Monthly Archives: June 2013

The three ingredients of economic transformation…

011I fell in love with learning later in life so as a result I was often found with my head in a book. Whilst working as a consultant on leadership and peak performance, my boss said to me. ”Martin, you know lots more ‘stuff’ than I do because you’re always reading and researching, but the few things I know very well, I can apply to lots of different scenarios.”

“To know ten thousand things, know one well” ~ Miyamoto Musashi

From that day forward I set forth on a quest to uncover knowledge that could carry the human race to the next level. Years later, after much searching and study, of whittling away the superfluous and adding the necessary; I eventually uncovered the three ingredients we most need to transform our lives and the economy. Wisdom, compassion and courage are the three essential ingredients.

The wisdom is that there is a universal life cycle that applies to everything. If we don’t all understand this then we’re destined to carry on making the same mistakes. Wisdom is counter intuitive logic. If the decisions you’re making in business today feel natural, then you’re making decisions based on past experiences. Doing Wisdom feels uncomfortable and it only becomes comfortable when it’s been applied many times; by which time you’ve reached a higher level of personal development.

Our outer world is a merciless reflection of our inner world, not in some abstract sense; but literally. If I tell you a story, you’ll create a movie inside your head. Now we have televisions and movie theatres. Our brain is complex and adaptive like the internet which many consider to be our brain on the outside. Our evolutionary and biological life cycle is also expressed in everything we do. Our relationships, businesses and the economy all follow this same path. Once understood, we can begin navigating the path more effectively.

“Personal transformation can and does have global effects. As we go, so goes the world, for the world is us. The revolution that will save the world is ultimately a personal one.” ~ Marianne Williamson

 The second ingredient is compassion. Our society is in the adolescent stage and it’s time to grow up. This age is characterized by 1C (competing) and 2C behaviours which are controlling and conforming. We’re either competing to be in control or conforming to the hierarchy we find ourselves in much like the adolescent stage hoping they will accept and look out for us.  I’ll let you into a little secret. ‘They’ won’t because to really help you they would have to set you free and make themselves redundant in the process.

Technological advances and our potential for personal development, freedom, collaboration, creativity and compassion are already colliding into the systemic limitations of our 2C world. Politics has become pointless, religion rendered redundant, the environment’s endangered, the economy is exhausted and capitalism corrupting. If we don’t develop the ability to not only feel how our behaviours and self interest negatively affects others, but do something to transform the situation, then we hurt ourselves in the long run.

“Being wise selfish means taking a broader view and recognizing that our own long-term individual interest lies in the welfare of everyone. Being wise selfish means being compassionate.” ~ Dalai Lama

It would be preferable to move towards a 3C world in which we’re connected, collaborative and all able to contribute to the whole. Free to pursue our life purpose with passion and mastery; making the world a more socially just, economically prosperous and fulfilling place to live.

Big MindThe final ingredient is courage. Fear begins with a question: “Will I be okay?” When we ignore the question the fear grows, attacking us just when we least need it. Like all lessons in life, challenges are repeated over and over until we either collapse and disappear overnight or truly ‘get it’.

This is evolution at work and we ignore it at our peril but it will take the courage of a peaceful warrior to transform ourselves, the economy and the way we do business today. To follow the path of wisdom will feel uncomfortable, but transformation is coming because it always does.

“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Why economic recovery is the worst thing that could happen right now…

keep-calm-and-business-as-usualThe economy is in turmoil due to the fact that we have been using a system to regulate wealth and resources that people do not fully understand. Nor do they have the inner resources to control the system equitably. It’s not that capitalism is wrong per se, it was a necessary step in our evolution as was socialism.

But what’s the point of being slaves to a system which nobody has absolute control of? Which destroys planetary resources upon which we all depend on for survival, whilst keeping human ingenuity and technology, which could solve so many problems; restricted? Of course those at the top of the financial hierarchy would prefer to see business as usual return.

The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation –    Lord Bertrand Russell

People get blinkered by the culture and environment they find themselves in. Whenever you employ a system of beliefs, whether it is about science, economics, politics or religion, you have to delete and distort a lot of information in order for the system to work or make sense.

It is like cramming all the ‘stuff’ you own into a rucksack to make it easier to carry. It’s impossible to carry everything, so you have to leave some out. We use systems in the same way to make thinking easier. But knowledge is not immutable and inevitably evolution does its thing and creates more information and feedback which can add to our wisdom and complexity.

And quite rightly so. Wouldn’t life be boring if it remained static and unchanging? But that is in effect what most people are hoping for out of fear of letting go of old beliefs, status and the illusionary security they engender.

The economy is in the regeneration phase. It’s the part of the cycle I call the ‘lessons are repeated until they are learnt’ stage.

Ever woken up with a hangover and said “Never again” only to find yourself reaching for the aspirin again after the next party?

If this present system of economics does regenerate as is, it will just smack straight back into the same limitations that brought it down previously.  Furthermore, we will reach those limitations faster with even more people being forced out of the system into poverty.

If business as usual comes back, then we will have missed an incredible opportunity to innovate and create a fairer world of commerce and society. 

Businesses of the future  will focus on connection, collaboration and contributing fairly to the whole community which it serves.

‘Co-op Capitalism offers a new way forward that reconnects the economy with society and puts collaboration, community and the collective first.’ ~ Professor Noreena Hertz

 The top down hierarchical business model is a thing of the past, how long it takes for us to realise and act accordingly is up to us.

“…every kind of peaceful cooperation among men is primarily based on mutual trust and only secondarily on institutions such as courts of justice and police.” – Albert Einstein

Now is the time for enlightened entrepreneurial leaders to uncover their purpose, unleash their passion and create new services and ways of doing collaborative business. Now is the chance for us all to create a world which is socially just, economically prosperous and personally fulfilling.

We have an opening, while the old guard are floundering… Let’s not miss the opportunity!

Making a business of world challenges

Dog Poop Bags...Capitalism's answerCapitalism doesn’t want to solve the world’s challenges, it wants to make a business out of them.

But the real challenge is that not enough of the majority are “being the change in business” that we want to see in the world. Probably because making ethical choices involves making sacrifices and actually doing something.

Would you give up using your smart phone because it might contain ‘Blood Minerals’

Unfortunately we’re all hoping some bright spark is going to come up with an answer that allows everything to stay the same, while the moral dilemmas and environmental challenges neatly disappear. It ain’t going to happen. It’s time for those who’ve lost faith in capitalism to rewrite the business software.

Why should you get involved?

Because lessons are repeated until they’re learned. Moreover, each lesson is more costly and swifter to return. Financial upswings will become ever shorter, the downturns even longer. If it didn’t get you this time, it’s just a matter of time.

Anyone who believes in indefinite growth on a physically finite planet is either mad, or an economist. ~ D. Attenborough

This version of Capitalism hasn’t work for a few decades for the majority; wages in real terms have stagnated at best or gone into decline. Capitalism has improved the lot of a few developing countries, but they will reach threshold points too, arriving there sooner than we did.

We need an evolutionary next step, but what will it look like, how will it work and—more to the point—what will we call it? (Answers on a postcard or at the end of the article.)

The reality is that we need another name for a new economic system, but it could just as well be you who comes up with the name. There are no heroes out there—we’re all the heroes we’re waiting for, so get your thinking caps on.

To help you come up with a name for this alternative style of economy, here are some traits and comparisons to help you.

These are some of the hard choices and differentiators we face if we want the world to become a more socially just, environmentally sustaining and personally fulfilling place to live.

Quality vs. Quantity

Do you need to keep replacing your cheap import TV or laptop with its built in obsolescence or would you be willing to do without until they created a home grown version built to last and easily upgraded with new parts as opposed to having to throw away the whole TV just to get the latest version?

Ethical vs. Exploited

At the moment a lot of developing countries are coerced into producing cheap goods or services. Would you refuse to buy anything which is not ethically produced or continue to buy products which often force under-age labourers to work for a pittance?

If you’re going to change the world, it’s going to be very uncomfortable. ~ Peter Joseph

Ecocentric vs. Egocentric

The idea that we should grow perpetually is actually an egoic need. The ego doesn’t like to let go of what it has gained or to stop gaining at the same rate.

As consumers and supplier of goods and services within society, we would have to be willing to forgo some of our own emotional needs and ponder on the ecological impact of our purchase decisions and the way we conduct business.

Informed vs. Influenced

Corporations are experts at managing your perceptions and siphoning money upwards and out of the communities they prey on. Most of the big food corporates don’t support GMO labelling, so I guess that’s a good reason why we should. We need an educated population immune to propaganda and marketing.

Circular vs. Linear

The next economy would insist products mirror the production cycle of nature in that something comes into existence and is able to be reabsorbed back into a closed loop, circular system. The alternative is to turn the planet into a giant landfill site.

Open Source vs. Oppression

The new economic system could allow developing countries to bypass stages of technological evolution. For example, many in Africa have a mobile phone but bypassed the use of landline telephone technology. India and Africa, due to its lack of infrastructure, could actually produce a lot of clean energy, if we shared the technology.

A no-growth economy is a curious creature to think about, but as Sherlock Holmes once put it: once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.~ J. Rowson

Transparency vs. Taking Liberties

We tend to base our decisions of economic viability, without taking into account the “hidden externalities.” It isn’t as cheap or as healthy as it’s perceived to shop in large retail stores compared to buying local produce. Add the packaging which you pay to dispose of, the environmental costs and the time and fuel it takes to drive to a central retail outlet—it soon mounts up.

Balanced vs. Extreme

We can see the damage that too much power or a one sided political or economic ideology or philosophy has on the environment and society. Nature provides her own strategies for remedying such situations and bringing the world back into balance.

Although nobody in authority is admitting that there could be a viable alternative to capitalism, you can bet the answer involves being adaptable, balanced between ecology, environment, knowledge and behaviours.

Cooperatives vs. Corporatocracy

What we do not need are multinational giants who by their very nature are out of touch with the natural world and the world of ordinary people. Cooperatives are currently outperforming regular businesses in so many ways.

Economics is so disconnected from the real world, it is destructive.~ David Suzuki

Purpose Focused vs. Activity Driven

We have all the technological savvy to solve so many of the challenges we face. What we don’t have is the right politico/economic systems or the motivation to make it happen.

In the natural environment dog poop breaks down naturally in a few days.

We weren’t happy with that so now we’ve made an even worse problem. Now there’s dog poop filled plastic bags lying on the beaches and in the dunes (where I live) discarded by dog owners.

That’s capitalism for you. Instead of coming up with a fundamental solution, we create a business out of it, ensuring the perpetuity of the problem. That’s why very little is changing.

Why do we need a one and half tonne vehicle to move from red light to red light?

Innovation vs. Consolidation

All businesses reach a limit to growth so then they consolidate. That’s basically getting fatter and bigger doing the same thing while usually becoming less ecological.

Car companies killed off the electric car because it meant making less profit on selling spare parts.

Apple isn’t really innovating; they’re doing the same as Gillette did with their razors—adding another blade to the razors to make them more expensive and re-launching it as a new innovation.

Real innovation would be to manufacture the iPhone locally and sustainably.

Questioning growth is deemed to be the act of lunatics, idealists and revolutionaries. But question it we must.~ ~ Tim Jackson

Stability vs. Growth

In order for capitalism to work we have to have instability, probably why there are so many wars. There has to be oppressors and the oppressed because that’s the only way we can pursue the perpetual economic growth fetish. One group has to exploit another otherwise you cannot extract a profit from any deals you make.

Collaboration vs. Competition

What’s the point of having ten different television makers all producing different versions of the same thing, competing for the same customers?

We will have to consider the supplier and the client a symbiotic relationship which will involve a level of collaboration rarely seen before. After all, they’re both reliant on each other for survival.

Diversity vs. Monolithic

Without this version of capitalism in place, there would be a healthy diversity of micro-niche, ecological friendly products and services. As it is, we have to discard so much of human potential to fit into a monolithic system.

The money lender was regarded as a predator on other peoples’ misfortunes; the capitalist lender who lives off the fruits of his money, rather than personal efforts.~ William N. Goetzmann

Freedom vs. Debt Slavery

Throughout history ancient civilizations have passed loan forgiveness edicts.

Socrates himself described moneylenders as parasites. Although extending credit was originally a form of neighbourly reciprocity in rural societies, it evolved into something quite different. The technology of finance contradicts the natural compassion that mankind is capable of.

Banks and corporations don’t forgive and are still trying to make broke people and countries pay back what they haven’t got. Of course it’s different when they need the forgiveness.

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” ~ Buckminster Fuller

 Two-Tier vs. Hierarchical

The distribution of wealth resembles an hour glass. It’s great at the top, getting worse at the bottom, with more and more moving from the middle downwards and into poverty.

The new economy might actually have to evolve separately from the hierarchical system in place today. The politicians and corporate elites won’t let go of power and so an autonomous break away would probably be necessary for a time.

In Bristol, UK, they have even created their own “real” local currency which can only be used within the community.

When you say you’re “gonna throw something away”… where is away? There is no away. ~ Julia B Hill

Climate vs. Capitalism

Enough said really, I mean who wants capitalism at the cost of the ability to live freely and comfortably on the planet?

Technological vs. Tedious

The drive to bring down prices means that there will be more technological unemployment which is a good thing because it’ll force people out of their comfort zones and make them creative.

A hundred years ago most people were entrepreneurs. The future for mankind is about micro businesses  and small global businesses which display the wealth of ingenuity and diversity humankind is capable of and creating an ecologically sound and resilient economy.

Replicable vs. Scalable

When a business reaches a limit to growth instead of growing into a monolithic institution, they will share the lessons learnt to others elsewhere and allow them to replicate their success elsewhere instead of trying to own it all.

Prosperity vs. Profits

Prosperity is more than just wealth, it includes such things as health, wellbeing, relationships, the natural environment, ecology, valued relationships. Now businesses will value these and not just focus on profit which kills off all the things that actually make us happy. The end values will not be confused with the means values.

Inspiration vs. Motivation

Motivation is the moving away from a source of pain or towards pleasure. Inspiration is an inner drive which is usually in pursuit of serving others or to be part of something bigger than ourselves. If we wait for the pain of capitalism to get so bad that politics makes corporate powers act then you can be sure it will be too late. The Arab spring began over the price of bread. It’s either a case of waiting for painful change or be pre-emptive and create a brave new world. It’s your choice.

Can you think of other choices we will have to make to begin the move to a brave new world?