The art of doing nothing

It is curious that nowadays when asked “how are you?”, the fashionable answers are “good” and “busy”. Variants include “good but busy”.  For the word good I think we can all blame Friends, but for busy we have to blame ourselves and, by extension, society at large. We have become a civilization of doers. We define ourselves by what we do and success is measured by activity...

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How to thrive in uncertainty with the Four Cs.

“May you live in interesting times”, says the famous curse.  The pace of social, political, technological and environmental change means that we live in a VUCA world.  Every sector of activity is facing disruption.  And added to these global challenges comes Brexit, a battle that is far from over. What many forget is that any outcome is the beginning, not the end of the process.  Years of t...

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It’s only money

How often do you think about money? Now I’ve raised it, many of you will start singing to yourself. Maybe it’ll be Money makes the world go round from Cabaret; or a bit of Pink Floyd, or Abba, or Dire Straits, or perhaps, like the CEO of Sainsbury’s when he thought he was off camera, you’ll sing We’re in the money from 42nd Street. Money is everywhere, and it’s on my mind for a number o...

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In praise of meandering

Every now and then you get an email that cheers you up. I had one recently from a mate which simply asked if I fancied joining him on a day out for a walk in the country. He hadn’t got any work that day and he thought a bit of a ramble would do the world of good. And so it turned out to be. A day gently strolling through fields and woods ending in a pub, and all because someone had the honesty to...

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The Curse of Ambition

It would be wrong to say that I’ve fallen out of love with platitudinous exhortations to personal betterment. I always found those self-improvement statements of being the best version of me, awakening the giant within, and pushing yourself to the summit to all be rather fatuous. If “excellence is not a destination; it’s a continuous journey that never ends” then I think that I’ll look fo...

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Purpose-less Purpose

For over 20 years I’ve played a small and insignificant part in the movement towards better, more responsible, corporations. I’ve joined organisations, been to countless events, and attended endless debates where the same issues are parried back and forth by people violently agreeing with each other. A whole eco-system of consultants, advisors, think tanks, not-for-profits, agencies, NGOs, and ...

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Use-by date

  Use-by dates creep up on you. It comes to everyone, of course.  The old year passes and the new one reminds you that time and tide aren’t waiting.  Over the decades one has been through the cupboards of one’s parents, surreptitiously discarding all those items clearly past their use-by dates.  And then it happens to you.  Nothing prepares you for the toe-curling embarrassment as a...

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M&A – lessons from failure

The majority of M&A, it seems, end in failure.  They simply don’t produce the expected results, destroying rather than creating value.  And yet every year companies continue down the path with their eyes wide shut.  Books have been written and lectures given but still lessons are seemingly ignored. Sometimes it is because M&A was simply the wrong strategic option, or perhaps because th...

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Events, dear boy, events

When the then UK Prime Minister, Harold MacMillan, was asked what could blow his government off its course he famously replied: “Events, my dear boy, events.”  Things rarely go in a straight line, shit happens (as the phrase goes), and few strategies stand the test of time.  This conflict of strategy meeting reality was probably most eloquently summed up by Mike Tyson who said that everyone h...

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You’ve got no mail

As cheesy romcoms go, You’ve got mail is on most lists.  We all remember the visceral excitement of getting our first emails: the sense of communion, and of being part of a brave new digital world.  20 years later and perhaps we have hit peak email.  Few work-related issues seem to stress people out more than the size of their inbox.  For many, work has been reduced to sending and re...

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