Future Design Podcast #016 with Carol Sanford – The Regenerative Life

Future Design Podcast #016 with Carol Sanford – The Regenerative Life

Have you felt that you are limited in the capacity to make an impact in the world? You are not a CEO, a social activist, or working for an NPO so you can’t make a difference. I have that feeling too but Carol Sanford shows us a different perspective.

She has advised many Fortune 500 companies as a regenerative thought leader, received the Lifetime Trust Award, and has recently been added to the 2018 Top Conscious Company Leader’s List. She also has 5 multi-award winning books (The Responsible Entrepreneur, The Responsible Business, The Regenerative Business, No More Feedback) and her upcoming book The Regenerative Life.

We all can create a life that goes beyond the financial impact, in the organizations, communities, and societies we live in. Every one of us can play an important role to generate extraordinary social returns. Carol calls it the Regenerative Life. She explains the 9 regenerative roles that we all can play in society.

She can be found on Carol Sanford Institute (https://carolsanfordinstitute.com/)                                                                                                                                                                                  TEDxBerkeley (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dqza5Uo1cFE)                                                                                                                                                                                                               TEDxBGI (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpbYiZcfcJw)                                                                                                                                                                                                                 TEDxBellevue (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqLg-0dBiyc)

SEED Communities (http://seed-communities.com/)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Second Opinion on Business Practice Podcast (https://carolsanford.com/business-second-opinion/)                                                                                                                                                                Email Carol Sanford (carol@carolsanford.com)

Full episode on Apple Podcast https://podcasts.apple.com/sg/podcast/016-carol-sanford-the-regenerative-life/id1489931941?i=1000483928917                                                                                Also on Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcast & TuneIn.

Guest: Carol Sanford (https://carolsanford.com/)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Host: Takatoshi Shibayama (https://www.linkedin.com/in/takatoshi-shibayama-9a7b022/)                                                                                                                                                                          Music: ShowNing (https://www.showningdj.com/)



Takatoshi Shibayama

In your new book Regenerative life what kind of common misconceptions of society have you realized that led you to write this book?


Carol Sanford

Well there were I did a research project. I’m a senior fellow at Babson College of social innovation and I wanted to understand, and I was particularly asked by people who are individuals because all my stories in the first four books I have for the most part are about corporations being able to think in a more systemic whole way, and I had individuals who were saying “But can I do anything I’m a low-level supervisor or a mid-level manager, what you call a sole contributor, can I do anything?” and I tell you the truth I had always thought “not much” and I would say to them keep getting promoted because if you don’t have the authority you can’t do much. But over my years of work and watched individuals and I kept seeing what was the difference in what they did and I realized they were playing in addition to their job like their career like, I’m a supervisor, I’m accountant”, they were doing something else and I now call those meta-roles where you’re kind of standing above and saying what’s really needed right now and so I opposed and invited in over a hundred people, the original number was close to 150, we finally over the year we did the research discovered that the major thing that matters is you have to become more conscious of what is the essence, I call it what’s needed right now. If you have like right now in the quarantine what is the essence of what is needed if you’re an account or supervisor or schoolteacher where we are and you might say for example is something like a spirit resource because the spirit of people, the spirit of customers or our suppliers all begin to collapse in a certain environment. But if you don’t understand what it means to raise spirit then what you do is you do false reassurance well I’ll be okay or most of us will be and so what really became clear to me is the people who really made a difference, not just succeeded as you say for themselves but help the system move were those people who could take on these roles. So I just had to figure out what are those and there are little like art types.


I was raised by a grandfather who was, and I tell all in the story of the book who was a half Mohawk Indian. When you were New York that was the original territory of all the airport and one things he always said to me was “Do what’s right but there are always a way you would always do it” and I thought what does he mean? But that it took me a long time to understand that I could still be me but I needed to look at what was going on outside, need be relevant. So just to summarize this question I brought together this a hundred people I educate them about the roles that turned out to be nine of them, that seemed to help societies and cultures move and become cohesive become whole and what they do and did the research to discover what was the essence of that role and what made it need to show up somewhere like the spirit resource right now. I taught people what the essence of that role was. They went off into their lives and there were business owners heads of radio public radio we had journalists we had economic I mean economists who were helping shape, and I had people from all over the world by the way and we had to go try out those roles in situations and they came back and reported changed their lives to see that if they were holding a way to be in a particular situation it could be amazing. This is quite normal in many indigenous cultures where you have things like shaman and clowns and people know that that’s not just their job it’s a role. So I think in answer to your question of what was really a surprise to me and, I feel like I should apologize for all the years I said it wasn’t possible, but what I discovered was if people could learn to read the situation in front of them, not for the problem that was there but for the potential and what was needed, and they could it was like putting on a cape and, but not a superhero cape, like an ordinary cape and stepping in and I found these nine roles that we now are teaching people and seem to be making a huge difference in organizations in neighborhoods in families and that was the big shift for me from the first book.


Takatoshi Shibayama

Before we go into that nine roles that you think that people need to think about, you’ve mentioned about the idea of being heroic or being a leader constantly is really making us think that that’s the success or that’s how we need to live life and you think that is a misconception that we need to think about role in our life in our world, in our planetary, cosmictarian life that it is a different way that we have to think about things and can you describe to us a little bit more about what you mean by that?


Carol Sandford

I can and I have personal experience of having figured this out where when I was a child and maybe many children like this I watched all I read the comic books and Wonder Woman and I read Superman, Batman, and they always rushed in to save the day for everyone and I was I started as a child think I was gonna rescue all the dogs that got picked up and taken away. It was so small but over time I became more and more driving myself to do something huge and change everything. I used to say when I grow up I’m gonna do something really important, and I have done really important things but I watched me, I watch my blood pressure when I couldn’t figure out how to do it, I worked when I was at Berkeley getting arrested and tried to stop the war in Vietnam, I did work with the civil rights movement and you know going into the South being a white ally where that made sense, and I realized that I was then going back to my normal life and I was not really everyday living a way that changed that which was around me. That this new book is about understanding that oh you’re not actually going somewhere and doing something different or changing career or joining something bigger, like a movement, you can actually make an enormous difference by how you play your everyday role.


So let’s talk about for example if you’re in a role that has something to do with design and like you can design products or you can design processes and if you came to really understand that design was about being able to have things that were hard to understand if you could find what really brought out the greatest potential for everybody who used it instead of thinking about well I create beautiful things or beautiful processes. You said what is the essence of being a designer it’s really about helping people find potential they didn’t know they had. That can change so many people’s lives. It will change yours also change the people you work with and so I call it the non heroic approach and it’s healthier I think it affects more people it’s actually doable for every human being. So that’s why I have been and nowadays I watch more and more hero movies and more women being heroes and I think but then you go back to your career or your normal life or you wait for a hero. Why don’t we learn to be non heroic change agents by how we do every day. So this book is about taking on these meta-roles in a way that you don’t have to be heroic you just have to be conscious which in some ways is harder.



Takatoshi Shibayama

Yeah usually you know I guess a lot of these heroic movies it’s always painted in black and white and either you’re good you’re bad and there’s really nothing in between. But our lives is so much in the gray matter that it’s hardly black and white so thinking about you know choosing being a heroic character or finding a heroic character in our life, doesn’t really lead to a lot of happiness and I find that because you don’t achieve that people fall into depression or to feel like you’re not succeeding in life and I think that’s causing a lot of stress and depression in everyday life so I think we need to kind of change the way we think about how we contribute to society, not in a way that stands out so much in the public. As we as we know and we’re in the era of social media everybody wants to stand out and an education system tells you, you have to be successful make money you know be the change maker, the trailblazer, whatever it is but most of the times we don’t really actually turn out to be that so do we end up living like we’re actually a failure in life we don’t want to live like that either right? So how do we actually, so maybe this is the next question is, like those nine roles of getting to where we want we should be going to?


Carol Sanford

Well I would say “can” be going, than “should” as it always gets us into heroic mode right but I understand your question. I think that I wanted I’m gonna do what the nine are and how they come up become about but I want to add one thing to what you said about, you go from pursuing success

which you can have to fulfillment to making a difference and success comes with that. It’s not an end in itself. So these nine roles really matter.


So let me start with describing that there are three sets of threes and these represent a lot of what it takes to make a social system including a family or a city, work. The first step I called the “Initiators” and the initiators are the ones who as we get something up off the ground and something new being birth is it prepared is that seeded well is it nourished in a way that’s likely to succeed and those three roles are the “Parent”. Of course it makes sense you know do children get developed in a way that they’re they are going to be able to be in society the way that they can contribute and make a difference.


The second of those three roles as to what I mentioned a moment ago, is the “Designer” we don’t most of us know the designer for the things we use every day that make our lives work but the designer in a product sense but also in a process is like you are designing you design how podcast is going to work how you’re going to ask it’s how you’re going to frame it the quality of design that you’re able to conceive up and execute is a very important part of initiating what people get out of this.


The third role is what I call “Earth’s Tender” and I named her after Pat Anderson’s who wrote a wonderful book called “Tending Wild” that said there are certain people who feel so close to the living systems the natural systems particularly that they are able to be a voice for them when we don’t speak the same language as natural systems. As a result they end up becoming farmers or advocates in a way that make sure we are caring for the whole that we share with other non living entities. So those three roles, if someone doesn’t step up to those we have a system that breaks down. Children don’t do well the designs that we get waste materials are not well conceived them we don’t understand Earth and what our role is so those three roles we spent time teaching. But the interesting thing is, and I’ll give you the other six in a moment. The interesting thing is that those can happen in any job. So we can actually end up parenting a lot of things that don’t have to do with our children. I personally raised eight children, I gave birth to two. That process was about taking on, not I didn’t foster I didn’t adopt them, I called them by chosen children. That process of supporting them, and they were later teenagers, helped them go off into life knowing who they were and I didn’t know I was gonna do that, my children brought them home. So we can parent many things. We can even if we are accountants be a designers, even if we are a school teacher design curriculums. An earth tender, every one of us should learn to be. So they are meta-roles. They’re above our other work.


The second set of rolls are what I call the “Manifesters”. They go do things in the world they’re the ones we know about what they shape that happens and those 3 roles are the “Citizen” because if we don’t really work on the way democracy work that’s one thing is I loved about your other podcast, it has to that conversation comes on what do we do to help democracy work. Most of us don’t know how to be citizens and we think we don’t matter or we don’t figure out what role we need to play above what our job is every day and so having people act, and that’s what the Manifestors are, they take action in the world.


The second one is the “Entrepreneur” which clearly you are many of your guests are I play and take on that role but it is not all I do in the world I write books and so I play some of the other roles but entrepreneurs really help us shift paradigm. They help disrupt what we normally think and they do that not by preparing us to do it, although we might play that role they do it by doing it themselves. So there are Manifestors they create a business they create a product offering that shatters what we thought was possible and we know some of the big names but every one of us can do that.


Then the third Manifester role is the “Economic Shaper” and if we ever wanted to understand what that means right, we can look at right now, as their economies become incredibly volatile and they’re volatile because the was that our thinking about how you structure an economy. So it has very little resilience built in. It affects some people really well even in horrific times and it crashes the world for many others but the economic shapers are people like the bank’s the economists but we also can be economic shapers by how we spend our money. When you were being an investor you were being an economic shaper if we understand that every time we invest we are shaping the world we all live in that would be so important and that’s what you were speaking to at the beginning. You can see and you can see the difference between that Japan in the US and how the economy had been shaped. Knowing those roles who make those decisions who helped shape that who raised those conversation is another Manifester so we need those people because they take action were the initiators prepare people to take action.


There is a third set of roles and those I call the “Disruptors”. You know if we don’t have things that come in and knock us out of our way of seeing the world and our way of behaving we just go on automatic we become automatons who in fact disruption like right now and in certainty is so important. I mean people get mad at me when I say this but I’m so thrilled we have this much disruption. Because you can’t bring about change in culture or engagement if you don’t have disruption. When I go work with companies or used to I don’t get on planes and go anywhere anymore but the first thing you have to do is to enter with a disruptive process. If you don’t disrupt people didn’t create a crack in the facade and there are three of those roles.


The first one is the “Educator” and I call myself a “Regenerative Paradigm Educator” because I believe the most important work for disruption comes out of that opportunity to help develop people develop what they can see this conversation we’re having I’m holding more the educator in mind then any other role and the questions you’re asking me invite. That many people who are teaching roles don’t hold that though they hold it not as a disrupter but as let’s see how much knowledge I have I can give you and then I’ll tell you how well you did when you take a test. There are some cultures which are really, really good at that. Singapore is very, very good at that they have curriculum developers you have whole institutions that are very good at making sure everybody can pass the test. But to me the educator role really is about developing intelligence less so than knowledge now you need the knowledge but you can go get the knowledge you can figure it out learning how to think and how intelligence actually works is the foundational role which we can take on.


The second of the disruptor role so we got the Educator over here coming in and on the other side we have the “Media Content Creator”. You comment on and I really agree how social media has everyone fighting for space it also has TV radio podcast stations fighting for space. As an institution and they don’t always think about that we are creating a worldview for people. We are we actually helping them become more discerning are we helping them understand the systemic effects of choices we’re making. When I write books and one of the reasons my books continuously win awards and bestseller list is I believe they help people become discerning for themselves. I try not to tell people I know the answer my epistemology, which is how people learn and know, is that you can know it’s a capability process and of creating a way for you to engage and you can know and you can’t come to trust that you know and you won’t worry about fake news and you won’t worry about finding the smartest person who can tell you. I teach in universities and my opening line there is “Don’t trust me. Never believe offhand anything I tell you. Don’t take notes about what I say take notes about what you’re thinking.” and I always ask them to come up with their own idea before I give the mind that is a process which is a combination with an educator and a media content creator to give people the  capacity to learn to see in a whole way with the truth is of the whole system with you clearly are a  system thinker and you’re a content creator.


The last of those disruptive roles is the “Spirit Resource”. I have membership communities and I have people out of Japan and out of New Zealand Australia and the kind of the time zone although and I’ve had people from Singapore join my  communities there up and talk in the morning. That tells you the dedication right? Because I’m teaching people how you take whatever you’re working on and you do it in a way it is the resource to the spirit of the world, to people in the world. Because it’s so easy to lose faith and to give up and lose hope and we have a record depression around the globe right now. How is that we engage with people in a way that they know how to manage their own energy, their mental energy, their emotional energy. and choose how they’re going to be. That role is often given to a third party, to my great mentor, to a teacher I have or my therapist or my church and it doesn’t mean you might not go engage with those. But if you want to be a disruptor of the kind of restraining energy that can tamp down our spirit, then learning to be a spirit resource, it’s disrupting the pattern of degradation.


So that took a little while but you’ve got the indeed capability and the foundation of the Manifesters who step out into the world and they do things and then it changes the pattern and then you have the Disruptors who will not let us stay asleep and those are the nine roles that we all can play in a non-heroic way in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in the jobs that we have they could change society and therefore make the world work better for a living are human and non-human living ways.


Takatoshi Shibayama

We talk a lot about AI disrupting our jobs and taking away jobs that we know today and be automated away and we’re going to be left with jobs that we actually don’t even know exist yet. And for the young people who are growing up today whether it be you know the Millennials are have already grown up quite a bit already but the Gen Zs or even the children who are in high school junior high school and all these kids are looking at a disrupted future what kind of jobs can I get, how can I prepare myself to get a job once this educational system is over so we think about many things, how can we uplift our human values and how can we create jobs that are more tailored towards human value than actually production and what resonates to me quite a lot about what you were saying is you broke it down into very small pieces about what people can do to contribute to the society the Initiators, the Manifester, the Disruptors, the Educators. I mean they’re very important roles in our society that machines can’t actually do for us. Because we were already educated as being the producers you know we have to make things you know reproduce things and cookie cut many things so that we can provide more and more the same things to everybody but now it’s more tailored. We have a lot of jobs that are very tailored to their personal tastes. What you say in those nine roles can also be all fit into that genre as well. So what kind of message that can we give to our young people about what they should be thinking about when they started thinking about what kind of careers that they want in the next five to ten years?


Carol Sanford

Well two things. What do you start with who you are start with your essence, start with what caused you if you found even when you were very young you were constantly being an entertainer you ought to plan on doing that no matter how hard that is. I had a grandson who’s the high-end I guess of the generation after the Millennials when he was the year and a half old he was working with numbers. He began to figure out how to code when he was a very young child and play with math. Go with that even if it means if you have to figure out how you get there. Because I think starting with what career you can have and make money and will create a miserable life for you. It must come from your essence because that will sustain you through everything. It will also give you the courage in the direction. So that may sound strange because most people do say well find out what your aptitudes are no find out where your heart is, find out where your essence is, what it is driven to do, and that is one of the things I do. I have a huge amount Millennials who are in my membership group because of this they went oh yeah no the reason I’m suffering is I’m trying to fit in. No, figure out where you can be you and you don’t have to fit. That’s the first thing.


The second thing is, worry a little less about which career because if you choose something that fits and calls to you, now there are things you can do to really make that work. And as you say AI is going to be a part of our future and it’s gonna do some good things and we’re going to manage some of the bad things and you can help do that but these roles are not in it one additional thing you do it is learning to do all of them because you will become so sought after, and this is one of the things my research show, if you can see what role is needed, if you can see oh I’m watching the company on the end up watching the department I in, I’m watching the University I’m in, I’m watching the school system or the government I’m in, needing to be disrupted and you’ve been working and by the way I have ways that people can come do this for buying a few books for me you can go through though work the action research participants went through with me you can learn to play those roles then you can say which disrupter role well it looks to me like they’re not thinking well enough I might say. And so I know something about how you educate a group even though what I am is the low level supervisor or maybe just a coder in a group or a full-stack engineer I’m a highly developed with AI but I don’t want to be known only for that I want to be known for bringing the kind of spirit and work that I am in a community to bring or that maybe there’s a need for some media to be created. What if I created a little documentary then help us look at what we’re doing and it would change the conversation or I might say well what we really need is more crap with the young people who are coming in I’ve got to step into the parenting role which helps people become self-determining but the way I do that is going to give people but the courage and the capability for the next generation. If you think you will need to eventually do all nine of those roles somewhere but some of them you will feel more call – than others.


So one of the reasons I did this book and the education program so I have to go with it maybe which are online and if fact even the live ones are life like you and I are right now, that will give used people so much respect for you because as you said there’s no machine I don’t care how smart it is, they can read, and it’s certainly in our lifetime I can’t say forever, but I bet you forever that we’ll be able to see which of these roles are needed so you can go be that full stack engineer and be very, very good at it but you will never be displace if you’re first being yourself and I can with your own in essence the way you do it and understanding the meta-roles so you can bring more as it’s needed. So that would be my advice.


Takatoshi Shibayama

Also, with the older people who are in their forties, fifties, obviously they need to upskill as well. Would you give the same type of advice as well?


Carol Sanford

I am one of those people right except my little older than the Greek you mentioned I realized some years ago that if I continued to be in the role that I was in, talking about things that businesses wanted me to talk about doing what others wanted me to do then I would never ever realize my potential and I don’t think there’s any such thing as full potential because I keep being amazed about how it’s smarter I can get every year and next year I will be 80 years old. All right so what you said there’s no limit on the other side you have one precious life. I mean maybe we get to go around again we get to choose but in this one precious life as Mary Oliver said, what are we going to do with it. And so I don’t care how old you are and I did this with my nine-year-old  granddaughter I ask what excites you are I watch what she’s doing and I can see she loves putting color together. She’ll go redecorate her whole room she will put on clothes then you can see she’s designing and what I can do is engage her in finding a way to explore that. So it’s ages irrelevant courage at any time is what it takes go back and find out who you are with your essence is then create a way to find a place to express that and then work on all of these nine meta-roles, bring them in when needed get better at them over time. Come join me and where you all you have to do is get online and watch the videos that are recorded and just know people though I’m not selling something all you have to do to do that is tell me you’re going to buy five books. Five books and what you can have is a year-long set of material they can’t get you started and give away a few of those books because I’m doing this evening if you talk to many authors or written a book yourself you know you don’t make money off books you make message with books. You get an opportunity to help change people’s life. So I have watched now thousands of people who have worked with over the years change their belief in themselves changed our understanding of how their organization can work on with so many entrepreneurs all the way up to, I work with high levels in Google of CEO of DuPont, and Colgate around the world. I have never seen a person that didn’t benefit. So maybe that’s encompassing enough for what I’m saying I think it’s about being human.


Takatoshi Shibayama

Thank you. Yeah I really resonate with that as well and more and more I think that people start to be thinking about not about you know success and everything that’s monetary driven but how you can fulfill your life spiritually, and how you can really live out this life the best way you could. And having this idea of regenerative life I really would love to read this book when it comes out I think it was in July?


Carol Sanford

Yeah enjoy if you get a hard copy but I’m gonna send you if I can figure out how to do it a digital version right now. Will get you one don’t let me forget come back and I want to give you a gift. Takatoshi, you have a wonderful spirit I love talking with you.


Takatoshi Shibayama

Yeah thank you very much I really enjoyed this talk and yeah maybe you know in the next episode we can talk about business as well because, you know it is the future design podcast and we talked about not just the human aspect or personal but we want to talk about business as well. So I really enjoyed reading your book about, you worked with Colgate, DuPont and Seven Generations and all these companies that were trying to provide more to their community, more to this Earth rather than just profits for themselves so this is another topic, especially for my financial mindset that I’ve been in the hedge fund industry so long, I want to see a different aspect of corporate mentality that’s not purely focused on money.


Carol Sanford

I would love to have the conversation with you because that is work I still do. I have membership communities with businesses now I am online doing things with people there are in food companies, agriculture companies because what’s going on you we’re now all understand how important our food system is but the same thing is true if you are in the entertainment industry or everywhere we have to rethink how we run business and I do, my books are always filled that I call case stories. Where at least every book has at least 50 stories where we have done what we’re talking about how do you have a business become system conscious which you were describing. Understand it is about working with Earth in a way that it makes sense and don’t call her The Earth because that’s like the wife right or the husband. Earth has a name and the communities we live in have a name and the investors to support us have a name and the suppliers that each employ and how do you design work systems so let’s do have that conversation.


Takatoshi Shibayama

Yes, I’m very much looking forward to that. So thank you very much for your time and for the lovely conversation that we had today.

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