Each generation experiences significant change due to innovations, disruptions and shifting perspectives transforming our ways of operating and organising in business and beyond.
Each generation experiences significant change due to innovations, disruptions and shifting perspectives transforming our ways of operating and organising in business and beyond. Yet, the times in which we live herald paradigmic and metamorphic shifts, challenging what we do and the way we do it, calling into question our sense of purpose, and demanding wholly new ways of creating and delivering value.
More than half the world’s population is now younger than 30 years old. Two generations have now grown up with the internet. It doesn’t take a degree in anthropology to notice that the world is very different today than it was 30 years ago.
Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles; Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content; Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory; Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation-provider, owns no real estate. The institutional and ownership powers of old are being challenged by the empowering effect of the network.
Yet, too many of today’s organisations find themselves caught up in a top-down, hierarchic, KPI-obsessed, siloed, control-based, defensive and reactive fire-fighting mind-set, seriously undermining their ability to leverage the empowering effect of the network and their capacity to creatively flourish in these transformational times.
Let’s be honest, much of our current management logic erodes the greatness of our workplaces, turning them into places of drudgery, stress, political infighting and ineffective bureaucracies. This monocultural mechanistic mentality stifles the natural creativity, innovation, collaboration, reciprocity, conviviality and empathy we humans exude when allowed to be our natural selves.
There is good news: the shift in logic starting to birth in our organisations is nothing more than an opening up to who we naturally are; emancipation from what has become an enslaving logic.
CROSSING THE THRESHOLD
Mechanistic to - Living
Linear - Inter-relational
Dominator - Partner
Power over - Power with
Trade-offs - Synergies
Dog-eat-dog competition - Collaboration across boundaries
Short-termism - Inter-generational
Exclusive - Inclusive
Ego - Soul
Anthropocentric - More-than-human world
The future of business is regenerative business
The word ‘regenerative’ means creating the conditions conducive for life, to continuously renew and flourish; it is a shift from mechanistic logic to living-systems logic. Regenerative is the primary principle underpinning our firms of the future, where organisations help rather than hinder the evolutionary dynamic of life. This goes beyond traditional CSR initiatives as it is not primarily aimed at reducing negative impacts or ‘externalities’ created by the current mind-set; rather, it is a move to an entirely new mind-set, a ‘new way’ of being and doing in business and beyond.
With this regenerative logic: externalities become opportunities for additional value creation; waste of one output becomes food for another; stakeholders become partners to engage with through authentic communications and reciprocating relations; linear-thinking is replaced with systems-thinking and circular economics; resources are not simply managed and controlled for short-term gain but perceived holistically in the wider context of the inter-relational matrix of life. We re-train ourselves to think ‘out-of-the-box’, transcending the rigid framing of yesterday’s logic, in fact ‘the box’ is no longer there at all, being replaced with interconnecting patterns of relations, where differing stakeholder perspectives and shifting contexts are appreciated for the diverse perspectives they provide while prototyping richer ways of creating and delivering value.
Whatever the sector or size there are examples of organisations embarking this shift; for instance, supermarket Thornton’s Budgens, on-line retailer Zappos, chemicals manufacturer Scott Bader, multi-media company Sounds True, Gore-Tex manufacturers Gore & Associates, design company Ideo, health provider Buurtzorg, theglobal network of social-enterprise community centers Impact Hub, to name a few.
Firm of the Past Firm of the Future
Top-down hierarchy - Locally-attuned
Controlling ethos - Learning ethos
Remote management by numbers - Distributed decision-making
Bureaucratic - Participatory and self-organizing
Short-term maximisation for shareholders - Value-creation for stakeholders
Competition-orientated - Collaboration and co-creativity
Private ownership and control - Open-source open-innovation
Self-preservation/maximisation - In service of Life
Exploitation and enslavement - Empathy and empowerment
Extractive - Regenerative
In my latest book Future Fit specific qualities essential for forming our firms of the future are referred to as ‘ways of doing’ underpinned and infused by ‘ways of being’, all framed with examples, tools and techniques to help us transform today.
The ‘ways of doing’ for our firms of the future are: resilient, optimising, adaptive, systems-based, values-led, and life-supporting. The ‘ways of being’ are: stillness, self-organising, small steps, social, synchronicity and soulful.
Combined, these qualities ensure our organisations create the regenerative business conditions conducive for life: collaboration, adaptability, creativity, local attunement, multi-functionality and responsiveness; hence, enhancing the evolution of organisations from rigid, tightly managed hierarchies to dynamic living organisations which thrive within ever-changing socio-economic and environmental conditions.