My first year back in the UK. Here’s what happened.

A year ago I returned from 16 months travelling around the world. Here’s what’s happened since:

  • I was only in the UK for two weeks, then jumped back on a plane across the Atlantic. I spent an inspiring week at the first ever International Summit of Cooperatives in Quebec City learning about the state we’re in and the call for a new economy. I also had a small disagreement with Peter Marks, then the CEO of The Cooperative Group.
  • From Quebec I headed down to the US to spend two weeks with the WorldBlu team, exploring freedom centred leadership at BluCamp.
  • Inspired by the coops summit, I came back home and set up The Brightoneers in order to build a community around a better vision for the local economy. The launch meet-up almost got out of hand with 150 people registered, and the group now has over 300 members with over 20 meet-ups held. It’s been fun, but now needs much more focus and a specific goal. Still thinking about that.
  • Through The Brightoneers I got in touch with Dan Webb of Good Money. We’ve been talking on and off about creating complementary currencies to work around some of the problems with our broken money systems. Hoping we’re going to make something interesting happen in this area before long.
  • I spent a few months working as a WorldBlu Ambassador, helping to build the movement of democratic workplaces. I focussed most of my attention here in Brighton and the city now has one of the greatest densities of WorldBlu-certified democratic workplaces in the world. Nice.
  • I learnt about mindfulness and started practicing meditation. This is potentially life-changing but also highlighted just how much of a day-dreamer I am and how I struggle to hold my attention on anything. Still a lot to learn and improve.
  • I joined the awesome new consultancy colab as a non-exec director. The founder, John Shewell is one of the most purpose-driven people I know. He’s on a mission to transform public policy and enable communities to drive the changes they need to increase wellbeing for all. We also have a hell of a great laugh working together.
  • My travel-weary body has been slowly getting back to a respectable level of fitness. Got back into running, triathlon, mountain biking, road cycling and took up Crossfit. Seem to be having an annoying number of little niggly injuries though which is annoying.
  • Since May, I’ve been working with Wired Sussex getting a bunch of activities started to provide learning and support for creative & digital entrepreneurs. We just finished a wonderful pilot project, The FuseBox Amp, which the inspiring participants enjoyed a lot. This made me very happy! It was certainly one of the most interesting projects I’ve ever worked on.
  • I started working a lot with Charlie Davies. A fool and a genius, Charlie has taught me so much about developing Very Clear Ideas, the true essence and nature of money and about how the purpose of a company comes from its founder. He’s become a great friend too.
  • My sister Tess had a baby and I become an uncle to a beautiful baby boy. Yay!
  • I’ve had some other lovely trips – mountain biking in Afan, Wales; snowboarding in Austria; and a wedding in up-state New York which was absolute carnage.
  • The irresistible lure of NixonMcInnes, the company I founded and left in 2011, has proved strong and I’ve been hanging out there a lot recently. I think founders always have a special relationship with an initiative and it’s a great place to be exploring exciting new ideas. More about this soon.

All in all, a pretty amazing year. I wonder what the next 12 months have in store.

6 inspiring business audio books

A friend who’s not into reading asked me recently if I could recommend some great business audiobooks. Here’s a little list of some books I’ve enjoyed over the last year or two which are available as audio. Some famous ones and a few you might not have come across before. They’re all available as normal books too. Enjoy.

  1. Peak by Chip Conley. Really fun and inspiring book about creating amazing experiences for customers, employees and investors – this got me really buzzing with ideas for my own company: My review.
  2. The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin. How everyone is an artist, and can lift off their lid and be true to themselves.
  3. I Have a Dream by Rashmi Bansel. Brilliant stories about creating businesses that deliver real social good.
  4. The Go-giver by Bob Burg & John David Mann. Lovely little story about the power of giving as a way to success and happiness.
  5. Betterness by Umair Haque. Brilliant short book about the purpose of business. My review.
  6. Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh. The inspiring story of Zappos – building a business based on happiness.

How a dictatorship over corporate purpose sets everyone free

Peter Koenig‘s work on the Role of Source has been the most powerful business idea I’ve come across in a long time. We’re using it at NixonMcInnes right now to unlock the company’s purpose, as well as with start-ups at The FuseBox. It’s unbelievably useful and liberating so we need to get this idea further out into the world. I worked with Peter Koenig and Charlie Davies (who helped Peter develop it) on an award entry for this work. Please check it out and let me know what you think. If you find it useful, please click the ‘like’ button towards the right-hand side of the page, next to the headline.

Radically different help and support for creative business projects

This week we announced The FuseBox Amp. We’re searching for six of the most promising and ambitious people who are in the process of starting innovative creative or digital business projects, and providing them with four weeks of radically different learning and support unlike anything Brighton has seen before.

We are looking for people who have started creative business projects that are still at an early stage and have a need for support. Their project might be:

  • a start-up,
  • a new product or service in an existing business,
  • a project to pivot a business from one business model to another.

We don’t care about their background or how much experience they have. We are interested in the person they are today, and the impact they want to make in the future.

Do you know anyone working on an early stage creative/digital business project who might be interested in applying? If so, please do forward this on and encourage them to apply.

You can drop me a line if you have any questions.

A short poem I wrote today at The Wild School

This week Charlie started The Wild School. It is awesome. Everything is free this week and there’s still time to come along to something tomorrow. Just go, trust me, it will be worth it. I’m also teaching a class on Monday. I can’t promise that one will be worth it.

So I turned up this morning not know what was going to be taught and ended up in a creative writing workshop, run by the brilliant Roshnii Rose. Roshnii guided us through a process of stream of consciousness writing starting from two words: “Wild is”. We then picked out passages from our writing that stood out to us and used them to create a poem using the Pantoum method. If you’re like me and don’t consider creative writing to be your thing, it’s quite an incredible experience to have a poem ‘extracted’ from your brain like this. Here’s what I came up with:

Just animals on a planet

Just animals on a planet, we are actually naked

We hide and are scared

Concrete, restrictions and rules

We may die unfulfilled

 

We hide and are scared

We think there’s time later for the things that matter

We may die unfulfilled

We are all wild

 

We think there’s time later for the things that matter

Explore every day

We are all wild

We must use our unimaginable gift

 

Explore every day

Concrete, restrictions and rules

We must use our unimaginable gift

Just animals on a planet, we are actually naked

Organisational democracy is a stepping stone, not the final answer

Since I first became a fan of organisational democracy, I’ve often wondered what’s next. Will we will find an even better model for how humans can work together? The best answer I have found so far lies in a theory called Spiral Dynamics.

Spiral Dynamics explains how our values and worldview as humans have become increasingly complex – like an unravelling spiral – as life conditions for us have also become more complex. The journey has taken us through survivalismtribalism, superstition and magicego-centrism, feudalism and heroismpurposefulness and authoritarianismstrategic, industrial and materialismhumanism and egalitarianism. Phew, that’s a lot of isms.

Here’s a good slideshare which explains the model, and I also recommend this 43-page ebook on the subject. If you’re brave, you can read the Spiral Dynamics book. It’s awesome but awfully written and took me forever to get through.

What particularly interests me about Spiral Dynamics is that it puts the changes we see happening in the world into the broader context of the ongoing evolution of human consciousness. In developed nations today there is a gradual shift away from the currently dominant industrial, materialistic, individualistic worldview towards a more egalitarian, socially-minded perspective. This is being driven by our life conditions stretching the limits of an industrial perspective:

  • natural resources are finite and so the global economy cannot grow infinitely, especially as developing economies try to enter the consumer party
  • a growing gap between the richest and poorest causing social problems that affect everyone
  • climate change caused by industrialism which has to stop in order to prevent major catastrophe
  • material gain only makes us happier up to a point and there’s more to life than working really hard and acquiring more ‘stuff.’

But the move to a more humanistic perspective where organisational democracy fits in is not the final solution. It’s actually just a stepping stone towards further, more complex levels of consciousness.

What comes next is an integral worldview where we understand all of the levels of consciousness that we have already developed and maximise their positive potential whilst repairing and avoiding the problems that they can cause. It’s a mindset that embraces and understands complexity and lives life to the full.

There are movements emerging that embrace this post-democratic mindset like Conscious Capitalism and Integral Capitalism. This stuff is new and nobody has completely cracked the formula yet, but that’s actually the point. There is no final solution. As life becomes more complex on our planet, our consciousness will continue to evolve new levels of complexity with it, bringing ideas which can greatly enrich life and solve the dizzying problems we face.

The biggest truth about leadership that you didn’t know

Big thanks to my friend Charlie Davies who switched me on to the concept of The Source recently. One of the ever growing list of things I wish I’d understood years ago. An incredibly important dimension to leadership with huge implications for all organisations that I’ve never seen discussed so explicitly before in any business book.

These reflections are based on the work of Peter Koenig who has researched the role of “source” in organizations for many years.

Source

1. any thing or place from which something comes, arises, or is obtained.
2. the beginning or place of origin of a stream or river.
3. a book, statement, person, etc., supplying information.

The role of source

Any enterprise, project or event always goes back to a single source; the person who gave the spark of life to an idea and had a compelling vision that wanted to be realized.

In instances where one might feel that “we” had the idea together, closer investigation of the path of creation will always lead back to one particular person. The person who has the role of source has an energetic connection to the endeavour quite unlike any other member of the organization or team. The energetic connection is derived from the source-person being the first person in time to take a risk, i.e. make an investment in manifesting the idea. Often the first risk was taken in communicating the idea to a second person.

As a result, the source has an intuitive knowing about what the next steps are and will have strong reactions, often viscerally, if these insights are not honoured. For the source, the “Gestalt” of the idea can be sensed, even if others can at times have more accurate language to describe it. The effects of the importance of source can be observed, whether or not the source is acknowledged. However, acknowledgment of source will lead to an ease of flow in processes and decrease potential for conflict.

A metaphor for source

If an idea, a project or an organization was an individual we could attempt to trace back how this being first came into existence. At the beginning of the child’s life, there was the act of creation, which required a father and a mother.

Let’s assume there was a field or a dimension in which all ideas and all creations exist; the field of limitless potential. Let’s say this field is the “father” in this metaphor. The field chooses a carrier,the source, a “mother” that will bring the child into existence. This person is inseminated with the idea; the source might indeed feel as if “going pregnant” with the idea for a while prior to it’s birth.

Even after the baby (the idea, project) is born, the connection to its creators (the field and the source) is very strong. The field and the source are the genetic parents of this baby and regardless of who will help to raise the child to be an independent person – the birth parents will always remain the birth parents.

For the success or the child in life, it seems to be vital that this primary connection is recognized and honoured, even if other people do a bulk of the childrearing work or if the child is going to be adopted by another parent in the future.

The role of helpers

The role of others as supporters and helpers for the success of a project envisioned by the source is paramount. As in the metaphor of the child, a single parent would never be able to do as good a job raising the child as a whole community could. As they say: It takes a village…

The bigger the original vision the source brings into existence, the more likely the source relies on others for realization of this vision. The helpers can take on all kinds of different roles; from translating the idea into concepts or tasks, to taking on roles as “sub-sources” with full responsibility for a sub-project that feedsinto the larger source.

The more connected the helpers feel energetically to the idea/vision of the source – and this comes not just from liking the project content but from their relationship to the source and acknowledging the source’s source role – the more they are able torealize and exercise their own source within the project. This increases the momentum of the endeavour.

Each helper can form his or her special connection to the projectand become a central figure in the growth process – but the source as the point of origin must be recognized. If anyone unrightfully claims ownership of the idea, the balance in the system is disturbed and will suffer a multitude of consequences.

The source of organizations

Every organization has a point of origin, the moment when the idea was conceived and someone gave shape to what was previously shapeless. This idea of source in organizations is especially observable in family owned businesses. However, it is important to note that identifying the source may not always be as obvious as it might appear at first sight. Often, the founding of the company is attributed to one person (for example the patriarch), but the driving force behind the endeavour was in fact another (for example the matriarch of the family). It is therefore essential to examine closely who was the original life force behind the organization before drawing premature conclusions about the source.

The source can be inherited or passed on from one person to another. The passing on of the source is not a legal but an energetic act. Even if due diligence has been done to ensure that all the right contracts are in place, the source can remain with the original founder and the transmission has not occurred. If this is the case, the new leader/CEO, and subsequently the organization, will be weakened. Succession can only occur if the person passing it over and the person receiving it are conscious and open to the process. Without full transmission of the source, a struggle for dominance and recognition ensues.

A few of the tell-tale signs for the source not having been transferred (or not transferred fully) can be that the newly appointed leader:

  • feels disconnected from the business,
  • is unsure about next steps, has no vision,
  • does not feel what his or her place or purpose in the endeavour is,
  • has no execution even though has all the legal power,
  • experiences power struggles with other people in the organization,
  • is not accepted by others in the organization as the new leader.

It is important to know that only one person can fulfil the role of source. The ownership structure of an organization or the distribution of profits are not tied to being source, but the final say about strategic decisions is.

In family run businesses, it is not unusual that the passing of the source skips one generation. If the source remained with a grandparent that has already passed, the transfer might be accomplished through a personal ritual of initiation that honours the vision and importance of the source, before the new CEO steps fully into his or her new responsibility as the new source of the organization. If the person fulfilling the role of source is still alive, this is a ritual that can and should be conducted in person.

The role of source in leadership

In any organization, there are numerous sources for numerous projects. The vital importance of accepting that the source will “sense” what has to be done should not be underestimated. If the leader is the source, this might be easier than if another employee is the source for a particular thought or project. Regardless of the position of the source in the hierarchy, the source needs to be recognized in order to function as the channel through which information flows into the organization. Furthermore, a lack of recognition of source is noted by members of the system and feels unfair or unjust; members of the organization/team will revert to “just doing their jobs”. Trust in the leaders and or the organizationas a whole is diminished. Acceptance of source creates harmony and trust and is also the key to all people being able to realize their own source potential. The recognition of source is thus key to innovation.

If the role of source is not acknowledged in leadership, this either results in a dictatorial approach to running the company (“I am the new boss now and you will do as I say!”) or in a spineless egalitarianism (“we are all the same and we all have equal say”). The first often leads to organizations with a high number of sick days and a work morale weakened by fear whereas latter leads to inefficiency and a culture that values comradeship over performance. Both will bleed the organization of talent since intelligent and self-responsible individuals will neither choose to work for an organization in which submission to an authoritarian leader is required, nor an organization in which every process is stalled because no one ever feels empowered to take a decision.

This short article on source was written by Nadjeschda Taranczewski and Peter Koenig in July 2012. Please feel free to copy onto your own letterhead by mentioning the authors.

A simple, powerful way to create a collaborative workplace

Last week I visited the awesome Studiomates collaborative workspace in Brooklyn, New York. When you visit the space, you immediately notice the collaborative, friendly atmosphere so I asked how they go about cultivating that. Naturally they are selective about who they accept as studiomates, but once people are in, how do they get people collaborating?

A big part of the answer over there is simply eating lunch together every day. You don’t have to have a Google-style free gourmet canteen to do this. Just have a set time every day and encourage everyone to eat their lunch together. It’s as simple as that, but don’t under-estimate the power. Humans have been talking while they eat together for thousands of years. It’s a very natural way to find out what’s going on and who needs help as well as creating and strengthening relationships and having fun.

We’re starting this practice at The FuseBox today. How about doing this at your workplace?

Becoming Conscious: The Science of Mindfulness (video)

One of the most valuable things I’ve done in the past year is mindfulness training. Essentially this is training to become more conscious and in control of your attention. This might sound banal, but it can help you step out of the auto-pilot in which we spend much of our time thinking and reacting. It’s clinically proven to make people less stressed and anxious, and feel happier more of the time. I’m still at an early stage in my journey but already I can see how mindfulness practice is life-changing.

If you have a healthy skeptical mind and are curious about the science behind mindfulness, here’s a fantastic video which includes some fascinating studies such as the effect of mindfulness training on troops serving in Afganistan.

OK, I appreciate that this video is over an hour long, and here on the Internet we only have very short attention spans. But perhaps that’s the point.

What the humble Hacky Sack can teach us about being happy at work

Here’s a great little meme you can start today which will make your workplace just that little bit happier. Thanks to Tom Bailey who told me about it over a cuppa the other day.

You know those times when someone makes a mistake and goes overboard with “sorry, sorry, I’m really sorry, arrrgh, my fault, I’m sorry!” Or conversely, when someone points the finger of blame at someone else for a mistake? The next time one of those things happens, simply say the words “Hacky Sack.” This, of course will be met with complete bewilderment the first time they hear it, giving you the opportunity to explain something wonderful about the simple game of Hacky Sack.

In a game of Hacky Sack, failure is part of the process. At some point, the Hacky Sack will dropped. Probably many times in a session. This is just the nature of the game. And if it’s just the nature of the game then there’s no need to go overboard with an apology when it happens, and no need to chastise anyone for screwing up. So in Hacky Sack, the etiquette is to just pick it up and carry on. No apology expected; no blaming allowed.

This sounds a lot like how workplaces should be. At work too, failure is just part of the process. It’s not something we need to go over the top with apologies or blame for. Hell, it’s even something to celebrate at times.

OK, I’m sure there are exceptions like where you’ve broken trust or failed to respect someone and a sorry can go a long way towards repairing a relationship. And perhaps it might not apply quite so well where lives are at stake, but that’s a tiny minority of workplaces. But for 99% of the everyday failures and mistakes that are made at work, make Hacky Sack the rule in your office.