Watch this in full-screen, sit back, and think about our busy existence on this big, beautiful, round lump of rock that we share.
Thanks to Iestyn for sharing this.
Watch this in full-screen, sit back, and think about our busy existence on this big, beautiful, round lump of rock that we share.
Thanks to Iestyn for sharing this.
I’ve been very quiet on this blog lately, but there’s been loads going on so here’s an update from me.
The community of people working together to build a pioneering new economy in Brighton launched with a bang in January. 100 people came to the first event and we have the next three events lined up. All of them are free to attend and open to all. Just register using the links below.
19 Feb: How can we use crowd funding to build a better economy? We have speakers covering the use of crowd funding for equity, rewards and lending, then time to break into groups to start making stuff happen.
5 March: The first Brightoneers film night: Shift Change - an awesome film about the power and potential of employee ownership – check out the trailer. I’m planning on making this a monthly event screening documentaries that will inspire us into action.
I’ve been working as an ambassador for WorldBlu, speaking about democratic business at a number of events (like this) and talking to some awesome companies about them joining the movement. The WorldBlu List of Most Democratic Workplaces 2013 will be announced in April. I’m very excited to see Brighton growing as a hub of certified democratic workplaces following on from my previous company, NixonMcInnes being one of the first WorldBlu-certified companies in Europe. There’s also WorldBlu Live coming up in May in Denver. Get along to this if you can. My involvement in WorldBlu is now winding down and I’ll be focussing more on work locally here in Brighton. There may just about be time to get your organisation assessed by WorldBlu for this year’s WorldBlu List. If you’re interested, drop me a line and I’ll put you in touch with the right people.
Having spent 10 years building a consulting company myself, I’m keen to share my experience in marketing and selling consulting work with other consulting companies in Brighton. If you’re a freelance consultant or running a small consulting company and would like to bring in more business, I might be able to help. I’m also launching a little project around this over the next few days. If you’d like to be kept in the loop then please get in touch.
I’m mid-way through an 8-week course on Mindfulness and meditation with Mindfulness Sussex. I’m loving the combination of ancient wisdom dating back 2500 years backed by modern scientific studies that have shown many benefits to mind and body.
It’s the Brighton Half Marathon this Sunday. I’ve been gradually getting back to pre-travelling levels of fitness. I still have a long way to go and a horrible bout of ‘man flu‘ set me back these past couple of weeks, but the Half is a bit of a milestone anyway.
OK that’s about it. If we’re overdue to catch up for a chat then give me a shout.
Last week I presented at RobertsonCooper‘s Good Day at Work conference. I had a really great time – thanks to the organisers and everyone who stayed right until the end to see me. Here are links to the things I covered:
My slides are on Slideshare.
WorldBlu: helping organisations globally to be more democratic using their 10 principles of organisational democracy and publishing the list of Most Democratic Workplaces in the World (together with lots more inspiring ideas)
NixonMcInnes: my previous company
Happy Buckets: measuring happiness in the workplace daily
Celebrating failure at the Church of Fail
The amazing story of the cardboard box factory becoming a democracy that kicked off this whole journey for me which my friend and business partner Will McInnes left of my desk with the words ‘Fucking amazing – read this’ emblazoned on it.
Employees First, Customers Second: Vineet Nayer’s book about transitioning a large business, HCL Technology to a democracy
Beyond the Corporation: David Erdal looks at how employee ownership is the future of business, including research into what makes humans cooperate and the benefits to the whole of society of employee-owned, democratic businesses.
This week I’m at BluCamp in beautiful Missouri, USA – a retreat for leaders wishing to build freedom-centred, democratic workplaces. I’m here partly to help out but mostly to learn, and already it’s been mind-blowing.
The biggest thing I’ve learnt today is that the first step towards building a freedom-centred workplace is to adopt a freedom-centred mindset. Sounds obvious, but it’s very easy to dive into adopting crazy new working practices or trying to change the culture before working on yourself first.
At WorldBlu, when we talk about ‘freedom’, we mean freedom from fear, since it’s fear that narrows our thinking, causes us to try to control rather than develop opportunity and at a most basic level, it’s a whole lot more fun feeling a sense of freedom than fear. Unfortunately most workplaces are dominated by fear and control which makes us unhappy and leads to poor performance. It’s not about being fearless. It’s natural to feel fear. The important thing is to recognise and free yourself from fear by taking action.
So how do you begin to go about adopting a mindset of freedom? Here’s a very simple exercise that we did today which really opened my mind.
1. Write down up to three challenges that you are facing in either your personal or work life which give rise to any kind of fear. This could be a direct, adrenaline-fuelled fear; more subtle, long-term or unconscious fear; or even well-intentioned fear. Write down how the fear manifests itself as well as the specifics of the challenge.
2. Now ask yourself the question: ‘What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?‘ and write down the solution for each challenge.
3. Reflect on how you feel about the challenges. Do you feel different?
It’s as simple, yet powerful as that. When I answered this question for three meaty challenges I’m facing, I was amazed how easily the answers flowed onto the paper. And not only that, it genuinely did change my mind-set from one of fear to one of opportunity, confidence and even excitement. This is the power of freedom.
Please give it a try it now and let me know in the comments if it worked for you.
Hey, long time no see! I’ve been traveling around Papua New Guinea with poor Internet and a broken laptop so haven’t been able to blog. I’m writing this on my phone.
Will McInnes, my old business partner at NixonMcInnes has had his book Culture Shock published. I finally managed to get the kindle version downloaded to my phone so I could read it. The book is fantastic and covers many of the issues that we discuss on this blog, so check it out.
Here’s the review I left on Amazon. 5 stars:
In 2002 I was fortunate enough to meet Will and we founded NixonMcInnes together. Full disclosure: I’ve left the business but am still a shareholder, however Culture Shock is 100% Will’s.
Will has been a truly inspiring figure who introduced me to ideas that shaped not only our business and my career but also my entire worldview. Big stuff!
He wrote this book from a rare and valuable position of having founded and run a very different type of company AND taught and helped some of the world’s most high profile organisations to be different and better too. He’s no ordinary pundit. His experience is deep, and real. This shines through in the book.
In Culture Shock you can see Will’s simmering and often humourous displeasure for business-as-usual but he doesn’t waste time going into too much detail about what’s gone wrong and why. And although the book cites solid studies and other sources that back up the case for a new approach to business, Culture Shock is from the heart and from experience. It’s not an empirical or academic work and as such it’s not the book to convince the cynical or anyone who has been on another planet and missed the failure of 20th century business (even Alan Greenspan the market fundamentalist said there’s ‘a flaw’… no kidding!).
Instead, Culture Shock is for revolutionaries who know that business can and must be better and want to take action and build incredible organisations, right now. They can also use it to inspire others who have the instinct that things can be better and want to know how.
The book’s scope is impressive, covering both internal and external practices, technology, and the new leadership traits needed to drive these changes. The book is meaty with big ideas, examples and practical advice yet manages to be mercifully concise (revolutionaries are busy!) so you can read it in a few hours. Where readers want to get more detail there are suggestions for further reading.
Will and I had Ricardo Semler’s ‘Maverick’ as our bible on our journey. That book is a wonderful case study but we had no field guide for ourselves. After 10 years of trial and error and learning, Will has written Culture Shock to provide exactly that.
If you read Culture Shock then your path to building an incredible business will be much shorter and easier, and the world will be a better place for it.
Viva la revolución!
Check out this video. Just truly heart-warming – I love it.
Caine is not in the arcade business for the money. He just wants to make cool stuff for other people to enjoy. And that is the lesson – from a 9 year old – that business needs to learn. Good luck to the young chap.
/ via Dan H. Pink’s blog
There’s so much I love in here:
All of this has created an incredible workplace at Mindvalley that attracts and grows fantastic people, and that leads to success for the company as a whole.
The only thing I’m not sure about is the idea of sharing 10% of company profits on a monthly basis. I am all for profit sharing, but my fear would be that with it being a monthly thing, people may quickly grow used to it and instead of it feeling like a bonus it could come to feel like an entitlement. I’m sure that it is a motivator but I’m not convinced of the long-term value of it. But it’s part of a mix that’s working for Mindvalley so good luck to them.
Oh and if you’re thinking that all of this wacky stuff is fine for a company whose average age is 24 but not for a ‘grown up’ business, then just remember that these ‘Generation Y’ people are the senior leaders of the future so if you want to have them developing in your company then you need to create the right environment for them NOW.
Chip Conley’s book ‘Peak: How successful companies get their mojo from Maslow‘ is brilliant for two reasons. Firstly it’s an amazing turnaround story of a business (The Joie de Vivre boutique hotel group) on the brink of failure; and secondly it provides an incredibly simple but powerful framework for thinking about what a business offers to its key stakeholders.
Using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you can think of each group as having a pyramid with three levels. The base needs of a stakeholder group at the bottom, working up towards delivering self-actualising, transforming experiences for them at the top (what Chip calls ‘Peak’ experiences.) Once you have got the base needs covered, it’s these Peak experiences that can truly set a business apart and will lead to success.
For example, the base needs of an employee are to be paid a living wage and have a safe working environment. Working up to the second level they have the human need for recognition for what they do and have good relationships with colleagues. Then above this, right at the top are things like opportunities for mastery of their area of skill and working towards a higher purpose which they truly believe in and transcends both themselves personally and the company.
Any business can expand on these three levels of the pyramid with specific policies and practices, but the key thing is that once the base needs are covered, it’s focussing attention on the higher needs at the top that creates the magic.
For customers, the baseline is a product that satisfies their needs at an affordable price; then moving up from here we have things like listening to and responding to their wishes and right at the top we have experiences that are beyond the customer’s expectations and meeting new needs and wants. Think Apple creating the iPod in the age of the Walkman or a time when a business has really treated you like a VIP and gone out of their way to help you (doesn’t happen too often, sadly, and this is an opportunity!)
Chip goes on to explain how you can use this same principle for investors too and I also think that the same can apply to suppliers and the local community although Chip doesn’t cover this in his book.
I’m working on a new business plan at the moment and have found it a really helpful framework to have a pyramid for employees, customers, investors, suppliers and local community and fill in the three levels for each to show how the company will deliver real value, right up to Peak experiences. It’s a very exciting process as you begin to see how your business steps up from the ordinary to do very special things. I also found that thinking about the top of the pyramid sparked new ideas and made me think bigger and higher about how the business can be awesome.
As an experiment you could try creating a pyramid for each of your company’s stakeholder groups and filling in how base needs, right up to Peak experiences are being delivered at the moment. You’ll probably find some gaps which can be filled in, and you can also reflect on how you’re allocating your energy – whether it’s purely to satisfy base needs or deliver truly transforming experiences. It’s no co-incidence that Zappos – the online retailer bought by Amazon.com for $1BN and famed for its incredible happy working environment and delighted customers has Maslovian pyramids on its walls, and makes Chip’s book required reading for new employees.
‘Betterness‘ is an essay by Umair Haque – an economist who’s played a big part in shaping my own ideas and beliefs about capitalism and its future. It’s actually been out for a while now but because I follow his blog I didn’t think there’d be much new in there for me. Wrong! It really is an incredibly important piece of work, bringing together and clearly laying out Umair’s radical but completely sensible ideas. I urge anyone in business or thinking of starting up their own venture to read this – it might challenge some very fundamental beliefs about what business and capitalism are actually for.
Here are four of the ideas that stood out for me:
Business and capitalism have ultimately failed in delivering true wealth (not just money, but across the board improvements in health, well-being, societies, the environment and happiness.) Umair offers some stark insights and statistics to back up this point. For example the plateauing (or in some cases falling) of happiness as GDP increases in developed countries and how America has seen increases in obesity and mental illness as it has become ‘richer.’
Personally I see a parallel with personal income and GDP. When you’re very poor (either an individual or a country,) more income does have a real positive impact because you can look after your base human needs (safety, food, water, medicine, shelter) but once these needs are met, increasing money don’t make that much difference and it’s higher things (relationships, well-being, enjoying the environment and having purpose and meaning in our lives) that make us truly happy. But money is like a drug and there is a tendency to believe that what made us happier before will continue as we earn more.
GDP as the primary measure of economic success is flawed and dangerous. GDP is like a corporation focussing solely on its income and not its balance sheet. It leads to a growth of sorts, but does not grow real, long-term value which should be the goal of any organisation or country. Instead Umair suggests that countries need to focus on a ‘national balance sheet’ to measure improvements or declines in human, social, emotional, environmental as well as financial capital. Then we would see much of current ‘business’ for what it really is – an extraction of value from humans, society or the environment to make money, but actually leaving us all worse off in the areas that really matter. It would then divert attention to creating value in all of the areas that matter.
The idea that even successful, ‘good’ businesses today perform at just a fraction of their potential to generate real wealth. Using the analogy of the change in the field of psychology from how can we cure people with psychological problems and get them to a ‘normal’ state to the positive psychology movement which looks at how we can continually better ourselves and build on what’s right to reach ever higher levels of happiness and achievement. The same is true for business which is often defensive and happy to return 5-10% net profit and focus on not screwing up rather than being creative and ambitious in how it can actually deliver true enduring value.
The need for deeper meaning and purpose in business. Umair gives ‘vision’ and ‘mission’ statements a thorough working over to show how most businesses are incredibly thin when it comes to their reason for existence. He suggests that all businesses need to have a much higher purpose – something that transcends their own organisation – and delivers diverse wealth back to people and the planet.
This essay is an inspiring call to arms for how we can radically change business into ‘betterness’ for the benefit of all of humanity. Umair doesn’t believe that there is any organisation in the world that is truly living up to this potential right now. Who will be the first? I personally will give it a damn good try.
I wandered into the village of Batu Puteh on the Kinabatangan River in eastern Malaysian Borneo after a tip-off, but without much of an idea of what I would find there. I had heard that they were looking for volunteers and it was possible to stay with local families which sounded interesting enough to me.
A man at the first house I came to pointed me towards a larger building at the other end of the village, next to the river. When I arrived at the Batu Puteh community centre, the local people there were a bit surprised to see me as most of their volunteers book through international volunteering agencies whereas I had just turned up with a backpack. However within an hour or two I had moved into a room in a house where Majid lived with his wife Judda and their four small children, who seemed to be very comfortable with strangers in their house and took great interest if invetigating all of the strange stuff in my rucksack, especially my iPhone.
I had dinner with the family that evening (chicken, rice and jungle fern all eaten with our hands) and was given some smart local clothes made from silk to wear to a ‘cultural event’ later that night.
I was really excited to see how a small village got together to enjoy itself, but when I arrived back at the community centre my bubble was burst when I realised that it was just a little event put on for tourists and everyone else there was staying at a nearby eco-resort. It was quite interesting seeing some local music and dance, but it felt contrived. At that moment I thought I would probably only stay there a night or two, but it wasn’t until the next day that I realised how wrong my first impressions had been.
At 8:00 the next morning after breakfast I turned up for work. I met couple of other volunteers who had been there for a while and we set to work shifting saplings from a tree nursery in the village, down to a boat on the river where we took them to a site that had been cleared ready for us to plant them. I learned that this area of jungle had been badly damaged by logging and fire, and we were working on a programme to replant it.
The next day a batch of new volunteers arrived together and I joined them for their briefing. This was the first time that I heard the full story of what they had created in the village. Everything changed at that moment and I was deeply moved by what I heard.
Batu Puteh with its position on the Kinabatangan was once a hive of activity as a major crossing point on the river. However most of its income came from the surrounding jungle through activities such as collecting rattan (like the stuff used to make wicker furniture) and honey. Over last few decades things began to change. A road bridge was built right over the village and the traditional activities in the jungle changed as the villagers discovered the money that could be made through logging. Of course, logging is unsustainable because you can’t grow new trees as quickly as they are chopped down. Each year it was becoming more and more difficult to find the things that they needed in the depleted jungle around the village.
At this point someone from WWF began a three year investigation into the idea of eco-tourism to look at whether this could provide a new, sustainable future for the village. The outcome of this research was a working paper put forward by a number of villagers with the help of WWF. The path was not easy and there were many doubters in the village. Many people had lost hope and believed that the only solution was to move to the cities to find work. There were also false accusations of illegal logging leveled at the project founders to try to undermine their efforts. However, with help of some corporate and government grants, the eco-tourism project started and the first visitors came to Batu Puteh. They paid to stay with local familes and helped the villagers to grow and plant new trees to rejuvinate the rainforest.
Disaster struck not long after when a huge fire swept through the already damaged rainforest. Many local people left the village and it was a time of incredible pain. I was told about the tears that were shed. But gradually the people returned and the doubters saw too that the eco-tourism project could offer them a new future.
The project grew into a community-owned co-operative called MESCOT. Familes pay 100 Ringit (about £20) to join and become part owners. This has grown to 400 members which is a large proportion of the entire village. Volunteers pay 110 Ringit per night in a homestay which includes 3 meals per day, so a family usually breaks even on their investment the first time they have someone to stay. The families receive guests on a rotation basis.
The volunteers work mostly on conservation projects like work in the tree nursery (and the never-ending task of filling small seeding bags with earth.) There are also improvised English lessons for the children and I helped them out a bit with marketing and created their Facebook page.
The project is careful to limit the number of volunteers in the village at any one time. It’s healthy for the local people to see and interact with other cultures, but local people should rightly remain the majority so that their own culture is not destroyed. They also encourage local families to not become reliant on the income for the homestays, which can actually exceed what they earn in their main job. It is important that people still work in order to keep everything else in the village running.
One of the things I loved the most about the village is that work stops at 4:00pm and everyone – local people and volunteers – all play sport. There are games of badminton and football going on, but I played volleyball every day. There was a lovely, relaxed atmosphere of fun and fair play. Something I had to adjust to, curbing my competitiveness and explitives when I frequently lost points for my team!
The village is Muslim, but very moderate. All of the women and girls including volunteers kept their shoulders and legs down to their knees covered, but that was the only dress code. Some women wore headscarves but this was not mandatory. I haven’t spent much time in more conservative cultures, but the very slight restrictions seemed to actually make the place more relaxed. There was no pressure on women to ‘look sexy’ and it removed the element of the guys gawping at the girls. Because everyone was dressed casually, you quickly forgot that there were any rules at all. The most senior jobs in the community project were shared between the men and women.
There was no alchohol in the village and so none of the problems that alcohol brings, but you didn’t feel like anyone missed it. When you play sport every night you feel happily occupied. Being a staunch liberal myself I don’t generally like control that limits people’s choice about how they live, but in this village I only saw benefits which gave me a new perspective.
The villagers were all absolutely lovely, and those working in the community project a real inspiration. In particular, a man called Taing who supervised much of the conservation work. There was nothing that he didn’t know about how to re-grow a rainforest, from collecting and plants seeds, nurturing saplings in the nursery then clearing and re-planting areas of deforestation. Taing had difficulties hearing and speaking which I hardly noticed at first, partly because not many people there spoke great English, but mostly because he was one of the most charismatic and expressive people I have ever met. He could explain what we needed to do in improvised sign language and hilarious looks of cheeky, comedy disappointment when we got things wrong. Taing was also my volleyball mentor and his gentle way of making fun out of me had me laughing every day.
I wished I could have stayed longer in Batu Puteh but unfortunately my week there came to an end far too quickly. It was a lesson in hope, culture and how communities in crisis with a bit of outside support to get them started can build happy, sustainable futures for themselves. I hope to be able to return there some day.