Well. What a month that’s been. Markets are in freefall. Businesses are in turmoil. Employees are..indoors – forced out of their offices into the new reality of working (perhaps permanently) from home. With airline travel effectively cancelled, the hamster wheel is slowly coming to a standstill. After decades of fast-paced prosperity, hierarchical leadership and an all-consuming focus on growth, the world’s workforce is undergoing a period of enforced “deceleration”. Having been preaching the merits of deceleration regularly in this blog for almost two years, the irony is certainly not lost on me. It’s hard to believe just how much has changed in the past four weeks since I wrote the March Bullog. Life feels profoundly different and no one knows when it will go back to “normal”, or even whether we’d want it to.
I’m not going to dismiss lightly the dreadful human toll of this virus, particularly on the most vulnerable populations in countries with the weakest health systems around the world. Many will lose their jobs and others will lose their lives. We are all going to be significantly impacted for the foreseeable future.
At the same time, I’m a glass half full kind of guy – always have been. Many commentators are beginning to point out that there are enormous upsides from Corona, particularly relating to the environment. There’s probably been more carbon reduction in the last few weeks than in the previous decade of voluntary restrictions. I’d imagine that Greta Thunberg must be doing cartwheels! It might be my imagination, but don’t you also feel you’re breathing better quality air? Also, I don’t miss these vapour trails across blue skies and the fact that there is not the endless sound of planes overhead or cars on the road is amazing. I’ve discovered I can escape onto the roof of my apartment building (see pic above) which makes social isolation more bearable.
But beyond environmental benefits, there may also be huge benefits to society and indeed even business, although in the current financial turmoil they might not fully realise it yet. On the social front, we’re connecting with our friends much more often, especially those that live at a distance. We are seeing spontaneous singing from balconies, online choirs like the SofaSingers springing up, and I’ve even been attending free online yoga classes each morning run by Emma Ryan, Craigberoch resident ‘yogi’. I think it’s only a matter of time before the same creativity and ingenuity start to manifest in the context of people’s jobs. The slowdown has given us all a chance to pause and to reflect – it’s given us time to see business in a very different light, where the usual rules seem to no longer apply. If you’d told me that perfume manufacturers would be making hand sanitizer or car manufacturers making ventilators just a few weeks ago, I’d have said you were nuts. Yet that’s exactly what’s happened.
My big hope is that in a homeworking world which has more time and space for some introspection and where the rulebook has been thrown out the window, we may see a surge of innovation and intrapreneurship. It’s already starting off in communities but before long I predict that it will extend towards some of the biggest challenges facing humanity. I heard someone say that Covid-19 is the dress rehearsal for how we tackle climate change. I think you’re probably right.
Virtual is the new black
There are clearly going to be winners and losers on the corporate level. I heard last week that Zoom, the video conferencing platform is now worth more than American Airlines. I admit to having become a big fan of Zoom’s capabilities (more than its price plans) and don’t think I’m the only one to be impressed by the breadth of what’s possible in virtual meetings. I’ve been on webinars with hundreds of people, sometimes split into breakout groups, having online polls, whiteboard sessions, you name it. As the business community’s behavior changes over time, my hope is that we develop a new “muscle memory” that will endure after this crisis is over. You never know, it might lead to people questioning whether that two-day trip to New York is really vital or whether the weekly commute to and from airports is really what they want to do.
At this time of year, I would normally attend the Skoll World Forum in Oxford, however the whole week long event is now virtual. I’m delighted to say that the Craigberoch Business Decelerator has been accepted to run an event this Friday on the topic “Deceleration: the fastest way to drive social change in business?”. I’ve assembled many of our cast of performers for this 90 minute session and it should be a lot of fun. Sign up here to join and the good news is it’s free!
|If you can’t beat ‘em…….|
If the Skoll World Forum couldn’t go ahead, it won’t surprise you to hear that both the April and June Decelerator Labs we had planned to run have unfortunately had to be postponed. So, what have we decided to do instead? We will also go online of course and plan to hold a three-day Craigberoch LIVE event on the 21-23 April in the afternoons.
I confess I’d always been reluctant to even consider an online version of our Decelerator Lab concept. It seemed to fly in the face of our desire to disconnect people from technology and expose them to nature, community and the arts. Yet the more I’ve looked into the options of doing something virtual, the more I’m seeing many of the advantages in terms of the ability to bring together a wide variety coaches and performers from their own living rooms around the world. We are working on the detailed program but you can express interest at the events page of our website. We will run the event across the three afternoons and have lots of space between sessions so that participants can balance work or family commitments without having to take time off. Take a look. It should be a lot of fun.
Mountain retreat: A new way of living and being?
As some of you are aware, I’m lucky enough to be the co-owner of a chalet in a small village in the French Alps called Essert-Romand, one hour from Geneva. I own about half and the other half belongs to the Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP) in the form of a thumping great mortgage! I’ve had the place for over 10 years now and I must admit that it’s a joy to visit and escape the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s been a place to host family and friends and also more recently, I’ve been renting it out on AirBnB for skiers in the winter and hikers in the summer. Naturally all of that came to an abrupt halt two weeks ago. It was quite eery to be in a ski resort, with lots of snow, but with completely empty pistes and chair lifts. Penny the dog loved it.
I’ve also hosted one or two retreats, the most recent being in mid-March. It’s a perfect place for deep relaxation, conversation and reflection. I had 12 hours’ notice before the French borders were due to close and had to decide if I would be staying in the mountains for lockdown, or returning to the flat in Geneva. Arianna, having just started a new job, had to be in Geneva albeit working from home, plus our cats and Penny the dog meant that the only realistic decision was to return to the city. That said, I’m actively exploring the idea of using the Chalet as a kind of co-living, co-working and indeed “co-being” space. A place where people can come together for a few days, a week or longer, to decelerate (naturally) and try to retain some of the best aspects of the current slowdown, once the crisis is all over – whenever that maybe. Watch this space for more information.
Best of the rest
You won’t be surprised to hear that the amount of my personal business travel this past month has dramatically reduced. The exception was a trip to Scotland in early March which involved meetings in Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as a trip to my beloved Isle of Bute. It seems like that will be the last trip there for a while. One highlight, besides the delicious home cooking of my mother, “Wee Marj”, was hosting some drinks in a local pub for the alumni of the first Decelerator and some prospective candidates. It was so uplifting to hear the stories of how their lives have changed since that special week. The “Beauties”, as they become known, have been going for long walks at weekends and talk about things they wouldn’t normally have talked about. I laughed when I heard that the Isle of Bute Young Farmers’ Annual Ball even had some improv comedy sessions during the night. You couldn’t script it (no pun intended, given it was improv)
On a personal front
Our personal life and social life is looking pretty limited. I’d been eagerly looking forward to Wee Marj’s 80th Birthday Party that was due to take place in two weeks’ time and even a wedding of my good friend Chris, also scheduled to be in Glasgow mid-April. Both sadly postponed of course.
I’m not sure if it’s a first or not, but Chris’s Stag Night became a virtual event when a bunch of his friends went online for a few hours last Saturday night, chatting, drinking whisky and telling bad jokes. It wasn’t quite the real thing but was remarkably good fun nonetheless and there was nothing virtual about the hangover the next day!
That’s more than enough for now folks. If you enjoy this monthly ramble then do feel free to suggest others sign up here. 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