Everything Is Connected with Neil Redding
“There is a fundamental way in which the world is connected, even if we don’t understand it intuitively.” – Neil Redding
I sat down with Neil Redding, speaker, author, and the Founder and CEO of Redding Futures, a boutique consultancy that enables brands and businesses to powerfully engage with the Near Future.
- The importance of recognizing connections
- Recognizing the essentialism of connection
- The power of language for fostering connection
The importance of recognizing connections
Independence is a trademark of the western world. We grow up—generally speaking—to be independent, self-sufficient, and often disconnected from a community. This way of living is modern compared to most other cultures, where communities and families stick together and form tightly woven routines.
“We have been trained from infancy to think of ‘us and them,' and ‘you're you and I’m me,' and it's just business, and these are externalities.” Neil explains, “We see the world as made up of distinct and separate things. And really, the world is fundamentally made of connected ecosystems, certainly in nature, but also between us as humans and businesses and customers. Seeing that allows us to unlock solutions of the everyday level and even at the planet level.”
Even in close-knit cultures, there’s the risk of an “us vs them” mentality in the sense of exclusivity. The hindrance of this way of thinking, of seeing everything as separate from ourselves or our specific surroundings, is a sizable part of why the world faces the challenges of today, yesterday, and tomorrow.
“There's a problem with our collective mindset,” Neil shares, “or the way we see the world, that is keeping us from actually being able to solve these great challenges, from climate down to everyday business disruption. It's not a matter of us not feeling guilty enough about the contribution we make to climate change or anything else, it's an issue with how we see the world.”
Recognizing the essentialism of connection
Everything is an ecosystem. From businesses to consumers to daily habits, there are micro and macro connections wherever you look, never more than when we turn our attention to science and nature.
“There have been articles about how trees communicate and that they use mushroom or fungal mycelium, which is what's below the soil or in the soil, the root structure.” Neil shares, “The thing that we're realizing is that for this mycelium, it's often interwoven at the molecular level with the roots of trees and other plants to the point where biologists are starting to reconsider these assumptions or ways of categorizing that fungi are a distinct organism from the tree. They're actually these deep, symbiotic relationships between what we've traditionally thought of as independent species.”
Zoom out. What do we see? Harmony, growth, seamless partnership across forests and other ecosystems. No one element exists to its fullest potential without the effort of another. And when we zoom in—what do we see? Connections, networks, and symbiotic unity that are so intricate it often requires a microscope.
Our lives run the same way. Connections are the lifeblood of humanity. They drive us forward, pull us closer, and create systems that make up the modern world. Even something as commonplace as tap water comes from a detailed process.
Connection is a fundamental element of humanity. Interdependence is the key to innovation and possibility.
The power of language for fostering connection
Now, saving the planet takes more than linking hands and singing kumbaya. We all know that. But wouldn’t it help if we all embraced the connectivity of the world rather than push one another further away? Language, like nature, is full of extraordinary power and unity. And with that, the potential for pain and destruction.
“We live inside of language.” Neil points out, “Language, if you've ever really looked closely, the power of language to create emotional experiences, to create feelings—to describe, to articulate, and explain and also at an even deeper and almost invisible day to day basis, to create the reality that we live in, to create what the world is.”
Words harm and heal in equal measures. With the English language, in particular, there’s been a surge of inclusivity and reevaluation.
“A simple example that I use is the word humanity. We ask, ‘how would you refer to everybody, all humans?’ The reality is that most of the time, we're not talking about all humans, we talk about groups.” Neil explains, “We might talk about Americans and foreigners, conservatives and liberals, usually ‘us' versus ‘them', believers and nonbelievers.”
Always this separateness, always the readiness to draw a line between what's familiar and what’s strange, reluctance to admit we’re all on the same plane, with the same blood and bones.
“There's also the term mankind,” Neil continues, “which in English is used a lot—it's fascinating to me that it's still used, given how much greater awareness we now have of inclusiveness—but there's the word humanity that I like to use because when we talk about the challenges facing humanity, or where humanity heading, there's a way that using this word helps include everybody, it has this picture of including people that are not like me, people I don't even know, people that live on the other side of the world.”
Language shapes reality. The way we speak to and about one another echoes back into the world in powerful ways and can drive us closer or further apart, supporting or jeopardizing our future.
What have you done to embrace connectivity in your life? Do you believe that having an “us” vs “them” mentality is unavoidable?