Chris Nichols lives on Dartmoor with Claire, has just become a grandad to Jessica, and divides his time between writing, teaching and leading a start-up social enterprise.
His background is a bit unusual! He’s an ex-New York investment banker who previously worked in the UK nuclear industry as a strategist. Before that he was a civil servant working on energy policy for much of the 1980s.
On New Year’s Eve 1999 he swept the contents of his New York desk into the bin – “I couldn’t go into a new millennium doing that” he says – and he and Claire moved with two outraged and disbelieving teenagers from the star-studded streets of Greenwich CT to rural Devon, to where he was born, near the hamlet of Haytor on Dartmoor.
Since 2000 Chris has focused on bringing complexity and spiritual perspectives to strategic leadership work with some of the leading companies around the world. “I did some psychosynthesis training after I left my corporate roles” he says,” and it’s been massively important in all I’ve done since.”
Chris has written and spoken widely, and became Professor of Practice in Systems Transformation at Ashridge, where he based his work until 2016. He’s worked in more than 50 countries and almost every kind of organisation. “It’s been a fascination and a privilege to work alongside people who are genuinely striving to become more fully themselves, to create better organisations that meet the massive challenges we face today” he says.
Chris was a co-director of the Ashridge MSc in Sustainability and Responsibility. It was this work that enabled Chris to fully develop his practice on “artful organisations”, bringing a wide range of expressive arts into the heart of organisational life. “It has become more and more clear that the logical, dry and disembodied language of business is just too small for the job” he says, “we need the insights and inspirations that richer and more diverse ways of seeing and being can bring. We need our leaders and our organisations to be more fully and fiercely alive.”
Chris is co-founder of the social enterprise and collaborative hub www.gameshift.co.uk – a collaboration of artists, musicians, poets, storytellers, movement artists and much more who bring their work together in service of leaders and teams working for organisational and social transformation.
What matters to Chris? “Apart from my family and friends” he says, “the wild places. I have just walked a 1,000 km pilgrimage along the whole of the south west coast path. Wonderful and filled with learning. I’m passionately curious. I love exploring and helping others to explore. The most important thing for me is finding and keeping the edge that is ripe for me and valuable for others. I like David Whyte’s powerful provocation – “anything that doesn’t bring you alive is too small for you” … It’s a privilege to work on the juicy edges of bringing things alive”.