By Nick Jankel

Professional Global Keynote Speaker, Transformation & Innovation Catalyst, Leadership Theorist & Practitioner, 6 x Dyslexic Author, 3 x TV Coach, Co-Creator of Bio-Transformation®

This article is part 1 of 9 in the series Regenerative Leadership & Regenerative Business

Leading Towards A Regenerative Renaissance

This series of articles is aimed at those who want to step up to lead their organizations to become fully sustainable, life-affirming, and leave the world better, not worse, because of their business and operating model. It is for leaders of any shape or form who aspire to co-create and yearn to live and work within a regenerative business or brand that is part of what we can call a Regenerative Renaissance.

I write elsewhere, and in-depth, of the importance of such a Regenerative Renaissance (e.g., Now Lead the Change: Repurpose Your Career, Future-Proof Your Organization, and Regenerate Our Crisis-Hit World). This piece assumes an interest in ‘regenerativeness’ and sets to work on great challenges in the space that many have been grappling with for years: How do we define, in words that already abstract away from reality, what a regenerative project looks like? How do we understand how to show up as a regenerative leader? How do we use existing technologies—and emerging ones—to unlock regenerative business models and technologies?

A 21st Century Renaissance

This Regenerative Renaissance we speak about is premised on a rebirth of humankind and the cultures we co-create, akin to that seen in 14th and 15th Century Florence and beyond.

Although contested by professional historians—I studied History and Philosophy Of Science and explored the flowering of humanism and science at this time—, I do believe there was a revival of ancient texts (made possible by an international meshwork of Muslim and Christian scholars translating them) which unlocked a rebirth of conceptions of human selfhood and the businesses and systems we invent.

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Although our crises are huge, human suffering enormous, the risks of climate and/or social breakdown are heavy… a Regenerative Renaissance is possible. Indeed, after the Bubonic Plague had devastated Europe, killing perhaps 1 in 2 people, the Italian Renaissance emerged.

Therefore, are Covid and Climate Change, AI and Inequality, the crises—which simply means a ‘turning point’ in Greek—the invitations to forge a new way of doing business and society that is grounded in the concept that we are interdependent, reciprocal, whole, mutual beings in relationship with an interdependent, reciprocal, whole, mutual cosmos?

Today, rather than humankind being reborn through new interpretations and recreations of Roman/Latin and Greek thoughts, I think we can be reborn through new interpretations and recreations of the indigenous, nature-based, heart-centered wisdom that was at the center of human societies everywhere for millennia… combined with the purpose-driven, ethical, and sustainable use of new technologies—both digital and social.

This means us purposefully forging Regenerative Technologies as well as designing Regenerative Business Models to include key ingredients that bake in sustainability, equity, and inclusion.

The Regenerative Renaissance must not be a nostalgic peon to lost indigenous ideas and ideals (itself a very contested concept); or require us to fetishize shamanic/ tribal/hunter-gather consciousness and culture at the expense of our own (we know what happens when we make the Other exotic).

Rather, it can only come when we accept and embrace our liberal modernity—technological, efficient, convenient, democratic (mas or menos)—and then push it through a phase transition to the next level.

This requires us to consciously let go of elements of modern life and business that are not working (e.g., “externalities,” limitless growth, waste as pollution, separation, and alienation, etc.) and embrace new ways of thinking and doing that are future-positive.

We must create a new system that enables ourselves, our organizations, and all life on this planet to flourish. Nothing else will do.

“I must create a system or be enslaved by another man’s.”

William Blake

The Next Step Of Human Evolution & Social Development

I sense, think, and believe that the Regenerative Renaissance may well be the most logical and mythical next step in both societal and individual human development.

The Operating System that underpins all our societal “apps”—”apps “such as businesses, nation-states, NGOs, local polities, and supra-governmental agencies—is being rewired by digital technologies, a shared yearning for connection and expanded consciousness; the demand for dignity and inclusion in the workplace; and rising up to the great challenge of our age: the climate emergency and its parallel crises in equality, health, and identity.

When the O.S. upgrades, so too can and must the ‘apps.’ You can find out more on this topic in Operating System for the Regenerative Renaissance.

A Global Regenerative Movement

The Italian Renaissance was sparked within local city-states. Yet, it was driven by an internationally connected network of humanists, artists, and patrons that co-created the efflorescence of artistic, philosophical, and cultural creativity that we now call The Renaissance.

So too, will our Regenerative Renaissance be sparked. In fact, the seeds are already emerging in a ‘cosmolocal’ rhizome of thinkers, designers, entrepreneurs, consultants, teachers, healers, media creators, and more who are clustering both locally (e.g., in Columbia) and internationally to understand and lead the world towards, a regenerative future.

We don’t need to have all the answers ourselves or all of them right away. The Regenerative Renaissance is causing a transnational ripple effect that is forging a global movement that is at once multinational yet rooted in hyperlocal places of palpable soil, community, and concrete.

By joining the movement, we can unfold and unleash a Regenerative Renaissance together at the ‘edge of chaos,’ where creativity and confusion both peak. This kind of learning and leading is slower, wiser, and more considered than analytical, techno-utopian, and mechanistic-industrial paths forward. It is also a lot messier and far more fraught with uncertainty and failure.

But it is the only game left in town.

The Principles of a Regenerative Business or Brand

This is not about tweaking the edges of a business model to be a bit better. The Regenerative Renaissance demands a new concept of what ‘business,’ ‘organization,’ and ‘leadership’ mean.

It is really easy to say that a project, product, business, or leader is ‘regenerative.’ It is much harder to scope what that means; evaluate where it is lacking regenerativeness and where it can be more regenerative; and guide, lead, and manage enterprises and systems toward regenerative outcomes. This is particularly true of non-land-based projects, such as Regenerative (or conscious, transformative) Tech.

We need to find a balance between complex thinking and simple ideas that everyone in an organization can get behind. We cannot oversimplify the inherently complex and entangled world of global finance, supply chains, consumption, and production. To do so means we will use outdated assumptions and attempt to solve problems with obsolete concepts. This is what is currently occurring.

But neither can we spend our time debating the finer points in academic tomes. We need to find some frames or references, or ‘design lenses,’ we can use to move our organizations forward to contribute to a Regenerative Renaissance.

Bringing the mainstream audience with us into a Regenerative Renaissance is made harder by the linear, algorithmic, and logocentric metaphysics and language structures upon which Western economic and business systems have been premised—as well as the matching tendency within the business world, and in public policy, to eschew the ‘academic’ in favor of the (overly) simplistic.

So I have taken a few years to feel my way toward 15 Design Lenses we can all use to create and transform an organization.

Regenerative Thinking and Regenerative Leadership

25 years of professional experience has taught me that disruptive/breakthrough innovations—especially those on the scale and challenge of making our businesses, brands, and societies regenerative—always start with a shift in our thinking

Paradigm shifts happen within our thoughts, concepts, ideas, and ideals before phase transitions happen in our business and operating models.

This necessitates an upgrade in how we think that is far more challenging than it looks. We need to truly think—and feel—differently in order to be regenerative. In What Is Regenerative Thinking In Leadership & Business?, I share a little of my own journey through this paradigm shift as well as some of the key ways to think differently yourself.

Once we are thinking regeneratively and understand what a regenerative business or project might look like and include, we can identify some simple start-points—5, in fact, in this What Is Regenerative Thinking In Leadership & Business?—for becoming a regenerative leader.

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