The following is an excerpt from The RE Generation: Sowing Seeds for a Future of Reimagination, Reconnection, and Regeneration, by Jack Uldrich and Camille Kolles, available on June 28, 2022 from Greenleaf Book Group.
THE RISE OF GENERATION RE
“We are creating the future every day by what we choose to do.”
— MARGARET WHEATLEY
The world is changing. Old ways are dying, and a new world is being born. It’s clear existing social and economic practices no longer produce the outcomes they once did, and stepping into this breach are untold numbers of creators implementing powerful new visions for a better world.
Many have been toiling to transform the world of business for decades. Some have embraced the ideals of conscious capitalism; others have dedicated their lives as social entrepreneurs seeking to solve social and environmental issues through business. Businesses have incorporated or reincorporated as public benefit corporations, including one or more public benefits right into their mission, while other businesses are rising to meet the standards of B Corp certification. Still other businesses and individuals are turning to impact investing, seeking to create significant value for investors and society as a whole. These are but a few of the many ways that attention to human values is emerging as vital to the future of business — and, frankly, the future of humanity.
Together, these individuals, businesses, and organizations are laying the foundations of a better, bolder, and more beautiful world. We call this collective human energy and those who embrace it Generation Re. This is a generation defined not by age but by ethos — an ethos of regeneration, rooted in the reunion of heart, spirit, and mind.
The ethos of Generation Re is consistent with aspirations to integrate the inner world of heart and spirit with the outer world of work and service. It represents a long-awaited reunion of the outer world with what is essential to the human spirit: the health of our mind, spirit, and physical body; considerations of love, compassion, forgiveness, empathy, and benevolence; and awareness of our interconnectedness to one another and the planet.
Recognizing business as a key shaper of society, Generation Re takes seriously the responsibility and power inherent in business to create a better world for all people. Moving beyond dominant paradigms of business as usual, Generation Re shifts into a new gear of daily intention that prioritizes and supports the spark of human connection and our deep need for making meaning and gives voice to the needs of our ailing planet. Members of Generation Re are living and working their way into an evolutionary paradigm shift — a shift in attention and intention from a primary value of doing to a primary value of being. Generation Re triumphs over the human tendency toward apathy, complacency, fear, or an attitude of “we’ve always done it this way” and is reinvigorating the human spirit as an active, uncompromising force for good in the world.
Five core themes are present in members of Generation Re:
- Reuniting minds, hearts, and spirits
- Reimagining business, capitalism, and the world anew
- Reexamining long-held assumptions, ineffective habits, and outdated beliefs
- Reframing old problems in creative new ways
- Redesigning for greater connection, in service to matters of ultimate concern for the health of one another and the planet
These Re aspirations, intentions, and skill sets create an overall spirit of regeneration, which is nudging us in the direction of a healthier, more inclusive, and more holistic world — and future. As Ernest Hemingway once wrote of another life-altering change, it happens “gradually, then suddenly.” This transition from a primary focus on profit toward the integration of profit with larger arcs of meaning has been happening gradually, but now, it is poised to occur suddenly.
“Organizations are not machines incessantly in need of repair, but instead are mysteries and miracles of human relatedness; they are living systems, webs of infinite strength and limitless human imagination.”
— COOPERRIDER & SRIVASTVA
Business is a central locus of power in the world. The business ecosystem affects nearly every aspect of our lives, from birth to death and everything in between. Because of its pervasiveness, business has within it the power to positively affect and potentially transform our experience of everyday living. It has the power to either support or diminish the values we hold and cherish most deeply and the capacity to quite literally make or break the human spirit. In these ways, business holds one of the greatest keys to large-scale positive transformation.
We invite you to keep an open mind and an open heart about the great possibilities inherent in every aspect of the business ecosystem as we document how a number of businesses — both small and large — as well as individual business leaders, entrepreneurs, and social innovators, are rehumanizing business. We will introduce concepts that may seem incongruent with business. That’s the point. We want to help build a bridge to a new way of thinking and being that is not only possible but also necessary for a thriving future, in which every business decision is based on larger human meaning and purpose.
For too long, business has operated as if it is a separate world from our personal life. As a result, this so-called outer world of business has been separated from the values we hold most deeply in our inner lives — love, compassion, empathy, and other qualities arising from the heart and spirit.
This is not just a fluffy fairy tale for wishful thinkers. Meaning and purpose in daily work are being demanded by younger generations. Humans’ conscious awareness has evolved to the point where many of us no longer wish to live a life divided between outer work and the values most cherished in the human heart.
To this end, we invite you to open your heart and mind to 4
the monumental task of reuniting what never should have been separated in the first place — mind and heart, the material and the spiritual, humans and nature. We also invite you into the vital and energizing space of reimagining the future, and we will explore the role of reexamining our assumptions, habits, biases, and beliefs, as well as how Generation Re is employing this skill to great effect. We discuss the important work of reframing and of helping others see that creating deep change toward a better future is not something to be feared or attacked but, rather, an opportunity to be embraced. Once they have been embraced, the challenging work of redesigning a radically more beautiful future lies ahead. Finally, we’ll illustrate how redesigning for interconnection can bring us closer to ourselves, our community, future generations, and the planet.
METAPHORS, STORIES, AND BUILDING SKILLS
“A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at.”
— OSCAR WILDE
At times, our discussion may resemble a grab bag of ideas ranging in nature from the purely practical to the audaciously aspirational. This range is intentional, in hopes of laying down steps that contribute to an increasingly traversed pathway of navigation between business and the heart. It is offered with gratitude to members of Generation Re for lighting up the world with possibility and illuminating multiple points of entry from which to join in their efforts and ethos.
No one has a map to this unknown world of the future, but leaders are called to boldly and courageously proceed into the future, for which few answers presently exist. Therefore, we will rely on metaphors, stories, quotes, poetry, and suggested insights for building skills in the hopes of inspiring you to take an active role in this emerging future.
The idea of using metaphors as maps is actually an ancient idea. Prior to the creation of the world’s first navigational maps and atlases, maps did exist, but they did not serve the same function and purpose as maps do today. Rather than navigational, they were a medium designed to help people understand their place in the world by using history, myth, anthropology, scripture, and spirituality.
The T-O map (orbis terrarum) in figure 0.1 is one of the world’s earliest known maps. The T represents the waters separating the then known continents of the world — Asia, Europe, and Africa — while the O encircling the entire image reflects the idea during this period that the world was surrounded by water.
Unlike modern maps, the T-O map was less concerned with accurately measuring the physical world and more concerned with helping people find their place in a world of shared meaning. In this sense, the map was telling people a story. We seek to do the same: We profile only a small fraction of the many extraordinary individuals, businesses, organizations, and institutions operating from a Re ethos, but through them, we attempt to tell a story and a vision of greater meaning.
And just as the ancient T-O map was arguably more ambitious in its intentions than a navigational map, we aim in this book to animate a new, larger story, full of possibility, that inspires, galvanizes, and equips readers to find their own way to join the ethos of those who are birthing a regenerative future.
“There is another world but it is in this one.”
— W. B. YEATS
How do you begin to reimagine and redesign a regenerative world? Let’s begin by considering the humble caterpillar. Caterpillars go through metamorphosis to become butterflies, but the more granular process of metamorphosis serves as a wonderful metaphor for incubating our collective future.
Inside every caterpillar is something known as imaginal cells, which can be thought of as the seeds of future potential. The cells contain the blueprint of the butterfly, as well as the source code for future regeneration.
The imaginal cells initially operate independently, as single-cell organisms and, in the beginning, are perceived as a threat by the caterpillar. They are attacked by its immune system. At this stage, it appears as though the caterpillar will consume itself and turn into organic ooze.
But this isn’t what happens. The imaginal cells persist, grow, multiply, and begin communicating with one another. This communication establishes the beginning of a network that serves to draw new cells into the transformative process. This creates a positive feedback loop that forms an even larger, stronger, more cooperative network and, in turn, draws in ever more cells.
A tipping point soon occurs, and out of this ooze emerges a beautiful butterfly — a creature utterly unlike the caterpillar. Although the transformation is miraculous in and of itself, even more astonishing is this: All of the components of the butterfly were always present in the caterpillar. They just needed to be shown that a different possibility existed.
We encourage you to consider the individuals, businesses, corporations, and organizations profiled in the book as analogous to the original imaginal cells in a caterpillar. Often operating under the radar, they are nonetheless incubating, creating, and fostering blueprints for conducting business in ways that support the needs of the human spirit, laying the foundation for a radically more beautiful future.
We share their blueprints in the form of stories, with the hope that you will be drawn into the ethos of this growing network and will be inspired — with a united heart and mind — to join in hastening the transformations.
SHIFTS IN WORLDVIEW
Copernicus ushered in a paradigm shift of epic proportions by altering humankind’s belief that Earth was at the center of the universe. This Copernican revolution shook powerful institutions in demonstrating that long-held assumptions could be inaccurate.
Throughout this book, members of Generation Re demonstrate how a spirit dedicated to higher ideals can overturn stubborn, long-held beliefs no longer useful and can reconnect business to the human ideals that make life worth living. Renewing your dedication to higher ideals involves altering your perception of what’s possible and questioning often unconscious assumptions, including ideas about reality itself.
As you contemplate how these descriptions of Generation Re fit into your own mental framework, take a look at the card in figure 0.2. At first glance, the visual might not strike you as unusual but, after a short time, it should become evident that the card does not abide by traditional rules: It is a black diamond.
Perhaps you did not immediately pick up on this odd discrepancy because you easily slotted the visual into an old belief system. That is, you either thought it was a black club or spade without noticing it was a diamond, or you thought it was a spade without noticing it was the wrong color.
Likewise, it may be easy to place Generation Re into a pre-existing category, but we suggest it may be more fruitful to see its ethos as a powerful collection of emerging human energies seeking to rejoin long-separated divisions of heart and mind — a reunion that will, in time, overturn current thinking that no longer serves humanity.
“As idiotic as optimism may seem it has a weird way of paying off.”
— MICHAEL LEWIS
As you read, we invite you to consider your own insights in integrating factors related to business decision-making and matters that are essential to the human spirit. Perhaps you are already Re-ing and may discover in reading the profiles an even greater fearlessness and enthusiasm within yourself for forging new ground. Perhaps you have considered your own sense of dividedness and will find comfort in knowing there’s a movement afoot that seeks to reunite this fragmentation. Perhaps you know in your heart that business has tremendous power to transform the world if it can only reach more deeply into the wellsprings of hopes, dreams, and ideals that nourish every living thing. Whatever the case, we hope you uncover aspirations that embolden you to join in the ethos of Generation Re.
As fellow travelers, we see our role as permissionaries, granting the reader permission to transcend cynicism and the way things have always been done. We are tasked with encouraging you to follow a deeper calling toward an integration of head and heart. The biggest mistake cynics and pessimists make is that they mistake their isms for realism. The only people who have created a better future are those who believed they could.
We will also make the argument that individuals and businesses that don’t reimagine, reconnect, and renew themselves, their businesses, their communities, and the planet will not only miss a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reform the world, but they may also find themselves out of business.
Why? First, companies hewing to business as usual won’t be able to attract the type of creative, compassionate, empathetic, imaginative, and wise employees who are capable of bringing this new regenerative future into existence. If this higher purpose isn’t already baked into your organization’s vision and mission, you are unlikely to find Generation Re recruits. Second, many businesses will be rendered obsolete because forward-looking customers embracing the ethos of Generation Re won’t want to do business with those who aren’t helping create the type of future the customer desires. And finally, current business-as-usual practices are not compatible with the natural laws of a regenerative organism.
KOKORO: THE CONVERGENCE OF MIND, HEART, AND SPIRIT
“The institutions and leaders who understand the power of our spiritset and the infinite potential that it offers will be the ones to survive and flourish in increasingly challenging times.”
— JOHN HAGEL, former cochair, Deloitte’s Center for the Edge
Generation Re possesses a characteristic that is difficult to name because no phrase in English adequately captures its holistic nature. John Hagel, cochair of Deloitte’s Center for the Edge, has written about mindset, heartset, and spiritset, which hint at it. But the word that comes closest is the Japanese kokoro, which refers to a union of mind, heart, and spirit.
In the Western worldview, people tend to speak of each of these things separately and, sometimes, even collectively (as in “the mind and the heart and the spirit”) but not as an integrated whole. The beauty of kokoro is that it dispenses with the word and, potentially providing an opening for business leaders and others to wrestle with the seemingly disparate concerns of these three realms. But the barriers between these three realms are more tenuous than we have been led to believe, and their effective dismantling is key to freeing the world of business to grow to its greatest potential.
It is a cliché to say that you must change yourself before you can change others, much less change the future, but there is great truth to this, and for this reason we begin with the notion of reuniting within ourselves.