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Making Music in Our Organisations through Regenerative Leadership

April 22, 2018

Creating and holding space is vital for today’s leadership and organisational development.

All-too-often holding space is overlooked in today’s busyness. Stillness and space are seen as either a luxury or something to be filled-in as we get swept along with our hurry-up-and-get-on-with-it culture.  This encourages the superficial and undermines the deep.

This trilemma of social, economic and environmental crises now upon us demands the deep. The challenges our leaders face in transforming their organisations while keeping the wheels on the road amid unceasing change demands the deep.

Our leadership ability to adequately hold space is what allows for creative tensions to be worked through, to be fully sung if you like, rather than force-fitted into hurried solutions while frustration remains.  It is space that allows for the depth within ourselves to be more readily seen from the surface.

When we reduce down our spaces, we cut ourselves off from the very well-spring we so urgently need to be tapping into amid these tumultuous times.

Holding space enables a deeper, wiser consciousness to shine through from the depths within us, within our teams, within Nature all-about-us; it enhances, enriches and rejuvenates the quality of our ‘being’, this then percolates into our ‘doing’, through our relations, team dynamics, meeting conventions and decision-making protocols.

Opening up these spaces allows the chi, prana, life-force, sacred-breath or ‘elan vital’ to flow more readily through our flourishing future-fit organisations.  Without the spaces, the music of regenerative business loses its rhythm and flow.

Shift in Consciousness

‘Without a global revolution in the sphere of human consciousness the catastrophe toward which the world is headed will be unavoidable.’ Vaclav Havel, Prime Minister, addressing US Congress

What is now clear to those of us at the leading-edge of leadership and organisational development is that a shift in consciousness in terms of how we lead, organise and operate is a must if we are to enable our organisations to flourish amid increasing complexity, shifting stakeholder demands and wicked systemic challenges.

This consciousness shift is not just a shift in perspective from seeing the organisation-as-a-machine (locked-up in separateness, control and linearity) to seeing the organisation-as-a-living-system (flourishing through the living-systems dynamics of emergence, interconnectedness and synchronicity).   It is also a shift in how we attend to life; a shift in our own inner-outer dynamic within ourselves and within our relations and wider social systems.

This is a change in the ‘centre-of-gravity’ within ourselves and in our relations with others; a readjustment of our ego-soul dynamic – finding our true nature by tuning-in and letting it flow.

It’s a shift from a prevalent focus on the outer, on the doing, on the presentation ‘out there’, and the goal orientated achievement to grasp at something out there driven by a mechanistic, linear cause-and-effect perspective.

Polished brands, quarterly numbers, cascaded KPIs, data upon data upon data, goal-orientated agenda-driven meeting protocols, explicit measurable learning objectives, performance-driven metrics, are all part-and-parcel of this mind-set.  And there is nothing wrong with it per se.  It has its useful place, and serves a purpose.  The problem comes when this mechanistic mind-set dominates our modus operandi; then we wind up overly emphasising the ‘outer’ at the expense of the ‘inner’, the implicit, the unconscious, the liminal and intangible thresholds beyond the known; then our systems of learning and development prioritise the very logic that created our problems in the first place.  Trying to fix our sea of challenges with the same consciousness that created our problems is not what future-fit regenerative leadership is about. In fact, regenerative leadership is a radical departure from this, and it’s not for the faint-hearted who would rather the security and superficiality of the status quo any day.

As leaders we face the dual challenge of:

  • A prevalent mechanistic mind-set in business and beyond,
  • A system-field of increasing volatility and wicked inter-related problems

Hence, we need to shift this inner-outer dynamic first within ourselves and then through our relationships, conversations, meeting conventions and such like, and also beyond our organisations into the interconnected eco-systems, so that ‘space’ is brought in and not left out, so that we bring in a more balanced, more holistic, more human attentiveness.  This is the intention and attention now called for.

It requires courage to depart from the prevalent thinking of the day and the restless pressure for the concrete cause-and-effect, neatly definable, packaged up metrics, models and methods.

It is through ‘space’ that we may allow for an embodied shift in consciousness to occur if only for brief moments to begin with.  It is through space that we open up to deeper ways of being-and-doing.

 ‘The intuitive mind is a sacred gift; the rational mind its faithful servant.  We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.’  – Albert Einstein, genius

The simplicity of the complexity is this: if we are to thrive as regenerative leaders and organisations we need our inner intuitive awareness – our ‘sacred gift’ – to inform our outer doing.  As then our outer doing is in service of this deeper wisdom.

It is by creating empty spaces in our day-to-day that we allow ourselves to connect deeper within, and realign our inner-outer dynamic amid the busyness of our business.

‘He who is harmony with Nature hits the mark without effort and apprehends the truth without thinking.’ Confucius, Chinese sage

These spaces help us cultivate our self-awareness while also allowing natural creativity, discernment and authenticity to emanate from deep within us into our thoughts, words and deeds.

The art of regenerative leading is in learning to allow our daily ego-consciousness to permeate more readily with our sub-conscious and super-conscious minds, and with the Mind of Nature.

‘Artistic skill is the combining of many levels of mind – unconscious, conscious, and external – to make a statement of their combination.’  Gregory Bateson, systems theorist and anthropologist

We allow the formlessness within the Mind of Nature to inform our form.  We allow the ‘pattern that connects’ (to use Gregory Bateson’s term) to open our perceptual horizon into the interconnectedness of our own humanity and deeper more-than-human world we are always immersed within.

‘Learn how to see and realise everything connects with everything else.’ Leonardo Da Vinci, genius

The trick here is to begin to realise that mind and matter are not separate.  The separation of mind and matter is the root-flaw at the heart of our corrupting and carcinogenic worldview that creates plastic islands in our oceans, fear-filled newspapers, stress-creating workplaces and run-away climate change.

 ‘The true ground of all being is the infinite, intangible, spirit that infuses all living beings’  David Bohm, physicist

‘This Mind is the matrix of all matter’  Max Planck, Nobel Laureate physicist

As leaders, we have to create space for ourselves to tune-in, AND also hold space for our teams within our organisations and wider inter-related network of stakeholders.

Then we allow our organisational living system to sense-and-respond more effectively in times of unceasing transformation – it’s simply good business sense. And yet its more than that, a lot more than that, it’s about helping us wake up to who we truly are as wise beings in a deeply wise world – to rekindle our true humanity.

It is this creating and holding space that provides the nutritious soil from which our flourishing future-fit organisations are rooted.  Without this vital spaciousness, a shift in consciousness remains elusive, and we miss out on the music of what could have been.

‘It’s not intellect that makes a great leader – although it helps. Rather it’s the quality of their consciousness – their personal and systemic awareness… This level of self-awareness, or presence, refers to an ability to be still… What is needed now is for us to develop social and organisational containers that are robust enough to hold us through periods of creative tension, as opposed to reacting to every presenting issue, and collapsing tension at every turn,’ Dr Nick Udall, Chair of World Economic Forum Council on New Models of Leadership

Nick Udall makes an important point here in that there is a third step required: after the first step of self-emptying or presencing, and the second step of holding space for others to tap into a deeper way of being-and-doing, the third step is to provide the right environment for creative tensions to turn into music, to reveal deeper insights, rather than being closed down with quick knee-jerk solutions that fill the uncomfortable gap of not-knowing.   This going into the not-knowing while tension-is-in-the-air requires vulnerability, humility and courage.

We are all co-creative musicians participating in this inter-relational Dance of Life.  We may learn to tune-in to this deeper music within and all around us, if we so choose to hear/see/sense deeply enough.

The space between the notes is what gives the music its rhythm and depth.

Today, we need leaders who can open up these tensions so that deeper emergence, deeper learning, deeper insight can spawn.  Holding space during these tensions allows a deeper rhythm and wiser music to emerge through the space between the notes.

In a world full of noisy notes it requires courage to hold this kind of gentle yet provocative space.

It requires vulnerability to look beyond tried-and-tested neatly packaged tools into a wilder wisdom born from within.

It requires humility to move away from hubris and ego-knowing into not-knowing, into surrendering, into crucifixion, so that our personal will can become subservient to a deeper wiser will of Nature within ourselves, within our teams, within our business ecosystems and social systems, and within our more-than-human world.

‘What is within us is within everything. Once we understand this truth, we step outside of the parameters of our individual self and come to realise the power that is within us. This shift in awareness is a very simple step that has profound consequences’ Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, mystic

We might begin to glimpse the deeper purpose of life that informs our specific individual purpose and organisational purpose, the quest for harmony and wellbeing through love and wisdom.

‘The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.’  Joseph Campbell, mythologist

This goes against much of what we have been taught at school, and also in our further education establishments, business schools and management training courses, and yet it is this humble and gentle opening up to a deeper consciousness within and all about us which ourselves, our systems and our civilisation now needs.

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

And there is a fourth step.

After (1) creating space within ourselves to sense into the deep matrix of Nature; after (2) creating space within our conversations and meeting conventions for others to open up more readily to this matrix of Nature; after (3) creating space for creative tensions to reveal the deeper wiser music of authentic creativity, innovation and flow; we expand into (4) creating space for diverse stakeholders to come together, connect, tune-in, share and spark off each other – people from different silos across the business and from different stakeholder communities beyond the organisation come together. In celebrating this diversity and the tensions and differences it brings, we harness yet more music, more creativity, more insight, and more possibility for synchronicity.

A crucible, a mixing vessel, a womb, a cauldron, a chalice, is held by us so that alchemy can be done.

Yin and yang mix and blend to allow us to find the ‘way of nature’, the ‘way of living-and-leading’  – this is fresh yet ancient wisdom that life teaches us each evolving moment, each breath, each step, if we sense-in enough to see beyond tensions while embodying emergent evolution.

What emerges from the co-creative tensions moves us beyond transactional cause-and-effect relations into synergies of inter-relationalities.  Here we sense synchronistic pathways; we call forth the emerging future within the presence of the Now.  Our openness and vulnerability to the emptiness, the void of not-knowing, opens us to the quantum plenum, the ground-of-all-being, the Way of the Tao, so that we can sense-and-respond with wisdom.

It is here that we allow our living regenerative organisations to flourish amid uncertain futures, to find the flow of improvisational co-creative music that gives the living system its niche amid a sea of interwoven dynamics, and the creative and destructive ebbs and flows of life.

For easy-to-use business practices, case studies and tools for holding space, and practical liberating structures that can be applied to our every day meeting conventions and decision-making protocols, please see Future Fit (2016) which has been written specifically for this purpose.

 ‘In this essential and timely message to the corporate world, Giles Hutchins makes the vital points that only a fundamental overhaul of the underlying operating logic will enable our firms of the future to flourish.  Only a ‘regenerative’ approach is capable of shifting our frame of thinking from a linear, reductive and silo’ed perspective to relational systems-thinking – one that seeks collaboration across boundaries, shared value and co-innovation. The more we learn to cultivate our natural soulful awareness amidst our everyday busyness, the more we can start to call upon more of who we truly are, benefiting our outlook, our relations, our creativity, and our ability to lead in these challenging times.’  Dr. Scilla Elworthy, Founder of Oxford Research Group, Founder of Peace Direct, Co-Founder of Rising Women Rising World, Councillor of the World Future Council and author of Pioneering the Possible

 ‘Future Fit is prescient and practical. It describes the future as it can and should be, by drawing on a breadth of knowledge rarely seen in business books. It also makes big, abstract ideas more concrete, by offering examples and advice. This book will help managers navigate a complex world for a more sustainable world. Giles Hutchins is one of the most broad-reaching, forward thinking writers in business.’ Tima Bansal, Canada Research Chair in Business Sustainability, Ivey Business School

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For more on Regenerative Leadership visit Regenerators

Remembering from where to Lead…

April 19, 2018


This guest blog from Paul Pivcevic has emerged from an on-going inquiry between Giles Hutchins and the leadership and organisational specialist Paul Pivcevic at Still Moving. Here Paul explores how the insights from consciousness, wellbeing and adult developmental theory might be grounded in our practice as leaders of change.


If you’re battling to make sense of your sustainability strategy; if your team is pulling in a more radical direction than the business will take; if you’re simply overwhelmed with competing demands to be both radical and make a watertight business case with KPI’s; if you notice the seduction of new thinking, a new model that contains a new kernel of truth but also creates a new mountain to climb, and in all this activity you are yearning for meaning, to reconnect with why you’ve chosen this path….


We know that all models and frameworks are abstractions of something important, even vital. Yet somehow we may have found ourselves serving the model, losing touch with our core intention. How have we ended up doing that –all the time knowing that each answer is provisional, contingent, that meaning is continually emerging and deepening and that we need to make it together…In fact that the very process of making it together makes it meaningful. If we could only stay suspended in that space longer, how much more purposeful might be our choices. How much more meaning we could make for our customers, our suppliers…


But how does this fit with delivering functional responsibilities, pushing colleagues for the data I need to complete a presentation to the Board, and meeting the targets set a year ago in a different ‘time’, a different context?


What if I could allow myself space to reconnect once more to what I know in some way to be true: the wisdom – as we know was and is held by indigenous cultures – that mind and body and nature are fatefully interwoven and always on the move in their relationship with each other, that our efforts to impose a purely cognitive frame on the world has led to many wrong turnings? That inherently even as we journey and explore, we do not know.


Even though the pressure is exactly for the reverse. But in staying with ‘not-knowing’ at the edge of all the wisdom, all the thinking, the theories, the insights, that’s where something else lies. Something I’m reaching for. Like an estuary, a thriving liminal place or what permaculture also calls ‘edges’, the interface between ecosystems like between forest and grassland, often the most diverse and thriving places in a system.


Can I take a little time – perhaps outside – to allow myself to stay in wonder at the not-knowing, to see out of the not-knowing what might emerge? To awaken the parasympathetic nervous system with its wondrous capacity to support us to connect to ourselves and to each other, to open us to compassion…even love?


Could we perhaps start with compassion for ourselves? To accept my experience of myself and my life, my working context as inherently contradictory and paradoxical, dynamic and emerging? To sit with judgement, including self-judgement, with the thoughts that expand me, those that reduce me, with the pressure to ‘know’, and to notice the moment-by-moment shifts in the nature and quality of my experience. Indeed to reach towards very awareness itself, that vast and spacious allowing and accepting mirror, as I allow my life’s unfolding to be just….’this’


And as I embrace this whole as I look around me I see any ‘differences’ in you simply as a reflection of something also in me, just ‘being’ with you in this unfolding moment without clinging to any expectation of what it should or shouldn’t be, or where it should be going…


In this slightly different state of mind, could we open up space for us together to re-frame questions we hold about ourselves, about our work, and about the world we are together in this moment co-creating with the very nature of how we are. What is the next level of meaning that may reveal itself as we gently unfold the crumples, abrasions and tensions of our inner worlds to each other? What insights or epiphanies may gently wash into awareness or come bursting to the surface? And as we process this, what can I mindfully and sensitively take back to offer to my colleagues?

And if our vision is somehow to create the conditions for change, to help awaken the system to its own capacity for change, it’s worth saying something also about leadership. What are the helpful insights around which we can build a practice? What is useful research we can lean into to support us along the path, and deepen our inquiry?


Research across the world and across a large range of organisations led by Deborah Rowland at Still Moving published a year ago, demonstrates that successful change does indeed need leadership that is aware, conscious, and present. Being does come before doing.


In fact fundamental, transforming change can only start in new ways of being. Leaders need to think in ‘wholes’. And that’s wholes at the level of me, myself (connecting mind, heart and body, bringing my rational and intuitive capacities together, my past together with how it manifests in my present); at the level of the organisation (acknowledging the difficulties, past and present and also coming down the line, and holding them up to scrutiny) and at the level of the whole ‘system’ too.

Which might include continuing the inquiry into the system conditions that support our societies and our planet to self regulate and flourish together.


From this place of wholeness we know there is no separation between our being and the value our organisations create in the world, no separation between what we observe and what we are, in fact no separation at all. For our inner spiritual warrior it’s the fiercest path, and the most wondrous of all surrenderings.


Paul Pivcevic, Still Moving

Paul has joined many journeys of change over 18 years of consulting. He feels grateful to be able to serving the unfolding of our potential, challenged by the self-discipline this requires, and inspired by the reconnections and joy the work can bring.

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The Wisdom of Nature – beyond words

March 17, 2018

‘Returning to the Source is stillness, which is the way of Nature. the way of Nature is unchanging.’

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;

Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,

But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,

Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,

Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,

There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

                                                                                T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton, 4 Quartets


The flute of interior time is played whether we hear it or not,

What we mean by ‘love‘ is its sound coming in.

When love hits the furthest edge of excess, it reaches a wisdom.

And the fragrance of that knowledge!

It penetrates our thick bodies,

it goes through walls –

Its network of notes has a structure as if a million suns were arranged inside.

This tune has truth in it.

Where else have you hard a sound like this?


                                             – Robert Bly, 16, The Kabir Book

Sing, my heart, of unknown gardens poured in glass,
transparent and unattainable.
Fountains and roses of Ispahan or of Shiraz,
Praise and joyfully sing of them, incomparable.

Show, my heart, that you could never truly miss them, since
it is you, alone, for whom their figs have ripened.
That in your revery, envisioning powers heightened,
you are kin to each flowering branch the sweet breezes evince.

Avoid the error of thinking something dear was shed
in the transaction of your grave decision to be!
You are part of the very weave, o silken thread.

Whatever the motif constricting you internally
(if only for a moment in the painful life you lead)
intuit the full meaning of the glowing tapestry.

– Rainer Maria Rilke, The Sonnets of Orpheus

To embrace the ever-changing yet unchanging presence of Nature is to tap into its paradoxical Wisdom; a wisdom beyond words: the diversity within unity, the communion of opposing tensions, the fluidity of boundaries, the alchemy of divergence-convergence revealing emergent evolution, the stillness within the movement, the movement grounded in stillness – this is to know the art of regenerative leadership.

And yet, as Morpheus said to Neo in the film The Matrix,

‘There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.’

‘That I might know the innermost weave of the world, witness its dynamics and creation, and stop rummaging about in words’ – Goethe

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For more on Regenerative Leadership see here

For Giles Hutchins’ personal website

To BE a Pilgrim:  Exploring the emergence of regenerative cultures in the 21st Century

March 5, 2018

We are living in a moment of Kairos, a supreme moment, where edifices of stability and security are crumbing to reveal both death and rebirth, breakdown and breakthrough.

How we sense into life, and its {r}evolutionary potential determines how we access the creativity, intelligence and flow-dynamics innate within ourselves, our systems and our world.

Daniel Wahl, in his book Designing Regenerative Cultures, explores how we can let-go of the need for control, stability and certainty, as we open up to complexity, so as to create conditions conducive for communal life to flourish.

Here I write a review of Daniel’s book Designing Regenerative Cultures (2016) Triarchy Press.

I shall start this review by saying what a joy it is to review a book that speaks to my soul.  Why do I do what I do? Why did I give up a lucrative and successful career in corporate-world and quest upon a path less-travelled?   Because, to quote Daniel:

‘I firmly believe that the multiple crises we are facing are symptoms of our pathological habit of understanding and experiencing ourselves as separate from nature, from each other and from the community of life.’

So let’s begin!  Let’s explore root causes rather than downstream effects. Let’s sense into our current malaise of degenerative cultures and see beyond them into how life really is.

Read more…

Regenerative Leadership – Leadership fit for the 21st Century

February 27, 2018

Time to move!

2018 and we are reaching a tipping point.  The winds of change are here, upon us now.

In the corridors of power, corporate board-rooms, business schools and conference halls I speak and advise at, I  sense these winds of change blowing through us, challenging the status-quo group-think of yesterday, changing our conversations, catalysing new ways of leading and operating, right here, right now.

More and more I come across leaders of all ages passionate about replacing the flawed mind-set and out-dated paradigm that causes huge strain on our personal, social and ecological systems.

A new way is emerging at the pioneering envelope of future-fit business. This new way draws on regenerative principles. A paradigm that moves away from the take, make, dispose of our natural and human resources and instead makes room for consciousness to evolve and for creativity to flourish.

To be ‘regenerative’ essentially means to attune with the way nature works, because nature is essentially regenerative.

‘The goal of life is to live in agreement with nature’  – Zeno of Elea

Yet core to this simple realisation is a shift in how we see the world, a shift in worldvew.

We are living through an epochal shift in our worldview, where we are witnessing the still dominant yet out-dated worldview of Newtonian reductionism breaking down and a living-systems worldview breaking through.  It is at once a challenging, courageous, humbling and hugely exciting time to be alive.

The old worldview breaks things down into constituent parts, it reduces and mechanises life into bits and bytes.  This serves a purpose and has been hugely beneficial in terms of the advances in science, technology, medicine, transportation, etc. that we all enjoy.

What we now know about how the world really works, is enabling us to realise life is actually far more to do with inter-relationality, participation and connectedness than it is about separation, silo’ing and mechanisation.

As our understanding of life deepens, so too do everyday assumptions in business and beyond.  For instance, much of today’s business management mind-set is rooted in scientific management theory, Taylorism and Neo-Darwinism – dog-eat-dog competition, individualistic self-agency, carrot-and-stick coercion, bureaucratic power-based hierarchies, soul-sapping corporate cultures, and quick-buck profiteering at the expense of the vitality of life, are the sad reality of today’s norm.

The old worldview sees the ‘organisation-as-machine’

The new worldview sees the ‘organisation-as-living-system’ – purposeful, vibrant and life-affirming

This requires a new-norm in how we lead ourselves, our teams, our organisations, our communities, our societies.

The good news is, this new-norm is emerging now, not just on the horizon, but in the day-to-day reality of future-fit organisations. By example, the manufacturer Pantheon Chemicals , the cleaning company Zenith Cleaners, the health and wellbeing provider Weleda, the financial services organisation Triodos, the multimedia company Sounds True. The sector and complexity is quite irrelevant, only the mind-set and courage to become more-human, more life-affirming is what counts.

This new-norm draws it vitality from a new worldview, a new way of seeing life.  A worldview that sees the innate interconnectedness, and senses the inter-relational participatory weave-and-weft of the world.

This new-norm is a new way of being-and-doing. It is a new way of living and leading.  We call it Regenerative Leadership because it helps us regenerate ourselves while contributing to the innate regenerative potential of life.

The time has come to stand up and lean-in to the future we wish to see.

True leaders of today understand that we’re all part of an interconnected intelligence rooted in nature’s regenerative living-systems. Learning to harness the creativity, innovation, vibrancy and renewal of this is key to re-designing a regenerative world.

This is the beating heart of life-affirming conscious business. 

The is a community of professionals dedicated to working together to re-design a world where purpose, people, planet and profit collectively thrive. A world built on regenerative principles. A world where we understand that everything in life is interconnected.

To celebrate the launch of we are hosting a very special Regenerative Leadership Learning Journey in a stunning and luxurious location in Sweden to share many years of hard-won experience with you on how to become regenerative leaders today.

As we shift our worldview from separateness into interconnectedness, we open ourselves up to blind-spots within ourselves and within our ways of relating with others. Our cognitive processes change, and we become more sensitised to changes in the system we are operating in.

As regenerative leaders, we need to cultivate self-awareness and systemic-awareness, and then bring this into the everyday thick-of-it, while applying regenerative business principles.  It is not an easy undertaking, and is not for the faint-hearted.

Why not take a few days out of your busy schedule to deep-dive into the wisdom of nature. Tap into the creativity and intelligence that lies inherent in living-systems approaches and learn how to use this creative regenerative dynamic to bring you closer to a conscious way of leading, living and thriving as a leader.

On this special Learning Journey retreat 23-25 May in Sweden, we will deep-dive into the concepts and practicalities of regenerative and future-fit leadership. Spread over three days in nature, hosted in an idyllic location, next to a lake and woods, with wholesome fine cuisine, hearty fire-side sharing, luxury Bedouin tents, floating sauna, afternoon walks, guided meditations and best-in-class masterclasses on Regenerative Leadership, it is a once-in-a-life-time learning experience.

This learning journey is dedicated to cultivate, nourish and catalyse the next level of conscious leadership for a thriving world.

If you know in your heart that things need to change, and are up for having your heart-and-mind opened in a safe convivial learning environment, then you can register your interest here and we shall be in touch:

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The Essential Ingredient for Future-Fitness

February 13, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is how our outer worldview is undergoing a metamorphosis:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the business futurist John Naisbett:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As the writer Paul Levy notes,

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

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

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

A revolution in consciousness no less

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

The Foundation for Future Leadership – deepening our inter-connectedness

January 31, 2018

It is now clear to many leaders, managers and change agents that we need a new way of operating.

Yet, so often we seek solutions ‘out there’, a new way that has been invented elsewhere, packed-up, tried-and-tested and ready for us to buy off-the-shelf so we can solve our problems: a silver-bullet, a cook-book approach that, with enough budget, senior management buy-in and will-power, we can implement – job done, tick, move-on, next!

There is something within our psyche that definitely prefers the safe, tried-and-tested, well-documented, easy-to-follow, clearly illuminated straight road ahead. But life is not like that. And things are only set to get more volatile, more uncertain and more ambiguous for a great variety of reasons. Our search for neat off-the-shelf solutions may satisfy the desire to ‘get-the-job-done’ and move-on, but in our hearts we know something deeper is now required.

There is increasing evidence that today’s managerial mind-set and organisational development approaches are not just inadequate for dealing with the challenges that lie ahead of us, they are actually undermining our creative potential and adaptability right where we most need it.

So what to do!

In my recent conversations with a CEO, of a global firm actively exploring deeper ways forward, she succinctly said, ‘its time to start looking in’.  Yes, we need to look out, but first we need to look deep within, and then take that in-spiration into our looking out, so that we see, relate and attend to what is required in our organisations with a new way of perceiving, of thinking, of attending. From this insight and self-awareness comes the foresight and systemic thinking we now need to deal with the challenges upon us.

If we are honest with ourselves, we may begin to realise that the major problems we face within our ways of operating and organising results from much of our ‘doing’ having become de-coupled from our ‘being’.  Let’s just pause on that for a moment.   How often in our daily activities do we do things in a harried and hurried way due to our need to ‘get the job done’ while undermining the quality of our ‘beingness’ in the process, in turn undermining the quality of interactions we have with others, eroding our innate sociality and empathetic connection with our environment. We professionalise our masks and personas as we learn to be masterful at persuasion and manipulation, yet in-so-doing we distance ourselves from our authentic nature, desensitising ourselves and our empathic inter-relationality in the process. Enter the mechanistic bureaucratic soul-sapping corporate culture of today.

As the now trendy insight from Einstein so aptly highlights, we can’t change our problems with the same logic that created them.  And yet we so often do exactly this. Whether it be, for instance, force-fitting a cook-book approach to holacratic self-organisation into our governance or sending our top 1% of talent on largely academic leadership courses to efficiently download how to be a better leader.

When it comes to us exploring different approaches outside-the-box of our current thinking, our decision-making systems constrain us. Procedure demands we quantify the learning objectives and outcomes so a business case can be signed-off. So caught up we are, that our mindset and culture prevents investment in the very approaches we need to get us out of the logic that created the problems in the first place.

Most middle managers and senior executives have been encouraged to think that in order to succeed, we need to climb the ladder, take on more responsibility, lead a bigger project, and accumulate more academic accreditations.  We look outside ourselves in terms of what we can  accumulate. This has its place and needs to be commended to a certain extent, but only if our doing is aligned with our being, otherwise we are doing stuff for some external reward chart or ‘tick-box’ exercise while further de-coupling ourselves from our being. We so often take on more external commitments, giving ourselves less time to reflect on how we are being – and so we get more stressed, seeking fleeting respite through holidays or external stimulations, which often involves yet more busyness. Enter the contagion of consumerism in our midst.  How often do we give ourselves a chance to question why on Earth we are doing what we are doing anyway. What actually is the deeper purpose of the organisation I work for and how does that resonate with my deeper purpose?

The more we externalise and objectify the more we distract ourselves from sensing into how we are truly feeling. We don’t give ourselves the space-time to tune-in to who we truly are and how we are truly feeling, because we are for-ever grasping at things ‘out there’.  We relentlessly get busier and busier in an increasingly complex fast-moving digitised world that demands more and more of us. Becoming more profitable, more sustainable, more creative, more resilient, more responsible, more purposeful, more conscious – these are at risk of becoming ‘things’ for us to get our head round, climb over and achieve efficiently with the masks and personas we know serve us well in the current acculturated mindset. We fail to actually question or address the underlying mindset, and so unwittingly prevent ourselves from opening up to the deeper wisdom we now need to move beyond ‘the box’ we have got ourselves caught up in.

It’s time to step back from this myopia we have entrapped ourselves in, so that we can allow ourselves to see with fresh eyes, while bringing in deeper insights within and all around us, beyond ‘the box’.

‘The one who looks inside awakens’ – Carl Jung

The good news is, these very times of volatility and upheaval are providing the ideal alchemic conditions for our old ways to be seen for what they are – holding us back from who we truly are, and undermining our organisations’ and social systems’ ability to thrive.

Many are now increasingly realising that our social systems and organisations are actually living systems rather than mechanistic machines. This is one of the greatest challenges, perhaps THE challenge our leaders and managers face today: embracing a shift in our way of perceiving from an outdated mechanistic and control-based managerial mind-set to a recognition that our organisations are living systems immersed within the living systems of society and our more-than-human world. This comes with a worldview shift from a dog-eat-dog world steeped in self-agency, individualism and competition to a deeper recognition that our world is steeped in inter-connected reciprocating relationships.

For ourselves, our teams, our organisations and stakeholder ecosystems to become vibrant, adaptive, thriving, purposeful living systems amid these times of unceasing transformation, we first need to embrace the aliveness within us, and the connection and coherence that enables this aliveness to flourish through our relationships. In other words, our ‘being’ needs to underpin and infuse our ‘doing’. This is not some wishy-washy soft-and-fluffy new-age vibe, it is simply the only way to take ourselves outside-the-box and transform our thinking beyond that which created the problems in the first place.

Old Logic                                                New Logic

Mechanistic                                               Living

Separateness                                             Inter-connectedness

Competitive self-agency                        Collaborative inter-relationality

Hierarchic management                        Locally-attuned emergence

Individualism                                           Individuality within community

Homogenisation                                      Diversity within unity

Profit first                                                Profit follows purpose

Exploitative                                             Regenerative

There is now clear scientific evidence showing that complex living systems – our social and organisational systems, as well as our own selves – greatly improve their ability to thrive amid volatility by enhancing their connection and coherence at personal, team and systemic levels.

The well-respected scientist Ervin Laszlo speaks of the importance of super-coherence within living systems. All living systems need to be both intrinsically and extrinsically coherent in order to thrive. By coherence we mean the ability for all the aspects within us and within our organisations to be aligned and in-tune. Yet, today, much of our managerial approaches, decision-making protocols, day-to-day meeting conventions and approaches to work actually stifle our coherence both within ourselves at personal levels (creating anxiety, fear, control issues and frustration while undermining our creative potential and sapping our motivation) and extrinsically beyond ourselves in terms of how we relate with others across our organisational boundaries (creating silo-mentality, competitive them-versus-us thinking, risk-adverse herd mentality, and institutionalised status-quo rigidity). This undermines our personal and organisational coherence, in turn, undermining the resilience and well-being of ourselves and organisations. Rather than turning up for work with full-bodied aliveness and vitality, much of the time we find ourselves switching-off or leaving aspects of ourselves at the door, putting on a mask so that we can get by in the mechanistic artificiality and political quagmire of today’s corporate mentality.  We have learnt to get-the-job-done, tick-the-to-do-list, reach the destination as quickly as possible so we can move on to the next thing, and get out of the soul-destroying work place as quickly as possible while hopefully picking up a pay rise or promotion as compensation for our enslavement. We all know in our hearts it does not have to be this way.

So how do we develop this ‘super-coherence’ within ourselves and our organisations amid these times of increasingly uncertainty and challenge?  This, I argue, is THE inquiry for any leader interested in creating vibrant flourishing enterprises that do not just survive the years ahead but actually thrive. In other words, this is THE inquiry for every leader awakening to this ‘new norm’, and we can go further by saying this is also THE inquiry for every human seeking a future that is life-affirming, a future for ourselves and our children that enhances life rather than degrades it, that leaves the garden richer than we found it rather than recklessly burning our future for today. As Ervin Laszlo notes,

‘In the last few hundred years, and especially in the last decades, human societies have become progressively incoherent both with respect to each other and with their environment. They have become internally divisive and ecologically disruptive… Species are dying out, diversity in the planet’s ecosystem is diminishing, the climate is changing, and the conditions for healthy living are reduced. This crucial epoch is to regain our internal and external coherence: our supercoherence. This is not a utopian aspiration, but it calls for major changes in our thinking and behaving. Striving effectively to regain supercoherence requires more that finding technological solutions to patch up the problems created by our incoherence. It requires reconnecting with a mindset…a mindset based on a sense of oneness with each other and with nature…rediscovering the power of love [as] a profound sense of belonging to each other and to the cosmos. This rediscovery is timely, and it is not mere fantasy: it has roots in our holographically whole, non-locally interconnected universe.’

Cultivating Coherence Through Connection

When we align our doing with our being we align our outer work with our inner-selves, and cultivate coherence. First we need to be aware of the quality of our beingness (as today there is much to distract us in today’s hurry-up-and-get-on-with-it world). Then, we can learn to align our doing with our being.

In opening up to more of ourselves, we perceive more of how life really is (beyond the habituations, acculturations and control-based frames of yesterday’s logic). We allow a deeper and richer perspective to form within us.  We learn how to reframe our strategic intent, day-to-day interactions and meeting conventions from a linear, control-based, mechanistic frame to a regenerative living-systems approach that embraces more of our humanity and a deeper sense of place and purpose within this more-than-human world. In the process we learn to become wiser folk.

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