The Bullog – June 2019

Greetings Bullogers!

Have any of you been following the heated debate around UK actor Mark Rylance’s decision to quit the Royal Shakespeare Company in protest at their ongoing sponsorship by BP?   I’m all in favour of people making a stand on principle and speaking up for what they believe in, but I find myself a bit vexed and torn by his decision. 

As someone who spent the first two years of his career working for BP in the North Sea, I’ve always found its sponsorship for the arts quite curious.  Regular Bullogers will be all too familiar with my position on passive philanthropy in areas that are completely dislocated from the core business.   I’ve nothing against the arts – quite the opposite, but I’d rather BP used their excess wads of cash to accelerate the so-called energy transition and provide clean access to communities who don’t have power, than to buy a fig leaf of respectability in theatres and art galleries. 

Having said that, the harsh reality is, that for the time being we are all going to be reliant on energy companies for our most basic needs of heat, light and transport.  I suspect that even Mark Rylance has not stopped heating and lighting his home, and makes use of the odd car, taxi or airplane which, heaven forbid, might be powered by BP fuel.  It’s a genuine dichotomy for all of us, but one thing that’s for sure it that we won’t succeed without engaging with and influencing big oil.

The good news is that there are signs that progress is being made and from a UK perspective at least as 2019 marks the first time since the industrial revolution that more power was provided through clean energy than fossil fuel sources.  Some other countries are ahead, many more lag behind and the US continuing to renege on the Paris Climate Agreement is a disgrace.  

In my opinion, the best we can do is come together collectively to put as much pressure as possible on the big oil companies to accelerate the energy transition towards renewables.  I favour engagement over disengagement, even if that means having to pinch our noses in the short term..

Disconnect to reconnect

I spent a lot of my time in June, working on the Craigberoch Business Decelerator, supported by several great people (Nic, Djemila, Patrick) who are part of an emerging core team.  I was particularly excited to get confirmation that we are now registered as a limited company in the UK which I plan to run as a social enterprise, hopefully with B Corp status in due course.   Based on some wise advice, I plan to create a charitable trust alongside the business, which will manage the restoration and renovation of the ruins.  Watch this space.

Last month I mentioned the pilot event we have planned for November and am now able to attach a flyer with more information on the types of activities and the faculty – which deliberately are described in “The Avengers” type format.   I hope you like the lovely pictures of Bute taken by my friend Kirsty MacLeod.  I love the new logo, which features the 4000 year old, 3m high Standing Stone that sits proudly next to the property, although my mother has suggested that it looks a bit phallic (her words were a tad more direct).

Our aim is to bring about 50 early-career business professionals together and use this pilot event to inform the future curriculum and gauge interest and what we’re offering. 

What’s the business rationale for corporates?  Well, besides the obvious benefits of resilience, well-being and employee engagement, I genuinely believe this will act as a catalyst for creating innovative new products, services and business models that unlock the latent commercial value offered by the UN Sustainable Development Goals.   On a personal level, I hope Craigberoch will help to re-generate the rural island economy of the island where I grew up.  Please do get in touch if you want to discuss how you or your company could attend.

Back to the Balkans

I had a trip down memory lane when I returned to Macedonia (oops, that’s now Northern Macedonia) for the wedding of my good friend and former colleague Maya Anteska.  For those of you have read my book, The Intrapreneur: Confessions of a corporate insurgent (nice reviews on Amazon are still very very welcome!), you’ll recall my year spent as a VSO volunteer was covered in Chapter 7 “Bringing Business to the Balkans”.  It’s amazing to see just how much progress has been in the past 19 years. Besides the obvious indicators such as modern buildings and much newer cars, I have another view on the underlying indicators of the level of development of a country.  Nothing technical or scientific – but the sharp decline in the number of shoeshine stands and idle taxis since 2001 is, in my opinion, a sure sign of progress.   I’m not sure the UN or World Bank would officially endorse my indicators.

Meeting of the Month

I’ll rarely have a meeting that will compare with my memorable dinner with Joseph Jaworski last month, however, I did have a fascinating lunch with the Secretary-General of the YMCA.    I know, you’re all now humming the tune or gesturing the dance moves (not an easy dance for dyslexics).  A friend of mine in Geneva, DJ Forza recently started working for the international federation of YMCAs and lined up the lunch.  It’s an amazing organization with an incredible network touching 160 million people around world and they have bold plans for the future.  If you think YMCA is only relevant to Men who are Young and Christian, then you’re mistaken.  Their ambition is far broader and more inclusive and I look forward to seeing how the new strategy unfolds.

Writing and talking

I gave two talks in June and they couldn’t have been more different.  The first was a Keynote at the graduation ceremony of the International Organisations MBA (IOMBA) at the University of Geneva which was followed by a fun dinner.   The second was a webinar for the US Department of Defense believe it or not. Why speak to them you ask?  Well, they are running a series looking at how innovation is done in different sectors and they wanted to learn more about intrapreneurship.  I took the line that economic development and inclusive business were important tools of soft power in the quest to build peace and justice around the world – Sustainable Development Goal 16.  Certainly preferable to building the weapons of war.

I also attended a summit on social intrapreneurship hosted by the European Union in Brussels and organised by The League of Intrapreneurs (whose Board I’m delighted to have just joined).  It’s great to see growing interest and support from public sector bodies in the concept of intrapreneurship and the meeting was a lively mix of intrapreneurs from across all sectors and academia.

As part of my role as “Intrapreneur in Residence” with Business Fights Poverty, I took part in two online discussions on the enabling environment for intrapreneurship and wrote a blog called, The Improv Intrapreneur.  The blog makes the case for how we might use comedy, art and music to address the corporate-wide Attention Deficit Disorder or ADD that in my mind is inhibiting creativity and social innovation.  Sound familiar?

….and on the personal front

On the social side, I attended the annual Archie Gemmill Evening, which is a celebration of “moments of joy” that have taken place in the previous 12 months – a nice idea conceived by my good pal Chris Magennis. It’s held on the anniversary of Gemmill’s goal of the tournament from the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, when the whole Scottish nation thought our team would qualify for the quarter finals. This year the great man himself turned up with his gregarious wife Betty which made the evening extra special.  Given the poor performance of the current Scottish team, I reckon Archie might still make the grade aged 70.

Another personal highlight of the month was a trip to the Big Apple with my niece Fiona and her boyfriend Callum.  Uncle Gib was very proud of them graduating with a Masters in Mech Engineering, both with distinction, so it was something of a celebration (forgive the boast). We took in all the usual sights including open top bus, jazz, Central Park on bikes and The Jersey Boys musical.  We also took a boat trip out to see the Statue of Liberty, only to find that our ticket was for the grounds only.  To climb the monument itself would have cost far more and the next free ticket was going to be September!  Oops.

That’s more than enough for now folks. If you enjoy this monthly ramble then do feel free to suggest others sign up here.

Meanwhile, I wish you all a great summer.  Until next month,


* The Bullog  = Bulloch + Blog

Make sense?  Not bulldog, nor is it bulls**t although I’ll let you be the judge of that! It’s a brief synopsis on recent articles, events and opinions from my world and the things that have caught my attention over the past few weeks.