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How to become an agent of change

Google’s Innovation Lab uses her Responsible Business Framework – and her books are required business school reading at Stanford and Harvard. She is Carol Sanford, the author of five best-selling books and Senior Fellow of Social Innovation at Babson College, and she is my guest today on Inside Ideas.

Her writing does not present the reader with an oven-ready set of solutions they can programme into their minds and act upon, rather it sets them off on their own journey of discovery.

You have to learn to think through a different paradigm.

Carol Sanford

“I am seeking with my books to give people a path to a process, or a path to a community. Reading books is knowledge acquisition, real change comes from moving from knowledge to understanding,” she said. “And understanding happens when we pass it through our being and our life. Instead of reading for answers which are all external, work on the capability to be a better discerner, a better evolver, a better developed human being so I can manage myself and see when I am using old answers.”

She went on: “I don’t write to tell you what I know. I write to tell you what I am trying to figure out and I make myself work through some deeper ways to come to an answer. And at the end I have a book that’s educated me about what I have discovered for now.”

Sanford believes people are held back by their deeply entrenched ways of seeing the world and they need to start thinking through a different paradigm.

“One thing people ask me all the time is: ‘I don’t see how you get to the ideas you get to, it’s like – I can’t see that, how can you see that?’. I say, I use a different mind than you do, not that you have, or could use, but you have to learn to think through a different paradigm and I’ve spent my whole life doing that. So when I listen to people talk I can hear that they’re thinking through an old paradigm usually with good intentions, so they are not bad actors in the world but their way of thinking does not let them see what the effect really is so my new book is called Indirect Work, because the primary problem we have is, as Einstein said, is we’re using the old mind that created the problem to try and solve the new one.”


The word regeneration is prominent in her writing and has appeared in two of her titles: The Regenerative Business, and The Regenerative Life. It is a word that is currently enjoying a bit of a renaissance but has something being lost in the translation?

“My grandfather taught me about the word regeneration, and he knew a version of it in Mohawk, but he taught me to understand that regeneration was more about revelation. I mean that in two ways. One is that you can reveal something that can’t be seen, kind of like a detective using their mind in a different way. But you also can reveal something in you that you didn’t know. The word reveal is closer but people have translated regeneration now in the popular press and their word means restore, renew – they’re taking everything that was already popular – biomimicry, circular, sustainability and they are renaming it that.”

She added: “Most people still use an old mind to talk about regeneration. It is one of the reasons I took the seven first principles of living systems that my grandfather offered and said, judge yourself whether or not you are actually working from a living systems view.

“You can interview various people, everyone from the Dalai Lama to indigenous peoples and even Jane Goodall, for example, who has lived in the wild with amazing creatures, but if you don’t have a mind that knows how to work from those seven first principles of living systems you usually end up with a fragmented view.”

Discover more about these seven first principles, the meaning of regeneration, and the art of communication on today’s show, with the multi-award winning Carol Sanford.

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Written By

Marc is Editor-at-Large for Innovators Magazine and host of INSIDE IDEAS, his OnePoint5Media video podcast show. Marc is a member of the World Economic Forum Expert Network, Resilient Futurist, and award-winning Global Food Reformist.


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