By Jessica Groopman and Jaimy Szymanski
Kaleido Insights’ defines digital regeneration as the next phase of digital transformation. This is not a rebranding; as companies mature in digital transformation efforts, it becomes a business-critical priority to use data and technology to support not only increased profits, but also innovation that benefits social and planetary systems.
Digital Regeneration is a cultural, technological, and operational shift in which organizations align the purpose, structure, and scalability of business with economic, societal, and environmental benefit.
Digital regeneration is about configuring profitable business vitality in concert with the societal and natural systems on which it relies. It is the maturation of digital innovation; an evolving orientation for data and technology application from pursuing short-term business efficiencies, beyond harm reduction, towards net positive. It is when digital strategy optimizes and scales restoration and health across stakeholders, and technology itself is designed to empower ecosystem innovation for social and biosphere wellbeing.
A regenerative business does better with less, creating, upcycling, and distributing value across stakeholders, to develop capacities for flourishing ecosystems, both human and environmental.
Why now? From digital transformation to digital regeneration
Every business has heard the term “digital transformation;” it’s the journey countless organizations have been undergoing to apply technologies to improve operational and cost efficiencies and use data to drive innovation. As anyone involved in these projects can attest, digital transformation success is far less contingent on the technology and far more so on the culture and purpose to which it is applied.
The myriad pandemic, geopolitical, and market disruptions of recent years have disrupted the journey of just about every business. Business transformation itself changed course, from “going digital,” to ensuring resilience.
Of course, the trends underlying these disruptions, and the deeper reckoning around “new normal” have far deeper roots. Assumptions of stability, predictability, and endless profits for a few (at the expense of endless extraction of the whole), have dominated business models and markets for decades. The structures of conventional business haven’t just become disconnected to living systems, many are synonymous with exploitation of people and planetary resources.
As organizations across every industry awaken to this imperative for transformation, the question surfaces: how will our organization remain resilient in the coming decades? And, what does innovating for resilience look like? As business leaders search for new models to adapt and respond to constant change, they find that nature itself offers a template for resilience: regeneration.
What does “regeneration” mean?
Life-giving: the word ‘regenerative’ means creating the conditions conducive for life to continuously renew itself, now and in the future.
- In nature: regeneration is the process of renewal, restoration, and regrowth that makes genomes, cells, organisms, and ecosystems resilient to fluctuations or events that cause disturbance or damage. For example, our own cells are constantly regenerating. Forests are constantly exchanging nutrients and information through networks made up of mycelium fungi, (un-ironically coined the Wood Wide Web).
- In design: “regenerative” describes processes that restore, renew or revitalize sources of energy and materials, thereby creating systems that integrate the needs of the parts within the boundaries of the whole. For example, architects are designing buildings that don’t just maintain structural integrity, but compound benefits through materials and design: improving air quality, natural light, heating and cooling, even generating surplus energy to share locally.
Applying regenerative logic to business marks a turning point
Applying regenerative logic to business marks a turning point, a shift in mindset crucial for leaders to grasp. Whereas “sustainability” is often synonymous with mechanistic and transactional notions like “harm reduction,” “offsetting externalities,” or “reaching net zero,” regeneration goes a step further. A regenerative business does better with less, creating, upcycling, and distributing value across stakeholders, to develop capacities for flourishing ecosystems, both human and environmental.
This transformation manifests across several ways of thinking, organizing, and managing business:
This design paradigm is now rapidly gaining traction across industry and reorienting innovation objectives. In one example, a global beverage manufacturer partners with a company called Cambrian to use their technology to treat wastewater contaminated by industrial processes, not just turning it into clean water, but even producing biogas that can be used to generate clean energy. In sectors such as agriculture, food and beverages, regenerative principles are being put into practice in ways that compound benefits across stakeholders simultaneously: empowering farmers, promoting animal welfare, restoring soil fertility, reducing emissions, and improving nutritional integrity and customer experiences, all while unlocking radical new monetization models.
The time is ripe for innovation leaders to harness emerging technologies to enable, accelerate, and scale regenerative design. Emerging technologies play a critical role in accelerating, democratizing, and scaling these models. Our team is exploring how data, machine learning, sensors, distributed networks, tokens, synthetic biology, among many other technologies are catalyzing transitions to new energy systems and powering business resilience through societal and environmental innovation.