By Giles Hutchins for Enlivening Edge
We are in the midst of a metamorphosis. Epic challenges abound; humanity faces a crossroads, and central to this is a radical reshaping of the workplace, demanding the crossing of thresholds at myriad levels—personal, team, organizational, community, cultural. As the organization specialist Peter Drucker insightfully said, ‘In times of turmoil, the danger lies not in the turmoil but in facing it with yesterday’s logic’.
The logic of yesterday haunts many of today’s organizations. Its hallmark is a control-and-predict hurry-up-and-get-on-with-it short-termism. It’s a mechanistic reductive logic infecting how we perceive our world and our sense of self within it.
A fresh yet timeless logic is rebirthing before our very eyes: Evolutionary-Teal organisations; Purposeful mission-driven business; B-Corps; Conscious Capitalism; Ecoliteracy and Ecological Design Thinking; Systemic Thinking; Holistic Science; Social Entrepreneurship; Servant Leadership; Compassionate business; Authenticity; Wellbeing; Wholeness; Mindfulness; Collaborative commons; CSR; Biomimicry; Closed-loop economics; Net-positive strategies; and Regenerative business are all aspects of this extraordinary shift in organisational logic now upon us.
It is easy to get caught up in the excitement, confusion, and chaos amid this maelstrom of transformation. It is tempting to seek solutions without seriously considering root causes, missing the forest for the trees, and seeing only disparate initiatives vying for our attention, while skimming over the common ground they stem from.
Underpinning all of these important approaches is a profound shift in worldview—a shift in personal and cultural consciousness transforming our way of relating with, and attending to, the world around and within us—a shift from an extractive, reductive, anthropocentric, egocentric, mechanistic perspective of separation towards a more holistic, ecocentric, soulcentric perspective of inter-being.
Herbert Spencer’s Social Darwinism, Frederick Taylor’s Scientific Management Theory, Milton Friedman’s short-term profit maximisation are hallmarks of 20th century linear-thinking still haunting much of today’s organisational logic, pervading our habits of thinking with a sense of separation, competition, and control.
It all stems from what social ecologist Gregory Bateson perceived as a basic flaw within our modern mind-set, corrupting the thinking that flows from it. This basic flaw is our sense of separation from nature (or what Bateson called the Mind of Nature). Many of us are now all-too aware of how this corruption manifests; mental stress, attention deficit disorder, unparalleled social inequality, us-versus-them racism, and rampant ecological degradation are just some of the side-effects of this corruption.
The time has come to deal with root causes as well as downstream effects. Yes, COP 21 with near-global agreement on carbon-reduction commitments is worthy of applause. Yet, it is a symptom way downstream from the underlying cause. And if we overlook the deeper nature of the necessary shift now required of us, we find ourselves unwittingly applying the very same logic that created climate change to the very solutions we hope to solve it with—unwise at best. Time is no longer on our side; we need to get radical by addressing the root.
The good news is, the emerging worldview of ‘inter-being’ manifesting through important groundswells such as Evolutionary-Teal organisational development, goes right to the heart of the matter by broadening and deepening our sense of place and purpose within life. That is not to say I don’t regularly meet thoughtful, purposeful people surfing the wave of Evolutionary-Teal organisational redesign while shying away from the language of soul, spirit or nature. There are still vast chasms in our collective psyche which need deep healing and rejuvenation. And we need to meet each other where we are, in terms of language and perspective. Years of misusing words such as ‘spirituality’, ‘nature’ and ‘love’ naturally evoke concern or confusion in many of us.
Essentially, we are learning to embrace more of ourselves and more of our reality beyond our ego-eyed squints. As Frederic Laloux puts it, ‘the more we learn to be true to our unique self, the more it dawns on us that we are just one expression of something larger … we are not separate from but one with nature.’ (page 49 of Reinventing Organizations)
And there’s more good news: the fragility, volatility, uncertainty and complexity of today’s socio-economic landscape demands that we embrace living systems logic in order to be able to adapt and thrive in these uncertain times. In other words, our survival depends on our ability to embrace nature at all levels: cognitively, emotionally, and spiritually.
We now know that resilient ecosystems are the ones which thrive amid uncertainty due to the diversity of reciprocating locally-attuning relationships; ditto for our organisations. This invites departure from the monocultural monoliths of today’s siloed, centralised ways of operating and organising towards networked, empowered, self-organising enterprises. But to attempt to create self-organising systems without embracing the soul of ourselves and our world is to seek superficial Band-Aids to complex psychical challenges. It is our unchecked ego-desire that keeps us ever-grasping for cookbook solutions while ever-cautious of the real soul-work this necessary shift demands of us.
I strongly believe business plays a vitally important part in this renaissance, and I also know that all flavours of our emerging futures need to heal our sense of separation from nature for there to be anything remotely resembling a healthy outcome for our humanity and more-than-human kinship. Hence, I have been researching, writing, speaking, advising about how business can be inspired by and in harmony with nature since 2010 when I co-founded BCI: Biomimicry for Creative Innovation. That’s also why my latest book, Future Fit, explicitly details how we help redesign our organisations to become ‘firms of the future’—flourishing future-fit enterprises which embrace living systems logic from the inside out.
In those enterprises, as individuals, teams and organisations, we deeply inquiry into what our value-creation niche and strategic intent is within our ecosystem of relations. This is the future of business. I call it ‘regenerative business’ because it contributes to life by creating the conditions conducive for life to flourish. No other business is viable for our future; it’s as simple as that.
‘We see an emerging trend of moving from a mechanistic view of business to an organic, living organization framework, and Future Fit goes right to the heart of it. Packed full with practical insights to help activate and catalyze this transformation, this is a brilliant book that will help you wrap your head around the shifting paradigm at the vanguard of future business. Read it!’ Norman Wolfe, CEO of Quantum Leaders and author of The Living Organization
We are living through a supreme moment in our human history. It is what the ancient Greeks referred to as Kairos, an indeterminable period of time during which old assumptions fall away and a deeper, more authentic worldview forms. A step change in our human evolution is upon us. Each of us has the humbling responsibility to seize the moment and make a stand for Life, in-so-doing becoming who we were born to be, and in the process enabling our organisations to become more resilient, purposeful, vibrant, future-fit enterprises.
Giles Hutchins is a thought leader, speaker, and adviser on the future of business. Recently, Global Sustainability Director for Atos, and previously a management consultant with KPMG, he has helped transform a wide range of organisations (corporate, third sector, public sector and start-up), and is author of the books The Nature of Business and The Illusion of Separation. His latest book is Future Fit; watch a 3-minute video about it here. He blogs at www.thenatureofbusiness.org