Book Review: Future Fit – Giles Hutchins

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Photo” Simon Robinson

Future Fit is the new book from Giles Hutchins, and which follows on from his two previous books, The Nature of Business and The Illusion of Separation (both of which I have reviewed previously). The inspiration for the book title comes from conversations spanning two years which Giles has had with Geoff Kendall and Bob Willard of the Future Fit Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation whose vision is “a future in which everyone has the opportunity to flourish”. The way they are achieving this is by building an open source tool, the Future Fit Business Benchmark, and so in order to provide the context for Giles’ book, I thought I would begin by looking first at the basic foundations of the tool.

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The Future Fit benchmark was created to answer the two following questions:

  1. How would we know a future‑fit business if we saw one?
  2. How can we tell how far away a business is from being future‑fit?

The tool is being developed via a three-step process:

Step One: Identify a set of system principles that collectively describe how society can flourish within the physical limits of our finite planet.
Step Two: Create a set of future-fit goals that every company must reach by mapping the system principles on to business activities.
Step Three: Develop key performance indicators (KPIs) that can be used to tell how far away any company is from reaching the future-fit goals.

The Future Fit Benchmark takes a systemic approach to understanding both social and environmental issues we are facing today, all of which are interconnected. The model created builds on 25 years of research from the natural and social sciences, one of the primary sources being that research lead by the founders of The Natural Step. From this research a number of core principles were developed.

Credit: Future Fit Institute

Credit: Future Fit Institute

These principles then led to the creation of 28 future fit goals spread across nine areas:

Credit: Future Fit Institute

Credit: Future Fit Institute

The complete Future Fit Benchmarking Tool can be downloaded here. In addition to Geoff Kendall and Bob Willard, the tool was developed with key contributions and strategic advice from Pong Leung, Chad Park, Martin Rich, Antony Upward and Saralyn Hodgkin. It is being developed in an iterative process, with many individuals and organisations contributing to the development process. Future research will look at what it would mean for a household to be future-fit? Or a city? Or a university?

With these questions in mind, Giles describes Future Fit as a ‘workbook’ which builds on his more philosophical examination of the mythologies, theologies and socio-economic narratives which have brought us to our current predicaments we are facing today. His emphasis is to provide the support and inspiration to help us shift our thinking and mindsets and to deal “with the root causes while also attending to the downstream effects”.

So while the Future Fit benchmarking tool is the “what”, Giles describes his book as the “how”, the new logic necessitating a complete rethink in the way they do business:

Such a shift challenges us at deep and partly unconscious levels. It challenges powerful and complex influences within our own psyche and cultural consciousness. It challenges the status quo structure of governance, ingrained patterns of power relations, and dominant ways of leading, managing and operating within our organisations. It challenges the very way in which we relate as human beings in our more-than-human world.

Each chapter is written as a module, starting with an executive summary, and with reflective questions at the end. Starting with a look at the metaphor of metamorphosis, the second module emphasises the need for both regeneration and particularly self-responsibility:

Hence, of great importance for embedding this regenerative logic into our organizations, is each of us learning to cultivate our deeper, fully humanity through the coherence of our natural ways of knowing: intuiting, sensing and perceiving, as well as cognitively analysing, the flows, feelings, exchanges and moods of all relations as they emerge and evolve in our changing landscapes. We each must take personal responsibility for developing our capacity for empathy, reciprocity, receptivity and responsiveness, learning to embed these qualities into the collective intelligence of our teams.

Module Three looks at how we can actually shift our logic, with Giles reviewing a number of developmental psychology models for organisational leadership. While they do have their differences, Giles looks at what they have in common:

All these developmental models point to a threshold being crossed at a certain level, where a major shift from essentially ego-orientated consciousness transcends into a state where our ‘ego-awareness’ and ‘soul-awareness’ permeate more readily, infusing into a more integrated, inclusive and holistic awareness. In Maslow’s hierarchy this threshold is crossed from the level of self-esteem into the levels of self-actualization and self-transcendence. This is a fundamental transfiguration of our sense of place and purpose in the world.

While these theories are interesting to study intellectually, as Giles points out “We start to cultivate our inner-awareness through personal practices, conscious learning and self-reflection”. For this reason Module Four looks at personal gnosis, the aim of which is to allow us to “learn to cultivate our natural, soulful awareness.” This provides the foundation for the following chapter, which looks at “organisational gnosis”.

This for me is a pivotal chapter, and it is interesting that Giles has chosen to title this module in this manner. The reason is that the module looks at a number of different collective practices that some organisations are already implementing today, but which are not necessarily having the expected impact. The reason is that the underlying structure and more hidden orders of these practices are not understood, neither personally nor collectively.

For the last six months I have been accompanying Jan Höglund’s series on “Organizing in between and beyond“. Jan’s most recent article explored the differences between fake sociocracy and real sociocracy, and this is a great example of a situation which is lacking organisational gnosis.

The final two chapters of Future Fit focus on the leadership qualities necessary for firms of the future. Like the other chapters, these contain many essential practices and techniques which leaders can focus on, such as communication, innovation, diversity, sense of purpose and time and space. The shift therefore is one from “fear-based leadership” to “courage-based leadership”.

Future Fit LeadershipI think one of the final quotes in the book, from  John Mackey, CEO Whole Foods and Raj Sisodia co-founder of Conscious Capitalism really sums up what it means to be a future fit leaderL

Perhaps the greatest change that we humans are experiencing is our rising consciousness. To be conscious means to be fully awake and mindful, to see reality more clearly, and to more fully understand all the consequences – short term & long term – of our actions.

The book finishes an appendix which provides a wide range of future fit organisational health check questions, and a second which provides a summary of the future fit benchmark, a benchmark created to allow organisations to determine how far away its performance is from where it needs to be if it is to help – rather than hinder – progress toward a flourishing future.

Credit: Future Fit Institute

Credit: Future Fit Institute

In writing Future Fit, Giles has provided leaders with the tools, guidance and inspiration necessary to understand our own gaps between where we are now in terms of our own sense of being, purpose and interpersonal dynamics, and that level we can become to help transform both the organisations and businesses in which we work, and the people we work alongside. It is an excellent companion to his previous works; an essential companion for business leaders and entrepreneurs who really wish to deliver positive value and inspire truly innovative solutions.

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