I, They, We.

I’m staggered and hugely uplifted by both the resourcefulness and the generosity of some, often small businesses at this time and equally distressed by the attitude is some whose sense of entitlement sets them apart.

The “I” crowd

Those who think “they” should be sorting this out.

Those who criticise the inevitable gaps appearing in a 10x event. Ten times demand for Zoom. Ten times orders for garden centres servicing people safe in their gardens. Ten times the requirement for PPE.

Those who think “they” should have provided for this, but who also want the low costs that have been one of the primary catalysts of many of the challenges.

“Just in Time” supply chains. Economically efficient, but fragile when things don’t go to plan.

Outsourcing to low cost areas. Great for cost and margin spreads, but not so good when infrastructure is damaged, or when local needs override contractual niceties.

“Shareholder Value” that combines demand for returns with transient loyalty. A sort of Investment “hit and run”

“They”

The other side of the coin.

Those who see their customers as data points with credit scores. Whose every statement reveals a system geared to the needs of the “I” crowd.

To be fair, it’s what we train people for. To be an efficient part of an economic engine.

We

The uplifting part of this current crisis. Those who don’t calculate, just do on a deep understanding that there is no “I” and “they” in a community, only a “we”.

“We” are filling the gaps, staunching the wounds, and improvising. The scrubhub crowd. The butchers, bakers and probably candlestick makers who have gone overnight to local delivery to people they know. The NHS volunteers.

Not one of them driven by a calculation, a proposal and an approval process.

And?

I wonder where this will take us.

The community spirit and idea of a “gentler America” evaporated within six months of 9/11 according to researchers. Will this be the same?

Maybe not.

For one thing, this will last for months, even years, not be an instant, shocking, episode. This will last long enough for people to recognise why it has happened. The pain and loss will be steady and chronic. There is no enemy, other than the one we have created through our choices.

For another, there are upsides. I have several people I work with whose teams are already asking what they can retain from how they are having to work. They don’t want to go back to the old normal.

Additionally, we are discovering who and what is really important. Who does what for who and why. What matters.

What we recognise more than ever right now is that each of us, our businesses and communities are centre stage in what’s going on, and our performance will be remembered, hopefully for a while.

Originizing is about becoming who you really are. To uncover the original behind the copy we are often encouraged to be.

It’s a good time to do that.

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.

Reboot

Sometimes, we’re so busy “doing” that we put “being” on hold. We allocate time to holidays, at some point in the future, to reconnect with ourselves and those who matter to us. Things that get in the way are submerged or ignored.

Until something like this. When we don’t really have a choice.

In the midst of all the hassle, and the concerns, and the worry we are being given an opportunity to reconnect and reboot. And we have a choice – either to ignore it, or to embrace it. 

As I write this, spring is making its presence felt. Snowdrops are done, Daffodils are at full pelt, green shoots everywhere. 

Tomorrow, it’s the Spring equinox, traditionally a time of renewal. 

As you find yourself with more time to occupy than normal – even if it’s only the time you don’t have to commute, here are five things to reflect on in this liminal space between stopping and restarting:

  1. Oneness. A review of our relationship with ourselves, and those around us who we live with and work with. The more settled that is, the more of our originality, our uniqueness, becomes available to ourselves and others. It something we can all feel and sense when we take time and just sit. Mindfulness and meditation is not a luxury. Right now, it’s an essential.
  2. Awareness. Of our surroundings, our markets, the nature of our job. Purpose. Meaning. What keeps us aligned with what matters to us. Use the time we unexpectedly have  to detect the seismic signals that precede personal earthquakes, and address them. 
  3. Resilience.  Things will not go back to normal. How we choose to engage with different is often a matter of the baggage we carry. Old ideas, old grudges, unnecessary purchases, useless habits. What’s emerging will present unexpected opportunity. Be ready to move to meet them.
  4. Boundaries. Many of us blur the boundaries between role and work,  work and home, home and self, self and others. These are important. Render unto work what belongs to work, to borrow from Julius Caesar. A sense of autonomy is vital to oneness and resilience, and keeping a sense of boundary is important to that. Good fences make good neighbours.
  5. Focus. Our lives and work are a series of finite games (determined by rules, sides, winners and losers, time frames) played within an infinite game (our pursuit of meaning and cause that is endless). The key to progress is having clear short term goals that sit within your own bigger picture.

These five categories are not a made up list of feel good. They are at the heart of our individual and collective culture. It is a list compiled by, in my view, one the greatest, but least know strategists of the last century, who compiled them by looking at the records of every great strategist in history, from Sun Tzu to the present day. Worth taking note of.

In the midst of what we are going through, there is a huge opportunity for us to take stock and maybe reboot.

They don’t come round often, and it may be a while to the next one.