What Makes A Business Or Brand Regenerative? 15 Design Lenses For Regenerative Businesses
15 principles and design lenses that we can all harness to lead, evolve, and cultivate regenerative brands, businesses, projects, and communities that can transform our crisis-hit world.
- Leading To A Flourishing Future With A “Regenerative Renaissance”
- What Is Regenerative Thinking In Leadership & Business?
- Regenerative Technologies: Digital That Slows Down & Mends Things
- What Makes A Business Or Brand Regenerative? 15 Design Lenses For Regenerative Businesses
- 30+ Key Innovations In Regenerative Business & Operating Models
- Is Regenerative Leadership & Business The Next Stage Of Human Evolution?
- Five Essential Regenerative Leadership Capabilities
Building A Regenerative Business Or Brand
To be/do regenerative business, we must, to some degree, challenge the foundations of the modern world before we rebirth them sourced within an interdependent, reciprocal, whole, mutual, natural conception of humankind.
Our regenerative potential depends on us transcending the very clear limitations of profit-motive business and liberal Capitalist society that see ecological and social impacts as ‘externalities,’ the increase of shareholder value as the priority, and the productivity of humans as the key. Even the concepts of ‘sustainability,’ ‘impact investing,’ and ‘ESG’ are the by-products of our analytical, abstractive, accumulative conception of humankind and nature.
While we often summarize regenerativeness as “leaving it better,” this is a huge simplification for those of us that yearn to design, innovate, lead, and maintain really regenerative business models and systems—and help usher in a Regenerative Renaissance.
To recalibrate capitalism—and migrate hitherto-linear businesses towards being regenerative—we need to render the non-linear and emergent nature of regenerativeness into frames and tools that CEOs, CFOs, accountants, strategists, and everyday managers—all schooled on the Western liberal education and trained to manage living systems as one does machines—can use to transform their oft-abstracted processes, machinery, protocols, and code.
“Regenerative brands recognize our fundamental connection and interdependence as part of a living ecosystem.”
In other words, regenerative models, thinking, and leadership are very much Business, as well as Consciousness, As Unusual. This is, in part, because ‘regenerativeness’ explicitly contradicts the assumptions upon which most materialist business —and most modern thinking, too—has been premised.
To design for and sustain regenerative projects and communities, we must temper our training in and predilection for ‘analytical consciousness’ (algorithms, mechanisms, growth models, most academic thought) with deeply held and heartfelt embodied wisdom from what I call ‘connective consciousness.’ For more on these two discernments and the metaphysics required to marry them together within us, see my book Spiritual Atheist: A Quest To Unite Science & Wisdom Into a Radical New Life Philosophy To Thrive In The Digital Age.
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Regenerative Businesses Require A Paradigm Shift
Regenerativeness, both in theory and practice, requires a paradigm-shifting transformation in our core beliefs to ensure that subjective experiences in consciousness (e.g., purpose, thriving, healing, healthfulness, resilience, interconnectivity, mutuality, care, gifting, love) are valued within the public sphere as much as material quantities (like KPIs, profit, productivity, fitness, etc.) This must occur without the wholesale rejection of modernity, liberalism, and capitalism in favor of any fantasy ideal, whether Communist, Libertarian, Psychedelic, Shamanic, or New Age.
Such a transformation requires that we relinquish—a bit—the hold that linear, extractive, exploitative ways of seeing and doing in the world have on our beliefs and actions. It is these ideas that gave birth to line management, vertical integration, the profit motive, shareholder value, rational choice theory, advanced capitalism, and speculative investment. They have all been very useful. But they must be included, yet transcended, in what comes next.
We all unconsciously re-enact these extractive/degenerative assumptions whenever we want our pension to go up above the base rate of inflation; want to see an ROI for our investment (whether houses, sweat equity, or “friends and family” rounds); and desire cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin to appreciate. This is why regenerative thinking and doing are not easy to cultivate, either within our own private lives (careers, investments, income) or our organizations.
We have been educated, trained, and managed in the linear and non-regenerative worldview since we were infants. Still, we are now required to include and then transcend such mechanistic ideas, descriptions, and values?—?which see human beings, and their organizations, as inert machines within a purposeless, cold, and dead universe. We have to find our way to a synthesis of science, spirituality, and social change to do so. See my 65 Theses For A Spiritual & Scientific Reformation here as a starting point for this philosophical recalibration.
“You have to work at holistic reasoning. You have to grow it from a lived cultural framework embedded in the landscape and the patterns of creation you follow there.”
Regenerative Businesses Include Yet Transcend Sustainability
The Regenerative Reniassaince must decouple carbon (and pollution, waste, mood disorders, identity conflicts, and other side effects of advanced Capitalism) from economic and human growth. I believe that this requires us to make a parallel move: to recouple interconnected and messily embodied hearts with neat analytical minds.
Whichever way I slice the situation (even though I am well aware of the promises of abundance from regenerative/vertical farmers and others), for me, it seems that the Regenerative Renaissance is dependent on us all consuming less. We all need to live in a one-planet manner.
Given that modern (colonial) consumer capitalism has long been premised on democratizing comfort and convenience (from mass-produced chinaware in the 18th Century to Uber in the 21st Century), to live in a regenerative economy, we need to be—perhaps for the first time in human history—inconvenienced and discomforted more. Fortunately, our capacity to trade comfort and convenience for connection and caring has never been greater.
We will best embrace this reality if we make up for having less stuff in matter (e.g., power, fame, fortune, steaks, holidays) with having richer qualia in consciousness (e.g., belonging, love, heartfelt connection, solidarity, fellow feeling, mutual aid, reciprocity, they-have-my-back-ness, thriving, etc.)
Transformation always requires us to relinquish the old before we receive the new… but never throw out the modern baby with the postmodern/New Age bathwater. This means we must regenerate Western spirituality and philosophy too. Western Spirituality appears to be at a major bifurcation point that requires us to surface, challenge, and dissolve misguided ideas and outdated assumptions about spirituality that may be blocking our individual and collective evolution. See https://medium.com/switch-on/transforming-philosophy-to-regenerate-our-crisis-hit-world-da1835bf652b
Likewise, both academic and public philosophy has become lost in abstraction. Only when our masculine strength, power, and rationality are in service of feminine softness, presence, and relationship?—?not the other way around?—? Will we be able to resolve the deep causes of our Anthropocene Apocalypse? See my essay Transforming Philosophy With Embodied Wisdom To Regenerate Our Crisis-Hit World; and The Great Repair Before The Great Regeneration.
“It is a feeling infinitely wider than love or personal sympathy?—?an instinct that has been slowly developed among animals and men in the course of an extremely long evolution… [I]t is the conscience?—?be it only at the stage of an instinct?—?of human solidarity.”
Truly Regenerative Thinking
On the path to becoming more regenerative, it helps to have new insights, ideas, and ideals to help us shift from an extractive mindset to a regenerative one. Whilst being truly regenerative takes our connective and contributive wisdom to be fully embodied in our nerves and viscera—so we don’t have to think it, we just are it—an upgrade in our cognition, mindsets, stories, sense-making systems, language, and memes is crucial to get us there.
While I fully know that neologisms and new lingo can irritate and alienate, the entire purpose of the regenerative worldview is to explicitly cause a paradigm shift in our ‘modern’ way of life, thought, and action. Therefore we must use words that empower, enact, encode, embed, enable, and embody powerful distinctions with mind and body that transform us and our business models.
This is my start-point for the following 15 design lenses below. They must be useful as sense-making constructs, decision-making tools, appreciative inquiry start-points, coaching stem sentences, innovation criteria, design lenses, and leadership qualities for the Regenerative Renaissance.
For the work we do with multinationals and large public institutions, the criteria we agree that make something regenerative or not need to be as useful in migrating/transforming/unfolding a co-living community, VR app, tokenized blockchain play, investment entity, social media platform, or collective coaching group as they are a regenerative farm or bioregional land-based social enterprise.
This is no simple task. In fact, it is fiendishly complex, as many have noted. I’d love to give you three simple criteria for building a regenerative business model and be done. But that would be mistaken and a mistake. There is no value in over-simplifying what is, and must be, complex?—?because transforming our global web of supply chains, brands, logistics, transactions, labor relationships, and digital knowledge to be sourced in lived experiences of embodied interdepdenandce… is insanely complex!
It has taken me around 15 years since I first came into contact with thrivability/ ‘regenerativeness’ to codify these 15 criteria (in words, a medium that always occludes as much as illumines.) On this path, I’ve been inspired and informed, and remain so, by many awesome intellects and shining hearts.
I stand on the shoulders of and bow down deeply to giants of the space, including, but not limited to, David Hodgson, the entire Regen Colab rhizome, Robin Lincoln Wood, Michelle Holiday, Daniel Christian Wahl, Giles Hutchins, Tyson Yunkaporta, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Joe Brewer, Graham Leicester, David Abrams, Joanna Macy, Jean Russell, and many, many other incredible humans.
“Sustainability and regenerative cultures are not end-points to be reached but continuous processes of collective learning.”
I hope it goes without saying that this is very much an unfolding WIP, without any ‘rightness,’ rights, or final say. I’m nothing like an expert in regenerative agriculture, permaculture, ’shrooms, complex systems science, chaos theory, or anything really.
Instead, I have spent many hours of practical regenerative leadership and innovation work, self-study, and meditative moments, feeling into this challenge and moving around and around this unfolding spiral to find qualities/distinctions of value.
So please do challenge, evolve, and give feedback as you yourself sit with, feel into, and respond to the 15 criteria below:
7 Crucial Principles of Regenerativeness
1. Holistic & Hologenic
We aim to evolve or transform the organization/system we are working within, and all parts of it, towards unity and community. All projects, policies, products, and procedures are designed to leave every organism/organization within the system more whole. This must be premised on the inherent capacity for wholeness in all living things; and the innate sacredness of all life.
Rather than seeing humankind as separate from, and in control of, nature—which leads to endless and mindless extraction, pollution, and degeneration—stakeholders experience themselves as one with nature, in all its beautifulness, ugliness, dirtiness, and wetness. This includes embracing natural rot, decay, and putrescence—in our creations as well as our own bodies and minds.
To be holistic, we must reconceive of all systems—including an Amazon warehouse or mining concession—as complex, living, active, and adaptive systems with inherent intelligence/wisdom. Nothing is seen as ‘manmade,’ as all humankind’s inventions are part of nature.
Holistic thinking and ‘hologenic’ acting (behaving in ways that lead towards healing/wholeness) require us to experience ourselves and our projects as situated or nestled within a great web of wild nature.
This is a chain of all being variously called Gaia (James Lovelock), Pachamama (indigenous Amazon), or even VALIS (Philip K Dick). In such a holistic worldview, for example, the ‘rights’ of the Earth are prioritized ahead of, and/or alongside, the ‘rights’ of humans, ensuring that biodiversity and human diversity are optimized together.
When we design from the perspective of the whole ecological system, we dethrone humankind from atop a linear hierarchy (where we are apex predators of the planet) and return us to our real situation: one node, among many, in the great web of life. To do this, we must expand our capacity for caring for more and more of the chain of being.
Degeneration occurs when we decouple humankind and industrial systems from the great web of life. We pollute (minds and ecologies) and produce carbon but see them as somehow external to what is real. This has led to the four great crises of modernity: illness, identity conflict, inequality, and ecological devastation from industrialization.
Regeneration can only occur when we recouple ourselves to the natural world: through cultivating a live and alive connection to the great web of life. As we become interconnected with all, we feel safer and more stable, so our hearts can open and our minds can quieten from hypervigilance, greed, and scarcity.
Reverence for all life emerges from us in this state: which allows us to find the right alignment and fit between our node and the great network of living. As we return ourselves to the wild, natural world like this—a system we have always been intrinsically part of and will always remain intrinsically part of— we become more humble, curious, and struck by awe. We are no longer in control of nature. We are, at most, a steward or servant leader co-creating with Earth as we heal our hurt hearts from disconnection and trauma.
As we self-heal, we become ever more whole, able to use the full spectrum of responses to any given stimulus, no matter how initially stressful. Holy, whole, and healing all come from the same etymological root. There is no wholeness without healing.… Love within provides us with what attachment theory calls an ‘internalized secure base’ so that we can heal trauma and stress to become more whole. Wholeness inside leads to wholeness in our teams and enterprises, and systems.
Nick Jankel, Now Lead the Change
We design for whole systems and fractal parts of them, identifying sweet spots and ‘acupuncture points’ in the system where small interventions can have disproportionately large outcomes towards a flourishing steady state.
2. Both Organic And Technologic
We prioritize the use of, within every process or system, biological, biodegradable, and biomimetic materials, and interactions over industrial and inorganic ones. We explicitly seek to cultivate and design the horizontal, web-like connections between nodes, peers, organisms, machines, and communities that are seen in nature.
The aim is to generate cradle-to-cradle and circular transactions between parts of the whole with zero ‘waste’: each piece contributes its excess ‘resources’ to other parts of the whole. In other words, as Giles Hutchins puts it, all waste (including carbon and pollution) should be food or inputs into other processes.
What goes around comes back around. Our poop does not cease to exist. It just gets taken somewhere else where we can conveniently forget about it. Energy/mass cannot be destroyed; it just gets transformed.
Full organicity?—?materials and processes that biodegrade naturally into resources for other organisms/organizations in the system?—? It is always the priority, but without ideological purism, that denies the transitional role of substances like plastic or technologies like code.
Advanced technologies (AI, blockchain), biotech/nanotech, and digitally-empowered solutions are wholeheartedly welcomed where they support and affirm the web of all life. We are appreciative of the mass benefits of digitally scaling and industrially replicating models to reach billions of people in a timely way to reduce suffering and increase thriving.
Yet we remain highly conscious of the dangers of, and likely damage from, scale, speed, and abstractions (e.g., monopolies, monocultures, cultural imperialism, totalizing IP, extractive exploitation, etc.). So rather than habitually seeking digital and industrial scale and speed (e.g., the near costless replication of digital code and efficiencies of manufacturing scale), we instead look for ways to ‘propagate’ a successful regenerative MVP or model.
‘Propagation’ means seeking to scale and replicate regenerative processes and products like gardeners do with the ‘grafts’ and ‘cuttings’ of a plant. Rather than avoid scale (premodern) or seek scale and speed uber-alles to crush the competition and drive 100x ROI (modernity), we seek to expand what works so others may benefit—but always within the natural cycles, rhythms, and limits of the dirt/Earth.
Each new iteration must find its own roots in unique places and people. We expect such scaling/propagation to be slow, patient, and conscious (Turtles, not Unicorns!)— with degrowth occurring if possible?—?with moments of rapid effort and energy when needed. I believe that this is relevant to the scale-linking concept of Daniel Christian Wahl.
3. Contributive, Relational & Reciprocal
We shift from looking at models and processes as transactional to seeing them as relational. Conventional industrial/digital thinking seeks to maximize transaction outcomes (profits and productivity ) and minimize transaction costs. Because of such linear, machine-like thinking, it seems obvious that we want to extract value from the transactions to return a profit on our investments of capital or labor.
Regenerative thinking seeks to maximize the value of relationships between all agents or organisms within a system. This means seeking maximal mutuality and minimum extraction. We seek to offer and receive mutual aid. We countenance giving away what was once thought of as ‘ours’ (power, status, money, stuff, land, IP) in exchange for more trusting, nourishing, and life-affirming relationships. We shift from extracting profit/margin/value for our own benefit to enriching the system with our contributions so all benefit.
Abstracted financial capital—i.e., money—is seen as a useful and necessary resource to allocate, derisk, and perhaps even grow… but not the primary resources we are interested in. The primary resources we are interested in are unquantifiable ‘goods’ like symbiosis, solidarity, paying-it-forwarding, and gift-giving.
Tangible goods like shares, land deeds, profits, returns, interest, etc., must be shared equitably, balancing respect for equality with respect for effort. Intangible goods like love, connection, trust, safety, respect, compassion, thriving, etc., are all unlimited by planetary constraints and so can be abundant for all.
By encouraging relationships, not transactions, we recalibrate away from a pure market economy of transactions towards enjoying a gift economy too. Paying it forward and passing it on is rejuvenating. If we don’t, it stifles the growth and the regeneration of systems. The more we give away love and wisdom, the more we have ourselves.
Underlying such mutuality and reciprocity are interdependent?—?as opposed to dependent or codependent—relationships with high levels of trust and solidarity. We want deep, intimate connections without needy dependencies. As trust is a lubricant of all transformation and innovation—especially in the long periods of unglamorous implementation and maintenance that occur with all transformations and regenerations—such intangible mutuality is crucial.
Underlying the shift to enriching, not extracting, is to become more aware of our responsibilities (to ourselves and nature) and not just focus on the rights we enjoy. Rights and responsibilities, gifts and duties (Kimmerer) emerge together in all human situations. We must never forget that to enjoy the gifts; we must embrace the duty of care for the systems that support us. A good metaphor for this, from Braiding Sweetgrass, is to care for the roots so we can enjoy the fruit. And never take more than half the fruit, as this depletes and degenerates the system.
4. Harm & Suffering Reduction
We prioritize the reduction of the causes and conditions of suffering before we seek to generate interventions that we hope create the conditions for more thriving. This is because history has shown us that when leaders attach to their vision of The Good, according to their perspective, some in the system benefit, but many others are left in pain and distress.
This is a via negativa aiming for what the Epicureans and Stoics called ataraxia—a robust and dynamic sense of ongoing absence of distress—that guards against the ever-present danger of having certitude about what is ‘right’ on the via positiva.We always return to our own sense of mindful presence before we design anything, for we seek heart-led, compassionate, and non-violent changes as much as possible.
This means when designing systemic transformation interventions of regenerative business models, we initially focus on harm reduction (addiction, pollution, carbon, identity-driven conflict, aggression, separation, etc.) before we turn to innovation, grand visions, behavior change, etc. All of these interventions to create a new system state can be potentially violent.
We spot places and moments where damaging abstractions, alienations, and extractions occur—and seek to replace them with presence, connection, and contribution. We aim to develop feeling bonds with all life in the system: and course-correct ourselves and our organizations using the empathy and compassion that arises from such intimate ‘interbeing.’
When people or organisms in the system are stuck or suffering, we support them with more resources than when they are flying. Thus the system as a whole can take knocks and challenges without crumbling or catastrophizing.
5. Optimizing Flourishing, Thrivability & Triple Wins
Always mindful of projecting our vision of the Good onto others, we see the primary resources to be nurtured in a system, business, or brand are the conditions that allow human beings (and all organisms) to live, flourish, and thrive, such as safety, stability, novelty, meaning, membership/togetherness, trust, mastery/autonomy, learning, insight, interdependence, intimacy, etc.
A good way to think of this is how do we design for increasing the thrivability, biofertility, fecundity, and potential to flourish of the systems we are part of?
Challenging the fallacy of zero-sum games, we seek to ensure that with every project and business model, the system/organization, the people, and the planet all win. We will often have to relinquish some convenient assumptions and everyday conveniences in order to enable such win-win-wins—or Triple Win solutions to emerge.
We are shifting from a low-carbon, zero-carbon, net-zero mentality towards a net-positive, regenerative mindset where we seek to harness the purpose and power of our organization to deliver clear and compelling value to the world… as well as profit.
6. Rooted, Earth-Bound, Grounded
Everything we do is built upon and within the limitations of physical and hyper-local places that support, empower, and root all life. We are wary of designing anything that exceeds the local capacity of the dirt and people to support it (which begs the question: can any business or technology be regenerative if it is not ‘deabstracted’ and ‘descaled’ and rooted into a hyperlocal reality?)
Central to being Earth-bounded is to decouple material growth (including carbon generation, pollution/waste, and resource use) from financial returns and economic growth (again, begging the question: can we support decouple growth, or do we need to instill degrowth across all systems?). We must design for the limitations, and inherent cycles and rhythms, of the single planet all systems exist on (at the moment.)
Ideally, each regenerative project and enterprise is anchored by, and grounded in, its own unique dirt-bound terroir, a term the French use to describe the bioregion wine or people are from. This means honoring, fertilizing, and encouraging specific flavors from local ecological and social realities. All franchises, scale-ups, and propagations of models and projects must be localized in their own unique dirt, community, and culture.
Such groundedness can enable a life-affirming, stabilizing, and securing sense of belonging—?while reducing the dangers of modern abstraction and alienation from technology and machinery. In such groundedness, we appreciate the seasonality of nature and humankind. We are rooted in time as much as place, moving through seasons of action, creativity, replenishment, and rest.
Being Earth-bounded and fully embodied is the metaphysical, epistemological, and moral context of all our lives. We are emotionally grounded because we are physically bounded. The body we are in becomes the playground, and not the prison, of our mind.
This means always being super-aware as leaders, designers, and innovators (as well as consumers) of if/when we dissociate from our viscera and intuition and become disembodied minds. The damages wrought by modernity—from polluting fossil fuel economies to scaling mass murder through gas chambers—have all derived from the disconnection of dirt-bound bodies from brilliant minds.)
7. Developmental & Evolutionary
Rather than seeking to destroy or reject what came before—the masculine energy of commercial disruption and political revolution—we always recognize we must include the best of what came before, even as we transcend its limitations. This is based on the insights from rich research into the development of children, adults, embryos, economies, and social systems.
Therefore, for example, we embrace modern scientific ‘progress’ but also are alive to postmodern critiques of its excesses (like the forced sterilization of tens of thousands in the USA or the dismissive and diminishing nature of scientism).
In the same manner, we embrace pathfinding ‘premodern’ regenerative systems in existing indigenous communities… while knowing that we cannot simply harness their features and insights and expect to transform the entire global socio-economic system of advanced capitalism: from shipping container to the server farm.
We are aware we cannot, and do not want to, return to some idealized halcyon days of animist, nature-loving indigenous Arcadia. We have to bring that wisdom with us (as well as that born from civilization and industrialization) as we go forward: through, up, and out of the transformation of Western liberal and capitalist realities. This means capturing the core insight of indigenous nature wisdom and unfolding it into the uniquely complex hypermodern world we are in.
The idea of “include yet transcend” is crucial as it allows us to avoid the endless cycles or Reformation-Counter Reformation, or Revolution-Reaction, that have plagued our societies for centuries—and have sucked so much co-creativity and transformation out of the public square.
By nature, regenerative systems are always for the whole system or culture—for it to transform to a higher-order state of fittedness—not against it. We do not define our project as counter-cultural but for the culture to become more whole, requisitely complex, and fitting.
Developmental thinking also helps us avoid the mistake of thinking premodern and preadult; regenerative intuitions and creativity are the same as an advanced modern and mature adult, regenerative insights and innovations (this is a version of the so-called ‘pre/trans fallacy.’) In other words, as my wife and business partner, puts it: no plopping.
8 Advanced Principles of Regenerativeness
8. Stewardship & Transformation Leadership
Leaders act as stewards of the system. They are unafraid to guard boundaries, start/stop dialogues, and make tough decisions to generate momentum when necessary. However, they never fall into egotistical thinking that this is ‘their’ project, their land, or that they are essential to success.
IP is treated as owned by the whole, with licensing explored where it can be regenerative for the whole system. Open source tools leveraged and shared. The game being played is not “how much money can I extract and/or leave to my kids” but how healthful, diverse, and thriving can I pass on the system(s) I steward to others?
Leaders steward without falling into tyranny from above (forced hierarchy and dictatorship) or below (forced flatness and consensus). They enact and lead what I call LOOPPs: Lightly-Engineered, Outcome-Oriented, Purpose-Driven, Practice-Powered Processes that harness collective intelligence to solve complex systemic problems with transformational solutions.
9. Co-creative, Collective Intelligence, Collaborative IQ
Regenerative solutions are usually most appropriately designed and delivered in co-creation with the participation of diverse networks of stakeholders. This means large amounts of collaboration iQ must be nurtured through individual and group efforts to mature past interpersonal conflicts and reactive patterning.
Co-creativity will usually include the synchronization of insights from multiple systemic perspectives; the cross-fertilization of ideas; the surfacing and challenge of groupthink and assumptions; and shared responsibility for action in a timely, high-quality way.
Governance of projects is usually designed to fuse effective individual action with collective deliberation?—?and can be adapted in real-time to allow for more efficacy or more creativity (which are often in tension). This enables more decentralized and distributed coordination, collaboration—and, increasingly—co-creation.
However, even in maximum co-creation mode, project stewards/leaders are never afraid to intervene from ‘the top’ and in ‘the front’ to enable momentum when consensual politics and/or stasis is lowering effectiveness in the mycelial web, particularly in the earlier stages of design and orchestration.
10. Empowering & Honoring Strengths
Solutions are co-designed while constantly honoring the inherent capability of every organism/organization for restoration/rebirth, healthfulness, skillfulness, resourcefulness, empowerment, and reorganization. This means “focusing on the health,” as well as the hurt, as the biodynamic craniosacral community (and my wife) prioritize.
We acknowledge that different individuals/species have different qualities and strengths in different situations, and some will need more (or less) support, coaching, and leadership to return to health and vitality. We are careful to avoid inadvertently disabling and disempowering ‘autopoietic’ self-healing and self-organizing systems with every intervention.
Stewards respect the inherent worth of every stakeholder and system agent—whilst recognizing the unequal capacity for contribution in specific moments and contexts. This often means inviting in people and organizations when and where they have the most effective contribution to make rather than ensuring everything is equal in forced flatness.
11. Biodynamic, Emergent & Alive
We serve what is seeking to emerge from the system: regenerative solutions that are inspired and guided by the energy, intelligence, and wisdom that runs through and generates all life. Such ‘solutions’—for they never really solve anything, as problem-solution is a mechanistic concept, not a regenerative one—are never complete or perfect as they will always unfold deeper, evolve higher, and expand further. They must change because the world is constantly changing.
Our ideas, projects, and business models must remain alive because the system that they fit within is alive too. This sets up a relentless but ever-enlivening process of unfolding that is very different from the design-test-launch-scale nature of the modern industry.
Everything we do, and all that we are, is a Work-In-Progress. We, and our projects, are in continuous Beta. Adaptation and transformation are constant—from upgrading the feature set of a project to upgrading the feature set of our minds (and, as such, we edit articles like this one over months and years, not hours, which the hypertextual world of the web affords us the capacity to do.)
To make such living emergence possible, all take responsibility to release their individual and shared distortions and fixations—and interpersonal blockages—that get in the way of collective intelligence and action. This ensures that biodynamic and intuitive creativity can always move into the spaces we hold to bring fresh insights and fitting ideas.
Being alive, individuals and groups within the system with likely experience multiple breakdowns/breakthroughs as ‘progress is made— accompanied by ‘flashes’ of insight, the jouissance of creativity, and the emotions of rebirth. Conflict is seen as ‘creativity waiting to emerge.’
We understand that conflicts signal that outdated assumptions and habits are ripe for transformation—so priority is given to the work of surfacing, challenging, owning, and releasing them before decisions are made. This occurs through constant and conscious resolution practices such as interpersonal dialoguing, voice dialoguing, circles, meditation, shamanic/ecstatic practices, etc.
All complexity, paradox, confusion, and conflict are honored as key to genuine emergence. Divergent and convergent modes of thought and action are designed into development, allowing for genuine emergence in a rhythm of expansion and contraction. Stakeholders actively guide projects, and themselves, to the ‘edge of chaos’ to allow the most creative and fitting ideas to emerge.
12. Fittedness, Appropriate Variety & Requisite Complexity
Simplistic, reductive, replicative solutions are challenged in order for more complex solutions—with high levels of variety—to emerge that fit the fiendishly complex technologies and practicalities we live within. Yet even in complexity, we strive to communicate in clear, transparent, simple (but never simplistic) metaphors and narratives of regeneration and transformation: using skillful leadership/means to fit the right lingo to the ear that’s hearing it.
Following the Law of Requisite Variety, also known as Ashby’s Law, we evolve our organizations or system to have the same level of variety within them as can be found in the external environment. In our crisis-hit world, we have to allow much more variance, creativity, and diversity of thought inside our teams, cultures, and systems in order to fit in and play our part in forging the future that is rushing toward us.
Although fitness is vital for competition and survival, I believe that fittedness is equally important for individual and organizational thriving. We need both to be competitively fit to maintain our edge with efficient best practices and always maintain our fit with a dramatically changing world by exploring the next practice.
Fittedness is not about being good or bad, better or worse. These moral dualities dissolve with genuine regenerative wisdom. Fittedness is about discerning, without falling into dualistic judgment, whether a thought, feeling, action, product, or business model matches the world that is fast emerging.
Research shows that nature values both efficient fitness and creative fittedness. Nature loves high-performance species. They fit: strong, competitive, and so survive. They make it, where others do not, to pass on their genes. But nature also loves variety and diversity, which allows more fittedness as the world changes. The fittest may survive. The fitted—those of us who lead continuous transformations to adapt to a ceaselessly changing environment?—?can go beyond mere survival and thrive.
We step up to be Apex Transformers as opposed to apex predators: the organisms within the system with the most capacity for leading and landing transformation with it. If a Regenerative Renaissance is seeking to emerge from our crisis-hit world, then our true purpose as transformational leaders becomes purified and clarified: to support, encourage, and realize this transformation through our quotidian work. We don’t have to be at the front and center: just playing our part, leaving our part of the system better—less suffering of life, more affirmation of life—than how we found it.
As Apex Transformers, we ‘channel’ relevant insights and ideas from the Possible World into the Actual World with our entire body-mind. We seem to be the only organism that can do this consciously and compassionately (though our friends, the crows, seem to be catching up). Transformation requires us to relentlessly surface the hidden assumptions that cause breakdowns/degeneration, presence the sensations and emotions that unleash breakthroughs, and transform the self-centered fixations that lock systems in place.
As Transformers, we are prepared to always challenge the status quo and question everything, e.g., assumptions about the role of business; selfhood and communitarianism; revenues and returns; human nature, etc. To be truly transformational, we must develop embodied wisdom to match and temper our cognitive complexity. We must think in webs and spirals, not just efficient, production-line-style, linear straight lines.
As we transform modes and models, we consciously connect the invisible with the visible; the inner with the outer; the lower with the upper; the self with the system.
We always remember that all human-generated systems are crystallizations of the individual feelings, thoughts, and actions of millions of selves, both historically and in the present. Therefore to ensure a flourishing social system within an ecological system, the inner (psychospiritual) must align with the outer (social-ecological-economic).
14. Hybrids & Creative Tensions
We actively cultivate creative tensions between seeming polar opposites. We seek both/and resolutions rather than either/or dichotomies, bringing to life: profit and purpose, machina and natura, stability and fluidity, discipline and boundaries, competition and collaboration, protection and connection, analysis and synthesis, control and creativity, strength and vulnerability, surviving and thriving, conservation and creative destruction, quant and qual, data and intuition, core and edge, market and gift economies, top-down and bottom-up, productivity and presence, metrics and meaning, social construction and individual sovereignty, conservative and progressive, strategizing and implementing, linearity and non-linear, etc.
Stakeholders explicitly make decisions based on well-harvested project data and rigorous science about matter parsed through the discerned intuitions, heartfelt purpose, and creative imaginations of a rigorously-trained consciousness.
We understand that our global system cannot be recalibrated towards purpose, connection, and life affirmation without a metaphysics that is premised on privileging matter and consciousness equally; and harnessing the collective scientific intelligence and embodied wisdom that the study of each aspect of our one, non-dual, reality has generated. This is a ‘Dual-Aspect Non-Dual’ philosophy, a secular and science-driven spirituality, a metamodern dialogic synthesis of reason/logos and love/mythos.
15. Triple-Loop Learning
Every project is explicitly harnessing as a means to learn, develop, transform, and grow?—?not just as an end in itself?—?across three levels of learning. We courageously and unashamedly seek to identify and transform mismatching assumptions, patterns, and addictions across self, project/enterprise, and system with every action/experiment taken. Whether we are mapping an entire system or synchronizing minute actions around a moment, we are always meta-learning.
We also expect implementation and maintenance to be emergent, with novelty constantly unfolding, in real-time, with every experiment and (triple) learning loop. This means that all have to constantly update and upgrade brands, narratives, documents, goals, habits, protocols, processes, etc., etc. as upgrading ideas arise.
Transformational Leadership Development Programs
We deliver outstanding transformational leadership training designed to ensure your organization can survive and thrive in disrupted, digital, and complex realities.
We offer creative and experiential leadership training—with cutting-edge thinking, empowering and effective tools, brain-based leadership practices, and innovation/transformation fieldwork—aimed to meet your leaders’ real needs and challenges.DISCOVER MORE