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The Emerging Economic Renaissance

March 13, 2021

A new political-economic paradigm is emerging in northern Europe and parts of the Asia-Pacific region that could signal a major turning point in human history. Like the time when humanity awakened to the fact that the world was round, rather than flat, this new paradigm radically challenges our perceptions of reality and the systems we’ve created to guide our lives.

This is a guest blog by author of the new book Economies That Mimic Life by Joseph H Bragdon.

The impetus for this emerging shift is the increasingly catastrophic failure of humanity’s conventional GDP-focused political-economic system. What started in the industrial age as regional and global competitions for hegemony and resources eventually developed into two world wars, expensive military arms races, ecological overstep, climate change, species extinctions and a surge of borrowing as those in power sought to solidify their hold on authority. Over the past year the fragile structure of this debt-driven competition has been exposed by the coronavirus pandemic, causing widespread disruption in global markets.

So what is it about the emerging new paradigm that could reverse this self-destructive trend and alter the course of history? The answer is deceptively simple.

Instead of perceiving economies as bottom-line, capital-driven devices for growing GDP and profit (increasingly at the expense of people and Nature), the new paradigm sees economies as they really are: as sub-systems of life, whose primary assets are people and Nature and whose goals are to preserve the continuous wellbeing of all life on earth. By such means, it resolves into a reinforcing loop, where means and ends serve one another rather than conflict. Simple. Logical. And remarkably effective

Economies That Mimic Life

The wonderful thing about this living system approach is how it generates economic success as it reduces humanity’s ecological footprint. In doing so, it overcomes the increasing frictions between means and ends that have plagued the mainstream “neoclassical” model and driven it to the edge of ruin. This is not to say that transitioning to the life-mimicking model will be easy. But in the final analysis it comes down to whether the citizens and leaders of a country want to go down with a sinking ship or whether they want to find a more secure way forward.

Because the two models are so fundamentally opposite (incommensurable), attempts to find a compromise solution will almost certainly fail. That’s because their foundational assumptions conflict as can be seen in the following table. Consequently, the most promising (and profitable) way forward is to abandon the neoclassical model and adopt the life mimicking one.

That said, it’s important to understand that the life-mimicking model is not a set destination, but an adaptable pathway forward – one that can (and must) be amended by continuous observation and learning as political-economic conditions change.

Comparison of Working Assumptions and Practices

Living System ModelNeoclassical Model
Economies are:Sub-systems of biosphere, societyThe dominant system
Governance:Egalitarian, networked, decentralizedHierarchical, centralized
Mission:Maintain healthy living systemsMaintain authority, control
Values:Primacy of living assets (people, Nature)Primacy of non-living capital
Vision:Optimize living assets (circular economy)Optimize GDP, profit
Leverage:Living asset stewardship (inspiration)Financial gearing (debt)
Mind-set:Holistic, qualitative (non-linear)Reductionist, quantitative (linear)
Metrics:Focus on learning, adaptation (means)Focus on results (ends)
Learning:Multiple loop (open-ended)Single loop (follow the rules)
Risk:Being only generally right
(Lack of precision)
Being precisely wrong (Climate change)

 As one can easily see, the foregoing assumptions and practices reflect radically different worldviews/paradigms. Historically, each evolved to remediate the failures of a prior system. Therefore, just as the living systems model emerged to redress the failures of the neoclassical (industrial era) model, the neoclassical model emerged in Europe from the 17th Century Enlightenment as Europe sought to break free from the constrictive norms of the feudal system.

The power of the living system paradigm is in seeing the living world as it really is rather than a notional construct for continuous GDP growth and capital accumulation. When we approach economies as sub-systems of life rather than super-systems that transcend life, we attain what Donella (Dana) Meadows called a dynamic leverage point where “a small change in one thing can produce big changes in everything.”[1]

Such was the case in the evolution of the life-mimicking Nordic Model. Although its holistic approach has ancient roots in teachings of the Buddha and Confucius and in the practices of traditional cultures, the Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Iceland are the first to apply it to modern industrial cultures.

The Nordic Model

Nordic countries today are regularly placed at the top of global surveys on prosperity, quality of life, health, democracy, freedom, innovation, productivity and sustainability. As bastions of open, free markets, they have also become global innovation hothouses in renewable energy, bio-tech and circular economy practices.


In the course of becoming more prosperous, Nordic countries have developed a system of robust universal safety nets. Although supported by high individual tax rates, these strengthen their economies by providing an abundance of healthy, educated, secure and motivated citizens. As a result, Nordic countries today have some of the industrial world’s highest labor participation rates and per capita GDPs – advantages that support the funding of their safety nets. Compared to the lose-lose outcomes of the neoclassical model, this interaction creates a dynamic win-win reinforcing loop.

Which brings us back to the earlier mentioned vulnerabilities of the neoclassical model. As the US and other large industrial economies try to protect their regional and global hegemonies, they exploit the very sources of their strength (people and Nature) and borrow far more than their weakening economies can afford. Consequently, while Nordic economies go from strength to strength by partnering with Nature and nourishing their people, the US and others operating on the neoclassical model fall further and further behind.

Economics That Mimic Life by Joseph Bragdon

This breakdown/breakthrough saga is powerfully transformative, as described in my book “Economies That Mimic Life” (https://www.routledge.com/Economies-that-Mimic-Life-From-Biomimicry-to-Sustainable-Prosperity/Bragdon/p/book/9780367625993). Dedicated to my late friend, Dana Meadows, it offers compelling evidence of her belief in Leverage Points as a way to meaningfully transform systems.

Activating Regenerative Organisational Cultures

February 6, 2021

It’s a fascinating time to be involved in transforming organisational cultures.

At present I am fortunate to be involved in some really interesting organisation transformations ranging from purpose-drive B-Corps to large financial service providers.

Every organisation is a unique conglomeration of individuals, team-power-plays, psychological agency, value propositions, strategies and tactics, wider ecosystem relations and market forces.  No two organisations are ever the same, just as no two leaders are ever the same. That is what makes leadership and organisational development coaching so rich and fascinating.  And yet, there are some underlying dynamics, some core truths that underpin the diversity of every organisation and team.

This article explores these underlying dynamics so that an essential simplicity amid the swirling organisational complexity of the day can be revealed.  These powerful yet simple truths are what provide anchor, rope and compass through stormy seas as these.

First off, what do we mean by ‘regenerative’?  It’s a word that has a buzz about it, perhaps even the epicentre of the new zeitgeist rising in our consciousness.  And with any buzz, its portrayal can lose its essence.

To be Regenerative is simply to be Natural. To become more whole, less fragmented, more alive, less disconnected, more in-flow.

‘Those who flow as life flows know they need no other force.’ Lao Tzu

Being Regenerative is a journey. It’s a journey of attuning with Life.  It’s a way of living, leading, designing and implementing products, processes, cultures and ecosystems that enhance Life.

All the time, through our quality of attention and intention, we can slip between being regenerative and degenerative. We can slip between flowing in harmony with life or falling out-of-kilter with the flow of things.

An important step on the Regenerative Journey, is to become more sensitised and aware of opening into the inherent grammar of Life. This is embodied and experiential more than it is rational and analytical. 

Falling out of the flow of things is a natural part of our humanity as long as we catch our fall and learn to flow, by noticing and then realigning. This is the art of living wisely. Without this practice of noticing and learning to be in harmony with Life our evolution is undermined.

Opening into Life is a shift in consciousness.  A simple shift in awareness; though not necessarily easy. Amid today’s busy hurry-up-get-on-with-it overly-rational-analytic business world the flow of things is easily obscured.

Lest we forget, it is an essential part of our human nature, to be Natural, to flow with Nature’s Rhythms.  All ‘regenerative’ is about is opening up to more of our human potential while being in accord with Life.

Much of today’s managerial business logic is at odds with how life works, and so we face the difficult challenge of letting-go of thought forms, mental habits, emotional baggage, internal constrictions, and ingrained assumptions that get in the way of our own regenerative potential.

In the book Regenerative Leadership we unpack the Logic of Life for leadership and organisational development.  By comprehending the Logic of Life we can learn to attune with the rhythms and dynamics of the Regenerative Journey. The 7 principles of the Logic of Life are:

  1. Life Affirming – life creates the conditions conducive for life to flourish. We become life-affirming when we are being natural and authentic.
  2. Ever-changing and Responsive – life learns, adapts and evolves through an ever-changing context. In other words, life is developmental and evolutionary, ditto for our cultures; constant learning and growing through being responsible and responsive.
  3. Relational and Collaborative – life consists of systems inter-relating with other systems, nothing is completely isolated, everything is relating. Yes there is competition in life, yet collaboration is the over-riding evolutionary dynamic, and separateness is an illusion we create in our minds, it’s not how life really is. Learn to collaborate through cultivating cultures of trust and transparency not politics and power-plays.
  4. Synergistic and Diverse – life thrives through diversity. Tensions of difference act as crucibles for novelty and creativity to emerge. Celebrate difference and hold-space for allowing creative conflict to be transmuted into generative emergence through dialogue and deep listening.
  5. Cyclic and Seasonal-Rhythmical – life ebbs and flows through pulsations of in-breath, out-breath, day-night, waxing-waning, summer-winter, death-rebirth. Nature’s rhythms invite in reflection, rest and renewal as well as creativity and productivity. Cultivate rhythms of winter-summer being-doing amid daily/weekly/monthly business practices.
  6. Flows of Energy-Matter – life is made up of flows of energy and matter. Ditto for our organisations, which are full of flows of psychological and relational energy.  Let’s not get overly caught up in org charts and team definitions when what really makes us come alive is free-flowing energy. Notice flow, stuckness, energy-drains and catalysers. Practice organizational acupuncture.
  7. Living Field or Source – life is permeated by immense potential energy that scientists now realise is a potent presence in everyday life. This field contains an informing consciousness. Through simple practices we aid our capacity to open to this wisdom.

Remember – Life is Regenerative.  This is about realigning back into Life, and in the process we become more alive, and our organisations thrive.

Transformation unfolds, it is not forced. By creating the conditions conducive for life our people and cultures flourish.

Life is mind-blowing.  Our rational minds might like to define it into neat-and-tidy biologically-based facts and figures, but life defies much of what the mind’s logic can grasp.  For instance, a small leaf quivering the the breeze high up in the tree, has more sophisticated innovation packed into it than nano-computing or Big Data. A humble blade of grass trampled underfoot is far more complex than anything we humans have ever designed, and to boot, it’s organic, non-toxic, totally regenerative – beneficial to life. Our complex innovations are all too often highly toxic and exploitative of the natural and social systems we inhabit. This is what happens when we forget the underlying Way of Nature – we fall out of harmony with Life.  To fall back in line with Nature does not mean a back-to-nature regression or anti-technology movement, far from it, it is what will propel human-kind into the next Revolution of Innovation and Development, a Regenerative Revolution. Technology is a powerful tool that can help humanity evolve, as long as we remember and embody the wisdom of real life. Otherwise it can be a distraction, obscuring our evolution, perhaps unintentionally catalysing our extinction.

Look deep, deep, deep into Nature and you will understand everything better.’  Albert Einstein

All about us abounds immensity of complexity.

Yet amid this complexity is a beautiful simplicity. A hidden thread of wisdom is here right before us, if we so choose to see.  This wisdom is what will fuel our [r]evolution and heal humanity.

This hidden thread of wisdom – Nature’s Wisdom – enables our human organisations, cultures, values, team dynamics and individual behaviours to become more whole, more real, more vital, more human, more natural.

This wisdom is simple yet profound. Let’s explore…

There are two currents in life, and the confluence of these two currents creates the Dance of Life. Nothing more, nothing less.

These two currents, can be called Yin and Ying.

Here is the ancient symbol that conveys Nature’s Wisdom, pure and simple:

Yang – Yin

Doing – Being

Movement – Stillness

Outer – Inner

Masculine – Feminine

Me – We

Reductive – Relational

Responsive – Receptive

Light – Dark

Summer – Winter

Action – Reflection

Hard – Soft

As I explored in a recent blog article about Alchemising Tensions:

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.  It’s an alchemic dance, a communion of opposing tensions. The Dance of Life.

And yet there is another secret found all around and within us if we so choose to see. Nature’s Wisdom shows us the way the Yin-Yang dance unfolds. The Way of Nature.

From the proportions found in our feet, to the proportions found in trees; from the patterns found in flowers to the patterns found in estuaries and coastlines; from the spiralling of water in our kitchen sink to spiralling galaxies, there is a quintessential thread of timeless truth:

Yin informs Yang

From the feminine spawns the masculine. From the inner comes the outer.  The Being infuses the Doing.  Stillness informs Movement. In order for the Dance to be in harmony with Nature we need be mindful of honouring the soft-power of Yin first-and-foremost. As the Yin informs the Yang.

‘To live in accord with Nature is to live virtuously.’  Seneca

If we wish to be regenerative in our own selves, in our teams and in our company culture, then we need to begin with this inherent Wisdom of Nature, otherwise what flows from us will be degenerative, and we shall then spend unnecessary time and energy mopping up our degenerative activities.

The time has come to target the source of our degenerative behaviour. To attend to our own attention.

Inner presence informs outer purpose.

Countless corporations currently spend vast sums on all-staff training and development programmes that attend to shaping outer activity while overlooking inner presence. Little wonder not much changes other that the outer wrapper. 

Well-intended programmes honing value propositions, mission statements and cultural values that overlook the inner essence of the living organisation and its leadership consciousness are not going to catalyse the Regenerative Journey.

Many of these well-intentioned corporations have spent millions on purpose and culture programmes with little return-on-investment other than jargon that people soon forget. An SVP Head of Culture, of an award-winning market-leading corporation once said to me ‘Purpose is everywhere, we need a new word, as its lost its way.’  As if changing the word will make things better.  It’s simply that we have been focusing on outer-purpose while overlooking inner-purpose. The Doing of ‘purpose’ has become bland because it’s no longer flows with Being.  Like with so many things, we have objectified ‘purpose’ into a neat and tidy object that then lacks vitality and essence beyond some mission-statement North Star. There is so much more to purpose than a North Star when we embrace the essence of Life and emancipate Purpose to flow in accord with Nature’s Wisdom.

The ‘yin’ has been known as the ‘soft’ and the yang known as the ‘hard’. Today we still find many leaders trying to ignore the ‘soft stuff’ of essence, inner-purpose and presence, while busying themselves with the ‘hard stuff’.  It’s this out-of-kilter overly yang Doing disconnected from Being that is the root cause of our downstream degenerative behaviours, decisions, designs and cultures.

What does this all mean in practice?

Let’s look at three dimensions of the organisation:

  1. the individual leader;
  2. the team and its intra and inter-operable dynamics;
  3. the organisational culture and structure
  1. Leadership – We have two tools to help us on the personal developmental journey:
  • Self-awareness
  • 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

There are some simple yet powerful tools we can practice to enliven our self-awareness.  See the book Regenerative Leadership for more on these tools.

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 network of systems within the living organization and throughout the wider stakeholder ecosystem, including our family and friends, local community, supply chain, customer network, 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. 

Systemic awareness goes hand-in-hand with enhanced self-awareness, coupled with what we call in the book – 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 the ‘yin’- 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.

When we allow the ‘yin’ beingness to infuse our doing, Life conspires to aid us, and we begin to notice synchronicities, coincidences, chance encounters and intuitive insights. This is Nature’s Wisdom flowing through us.

2. Team Dynamics

Inviting in the ‘yin’ and then the ‘yang’ into our team dynamics ensures we create the cultural ground for flow. Holding-space for each other, enabling trust to form so people feel they can bring more of themselves into the working environment. This allows the ‘yang’ creativity to flow more readily.  Social technologies like Theory U, Feedback, Deep Listening, Art of Hosting, Systemic Coaching, non-violent communication methods, etc. all greatly help the ‘yin’ of team dynamics. Then we can start to embrace agile ways of working, workflow management, effective communication, daily stand-ups, check-ins, etc. so the Doing is infused with Being.  In my previous book Future Fit there are a load of team practices and liberating structures to enable this yin-yang being-doing at the team level.

A short video here about Future Fit

  • 3. Organisational Culture

In Regenerative Leadership we spend a lot of time on Living Systems Culture – the way to enable the organisational culture to become regenerative, through applying the Regenerative  Leadership DNA.

We also provide organisational tools, checklists and coaching questions to aid the Regenerative Journey, including a Regenerative Leadership DNA Assessment Wheel and Systems Mapping exercise. These tools activate dialogue across the organisation.

Through leadership coaching and living-systems interventions, one can help the organisation to start to see more of itself. This helps blind-spots, stuckness, acupuncture points and nodes to be acknowledged.  People start to gain agency as an active participant in the system.  Through their own presence and awareness they can start to contribute to regenerative ripples that enliven the system.

One technique I have used over the years to great effect through my organisational development work is the concept of Background; Middleground; Foreground.   Much like a masterpiece painting or well composed orchestral music, there is the Background – the underlying essence, the underpinning vision and purpose that infuses the Middleground (lived cultural values) and Foreground (embodied behaviours, decision-making protocols, daily practices and rhythms).

Getting into the essence of things is a far deeper exercise that revisiting vision statements or rewording mission definitions.  It is a case of tapping into the essence of the living organisation, and is often best done through deep-dive leadership immersions. When these immersions are conducted round the fire in nature we get to the essence of things. Far from the madding crowd and distanced from the distracting mobile device.

(The ancient woodlands of Springwood are only 45mins from London and 15mins from international flights and main rail hubs, yet provide secluded spaciousness for tapping into Nature’s Wisdom)

As we access stillness we tap into the ‘yin’ that informs the ‘yang’.  To attend to outer statements, value propositions, values, behaviours and metrics without first sensing into the Background essence is, alas, applying the very same level of consciousness that created our problems in the first place: Doing without a depth of Being. 

The time has come to evolve our human awareness, and evolve our human cultures so they become regenerative.

In summary:

There is an inherent Logic of Life that we can learn to listen to.  It is this intelligence and wisdom we now need to help our organisations thrive in the volatile times ahead.  Paste on agile ways of working to a disconnected culture and time and money will be wasted.  We need culture + structure aligned, and we need the ‘yin’ to infuse the ‘yang’, then we can start to attune to Nature’s Rhythms and find the flow of the living organisation while people become more human, more alive, more whole, more in harmony with Life.

‘The greatest breakthroughs of the 21st century won’t occur because of technology, they will occur because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.’ John Naisbett

When Being infuses our Doing, we have Awakened Doing. Out actions align with inner-purpose. Purpose then, is not espoused or forced, but lived from the inside-out, it comes alive through us, and we become regenerative.

Our outer actions become a conduit for a different quality of consciousness than that which created today’s manifold problems. This is the beginning of a new dawn, a new stage in our human evolution. It begins when our outer actions align with the Logic of Life, whereupon we open up to the magnificence of existence. 

The adult developmental psychologist Clare Graves, through his painstaking research, saw this latent potential in human consciousness being born in our social systems today, and his prescient work is coming true through the exponential interest in organisational applications such as Teal-Evolutionary, Theory U, sociocracy, agile and regenerative leadership.

This is our destiny, and its beckoning call is becoming clearer and more noticeable by the day, as old ways breakdown to reveal an inherent grammar innate within Life.

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. –Hopi Elders’ Prophecy

join the LinkedIn group if you have not already:

https://www.linkedin.com/groups/13767578/

and Facebook group:

https://www.facebook.com/businessinspiredbynature/

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.

A short video on the book Regenerative Leadership:

Crossing the Threshold with Nature-based Coaching and Leadership Immersions

January 21, 2021

Times they are a’changin. Even the nature of change itself seems to be changing – ceaseless churning change of the catalytic variety concocts this pregnant moment of seismic breakdown and breakthrough.  I foresee the next couple of years as simultaneously challenging, transformative and full of potential.

Those of us engaged with transformational leadership work will know that periods of dysfunction and crisis often precede a step-change in evolutionary advancement. Therefore, these are fertile times for an evolutionary shift in leadership consciousness. Let this epochal hour of breakdown-breakthrough not go to waste, but rather spawn a necessary [r]evolution in consciousness. The future of life on Earth depends on it. The future-fitness of our clients’ organisations depends on it. So too does the mental health and wellbeing of our client’s families and personal lives. 

This article seeks to explain: firstly, why a ‘threshold-crossing’ is an essential part of the evolutionary advancement of our coaching clients; secondly, what the nature of this ‘threshold crossing’ is; and thirdly, how coaching-based immersions in nature provide a powerful way of holding-space for this threshold crossing.

  1. Crossing the Threshold: To die before you die

The phrase ‘to cross the threshold’ means to undergo a metamorphic process of ‘dying and being reborn’- to endure a shift in ‘inner’ self-orientation and ‘outer’ worldview. It’s a deep psychological renewal that transforms how we relate to our inner-selves and our outer-world, enabling us to become more in harmony with inner and outer nature. The ancient Greeks used the term ‘metanoia’ to describe such a shift, ‘meta’ like in metamorphosis is to ‘shape-shift’  or  ‘move beyond’ and ‘noia’ relates to ‘true understanding’: to transform the understanding of our sense of self and how we relate with the world.  

Over many years of coaching senior leaders, experience has shown me that for a leader – or for that matter any adult – to undergo a step-change in psychological evolution, one needs to hold-space for both the ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ dimensions of this threshold-crossing: the worldview shift and the inner access to one’s deeper truer nature. All advanced adult developmental models, ancient wisdom traditions, and depth psychology approaches such as Carl Jung’s Individuation Journey and Parker J Palmer’s Journey Towards Wholeness, speak to this inner reorientation to ‘Know Thy Self’. And systemic change specialists, such as Donella Meadows and Peter Senge, know that shifting the worldview of the outer system is a primary leverage point for systemic transformation.

2. Shifting from What to What?

In my latest book Regenerative Leadership, co-authored with Laura Storm, we explore the worldview shift unfolding during this time of breakdown-breakthrough, and how it applies to leadership and organisational development. We explore the dominant yet dying Age of Separation and an emerging Age of Regeneration – where humanity remembers its deep connection with self-other-world.  You may have started to sense the word ‘regenerative’ entering the emerging zeitgeist. It’s a word that can be applied to all aspects of life, from regenerative agriculture through to regenerative leadership consciousness, and involves an opening up to life’s evolutionary dynamics of relationality, receptivity, responsiveness, rhythm and renewal.

Regenerative Leadership Consciousness, as defined in our book, correlates with developmental psychologist Clare Graves’ work on Tier 2 Consciousness (i.e. Yellow, Turquoise and Coral in Spiral Dynamics) where an embodied cognition of living-systems is activated in our psyche. It also relates to what organisation specialist Frederic Laloux and integral theorist Ken Wilber refer to as Teal-Evolutionary. It is an ecosystemic awareness that draws upon the Logic of Life, an embodied living-systems way of leading and living that seeks harmony with the way life works.   This is not new, it’s timeless. For instance, over 2,500 years ago Lao Tzu noted, ‘Those who flow as life flows know they need no other force’ and Confucius noted, ‘Those in harmony with nature hit the mark without effort and apprehend the truth without thinking.’ Yet this is also cutting-edge contemporary thinking confirmed by scientific findings that show how being in nature, and opening up to nature’s wisdom, helps us become more compassionate, creative and connected. The explosion of interest in everything from forest bathing to wild swimming speaks to this rising interest in reconnecting to the rapture of real life.

Today our dominant leadership awareness is largely mechanistic and reductive, tuning-out the rhythmic and relational dynamics of how life works.  The result being: linear chains of production that create ‘outer’ toxicity and silo’ed hierarchies of management that create ‘inner’ toxicity.  The vast majority of people today work in organisational cultures that sap people’s creativity, purposefulness, ingenuity, resilience and empathy. Whilst many organisations pride themselves on being efficient and effective the cold reality is that many of our human interactions, decision-making protocols and meeting conventions are woefully inefficient and ineffective. The root problem here is mechanistic leadership logic. Change the underlying consciousness, and the logic shifts. Shift the logic and the culture can transform in inner and outer ways.

To shift from a worldview of separateness and its mechanistic logic into a worldview of interconnectedness and its Logic of Life, requires a threshold crossing. This allows leaders to sense the organisation as a complex adaptive emergent system rather than seeing it as a top-down hierarchic machine. Our understanding of change, systemic interventions and transformation deepens in recognition of how life works. It also helps us perceive the ecosystemic nature of our own presence as a leader, and the presence of the organisation immersed in a sea of stakeholder relations including the wider social and ecological systems which are all interdependent and interwoven in measurable and immeasurable ways. The other side of all this complexity is a beautiful simplicity, found by crossing the threshold.

In terms of the ‘inner’ dimension, regeneration is a return to our true nature through a journey towards wholeness. This journey is as fresh as it is ancient, and it opens us up to living with more presence and purposefulness; exactly what these times invite of us.  Through my coaching working in nature, I blend the shamanic and spiritual with the scientific and sensorial so all of our natural intelligences (rational, emotional, intuitive, and somatic) are enlivened. Then we unlock human potential, touch our true nature, and connect more deeply with the world around us. As Ghandi noted, ‘as one changes their own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards them.’

3. Why Nature Immersions?

There is now a wealth of scientific evidence showing how being in nature significantly improves our empathy, our ability to reason, to deal with change, cope with stress and listen more effectively to others. These are all basic qualities for 21st century leadership. Yet there is much that science is still only scratching the surface of when it comes to the transformative effects of being in nature.

I have taken hundreds of leaders through nature immersions. Immersions can range from half a day in the woods through to multi-day sessions that include overnight solos or even structured vision quests (you can find out more about the practicalities and science of these leadership immersions here). 

Many of the senior executives I coach can have strong aversions to anything that might seem hippy-dippy or woo-woo at first glance.  Some fear it might involve tree-hugging or Kum Ba Yah moments.  Hence, I have learnt to interweave time in nature with science-based insights about how nature works so the intuitive, emotional, somatic and rational aspects of our knowing are engaged adequately, usually starting with the rational as that is the most dominant in many leaders today. For instance, I might explore the interconnected systemic nature of life through microscopes whilst out in the woods, and by describing how trees communicate through the soil and the air, or how bacteria display highly sophisticated communication and adaptation methods. Or I might draw upon how organisational cultures can learn from nature’s 3.8bn years’ worth of tried and tested R&D by explaining about biomimicry, bio-design thinking, chaordic cultures and regenerative leadership. Or I unpack how ecosystems work by visually explain the shift from mechanistic thinking to ecosystemic awareness in a way that satisfies the rational intellect while providing an embodied experience that the coachee can fondly recall many moons after. 

Within an hour or two any hesitation or resistance a client might have to an immersion in nature usually evaporates to reveal receptivity for inner and outer developmental work.  Then, around the camp-fire a deep dialogic space for generative listening is held, as ego-masks and psychological armour melt for true nature to be touched. The client does not easily forget these moments of deep presence and purposefulness, and can call upon them when back in the busy work environment. Thus, both horizontal and vertical development takes place in these immersions, as clients gain a wider capacity for everyday resilience (horizontal) and an invitation into up-stretching their inner and outer orientation (vertical).

What happens in just a handful of hours in nature is – in my experience – of an order of magnitude deeper than a coaching session held either in a comfortable armchair or over zoom.  And socially distancing in fresh forest-bathing air proven to strengthen the immune system is a COVID-mitigated way to do deep work. Now more than ever people crave time in nature, time that is held in a way that gives them permission to be vulnerable, open-up and let-go of masks, while sensing into blind spots, projections and developmental learnings.

Giles Hutchins runs nature-based leadership immersions for leaders, facilitates deep-space for coaches and their clients, provides training for coaches, and personal adult development amid 60 acres of ancient woodland in an area of outstanding natural beauty with easy connections to London and airports, visit Leadership Immersions. He is also Chair of The Future Fit Leadership Academy. His latest co-authored book is Regenerative Leadership, other books are Future Fit, The Illusion of Separation and The Nature of Business. He blogs at www.thenatureofbusiness.org

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In Service to Life: Regenerative Leadership for 21st Century Organisations

January 13, 2021

David Lorimer is Director of The Scientific and Medical Network, and also Editor of the magazine Paradigm Explorer. He has kindly reviewed the book Regenerative Leadership, by Giles Hutchins & Laura Storm, a book that he sees as a highly informative and inspiring must-read for leaders in every sector

Book at be found here: Regenerative Leadership

REGENERATIVE LEADERSHIP, by Giles Hutchins and Laura Storm, Wordzworth, 2019, 351 pp., £29.99, p/b – ISBN 978-1-78324-119-4

Book Review By David Lorimer

I don’t personally need convincing of the requirement not only for regenerative leadership, but for a regenerative approach as an overall policy goal, and in such a regard, this widely endorsed and beautifully produced 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 and dynamics of nature. Both authors bring decades of experience of the sustainability agenda as it relates to business leadership (www.regenerativeleadership.co).

The first part is devoted to breakdowns and breakthroughs, analysing the deeper roots of our current crisis resulting in a ‘growing imbalance [and separation] between humanity and nature, masculine and feminine, inner and outer, and left brained and right brained awareness’, aspects that we now need to integrate in order to ‘read the patterns, relationships, energies, insights, and intelligences innate within life’ as ways of reconnecting with the logic of life (p. 24). The authors identify a growing ‘complexity gap’ in the business landscape, arising from viewing the organisation as a machine and from a flawed consumerist business model associated with ecological degradation – exploiting rather than serving life. This leads to all manner of stress to manifest in us as individuals, as well is in economic, political and natural systems. So the question is how we design flourishing ways of living conducive to life, which entails moving from reductive machine logic to living systems logic on a leadership journey of reconnection: regenerative business calls for regenerative leaders (defined on p. 70).

Part 2 describes the DNA of regenerative leadership based on the logic of life and incorporating Living Systems Design, Culture and Being. This is all very clearly set out with diagrams describing life and leadership dynamics, the former in terms of a dance of convergence and divergence leading to emergence, and the latter an interplay of self-awareness with systemic awareness resulting in ‘regenerative leadership consciousness’. Throughout the book there are further reference points of quotations, insights from nature, business insights and opportunities to dive deeper, one of which is Michael Harner’s essential elements of core shamanism (p. 96) that spell out the relational principles of the kind of worldview that we all need to adopt. The authors explain their own version in terms of seven principles of the logic of life – life affirming, ever-changing and responsive, relational and collaborative, synergistic and diverse, cyclical and rhythmical, flows of energy and matter, and living systems field. Throughout the book, they show a remarkable grasp of such ideas and their potential applications as well as appropriate methods of training. There are corresponding ‘DNA strands’ in the chapters on Living Systems Design and Living Systems Culture with many relevant practical examples.

A further key element is Living Systems Being – ‘how we show up and nourish our relationship with our inner nature and encourage others to do the same.’ Here again there are six DNA strands: presence, coherence, patience, silence, abundance and dance, with corresponding definitions, objectives and guidance. Practical people might initially regard this as peripheral while it is in fact central. The third part provides some useful diagnostic tools to measure the alignment of your organisation with the logic of life and a living systems approach based on a number of questions and a related points system. Then people can create personal and organisational ecosystemic maps with corresponding features and relationships, with the outer orientation on the left and the inner on the right.

Finally, there are answers to frequently asked questions and further suggestions for personal practice, including journaling, quiet time, deep listening and opening up to nature; practices of silence, dialogue, story cafes and the way of council can also be applied organisationally. For the reader, such processes have to begin with the quality of our inner state as it ripples out through our lives and relationships. I was amused but not surprised to find on the final page that the logic of life is nothing more or less than Love, which creates the conditions conducive for life. As the authors note, they could not have put such a message up front, but it was good to see it plainly stated at the end. I wholeheartedly recommend this book as a highly informative and inspiring must-read for leaders in every sector.

You can find the book Regenerative Leadership through all major outlets and also here at this website: Regenerative Leadership

You can follow Giles Hutchins’ blogs at The Nature of Business

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

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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: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/13767578/

and the new business paradigm Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/businessinspiredbynature/

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.

join the LinkedIn Nature Immersions group if you have not already:

https://www.linkedin.com/groups/13767578/

and Natural Business Facebook group:

https://www.facebook.com/businessinspiredbynature/

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.

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