As lockdown restrictions continue to ease gradually across the whole of Europe, it would be easy to get the impression that things are slowly returning to normal. So-called “air-bridge” agreements between countries such as the favourite European tourist destinations of Spain, Greece and France mean that many people may in fact manage to get away for their annual summer holiday after all.
However, the longer-term effects of this pandemic are still unknown and it’s likely that there will be significant structural changes to the economy and indeed the future of work itself may well be shaped differently. The airline industry has been particularly badly hit and has led the stream of announcements of job cuts, but other industries are likely to follow suit. Most corporate boardrooms will no doubt be debating not only what size of workforce they need in the future, but also what size of offices they will require to house them in, and if these need to be in the traditional city centre locations of London, Paris, New York etc. Similarly, many of those working in business are evaluating how and where they want to work in the future, having had a taste of working from home and avoiding the daily commute. Homeworking won’t suit everyone, but for a lot of people it provides a freedom and improved quality of life that has been hitherto unknown. The idea of getting on a crowded commuter train wearing a face mask or sitting in a traffic jam for long periods of the day now seem very unattractive given alternative remote working options have been proven to be viable. It’s no surprise to me that co-working giant WeWork has seen its bond price more than half between February and May this year and that their main investor, Softbank, renege on a major share deal. Co-working may not be dead as a concept, but I do wonder if there might be a shift in thinking around location over time?
Last July, long before the current pandemic, I wrote a piece in the Scotsman suggesting that Scotland’s rural isolation may turn from traditionally being seen as a curse in business terms, to being more of a blessing in disguise. I explained that during my childhood, the only way to access further education and pursue a career in business or management was to move to major city locations. For millions of Scots like myself, that meant London. It hollowed out rural communities such as the one in which I grew up in on the Isle of Bute. During the 1970s and 80s when I was growing up, Scotland’s economy (and the rest of the U.K.’s too) was boosted by the discovery of North Sea oil. It has provided billions of pounds to the UK treasury over many decades but is unlikely to play a significant role in the future, given the world is rightly turning its back on fossil fuels, which in any case are largely depleted. It occurs to me that Scotland does have on tap a different non-carbon natural resource that could fill this economic void in the future: namely, its wealth of beautiful rural locations. The value of this post pandemic is surely set to rise as “digitally mobile” remote workers are attracted by stunning landscapes and affordable housing. My belief is that in Scotland and around the world, rural communities could receive an economic boost and provide a perfect working environment for a new generation of country based co-workers and provide settings in places of natural beauty and tranquility for a more beautiful business world to emerge. We can hope!
We’re already halfway through our second “digital decelerator”, Craigberoch LIVE, where we’re trying to bring the magic of the Isle of Bute and the concept of deceleration into participants’ online lives. Once again, I’ve been amazed at just how versatile Zoom can be. It’s also a very democratic and non heirarchical medium and everyone who joins is there as who they are, not defined by what they do. As in our physical meetings, we have no job titles, no long intros listing career achievements and no other status symbols. Everyone appears as an image in a small video box that are all the same size. There are 25 of these boxes per screen and whether you find yourself in the top row or in the bottom, it’s got absolutely nothing to do with hierarchy. We’ve also found that during online breakouts, people are sharing deeply, often with someone they’ve never met who might be on the other side of the world. We believe that a sense of community is emerging and we’re continuing to nurture this.
As for the musical interludes, these have been quite sublime and featured amongst others, Grammy award nominee Kaori Fujii from New York on the flute and well known British musician Mike Dixon who wrote the Queen musical “We Will Rock You” with Brian May and who’s performed in major concert venues around the world such as The Royal Albert Hall and even Glastonbury. Now Mike can boast that he’s played at Craigberoch too!
I’m also incredibly grateful to our Craigberoch Cast of performers for all their contributions. The format we’re trying this time is 75 minute sessions each day, which is an experiment but appears to be working well and suits many. We have a very rich and full schedule ahead of us this week, and so if any of you are tempted to join the party a little late, I’m happy to offer you a 50% reduction and throw in the recordings of last week as a bonus which we believe represents pretty good value at about $100 all in. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a discount code if interested.
Intrapreneurship comes of age
Another highlight of June was the inaugural Global Intrapreneur Week. Although it was organised by the League of Intrapreneurs, the content was deliberately curated cross platform including the likes of the Circle of Intrapreneurs, Yunus Social Business and Singularity University and others.
Almost 3000 people signed up for the whole week which was something of a smorgasbord of content ranging from a female shaman from Brazil on the opening session through to a CEO panel during the week and a cabaret style closing session.
I had the honour and pleasure of moderating three great CEOs – Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever, Bill Winters, CEO of Standard Chartered and Tania Cosentino, CEO of Microsoft Brazil, who each talked about the role leaders can play in creating a culture that is conducive to intrapreneurship. In a slightly rebellious move towards the end of the session, I turned the tables and made the CEOs ask the questions of a select panel of intrapreneurs. It was a risk of course, but I have to say that it worked beautifully as these CEOs were incredibly impressed by the passion and insight shown by Maya Mehta of BNP Paribas and Dani Redondo of The Coca Cola Foundation.
For me, Global Intrapreneur Week marks a very significant milestone in the growth of this movement and feels like something of a coming of age. As the current pandemic continues to redefine the future of work and challenges companies to demonstrably do more for society and to attract a new generation of employees who seek meaning more than money, intrapreneurship is set to become part of everyday business vernacular. Kudos to Maggie de Pree and Florencia Estrade who initiated this event and who co-lead The League of Intrapreneurs.
Best of rest
There still hasn’t been a lot of travel for me, although I drove across the border into France to spend some time in the beautiful Alps that surround Geneva. These past few months have been an opportunity for me to reflect on where I want to be working and how. Like many, I intend to spend more time close to nature and hopefully benefit from the inspiration it provides and that probably means a bit less time in cities, yes even beautiful ones like Geneva. I see myself as being part of the trend I talked about at the beginning.
In the June Bullog, I mentioned that I’d recorded two podcast interviews and these are both now online. Even although they’re along similar lines, each was a very different conversation. With Serenella Ferraro’s Leaders on the Mic we talked quite a lot about mental health and resilience, whereas with Claire Harbour’s podcast Disrupt your Career we went deeper into the concepts of intrapreneurship and the business deceleration I believe will catalyse it. Click here to hear the interview.
In a similar vein, I did a live interview at the virtual Future Business Forum on 17th June and once again, the discussion moved towards the links between deceleration as a precursor for creativity and social innovation in business.
On the personal front…….
On the personal front, I’m continuing to reflect on what the “legacy of lockdown” will be for me. Have you thought about what yours will be? My biggest fear is that I return to exactly as things were before – too much travel, too busy etc. That said, I’m managing to sustain my meditation practice and do online yoga most mornings with Emma Ryan, Craigberoch’s resident yogi. Spending more time in nature hiking, cycling and even doing a bit of sailing on Geneva Lake have also very therapeutic and so hopefully I can retain these new behaviours into the rest of the year. I’d be interested to hear what you’re doing to create a positive legacy of lockdown and might share good practices in next month’s Bullog.
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 + BlogMake 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.