ReWilding Leadership Conversations

Image. Open Nature

Isabella Tree’s book “Wilding“, about the journey of returning a large estate to the Wild. The battless that were fought with both officialdom and neighbours is a testament to vision, character and determination and the book deservedly became a best seller.

We are strange animals, us humans. We have developed sufficient hubris to believe we are separate from and somehow superior to nature, that it is for us to own, and that somehow we can improve it. Our journey to a more deep seated truth is proving costly, painful and possibly terminal.

Our ingenuity is that we have the capability and creativity to interfere for profit. Whether it is extracting natural resources at a rate at which they cannot be replenished, or “regime change”, or our own welfare, we have a huge ability to bring about temporary change without really paying attention to the systemic costs of that change.

I think the same is also true of something as basic and vital as our basic form of communication. There are thousands of books listed on Amazon on something as fundamental as conversation, one of the defining attributes of humans. With a two year old in the house at the moment, I get a privileged view of seeing conversation develop. It doesn’t need any instruction, and it is awesome to see what drives his emerging conversation as his sense of his own identity develops, he explores the world around him and he works out how to describe it to us in terms that we respond to.

We do not need to be taught how to have conversations, we just need to have them. Over the past year at Originize we have been having conversations about what we notice going on around us, and bringing as much diversity as we can into those conversations. The results haver been both a joy and immensely powerful. Conversations with no set agenda, where expertise has no place, allows the human in us out and when we do that, remarkable things happen.

We seem to have done the same with Leadership. Scholars of leadership go back to Sun Tzu, Plato and of course. Machiavelli, but it is only really in the last few decades we have made it the subject of academic study. Since then we have had a torrent of books on the habits, traits, and characteristics of leaders, and apparently spent over three hundred billion dollars on leadership training in 2019.

You would think that, with a spend of that size, we would be awash with effective leaders. A quick glance around at who is shaping the World at the moment in politics, government and business would suggest otherwise. Very few of them list the study of leadership on their resumes, although many have chosen to write “just do what I did” books on the subject after the event.

I think the uncomfortable truth about both conversations and leadership is that we can teach them as much as we like, but unless we have something important to talk about, or something that matters enough to die for they are academic, not practical subjects.

I think they would both benefit from extensive rewilding. To be taken back their basics. And before leadership became a sellable training programme, those basics were made pretty clear. Sun Tzu emphasised intelligence, humanity, credibility, courage and discipline. Plato talks about the importance of “navigating by the stars”, vision and the importance of teaching. Machiavelli gets a bad rap – he could have done with better PR – but his insights contain real lessons. One my favourite quotes”

“Minds are of three kinds: one is capable of thinking for itself; another is able to understand the thinking of others; and a third can neither think for itself nor understand the thinking of others. The first is of the highest excellence, the second is excellent, and the third is worthless.”

Machiavelli

As in many things, Nicolo served up inconvenient truths with some flair. We value people who understand the thinking of others more than those who think for themselves, or as I think Richard Feynman put it “The problem is not people being uneducated. The problem is that they are educated just enough to believe what they have been taught and not educated enough to question what they have been taught.”

Which brings us to what I think is the heart of the challenge. If we take all of the above, it boils down to two things; Character and Purpose. The personal qualities to stand up for what we believe in for ourselves, and the spirituality to strengthen it with unshakeable purpose. Everything else is management.

When Isabella Tree and her husband were Rewilding the Knepp estate, it appears to have followed an almost alchemical process. First, they let it grow for itself. This infuriated all sorts of constituencies who accused them of “letting it go” and vandalism. Secondly, it adjusted, which involved being often temporarily overrun, variously by insects and wild flora and fauna until the third stage, where it has started to not only stabilise, but thrive, bring back wildlife and restore the health of the soil and the entire ecosystem. It has taken a couple of decades, and is still in progress. There is still much opposition from those who prefer recent tradition, but it is changing both attitudes and landscape.

Perhaps we might do the same with conversation and leadership. Left to it’s own devices, like the Knepp estate, it knows what to do and how to thrive, and we should interfere far less with it.

In a post Covid world, we need real conversation and genuine leadership, not synthetic alternatives.

Over the edge into 2021

As we teeter to the end of 2020 and into an uncertain 2021 I realised I’d seen it somewhere before. Around fifty years ago, with the film “The Italian Job”, which ends with the bus, full of gold, balanced precariously over the edge of a cliff following a crash, and Michael “Boris” Cain looking for an idea. Seems scarily prescient.

However, here we are. In the next few days (maybe) we’ll have some clarity on what sort of 2021 we’re in for. The Brexiter’s manic idea for us all, or something rather more pragmatic. Either way, we are in for a ride.

The challenge for me is that both Brexit and Coronavirus are distractions. Serious ones admittedly, but distractions. The real issues are not the (predictable but not accurately forecastable) surprise of the virus, or the knee jerk response of politicians in search of relevancy, but rather the serious systemic issues of how we live and work in a world being transformed by technology, climate and population growth.

We are at the end of an era as industry gives way to ecosystems, and short term gratification gives way to considerations of the conditions we are creating for those who follow us.

There is a rhythm to human eras. Around 250 years according to Sir John Glubb, a noted author, soldier and historian who researched this area. Each era starts with conquest over preceding eras, and ends with frivolity, decadence, a love of money instead of duty, an excessive reverence for celebrities, and reliance on cleverness rather than action. Margaret Wheatley refers to him compellingly in her excellent “Who do we choose to be?”

Whilst we might argue about the details, we are clearly in transition. The question we have to ask ourselves is “are we prepared to be passengers on a bus driven by others?”

The bus in question is the industrial model that defines the education of our children to be employed more than fulfilled, pursues the ideal of perpetual growth and lionises the shareholder model of wealth creation that distributes it increasingly assymetrically. Meanwhile the planet heats, technology claims the jobs we have been trained for, and we expose ourselves to the consequences of planetary stress from wild weather to viruses.

It’s difficult to look at the long term when our lives are so short – roughly ten generations to an era, and it’s what we have to do. We are the most creative species on the planet, although maybe not the most adaptable. Much humbler creatures, who were here before Sapiens and will be after can show us the way home on that.

We can, with a will mitigate climate change, though probably not the impact of technology. To adapt, we will have to be prepared to vacate many of the spaces we have trained for to AI and machine learning who will do it better, and focus on what we do, that they cannot, and that we need.

Connection. Meaning. Creation. Possibility.

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

Pablo Picasso

As we enter whatever this new era turns out to be, the skills we learned in the last one become increasingly redundant and we have to be prepared to leave them behind.

The industrial era was complicated. Lots and lots of moving parts. If we could understand them, and how they worked we could tame them. We could keep them in cages, analyse them, and optimise them through best practice. Consulting thrived. Lean Six Sigma became a secular religion. It worked really well, right up until the the connection enables by technology turned our world complex. The problems escaped their cages and started to cross breed. The result? Lots of unintended consequences.

Complex needs us to work differently. To explore and probe what is going on to understand it, rather than “pigeonhole” it according to existing models. That means real collaboration, experiments, and frequent failure as we try to discover how this emerging era works.

It needs us to play the infinite game of staying in the game for those to follow, rather than try and win the finite game of our individual lives. If Glubb had a point, we’ve a lot of generations in front of us who need us to get a grip.

That means creating something we share that’s worth working, and taking risks for. Individually and Collectively. Something worthy of us.

It starts with us as individuals. We all have genius in us. We are all artists still. Becoming grown up may submerge it in an industrial system, but it doesn’t extinguish it. The next era needs us, the whole of us, to turn up if we are to work it out.

Turning up starts with conversations about possibility.

We are developing conversations about possibility here.

Clarity

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

If we had an “emotionometer” right now, today here in the UK it would be off the charts. We have thousands of students being graded on a basis cobbled together by people in difficult circumstances who appear to be slaves to a system.

There will be joy, heartbreak and anger. Why?

Of course it’s difficult. Covid isn’t personal, it’s an event and an indicator of how fragile the systems we design so carefully are. We cannot choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we respond.

How we respond speaks volumes as to our clarity of purpose, and thought.

Putting the system to one side for a moment, what we have is simple.

  • We have students who have put years of work and effort into passing exams they haven’t been able to take. Not being able to take them does not remove their effort, understanding or capability.
  • We have Universities and employers in need of the talent that is in the wings. Exam results help them select, but do not determine their selection. The real proof of a University or employer is what happens to someone whilst they are part of it. Good universities catalyse learning in students, and good employers harness talent.
  • If, for sake of argument, Universities have to accept students without the comfort blanket of exam results, it will change little except that for a year their performance tables might see a blip, but if they maintain standards, the output will be consistent, although their “conversion rate” might (and only might) fall. We might, just might, have fewer graduates at the levels forecast for one year. The system will be miffed.
  • It’s not as though we have no reference points. We have historic, if variable data, and real time assessments of professional teachers. We’re not guessing. It’s just like the harvest – sometimes the weather affects it. It doesn’t mean we refuse the reduced crop.

So what is going on here? What, in ten years time, will be the net effect of one year of disruption? For whose benefit does the system exist? Is it really this arthritic?

It feels like we have built a system to serve us which we are now serving. The servant has become the master. We have politicians floundering, and the high priests of education in a tizzy as they try to ensure the system is happy.

The education industry we have created is short of raw material this year, for a number of reasons, mostly culpable. We have capacity. We have reference points. We have need. It’s one year.

The worst that might happen is that some students get lucky, and get to go to somewhere they might not otherwise have got into. Getting through the course is then down to them. Getting in does not guarantee graduation, and as long as the Universities uphold standards (and don’t compromise to keep the system and their performance targets happy) little harm will be done.

Imagination. Vision. Clarity. Leadership.

Would’t that be good?

Effortless Beauty

A Murmuration of Starlings.

It turns out that what drives us is not that much different from what drives every other organism on the planet – and probably beyond.

We crave connection to others – to be part of a group, at the same time as we crave autonomy – the freedom to make our own decisions.

Resolving this paradox has determined our survival and our contentment since the earliest times.

We cannot survive, even now, on our own. No matter how independent we think we are, we’re not. We cannot survive without the help of others. Isolation is terminal.

On the other hand, if we choose belonging at the expense of being ourselves, that’s as bad – survival as subjugation. A wasted life barely worth living.

We know when our lives are beautiful – things are in balance. We experience receiving and giving as part of something that makes our lives worthwhile. That may sound very kaftan, but reality is we all know and revere those all too brief moments that are like that. Just because we can’t measure them, or predict them it doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

If Starlings can do it……..

Starlings do not have a head office, or HR departments, or policies. They just hang out with other starlings, work in sync with those next to them and be themselves in that context. Behaving in this fashion confuses predators, who can only pick off those who are separate from the murmuration. Independence has its price.

Next most vulnerable are those on the edge of the Murmuration, so everybody takes turns at being at the edge, rather than the safe middle. Leaders and managers please note,

The end result is awe inspiring to behold. A defintion of beauty, created by birds being themselves with others, just doing their thing. No plan. No Strategy.

Given that every living organism on the planet comprises pretty much the same elements, just arranged very slightly differently why are we so different?

Or, if starlings can do this, why can’t we?

Organisation

The answer of course is that we can. We have spent around 99% of the time we have been in our current sapien form on the planet in groups of 150 or less. The indigenous people we have left still do. They know those around them as well as they understand their surroundings and although there are differences in status, there is no organisation chart, and certaintly no HR. They flex their structures in much the same way as starlings murmurate – instinctively, according to need and threat. They self organise.

I’m intrigued by what is happening in many organisations at the moment. For the last four months, I’ve watched many organisations cope not just well, but thrive as they’ve used the power of the internet to effectively “murmurate”. Often, driven by the disruption that Covid has generated, combinations of Zoom, WhatsApp and other tools have linked those who do to others who do in getting things done whilst managers look on in a state of bewilderment trying to take credit.

The boundaries between our organisation, suppliers, clients and others become very porous and left alone, stuff just gets done. I wonder what would would happen if we sent managers on holiday, and suspect that without a need for mostly needless control, the answer would be more of better.

Balancing autonomy and belonging.

Perhaps a difference between good leaders and good managers is that the leaders create worlds of shared significance, and managers resource it. Emotional resonance and operational support. No direction, no control, no permissions in sight. Organisationally, we not me.

One of the things we are learning in the small experiment that is Originize, is that conversations around what matters to uncover shared significance can weave magic.

We are diverse groups – puzzlers and mystics – all doing our own thing who meet together, once a week, with no leader and no agenda to talk about what we’re noticing – in our businesses, in the wider world, with each other. A small group within a larger murmurating flock of those who balance autonomy and belonging. Neither subjugating or being subjugated.

Just hanging out improving each others lives.

Beautiful Businesses are possible

I’ve long been a fan of Alan Moore’s work. I love the immediate tension between beautiful and business – when was the last time you read “beautiful” in a business plan or strategy, or heard it mentioned in a weekly management meeting?

Yet, I believe it to be increasingly not just valid, but essential. If we can balance beautiful and business by balancing autonomy and belonging, we can create remarkable organisations that create real value for everybody involved.

As it becomes increasingly clear that whatever we’re going into post Covid, it’s not where we were, it seems a positive aspiration. To enable those around us to be themselves whilst hanging out together doing stuff that matters.

Less planning and effort, more doing and enjoying.

We can learn a lot about effortless beauty from Starlings

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Can’t go round it…….

We are always on the edge of something.

There’s the safe edge, and then there’s the scary edge. Like a black hole, threatening to suck us into that which we don’t understand and don’t control.

I’ve found that much of the time, I’ve been aware of the difference and can choose whether to go, or back off. I’ve got better at going as I’ve done more of it, and realised that the fear is largely illusory. That still doesn’t make it anything other than buttock clenching.

The thing is though, I think that sometimes we don’t get a choice. We find ourselves at some form of Singularity , and we have to come to terms with it. Psychologists call it Liminality. Mythologists term it The Call. It involves crossing a threshold, going over the edge. Once crossed, there is no going back.

We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
Oh no!
We’ve got to go through it!

We’re going on a Bear Hunt. Michael Rosen.

Whatever we term it, it takes us on a journey into the unknown. We will face unknowns, fears and unexpected joys, and moments when we really, really wish we hadn’t started until eventually we find ourselves on the other side of it and know ourselves differently.

Covid -19 is an Edge.

We haven’t had a choice. We couldn’t choose whether or not to be part of it.

Here we are.

Now we’re in it, and we understand we can never go back to “old normal”, whatever those who wish we could say.

We have choices.

We can try to go back, turn around in the white water and try to paddle back upstream,

We can close our eyes, complain, blame others and hope somebody else will sort it out.

Or we can take responsibility, despite the fear and uncertainty, and shape the experience we are in.

My Grandma used to say “Where there’s a will, there’s a way”. She was of course right. That’s a Grandma’s job.

This is a matter of individual and collective will.

Over the Edge – The Rollercoaster Ride

So here we are, whether we like it or not. We’ve spent the last three months listening to the “clunkety clunk” noise as we are pulled inexorably to the top of the first dive, and we can feel that knot of apprehension as we come to the point where up turns to chaotic down and beyond.

We have a choice. We can either shut our eyes,scream and wait for it to be over, or we can keep our eyes open, look around and understand what’s going on.

There’s a way of mastering the roller coaster.

Eyes Open

Look at what is going on around you with fresh eyes. All of us suffer to some degree to “wilful blindness” – we sideline the difficult things and ignore the things we don’t like. It’s where the “elephants in the room” live.

It’s where we should start conversations, but don’t. We start them where they’re comfortable, and don’t threaten our status, our relationships, our territory, or our autonomy. We cling on to a sense of certainty and fairness, like those temporary periods of calm on the level parts of the rollercoaster.

Covid has introduced us to the first scary, but relatively gentle dive. What comes next – we’re not sure quite when or how – will be the equivalent of the double loop corkscrew thing. Probably, but not certainly, Climate Change. There might be one before that – a second wave, a destructive recession, or something else. We know the Climate Change ride is out there though, just not quite how we’re going to arrive at it.

That’s why we need to look around, to get a sense of what might arrive, look ahead to see if we can work it out, or for clues that it might be arriving.

To observe it, we need people who will keep their eyes open and face reality, as well as those from outside our own experience to help us. Physics and common sense tells us we can’t understand the the system we’re part of from inside it. We need a view from the outside. The “flat earther” in us needs a view from the space station.

Balance

If we have a better understanding of what’s coming up, we can better prepare. We can spot the parts that might be fun, as well as the parts where we check we know where the brown bag is.

We also probably want to know who’s in the same car as us. Who’s going to scream? Who’s going to help you notice? Who are you going to have fun with and who’s going to hold your hand when it all gets a bit much?

As we begin to get the hang of it, things change. We can anticipate, predict, prepare and no longer fear what’s coming. We can lead.

We can ride the roller coaster on our own terms.

Choose

Is this the rollercoaster you want to be on? Are you with the people you need to be with? Is this roller coaster a bit tame? Is there another that might challenge you more, with better views and new experiences? Where do you want to be?

Do.

Help those who don’t understand it like you yet. Reassure them, even while you’re still a bit scared. Tell them what you’re noticing. Go again, choose a bigger ride. Learn. Teach. Lead.

The Ride is not an Option

We are where we are, and we’ve a way to go yet. We can’t get off.

Once we understand what is going on, we can see the opportunities. The things we’ve been sidelining are real – the opportunities in a regenerative economy, simpler living, better living, the end of “more” as a virtue, a planet shared. Respect – for ourselves and others in a sustainable economy, because we can do it if we keep our eyes open.

We’re on the ride and there’s still time to choose which car we want to be in, and with whom, in order to enjoy the ride.

If we do, this will be hard work we’ll look back on with satisfaction.

If not, get in a stock of those brown bags.

A Time for Artists

The time was, only a few months ago that the economy was still considered stable enough to pay us in anticipation of us doing the work .

An employment contract, a supplier contract, it was all based on our record of delivery. Defined jobs, with clear specifications, in a marketplace that was familiar.

Of course, the first harbingers were there, for those who chose to look. The easy outsourcing, the gig economy, reliance on low margins and the satisfaction of regular dividends. Nice. Better not to look.

The Lure of Continuity.

Getting the message across was difficult, and it always has been. When the Impressionists first started out, they could not get their work displayed in the Paris Salon, because it was not considered “Proper Art” by the establishment, who did of course, know. Later, the Beatles could not get record deals “four boys with guitars, really?” the list, we know in retrospect, goes on.

“The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C,’ the idea must be feasible

Reaction to Fred Smith’s proposal for what became Federal Express.

Over time, we built an economy predicated on staying the same.

Of course there would be product innovations, and occasionally disruptions, but the market would accomodate them, and those who understood the way the market worked would always win. Bankers, Consultants. Lawyers and others.

Oops

In 2013 David Graeber wrote an article on “Bullshit Jobs”, followed in 2016 by a book of the same name. In it he argued that a large proportion of jobs were “bullshit”-adding no real value to the economy, and even less to the lives of those who did them.

He included Bankers, Consultants, Lawyers and others.

He was easy to dismiss. A renegade and an anarchist even if he was a recognised if controversial academic. Even if he was at the heart of the Occupy movement, and coined the term “The 1%”

As we look at “Essential workers” and the dreadful toll on jobs caused by Covid-19, it appears he had a point.

The huge amount of noise and demands for subsidy are in those areas that he identified as bullshit. By no means all, but enoough to make the point. Jobs that are, in effect hosted by those parts of the economy that create value, rather than just move it around. The part that the Physiocrats, the precursor to modern neoliberal economists, called “sterile”.

No Time for Templates

Art is about seeing things differently, and finding ways to explain that. About reframing, and paradigm breaking.

In the world of puzzlers and mystics, it’s time for the mystics. Logic will not see us past this crisis, or tackle the ones emerging, it is the mystics – the language of artists.

This is no time for templates, from powerpoints to consultants business models. they were built for a different time, by smart people and used parrot fashion by those didn’t. Leadership Books written by those who defined their style in retrospect rather than in advance on values and beliefs.

A Time for Artists

This is a time for originality, conviction and the pursuit of what really matters. A time for the long game of beautiful businesses our children and grandchildren will admire for what they did at this time, not the short term obsession with ugly, unsustainable returns.

We were born original, and only became standardised through education, training and habituation in more stable times.

What we need now is the artist in you.

To be paid for what you create that only you can do. To make a difference to what next. To not watch passively and hope others will sort it.

Nobody is going to resue you

Ta’mara Leigh

If you want somewhere to explore that possibility, join the discussion at the Originize Project

Colleagues and Co-workers

What is the difference between a colleague and a co-worker?

The practical difference is maybe that a colleague can’t fire you.

In these days of turbulence, authenticity and honesty is prized, even when it hurts.

The days ahead will be full of difficult decisions, and we will be swamped by lots of statements along the lines of “it has been a difficult and painful decision to let our colleagues go”.

Of course it’s painful, but let’s not add insult to injury by calling them colleagues. They had no say in the decision.

Beautiful Conversations

Conversations, at their best are beautiful things.

They are a dance of possibility as we pass ideas backwards and forwards, help each other shape them, notice things in the space between ideas and create the start of something.

In the search for efficiency however, we appear to have weaponised them. We treat them like processes, looking at value extracted versus time spent. Dialectic. Not a dance, so much as a tennis match, hitting with ever greater force as we look for weakness in our opponent.

There is a place for this. In stable conditions, with known rules, like the Law Courts, or a manufacturing process this type of dialectic is powerful – testing ideas and improving them.

However, in conditions of uncertainty when the reality is that none of us know what’s coming next, it’s dangerous. We create false certainty to bolster our case and make assertions based at best on assumptions, and at worst on manipulation.

Doubt is uncomfortable, but Certainty is absurd

Voltaire

It seems right now, we’re having far too many of these ugly conversations. Trading off the balance between saving the hospitality industry against the likelihood of a second wave; trying to restore an economy that was dysfuntional rather than using this shock to shape something new.

We have huge opportunity the other side of the pain that is now inevitable. It could be a great story, but it has to be crafted, not bodged.

To craft it we need to bring to it what makes things beautiful. Grace, Gratitude, Intent, Generosity and Courage.

We do not have time for the destructive power of ugly conversations

A Different Sort of Growth?

Forest fires are a necessary natural phenomenon. Whilst they are short term destructive and frightening, they clear the way for new growth.

Right now, in the midst of the inferno, we may want to remember that. It has important messages for us if we choose to recognise them.

We have not been adapting to what we are experiencing in technology, in demographics, in climate change anything like fast enough. We have been trying to make it fit us, rather then recognise the scale of the forces at work, and fit us to them.

We have been clinging to the raft of failing business and economic models that suit a very few, are tolerated by far more than should, and disadvantage many.

In the middle of accelerating change, we have been losing essential human connection and have reached an inflection point.

Coronavirus has been a catalyst.

In the UK, millions of us are affected. Around the world, billions. The obvious flaws in our systems, from infrastructure, to the funding of essential services, to the assymetry of the way we recognise and reward people have been laid brutally bare.

We have been subject to multiple forms of wilful blindness, and groupthink. That somehow, the headlong pursuit of efficiency to fund “shareholder value” was sustainable.

The immediate reaction amongst those who observe, rather than do – much of the press, the consulting firms, and politicians has been to allocate blame on the back of some form of retrospective wisdom.

Whilst all this is going on, those who we really depend on, the doers, those in the healthcare sector, those who keep essential infrastructure functioning from delivery drivers, to supermarket shelf stackers, to those who volunteer have just been getting on with things. Adapting, improvising, relentless.

We are recognising the deadwood – the things we can’t currently have, and are realising we don’t miss – celebrity culture, pointless products, expensive coffee, fast fashion, meetings, commuting………

Maybe the seeds that will grow once the deadwood has been cleared (along with far too much live wood) by the fire of Coronavirus wil be new perspectives based upon clarity.

  • A different understanding of value, based on human contribution more than shareholder value or an obsession with economic growth beyond that neccessary for a healthy economy.
  • An unscratchable discomfort with the rewards to those placing bets on the result of this fire, at no risk to themselves and which generate rewards that are huge multiples of the average of those who are taking the risk of stepping forward to deal with the fire.
  • A recognition that some of the things we have been forced to do – the working from home, the reduction in travel, the huge funding of infrastructure and social cohesion are necessary components of supporting a planet supporting a population three times the size at the time I was born.
  • That excessive growth and scale are not unquestionable virtues. The weakness exposed by extended supply chains, an over reliance of automation, and the failure to fund the things that protect us all at the expense of that which rewards a few.
  • That the industrial revolution is over, and the extractive business models that it gave birth to are obsolete.

A Different Sort of Growth

As we get past the peak of this, and “return to work” I rather think we will find important changes underway. We have seen the best and worst of how companies have reacted. From the likes of Aviva, who gave blanket permission to qualified healthcare professionals in their teams to go help the NHS, no questions asked, on full pay, to those who with billions in their reserves cut their costs (people) and went to the Government to ask for help.

I’ve been particularly impressed by the commitment of small businesses, those without big reserves, to improvise in order to look after their people.

And the people who just turned up. The taxi drivers doing free delivery, the postmen dressing up to add an element of cheer, the people who care. In the first world war, people talked about lions led by donkeys. Perhaps our modern equivalent is givers led by takers.

As the millions of the displaced start back, perhaps there will be enough who say “not like that again” to make a change. To start a movement.

Talent, Compassion, Craft and Commitment deserve better. Better recognition, better reward, better leadership. To be recognised for what they contribute, not hired for the least that can be offered.

Chaos theory offers the idea of “special attractors” – particles that other particles are attracted to as chaos moves to structure. In our case, they are the new leaders, recognised by their actions far more than their qualifications. They are the people who do. They are not a part of a hierarchy, they are part of a community committed to something worthwhile.

People who see growth in a multi faceted way. The growth of people, of capability, of resilience and yes, economies, but economies in the service of people rather than the other way round.

Choices

We have choices to make as the fire subsides.

  • To choose ourselves, those we work with, and who we follow rather than waiting in line to be chosen by others.
  • To forget work / life balance, and choose life.
  • To not go back to where we were, but learn the lessons from who really led us out of the fire.
  • To choose balanced, not assymetric growth.

I think that if there is one message to be taken from this crisis, it’s that it’s people who count.

We are part of the world, not separate to it and have a responsibility to manage what we create, including technology. We’d forgotten that, this was a reminder.

We need to make personal choices.

Because there will be more fires.

Who’s got your rope?

Most of us find ourselves in something of a hole right now. The depth may vary, but whatever that may be, we want to get out.

At times like this, we need somebody to throw us a rope, but because there’s a temptation to accept any rope that comes our way, we need to take a moment to consider who is throwing the rope and why. Unless we’re in imminent danger, it is time well spent.

1. A sponsor. Someone who believes in you and what you’re doing, who wants to help, and is willing to take a personal risk to do so. They may expect some sort of return, but that is not their prime motive.

2. A peer group. Those who see the world in a similar way, with similar values and want to help each other. Shared ideas, maybe shared risk in pursuit of something deemed important.

3. The rent seekers. Those who see an opportunity to profit from the situation. Those who will throw you a rope, and charge you by the inch (and often will increase the charge the further up you get.

Finding the first is part serendipity, partly the investment you have made along the way in building real relationships.

The second is something you can create if you’re willing to invest time and effort. It’s mutuality in action. A source of help and inspiration, and a chance to give as well as receive.

The third is often the easiest to access if you have assets, as it’s those that comfort them.

I listened to a lender speaking on Radio 4 this morning. I’m in the business of staying calm, but he tested me to the limit. Full of how the Government should help and effectively guarantee him both safety and margin in the current situation. Not somebody I would ever want on the support end of my rope.

I do believe that the current situation will lead to new opportunities to leave behind the money above all else, “me first” paradigms that characterised where we were when this crisis kicked off.

We have seen, and are seeing ordinary people doing extraordinary things. The people who would throw you a rope and be happy when they get you out of the hole.

We are also seeing the others.

We can come out if this crisis in better shape than we went in, providing we choose carefully whose rope we grab onto.