Din van Helden
Age of Awareness
Published in
6 min readOct 13, 2019


Regenerative OD Interventions:

Vitalizing the ground for more connectedness in organisations.

1. A call for change
The current state of the world, a sign of disconnection?!

In the BIO Leadership workshop Andres Roberts started by showing slides with hard-hitting facts about the current state of the world. For example, the conclusion of the UN IPCC reports that there are 12 years left to limit climate change catastrophe. Also, that the 8 richest men own as much as the poorest 50% in the world. It was fascinating to see how tempting it is to look away. But men, what is it what we are doing to the world? I felt pain in my heart and in my belly. By sitting in nature I experienced that in order to create a true shift I/we have to face it, sit with it, connect with that what is so precious to us.

As Joanna Macy points out, when everything we treasure seems to at risk, it is not about despair, it is an opportunity to come alive to our truest power.

What if we could create learning experiences/design processes where leaders/(MT) teams sense a deeper understanding of the current reality, so they could regenerate ideas from an interconnected place of commitment?

There is a (r)evolution happening in the field of Organisational Development (OD). Hutchins (2018) refers to Business School research on Tomorrow’s Leadership which suggests the whole paradigm of how we think about leadership needs to change order to cope with the world of tomorrow. There are a number of factors contributing to this necessary shift in leadership development:

a. The increasing rate of change
b. The technological and digital revolution
c. The hollowing out of organisations and the growing complexity of the stakeholder world
d. Globalisation
e. Climate change
f. The need to learn and adapt faster

In order to deal with the challenges of the “VUCA” world, leaders and organisations need to adapt and innovate in the constantly changing environment.

“It are not the strongest, the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change” — Charles Darwin

2. Shift towards living organisations
Organisations are no longer seen as ‘machines of production and profit’, organisations are perceived as complex, adaptive, living systems, shaped by interconnectedness and relationships.

Authors like Laloux, Scharmer, Wheatly, Wolf, Hutchins heralding an era of organisations and leadership of the future (Chattopadhyay, S). They speak about organisations as living systems. New organisational models are not driven by efficiency. For example the agile mindset where money is the result, not the goal of the activities. Its focus is on continuous innovation.

The more conscious we are of this shift, the better we are able to help change the mindset, models, and culture which strengthening a life giving approach.

Old Logic …………………New Logic
Mechanistic ……………….Living
Competitive self-agency….Collaborative inter-relationality
Hierarchic management… Locally-attuned emergence
Individualism…………….. Individuality within community
Homogenisation …………..Diversity within unity
Profit first………………….. Profit follows purpose
Exploitative……………….. Regenerative


The learning process which we design, can be models of the organisations that we want to create. I see that as an invitation to develop OD interventions which are focused on purpose, interconnectedness and which are in themselves generative. Which means a learnings process beyond learning with the mental frames. It’s about learning processes where people can connect on a deeper level.

3. A deeper learning process
Moving from learning as usual to emergent learning — Aftab Omer

There is a distinction between two types of cognition (Scharmer, 2018); the normal (downloading of mental frames) versus a deeper level of knowing. To activate the deeper level of knowing, one can go through a three-step process:

* observe, observe, observe: connect with a place of most potential,
* retreat and reflect: allow inner knowing to emerge,
* prototype: act from what emerges in the now.

Source: Presencing Institute (2018): Theory U

Intended learning happens from a place of knowing and against a set of specific goals. Emergent learning happens from a place of reflection and sensemaking. (Chattopadhyay. S)

It is no coincidence that the (learning) processes as described in Presence, Theory U (learning from the future) and Source fit so well in nature. Nature and the retreat experience, have been a major source of inspiration for the development of these theories. Just as Joseph Jaworski shared in Presence (2006) about his solo experience by John P. Milton: “We have to learn how to see with our heart first, before we can see from the whole. I don’t think I ever experienced the truth of this so powerfully before”.

4. Nature as a holding environment for development
Our experience and research (Zylstra 2014, Williams 2016, Droffelaar, B. 2017) demonstrates that nature is a rich and supportive holding environment for deeper learning processes.

Of course there are more ways to design an emergent/deeper learning process. And, what we see is that time in nature — either alone and/or with colleagues-, is so supportive when it comes to connecting with true essence.

Spending time in nature has profound psychological effects on each individual, including stress reduction, attention restoration and increased self-awareness. Somehow nature unravels the layers that restrict us, it enables us to be there in an authentic way. And then, when team members or leaders meet again, for example after a solo time in nature, they can connect more from the heart. This place of true connectedness is such a healthy ground for emerging learning and through that for sustainable innovation.

Nature is as well a mirror that shows us that everything is interconnected. We can see and experience that so clearly when we are out there. With this systemic awareness, the opportunities to make decisions which are (re)generative for the people, the organisation and for nature itself are greatly increased.

Personal note
It’s great to see that more and more organisations are integrating Nature retreat experience into their Organisational Development, for example as part of their Leadership Development. For me/us it is a great honour to guide this kind of deep learning experience in nature. And, I see it as a starting point. What would it be like, if more influential decisionmakers, leaders were dedicated to go for connectedness in their organisation?! That would be a gift to the world.

- Droffelaar. B. van, Jacobs.M. (2017). ‘The role of wilderness experiences in leaders development toward authentic leadership’. Leadership & Organisation Development Journal.
- Chattopadhyay, S. (2019). Reinventing organizational learning towards transformative learning. Medium.
- Hutchins, G. (2016). Future fit.
- Hutchins, G & Storm, L. (2019). Regenerative leadership.
- Scharmer. C. O. (2018). The essentials of Theory U, core principles and applications. Berett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
- Scharmer. C.O. (2007). Theory U, leading from the future as it emerges. Cambridge, M.A. Society for Organisational Learning.
- Senge. P., Scharmer. C.O., Jaworski, J., Flowerds. B.S. (2006). Presence, an exploration of profound change in people, organisations, and society.
- Jaworski. J. (2012). Source: the inner path of knowledge creation. San Francisco: Berett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
- Laloux, F. (2014). Reinventing organizations, a guide to creating organisations inspired by the next stage of Human Consciousness. Brussels: Nelson Parker.
- Williams. K.A. (2016) Knowing Ourselves: An Emerging Dialogue Between Nature and Leaders. Royal Roads University.
- Zylstra, M. J., Knight, A. T., Esler, K. J., & Le Grange, L. LL. (2014). Connectedness as a Core Conservation Concern: An Interdisciplinary Review of Theory and a Call for Practice. Springer Science Reviews, 2(1–2), 119–143.



Din van Helden
Age of Awareness

Learning facilitator ~ OD consultant ~ Nature guide www.grounding.business @OD_nature