About me

Me in Potolo, Bolivia. Happy after a 4 day hike.

Me in Potolo, Bolivia. Happy after a 4 day hike.

I co-founded NixonMcInnes, the social consultancy in 2000. We evolved from being a regional web design agency to working with some of the largest organisations in the world, helping them to be more human (everyone’s had bad experiences dealing with big companies, right?) I worked on strategic projects with clients like Coca-Cola, Cisco, WWF, RSPCA, TUI Travel, Barclays, O2 and Channel 4

At NixonMcInnes we tried to do business differently, being open & transparent, ethical and having a very high level of employee freedom and involvement. We by no means got everything right, but we did become one of the first companies in Europe to be recognised by Worldblu as one of the Most Democratic Workplaces in the World.

left NixonMcInnes in April 2011 to go and see more of the world and get involved in some new things. Now that I’m back I’m putting my energy into using business to bring about positive change in the world. Right now I am:

  • curating the start-ups programme for The FuseBox – a physical space and support programme for creative and digital entrepreneurs;
  • running a community called The Brightoneers which hosts meet-ups most weeks around the loose theme of creating a local economy based on generating increased levels of wellbeing;
  • advising start-ups and social enterprises in Brighton;
  • speaking at events.

I’m not a ‘thought leader’ or a ‘guru.’ I just read a lot, think a lot, and try to put new ideas into practice through my work. This blog is a place to share and discuss what I’ve been learning and am working on next.

You can follow me on Twitter, and If we know each other we can connect on LinkedIn.

13 thoughts on “About me

  1. Very difficult to argue that working in a workplace which is democratic could be a bad thing from the point of view oof those involved in the workplace but two questions come to mind:
    1 Democratic; what does this mean and is there a standard way in which such an organisation would operate?
    2 Can it be assumed that an organisation which operates in a democratic manner is likely to be more productive / efficient and, if so, why?

    • Yes the do and so does ‘Motherhood and Apple Pie’.

      All the principles are good, positive and have the possibility of being productive but
      a) how do they work in the ‘real world’?
      b) how do you get all of your employees / co-employees to ‘buy in’ and actively / honestly participate?
      c) If it doesn’t work, i.e. generate profits adequate to support your (your co-employees) activities, then what do you do?

  2. Thanks for the comment Lee. The link above is an excellent introduction to what organisational democracy is. There isn’t a standard way for democratic organisations to operate. The principles are the same but how they make them real is often different and allows them to create their own unique culture and working practices.

    In answer to point 2, I think the key reason why democratic organisations perform better is that they are much more motivating environments in which to work. By giving people autonomy; the opportunity to master their craft; and be part of a higher purpose they are free to reach their potential without the constraints of hierarchy, control and the guarding of information, which are the antithesis of democracy but still currently the norm in business.

    • Tom,

      As I’ve already said it’s difficult to argue that working in a workplace which is democratic could be a bad thing from the point of view of those involved in the workplace but again the question must be asked ‘Can it be assumed that an organisation which operates in a democratic manner is likely to be more productive / efficient and, if so, why’?

      Your response implies that people want to be autonomous, want the opportunity to master their craft and want to be part of a higher purpose.

      From my input to your piece on capitalism – see elsewhere – you’ll know that I have a problem with the fact that my experience leads me to assume that the vast majority of people are concerned only about those issues which have an immediate impact on them and theirs and are not prepared to involve themselves with issues which do not have an immediate impact on them and theirs. How do you get them to make the active / positive committment which would be required to make democratically managed organisations function effectively?

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  4. Lee

    I agree with tom and if you look, there is ample evidence that working in this way delivers superior performance. Im in the middle of researching this in more depth for examples. Unfortunately there are few at the moment, but ever since I read Maverick by Ricardo Semler back in the mid 90’s, ive been convinced this is the way to go. However, there remains the call for “evidence”!

    One of the key issues here is that there is a lot of conventional wisdom around the way organisations work and perform which shapes our thinking and attitudes to this stuff. However there is more research coming out that shows that taking a counter intuitive approach (counter intuitive to conventional wisdom that it) works. As Jim Collins said – “Good is the enemy of great”. And even more powerful, @joegerstandt said in a recent blog post, “many companies are dying, they just dont know it because they made a profit yesterday”.

    There is an RSA Dan Pink video that talks about the things Tom mentions – autonomy and mastery etc and contains some interesting stuff around incentives which is totally counter intuitive.

    As Tom says, people are not that selfish when it comes down to it.

    • Thanks Gareth. Have you come across Vineet Nayar’s book ‘Employees First, Customers Second’? It’s a rock solid case study of changing an established business into a democracy with great success. I also recommend ‘Beyond the Corporation’ by David Erdal which focusses on employee owned businesses (the ultimate form of democratic biz) and has lots more examples.

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