Links Mentioned in this Episode:

Articles by Carol:

7 Steps to Changing Your Company Culture Like an Anthropologist

To Achieve Ultimate Diversity, Look Past Categories and Focus on Individuals



Zac: WELCOME back to Business Second Opinion Podcast. We’re always excited to bring you another episode.

But first…We want to thank our sponsor for Business Second Opinion. Guayaki. I actually just ordered a case of lemon elation, from my local grocery store as it turns out my kids have been swiping from my stash. Through this challenging time, Guayaki continues to brew enlivening beverages from a naturally caffeinated and nourishing leaf from a species of holly, you all know as mate. It contains 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids, and abundant polyphenols. My daughter actually looked up the background on mate and she goes Zac, did you know this stuff has a bunch of vitamins in it? I actually drink it for the caffeine, but the vitamins definitely help! 

We hope you will check out this great beverage with your friends and family. And let us know what you think.

Business Second Opinion Podcast digs deep to explore questions about business and business practice. In the process of examining them, we give you a second opinion, usually a contrarian opinion, but one that is well tested and proven to give the outcomes you really want without the side effects. And by the way, if you want to learn more about how to work more closely with us, stay tuned at the end of the show.

I am Zac Swartout, and always with me is Carol Sanford, our inhouse positive contrarian. Who responds to big and hard questions with a radically different take. 

Hey Carol

Carol: Hi Zac

Zac: So last episode we started tackling the kind of thinking that makes us blind to other ways and perspectives of seeing the world. Moreover, it keeps us from being able to adequately assess our impact and the various effects we can have on others. So today, we have a request from…. Well me, to take on the tough and thorny subject of racism, which is not new, just vividly apparent at this moment in time. More specifically, I wanted to put our eye on how regeneration might help inform us about how to approach it.

Carol: As you know I did five morning meetings on The Radical Roots of Racism and How to Design Our Way Out, for our Carol Sanford Institute business members in July. I will invite listeners of Business Second Opinion to listen to those and will tell you how at the end of the show (email for access). It is specific to the subject, about 4 hours of material in 5 sessions. It is applicable to all biases and how they happen and shift. I shine a light on them and how bias works. 

Why did you want to cover this subject, Zac? Why is it a subject for businesses and beyond that fits our format?

Zac: Well, I have a lot of conversations with longtime friends, and business associates of all backgrounds who all seem to struggle how to approach racism in this moment. We can all agree racism is bad but the solutions that seem to be rising up seem to be baked in the same polarized mindset that got us into this predicament in the first place. So I was hoping we could explore it a bit together with our listeners how a lens like regeneration might help.

Carol: Regeneration is a paradigm and worldview that is based in living systems. In other words how does LIFE work when it is making things work for all entities affected, all stakeholders. 

Zac: Before we go flying headfirst into this though, let’s remind people what we mean when we say regeneration. As we’ve discussed before, lots of people say something is regenerative but let’s help delineate what a living systems definition of regeneration is. What is it not?

Carol: You have to step out the two terms in your statements, of the often used ideas. I am going to give an 8 word description of a living systems view of regeneration and how you help show people how it applies to regeneration. It is about a paradigm that sees all life as “evolving capacity for essence expression enabling systems actualization.” What seems relevant in the phrase to racism and other isms?”

Zac: To me evolving capacity is most on my mind at the moment. We had a change agent development weekend not long ago and the biggest thing that shifted for me was to be able to see myself judging people as wrong, or bad, or less than when really what I saw was a capacity in me that needs to evolve to see a capacity in someone else that also needed to evolve. Not to mention all the stuff that I was judging this other person for, was actually really all about me anyways. 

Carol: Right, and the other thing that’s really true is often people are doing the best they can with what they can see and how they can see. So that evolving capacity as you just said is really core, starting with ourselves. Secondly, we base what we do on the idea of each individual, each life form actually, has an essence that’s unique. Even if I can say I’m caucausian, which I am, or one of my students can say “I’m Mexican” or “I’m African”, what we’re talking about is they are not categorizable by any of those things. They are very much a unique individual seeking to express themselves in the world. So, if we’re working regeneratively, we’re doing this evolving capacity you picked up, enabling them to express their essence.

Now the third idea that’s in that definition is that it’s not just for themselves. It’s not back to self actualizing. It’s what’s called system actualizing, because we know that racism and all the other isms are embedded in the system. And if we want to be able to remove all of those and grow beyond our biases, we have to understand how to work with systemic actualization and have it become what it can truly be to make it work.

Zac: And this is why I like doing what we do here at Business Second Opinion. We take on these divisive topics and attempt to show how to avoid making it more so. Because as we saw in our ‘beyond polarities’ podcast earlier, approaches that are two-term, polarize and escalate rather than offer a third way or reconciling path. Polarized thinking also has a crazy propensity to lead us most often to fall into our biases. Which is why you see people go through anti-bias trainings and come out with lots more prescribed procedures, but still the same old biases.

Carol: So, how do you think about bias?

Zac: Biases Psychology is a fairly new conversation in business and organizations. Daniel Kahneman, who we’ve spoken about before, basically wrote the book, so to speak, on understanding biases called Thinking Fast and Slow. His research, for which he and his colleague Amon Tversky won a Nobel Prize, explores the many facets of the fallibility of the human mind in decision making and how we constantly fall victim to our own biases. Famously, as we’ve also spoken about here, he also has stated publicly that he has applied none of this research to himself as he believes biases can’t be controlled, fixed, or managed. But I don’t think I agree with that estimation. Do you, Carol? If there’s a paradigm to be shifted, we can do it. But how?

Carol: I don’t agree either, but we need to understand why we call regeneration a paradigm or world view and not a program or practice. Although it leads to new kinds of practice. It is about shifting how we see the world. It is a radical switch in what we look for in a situation. How we look for it and how we approach working with the situation. It is a Galilean task. What does that mean Zac, to you.

Zac: Galileo famously discovered and said that the earth was not the center of the universe and all rotated around us, but we were in planetary systems rotating around the sun (Heliocentrism). Galileo’s championing of heliocentrism met with opposition from within the Catholic Church and from some astronomers. The matter was investigated by the Roman Inquisition in 1615, which concluded that heliocentrism was “foolish and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts in many places the sense of Holy Scripture”

He was tried by the Inquisition, found “vehemently suspect of heresy”, and forced to recant. He spent the rest of his life under house arrest. It is not easy to get the world to shift paradigms. It was 500 years before this idea of “sun as center of our Solar System” was accepted. 

Carol: It is not generally understood that we have known for 125 years that we are misinterpreting how change and reality works. From physics. Einstein and his students called it moving from the Classical Newtonian view of reality to a Quantum view. And this is core to overcoming biases of all kinds. 

Zac: Right, and as we know, biases are socially shaped and conditioned. To give Danny Kahneman a fair shake, it’s dang hard to see them at work in us. Plus it’s risky to be perceived as unaligned, and often dangerous to go against our tribe’s accepted biases. So what is the shift needed now? And what does Newtonian to Quantum mean exactly Carol?

Carol: From Billiard Ball Theory of Change to Implicate Order Theory of Change. From direct to indirect. Anytime we are direct, it changes in ways we cannot control but think we can, laws and programs are direct 

Zac: But Carol, how do you work on it indirectly? And isn’t that too slow? Although as I say that, I think of the decades and generations and centuries of racism even with people working hard to rid our societies of slavery, and inequity and bias. And slavery even still exists, which is crazy to think about!!! Now that I think about it, what is actually making me think the Newtonian way you describe of working on laws, and programs aimed directly at Racism is supposedly fast?

Carol: I have discovered that in very short periods of time, when we give up the direct, CLASSICAL method, working on biases directly, that people see their own bias. This is not a theory. Even in difficult situation like protests of US cities in the 60s, like South Africa in the mid-nineties moving out of apartheid we used it instead of direct. I tell some of these stories in my book. You can get everything unstuck pretty quickly, and then keep the change happening when you have the disruption active. 

Zac: Yeah, I remember you writing about them. But Carol, and I’m sure that our listeners are saying the same thing right now, what is the key to a kind of disruption that does not escalate things as these direct methods do?

Carol: With indirect you work on three things. Capability, culture and consciousness which bring conscience and conscientiousness into play. 

Zac: Applied directly to racism?

Carol: No! Applied to working on something together that people can all agree needs to be done. Like in the case of Colgate Palmolive, South Africa, “build a great country while you build a great company.” And you do that work with a Regenerative paradigm, creating capability to see systems at work and the essence of them. We created it fast when people saw they needed the Black Africans to achieve the business and National goals and designed a way to get there.

(See these articles by Carol on her work with Colgate Palmolive in South Africa):

7 Steps to Changing Your Company Culture Like an Anthropologist

To Achieve Ultimate Diversity, Look Past Categories and Focus on Individuals


Zac: Ok I’ll bite, how do you change culture then?

Carol: We did a series of things. I have a story in No More Feedback and more in The Responsible Business. It was extensive, but the key was monthly education and development sessions that people were applying to the business and nationally mandate changes. EVERYONE learned to work with shared living systems frameworks which changed what they saw. And, we had no hierarchy in the learning process. It was not cascaded. Stelios, who you met, was in all events as a learning and co-creator, not the general manager

Zac: Right! My wife and I met Stelios, a white Greek national, when we were traveling to Athens in 2015. This is a fun story. So we’re out to dinner and we immediately were borderline interrogating poor Stelios to tell us what is was like working with you back then. He told us about the Colgate factory in Athens specifically. When we asked him how he knew the culture had changed there, he said, during the time that you and he worked there, you took it from one of the most divisive and worst performing factories to one of the highest performing. However he knew the culture had shifted because it continued to sustain after the two of you left. It continues to be one of the highest performing factories in Colgate’s portfolio to this day. I can see how that shifted the culture. And he said it happened so fast, it made his head spin. So how about consciousness as an indirect method

Carol: I mentioned that, to move biases we hold, to shift paradigm, we have to be about to see things we could not see before, have new frameworks for interpreting what we see and to use living systems frameworks to design changes in how we work. If we use any of the old mental models or methods or structures, nothing shifts because of our attachments to old ideas just does what I call “beat to fit and paint to match”. You think you are doing the new, that destabilizes it all, or otherwise, you are just renaming your current way of thinking and working.

Zac: It sounds like there is another key here. If I’m following, the new culture is one of being self-directed, self-reflective and has little or no external input from other people than themselves. So the culture moves from one that is externally determined to internally self-managing. The organization has shared Corporate Direction, like strategic pursuits and intentions but the sessions you spoke of let them set their own path. But why and more importantly how, does this undermine racism and bias?

Carol: Because it is based on essence expression of each person being themselves in how they do they work all agreed was needed. The usual toxic practices that undermine essence are removed. 

Zac: Like core competencies. We did an early podcast on how to see the ultimate diversity is essence and the ultimate inclusion is each unique contribution. We can we put that in the show notes again. (#136)

Carol: Plus, the two sets of video recorded morning meetings. Facebook has the set on working on Consciousness (The Regenerative Life Community group) answering the questions and more on how you do that. And the Radical Roots of Racism you get my permission by sending an email to me: 

Zac: So in summary, we need to stop using the Billiard Ball Theory of change. E.g. work on the issue, or problem directly, intensely and even pervasively and work on the systems indirectly. Starting instead from the implicate order that exists before it’s explicit way. On the capability, culture and consciousness rather than directly on problems.

Carol: Evolve Capacity for Essence Expression through System Actualization. Probably makes more sense now.

And bias shifting done indirectly is really about working together on a shared business direction that takes everyone. In developmental sessions that I’ve led, we held a full day or more monthly, applying what is learned to the business as we went. But, and this is key, it was shifting the capability to think differently, to manage the mind doing the work. It had to and was having a spill over. Having an INDIRECT effect, on the race relations among workers.

Mandela gave us he Constitution Award to supporting the implementation of the New Constitution for The New South Africa in 1/0th the time, 6 months vs 5 years. It is very, very, VERY FAST to work indirectly. 



Zac: Carol Sanford Institute has been offering development communities for forty years with online versions for a decade, so we are pretty good at it. What we’re offering is a set of FREE Morning Meetings where we look at how to Transform Uncertainty into Action based on Living Systems Thinking approach, to inform our live in times of crisis, your daily decisions and action, and how you help others. Search on Facebook for The Regenerative Life Communities Group, answer the questions and listen. Join Carol’s newsletter at to get more information on upcoming events.

Carol: We have a new community. The Regenerative Educator Community. For development roles for anyone who considers themselves an educator in institutions, organizations or professions . The community is established to enable members to work with a Developmental Epistemology, that is how they want to educate: Move from expert view to- Experientially, Developmentally, based in 7 First Principles of Regeneration. Check out to learn more. Look under Regenerative Life offerings.

Zac: We need you. Four ways: Recommend an article or business practice on which you want a second opinion. Survey Monkey has a place to do that. Second, tell your friends to listen. We want to triple our audience this season. Help us get the word out. Third, give us a review. People read them and it helps let people know what we do. And fourth, if you can help us fund the production cost of our show that would be great. It cost about $10,000/year for technical help, platforms, recording equipment etc.. On our website is a way to donate once or pledge via Patreon for a recurring support amount of your choosing; or just click the button one time.

Carol: and keep listening to Business Second Opinion for more ideas on working from Regenerative Paradigms and Practices. And my new book is out The Regenerative Life with an extensive workbook and Book Club materials, which Carol support with Live online Workshops for Free. More at

Zac: Thanks again to our sponsors at Guayaki and your pursuit of Regeneration with high integrity. If you want one of our Get a Second Opinion Mugs, send us your article and topics on practices in business that needs a second opinion. You can email us at or find us on Twitter @biz_second_opinion . If we use it to develop an episode, you get a mug. Also, your ratings and reviews on any platform help people find us and spread the word. Sign up for our newsletter so you get connections to the show notes and much more. 

Carol: Thanks to Numi Tea: They sponsor our Business Second Opinion Show Notes and Babson College for sponsoring The Regenerative Business Summit and Prize, annually. Check out the Business Second Opinion website for more info on our podcast. Join Numi Tea as a Champion of our podcast. 

Zac: This has been Business Second Opinion


* * * * *

Business Second Opinion Podcast digs deep to answer questions about business and business practice, you may not know you need to ask. But we believe you should be asking for the benefit of your understanding and your businesses ethics and practice. In the process of answering them, we give you a second opinion, usually a contrarian opinion, but that is well tested and proven to give the outcomes you really want without the side effects.

* * * * *


  • For more extensive show notes from today’s episode
  • To offer topics or an article to critique
  • To share your own experience with our ideas
  • To sign up for our newsletter

* * * * *


  • Explore how you can learn to apply the alternative approaches offered in Business Second Opinion. 
    • The Regenerative Business Summit: a one-day event (4 Time Zones- USA eastern and western state, EMEA, Deep Pacific) on Strategic thinking and Leadership for non-displace-ability in your markets. Meet others who have been doing this successfully and making a difference.
  • Pursue how Carol gets to the ideas she does. Explore how to integrate Systemic Critical Thinking Skills, based on a Living Systems Paradigm into your practice of coaching, consulting, and mentoring. Join the Change Agent Development Community. Four online or local options
  • Apply the concepts in the Business Second Opinion Podcast to roles you personally play in and beyond business. E.g. parent, designer, earth tender, educator, media content creator, entrepreneur, citizen, economic shaper, spirit resource (coach, ministering, therapist). Join, for free, The Regenerative Human Book Project Check it out. Email to join or ask questions. 
  • Read Carol’s books or join a book club

Her books have won over 15 awards so far and are required reading at leading business and management schools including Harvard, Stanford, Haas Berkeley and MIT and almost 100 other academic institutions. Carol also partners with producing Executive Education through Babson College, Kaospilot in Denmark and University of Washington, Bothell, WA, sponsored by The Lewis Institute at Babson.

* * * * *


  • Please rate and review this podcast wherever you go for podcasts.
  • Donating = Co-creating (bringing something meaningful and significant into the world, together) 

We love bringing you a second opinion on toxic ideas in business. We examine alternatives— from history to underlying paradigms. Our gift is clear thinking and discerning wisdom. 

Engage with us. Raise your voice. Join us in co-creation. Don’t let toxic practices go quietly into the world, unexamined. If our podcast stirs you up, knocks you back on your heels or just makes you jump for joy, consider joining now as a spontaneous or sustaining patron.

Give Now 

  • This podcast was sponsored by Guayaki. The show notes are sponsored by Numi Tea. Please support our podcast by supporting our sponsors.

Thank you!!!! 

Carol Sanford and Zac Swartout, co-producers