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Education, Regenerative Principles, Regenerative Supply

by Carol Sanford

A current, prevailing worldview is that everything and everyone can be categorized as a particular type. Each of us—plant, animal, or human—can be classified within a system of limited possibilities. Based on this belief, all of us humans are hungry to know who we are and how we fit into our time and place. We so eagerly want to know what types of lovers, wives, parents, or men we are that when magazines promise us quizzes to sort ourselves out they quickly disappear from newsstands. This helps us identify ourselves, and it may seem to help us understand nature and other beings. But despite its allure, by itself it cannot give us real knowledge. On the other hand, we hate it when we are compared to a specific other person or when our situation is described as a generic example of things as they are. We love the idea that no two snowflakes are alike. We know from genetic science that there are no combinations that repeat. Nature does not create exact duplicates. From microbe to baby deer to human brain, every particular example of each life form is unique. To overcome confusion about the degree or quality of likeness and difference among living beings requires discernment developed over time. It is true that based on surface characteristics, a person, a tiger, or a watershed is not unique and can be identified and categorized according to rating scales similar to the ones we enjoy reading about in magazines. Personality characteristics and personal strengths are easily organized into typologies. Nevertheless, at our cores each of us is singular, and every whole, living being has an essence that is permanent, not an accident of birth, and not the result of socialization. This irreducible reality is captured in the root meaning of essence, which is not to become something, but to be something.

Why Does Essence Matter to Business?

In the business world, we have a firm grasp of differentiation, which is often the basis of branding. A truly great business—one with a long and consistently creative life—goes beyond differentiation to essence or singularity. It becomes aware of its unique identity early on and adheres tenaciousrosely to it over the long-term; it hires to preserve it, develops products and services that express it, and makes it the basis for orientation and development. Singularity is the source of disruptive innovation, and a wise business jealously guards it. Yet even so, a great business often does not express equal understanding of singularity with regard to people and natural systems. In a living system the only lasting and precise way to augment health and wellbeing is to work with the essence of a particular whole—the same way we work when we’re raising a child, governing a city, or growing a brand. For example, when we mistakenly set out to make a child more like an idealized someone else, she quickly loses her identity, which is the source of her intelligence and vitality. The best way to set a child on the wrong track is to tell her to be “more like your father” or “more like your sister.” Advocating or advising from ideals of any kind interrupts essence expression. Ideals arise from societal or cultural aggregations of assumed truths. We form them in order to corral people who seem to be wandering beyond the bounds of accepted society. In other words, we use them to standardize norms, to make people all alike so that we can predict and control their behaviors. The imposition of ideals to for the purpose of dominating is not only characteristic of our relationships with children. We extend it to everything alive. John Mohawk, a tribal elder and a professor at New York University, has said that “ideals are how one culture eradicates another, as the Europeans have come close to doing with the Native People’s of North America.” Within the context of standardized identity, people learn to normalize themselves by mimicking others. In the business world, this can show up as the imitation of products or approaches that belong to other companies’ brands, a symptom of the failure to identify and adhere to singularity. And because we have spent so much time collecting and organizing ideals, standards, best practices, competences, and categories, most of us haven’t learned to recognize and value singularity in any aspect of our own businesses.

Developing the Capability to See Essence

In a regenerative process we look for singularity not in existence, but in potential. I love to suggest that the essence of the IRS is not collecting taxes. That is only a surface. At its founding, the IRS was intended to increase the wealth-producing capacity of citizens and fund the agreed-upon costs of existing as a nation. How would our relationship with the IRS change, if we were able to see through to that essence? How would the IRS work with us if they were able to hold in mind their unique identity? Would the nation ever experience a shortage of revenue? I suggest that every one of us living in the United States would be wealthier and probably happier. It isn’t easy to see the essences of people around us because they are often obscured by the challenges of family, school, and work life. When people are persuaded to conform, their essences are overtaken by personality traits, and the characters they play take center stage, nudging out their true selves. In order to develop the capability to recognize and engage with essence—our own and others’—we must hold it in mind and pursue its living expression in all of our efforts. Every watershed, community, and business has an essence. No two businesses are alike, although at a functional or object level (as with personality in humans), they may share many traits. We may classify types of employee, natures of raw material, categories of business plan, but until we take the time to know people, materials, and systems as their singular selves, we are failing to know and nurture them in the same way we fail to know and nurture a child when we exhort her to be like her father. A regenerative view of the world sees phenomena not only as dynamic, but as singular. That is, instead of categorizing, identifying, and grouping according to what things have in common, a regenerative business always seeks to discern the essence that makes each thing distinctly itself. It accepts and welcomes the realization that each expression of being is one of a kind. This ability to appreciate singularity becomes the basis for deep creativity and motivation, a diametric opposite of the deflating belief that everything has already been seen and done by others before us. It requires constant resistance of the tendency to categorize and pigeon hole. Instead it seeks to see each phenomenon, each customer or retail location or product, as unique and new and deserving of our full presence and attention. Looking to existence, writing down our observations or collecting facts, will not reveal singularity. In order to sniff out essence, we must become trackers and look for it in the same way that native peoples follow the traces of animals who have passed by. Essence becomes apparent in the patterns that are specific to a person, those that reveal how they engage with the world, their purpose in life, the unique value they create as the result of their endeavors. The same is true for the essence of any natural system, community, or organization.

Save the Date: First Annual Regenerative Business Summit. Oct. 18- 20, 2016. From Friday Evening on 18th to Noon on 20th. Seattle WA. At The Foundry by Herban Feast. Get Notified: http://theresponsibleentrepreneurinstitute.us2.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=439c005bd8ef594c613f9ac12&id=672658a825&mc_cid=a18667f95e&mc_eid=[UNIQID]

Carol Sanford is an Educator & Thinking Partner with Game Changing Fortune 500 executives and Rock Star Entrepreneurs for 40 years. Author multi-award winning books The Responsible Business &The Responsible Entrepreneur: Four Game Changing Archetypes for Founders, Leaders & Impact Investors, Top 100 Global Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior. TEDx X4. www.carolsanfordinstitute.com

This article was reposted from the Carol Sanford Institute with permission from the author. The original post can be read here.

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Education, Regenerative Supply

by Carol Sanford

Phase One: Discern a Living Structured Whole and Avoiding “Part” Thinking

How to know if you are doing something else and calling it Regeneration! Last month I began a series of blogs on the concept of Regeneration. The idea of Regeneration has a very long history of practice.  It comes out of the concept of Living Systems Thinking.  Charles Krone, one of the pioneers of Procter and Gamble’s revolutionary work design, developed something called framework-thinking, which promotes the ability to see wholes at work. The one used here, he called Levels of Work, employed by all P&G Soap employees to understand markets, customers and even soap making, as a living process. The Levels of Work framework enables our understanding of the different kinds of work we take on, in business and other activities. Using it well utilizes a hierarchy of work, some with a better return for innovation, some better for problem solving. Each activity requires different natures or work. He called the base of the hierarchy “operational work,” getting things done and done well. The next level is “maintain or sustain,” how to keep something at its highest level of functioning in a changing ecosystem. “System evolution” level increases the capability of a complex system to evolve over time. Finally, “regeneration work” builds the capacity of wholes to, on an ongoing basis, uniquely bring new value from its role and contribution.  All of these levels are needed, but much is lost if we cannot tell where we are, or worse, fool ourselves. I see this happen with innovation often.  The situation required regenerative work, but often used maintain problem solving tools.

The first blog in this series was an overview of the history, including my forty years with the concept, and the etymology of the term Regeneration as an approach to change and health. When one sets out to work Regeneratively, it is with the intention of Leaping-Frog-300x300finding the full potential of some effort, one that will proceed through seven phases of thinking and acting, where each phase builds and interacts with the others. The use of phases instead of stages allows you to revisit as you move along. Phase One is the subject of this blog, which offers a more in-depth look as the first requirement to even begin thinking about working Regeneratively.  You begin with discerning a living structured whole. When my daughter graduated from Swarthmore College, Tim William, now a professor emeritus, granted her a Distinction in Biology. She had refused to dissect animals and insects, still graduating Phi Beta Kappa, and instead studied them in motion, sometimes with imaging equipment. In appreciation of her wisdom, he offered his own relevant experience in the Peace Corps as a teacher in Zimbabwe. He had invited the young village students to capture frogs and bring them back in jars he provided. He proceeded to show them how to kill the frogs with chloroform using his frog. The children froze and then screamed, all running out of the makeshift classroom. Very shortly, the local Chief emerged and asked why he was teaching the children of the village to kill frogs. Tim explained that is was just a necessity of being able to cut them up to be able to understand a frog. The Chief, with a toothless grin, got down in a squat position and began to leap around croaking, in what Tim reported was a very accurate depiction of frog behavior.  When the Chief rose, he said to Tim, “You cannot understand a frog, without a WHOLE frog doing what frogs do.” He made Tim squat and hop and “be” a frog. Smiling broadly as he walked away, the Chief added, “You have to feel the whole frog in motion, to truly understand.” He had also removed the lids and gleefully watched all the frogs hop back into the brush.

What is a Living Structured Whole?

Think of the human body, both literally and metaphorically. You know it is a whole for one reason. It has structures, systems and processes of its own.

  1. It has a self-contained and containing structure. E.g a skeleton.

  2. It has systemic working systems, which order and organize the working of activity inside the Whole. E.g. digestive, elimination, and cardio-vascular systems.

  3. The processes it engages in make use of a self-managing open exchange, rather than a closed one. E.g eating is an exchange with other systems, repeating, always with fresh material. Closed systems always require the importation of energy from an external system. An open process can engage in value-adding or value-extracting processes with its ecosystem.

Other examples of wholes with structures, systems and processes that meet these criteria are a Customer, Earth, a Place, or an Employee. They each have a self-contained and containing structure, systemic working systems to manage the recurring working of the whole, and the processes that manage exchanges and fuel. A Business example: a corporation means “the body of the whole.”  Some business units are wholes with their own structures, systems and processes. A school most often is within the larger school system. It operates independently as a whole within a whole.

Why regeneration requires a structured whole?

It is the structures, systems and processes that get regenerated. If it is not a living system, it cannot be regenerated. For example, a curriculum or programs, which are “part” of processing, can be upgraded or refreshed, but not regenerated.  In another example, our skeleton can be regenerated, which happens after an accident or bone loss. It is done in the context of the whole body if it is really regenerative, with its unique DNA, in that context and age, and is specific to that person. This happens even beyond the physical, one’s spirit when depressed, for example. 


What happens if we don’t start with a whole?

We promote and work from fragmentation like with bones when seen as a “part” of the body, not structuring for a whole. We seek to treat the “parts” as problems in decline and try to stop the decline (i.e. doing not as bad), or we pursue something generically good, which is not matched with the whole that we want to regenerate.  E.g., medicine when it is not holistic, or sustainability approaches when practiced as parts of the whole (water, forests separately). The undeveloped mind collapses to perceiving parts. We have to learn to see wholes. In business, it leads to having someone supervise all the parts to bring them together. In medicine, we see one specialist after another for different parts of a subsystem.

How do you discern a whole?  How can you avoid fragmentation?

Medicine has been moving toward a holistic view of human health in many quarters.  This means working less to find solutions for symptoms and working to see what health creation might look like for the whole human being. How do we work from what makes systems healthy, like the cardiovascular systems, metabolic systems, and circulatory systems, in the context of the whole in which they are nested? Otherwise, it is working with the “parts of a cut up frog” to understand a living frog. It cannot be understood if it can no longer jump and croak.  What makes the “being” healthy as a whole, working to create vital structures and systems at the same time through regulation of the processes the person engages in. Fragmentation tends to be our default, and it is often hard to break the habit from out training.  Here are some hints

Use a living systems framework that evokes questions that helps us understand the working of a particular “whole.” E.g. the Levels of Work Framework I used to create this blog and many other works. A Framework is not the same thing as a model that shows how to replicate an existing pattern. It can be First Principles, like in classical and quantum physics. Frameworks invite the generation of a pattern, in this time and space, rather than follow a preset pattern. We need models for building airplanes, but not businesses, ecosystems or families. A systems framework is a mechanism for questions rather than answers.

For example, all my books are written with a living system framework. The Responsible Business uses a pentad, a five-term framework for looking at an ecosystem’s vitality, viability and evolution. It invites you to use it as a system rather than divided “parts” of the system . The understanding is not the same from one time to another. Rethinking can invite a higher quality of thinking and energy. It shows the connections and relationships. 1. Examine the characteristics of a Whole:

  1. Ask what structures it contains, as a being or entity.  Not all structures are living systems. Neither a ladder nor a building is living.

  2. What are the systemic systems that keep its life in order?

  3. What does it exchange with other systems? Are its processes only internal ones or exchange ones? Living processes promote exchange.

Avoid:

  1. Lists! – A quick clue you do not have a “whole.”

  2. Functions of a whole, like marketing in a business.

A major challenge of our times is the development of a mind that can see wholes and their working, thus overcoming fragmentation of mind and then fragmented initiative on living beings, like Earth. The next blog is #3, How to See Something Alive and Working Without Cutting It Up Into Fragments Through Dissection.  Once you have a whole frog, how do you understand its working?

Save the Date: First Annual Regenerative Business Summit.  Oct. 18- 20, 2016. From Friday Evening on 18th to Noon on 20th.  Seattle WA. At The Foundry by Herban Feast.
Get Notified: http://theresponsibleentrepreneurinstitute.us2.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=439c005bd8ef594c613f9ac12&id=672658a825&mc_cid=a18667f95e&mc_eid=[UNIQID]

Carol Sanford is an Educator & Thinking Partner with Game Changing Fortune 500 executives and Rock Star Entrepreneurs for 40 years. Author multi-award winning books The Responsible Business &The Responsible Entrepreneur: Four Game Changing Archetypes for Founders, Leaders & Impact Investors, Top 100 Global Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior. TEDx X4. www.carolsanfordInstitute.com/.

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