I recently interviewed a number of business leaders within a variety of different organizations across the globe, and was struck by the consistency of my findings.
Many in business are aware of the now desperate need for a radically different approach to how we organize and operate. This concurs with recent findings from leadership and organizational development studies that indicate a revolution in these areas is afoot.
Here are a few key points of this radically different approach to business:
What Is This Emerging New Logic?
It is nothing more, nor nothing less than a dawning realization that our organizations are actually living systems rather than machines. That these living systems are intimately entwined with the living systems of society and our more-than-human world. And for these organizational living systems to thrive in times of increasing volatility, they need to learn to become regenerative, with leaders at all levels of our organizations helping create the conditions for this to happen.
What Do We Mean by “Regenerative Business”?
Regenerative business seeks to create the conditions conducive for life by operating in ways that contribute, replenish and evolve within the evolution of life. It is a strategic intent to serve life, a purposeful mindset that guides our journey. This mindset can be characterized as a shift from an overly mechanistic and materialistic perspective of the world rooted in separation, self-maximization, fear and control toward a realization of the interconnectedness of life.
This shift from fear to love is a shift from simply providing services to creating connected, inclusive and altogether more human organizations. Where going to work actually enriches us, deepens our learning and makes us better people—a far cry from the prevalent malaise where the vast majority of people in our organizations are over-stressed and dis-enfranchised. It begs the question: Why on Earth would we wish to work in an organization that doesn’t value the livelihood of ourselves, our communities and our children?
Let’s take a look at nature through the lens of organizational and leadership development to explore this regenerative business logic. Living systems need a blend of divergence and convergence to thrive amid volatility. The divergence provides the vibrancy, creativity and effectiveness, while the convergence provides the mission-driven intent and soulful purpose of the organization. Both together provide the aliveness, agility and purposefulness for the living system to thrive amid volatility.
This tension of divergence and convergence is what leaders across all levels of the organization need to be conscious of so as to optimally allow value creation and delivery to flourish amid this tension. It becomes an artful mastery of creating the conditions conducive for life to flourish within our organizations while adapting to an ever-changing terrain in authentic and purposeful ways.
This tension of divergence and convergence is what leaders across all levels of the organization need to be conscious of so as to optimally allow value creation and delivery to flourish amid this tension.
Regenerative life-affirming business is not a utopian dream; it is how life really is. It is our prevalent practices that are a deluding aberration. It’s fallacy to think we need to be singularly at odds with life. We are waking up to this reality, and here are a handful of examples. The financial services provider Triodos makes money work for positive social, environmental and cultural change. The chemicals company Pantheon Enterprises applies conscious chemistry for non-toxic chemical products while encouraging its people to become more conscious and empowered so they go home from work wiser for it. The legal services provider IACP’s boardroom considers the impact all its decisions have on the next generation. The global network of social-enterprise community centers Impact Hub has check-ins at the beginning and end of every meeting for people to centre themselves and share in authentic and purposeful ways.
There are lots of useful learnings, techniques and tools, as well as plenty of case studies we can take inspiration from to help us “home grow” our own unique brew of life-affirming business, as no two organizations are the same. And it’s not about being holier than thou, but embracing our foibles and failings and learning and sharing as we go. It’s about creating safe space for learning to become more human in our more-than-human world, and having fun as we become.
Purposeful work can enliven and enrich us. Sure, there are some complexities and, for certain, facilitation and coaching help. But essentially, this is about learning to respect our own selves, respect each other and respect life. This is simply good business sense, as hot-off-the-press research shows that organizations embracing this regenerative logic consistently out-perform their mechanistic counterparts in these volatile times.