Business in the age of regeneration: transformative innovation and collaborative advantage

Our current unsustainable patterns of production and consumption are based on a misguiding and outdated view of the world that still maintains that we have to seek competitive rather than collaborative advantage. It conditions us to believe that it is inevitable to have winners and losers, rather than understanding that on an overpopulated planet facing multiple convergent crises even the winners will loose if we do not stabilize climate patterns and begin to regenerate health ecosystems functions. Responsible business leaders are beginning to set their companies on a different path based on collaborative advantage rather than competitive advantage.

Working for the common good and aiming to follow the principle guideline that ‘life creates conditions conducive to life’ is not some kind of saintly or spiritual altruism, it is in everyone’s enlightened self-interest. Changing the culture within individual businesses and corporation will have to include creating learning opportunities for everyone involved from the lowest to the highest paid employee from basic staff to top management.

Sometimes the first step towards transformative innovation is to simply create a regular space for long range visioning and exploring together how to transform the business into a regenerative force with a positive influence in all the communities it produces and sells products or services in. Investing in ongoing education about the state of the world and how the company’s core business could become a catalyst for regenerative activities in its sector and markets is the next step. Regenerative businesses operate in collaborative business ecologies. They learn from healthy ecosystems dynamics and ensure their contribution to the wider network is based on achieving collaborative advantage for all.

Creating regionally or community focussed pilots that explore how the high aim of becoming a regenerative enterprise by design can be implemented in practice, is a great way of learning together and giving meaning to people’s work. More likely than not, companies will find that the systemic transformations that are needs will require them to shift their attitudes towards all the other actors — businesses, regulators, customers, suppliers, etc — in their sector.

Regeneration by design has to occur along the entire supply chain and to achieve this all actors become vital collaborators rather than competitors. Ultimately we have to understand that short-term wins of competitive and exploitative companies come at a massive long-term cost to all of society, ecosystem’s health and eventually the business and its staff themselves.

Business can and has been a force for good in the world. The first change starts in the hearts and minds — in the perception and worldview — of everyone involved in the enterprise. Creating a regenerative intention and culture within an enterprise will ripple outwards and transform entire industries, communities and bioregions.

Another route into this conversations and into enabling broader multi-stakeholder and multi-sector conversations about the necessary transformation and transition towards regenerative cultures is offered by the UN Agenda 2030 and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. These can engage us around key issues that need improving and once we are engaged with can go beyond sustainability and enter into a deeper dialogue about how to contribute to the transition towards diverse regenerative cultures everywhere.

The time is now to co-create a future where humanity has a regenerative impact on the planet while we also regenerate social cohesion, vibrant regional economies, and a rediscovered sense of meaning and purpose. This will allow us to work together in ways that value and respect our diversity as a strength and source of collective intelligence, creativity and transformative resilience.

We are at the brink of a regenerative (r)evolution. Are you ready to join the ‘Regeneration’ rising? What would give your life more meaning and purpose than to work for a flourishing and thriving world for all and contribute to the healing of people and planet? Aligning with the widespread need for social, ecological and economic regeneration is in everyone’s enlightened self-interest. On a fragile and overpopulated planet everything is hitched to everything else. We are all in this together, facing the challenge to transform the human impact on Earth from being predominantly exploitative and destructive to being collaborative and regenerative.

Daniel Christian Wahl works internationally as a consultant and educator in regenerative whole systems design, and transformative innovation. He holds degrees in biology (Univ. of Edinburgh / Univ. of California) and Holistic Science (Schumacher College) and his 2006 doctoral thesis (Univ. of Dundee) was on Design for Human and Planetary Health. He was director of Findhorn College between 2007 and 2010, and is a member of the International Futures Forum, a fellow of the RSA, a Findhorn Foundation Fellow and a member of the Evolutionary Leaders Circle. Daniel sits on the advisory council of the Ojai Foundation and the Ecosystem Restoration Camps Foundation. His clients have included UNITAR (with CIFAL Scotland), UK Foresight (with Decision Integrity Ltd), Ecover (with Forum for the Future), Bioneers (with the Progressio Foundation, and with the Findhorn Foundation), the Dubai Futures Foundation (with Tellart), The Commonwealth Secretariat (with Cloudburst Foundation), Gaia Education, the Global Ecovillage Network, the State of the World Forum, Balears.t, Camper, LUSH and many educational NGOs, universities, and design schools. He is co-founder of Biomimicry Iberia (2012), and has been collaborating with ‘SmartUIB’ at the University of the Balearic Islands since 2014. Daniel works part-time as Gaia Education’s ‘Head of Design & Innovation’ since 2015. His recent book Designing Regenerative Cultures, published by Triarchy Press in the UK in May 2016, has already gained international acclaim, and his blog on Medium has a large international readership.