Flourishing future-fit business requires us to go beyond the surface and symptomatic into transforming mind-sets at deep and partly unconscious levels.
Since the industrial revolution, we have achieved great feats of economic, social and technological advancement for which we can be proud. The structures and strictures of old have served us well in many material ways. But times they are a changin’. We now face increasing volatility: enter the world of commodity spikes, resource scarcity, environmental destruction, social inequality, economic turbulence, population and migrant pressure, changing demographics, the internet of things, climate change, and more.
We all know that at one level our current business paradigm has created wealth and yet has also exacerbated the imbalances, tensions and volatility we face today. We also know that the business models and management approaches that served us well in the past are no longer fit for organisations wishing to not just survive but thrive in 2020 and beyond.
Conferences, think-tanks, research papers, workshops, forums and expert roundtables across the globe are exploring the implications these challenges have on how we operate and organise. Yet, in well-intended desire to find solutions, we all-too-often find ourselves caught up in the very mind-set that contributed to problems in the first place. We address our sea of challenges at face-value and in largely silo’ed and reductive ways, skimming over the deeper inter-relational corruptions these problems are symptomatic of.
Whether it’s the shift to more purposeful business, dealing with the Millennial Age, CSR, or wellbeing-at-work, what lies beneath many of these initiatives is a deeper underlying metamorphosis of epic proportions. The more conscious we communicators, change agents, cultural catalysts and leaders are of the tectonic shifts these surface waves are symptomatic of, the more successful and capable we will be in redesigning for resilience.
Let’s take a step back and pause for a moment in our hectic schedules, breathe deep and really tune-in to how these different aspects are all part-and-parcel of something epic emerging within each of us, our teams and organisations. Here are just two of these ‘symptoms’- CSR and Wellbeing-at-work:
Sustainability/CSR: on the surface, this is about being more efficient, effective, responsible and future-fit in a volatile world of finite resources precariously pressed up against natural limits. Yet as we seriously get to grips with this, we begin to reveal a deep-seated need to shift from ‘take-make-waste’ linearity to ‘regenerative’ ways of creating and delivering value. This shift prompts us to ask the question: Are we simply in the business of creating value for our selves at the expense of others or can we move beyond merely reducing negative impact towards contributing positively to the wider fabric of life? We begin to challenge status-quo assumptions and realise that we can (and must) do things differently. Take-make-waste linearity and its extractive, reductive logic typified by trade-offs, separation and exploitation begins to be exposed for what it is - an out-dated worldview which we have to snap out of. With this, begins a deeper philosophical (yet no less practical) inquiry into our sense of place and purpose within this world.
‘Too many people think in terms of trade-off, that if you do something which is good for you it must be bad for someone else. That’s not right; it comes from an old way of thinking about how the world works... We have to snap out of that old thinking and move to a new model.’ – Paul Polman, CEO Unilever
Mindfulness/Wellbeing-at-work: on the surface, this is about stress reduction and morale boosting; it’s about ensuring the workforce is healthier mentally and emotionally, and so more creative, resourceful and resilient. Yet as we engage ourselves in wellbeing practices, we begin to realise the detrimental effect of an overly extractive and domineering ‘ego-awareness’. We come face-to-face with our own masks, acculturations and narrowed-down perceptions of ‘self’ as separate from and in competition with the world around us. And with proper practice, we can start to transcend these masks, enriching our ‘ego-awareness’ with a more soulful consciousness that beckons us to ask the question: What is my soul calling? With this comes a conscious shift away from an essentially Social Darwinist dog-eat-dog, dominate or be dominated, individualistic worldview towards wider vistas of how life really is beyond the narrowing confines of our overly dominant ego-awareness. Our soul-calling prompts a quest, a voyage of self-discovery in becoming more fully human, and in the process, more in harmony with life.
‘Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic selfhood. As we do so, we will not only find joy – we will also find our path of authentic service in the world’ - Parker J Palmer, leadership specialist
There is a profound shift underway in our mythos and logos, transforming the cultural narratives that inform our ways of operating and organising. Deep and complex influences within our own psyche, our collective consciousness and in the structures pervading our organisations are being challenged to radically reshape. As communicators and catalysts we can help foster meaningful conversations by creating space and time for ourselves and others to go deeper beyond the superficial. But the real work is our own personal embarkation upon a quest of ‘becoming human’: getting in touch with our truer nature and deeper self. Only then will we be able to help catalyse lasting transformation in our teams, workspaces, organisations and stakeholder ecosystems.
‘We cannot do great things; we can only do small things with great love.’ - Mother Teresa
Let’s start to listen to what is emerging within us, within our teams and stakeholder groups. Let’s start to reveal ourselves by removing our masks and embracing our vulnerability with courage, while engendering trust in our teams. This is the front-line of conscious communications beyond projections, where we truly commune with each other soul-to-soul through small steps of love.
As Morpheus said in the film The Matrix, ‘there is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path’. It’s time for each of us to take personal responsibility for the quality and authenticity of our communication, to self-sense how deeply we are connecting with our selves and others as we go about our daily business. Now is a great time to become who we were born to be.