The Regenerative Business
Redesign work, cultivate human potential, achieve extraordinary outcomes.
Courageous leaders are calling for a disruptive yet effective way of working: one that unlocks new levels of innovation, financial results, and customer loyalty while building human capacity to contribute.
The good news is there is a proven, but infrequently taken, path. Carol Sanford shows leaders why today’s so-called business “best practices” undermine success—and, how to transform a business into something so flexible, so innovative, so developmental, it becomes virtually non-displaceable in the market.
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Praise for The Regenerative Business
“Carol Sanford’s clear and accessible writing keeps urging us toward higher levels of organizational and self-actualization. The Regenerative Business blends an educator’s precision guidance with a sage’s wisdom and insight to deliver a roadmap for higher performance, greater impact, and long-term value creation. Her teachings bring work systems design into sharp focus, a new and essential skill set for innovative business leaders to embrace and master.”
– William Rosenzweig, Co-Author, The Republic of Tea, How an Idea Becomes a Business, Oslo Business for Peace Award, UC Berkeley, Hass Business School
The work that Carol Sanford describes in The Regenerative Business: Redesign Work, Cultivate Human Potential and Achieve Extraordinary Outcomes – profoundly changed my life and I’m confident it will change yours too. Carol’s work also exponentially contributed to increasing the value of my company over the three years we worked together – that value increased by over about $100 million. Carol uniquely understands how to cultivate human potential by developing more conscious, creative, innovative, and intentional human beings. You will discover purpose in your work that will drive extraordinary results. You will find that you have the ability to develop capabilities that you never dreamed of. And perhaps most important of all, you will discover that your work can be fulfilling in numerous ways that deeply feed your soul.
– Jeffrey Hollender, Founder & CEO SustainNatural.com, Founder, Founding CEO Seventh Generation
“The Regenerative Business is a passionate call to reimagine work that is rooted not only in Carol’s many years of work with some of the most transformative companies of our time but also in the latest research in psychology and productivity. Rather than thinking of organizations as machines and people as cogs to be manipulated, Carol advocates for a vision of firms as cradles of human development, supporting their employees through journeys of discovery that focus on the lived experience of the customer. Her work points the way to building authentically purpose driven firms that will drive the kind of disruption that my own research suggests is likely to be catalysts in reimagining capitalism and to a way of being in the world that is simultaneously deeply pragmatic and an expression of transformative hope.”
– Rebecca M. Henderson, John and Natty McArthur University Professor, Harvard Business School
“Carol lays out the future of workplace design just in time for the paradigm shift we are experiencing now. She provides us with a language and methodology, tested for decades, on aligning our highest individual potential with nature’s patterns, to evolve our highest collective capacity. She has already influenced my own thinking and that of Kaufman leaders and we are partnering with her for more evolution in entrepreneurship and education to great ends. It’s just what the world needs to transform our fractured and fragmented workplace culture into a healthy, regenerative whole system. Read this book and you will see why I so strongly recommend it.
– Mark Beam, Maverick in Residence Kauffman Foundation
“What I appreciated about Carol’s book is that she have taken what I write about–the science of motivation in the individual and one-to-one contexts–and through her brilliant approach show us how to apply the science in the organization context. Organizations only thrive when people thrive. She demonstrates, with dozens of case stories, how to apply the concepts systemically through strategy and culture work, turned into work design, processes, systems, and structure. Why not design organizations where people thrive? Carol shows you how.”
– Susan Fowler, author of Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work… and What Does: The New Science of Leading, Energizing, and Engaging
“Carol Sanford has deep experience helping the leadership of a diverse range of companies address pressing business challenges. Drawing on a unique embedded responsibility perspective, The Regenerative Business offers important new methodologies for human development and work design, aligned with strategies that ensure business and society thrive together in an increasingly complex world.
– Steve Lippman, Director of Corporate Citizenship, Microsoft, Inc.
How Toxic is Your Business?
FOREWORD BY MICHIEL BAKKER | GOOGLE
With the speed of change in the world, organizations are faced with seemingly more opportunities but also more complex interrelated challenges than ever before. How can we best ready ourselves for the world we live in today let alone tomorrow? Our success will depend on growing our individual and joint thinking capabilities and our capacity for caring. In her latest book, The Regenerative Business: Redesign Work, Cultivate Human Potential, and Achieve Extraordinary Outcomes, Carol Sanford builds upon her core beliefs that we all have not only the desire, but even more importantly, the opportunity to make a much bigger impact on the world and other people’s lives than we even realize.
In this remarkable book, Carol writes about how to develop human talent in ways that benefit the individual, businesses, and society: an amazing win for all. She makes the case that the time has come to evolve our thinking about organizational design and structure in order to develop so much more of our human potential. What excites me so much about this book is that Carol is giving us clear guiding principles and inspiration on how to build the power, passion, and potential of people but without being prescriptive or formula driven. And that is how I come to know Carol and her books over the years. She shares fascinating and thought-provoking insights that help you further develop your own critical thinking capabilities—and, most important, your desire to act…
Carol has been and continues to be a tremendous source of inspiration for me. Through her books, many personal conversations with her over the years, and her participation in the Google Food Lab, I have become a total believer in her approach and thinking. She taught me that everything begins with you as an individual taking full responsibility for your own actions. It is about “external considering,” caring for others and living things. And you must have the notion of personal agency, believing that you have a responsibility to act upon the opportunities to which you have access. If you don’t, who will or should?
When I read Carol’s first book, The Responsible Business, seven years ago I was working for Starwood Hotels & Resorts. That book opened my eyes about how to engage an entire organization and all of its stakeholders in broader challenges. And to be clear, the term organization can be defined here in many different ways. You don’t have to be a CEO to embrace and act upon the notion that in whatever you do, you have to consider the impact you make on all stakeholders of an organization. The beauty of Carol’s work is that it is so relevant for everybody.
The book ‘Responsible Business’ became a must- read for my team members when I moved to Google in 2012 (and it still is). It is now the foundation of how we think holistically about the impact we (can) make with what we do; it is embedded in what we do. Carol’s thinking was one of the sparks that enabled us to create in the fall of 2012 the Google Food Lab, a platform to engage various food system representatives in collaborative discussions about the future of food. Since joining the Google Food Lab, Carol has been contributing and sharing her insights and thinking with so many lab participants and has helped to evolve its, and her work’s, reach and impact. Affecting change in food systems around the world is incredibly complex and requires the type of thinking and collaboration for which Carol so passionately advocates. I can say firsthand is that one of things that makes Carol so special is that she fully practices what she teaches.
The concepts in this newest book, The Regenerative Business, have already helped me evolve my thinking on people management. It has broadened my viewpoints on how to work best with people in today’s environment and how you can make such a difference by designing work in ways that ignite their growth and contribution. Furthermore, Carol highlights for me the need for individuals and organizations to increase their critical thinking capabilities, a competency now more important than ever as the pace of change in the world accelerates. The book connects the dots so well between the organization, strategy execution, and culture evolution (covered in her book The Responsible Entrepreneur)—and now the people who are doing the work.
Unlock and maximize the potential of yourself and those you work with by enjoying this great read.
FOREWORD BY CHERYL KISER | BABSON COLLEGE
It has been said many times that Carol Sanford’s insights, writings and contributions to business and society is a gift. Regenerative Business, is once again another extraordinary gift that she has given to us at a powerfully important time as we better refine and define the purpose of business. A gift for everyone who believes that the human spirit is best served when it is allowed to create and express itself authentically and in community. A gift for those who know that business needs a redesign, and a new articulation of what really drives, business growth, innovation, employee engagement and a better connection to society. And for those who know that developing and engaging the whole person on the job, builds a more integrated and whole organization that is more relevant, responsible and successful.
Carol Sanford thank you on behalf of all of us in academia, business, government, and civil society who seek to influence and educate leaders of all kinds capable of creating great economic and social value simultaneously.
If only every person had exposure to your way of thinking, being and expressing, we would universally be a regenerative society in which we create from a point of abundance not scarcity. Where we awaken and more effectively tap into our desire to co-create, innovate, connect and generate positive outcomes not just for ourselves but for others. Where the desire to contribute to something greater than our selves unleashes our discretionary effort and spurs innovation and personal commitment to the business or organization we are part of in ways never imagined.
Regenerative Business is an invitation to embark on a powerful journey to make much needed change. Carol is an incredible intellectual and spiritual force whose decades of business and whole life experiences is already altering our perspective on business and what it takes to create true value in today’s marketplace.
Her stories of business transformation, positive disruptive frameworks, usage of systemic language as an activator of change, connection to things greater than oneself, intentional design for creativity as an accelerator of innovation, spirituality and connection to natural systems as vital to business and finally stories of creating social value without using programs like Corporate Social Responsibility, all cause reflection on what we thought we knew about business, and why we must know how to create a Regenerative Business.
Regenerative Business honors what we know to be true. Creativity and innovation are inherent in human beings and when they have a place to be usefully expressed, they provide the necessary energy for successful businesses and enduring societies. A regenerative business taps into this powerful source, fostering it, developing it, and harnessing it to improve life for customers and workers.
Regenerative Business is one of the most important books right now. The world is more unpredictable and increasingly more unknowable than ever before. We can no longer extrapolate from the experiences of the past to predict the future. Leading and managing for these uncertainties will require new mindsets, new designs and new habits. When these uncertain conditions exist and define our new normal, the best way to navigate and create is to act, learn and build our way forward. To activate the human urge and desire to create is the most powerful energy source we have, and Carol has brilliantly captured this essence in Regenerative Business.
Gallup International has told us for years through its polls, that close to 70% of all employees are dis-engaged from their work and many of those actively disengaged. This is a problem. A huge problem.
No matter where I go or who I talk with in business four persistent challenges are glaringly evident; how do we grow our business, how do we innovate, how do we engage our employees and how do we connect to society in an authentic way to create a competitive advantage?
Carol’s approach on how to get there from here requires a new way of designing to develop people not to be great performers although they will be, but to be exceptional co-creators who innovate, seek opportunity, and engage with society so that business becomes a far more powerful economic and social force.
Regenerative Business not only provides a roadmap for what we need to do to create Regenerative Business she illuminates who we need to be as leaders and managers to make it happen.
Again, huge gratitude to Carol Sanford for helping Babson open the aperture on its view of what business can and should be. As its founder Roger Babson once said and Carol calls forth in all of us today, “[We] inspire in students the will to make business an agent for the advancement of the good of the state…Men who combined business acumen with this higher purpose can serve their day and generation as vitally and nobly as the greatest statesmen, educators, preachers, and poets.” -Roger Babson