Zen and the art of biophysics toward leadership and learning: An interview with Ginny Whitelaw, Ph.D. | Benjamin Freud, Ph.D.

In this episode, I speak with Ginny Whitelaw. Ginny is the founder of the Institute for Zen Leadership, a Zen Master in the Chozen-ji line of Rinzai Zen, as well as President of Focus Leadership. She is a recognized expert in leadership development and executive coaching and has authored four books, including The Zen Leader. A biophysicist by training, she combines a rich scientific background with senior leadership experience at NASA, and more than 20 years developing global leaders. Ginny brings ancient wisdoms and contemporary science together to make us question the dominant narrative of control in schools, the one that is built on cause and effect to reach outcomes. We discuss:

  • How quantum physics and Zen wisdoms share the same understandings of an interconnected universe;
  • How the mechanistic views upon which our schools depend are losing their legitimacy opening doors for regenerative, ecosystemic perspectives;
  • How learning is a shared experience built on dynamic relationships, not just with each other, but with the natural world, through capacity building.

Benjamin Freud, Ph.D.

Benjamin Freud, Ph.D. is the co-founder of Coconut Thinking, which creates learning and action experiences where all learners have a common purpose; positive impact on the welfare of the bio-collective — any living thing, sentient or plant, that has an interest in the healthfulness of the planet. Benjamin also works as the Whole School Leader of Learning and Teaching at an International School in Thailand. He was the Academic Coordinator at Misk Schools, which, as the school of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is the most prestigious and high profile school in the kingdom. In 2018-2019, he was also the Head of Upper Primary and Middle School at Misk. Prior to this, he was Vice Principal of the Middle School and High School at the Harbour School in Hong Kong. He holds a Ph.D. in History, an MSc in Education, an MBA, an MA in International Relations, and a BA in International Affairs. Benjamin was born and grew up in Paris, France. He moved to the U.S. when he was 15 and spent 11 years there in different cities, before living in the U.K., Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, and now Thailand. He started his career in consulting for Internet start-ups in Silicon Valley in the late 1990s, working with people whose ambitions were no less than to change the world. This experience had a profound effect on Benjamin’s outlook on education, innovation, and entrepreneurialism.

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