Over the past two decades, the business world has gradually become more aware of living systems principles. The vocabulary of emergence, resilience and self-organization has grown more common, as has the general language of purpose, passion and thriving. Even the human spirit has emerged as a more welcome concept at work.

It has also been more widely acknowledged that we are moving out of a mechanistic paradigm and into one characterized by adaptability, interrelatedness and creativity (characterized by life, I would say).

Yet in my experience, the “machine story” is still going strong, especially among organizational and political leaders. It’s one thing to use new vocabulary; it’s another to understand what’s really behind it. And it’s still another to embrace it as the full nature of reality – and as the nature of your reality as a leader, a community member, and a human being.

This deeper shift is what is needed – more than ever – if humanity is going to make it through the myriad and pressing global problems we’re collectively facing. Far more of us need to be acutely aware that there is life within and around us in our organizations, communities and beyond. Far greater numbers of us need to feel a sense of reverence, service and profound participation in life’s unfolding. Many more of us must listen deeply for what is needed and respond with wise action.

Organizations can be perfect practice grounds for this, but the applications and implications are both personal and universal.

[This is an excerpt from The Age of Thrivability: Vital Perspectives and Practices for a Better World, by Michelle Holliday, published in 2016. www.ageofthrivability.com]

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