Leadership, insight – Wild by Naturakademin Learning Lab

OUR VISION AND OUR PURPOSE

Our vision is a long-term sustainable world where development happens through a dynamic balance between human beings, society and nature.

Our purpose is to assist individuals, leaders and organization to reach success at the same time as integrating sustainability in every aspect.

OUR PEDAGOGICAL IDEA

We support a continuous and transformative learning by offering methods, tools and guidance. The dynamic between reflection and dialog is vital for us.

Reflection – to stop for a moment, individually or in a group, to be able to deepen the understanding of previous experiences at the same time as each individual and group comes in contact with it´s higher potential.

Dialog – the art of holding a conversation and thinking together to facilitate for the organization to reach it´s vision and goals, at the same time as being a co-creator of a desirable and sustainable future.

We are inspired of nature´s processes of continues development and renewal and use nature as a teacher and classroom for faster and deeper learning, when appropriate. Our programs are based on more than 20 years of experience and research primarily from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Society for Organizational Learning.

WHO WE ARE AND WHAT WE DO   

Naturakademin Learning Lab has guided change-makers in the creation of more efficient and sustainable decision making processes, to recognize and seize opportunities and reach actionable conclusions more rapidly, since 1990.

THE CHALLENGE

The more we move in to the complex and accelerating global economy the more the ability to self mastery will be rewarded. The advantages of competition will lie in being able to interpret the ever-changing conditions and opportunities before everybody else. That is why the future belongs to the people and organizations that have full mastery of the principles of change and the art of learning. Intuition, pattern-seeing and a way of thinking that foresees all possible developments, can be trained consciously and methodically.

Naturakademin has been working with learning and presencing for many years and has used nature as a classroom, laboratory and source of inspiration. For us beautiful places are not only an adventure or an inspiring backdrop but a catalyst which boosts change and the speed of learning and makes results deeper and more lasting.

The Conscious Leadership courses run by Naturakademin are based on modern, scientific methods and the latest findings in pedagogy, perception and brain research. In addition, we use knowledge and wisdom brought by the indigenous peoples of the world. In our classroom the skies are high, offering grand views as well as deep insights.

THE PEDAGOGY OF NATURAKADEMIN

” This is the way you should feel when you make decisions that affect so many people, now and in the future.” This feeling, expressed many years ago by a high-ranking executive, resting for a moment of reflection on a mountain slope, has been central in the development of the vision and business concept of Naturakademin. Power and influence have a price. It is a demanding job to manage large projects, decide to give thousands of people notice and be responsible for high-risk ventures. Today many of us are stressed by the unfathomable and limitless possibilities of the brave new digital world. We work with learning based on experience. We create opportunities not only for intellectual understanding but also for practical experience. Our aim is to give the whole human being – body, senses, intellect, feelings, spirit and vital force – the nourishment and energy needed to achieve his optimal state of development.

Nature has all the time in the world. When you are out there, you automatically relax when you carry out procedures like packing, hiking, setting up camp, fishing or just walking. Weather and wind, light and darkness, hunger and thirst are factors that divide our time organically in total accord with nature.

KNOW YOURSELF

Our concept is to give you opportunities to enjoy life as you deserve. All change starts with the individual, and self-knowledge is a fundamental prerequisite for change. Under a star-strewn sky, to the soothing crackle of a fading fire, after hours of silence with a paddle in your hands – there, far from the ticking time traps of everyday life -you stand a fair chance of meeting yourself and your true desire and deepest longing. Out there in the wilderness the tiring internal struggle between what you want to do and what you think you must do becomes visible.

When you rest your back against a tree, neither moving nor speaking, you will soon hear the animals you scared off when you arrived slowly returning to reclaim their territory. Memories and thoughts from your childhood will also return. And maybe that special feeling will emerge: the notion that everything hangs together, and that it is vital you make full use of your time on earth.

We won’t ruin this experience with scientific explanations of serotonin levels or changed brain rhythms. You just sit there, the miracle takes place before your eyes and you will be in the best possible state of mind to meet the others in the group in open conversations about the future in a way that you may never have experienced before. You will take home with you a better calibrated inner compass that allows you to summon up balance and focus in your everyday working life. When you are a complete person, you will feel, and be seen to be, more on the ball and focused in the places where decisions are made. A new kind of leadership has emerged and it has proven itself superior- we call it conscious leadership. Gone is the “drill sergeant” who threatens and shouts to motivate his employees to work even harder. The new kind of leader acts more like the gardener who tries to understand the potential of each seed, and then creates the best possible conditions for it to grow.

BEYOND THE ROLES

To learn and consciously create as a group is the great challenge we face, if we are to survive as an organization. We need effective methods to break our ingrained cognitive- and behavioral patterns. Our development concept is based on the disciplines on the teachings of Peter Senge, who has concluded that nature is the best setting in which to practice learning based on experience. There we can quickly reach the unknown depths in ourselves and extract the most of our invested time and experience.

Sharing a sublime experience of nature has a deeply releasing as well as a strongly forging effect on all participants. It provides a relaxing platform for fresh thinking and learning when people meet in a setting in which they feel at ease and comfortable. In nature we shed many of the ingrained roles and thoughts that cling to the very walls of our conference-rooms and the very fabric of our clothes. The aim is to use “learning and thinking together” to establish a new effective creative behavior, which we will take back to the place where we work.

The ability to innovate, flexibility and the joy of life give us the strength to live in a society in constant change as well as the strength to play a creative role in changing the organization.

ROAD-WISE WANDERERS

We are all headed into an expanding society where the market for feelings is greater than that for material products; where content is more important than the technology that communicates it; where images, stories and traditions mean more than information-based reality. Here the markets of the storytellers prevail.

Our devoted pathfinders and storytellers come from all over the world and are all inspired by a profound desire to share, guide and move. They will be Lapps, Indian chiefs, quantum physicists and management researchers. Often they will be personalities active on the location of the course. Persons with a story to tell around the fire, a philosophy or wisdom that they will gladly share with anyone who will take the time to listen. These are men and women who have walked their own ways and whom you seldom otherwise get a chance to meet.

OUR THREE-STAGE PROCESS TOWARDS CHANGE

1. An analysis of the goals of the organization as well as the individual. What is it the participants hope for and really need? Are great changes called for and are they realistic? If our intention is to create a learning organization from its foundations, what fundamental changes in the ways we think and interact will be required?

2. Staging the experiences that will lead to the desired change. The location is carefully chosen according to the focus of the exercises that the clients are expected to need. We will deal with the individuals’ own visions and goals, their own interpretation of the world and their own role in it. Group activities will evolve around increasing the ability to create a dialog and strengthen creativity, to innovate together.

3. Maintaining the change and furthering its implementation in the reality back home. After having experienced a positive charge with deeper qualities we have to maintain this experience to convert it into consistent behavior. For this part of the process, too, we will supply the tools.

NEW FINDINGS IN THE FIELDS OF LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT

Naturakademin has long experience of development according to the latest research into organizational development and learning. We enjoy close cooperation with several leading authorities in the USA, mainly through the Society for Organizational Learning (SoL). SoL is a conglomerate of large companies and organizations, scientists and consultants. Its function is to act as a platform of knowledge for organizations in the process of change. Its base is the research into systematics, leadership-development and organizational learning conducted by Peter Senge at MIT in Boston. Naturakademin, which is engaged in various contexts at a national as well as an international level, also offers cooperation with the Swedish SoL and the Swedish Institute for Corporate Management, (IFL-Stockholm Business School).

The basis of our programs is the driving forces of the “learning organization”, the five disciplines described by Peter Senge, among others.

At the individual level we deal with:
* Self-knowledge – by seeing and understanding one’s own personal driving force/vision, one can develop learning and personal maturity.
* Mental models – by seeing and understanding one’s own mental models and those of others, both individual and group thinking are developed.
* System-thinking – the ability to see and analyze contexts and underlying structures in complex systems.

When it comes to the development of groups and organizations the focus is on:
* The introduction and development of a common vision.
* Team-learning – communication through learning as a group.

THREE OBSTACLES ON THE WAY TO BECOMING A “LEARNING ORGANIZATION”

The creation of a learning organization demands fundamental changes in our thinking and interacting processes as individuals and organizations. Both research and practical experience have shown that to create consistent change it is necessary to conduct training at the personal level. Deep personal commitment is required to manage this hard but necessary work. Fred Caveman and Peter Sense, among others at MIT, have identified three fundamental dysfunctions in most of our organizations today: fragmentation, competition and reactive behavior.

In most organizations action-oriented behavior is rewarded. Quick recipes or checklists for success, “How to’s” or “7 steps to change” are greatly in demand. Of course, action is important, but most people only conclude that they make their mistakes even quicker.

* Fragmentation
Already in school we learn to divide the world into different domains, diverting ourselves from wholeness and entirety. We memorize facts, read statistical calculations, study abstract theories and acquire ideas which have no relevance to our lifestyle or ambitions. Economy is separated from psychology, which is separated from biology, which is isolated from art and so on. In organizations fragmentation often results in watertight walls between different departments. To tear down these invisible walls it is necessary to tear down the mental walls that created them. It is vital to see what is cause and effect. There is a lack of what we call system-thinking.

* Competition
We have become so dependent on competition that we seem to use it as our only model for change and learning. There is nothing wrong in competition in itself; the problem is rather that we have lost the balance between competition and cooperation. To be able to learn something new we have to admit that there are certain things we know nothing about and still be willing to try them, but in most companies ignorance about a certain sector is considered a sign of weakness.
Our enthusiasm for competition makes us focus on short-term and measurable results. We implement short-term solutions even though most of us understand that the majority of “quick fixes” do not help solve the underlying problems. We are supposed to deliver results – and quickly.

* Reactive behavior
Unfortunately, change often happens as a reaction to external influence, which is not so strange. As children we learn that the way to success lies in focusing on the teacher’s questions instead of our own, and this mechanism stays with us for the rest of our lives. Many executives believe that management is “trouble-shooting”.

But problem solving is something fundamentally different from the act of creation. Trouble-shooters are motivated by external factors that have to be challenged or driven away. Creators generate internally from an inner desire to make something real. They are driven by an inner motivation, a power of imagination that is the original source of all learning.

THE NEW LEARNING

This past year has brought us so many new findings in pedagogy, management and organizational development that it is well founded to talk about a “new learning. If in the past century division, specialization and competition were the recipes for success, this century, in its infinite complexity, points towards abilities such as intuition, comprehensive perspectives and essential collaboration. One of the most interesting conceptions in contemporary management thinking/philosophy is “presencing”, which means the ability to sense the future.

In this new fast economy you can lose the chance of a lifetime three times in one afternoon – or get on the wrong train both morning and evening. Business deals are closed so swiftly that it is impossible to analyze everything in detail. The businessman has to trust in his well-founded intuition to decide which way is the right one and make a safe as well as quick judgement of the situation. The two Boston researchers Otto Sharmer and Joseph Jaworski have identified the phenomenon of “presensing” as one of the conclusive competitive advantages because it allows us to interpret the upcoming competition, with all its possibilities, before everybody else.

Researchers today distinguish two types of organizational learning:
Type 1 – Learning based on reflection over times gone by, feedback and input from the past.
Type 2 – Learning based on the presencing of emerging futures, “feedforward” and input from the future.

Previously, learning mainly revolved around building and conserving in the fashion of Type 1 learning. Now companies and organizations face totally new kinds of challenges that require a new source of learning. These challenges are about how to compete in the new economy, that is, how to learn from a reality that is not yet manifested.

CONSCIOUS LEADERSHIP

In a global and highly flexible economy leadership is about mobilizing people’s energies to create values with a deeper meaning. When that kind of collective energy is mobilized, each and every participant becomes committed, productive and satisfied. To be in tune with your own self is a prerequisite for all leaders who want to be able to inspire and create, as well as to deserve trust. Confidence in oneself and in one’s role in the group is a basic condition for total presence in constant change. When leaders initiate and maintain creative change, their function is more like the gardener’s than of the machine-operator’s. The gardener doesn’t threaten his seeds to get results; he understands that the seed has a potential for a certain kind of growth that is entirely the seed’s own. The gardener also understands that growth is a result of an interaction between seed and environment. To be more precise – the seed and the environment together create a self-improving process of growth.

This is the first principle of leadership: to understand the self-improving processes of growth. If these principles malfunction, change cannot generate energy. The contrary will occur: energy will be lost. Many people who have taken upon themselves the role of prime mover with a vision of change have burned themselves out. Efficient leaders intuitively recognize the interaction between the forces and learn to direct them and to work with them. They take part in the process of growth and eliminate what limits the possibilities for change.
Naturakademin trains executives to lead their employees towards growth learning and development.

LIVING SYSTEMS- NATURE AS A BLUEPRINT

The fundamental idea in Naturakademin is that nature is our best teacher in a world in constant change. The coordinating principle of nature is relationships during change. Individuals, systems, the environment, rules and the processes of evolution. Even change changes. Life makes use of this chaos to create functional solutions. Life itself is formed around identity. Every living creature acts to preserve itself and to develop. Identity is a filter every organism uses to make the world understandable. New information, new relations, changing environments – everything is interpreted through the filter of identity. Every organism creates new rules and exceptions and interprets the rules anew. When living organisms get together, systems are created that give the individual more possibilities and greater freedom. That is why life organizes itself, why it seeks out systems- so that everything can flourish. The likeness to the new economy is astonishing. Constant and fast change is the only thing that is constant.

NEW FINDINGS – OLD WISDOM

The latest findings and research about learning organizations have proved to be the old, used and tested knowledge of many of the older cultures that existed in harmony with nature. They posses that deeper and wider knowledge that is passed on from generation to generation; it seems to have codes and the visionary power to see right through our own culture. We like to call it wisdom.

Knowledge that deals with the art of living in the ever-changing present with balance and enjoyment is what we call “The Art of Life”. To converse and to conduct a dialog in a group, to make decisions in a counsel, to find one’s own vision and to overcome inner barriers that are a hindrance to a desired development are skills that have been practiced by mankind for thousands of years. We go to this ancient knowledge and wisdom and incorporate it in our programs.
Naturally, learning involves the risk of making mistakes when we try to do something we haven’t done before. Anyone who wants to learn juggling has to reckon on dropping the first few balls. That is why you need to create a secure and comfortable learning space where people will feel free to try out that new way of doing something.
The scene, the laboratory or the workshop has to be designed so as to create these conditions.
To optimize the learning situation the setting should be free of all attributes that will sustain the participant’s subconscious mental frames and models. This means removing cellular phones and overhead projectors as well as suits and ties. Medical research shows that psychophysical rehabilitation is considerably shortened, and that the ability to concentrate is increased wherever nature is a part of the total setting. The well- known American scientists Rachel and Stephen Kaplan and the Swede Patrik Grahn have ,after many years of research, described the extraordinarily positive psychological effects of close interaction with natural elements. This verifies the empirical knowledge of effective learning acquired at Naturakademin.

THE WHOLE MAN

The Harvard professor of education Howard Gardner has identified ten different skills or talents that we may posses as dominant factors in our learning. That is why Naturakademin considers different styles of learning for optimal development.
Mature and high-performing people are considered to have well-developed contacts between the conscious and the sub-conscious. Rationality in combination with intuition characterizes all great thinkers like Einstein and others. When we experience the dynamics of life and nature, we also get the opportunity to re-learn and meet ourselves through renewed contact with our slumbering senses, our atavistic instincts and our natural intuition. The ability to develop an organization depends on the inner state of mind of the individuals. When we begin to regard ourselves as a part of wholeness, when we dare to let go, things around us start to happen. There is a flow of meaning around us, as if we were part of a greater conversation, sometimes called “the flow”.
The exercises practiced at Naturakademin aim to give the whole of man nourishment and energy. We supply the place, the tools and the knowledge for body, senses, intellect, feelings and spirit.

SENSE-BASED LEARNING

Purposeful behavior in the wilderness, like mountaineering or sea-kayaking, strengthens the ego. The left cerebral hemisphere is the most exercised in these activities, which will fortify our self-esteem, ambition and willpower- qualities called for during most of our daily activities at work as well as privately.
A balance between the two cerebral hemispheres is necessary to stimulate learning, creativity and innovation. The right hemisphere is creative, intuitive, emotional and perceives entirety – basically what is considered social competence and emotional intelligence (EQ).

Most people have experienced the great mental and physical satisfaction that a sublimely beautiful natural scene combined with sound and smell induces. These experiences can also appear in physical or artistic activities like skiing, sailing or music making. They can also occur spontaneously in a team at work. To reach these ecstatic spheres both cerebral hemispheres have to be included. Many aboriginal peoples still master the technique of consciously jumping back and forth between these two polarities. We practice this particular technique to acquire increased creativity, presence and intensity of life.

Rachel and Stephen Kaplan have in their research identified two forms of attention: guided and non-guided. Guided (beta-frequency) is put into use in every day life and is very demanding because competing stimuli must be eliminated. This frequency appears mainly in the left hemisphere; over-using it creates mental stress, dysfunctions and reduced tolerance for disappointments and misfortunes.

Non-guided attention (alpha and theta frequency) generates creativity, curiosity and rapture. It comes spontaneously with pleasing sights, sounds and smells. Non-guided attention seems to be a distinctive feature of the right hemisphere. Consciously entering into these cerebral frequencies is one of the central skills that Naturakademin trains its participants in. Our aim is that all our clients will be more efficient and creative, but also more balanced after having rediscovered and exercised their senses, thus enabling them to enter into the different domains and facets of their consciousness, all according to the demands of the situation.