By Nick Jankel

Professional Keynote Speaker, Transformational Leadership Theorist & Practitioner, Exec & TV Coach, Author, Co-Creator of Bio-Transformation®

***This essay is unfolding in real time and will form the core of a full “field guide” in the coming months. It is unedited and emergent***

The moment for the Great Transformation is upon us. As our outdated economic and political models start their decline, we – as individual leaders and as a collective – are faced with a once-in-a generation, perhaps even once-in-a-species, challenge: how to shift to a regenerative political-economic model that does not just protect the environment and human wellbeing but actually nurtures the ecological and psychological systems upon which all economies ultimately rest.

The only thing that will redeem mankind is co-operation. Bertrand Russell

As our numbers have multiplied exponentially, so have our needs, desires and demands all leading to a ‘perfect storm’ of crises affecting every level of today’s world. Fortunately, as our post-industrial ills have proliferated, so too have the number and variety of exciting opportunities available to us to work together to solve them. Through the growth of the digital experience and our transition into the Network Operating System (see below), a new kind of political, economic and psychological order is emerging.

With the myth of capitalism proved wanting – focused as it is on the individual achieving success for her own benefit – we are being offered a new story, centered around a blend of collective living/working and individual creativity and responsibility – that can positively capture the heart, minds and talents of the billions of people emerging into a hot, flat, crowded and very, very hungry world.

However we evolved to function in small tribes and are taught to be competitive, individualistic and hedonistic from birth with win/lose education, zero sum reward systems, social customs, familial expectations and consumer advertising. This is why most collaborations fail abysmally.

With our planet in disarray and our economic system in tatters, our mindsets must catch up with the potential of our new collaborative technologies (such as wikis, social networks, the distributed web, blockchain etc.). If we want to mobilize a more equitable and thriving world order we must first become collaborative in our emotional and psychological cores. And nothing could be harder for a race grown used to ‘me’, ‘mine’ and ‘more’.

The only way to achieve our boldest ideas and our deepest aspirations is to work with others, as equals, as collaborators and co-creators. Whether we are gingerly stepping into the world of co-creation and open innovation to create a new project; putting together a grassroots community group to solve a local issue; wanting to playing our full part in a mass movement; or being called to lead systemic transformation at scale, then we all need to hone our collaboration and co-creation skills.

Our intuitive responses, or first instincts, tend to lead to cooperation rather than selfishness. Scientific American

Most of the ingredients, technologies and resources we need to solve all our problems already exist. The only thing that is missing is the collective will to harness them in joined up ways were the sum is greater than the parts. Ultimately, then, our ability to work together – to collaborate and co-create – is the real challenge of our age, but on a scale never seen before. See this video I helped on for BBC Ideas on what we can learn from ants about collaboration and collaborative leadership.

Simply put, the dissolution of old and out-dated human habits of mind and action will always occur. All empires crumble eventually. This is the evolutionary principle underlying all life on Earth: adapt or die (out). Such transformation can happen to us and be painful; or it can be consciously led and encouraged by us (and the pain proactively managed).

The path we now choose together – systemic transformation or collapse – will determine our shared future. We are in the bifurcation now. We have a bifurcation choice: co-transform the system consciously… or not?

Never Waste A Good Crisis

We are being hit by a multifaceted crisis. Within this I identify the four horseman of potential apocalypse.
The Climate Crisis: massive rise in atmospheric carbon as well as air and sea pollution, microplastics, biodiversity and pollinator losses, sea level rises, extreme climate events etc. etc. driven by the invention of “externalities”, the myth of limitless raw materials, and the creation of linear production processes all exacerbated by mass-manufactured desires, spreading middle-class ambitions and a huge population explosion
The Wellbeing Crisis: rampant mood and personality disorders from a loss of meaning, connection, and love and a concurrent rise in long-term alienation, social atomisation, and generations of psychological trauma (and Adverse Childhood Experience) exacerbated by atheistic reductionism and materialist consumerism
The Identity Crisis: a turn towards populist politics, extremist ethnic tensions, identity politics, neo-nationalism, overt and implicit racism, and anti-otherness exacerbated by mass migration, wage stagnation, and globalization
The Inequality Crisis: the most extreme levels of economics inequality every seen in many advanced democracies with rising child poverty, post-industrial diseases, and deaths of despair driven by ideals of meritocracy, trickle-down economics, prosperity doctrine, globalism and exacerbated by gentrification
We are fundamentally in each other’s hands. Professor Robert Pollack, Columbia
However the word “crisis” means a turning point. So by becoming aware that we are in a crisis we raise the probability of consciously leveraging the increased attention and rising energy – of fear and hope – to lead and land a change in our assumptions, beliefs, and behaviors. In other words, we don’t want to waste a good crisis, of quartet of them, in moaning, despairing, and even protesting.

The transformational leader knows that it is in crisis that they rise to the occasion and look to lead and land systemic transformations that open up the very real possibility of a regenerative economic and political models, with fitting regenerative business models, finance models, employment models, living models (homes, cities etc), and educational models.

We can’t fight the system; we must transform it from within. We must be for the system – for it’s transformation – not against it.
There is always the alternative path of the bifurcation. We talk. We moan. We protest. We blame others. We hope it all works out. We trust a boffin will invent a solution… and we decline.

Transformational Leadership: Transforming Self To Transform The System

Transformational leadership is the ability to metabolize constant change in the outside world into concrete value inside our organizations. As someone who was trained in medicine, I use the word metabolise very specifically. Metabolization is the process by which the cells in our bodies take in nutrients and resources from the outside world and convert them into energy and micronutrients in our body. 

As leaders, we need to metabolise the changes in the world outside us into value-creating ideas and innovations in the organization we’re a part of. This ensures that our enterprise, our employees, and the ecosystems we rely on for success thrive into the future. The key to transformational leadership is realising that, in order to metabolize constant change into concrete value, we have to be ready to change our own beliefs and behaviours. We must be prepared to alter our own thoughts, our own assumptions, our own behaviours, our own reactive activities, and our own emotions inside us. Effectively, transformational leadership is about learning how to transform systems from the inside out. 

The Systemic Imperative

However, no matter how smart they are, no one transformational leader – or even a board of them – can predict exactly what a regenerative future in each industry and sector of society must look like. That is because we, collectively, have to co-create the answers together and transform our shared systems as we do so.

Conventional, linear solutions driven by one government department, non-profit or business usually fail to work because they treat symptoms and not root causes. Most of the worst issues we face are actually symptoms of deeper issues. These symptoms – whether its that 50% of all human beings are only one medical bill or crop failure away from destitution or that there are only 20-50 growing seasons left on Earth – emerge from a complex web of people, agents, legal entities, laws, ideas, and cultural mores.

If we try a solve the symptoms, then the deeper issues are merely managed. They are pushed out of one area of the system… but they then pop up in another. So an outfit can move homeless people to a shelter, give them food, and tick off a bunch of impact metrics. But until people who find themselves without a home are mentally empowered and emotionally liberated, supported to find a work and home life that works, within a culture that values their dignity and presence not just their productivity, the problem is far from resolved.

At the heart of every breaking system is a set of assumptions that are no longer a fit for the world (if they ever were). Assumptions like: competition for scant resources is natural; growth can continue for ever because there are unlimited natural resources; meritocracy is empowering and essential; trickle-down economics works to spread economic growth benefits; we are just machines built to be productive and efficient; consumption of stuff/brands is meaningful; we are separate from nature and have dominion over it (a biblical injunction)… and many more (see a recent book for more on these pernicious materialist assumptions and how to resolve them).

Assumptions about what exists and what is fundamental exert a powerful influence on our lives. Indeed, the less aware we are of our metaphysical assumptions, the more we are subject to them. Celso Vieira

It is only by transforming these assumptions – and then painstakingly rewiring our structures, laws, business models, and customs around such seismic changes in our beliefs – that we can enact the Great Transformation. As the assumptions that drive our habits and systemic processes are anchored into us by emotional memories and interoceptive signatures, then only a shift in how we collectively feel will allow us to make systemic change occur.

At the same time, our systems condition us to think and feel in the first place so we need both outside in and inside out thinking. We must transform our selves and the system at scale, and at the same time. This is the core of systemic transformation: people-powered changes that shift the deep drivers of the system.

No one intelligence, no matter how powerful or smart, can transform theses assumptions or systems alone. No single government or supranational entity, especially when organized hierarchically as most are, has the systemic capability, collective integrity or political legitimacy necessary to usher in the Great Transformation alone. Instead we need collaborations of many agents within a system to come together to pool their combined insights/ideas and systemic power.

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The cybernetic Law of Requisite Variety is a key here to grok. The law states that, as the complexity of the environment increases, the complexity within an organism must increase in order to adapt to the changing environment. Another way of thinking of this is that the variety of possible responses to environmental stimuli/pressures has to increase as the environment becomes more varied. So in the complex environment we live in today – where feedback loops involving climate, finance, capital, migration, genes, memes all interplay – we as a species must become much more varied in our responses.

Given that each individual has a limited capacity for insight, intuition and innovation, one person – no matter how brilliant – cannot understand the entirety of a system, let alone transform it. When Obama was the most powerful man in the world, he stated that he could not get anything done without collaboration. Anything else takes violence of some sort.

We have entered an age of environmental crises and of widening social divides. Incremental improvements to address these challenges are no longer enough; our economic system requires a fundamental upgrade to sustainability. Al Gore

Complex problems in complex, adaptive living systems need to be solved with a level of collective inquiry and collective innovation that society is not used to engaging in. We need what Brian Eno calls a “scenius”: the collective genius we can muster when we work together without personality conflicts and interpersonal issues blocking the flow of ideas and actions. 

We all have part of the solution; we can all see part of the elephant. So we must “live the questions now” (to quote Rilke) as a community; and trust that, if we follow systemic next practice, we will find ourselves with regenerative solutions.

The Network Operating System

The Law of Requisite Variety is particularly useful because we are currently transitioning into an entirely new way of organizing as a species that has no precedent in human history. We have moved from tribes, to hierarchies/aristocracies, to markets, to the emerging era which is dominated by networks.

In Tribal O.S., the strongest, angriest or most muscular man (and it is usually a man) wins. In Aristocracy O.S., those at the top of the hierarchy, who maintain their position through (self-serving) laws and (royal) customs, win. In Market O.S., those who are most competitive, ambitious and algorithmic (using science to predict, control and dominate) win. In Network O.S., those who are most co-creative and collaborative win.

Of course, we have all these Operating Systems within our current “metamodern” world. So we can harness the best of Tribal O.S. to find our way back to an intimate relationship with nature (and each other) whilst losing the strong man politics and ethnic racism/xenophobia. We can harness the elegant institutions, legal entities, and social structures that maintain stability and security within Hierarchy O.S. whilst losing the oppression and suppression. We can harness the liberating reason and creative innovation of Market O.S., whilst losing the cut-throat competition, faux meritocracy and non-distributive capitalism that lock those without capital out of the race.

The question is whether we will find out way to building liberating, regenerating, and empowering citizen-centric “software” on the back of Network O.S: business models, governance models, educational models etc etc etc.

The Joys & Perils Of Collective Intelligence & Activity

History tells us that innovation is an outcome of a massive collective effort – not just from a narrow group of young white men in California. And if we want to solve the world’s biggest problems, we better understand that. Mariana Mazzucato

If we want t0 harness the opportunities of Network O.S., whilst mitigating the existential threats of the four horseman – the climate crisis, the inequality crisis, the anxiety crisis, the tribalism crisis – we will need to boost our ability to do collective yet strategic and systemic innovation. The first step in doing this is being honest – and clear – about the mode of collectivity we want to engage in and the risks and opportunities involved. This prevents much pain, friction, ambiguity, and conflict:

Co-creation (CC), Collective Inquiry / Intelligence (CI) and other collaborative ways of being/working are crucial if we want to harness the potential of Network O.S. to provide effective medical, educational and nutritional care to 7-10 billion people whilst resolving the anxiety/depression pandemic and preventing a climate meltdown. This is because these so-called “wicked problems” don’t respond to traditional, linear, single-organization solutions. We need to co-create better ideas together; better because they are made up of diverse views from different parts of system that are implemented together in a way that transforms the system.

I remember first falling in love with the potential of Co-Creation back in 1999, when given the task of developing the brand positioning for a major video games console launch. It was the first big project that my fledgling brand strategy consultancy won, and it put us on the map. Rather than dream up the answer for how to disrupt a market alone as smart creative types beavering away in London’s Soho – which is still the norm in the industry – we spent a year running participatory research and design sessions with different types of video gamers (e.g. people who rejected video gaming and those who adored it); technologists; games creators; trendsetters; journalists; scriptwriters; and the company’s employees within “co-creative workshops”.

In co-creative sessions, we lead an “allostatic” creative tension between listening for emerging insights into users’ future needs and mores; and suggesting to them, in real-time, ideas and innovations that we can sense follow from their own insights (as creative/innovation professionals). We don’t ask people what they will want in the future; we sense into it through empathy and intuition. We try to listen in between the words, sensing the mood of the ecosystem, to identify what is breaking down and what “weak signals” of possible futures are breaking through.

[Ironically enough, the positioning strategy that we co-created for the games console was itself centered around the idea of co-creation: the video game designers and console manufacturer co-create an imagined world. The gamer creates a narrative experience in that world. Gamer and game maker can achieve more than any one can do alone. As you can probably tell, it was an idea a little ahead of its time!]

When co-creativity flows, a team of committed individuals is the pre-eminent way to break through the limitations of convention and generate transformation in a system. Just ask Margaret Mead. But no matter how great the promise of co-creation – the riches and rewards on offer – most co-creative endeavors end up in some form of disaster, with bruised egos, burnt bridges and buried dreams all that remain.

There are three usual outcomes for the vast majority of collaborations:

– Despotism – one person or group takes over, bending the will of the weaker participants (cf. Communism, many artistic collaborations, many marriages)

– Doldrums – perhaps even worse than despotism, no-one takes the lead, and the project or relationship fades into insignificance and inertia

– Disintegration – the forces of repulsion (egos, desires, demands) outweigh the forces of attraction and the collaboration falls apart, trust is irreversibly damaged, and people get hurt

True co-creativity is even more demanding that just co-operation or collaboration. When we co-operate, we all know what we are working towards. When we co-create, we rarely can be certain about what the end results will look like. We are building the plane whilst flying it together. This is very risky and needs much individual and team leadership. Yetwe can find out way to co-create fully and fulfill our potential as natural born collaborators.

As my first business evolved rapidly into a strategic and disruptive innovation consultancy, going on to work with many of the most ambitious companies on the planet, we began to develop a highly-sophisticated set of processes and methods for co-creation that involved everything from harnessing the skills of scores of professional anthropologists; to adapting the brilliant tools of scenario planning (I learnt from the legendary GBN) and systems thinking for innovation outcomes.

Over time, I discovered zeitgeist ideas about the “wisdom of the crowd” and begun to leverage advances in network science (like power laws and small-world networks) to support our clients to forge future of their markets. The classic example of crowd wisdom over individual smarts is when guessing the weight of a cow, or how many candies there are in a jar. Very few individuals come close. Often nobody cracks it. But if there are sufficient numbers of people – a large enough n number – then the average of all the individual intelligences will always come very close to the actual answer. In other words, we are better together, as someone once sang.

Collective sense-making of our problems, collective innovation-making of solutions, and collective decision-making for resource allocation and political governance have become of paramount importance because we have to choose, together in some way, how to move forward from here: do we bifurcate into a breakdown decline… or do we have a breakthrough towards a higher-order systemic state that fits our environmental pressures (climate crisis, resource conflicts, pollution blooms, homelessness, child poverty etc) and our invironment (traumatized hearts and anxious minds) better.

If we can find ways to pool our insights, ideas, intuitions, and innovations in effective ways then we can then respond to systemic crises with systemic solutions.

Systemic Transformation

In 2005 I made the move from commercial innovation to social and systemic innovation after experiencing a breakdown/breakthrough in my life’s purpose, which I narrate elsewhere. I started to look at what needed to change in our innovation and change process when the aims moves from innovating for a single business with a clear ambition to innovating within an ecosystem for social good and collective impact.

Around this time, the kind of Open Innovation (OI) we had pioneered, along with orgs like 100% Open – where two or more enterprises, organizations, nonprofits, public sector companies work together to innovate bold solutions to challenging problems that no single organization can either conceive of, or solve for, alone- was becoming mainstream. The motto was “faster, better, cheaper”. But because of human foibles and legal wrangles, doing it successfully was not as easy as the case studies made out. We rose the to challenge with new practices for collaboration (e.g. The Collaboration Engine and the give/get agreement) and new tools for co-creation.

During this period I discovered that if leading transformational innovation in a commercial space for a single company is tough, bringing together multiple organizations (with people of diverse cultural and cognitive types) from different types of legal entities with vastly varied agendas (non-profit vs. multinational vs. start-up vs. scale up vs. central government department vs. social enterprise vs. local community group etc etc) to drive forward social and sustainable innovations was perhaps the greatest challenge for any strategist/consultant/facilitator.

To make sense of a complex, adaptive system, find common ground and a shared purpose, show up as leaders who can work in collaboration, and then collectively create and implement solutions to drive transformational change is the holy grail of all change work. Two highly-successful examples to explore, at diametrically opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, are: The Reamp Network and The Fellowship. Both show the out-sized impacts on offer when a small group commit to a lifetime purpose, build a strong, magnetic “field” of intention, and invest heavily in people-powered transformation.

I had to rapidly adapt our existing innovation, systems and scenario planning toolset and leadership practices – as well as invent brand new tools and practices – to allow people to co-create in situations where there is no single-minded corporate ambition with a strong hierarchy to “own” it, focus minds and deliver change. I begun rapidly prototyping emergent techniques for open innovation and systemic transformation. And experimented with them, and optimized, them on some major projects with the liked of WWF, Oxfam, Nesta, Rockefeller, various governments departments, No.10 Downing Street and others.

To push my learning further, faster, in 2006 I set up a non-profit group called Disruptive Social Innovators, where systemic change experts and social entrepreneurs worked together to explore systemic transformation tools, ideas, and processes. I codified tools for how to quickly and collectively map complex systems visually; how to collectively identify core assumptions and systemic intervention points for disruptive/transformative change; how to surface differences in assumptions in theories of change; and how to help different entities organize without command & control hierarchies. The community grew rapidly to about 5,000 people worldwide (before Facebook “lost” the group) and I won seed funding from Nesta (the UK’s Innovation Foundation) to develop an online platform for collaborative system mapping and systemic innovation.

Much was learnt, which I crafted into two intense and intensive white papers that you can grab here.

As an ironic footnote to this story, through an agent, I pitched a mass-market book on co-creation and collective change in 2007 called INTERPLAY: How to collaborate at work, at play and in the future of the planet or Why collaboration can solve just about all our problems (and how to do it right). The publisher that went furthest eventually decided that he “couldn’t understand why collaboration and co-creation are such a big deal”.

As the climate collapses, we can either stand together – or perish alone. Collective action is our only hope for enduring climate breakdown. Tim Hollo, The Guardian, Oct 2019

The Tragedy of the Commons

The fruits of Collective X practices (CI, CC, OI etc) can truly be amazing. In fact, research has repeatedly shown that a diverse group of individuals, many of whom are not particularly high performers in the traditional techno-meritocratic world, outperform on ideation and creativity groups of highly-paid super-smart people who all think alike (like those hired by a top university or tech company). Likewise, research has shown that those graduates of the business school at Stanford that have diverse networks actually deliver three times the innovation outcome in their start-ups than those who have a very narrow collection of people in their reality distortion bubble.

Understanding the importance of this, when we run purpose-drive innovation programs or systemic change projects we will always challenge our clients to bring in radically diverse people from across the system and bring their insights and voice into the mix. This is also helpful when implementing within a system: contributors/collaborators feel like they can see their own self in the solutions and so go that extra distance to deliver, even when the system pushes back, as it usually does.

However, the great challenge that these practices have to cope with is the so-called Tragedy of the Commons: when human beings have to share collective resources – you know, like clean air to breathe, forests to decarbonize the earth, material wealth to disburse – if everyone acts in their own self-interest, as they are predicted to do according to classical rational economic theory, then we will always cause problems for each other and for us all together.

We will promote our needs at the expense of others and tragedy will be the result. The shocking social and environmental degradation all around us testify to the Tragedy of the Commons in full effect right now. Simply put, if we promote our own needs above others we cause problems for the whole: including manifesting very real possibility that there won’t be in ecology for any human to enjoy life on this planet.

The Promise of the Conscious Collective

But there is an equal and opposite move to the Tragedy of the Commons. We might call it the Promise of the (Conscious) Collective. We can land better, wiser, more transformative systemic innovation – with fewer costs and less time – if we can shift our consciousness as contributors and leaders of change. This is what drove my final pivot, a decade ago, into a hybrid strategy/innovation/systemic change and leadership/empowerment/learning business that is now called Switch On (we also lead personal transformation, trauma healing,  and conscious awakening work).

Without human beings showing up consciously with open hearts and open minds, able to listen and learn together, but also able to step up and deliver at pace, CI, CC and OI fail to deliver their fruits. When we bring human beings together without a sophisticated process for systemic transformation – and lots of individual and group practices – what inevitably happens are “interesting conversations” (that do not move things on); furious debates (that lock people in positions and lead to tyranny from the top); and the dissipation of ambition and energy (the tyranny of consensus). Everything else takes conscious leadership.

But when people committed to their own conscious evolution as leaders come together – and they can find a way to play together with purpose and vision and innovative effectiveness – the promise of the outcomes is astonishing. I believe any problem, no matter how wicked, can be solved by such a collective.

To make this a reality, transformational leaders must be able to think in more complex, rhizomatic, and interdependent ways about the world, progressing through various developmental stages to achieve higher levels of thinking complexity (see Kohlberg’s stages of moral development, Commons and Richards’ Model of Hierarchical Complexity). Otherwise leaders use old, linear, industrial-age mental models to understand emerging, network-age realities.

However, leaders of systemic change – and those who want to enjoy co-creative flow states to contribute to systemic change – must also develop what I call “affective-interoceptive complexity” (or embodied wisdom, if that’s easier): being able to handle the fear, chaos, and confusion inherent in the VUCA world with emotional self-mastery; being able to repair ruptured relationships with grace and elegance at will; and being able to become ever-more grounded, circular, stable, compassionate, forgiving, and purpose-driven in how they feel and show up.

Conscious development of our affective-interoceptive complexity is crucial because, unlike cognitive complexity, there is mounting evidence that trauma, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), out-dated social conventions, and fading educational philosophies can all interrupt its progression and lock people in ever-decreasing circles. Ideally, our stage of cognitive complexity is underpinned, softened, and actioned by matching increases in embodied wisdom (although the latter is non-linear, probably more spiral, we have had a go at plotting it linearly).

Whilst cognitive complexity matches reasonably well to the level of education and leadership achieved in one’s life (in part because it relies on brain networks that only mature in a person’s mid-twenties), one could argue that in our current logocentric society, affective-interoceptive complexity and embodied wisdom are inversely related to conventional achievement levels. That is to say, my young kids are often better at connection, trust, presence, intimacy, listening, compassion, and even co-creative flow than many of those in positions of power that I meet.

Rather than just merely becoming smarter and more systemic, we must also become wiser, more emotionally mature and more spiritually courageous. Yet we need to hone a sharp mind to make sense of, and make decisions within, complex systems. This is vertical complexity. But we need a healing/ed heart to connect with, hold, and make safe those we want to collaborate and co-create with for systemic transformation. This is horizontal complexity; and an area sorely lacking in many highly-powered leaders who dream of leading and landing systemic change. 

Will, intention, ambition, and even funding are never enough to deliver system transformation. We need some sophisticated thinking, tools and practices to match the sophistication of how our individual biologies and collective systems operate.

Bio-Transformation Theory (BTT)

Before a group of conscious leaders makes moves towards systemic change, they need to agree on a theory of change (ToC). It is usually mismatches in the ToC that scupper collaborations for some kind of public good. We can’t lead or land systemic change if we don’t have a working model of how lasting positive change happens in systems made up of humans.

With the benefits of 20/20 hindsight, I can now see that my life’s work, from studying medicine to leading systemic innovation programs, has been to discover, codify, and teach a cohesive and rigorous theory of how transformations – I.e. lasting positive changes that cannot be predicted from the past – occur in individuals, organizations and systems. Teaching and enabling leaders how to change their organizations, econo-systems and “the” system has really helped to hone the model and to make it as simple as possible; but not simpler.

The result is Bio-Transformation Theory (BTT). As well as a toolset and practice-set for leading and landing conscious change as fast as humanly possible (as in as fast as human nervous systems can integrate change), it contains a sophisticated understanding of transformation and a process for making it happen with least pain and as fast as humanly possible. BTT is rooted in how our biologies work but is not limited by what science can prove for certain (so it integrates into the science major insights from the great wisdom traditions).

BTT helps leaders accelerate the archetypal experience that is at the core of all lasting change. It starts with the premise that a human system is made up of a constellation of individual biologies that are sensing, feeling, thinking and acting. The actors that are sensing/feeling/thinking/doing generate the network or the system; and the network or system then conditions the actors to sense/feel/think/do in certain ways.

Therefore to change a system most effectively and quickly, we must accelerate biological change at the level of interoception, affect, cognition and behavior; and accelerate systemic change at the level of mood, culture, mental models, and processes.

There are 3 key concepts – or “jewels” – of BTT that I will summarize below:

  1. The Two Modes of Consciousness
  2. The Four Spheres
  3. The Transformation Curve

There are also six principles of BTT, the first two of which I will sketch out after the jewels:

  1. Wisdom Is Palintonic Harmonies
  2. Middle-Out Organization

Bio-Transformation Jewel 1: The Two Modes

We identify two different modes of consciousness: two different modes of sensing, feeling, thinking and acting (all four of which do in every moment of life, whether we are aware or not). The two modes are based upon thousands of years of philosophy from the great wisdom traditions matched to major advances in brain science from the last twenty years of cutting-edge neurobiology.

Control & Protect Mode is associated with the Executive Control Network in our brain, as well as the Sympathetic Nervous System. In this mode we are focused, we get stuff done, we seek answers, play by the rules, measure success by metrics and goals, act strategically and are risk-averse. We think in straight lines, algorithms and solutions.

Conventional intelligence, AKA “smarts”, is a feature of Control & Protect Mode: getting exam questions right; knowing the answer; looking like we’re in control; optimizing algorithms; developing plans and spreadsheets; and delivering efficiency upgrades. It evolved to not feel connected and to avoid having empathy and compassion.

This makes sense when you’re dealing with running away from a snake or trying to work out which berries are poisonous: we don’t want to befriend an alligator or have a brainstorm on the 405 Freeway. Therefore we relate to others in this mode with what Martin Buber called the I-It relationship – a disconnected and static relational field between me and an inert “thing”.

Create & Connect Mode, on the other hand, is associated with the brain’s Default Mode Network, as well as the Parasympathetic Nervous System. In this mode we are curious, creativity and empathic, more interested in questions than answers, happy to challenge the rules, interested in being interconnected, seeking meaning and purpose, and interested in possibility over security. We think in non-linear webs, relationships, and processes.

C&C Mode allows us to both connect with others and empathize with their position, ideas and context; to appreciate and learn from cognitive and cultural diversity; to listen to each other, pause, slow down and reflect; to come into a shared emotional “heartspace” and adjust ourselves to come into coherence and cohesion with others; and co-conceive of ideas that we couldn’t not come up with or execute alone without endless conflict and friction.

Wise, open and curious, C&C Mode prioritizes listening and contributing in genuine dialogue; sensing into our shared purpose and vision; and supporting what’s seeking to emerge between us. We can enter what Martin Buber called the I-Thou relationship – a respectful and dynamic relational field between two living, sensing, sentient beings.

We need both modes in order to survive and thrive in a fast and furiously-changing world.

In environments that are stable, familiar and predictable – and working for all beings within the system – C&P Mode is a very effective problem-solving mindset: it prevents us from having to exert the enormous emotional and cognitive effort needed to co-create fresh solutions consciously. For crossing the road, ironing, doing our taxes, and tweaking the algorithm is can be a good and efficient fit.

Yet most of us attempt to solve complex systemic / wicked problems in complex adaptive systems using Control & Protect Mode. Linear and task-oriented, it applies best practice, derived from experience and training about solving problems in the pas,  to new emergent and transformational problems that nobody has ever solved. This does not work well. C&P Mode expects neet, incremental, linear, algorithmic tweaks to solve complex, web-like problems.

Control & Protect Mode dooms many smart leaders to end up in failure. They are so convinced that they are right – about their business model, political ideology, and the meaning of life – that they cannot adapt, change, and grow as times change. Conventional intelligence – rational, technological and scientific intelligence – is exactly not what we need when trying to come together to solve complex challenges; at least, not until we need to think about technical expertise and operational efficiencies.

C&P Mode did not evolve for empathy, for listening, for reflecting, for CI, collective sense-making or for co-creativity. So when we need to come together with other human beings to co-explore how to transform a centuries old politico-economic system, which nobody has ever done before without intense violence and famine, C&P is not the right mode. When we use it to solve new emergent problems as a collective, we get positional, we get attached to our ideas, and we project our existing meaning-making system onto the world.

C&P Mode flattens out potentially salient insights, intuitions and ideas; and drowns out the “weak signals” of the future that always exist in the present. We miss what is breaking down and what is seeking to break through. C&P mode is an epic mismatch for the situations we all find ourselves in: dealing with epically complex and intense systemic challenges as a species.

What we might call The Tragicomedy of Humankind is that just as we need to grapple with intense challenges like climate change and inequality, we usually shift into Control & Protect Mode. Through emotional and interoceptive dysregulation – driven by fear, separation and disconnection – we lose our (wise) minds just as we need them most. Emotions felt in our Salience Network disconnect our higher cortex networks and we retreat into old patterns of protection. The scale of the problems, the threats to ourselves and our children, the narratives of disaster and doom, and the intense interpersonal anxieties of collaboration all tend towards flipping us into Control & Protect Mode.

This is a category error and a fail of a species-level proportions. And because of our logocentric culture, most individuals and organizations are calibrated way too far towards Control & Protect Mode. They have lost the everyday capacity to enter Create & Connect Mode by choice.

Whilst the evolutionary system within each of us is geared slightly towards preferring the certainty of survival (by doing what we did last time to make it) rather than take a risk on the possibility of thriving, we can all consciously master our biology and learn to “switch on” to Create & Connect Mode even when we want to flight, flee, freeze and feint (or fornicate and forage). A conscious leader knows which mode to use for which situation and is able to switch mode to fit the moment. Transformational leadership can help others “switch” between the two dominant modes of human consciousness to fit the moment.

As we find our way out of Connect & Protect Mode, we can consciously relinquish the long-established but out-dated protective patterns that we enact to maintain the status quo. These protective patterns within our personality always enter power struggles as they fight to win, each believing they are “right” and “justified”. Physicist David Bohm called such conversations sans creativity: “discussions”.

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If we all come into Create & Connect Mode, rather than saying, or implying, “I am right about this…”, we might instead say “I know I am wrong… I just don’t know how wrong!”We listen to others to grok what they say – and what they mean and feel beneath the words. We enter into co-creative conversations, what David Bohm called a dialogue: where we find the answer between us, for right here and right now. We find the truth “dialogically”, as Mikhail Bakhtin said.

Control & Protect Mode is about convergent thinking on our own whereas Create & Connect Mode affords divergent thinking in community. But to be in Create & Connect Mode, we have to be sufficiently relaxed, connected, purposeful, and trusting. Only then can we release the old habits of thought and action that are preventing transformation. This is biology and we can’t bypass the biology.

If we are biologically in the wrong mode, then no matter how clever we think we are, we cannot do Collective Intelligence and Co-Creativity, let alone systemic transformation that resolves our climate, inequality, anxiety and populist crises. So now is the time to take radical responsibility for ourselves – and the groups of people we want to influence and lead – and find our way to building a stable connection to something bigger than our fears which allows us to enter C&C Mode consistently and by choice.

We must, again in the words of Rilke, become World for another’s sake: for everyone’s sake! And much is at stake.

Bio-Transformation Jewel 2: The Four Spheres

When we are in Control & Protect Mode, we control the chaos with established meaning-making systems and protect ourselves with habitual behaviors. We call these “protective patterns”. Every protective pattern is made up of 4 spheres or elements. Each of these is operating at the same time, although one may dominate in any given moment. Interventions can be designed to focus on one or more of them.

By becoming conscious of each sphere, we can radically develop mastery of how to consciously shift each within ourselves, our teams, and the people within the systems we want to change. Without this deep human insight, most interventions will, and do, fail.

At the individual level they are:

Hands: Our behaviors, actions and habits
Head: Our beliefs, assumptions, stories and thoughts
Heart: Our feelings and emotions
“Hara” or viscera: Our somatic sensations within interoception

At the system level they are:

Hands: Systemic behaviors, processes and structures
Head: Systemic beliefs, narratives and models
Heart: Systemic feelings, culture and values
“Hara” or viscera: The mood or music of the system

Key blockers for transformation in collectives – and so limiters of collective intelligence, co-creativity, open innovation etc – are destabilizing somatic states (with trauma anchored into our interoceptive experience driving looping maladapted patterns to protect and control); disconnected emotions (of anger, frustration, distrust, fear, dissociation); disempowering beliefs, stories and self-talk (of being “right”, judgmental, suspicious etc) and disabling habits and addictions (like desire to win an argument, look smart, or ensuring we have a higher status than others with each speech act).

To lead systemic change we must be able to become aware of, and so consciously change, each of the four spheres of every pattern in ourselves; help others in the team to shift their patterning to enter more creative and connected states of inquiry and participatory design; and design interventions for the entire system that consciously seek to alter all four in effective ways. At the same time, we must seek to design these interventions to transform the four spheres of the system: structures, shared narratives and mental models, culture, and the mood of the system.

Biology tells us that most established protective patterns are anchored in place by powerful emotions and pain memories (which appear to be stored much nearer the amygdala than normal memories). Therefore attempting to transform individuals and systems with what seems to be efficient and easy-to-measure “hands” changes (like new regulations, financial incentives or “nudges”) tend to fail long-term if we don’t also shift the emotions, heal the traumatic experiences and reconsolidate the cultural memories that anchor defensive and controlling behaviors in place.

Control & Protect Mode, of course, likes to focus on coarse behavioral interventions (carrot and stick) rather the messy, unpredictable and challenging work of transforming narratives and emotional and cultural moods. A transformational leader, with mastery of their two modes of consciousness, understands that systems will only transform – away from fossil fuel usage, single-use plastics, casino capitalism etc – when those in the system who might resist that change feel safe enough and connected enough in their heart and hara to give up out-dated assumptions and reactions in their head and hands.

For a team to enter co-creative flow, where insights, ideas, and innovations emerge rapidly without interpersonal issues blocking impact, the team must enter states of congruence. This can be achieved by understanding the vital importance of all 4 spheres in human alignment and coherence.

Bio-Transformation Jewel 3: The Transformation Curve

Every leader is faced with rapidly evolving technologies, disruptive social changes, and global existential risks. But there is no one-size-fits-all policy or strategic solution to deal with these complex challenges. The nature of the VUCA world means there’s no easy template for transformation There might not be a silver bullet, but there is a proven pathway that leads to transformation that anyone can travel along. I call this non-linear way of problem-solving the Transformation Curve.

When we operate in Control & Protect Mode, we want predictability. We want change to happen in a safe and linear way, just like a machine. But systems made up of people—whether staff, customers, citizens, or stakeholders—don’t change in a linear way. We are by nature unpredictable and non-linear, just like the world around us. It’s this unpredictability that allows for breakthrough thinking and genuine transformation in the first place. The strategic and structural innovations of a journey along the Transformation Curve will include some of the original properties of the old patterns, but they will transcend these and have new emergent features too.

Unlike a predictable, straight-line path, the Transformation Curve follows a J-shaped curve. Instead of progressing incrementally upwards from the initial state – with things get slowly better – we first head down, unpacking the problem and jettisoning outdated thinking, behaviors and emotional states in order to find higher-order solutions that fit. We spot and then accelerate what is breaking down, and find and accelerate what is breaking through: weak signals of the future in the present. By going purposefully into what complexity science calls the “edge of chaos”, we allow for maximum creativity (and also maximum confusion, requiring genuine leadership to prevent and ourselves and others from retreating into Control & Protect Mode).

There a 4 key phases of the Transformational Curve: 1) the gathering of the creative, social, and collaborative capital we need as leaders to make change occur as we resource our system. Systems, especially human biologies, can’t release patterns when exhausted and disconnected. 2) The releasing of outdated patterns and assumptions that hold us back from future-forward thinking because they block new insights and ideas. 3) The receiving of fresh and more fitting systemic insights, ideas and innovations. 4) The embodying and embedding of these insights and ideas in the systems we touch through rewiring our human and social systems.

Key to grok from this is that we must help the systems transformation team and people in the system willingly release old ideas and habits otherwise change cannot occur. It is more important to help people relinquish the old than it is invent the new: for they too have a C&C Mode which can innovate solutions for their local problems. The great challenge is entering it for long enough for ideas to have space to incubate and take shape.

Seen through another lens, as we journey along the Transformation Curve as a group of systems change agents, we start out as a collection of individuals with diverse cognitive and cultural realities. We then become a unified collective intelligence system clustering around a common purpose with ideas emanating from co-creative flow. We then return to diversity as individual agents all working together to orchestrate systemic change in a synergistic way without overlap or friction wasting scant resources. We are many and one at the same time.

We enter periods of co-creative flow for sense-making and inventing, before returning to execute in small teams or individually. We enter and remain for long periods of time in Create & Connect Mode for co-creative flow… before returning to Control & Protect when it is time to execute ideas with confidence and persistence.

As we travel the Transformation Curve, a key challenge is to remain a clear “channel” for ideas to come “through” us without the distortions of our protective patterns twisting reality to fit our needs. Then we can proactively support what is seeking to emerge from what I call the Possible World and manifest this novelty in the Actual world; with entrepreneurial fire, purposeful craft and committed diligence. It appears that human beings are the only species in the world that can consciously choose to open up on the Transformation Curve to funnel ideas from the future into reality and execute them brilliantly into the world.

But we can only act as this channel between inner and outer, like the ion channels in the membranes of cells, if we are clear of our preconceptions of being right; and avoid entering a mode of consciousness which evolved to not feel empathy but instead to “win” language games and economic games. We can exchange knowing “the” answer to knowing the process and doing the practices that will find us the solution. We can rest in the knowledge that we are all connected in love, purpose and truth.

There is much more to be said about the predictive and intuitive power of the Transformation Curve when it comes to leading and landing systemic transformation. For now I will finish with the importance of keeping on going past the periods of discomfort and seeming chaos. Without confident transformational leadership, those in a team/system who are experiencing the break down of the old – anomie which feels terrifying to most – will likely knee-jerk to try to return to the old ways just to get out of the edge of chaos.

This shows up in the “escape fantasy” (it will be better in a different system / company / country); the desire to “make it great again” (return to a fantasized time when everything worked; for some); and the desire for “strong men” (who can return the system to some form of stability at the expense of human freedom). The transformational leader must help the team and system go “through, up, and out” to find a higher-order solution that always arrives after release of the old into the edge of chaos.

A transformational leader of systemic change knows that the experience of transformation has many unpleasant moments within it and is ready to put their entire being on the line to get people past the bottom of the curve and to inspire them up the other side. As a collective descends towards the edge of chaos, confusion and discomfort reign. This is when the “mob” might prefer (another) dictator to the pain of uncertainty and perceived chaos. This is when we must give people certitude that there will be a profound breakthrough waiting for us if we keep going. Once the breakthroughs have erupted, we must then inspire strength in the collective as we go about the tough work of integrating ideas and innovations into “the way things are”, encountering enormous resistance and disillusion as we go.

Bio-Transformation Principle 1: Wisdom Is A Palintonic Harmonie

Leading systemic transformation efforts are full of paradoxes. However, as we develop our wisdom as leaders, such paradoxes dissolve in our ever-expanding consciousness. Following the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus, we can then bring seeming opposites into a dynamic, allostatic “palintonic harmonie”. He uses the word palintonos to mean “that which is drawn in different directions harmonizes with itself.”

So with ever-expanding consciousness and deepening wisdom, transformational leaders doing systemic transformation find ways to bring together:

– The importance of approaching systemic challenges with what Buddhist’s call a Beginner’s Mind (and Heart)… whilst also confidently inspiring and influencing with a Visionary Mind and Heart

– We need to respond to our shared crises with the utmost urgency to prevent irreversible systemic phase transitions to collapse… whilst avoiding the fear and haste that trips us into Control & Protect Mode

– We must be at once just another node in the distributed network of billions of equals in the scenius… whilst being a distinct individual with a unique voice and genius

– We must always appreciate the ideas and insights of those at the “edges” who face challenges locally… whilst allowing those who have honed their skills at systemic thinking to fulfill their potential at the core

– We must ensure we have a generative hierarchy of ideas, where some are better than others in terms of their fit with reality… but an equal valuation of people everywhere in the system

Bio-Transformation Principle 2: Middle-Out Organization

The systemic transformation to planet-ready regenerative economics cannot be driven from the top alone or motivated by fear, anger and frustration cascading down a hierarchy. Such emotions shift people – from employees to voters – into the wrong brain networks for creativity, adaptability and transformation. Systemic change happens best when it is driven by a strong central team working with strong peers at the edges underpinned by mutual trust, co-creative flow, shared responsibility and common purpose. This blends the best of the core (systemic perspective, inspired vision, centralized power) with the best of the edge (local perspective, individual inspiration, network power).

You can see my new book about how to organize for agility/purpose and stability/productivity here.

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The palintonic pathway of organizing for systemic transformation is designed to blend together both a creative (not dominative) hierarchy and a distributed, flat(ish), and fully empowered network of people delivering at the touchpoints. Such an approach harmonizes the seeming opposites of Create & Connect and Control & Protect. This matches how our own bodymind works, where we have interoceptive intelligence coming up the vagus nerve from our viscera into the insular cortex generating somatic sensations and emotional states; and then we have the genius of the cortex delivering top-down predictions about what is happening based upon our established concepts and memories. Assuming we don’t enter emotional and interoceptive dysregulation, between the two our life flows in a “middle-out” manner.

In Middle-Out Organization, we give those in the center and “at the top” permission to think systemically and strategically for the whole, always guided by an abiding and noble purpose that has been co-created by blending the ideals of above and below. Often with years of experience and an intellectual-bent, these systemic thinkers and leaders are invited to engage with long-term opportunities and threats; and marshal and allocate the resources for success through continuous transformational change and innovation. We want them to engage with deep disruptive drivers: new exponential digital technologies, the existential risks of a damaged planet, and shifts in human societies that challenge us all. They can provide bird’s eye, top-down insights and intelligence.

At the same time we also want those at the edges—at the coalface—to find and act on insights about hyper-local problems with agility and entrepreneurial fire. They need to be responsive, in real-time, to the reality on the ground that only they have access to. They are tasked to think on their feet, connect in heartfelt ways with those they serve, and feed back fresh insights from the edges to the core freely so “weak signals” can be acted upon in efficient and effective ways. Those of us who work in systemic innovation and systemic change must always be humbled by the capacity for individuals in the system, at the edges, where life is most challenging – where climate change effects are being felt in the islands and inequality issues felt in the cities – to have a crowd-driven wisdom that exceeds our own.

There is no master slave dichotomy. Both those at the core and those at the edge are equals serving the common purpose: the collective intention of healing a fractured world and reducing suffering in our systems. I believe that such middle out strategizing and executing is key for solving the wicked problems that we all face. We need great systemic thinkers who are humble and open-hearted yet courageous and confident to share their insights into complex adaptive systems working together with people who are executing on the ground as brothers and sisters in palintonic harmony.

Bringing It All Together In LOOPPs

After 20 years of finessing, we have recently created a new start-up non-profit called FutureMakers to apply BTT to systemic transformation projects with organizations that are looking to resolve the climate and inequality emergencies and contribute to the building of a genuinely regenerative politico-economy.

FutureMakers is a non-profit consultancy and regenerative futures think-tank that exists to transform sustainability into a force of purpose-driven and people-powered change/innovation in organizations and in complex ecosystems. FutureMakers leverages BTT to run sustainable change, innovation and system transformation projects that deliver on the promises of a regenerative economy: one in which shareholders, employees, citizens and the planet all share the benefits of exponential technologies and transformational thinking.

FutureMakers aims to shift individuals, leaders, businesses and networks towards ‘next-generation sustainability’ by equipping them with the insights/thinking and strategic change/innovation tools needed to solve complex problems that matter to society in radically new ways. At the heart of every systemic transformation project we are involved in, is a LOOPP: A Lightly-Engineered, Outcome-Oriented, Purpose-Driven, Practice-Powered Process.

1. Lightly-Engineered

All our projects are driven by a process, a linearized version of the Transformation Curve that allows for non-linear breakthroughs at the project level; and many individual transformations at the level of the people involved (as above, so below). With too little design, there is too much chaos and it starts to worry people. They can be triggered into Control & Protect Mode, attempting to project their view of the world, and their vision for the future, onto the chaos to try to reduce the amount of information to parse. This reduces useful outcomes. If people are left to meet together without excellent design, they might connect, chat, and even enjoy being together – but very little of any concrete value will come out of it.

However, too much rigidity and forcefulness in the process also triggers Control & Protect Mode: people feel coerced and trammeled and this reduces creativity too. So the process is engineered lightly by a central design team, at the core, to be the minimal viable structure needed to elegantly deliver concrete and specified outcomes with every workshop or meeting whilst brings in those at the edges of the system to share their genius with minimal feelings of feeling coercion or the sense of being forced. We want to maintain play and fluidity whilst delivering in a timely and quality way for our funders / contributors and the world.

We design processes to allow genuine emergence within through the alternating rhythm of divergence (creativity from C&C Mode) and convergence (discernment from C&P Mode).

The genius of the emergence of higher-order solutions from a collective scenius can only be achieved when we are working on a live problem and a concrete brief (and so budget). CI and CC skills can be honed in trainings and learning sessions but for genuinely fitting insights ideas, and intuitions, a group has to be working on real problems in real time. The universe does not to drills.

2. Outcome-Oriented

Each engagement in a lightly-engineered process, no matter how small or large, is designed to create a vision that is agreed in advance. The content of the outcome is inherently unknowable because it is yet to emerge. But the class of outcome – the intention and ambition – can be know if one understand the process of transformation. We are all clear that we want to collectively deliver the outcome of every genuine Transformation Curve: a higher-order restructuring and rewiring of the system that reduces collective suffering and increases thriving and fits with the environment far better.

Without a bias for outcomes, people in a project will gravitate towards their favorite ideas, remain locked in comfort zones, get stuck in “interesting debates” that don’t move things on and more. Therefore each stage of the process has to have definable outcome types that become the designed inputs of the next stage. For example, outcome types are: The common purpose statement, collaborative give/get agreements, problem definition statements, systems maps, user empathy maps, regenerative business model canvases etc. This allows for a palintonic harmonie between mass creativity within the outcome types; and definable, controllable and concrete outcomes as guaranteed deliverables.

We have painstakingly designed and optimized (improving after every engagement), 90+ tools that allow groups of equals to come together to co-create useful outcomes.

3. Purpose-Driven

All projects that are attempting to build a better world must be ground in something bigger than any individual. We can call this “purpose”. Such a shared purpose orients everyone to the source of possibility: ideas and insights manifesting from the Possible World into the Actual World. The purpose we share becomes the boss for all decisions. 

It is this kind of purpose that allows us to show up in workshops and meetings (as well as on email and online) open-hearted, undefended, and with our “front” dropped. Only then can we trust, listen and enter co-creative flow. The kind of purpose we need in systemic transformation must orient everyone and generates a strong “field” for self-organization from the get-go. Then we don’t need to constantly check back on people with more hierarchical power.

Purpose is not an intellectual aim or strategic mission. It’s is an out flowing of caring and compassion for beings in the system: a collective upswelling of love becoming tangible action through our collective sense-making, co-creation and collective implementation activities. It is the animating force of an unfolding spiral – our project – that acts as a “limbic bond” in real time relationships. It might be crafted into words but it is more important that it is felt within our bodymind and that of our collaborators when brought back to it.

Without it to call us back to the most open-hearted and open-minded versions of ourselves  – rooting our systemic interventions in shared humanity and grounding our ideas and ideals in interconnection – C&P Mode can easily hijack our best intentions, diminishing our leadership capacity and reducing our impact. Our purpose should allow us to dissolve our protective patterns in the moments it is recalled; and so allow us to truly co-create and dialogue. It should allow us to want to hug our collaborators with joy, grace, and ease – even, and especially, when we don’t agree with them.

Shared purpose is generated by a team entering C&P Mode for a sustained period (and then crafted and copy written by C&P Mode, usually by one person). The shared purpose may be revised and renewed ongoingly, from time to time, as new data and foresight enters the collective. But, if discerned appropriately at the start, the purpose will remain thematically consistent throughout the project and beyond. It is a shared narrative of what matters, why it matters and what to do about it through everyday actions to build new possibilities. 

4. Practice-Powered

As well as running contributors through the systemic transformation process, we must remember that each individual and group must also engage with practices that are designed to open their hearts and minds and free them from limiting beliefs and conflicting habits. The process will fail if the people involved in it remain in the wrong mode for the moment. Systemic change interventions will fail if they can’t change, at scale, how people in the system sense, feel, make-sense of, and act, around what matters.

The core team, as well as contributors coming into the space from time to time, must be aware that they are coming into a “field” where personality issues and interpersonal problems will distort outcomes rapidly. Therefore all contributors must be committed to their own “inner work” of freeing themselves from traumatic and habitual patterning. Then we can achieve congruence in the collective and enter elusive co-creative flow states safely; and maintain them.

Practices must be engaged in that help individuals do their own inner work but also engage in co-creative interpersonal inner work – the process of becoming their “best self” in relationship to others in the team. Everyone is in the process of becoming within their own experience and in the process of “inter-becoming” with and through others. We call this “interplay”; the type of play being the kind that animals and kids engage in to fulfill their potential.

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We must have practices and tools to help ourselves and other track and transcend interoceptive jitters in their viscera; emotional rollercoasters and mood traps in their feelings; narrative distortions and self-talk hooks in their minds; and addictive habits and repetitive “order-thwarters” in their behaviors. And we must be able to help others take radical responsibility for their own self-mastery without triggering their (and our) protective patterns. I went to train with legendary conflict transformation thinker and master mediator Ken Cloke for just this reason.

We have developed an Eightfold Path Of Collective Enquiry to help leaders and team members to come together in circular/networked creative conversations, dialogues and learnings full of interplay and interbecoming:

Forging A Regenerative Future

With LOOPPS we can enter phases of true vulnerability where our guards are dropped for long enough that we enter states of “collective flow” together (and exit such exotic states in safe and in a timely manner). We can shift from collective flow to joined up action, still rooted in a sense of unity whilst celebrating our diversity of action. Systemic action must come out of a coherent “field” of values/purpose, insights, and vision.
But if we just have a set of practices, then action is limited and it won’t be as impactful and timely as it could be. Ultimately, systemic transformation will only occur when a congruent collective made of diverse individuals agents implement an orchestrated symphony of interventions designed to shift the system to the preferred state (and unexpected returns metabolized ongoingly).

The future is waiting for us to become the choir – with both conductor/choir master and singers – that as one is able to sing the new song, the new dream, the new narrative of humankind as it enters the world of networks. Possible futures are rushing towards us – with “God” perhaps playing with loaded dice – to ensure we learn, expand, and thrive. Together we can become a channel for ideas and insights from the Possible World to become realized in the Actual World through systemic transformation programs across and between our islands and our cities.

We have to put aside what we are certain about and enter Beginner’s mind/heart to truly be able to hear the whisperings of collective intuition and collective creativity that start to pour through us when we enter a state of collective flow. When we are in this coherence of individual selfies, integrity and wholeness (and so healedness) emerge. We can then return to our individual genius to co-create with other whole-hearted leaders on the pressing task ahead: co-leading and co-implementing the Great Transformation as systemic leaders.

To answer the call we cannot hide our brilliance away, fearful of the dictatorship of the collective, nor can we carry on with the old hierarchical, controlling and protecting behaviors of the past. Instead, in this emerging world, our profoundest duty is develop ourselves to be ‘virtuosi’ in whatever field we are in – not for our own glory and gain, but so that we can contribute most ably to the ‘symphony’ of the collective. Now is the time to move beyond our out-dated obsessions with our “Selves” and our ethnic groups; with the survival of the fittest; and with the mythical selfish gene. Now is the time to tap into every human being’s creative talents whilst simultaneously harnessing the power of the collective to make profound change. 

Firms ignoring climate crisis will go bankrupt. Mark Carney, Governor of Bank of England

At the core of all thriving 21st Century organizations, no matter whether private or public, for profit or non-profit, SME or multinational, must be a Regenerative Business Model: a radical transformation of the existing linear business model (with hierarchical management) underpinning almost all organizations designed for “modern” Industrial-Age. Regenerative Business Models emerge as the most adaptive and fitting to sit atop Network O.S. Leaders must choose themselves how they transition and manage the decline of the old business model that is replete with out-dated assumptions like “externalities” and limitless resources, linear vs. circular production lines, and products premised on employee and customer disempowerment.

For those that rise to the challenge of transitioning their organization to become , co-creativity and the interplay – inner work to accelerate our mutual inter-becoming – can provide them with the greatest and most powerful method to develop their capacity to be a complete human being and achieve the ‘harmony within the chaos’ that most of us crave. The true experience ofinterplay’ is not just the solution to our planet’s and our own social, economic and environmental problems (as if that was not enough)… it is actually the most contemporary and rapid way to salve all our existential suffering with the balm of collective, inter-dependent, spiritual realization.

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