This is a guest blog by Tom Rippin, CEO of On Purpose
I went down to the woods a couple of weeks ago. We were a motley crew that set off from the welcome reception and wended our way in double file into the Springwood Forest, an ancient woodland in West Sussex tended by regenerative leadership expert and author Giles Hutchins (I recommend his latest book Leading by Nature)
The group included senior colleagues from sportswear retailers, consumer goods businesses, interior design companies, nonprofits, journalists, and Ashley Pollock, Head of Transformation at Vivobarefoot, the barefoot shoe and lifestyle company.
Conversations wound and circled and deepened as we walked further into the forest, punctuated by occasional inputs from Giles about how the woods we were immersing ourselves in could help us see things differently – new forms of leading, of being and doing.
The woods worked their wonder. In the handful of hours we spent together, the quality of sharing and conversation went well beyond the usual city-based get together. And yet it remained firmly rooted in the real world situations of those present. Not a free floating spiritual experience, divorced from everyday life, but a demonstration of how we can and must “transcend and include”. Go beyond the well-worn patterns of our legacy mindsets to visit new ambitions for how the world can work whilst ALSO acknowledging the realities of our everyday lives and the constraints and ideas by which they are currently still bound.
This was a message repeatedly highlighted by Giles. Whether it’s the balance of new and traditional forms of management (think hierarchy vs. holarchy) or the balance of working locally with stakeholder communities or globally across the wider business ecosystem – it’s not an either-or but a yes-and. It’s going to new ground and then being able to look back and bring with you what is useful from where you have come. It’s enjoying the journey that’s full of tensions, and realising the tensions are what yield the learnings.
The practicality of the day was boosted by Ashley Pollock’s open hearted sharing of Vivobarefoot’s journey towards becoming a regenerative business, which they embarked upon with Giles three-years back, starting in the very same woods at Springwood.
Ashley’s enthusiasm and straightforward openness about Vivo’s journey was inspiring and comforting at the same time. You can do amazing things – but even those who have been doing this for a while haven’t sorted it all out yet! And perhaps it’s not a case of sorting it all out, but rather an ever-learning, ever-deepening journey towards regeneration. Perhaps it’s more about the journey than the destination?!
One particular piece of advice I gleaned from Ashley about finding the balance between the old and the new, between transcending and incorporating was: “Never forget to ask why”. We are not making change happen for the sake of it. Knowing why you are trying to make something happen, and how it relates to the your organisation’s mission, will sharpen your focus and increase the chances of success. It’s a valuable lesson – one I, of all people, should know but I’m glad I was reminded.
Oh, and the picnic that Giles and his team served up in the woods was amazing too! What a wonderful wander into the woods. Thank you Giles & Ashley for your co-facilitation and open-hearted sharing.
For more on Leading by Nature the book and podcast see Giles Hutchins’ website here
And for more on Regenerative Leadership Immersions at Springwood Farm, – see this post here where future dates on immersions are shared https://thenatureofbusiness.org/2023/10/05/leading-by-nature-embodying-next-stage-regenerative-leadership-consciousness-2/