We are living through a metamorphic moment, the very point at which a four hundred year old Age is dying and another is struggling to be born. This evolutionary breakdown/breakthrough ushers in a wholesale reconfiguration of commercial life, a new world of work, and a reinvention of the organization. No one really knows how long this metamorphic time will go on for – years, perhaps decades. The only certainty is that things will become increasingly unsettled over the next few years.

Our organizations behave as complex adaptive systems. When complex adaptive systems evolve from one phase-state to the next they begin to flicker between the old and new states before settling into a new-norm. This flickering between old and new behaviours creates anxiety and uncomfortable dissonance in us individually and collectively. Yet with courage and practice the new behaviours start to create new habits and we begin to navigate the uncomfortable uncertainty with a deeper sense of rightness.  This challenges us inwardly as we uncover more of who we truly are, and challenges us outwardly as we learn to sense-respond in more authentic, participative and regenerative ways. This sense-respond dynamic provides the developmental-emergent-evolutionary DEE capacity for the leader, leadership team, organization and ecosystem of stakeholders to become agile enough to adapt and even thrive through this flickering phase-change.

The next few years are formative for pioneering organizations seeking to become regenerative businesses. Old machine-like tendencies become more obviously out-of-kilter with the vitality of the living-organization. When we find ourselves flickering backward through old habitual control-manage reactivity, we also notice how this undermines future-fitness around us in our relationality, and also within us as we start to force and push rather than flex and flow. Inner-nature and outer-nature inform each other as we flicker forward into Leading by Nature. When flickering backward, we notice a downward spiral of rising dissonance, reduced ability to listen and sense, more stress and strain, less creativity and adaptability. 

This metamorphic moment offers rich chances to place new steps of change by becoming more in-flow inside ourselves while finding flow with the evolutionary potential of the living-organization. Tough times demand true leadership.

In Leading by Nature, we learn to notice how the inner-dimension of self-awareness informs and relates with the outer-dimension of systemic-awareness. Inner-nature and outer-nature inform each other. This cultivation of our inner-outer nature deepens how we participate within the systemic dynamics of the living-organization which too has an inner-dimension (its developmental-emergent-evolutionary DEE culture, relational energy patterns and purposefulness) and outer-dimension (its brand, value propositions, and stakeholder relationships). 

In learning to listen to the nature of the living-organization and our own bodymind, we sense our way through this death-rebirth metamorphic moment. Just as an expectant mother in labour can sense when to push through a contraction and when to breathe deep and relax.


Because of the ever widening and deepening systemic challenges every organization faces today, organizational future-fitness needs to be life-affirming by seeking futures that enable all interdependent stakeholders to thrive. Does this mean the breadth of focus expands so much to include the entire world and all its myriad challenges? While we intuit the interdependence of everything, we still need to focus on purposefulness of the organization in terms of how it shows-up amid this interdependence. What’s its impact both locally and globally? We can’t do something life-affirming over here to off-set something life-denying over there.  Organizational impacts are both ‘inner’ and ‘outer’: inner impacts – people’s wellbeing and developmental growth in the workplace; outer impacts – value propositions, stakeholder relations and value-chain footprints. Future-fitness is not simply about reducing our negative inner-outer impact, it’s about creatively exploring how to enable inner-outer flourishing. One is not born into this world with the self-limiting purpose of solely trying to minimize our negativity, but rather to creatively contribute to life’s flourishing in some way.

This speaks to the important shift from ‘sustainability’ (measuring, monitoring, controlling and reducing negative impacts) to ‘regenerative’ (creating life-affirming outcomes that enhance flourishing for all concerned, including local communities, wider society and the interconnected fabric of life on Earth). While sustainable business is an important part of the leader and organization becoming more conscious, it can often invoke incrementalism in tweaking the existing business model through ‘the business case for sustainability’. Regenerative business invokes a transformational journey across strategy, operations, culture and stakeholder relationships.  In this day-and-age we simply can’t be a future-fit business without embarking upon the journey toward regenerative business, as anything less undermines life and the Earth’s capacity to support humanity’s thriveability, and therefore undermines the organization, its customers, employees, suppliers and investors capacity to live into life-affirming futures.  The very future of humanity is at stake, not to mention much of the biodiversity of life on Earth. If the organization is not preparing to embark on the inner-outer regenerative journey, then it’s not taking future-fitness seriously enough and its leaders ought to question themselves and their motives.

Future-fitness is not survival-orientated (coping, reacting, holding-on) but thrival-orientated (creating, learning, evolving). Becoming future-fit is a creative and collaborative venture of working on oneself (self-awareness-in-action) and sensing-responding with others (systemic-awareness-in-action) by working with our own deeper-nature within us and the wisdom of living-systems all round us: Leading by Nature through inner-outer nature attunement. This involves us really listening, sensing and sharing with others to creatively explore and empathically understand the tensions of challenges and opportunities. As well as sensing what is arising in the moment, we are also continually scanning the unfolding landscape and learning to ‘read’ the emerging future, responding unfolding systemic dynamics and their patterns of behaviour, while identifying potential opportunities and challenges that may lie ahead. This calls for working in self-organizing, locally-attuning ways continually presencing, prototyping and future-scenario planning without the need for top-down bureaucracy. Rather than today’s all-to-consuming head-based analytic focus on data-upon-data, sliced-and-diced on slide-after-slide of power-point decks first thing on a Monday, which provides insight on past behaviour and of some limited use for future-sensing, instead we transcend-and-include this overly rational-analytic focus with a more rational-intuitive-felt-sense of how the system adapts in-the-moment, while anticipating the future. Yes, the slide-decks and data analytics are still useful, yet we draw-upon a wider repertoire of ‘warm-data’ about how the living-organization is behaving, adapting and evolving amid its ever-changing context.

Metamorphic Shift for Future Fit Business

What is the emerging future of this metamorphic time we are in? No one really knows. Yet we can notice what’s dying – the Industrial/Commodity Age – and what’s birthing – the Internet of Things (IoT) /Collaborative Age. The economist Jeremy Rifkin predicts that within less than three decades the Collaborative Age will be the primary arbiter of economic life in most of the world. For Rifkin, this new Age brings a social entrepreneurialism that is more interactive and participatory, less exploitative of nature and more dedicated to the stewardship of all life on Earth than the commodity-based capitalist entrepreneurialism rife today.  This rise in social entrepreneurialism, he suggests, is transforming the human journey from an economy of scarcity to an economy of sustainable abundance. Social producers and community co-creators engage in new types of value creation freed from the constraints of the capitalist marketplace.

In the still dominant yet dying Commodity Age, business is based on the transactional buy-sell exchange. In the newly birthing Collaborative Age business is based on the collaborative exchange itself i.e. the value-proposition becomes embedded within the social exchange. This means business derives from relations rather than transactions.  

The rapid proliferation of sharing and bartering platforms is an aspect of this spawning Collaborative Age, as are peer-to-peer sharing schemes like car-sharing, and massive open on-line courses (MOOCs). Platforms for sharing goods and services of all kinds are flourishing around the world at an exponential rate.  So are social media communities where people relate through social exchanges rather than buy-sell transactions. More often, the value we attribute to such social exchanges is not limited to the price tag on the good or service.  The age-old mindset that people are simply self-interested economic actors is starting to be seen for what it is: a gross oversimplification of human nature.

Over the next few years, while the old Commodity Age and new Collaborative Age live alongside each other, hybrid approaches spawn. Sometimes social sharing is commodified into the capitalist marketplace, an example being Facebook. Sometimes capitalist entrepreneurs work alongside social entrepreneurs in growing for-purpose ventures, such as: B-Corps attracting socially and environmentally conscious investment; breakthroughs in 3D printing and renewable energy systems enabled through a blend of public, private and non-profit forces; sustainable cities engaging consortia of diverse public-private partnerships to deliver a blend of social services, community provision and commercial initiatives. Organizations best able to work with diverse stakeholder drivers will be best able to navigate this in-between-age.  

The IoT has significantly lowered market-entry costs as new entrants can provide products and services with relative ease over the internet regardless of brand, heritage or track-record. This means one of two things: either the organization seeks to out-compete lower cost rivals in a race-to-the-bottom on price and commodification, providing ever-cheaper product features to meet consumer needs; or the organization seeks to differentiate and integrate their value proposition in a shift from off-the-shelf product to customised product to service provision to community participation. There is no reason why an organization can’t attend to both these strategies at the same time, racing-to-the-bottom on some product lines while transforming others into services and even participatory communities. Though for many organizations the purpose, brand and customer-base may dictate the pathway.

This morphs the nature of the relationships between the organization and its stakeholder ecosystem of customers, suppliers, partners, wholesalers, social media ambassadors, influencers, subject matter experts, and more. Even the relationship with competitors may morph as communities become entangled, with old-time competitors now collaborating across the same communities.  No longer are touchpoints transactional and linear in nature, they become emergent multi-faceted participatory exchanges. Point-of-sale is just another touch-point on the ever-unfolding journey of community participation.

Welcome to the life of the living-organization unshackled from mechanistic linearity. Nature rarely does straight lines for good reason. In nature, complex inter-relationality enables future-fitness. The regenerative (and degenerative) influence the organization may have on community participation is seismic, hence the importance of being-the-change-we-wish-to-see in the world by deepening the inner-outer nature of the living-organization, and ourselves as leaders.  The authenticity of the living-organization and its brand becomes increasingly more transparent and important as it informs the trust established across these intertwined networks of relations. This is the future of business being born on our watch across marketplaces, cities, social media communities and local neighbourhoods.

What does this all mean for the leader and organization?  Yes, things are more complex, yet this increased connectivity across diverse stakeholder communities brings anti-fragility and opportunity as well as greater purposeful impact. The focus shifts from controlling the linear value-chain to sensing the relationality of the value-web and ever-evolving community. This requires openness to partnering with a variety of diverse stakeholders with differing drivers. One size can’t fit all. Standardized procurement methods and long-winded contractual agreements constrain rather than enable. Fluidity of connectivity calls for creative partnering where shared intention, purpose and values influence us more than predefined control mechanisms. Again, the sweet-spot of divergence and convergence plays out here – convergence around shared intent and agreed rules of engagement counter-weight the divergence of morphing value-exchanges and the freedom for creativity and participation across the community in unconstrained yet purposefully-aligned ways.

This therefore means:

The leader needs to be more open to learning, adapting and morphing – i.e. more Developmental-Emergent-Evolutionary (DEE)

The organization needs to be more open to learning, adapting and morphing – i.e. more Developmental-Emergent-Evolutionary (DEE)

For more on the 5’E’s of Regenerative Business: Essence, Energy, Emergence, Evolutionary, Enthusiam – see my recent blog article here.

In cultivating DEE conditions we create organizational spaces that can hold these tensions while welcoming-in our whole selves to work, where we learn, grow, explore and experience together. Entrepreneurial energy is focused on aspirations that align individual purpose with organizational purpose and this releases extraordinary creativity and relational energy across the living-organization and its wider ecosystem.

Through playing with divergence-convergence we allow this creative energy to flow into the emergence of initiatives that benefit the wider community of stakeholders. As organizational system scientist Peter Senge notes, ‘The vast changes required for creating a regenerative society will not be achieved just by reacting to crises after they arise. They will require inspiration, aspiration, imagination, patience, perseverance and no small amount of humility. They will require networks of committed people and organizations who not only learn how to see the systems shaping how things are now, but also create alternatives. People creating together work in different ways. They are anchored in the future rather than in the past, drawn-forward by images of what they truly want to see exist in the world. They learn how to work with a distinctive source of energy that animates the creative process, the creative tension that exists whenever a genuine vision exists in concert with people telling the truth about what exists now. They learn how to let-go of having to have everything worked out and in advance and to step forth with boldness into immense uncertainty. And they learn that tapping these capacities cannot be achieved without people being who they truly are and learning how to integrate their own lives…The creative process is part of our common heritage as human beings, and accessing this perennial wisdom will be key to liberating our individual and collective potential in the months and years ahead.’

The creative process is a learning process, a constant dialogue amidst everyday organizational life. This is what DEE enables, a constant noticing, sensing, creating and evolving. The space of divergence-convergence needs to be held not just across the leadership team and organization but across diverse interwoven communities with myriad touch-points as value propositions evolve from product-to-service-to-community.

As the ancient Chinese Book of Changes, the I Ching, notes, ‘whatever is flexible and flowing will continue to evolve, whatever is rigid and blocked will wither and die’.  

In this urgent-age, we need patience and trust to forge symbiotic relationships where we evolve in life-affirming ways together. Yet with the emerging IoT we can also form loosely coupled affiliations across social media with diverse communities of interest. While such loose affiliations are easier to pick-up and drop, they still have an impact on the brand, influencing how people might perceive us. Actively sensing across the system with regular dialogue across diverse community groups helps discern which affiliations feel right and which do not. This is a moveable feast, and so regular system-scanning helps sense what’s emerging in this fast-paced, hyper-connective yet often distracting and confusing field of possibilities.

The proliferation of differing and often highly-polarized and politicized perspectives can lead to emotive exchanges. Rather than dialogue, people get ensnared on heated debate and us-versus-them polarity ensues. When, as leaders, we get distracted by social media or whipped-up into polarized right-versus-wrong feelings we undermine our capacity to sense-in to the system and make a wise holistic appraisal of the underlying tensions at play.  As leadership specialist Deborah Rowland notes, ‘This trend to exclude the other, to eliminate difference, or ban people whose views you don’t like is not conducive to open inquiry and deeper systemic perception. When we stand in judgement of something, or someone, it breeds wider division as we fail to see the system from which the target of our dislike originates.’

Could the myriad challenges and seemingly conflicting and strongly-held perspectives be signs of a widespread dissonance, a rising social-unease that might be impelling a collective inquiry that helps provide insight for our evolution?  Is widespread social tension indicative of impeding social transformation? In-part the answer lies in our own individual leadership development.  If we are able to embrace tensions of difference and hold-space for conflicting perspectives in our organizations in ways that transmutes tense-energy into more evolved perspectives rather than fracturing into separateness, then we contribute to evolution-in-the-making.  These tense transformative times invite regenerative leaders to step across their own thresholds and personal perspectives to hold-space for facilitating a blend of divergent individual sovereignty and passionate fervour with convergent collective purposefulness and community development.  Even strongly charged emotional tensions can act as crucibles for systemic evolution if handled with balance, patience and courage. 

This is future-fitness in the making.

Giles Hutchins is a pioneering practitioner and senior adviser at the fore-front of the [r]evolution in organizational and leadership consciousness and developmental approaches that enhance personal, organizational and systemic agility and vitality. He is author and co-author of several leadership and organizational development papers, and the books The Nature of Business (2012), The Illusion of Separation (2014), Future Fit (2016), Regenerative Leadership (2019) and Leading by Nature (2022). Chair of The Future Fit Leadership Academy and Founder of Leadership Immersions, co-founder of Biomimicry for Creative Innovation and Regenerators, he runs a 60 acre leadership centre at Springwood Farm, an area of outstanding natural beauty near London, UK.  Previously held corporate roles – Head of Transformation Practice for KPMG, Global Director and Head of Sustainability for Atos (150,000 employees, over 40 countries). He provides coaching at individual and organizational levels for those seeking to transform their personal and/or work lives. Giles is a keynote speaker on the future of business and regenerative leadership. He is also a Reiki Master, a certified advanced coach, holds a Diploma in Senior Leadership Development, a Masters of Science in Business Systems, is trained in advanced Integral Solonics leadership development, Spiral Dynamics, a range of consciousness-raising modalities and is a certified Harthill Leadership Development Practitioner.

The one-day immersion on Regenerative Leadership near London in February 2025 is now fully-booked, but places are still available for the deep-dive overnight immersion in May 2025 – see here for more information: https://thenatureofbusiness.org/2023/10/05/leading-by-nature-embodying-next-stage-regenerative-leadership-consciousness-2/

Leading by Nature is THE handbook for regenerative leadership. A must-read for every business leader who genuinely cares about the future of humanity.’   Jayn Sterland, CEO of Weleda UK

“Giles Hutchins has for over a decade led the way with his championship of learning through nature. His new book Leading by Nature is a really important evolution of these ideas emerging into a philosophy of systems thinking/being – it’s bang on the money, a really important book” – Sir Tim Smit, KBE, Founder of The Eden Project

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For the latest episodes on the Leading by Nature podcast see here

The one-day immersion on Regenerative Leadership near London in February 2025 is now fully-booked, but places are still available for the deep-dive overnight immersion in May 2025 – see here for more information: https://thenatureofbusiness.org/2023/10/05/leading-by-nature-embodying-next-stage-regenerative-leadership-consciousness-2/