The Bullog – May 2019
Did you notice that five major banks were fined over 1 billion Euro by the European Commission after their traders clubbed together to manipulate the foreign exchange markets? That’s no doubt small change for these Goliaths of the banking world, but I do find the combination of greed and immorality of these undercover cartels of traders quite staggering. I’m sure most of you feel the same.
Yet there’s another form of “currency manipulation” that is, to my mind, just as abhorrent and goes on in broad daylight in front of our very eyes. I’m talking about the rent seeking behaviour of the currency exchange offices that seem to lurk around every corner of every airport I pass through. It breaks my heart to see how weak the UK pound’s exchange rate is to the Euro and most other currencies for that matter. But’s not the point – it’s the enormous spread between buy and sell prices. So these kind people at Moneycorp would give you 0.9391 Euro for each pound, yet they’d charge you 1.3929 Euro to buy that same pound. How can that be fair or right? The most bizarre thing of all is that they quote to four decimal places when they’re stealing close 50% of your money in the interest rate spread! As if it gives you a sense that there is some underlying logic to their arbitrary rates more than sheer chutzpah. To think that it must be someone’s job to make up all these decimal places – perhaps rolling a dice a few times in some dark room at the Moneycorp’s HQ? Surely this must be another area that’s ripe for disruption from a social enterprise. The closest thing I’ve come across to disruption in these dodgy currency markets is Transferwise which I recommend to anyone wanting to exchange of larger amounts. Their founding story is also great – check it out.
Painting in Paros
Since leaving a full-time role in the corporate world just over three years ago, I’ve had an opportunity to explore the things I’d promised myself to do “when I had the time.” – focussing on the creative right brain, whereas all too often traditional business seems obsessed with the left. I did ‘non-business’ travel to fascinating places, explored nature, embarked on an improv comedy course in Geneva and even took singing lessons! As regular Bullogers will recall, I also tried my hand at a bit of painting during the winter thanks to my friend Alexander Inchbald. So when Alexander suggested a week-long painting retreat on the beautiful island of Paros in Greece, it didn’t take long for me to sign up. I say painting, but to be honest it was much more about learning to ‘create’ – to let go of the control and judgment that makes us believe we’re no good at art and get back to the playful creative spirit that’s so evident in every child in nursery school.
We were hosted by a fascinating 84-year-old Artist called Peter Seigt and his wife Heidi. Peter’s developed a unique course that draws on time spent living in a Zen Monastery, in the Sahara desert living with nomadic tribes and from his PhD’s in anthropology and philosophy. His art studio is situated above the town of Paros with stunning views of the bay below and is the perfect space for creating.
It was a wonderful week and is exactly the kind of activity I plan to have on the curriculum at the Craigberoch Business Decelerator. As a reminder, we’re now taking bookings for our exciting pilot event on the Isle of Bute 18-22nd November 2019. Feel free to drop a note to firstname.lastname@example.org for more info on what I hope will be an amazing and eclectic week.
Meeting of the Month
If you could choose one person, any person in the world you would like to meet, whom would you choose? Perhaps Barack Obama, Bill Gates or Lady Gaga? Golfers might choose Tiger Woods? For the past few years my answer would be none of the above (although admittedly a date with Lady Gaga would not be dull – sorry Arianna). Instead, my choice would be an author called Joseph Jaworski. “Joseph who?” you ask. No doubt many of you will have never heard of him. However Jaworski is best known for his iconic book, “Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership” , which first came out about 20 years ago. It follows his “inner journey” from successful lawyer to eventually becoming the Head of Scenario Planning in Shell and the myriad of what he describes as “meaningful coincidences” (what Carl Jung termed Synchronicities) he encountered along the way.
The book blew my mind when I read it about four years ago. Only recently I found myself chatting about Joseph Jaworski and Synchronicity to a successful American businessman called Jeff Westphal at a leadership retreat in the Swiss Alps. Jeff began to smile and said, “I think you’ll meet Joseph.”“really, why do you say that?” I replied. “Because he’s my mentor. I’ll make that happen.” And so he did. Within a few weeks of this chance encounter I found myself having dinner with the 84 year old Joseph Jaworski near his home in Austin, Texas. It was a very special evening that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. His work with the likes of Otto Scharmer and Peter Senge of MIT is incredible and yet he’s a gentle, humble and even quite shy man.
Less than a week later I was on a call with an aspiring intrapreneur in New York who was telling me about a great book she was in the middle of reading. It was by someone called Joseph Jaworski – “had I ever hear of him?” she asked. Now that’s what I call synchronicity!
Doing the Business
The tour of the business schools continues and this month I spoke to the Entrepeneur Network at London Business School and later the same day, went up Oxford to speak to the MBA class at Said Business School. I’m delighted to say that Said were offering an elective on intrapreneurship run by Anne Headon and, I was invited by Anne to talk about my experience with Accenture Development Partnerships. It was a really rich discussion and it’s encouraging to see the interest in the topic amongst the students.
Still on the theme of Business Schools, I did a session by video with the University of Muscat in Oman. Professor David Grayson, formerly of Cranfield Business School, was running the training and kindly got the students to focus on the business plan for the Craigberoch Business Decelerator. I got a bit of free consulting which was great.
Best of the Rest
A former Accenture colleague Josef Mueller invited me to give a virtual seminar to the International Executive Resources Group (IERG), which is a US based network of senior ex-pat business professionals. I’m not sure if you’ve ever given one of these webinars – you’re basically talking to slides on a screen and completely unable to see your audience or gauge how they’re reacting to what you’re saying. It feels like you’re talking to yourself. Thankfully when I finished they were still awake and there were quite a few questions asked in the online chartroom.
But personally I found it much easier to speak in the flesh to real people at a lunchtime session at the World Economic Forum’s headquarters in Cologny, overlooking lake Geneva. It was positioned as an interactive session with a small group over lunch, where I was to talk about the themes emerging from my book, The Intrapreneur. Frankly, I’d expected about 10-12 people around a table but on arrival at the Forum, I was led into the main conference room to see 50-60 people sitting in rows munching on their lunches. There was I with no Powerpoint to hide behind – or is it in front of? Talk of winging it! In the end it was a fun hour and a lively discussion ensued
….and on the personal front
The trip to Austin, Texas allowed me to drive down to Houston to see two of my best friends Jez and Didier, who live with their respective families there. We met when we were all graduate trainees within BP in the early nineties working on oil platforms in the North Sea – they stayed in the oil industry whereas I realized early on that it wasn’t for me. We don’t get to see each other all that often so there was plenty to catch up on.
Cirque du Soleil came to Geneva for a month and set up their massive tent in the park beside our apartment. I went with a group of friends to see the show and they were of course excellent. However the sprawling marquis does encroach on poor Penny the Dog’s normal walking route. She’s back this month by popular demand in the pictures section and continues to grow in both stature and disobedience!
That’s all for now folks. Until next month,
* The Bullog = Bulloch + Blog