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Jenny Nyström

Business and personal growth – at the same time?

Gaia Leadership: Business and persona growth at the same time

Many of our ways of thinking around business and organizational development, leadership and management were born during the industrial revolution, somewhere in the 19th century. We have transcended them from generation to generation, programmed us to think how an organization should be designed, what it means to lead and how we succeed with change. Let’s face it – the world has changed since then.

One thing that we have been programmed to do is to separate the interhuman and interpersonal processes from business development. We have been taught to separate the professional self from the personal self. The intellect from the heart. The smartness from the passion. To separate the structure from the culture. With increasing speed an uncertainty, this has caused us to feel less engagement, purpose and meaning.

We need to operate with a much bigger awareness and a clearer intent.

And yes, we have moved the different perspectives closer – but we still tend to separate them and even pendule between them. To integrate perspectives requires more energy from us, more of our cognitive capacities. And let’s face it, our brain is by nature lazy. But the human being has incredible potential – for finding purpose, seeing the bigger picture, see different perspective, to learn, to be creative, to have empathy, to connect – and to take responsibility and leadership. To use these amazing capabilities, that the world and businesses of today needs from us, we need to operate with a much bigger awareness and a clearer intent.

We at Gaia always strive to work with business and personal growth – at the same time. The times where we could create a business strategy that were just smart – but no one really cared about – are over. To create sustainable, resilient businesses today – and that will continue to create value in the future, we need people to grow and mature. But not just to create self-leadership that is for me, myself and I. On the contrary, we would say it’s essential for people to grow in connection with the business, with commitment to a whole that is larger than me, with the feeling of accountability and ownership. With this integration of my own purpose, passion and learning with the business direction and development – we can create conditions for really great things to happen. And therefore, a potential for really strong, resilient and profitable businesses – that could manage whatever challenges the world throws on them.

Let your curiosity lead you.

Maybe you are thinking: “Is it really possible?” Well, when living and leading in complexity, the only way of knowing is to try. Let your curiosity lead you. What would happen if I started to integrate perspectives more, aiming for the both-and instead of the either-or? To challenge yours, and others, old ways of thinking. And if you want a partner in that wayfinding, or just someone to discuss with on how to do or think, we are always open for those conversations. In fact, we love them.

Wayfinding as strategy in an ever-shifting business landscape

Gaia wayfinding

Have you ever tried to navigate by completely trusting a GPS while hiking in unknown territory, like in the mountains? If yes, you know it might get you into trouble… If no, maybe you should listen to advice from someone that has tried: Don’t do it! You will probably only get stuck out in the mud somewhere you can’t get through, because the GPS wanted to lead you the straightest way forward without taking into consideration all the unknown unknowns on the way. This image can serve us as a clear example of the trouble we might end up in when we give navigation too much belief. But what happens when we shift our minds into thinking that we should be wayfinding instead of navigating? Maybe we would let go of the idea that we should reach a specific destination in a certain way and be willing to let go of the thought that there is a perfect plan. Maybe we would open up for the adventure itself instead.

We think, discuss and co-create with our customers constantly on how to meet the complexity of our time. How can we develop our businesses when it becomes more and more difficult to foresee the future? How can we continue to be profitable, continue to create strong business results, when we have this feeling that what made us successful up until now might not be the answer going ahead? How can we innovate, come up with new ideas when our analysis and strong intellects might not be fully sufficient?

The metaphor of hiking in unknown territory, where we don’t really know what the nature will look like until we’re actually there, might be helpful also in the business landscape. We are so programmed to make plans, trying to predict and control, to ensure that we will deliver according to plan. Since the 19th century that’s how most successful businesses have been managed, it’s what most of us learnt in business schools and what’s been expected of us in our leadership assignments throughout our careers. And yet, most of the people we meet are starting to realize that navigating in this way isn’t helpful anymore – but what is then the right answer, now and in the future?

First of all, we believe that we have to let go of the idea of right and wrong, good or bad. So if you expected a right answer, we will disappoint you… But maybe there are mindsets that can be helpful when wayfinding instead of navigating, some learnings that we’ve drawn. Here we have tried to conclude them so far:

  • To view the adventure itself as both the destination and the journey – at the same time. It’s all about the progress, the movement. Focus on the sowing, rather than on the harvest.
  • To increase our awareness. To use more of our senses and capabilities than just our analytical and intellectual mind – our intuition, our emotions, our ability to take in our surroundings, to listen, to see and to be present. Why? Because we need all of that to be able to explore, learn, to collaborate and to be creative together.
  • An overall purpose and intention are powerful, it helps us set the direction – not in the exact GPS-coordinates but in which direction we should start moving and where to look for energy when we are starting to get tired or feeling lost.
  • Constant learning and reflecting are what will make us continuously develop and grow. If we use the insights to adapt our actions and steps further.
  • And what is a great adventure without joy, playfulness and laughing together? To invest in our relationships and working together, supporting and helping each other, will make the effort worthwhile.

This is how far we have gotten in exploring wayfinding as a strategy to be a successful, sustainable business in today’s uncertain and unpredictable business landscape. It’s probably just a starting point and we will learn more as we move on our adventure. Maybe you want to be part of that exploration with us?

Without hierarchy – how doesn’t it get just an anarchy?

Gaia levande system

Governing in a living system

When we talk about the new type of organisations we see emerging – organisations without a hierarchy, that function more as living eco-system – we often get the question: “But how do they steer? Without a hierarchy – how doesn’t it get just an anarchy? Doesn’t people just do what they want to do and not what’s best for the business?”. A fair question! Especially since these organisations often also are successful in their business – how does it work?

Before going into trying to answer the question, let’s just imagine playing a football game without a referee. How many of us would cheat? Most of us would probably be very honest, admitting the ball were in or “OK, it did pass the goal line”. It’s everyone’s responsibility to make it a fair game. And how does it work with a referee in the field? Someone who is enforcing the rules of play and being the final decision-maker in the game? If the referee doesn’t notice that the ball went over the line – would we say something about it? Probably not. It’s the referees’ responsibility!

With this metaphor as a mirror – how do you steer a living system? First of all, they all have clear rules of play – often called a constitution. It describes why the company exist, what they want to create, how they view the world, how they want to run and steer the company. You could say it’s a complete integration of strategy, governance model and leadership culture. It gives direction on how to run processes, how to take decisions. And it’s non-negotiable – if you are here you need to accept the playfield. This integrated with high levels of transparency, where everyone has access to most information and everyone can see what the others are doing, creates an arena where entrepreneurship and autonomy can grow, but that requires accountability and co-creation. Everyone is the CEO, everyone is the referee – everyone is taking responsibility. So governing is someone that everyone does, themselves and others in the system as well.

We at Gaia have strived to be a living system since the start and mor specifically since 2018. And for sure it’s an adventure and learning lab every day. We have created a story of our constitution, it’s created mostly for internal sense making and learning – but if someone presently outside Gaia is curious to learn more about our story to become a system that integrates autonomy and co-creation, our story is here.