the Corona-crisis, and which are anxious and uneasy with not-knowing what to do or how to plan when yesterday’s predict-and-control logic is flying out the window.

Often, there is no right or wrong – we are simply learning as we go.

(Photo credit: DBPost)

This unpredictability is part of a new-norm that’s here to stay. How do we get used to this new-norm? How do we let go of the deep-seated need for controlling that which is uncontrollable? How can we learn to sense when to apply linear-control logic and when to let-go of the need for control? How do we get comfortable with the uncomfortable?

This morning, the UK’s Chief Science Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance provided a balanced coherent explanation of what is unfolding and how best to embrace this new-norm.  On the BBC’s Today programme, he explained that there could well be another virus next year, and the year after. Hence, we ought learn to adapt to this new-norm.  He put forward that while we can find sensible ways to protect the most vulnerable groups in society, the majority of the population can build resilience to this and other viruses through mitigation and adaptation as we embrace the need for ‘herd immunity’.

Our mechanistic world view relies on command and control and is unable to deal with this new reality.  We have to sense, respond and adapt to these situations.  What does this mean in practice?

It means we first need to recognise the limit of our control and avoid taking actions that give us the ‘illusion of control’ yet do little to constructively adapt and evolve to the unfolding situation.    It has been interesting to witnessed different organisations (and nation-states) reacting with ‘lock-downs’ or rather sensing-and-responding as the situation unfolds.

Recognising the systems in which we live and work while accepting the anxiety that comes from our lack of control of these emergent systems is part of embracing this new-norm. We can learn to open-up beyond fear and control, and become more conscious of how we best respond to emergence.

A current example is being self-responsible for our hygiene and how we best relate with each other to mitigate any infectious spreading where possible, self-isolating if need be. This helps slow the pace of the virus spread so we give our infrastructure systems, health and emergency services, the time and space to respond while building up our collective and individual resilience.  It also means that ‘herd immunity’ can build up over the longer term.  It is futile to try and block-out a virus through lock-down control-mechanics, yet we can become conscious of how we adapt to a new-norm. Anxiety and reactivity can transmute into self and system response-ability.

This exemplifies the need for Regenerative Leadership – a kind of leadership that is sense-and-respond orientated and systemically –aware rather than control-and-predict orientated and mechanistically-focused.

Changing our fundamental view of how we engage with the fast-changing world we live and work in, asks us to become conscious of our individual and collective desires for mechanistic, control-based logics. There are times when top-down hierarchy can be effective – for instance, giving consistency of messaging around response-protocol across diverse hospitals and doctor networks over short time-frames. Yet, there is also a need to sense into the interconnected and emergent nature of how life really is beyond illusions of control. There is a deeper Logic of Life that as Regenerative Leaders we can learn to become conscious of. We can learn to more coherently sense-and-respond amid volatility by opening-up to how life really is.

Although this shift from one world view to another can feel unsettling and can create anxiety, it is actually an exciting transformation that is encouraging us to become more aware, adaptive and resilient so humanity is able to adapt, evolve and thrive, while finding deeper harmony with life on Earth – which is interconnected from soil to sea, and bacteria to business, regardless of country or class.

So what does that mean right now?  A simple but effective step is to recognise what we actually have control over, what we can influence, and what is beyond our influence.    If we can’t control or influence it, then it’s a waste of our precious energy to get anxious about it.  Nick Triggle, Health Correspondent for the BBC, summed it up: keep calm, carry on, take the advice to wash hands regularly, isolate if we develop symptoms and take steps to protect our most vulnerable.  This virus is with us now, is likely to return in myriad forms, and is an example of our interconnected global reality.

Rather than relying on totalitarian George Orwell-style ‘lock-downs’ that create confusion amid the illusion of control, we can learn to better sense-and-respond at local levels, take personal and collective responsibility for how we engage both locally and globally and cultivate personal, organisational and community resilience.

If you are interested in learning more about how we can lead in ways that unlock the Logic of Life within ourselves, our teams and our organisations – you can:

  1. Read the book Regenerative Leadership by Giles Hutchins and Laura Storm


The clarity, inspiration, synergy and wisdom of this book is breath-taking

–  Dr Lynne Sedgmore CBE, former Chief Executive  of 157 Group, Centre for Excellence in Leadership


2. Immerse yourself in the practicalities of Regenerative Leadership with practitioners Darren Hilton and Giles Hutchins’ immersion in the ancient woodlands of Springwood Farm, easy access from London, car and train networks, with suitable Corona-Virus hygiene in place, providing a get-away from it all while exploring next-stage leadership for this new-norm. For more information, see

This blog has been co-authored by organisational and leadership development specialists Darren Hilton and Giles Hutchins.

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and next-stage leadership Facebook group here:

Will your organisations die, survive or thrive in the 2020s?

February 28, 2020

Leaders of today face increasing complexity.  The old ways of leading are no longer adequate when facing into the rise of complexity.

With a toxic cocktail of rising stress at work, market volatility, disruptive innovations, and spiralling bureaucracy, many leaders feel overwhelm as do many employees .  And yet there are some simple yet powerful tools that can help us reach beyond complexity, and cultivate conditions for our organisations to thrive and our people to come alive.

I have been exploring the ‘new norm’ in leadership for over a decade now, and my latest book, co-authored with Laura Storm, Regenerative Leadership draws together a wealth of experience, practical tools and a depth of case studies on next-stage leadership.

Experiencing and embodying the practicalities of next-stage leadership is vital for our leaders and practitioners.  This is where the 60acres of ancient woodland at the beautiful Springwood Farm, with easy access to London, come in to a world of their own.   In nature, we can learn how to embrace complexity, activate the leadership consciousness we need, and go deep with our personal and collective sharing of what we are noticing as practitioners and leaders in these transformational times.

Time and again I am struck by the power of round-the-fire dialogue where we can get underneath the surface tensions we all face and sense into the underlying root challenges to unlock practical ways forward for future-fit business.

This is why I have paired up with Leadership, Team and Organisational Development Practitioner Darren Hilton to run a special leadership programme with two one-day workshops in nature, with mid-point check-ins and peer-to-peer coaching.  See here for more info, places are limited

feel free to join the Leadership Immersions  LinkedIn group if you have not already:

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Giles Hutchins is a pioneering practitioner, business futurist and senior adviser at the fore-front of the [r]evolution in organizational and leadership consciousness and developmental approaches that enhance personal, organizational and systemic agility and vitality. He is author and co-author of several leadership and organizational development papers, and the books The Nature of Business (2012), The Illusion of Separation (2014), Future Fit (2016) and Regenerative Leadership (2019). Chair of The Future Fit Leadership Academy and Founder of Leadership Immersions, he runs a 60 acre leadership centre at Springwood Farm, an area of outstanding natural beauty near London, UK