• Matt Sykes

Carol Sanford, lessons from a Regen Master

Carol Sanford describes herself as a ‘positive contrarian’. Any of the one hundred people who participated in the ‘Introduction to Regenerative Business’ which Small Giants facilitated this week will know exactly what I mean. Reflecting on the session brings an involuntary smile to my face because I wish I understood the wise words of this Elder better.

As a pioneer of regenerative business and having worked with many Fortune 500 businesses, I get the feeling that Carol is looking on at Melbourne’s purpose-driven business community with some bemusement. I bet there’s a mixture of relief, “thank goodness these people are finally waking up!” as well as a decent dose of scepticism, “gee, they’ve got such a long way to go!”.

What I appreciate most about Carol is the way she makes you aware of your own mind’s projections. Now this might seem abstract but if you’ve been living in isolation for four months, like I have, then you are probably getting to know your own mind’s projections pretty well. The harsh truth is that COVID-19 has presented business leaders with a massive wake up call. In fact, many of us when we’re honest with ourselves actually dreamed of an epic disruption which would take us off our kamikaze path. Here we are.

I could try and distil the essence of Carol’s presentation …

Regenerative business evolves capacity towards essence expression through systems actualisation.

… but unless you’ve been brought up through Indigenous knowledge or you’re a pro on living systems theory, then it might take a while. A layman’s translation is that we have to go into the DNA of our businesses to understand what they truly are and then match them with what she describes as “global imperatives”. Carol may correct me but I’ll go further, it’s kind of like matching the terroir of a dessert wine with a fine dark chocolate.

Put more simply, the biggest take-home message for me was that we need a paradigm shift and that despite amazing initiatives like B Corp and 1% for the Planet, we still have to dig deeper. For the curious at heart, you can catch a 101 on regenerative business from the Master’s podcast here.

I recently finished a book written by an Australian Prisoner of War, Verdun 'Skinny' Walsh, based around his experiences of WW2. In 'Cry Crucify' he describes how after being captured at the fall of Singapore, and then shipped to work in Japanese labour camps, morale amongst his mates was unimaginably low. One of Skinny's lines echoes, ‘Wisdom flies out when Doubt enters the ‘Minds Chambers’.” So, when Carol made the proclamation “Take Risks”, I realised that we have to be prepared to get lost in the dark before we have a chance of finding a way out of our current predicament. As life gets harder in the coming weeks, maybe this 'rite of passage' will bring much-needed wisdom and fresh perspective.

To finish on a lighter note, this week I walked out onto my back deck to find a casualty. One of my pot plants had its top blown off in the wind. After the initial disappointment of wiggling the plant off its base, I realised that there were new shoots coming through. (pictured above)

It gave me hope, Nature always had a plan. Do we just have to learn how to get out its way?

Images: Notes from Carol Sanford's 'Introduction to Regenerative Business'

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