Reflections 4 July

On my mind this week.

One of the joys of slow conversations with interesting people is how ideas and connections creep in unexpectedly. I talked with other people in Originize, including farmers and scientists, about how “regeneration” is steadily replacing “sustainability” as a foundational expression. The difference is vital in my view. Sustainable is “able to be maintained at a certain rate or level“, whilst Regeneration is “the action or process of regenerating or being regenerated.”

I like Regeneration – it feels to have a different intent, more positive and less defensive, and about moving forward and creating rather than staying where we are. But, in the way that seems to happen often, an idea intruded, and we found ourselves talking about the characteristics of regenerative conversation. 

So many of our conversations, particularly in business, are either dialectic – a battle for supremacy and being “right” – or “creative” – often invoking innovation and the search for new, quick and preferably risk-free. These sorts of conversations are undoubtedly sustainable, and indeed, often go on interminably at “a certain rate or level.” 

On the other hand, regenerative conversations deal with working out how to use what we have, have achieved, and learned to bring something new and valuable into the world. They are not about discarding and replacing but about building and recycling, not about the pursuit of the guilty but about identifying what we can do, where we are with what we’ve got. They are not about explosive growth and ambitious goals but around steady, healthy development. It is a decade since Jim Collins released “Great by Choice“, in which he noted that great companies grew in moderation and, over time, ten times faster than their hastier counterparts. Of course, the world is very different from a decade ago. However, I suspect that it is still the case that unhurried companies are having regenerative conversations more than sustainable conversations.

For the past few decades, a lot of money has been made by making things complicated. Lawyers and consultants thrived by making the straightforward complicated and charging to interpret it. For a while, it almost worked with complex, but complex is different. It goes beyond analysis to feelings, senses and intuition and nobody else can feel for us. Employee engagement is complex and change is complex, which is why owners do better than consultants in leading it. When it’s complex, agency matters.

We will hit many more bumps in the road yet, and we cannot plan sustainability in the face of uncertainty, but we can Regenerate.

Perhaps Regeneration sits halfway between defensive sustainability and its more assertive sibling antifragility. Neither defensive nor aggressive, but more altogether more reflective and unhurried. 

I think this is a time for regenerative conversation. (Thanks for triggering this thought, Ciaran.)

Books I’m reading this week.

Gathering Moss. Robin Wall Kimmerer. I loved her previous book, Braiding Sweetgrass, which is both gentle and relaxing, and a call to arms. Nature does Regeneration in ways we have so much to learn from, and her books are beautiful ways of dancing with ideas of how we can.

The Art of Gathering. Priya Parker. Recommended by Sue Heatherington as a reflection on how we can best share and harvest ideas together as we seek to regenerate our businesses, careers and environments.

The Lost Art of Good Conversation. Sakyong Mipham. A re-read of a beautiful reflection on the essence of regenerative conversation.


Wetiko. Some time ago, I read Paul Levy’s “Dispelling Wetiko” on indigenous wisdom regarding why we think the way we do in the West. It was an excellent provocation that stays with me. Then, I saw this article which summarises it well. I hope you get something out of it.

Talking out Loud. To yourself is a valuable aid to thinking. As the author of this article does, doing it in public spaces may be a little extreme for some, but it works. Try it with your dog when out for a walk….

Living Beautifully. Alan Moore’s monthly newsletter is a work of art. A wonderful collection of articles and examples around his passion for beautiful business. Read slowly.

Edward de Bono died this week. A giant of a thinker. This is his obituary from the Guardian.

The Renerative Integrationist. A long name for an interesting podcast. Darren Doherty talking with Charile Arnott.

A quotation that resonates.

“In a world of change, the learners shall inherit the earth, while the learned shall find themselves perfectly suited for a world that no longer exists.”

Eric Hoffer

Have a wonderful week.

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