Carol Sanford

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Global Authority on System Design Changes That Create Sustainable Growth and Root Out Biases; High Impact Change Agent and Long-Time Leadership Advisor to Fortune 500 Executives; Founder and Leader of The Regenerative Business Development Community; Best-Selling, Award-Winning Author, “The Regenerative Life” (2020)

Biography

Organizations can get stuck in their ways, leading to the development of blind spots that hinder their ability to identify new opportunities or innovative ways of operating.

For over 40 years, globally recognized systems change and design educator Carol Sanford has been helping leaders across sectors create sustainable growth through responsible practices while generating innovation streams that continually deliver extraordinary results. Her practical, work systems-centered approach to changing an organization and everyone in it has earned her accolades from leaders at Fortune 500 companies, including Google, DuPont, Intel, P&G and Seventh Generation. By showing individuals how to go deeper to discover pathways they never saw before, Sanford builds the capability of organizations to immediately start implementing and designing a culture of change.

“I give people the ability to move off the mental models they’ve got, which are usually programmatic templates. Instead, I educate people on framework thinking – for strategic thinking and from a development approach. The difference is, models are pre-formed ideas while frameworks give you a way to generate new questions and perspectives,” says Sanford, who has been referred to as “the grand dame of business innovation and responsible growth.”

The common thread running through Sanford’s work is an examination of what makes an organization unique, and therefore able to be regenerative. In 1977, she launched The Carol Sanford Institute, an education organization that teaches leaders how to build regenerative businesses that become non-replaceable in their markets. More recently, she and her team have been leading Regenerative Business Development Communities and Regenerative Change Agent Development communities (CAD) around the world.

“It’s important to discover your singularity, what enables you to differentiate your business from the crowd. You then need to think about how to do business so that communities, societies and ecology as a whole are improved,” says Sanford. “These are not separate but interwoven pursuits. It’s completely doable and a conversation worth having.”

Sanford’s exuberant, no-nonsense personality is consistently hailed as a source of positive disruption by executives and keynote audiences. Her best-selling, award-winning books, “The Responsible Business” and “The Responsible Entrepreneur,” are required reading at leading business schools, including Harvard, Stanford, Haas Berkeley and MIT. Her book, “The Regenerative Business,” also a bestseller, is used by hundreds of business executives at Google to inspire and instruct their “leader in change” theory. Her latest book, “The Regenerative Life: Transform Any Organization, Our Society, and Your Destiny,” is a guide to how businesses and individuals can fundamentally change their roles in any area. Her 2019 book, “No More Feedback: Cultivate Consciousness at Work” identifies flaws in hundreds of work practices from performance measurement to reward programs while highlighting the benefits of developing employees to be self-managing.

Balancing Systems: Diversity & Inclusion, Sustainability and COVID-19

In addition to teaching businesses how to responsibly prosper, Sanford has been helping leaders develop solutions around the COVID-19 crisis. When the pandemic hit, she and her CAD colleagues worked with key decision makers around the world on how to innovate in a climate of uncertainty. Her ability to “design out” practices structured into systems, such as racial bias, led to her launching a program called Radical Roots of Racism, which educates people on the hidden ways bias is unknowingly designed into business and social systems.

Sanford’s work is relevant to organizations in every industry. As an advisor and educator, she continues to transform businesses by immersing herself in their “ecosystems” so they can improve marketplace positioning, organizational conditions and the human capability to innovate and contribute.

“I’m educating people in every area of business,” says Sanford. “In all the work, I embed the idea of examining everything rigorously. It helps people become more discerning, to develop the ability to work with very complex situations by using framework thinking, which brings the previously invisible into clear focus. The idea is not to dumb things down. Otherwise, you’ll miss what really matters.”

# # #

Carol Sanford is a globally recognized thought leader who combines her economic development experience with her extensive business education and background using urban systems, psychology and learning practices. In addition to being recognized as a Top Conscious Business Leader by Conscious Company Magazine for Global Impact, she is a recipient of the Leader Lifetime Achievement Award from Trust Across America-Trust Around the World, and the Athena Award for Excellence in Business, Mentorship and Community Service.

Her bestselling books have received 22 awards to date, and are filled with case stories from around the world. She also produces Executive Education programs in partnership with Babson College, Kaospilot in Denmark, the University of Washington and The Lewis Institute at Babson. Her client list includes long-term relationships with Global Google, Colgate Europe and Africa and DuPont Canada, US, Asia and Europe. She also works with new-economy companies like Intel, Microsoft and Agilent, and with corporate responsibility leaders at companies like Seventh Generation, Numi Tea and Guayaki.

Sanford has published dozens of works in 10 languages, including a series of articles on Executive Excellence, Stephen Covey’s newsletter and At Work, a Berrett-Koehler Journal.

She holds undergraduate degrees from UC Berkeley in Economics and Public Law and graduate degrees from California State University, San Jose in urban planning.

Carol Sanford is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

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A-Z Name

Sanford, Carol

Biography

Organizations can get stuck in their ways, leading to the development of blind spots that hinder their ability to identify new opportunities or innovative ways of operating.

For over 40 years, globally recognized systems change and design educator Carol Sanford has been helping leaders across sectors create sustainable growth through responsible practices while generating innovation streams that continually deliver extraordinary results. Her practical, work systems-centered approach to changing an organization and everyone in it has earned her accolades from leaders at Fortune 500 companies, including Google, DuPont, Intel, P&G and Seventh Generation. By showing individuals how to go deeper to discover pathways they never saw before, Sanford builds the capability of organizations to immediately start implementing and designing a culture of change.

“I give people the ability to move off the mental models they’ve got, which are usually programmatic templates. Instead, I educate people on framework thinking – for strategic thinking and from a development approach. The difference is, models are pre-formed ideas while frameworks give you a way to generate new questions and perspectives,” says Sanford, who has been referred to as “the grand dame of business innovation and responsible growth.”

The common thread running through Sanford’s work is an examination of what makes an organization unique, and therefore able to be regenerative. In 1977, she launched The Carol Sanford Institute, an education organization that teaches leaders how to build regenerative businesses that become non-replaceable in their markets. More recently, she and her team have been leading Regenerative Business Development Communities and Regenerative Change Agent Development communities (CAD) around the world.

“It’s important to discover your singularity, what enables you to differentiate your business from the crowd. You then need to think about how to do business so that communities, societies and ecology as a whole are improved,” says Sanford. “These are not separate but interwoven pursuits. It’s completely doable and a conversation worth having.”

Sanford’s exuberant, no-nonsense personality is consistently hailed as a source of positive disruption by executives and keynote audiences. Her best-selling, award-winning books, “The Responsible Business” and “The Responsible Entrepreneur,” are required reading at leading business schools, including Harvard, Stanford, Haas Berkeley and MIT. Her book, “The Regenerative Business,” also a bestseller, is used by hundreds of business executives at Google to inspire and instruct their “leader in change” theory. Her latest book, “The Regenerative Life: Transform Any Organization, Our Society, and Your Destiny,” is a guide to how businesses and individuals can fundamentally change their roles in any area. Her 2019 book, “No More Feedback: Cultivate Consciousness at Work” identifies flaws in hundreds of work practices from performance measurement to reward programs while highlighting the benefits of developing employees to be self-managing.

Balancing Systems: Diversity & Inclusion, Sustainability and COVID-19

In addition to teaching businesses how to responsibly prosper, Sanford has been helping leaders develop solutions around the COVID-19 crisis. When the pandemic hit, she and her CAD colleagues worked with key decision makers around the world on how to innovate in a climate of uncertainty. Her ability to “design out” practices structured into systems, such as racial bias, led to her launching a program called Radical Roots of Racism, which educates people on the hidden ways bias is unknowingly designed into business and social systems.

Sanford’s work is relevant to organizations in every industry. As an advisor and educator, she continues to transform businesses by immersing herself in their “ecosystems” so they can improve marketplace positioning, organizational conditions and the human capability to innovate and contribute.

“I’m educating people in every area of business,” says Sanford. “In all the work, I embed the idea of examining everything rigorously. It helps people become more discerning, to develop the ability to work with very complex situations by using framework thinking, which brings the previously invisible into clear focus. The idea is not to dumb things down. Otherwise, you’ll miss what really matters.”

# # #

Carol Sanford is a globally recognized thought leader who combines her economic development experience with her extensive business education and background using urban systems, psychology and learning practices. In addition to being recognized as a Top Conscious Business Leader by Conscious Company Magazine for Global Impact, she is a recipient of the Leader Lifetime Achievement Award from Trust Across America-Trust Around the World, and the Athena Award for Excellence in Business, Mentorship and Community Service.

Her bestselling books have received 22 awards to date, and are filled with case stories from around the world. She also produces Executive Education programs in partnership with Babson College, Kaospilot in Denmark, the University of Washington and The Lewis Institute at Babson. Her client list includes long-term relationships with Global Google, Colgate Europe and Africa and DuPont Canada, US, Asia and Europe. She also works with new-economy companies like Intel, Microsoft and Agilent, and with corporate responsibility leaders at companies like Seventh Generation, Numi Tea and Guayaki.

Sanford has published dozens of works in 10 languages, including a series of articles on Executive Excellence, Stephen Covey’s newsletter and At Work, a Berrett-Koehler Journal.

She holds undergraduate degrees from UC Berkeley in Economics and Public Law and graduate degrees from California State University, San Jose in urban planning.

Carol Sanford is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Speech Topics

If you are interested in having any of these presentations converted into a workshop format, please inquire.

Building Innovation and Entrepreneurial Thinking into Business Systems

There are many reasons why business systems may require a redesign. They can range from market challenges to finding better ways to innovate, operate and compete. Carol Sanford’s work is deeply rooted in the belief that people and organizations can grow and develop beyond what their leaders or anyone else sees possible. Her systems change framework helps stakeholders build strategic pursuits unique to their buyers and reimagine how they structure work in specific areas of business or across an organization. Through a Socratic and contrarian approach, backed by research and extensive case studies, Sanford challenges executives and teams to reimagine everything they currently know about strategic thinking, leadership, management and work design, enabling them to uncover enormous possibilities within themselves and their organization.

Improve Your Culture and Bottom Line by Designing Biases “Out” of a System

Many biases are designed into the machinery of organizations, knowingly or unknowingly. Some are obvious while others are subtle or hidden. In addition to eroding trust by creating inequities, such programming makes organizations less competitive than those who are serving wider audiences by leveraging diverse thinking. In this presentation, Carol Sanford shows participants how to identify biases embedded in systems – such as racism, ageism or gender bias – and explains how they can be designed “out” of a system. In the process, she shows how diversity of thinking enriches innovation processes, strengthens organizations and enlightens employees.

Achieving Sustainable Prosperity Through Regenerative Business Practices

Yes, it is possible for businesses to profit while working innovatively with communities and the planet. Cost-savings and investment in long-term growth are only some of the reasons why organizations are investing in regenerative practices. Carol Sanford is a recognized leader at helping businesses differentiate themselves while improving communities, societies and ecologies. With characteristic focus and drive, she offers over 40 years of related knowledge, research and case stories while teaching participants how to build regenerative businesses that become non-replaceable in their markets.

Innovating Through Disruption and Uncertainty

We are now living in a COVID world. Disruption is here and it requires agility of thinking, resilience of spirit and an ability to innovate in extraordinary ways. While that may suggest we panic and quickly jump to the next idea, Carol Sanford’s approach is more disciplined, suggesting we wait, go back to our core, then step into a process of setting a new direction. Based on her decades of experience showing leaders how to creatively and effectively embrace disruption, Sanford engages participants on how “framework-thinking can bypass the stress,” during a crisis or in times of uncertainty, so they can thoroughly and systematically discern reality as it unfolds and design powerful innovative points of attack.

Design and Lead the Business of the Future: Education for Growth-Minded CEOs and Entrepreneurs

To build a truly extraordinary organization, leaders must be willing to explore their own practices, attitudes and behaviors, and those of their firms, to mine for and develop capabilities they may not have known they needed. With over 40 years of experience transforming executives and organizations across the world, Carol Sanford is a master at designing and executing such processes. In this talk, she offers participants ways to build capacity for more rigorous thinking, practical forms of consciousness, discernment of the paradigm we are thinking through, and an awareness of the worldview and framework “at work” in one’s mind and actions, including how our language affects what we can see. She discusses the effects of such thinking patterns and helps build consciousness around patterns of thinking and mechanicalness in actions, and how to have each person take responsibility for what they create. In the process, she poses precise questions to lift up blind spots and give your organization systemic frameworks for thinking in the service of business aims. Her methods are about building wiser, more able and more effective organizations and people, and her approach results in game-changing innovation, market leadership and financial returns.

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Books & Research

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Advisory & Consulting

Advisory and Thinking Partner

Carol Sanford is a hands-on executive advisor who works side-by-side with leaders, immersing herself in the daily workings of their organization to make real change happen. Her popular keynote – Design and Lead the Business of the Future: Education for Growth-Minded CEOs and Entrepreneurs – led to her teaching the principles as a private advisor. Over the years, firms have frequently reported revenue increases between 35% and 65% on average after working with Sanford. The core of her work revolves around building a capacity for discernment and an awareness of patterns of thoughts, actions and language and their effects on results. Her methods create wiser, more able and more effective organizations and people, and her unique approach results in game-changing innovation, market leadership and financial returns. Below are some of the themes she incorporates into her advisory work:

  • Using your business to change the world. How visionary business owners change an industry, a social system, cultural beliefs or how a nation is governed.
  • Linking, inextricably, every employee’s, contractor’s and supplier’s mind and action to your customer’s success, and therefore your own success.
  • The 18 core, but rarely posed or answered, questions that position your business for enduring market and industry leadership.
  • The most popular yet “toxic” practices that undermine your business’ strategic, financial, responsibility and operations results—and what to do instead.
  • Your employees are not your greatest asset; rather, make them your customers’ indispensable strategists, innovators and champions for results.
  • A value-adding (versus value-extractive or value-added) worldview of business that makes you the perpetual choice as preferred product source, best place to work and top pick for responsibility awards.

Recommendations

“Carol Sanford’s book ‘No More Feedback’ is clearly on my top 5 management books of the century to date. It is brilliant, readable, incredibly well researched, contrarian, and ridiculously important. I would travel many a mile to hear her speak and pray that her audience would listen intently—and act decisively. The world would be the better for it.”

— Tom Peters, Management Guru and Co-author of “The Excellence Dividend”

“Carol is one of those unique individuals who captivates you from the moment you meet her. She is a very engaging, inspiring and talented speaker with incredible insights, thoughtful perspectives and a unique way to make you think. Carol’s work (the Responsible Business) continues be an amazing source of inspiration for Google’s Food program. Her recommended ‘responsible business’ approach is one of the foundational philosophies of Google Food.”

— Michiel Bakker, Global Director at Google

“This way of thinking about running a business, (offered in The Responsible Business), by Carol, is a critical source of possibilities for a re-imagined future. Rarely a day goes by that I do not call on this way of thinking and looking at the world. It is useful in most walks of life, and in taking on the big business decisions that so many of us face every day.”

— Chad Holiday, Chairman and CEO, E. I. Dupont Corporation

“Carol has spoken for us at events around the world, always to great audience satisfaction. She is among the deepest thinkers on the role of business in leading the way to a responsible future. Her presentations are meaty, practical AND thought-provoking — an unusual mix! She is bound to surprise and delight your audience, and give them something to take home and put to work.”

— KoAnn Vikoren Skrzyniarz, Founder & Chief Executive, Sustainable Life Media/Sustainable Brands

“Carol Sanford shares the insights gleaned from a lifetime of working with path-breaking businesses. She takes us behind the scenes at companies that have transformed how they think about themselves and the world – and in the process generated not only sustainable prosperity but levels of meaning and commitment that most firms only dream of. She has created the prototype for the future of business.”

— Rebecca Henderson, Senator John Heinz Professor of Environmental Management, Harvard Legacy Professor, Harvard Business School

“I have seen individuals and organizations exceed all expectations for performance as a result of Carol’s work. I have had the pleasure of seeing the confidence that comes from these successes infuse the rest of people’s lives and change them positively and permanently. This happens because Carol can explain why and how the changes work rather than simply initiating the specific ideas for change but leaves behind no capability to execute the improvements.”

— Will Lynn, President Kingsford, Hidden Valley Ranch, Deer Park Spring Water, Clorox Companies

“Carol is one of those very rare individuals whom you meet that has the ability and wisdom to radically alter the way you think about yourself and the world. Her keynote speeches are phenomenal. Whether she is speaking in front of 5000 people or having an intimate coffee with one, Carol has the unique gift of getting through to people and helping them realize the potential of not just themselves, but of our world. She is as big a thinker as there is in this world and has the experience and wisdom to deliver transformation at scale. I would recommend Carol to anyone seeking to make significant and purposeful change in the world or in their lives.”

— Jason Twill, Head of Development, Lend Lease

“Carol’s knowledge and positive, constructive approach to responsible business is of the utmost importance when trying to create systemic change. Whether it be in a division, a company or an entire industry sector, Carol’s energetic keynotes inspire enlightened action and offer concrete business solutions that motivate teams and transform companies.”

— Cara Smythe, Vice President and Executive Board Member, Glasgow Caledonian University

“Carol is one of the wisest and most compassionate teachers and thinkers on the planet! I was blessed to spend many years of exposure to the work that she shares with the world. She has the gift of teaching complex and profound concepts and higher order thinking that has contributed to the quality of my thinking…thus the quality of my life.”

— Debra Neill Baker, CEO, Principal, Producer Serious Business, Neill Corp.

“Carol is one of the very few educators and speakers I have met who has influenced deeply my professional life. We worked together in Greece to create a business turnaround, and also in all the African businesses for Colgate. A climate of trust was created with a multi-racial workforce and management during an historic period, (before and after the first free elections in the Republic of South Africa) when strikes and violence were epidemic in other companies. I am persuaded that Carol’s approach creates a long-lasting competitive advantage, whilst developing people and the business.”

— Stelios Tsezos, General Mgr. GM, Africa, GM Oral Care Europe, Colgate Palmolive

“My work with Carol has been invaluable to my personal growth and the results of my businesses. Through their extensive experience and knowledge, she has the insight to help me see what I need to work on next. She stretched me further in each interaction to see higher potential than I could have conceived while giving me the tools and understanding necessary so that I am confident I can implement and actualize the newly-found potential and continually achieve new levels of results.”

— Bill White, President, Dupont Canada

“I like to think of Carol Sanford as the grand dame of business innovation and responsible growth – she’s honed her thinking and approaches to helping companies over many decades now in a career that has crossed cultures, continents, industries and more. The interesting thing about Carol is that she always offers a different, more reflected view that you’ll not find anywhere else. She paints a vibrant picture with stories and research for why it is important to think in a new way. As a speaker Carol is flexible and incisive – she speaks with authority. If you want a speaker who’s seen it before, has worked with the best, is active and connected across the field – don’t hesitate. You won’t be disappointed!”

— Rick White, Head of Leadership and Innovation, Xynteo

“I still put things I learned from Carol years ago to use almost every day. Carol integrates emerging knowledge from a wide range of disciplines to help businesses think in new ways to create greater value for all stakeholders. Insightful and provocative in her approach, she aims to spur transformation that can enable businesses to achieve higher levels of financial success while also becoming a regenerative force for good.”

— Dave Rappoport, Vice President, Aveda

“Carol is provocative speaker, who engages her audiences both in terms of their minds and their hearts. She is able to get people thinking about issues in a new way, to question their assumptions and to discover new questions that lead to new learning during and after her speech. She does this all with clarity and humor, engaging people with her energy and her intellect. I highly recommend Carol as a speaker.”

— Deborah Ranier, VP of Human Resources, Hunt Wesson Foods

“Carol Sanford is a powerful voice for integrity. As a speaker, her passion and conviction come across in presentations that integrate her deep intellect, extensive experience, and compassionate heart. She is inspirational, funny, energetic, and engaging… and through a narrative that weaves personal and professional stories, she delivers transformational lessons that touch the minds and hearts of her audience. “

— Kathis Laszlo, Faculty, Program Director, Saybrook University

“The buzz is that Carol Sanford is building the businesses of tomorrow, working with the world’s most innovative companies to create meaningful change. And that’s why we were delighted that she agreed to keynote our annual Customer Conference. Carol was beyond fabulous. I’ve heard nothing but stellar reviews from our attendees about her presentation. I attribute success to Carol’s attention-grabbing and skillful presentation skills, being easy to work with, and her efforts pre-interviewing key participants enabling her insights to be more highly tailored and contextualized for the audience. We’re thankful for all she did to ensure an extraordinary kick-off to our event.”

— Ed Rusch, Global Marketing Director, Elemica

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