Democracy is dead…..
…..long live democracy!
You would have had to have been living on another planet not to realise that there is a rather significant election happening as we go to press – one that is arguably going to be the most important election for many decades. I’ve sometimes joked that, given the impact it has on the entire world, US Presidential elections are far too important to be left to Americans alone. Perhaps the rest of the world should each get a partial vote or some kind of say in who the country picks. I mean, couldn’t we at least have the right of veto?
My tongue is only partially in my cheek when I say this, because the democratic processes in the world’s largest free democracy are anything but democratic. Due to a clunky and outdated electoral college system, a President who lost the popular vote by 2 ½ million has been able to appoint three Supreme Court judges during his first term. Commentators believe that this could help to embed a conservative bias for at least a generation if not more. Indeed, if you want to know just what a small percentage of the US electorate actually have an influence on the outcome, watch this informative video and I challenge you not to gasp out loud. There are about 5.5million voters in battleground states, less than 2% of the population, whose votes will actually influence the outcome. A more detailed critique of the current election and what it means is contained in this very eloquent Op-ed by Otto Scharmer of MIT which I would encourage you to take the time to read.
The Bullog aspires to be fairly a-political (well, most of the time) and I’m much more interested in what the implications are for business. Regular Bullogers (both of you) will recall that I touched on my favourite theme of how we might democratize the corporation in the October Bullog. It turns out I’m not alone in this thinking. I was contacted by Jerry Davies of the University of Michigan who has written a very eloquent piece for the next edition of the Journal of Management Studies on the fact that corporate purpose will always be trumped by the profit motive until we have more democratic decision-making within corporations. He also told me about an interesting movement started by some Harvard academics called #democratizingwork which you can sign-up to support here. I certainly did and am intrigued to see where the movement goes.
Whatever the outcome of the US Presidential Election, I will continue to believe that the mechanisms, methods and institutions that support democracy need to be fundamentally over-hauled, not only in the US, but across much of the developed world. Yet transforming the governance structures of the least democratic and arguably most powerful institutions we call multinational corporations, could actually be an even better place to start.
Mixing work and play
I was invited to join a very interesting panel discussion organised by my friend Stuart Mills at salesforce.com, entitled “Our Need for Wellness and our Right to Play”. My fellow panelists were the UK head of the charity Right to Play which brings the concept of play into the education of kids in sub-Saharan Africa in a very effective way. Also Mark Gainey, the co-founder of Strava, the popular exercise App that allows people to track their performance in running, cycling and numerous other sports. I’m a big fan of Strava and know of its popularity, but even I was staggered to learn that it has over 70 million users worldwide and is growing at 2 million more each month.
It was a fascinating discussion and my angle was that we shouldn’t separate work and play in a polarized way as we do with the famous work life balance. Instead, these things should converge as we use playful instincts to drive more innovative thinking and creative ideas in business. I also asked Mark from Strava if they would consider a adding new activity that was more about “inactivity” or doing nothing. Wouldn’t it be great if we could outcompete each other on how much time we devote to being over doing? I wonder if Strava could monitor our heartbeat or the pace of our breathing and would imagine that would have a massive positive benefit on our mental health. He sounded intrigued and so watch this space, you never know.
Europe slows down
Speaking of slowing down, it does appear that many of us in Western Europe have already gone into or are about to go into another lockdown. I’m planning to spend the next month at my place in the French Alps, one hour outside of Geneva during the French lockdown – which is a pretty strict one. However, we already did some deceleration in October when I hosted a number of people during the Craigberoch LIVE event, our third this year. The intention had been to make this something of a hybrid event with clusters of people in several different locations able to go for walks in nature together (socially distanced of course) and share experiences with other participants who were online. The feedback from the event has been incredibly positive, in particular around the sense of community that was able to be developed in such a short space of time. Here are just a few comments:
“Thank you for such a great decelerator. The content was excellent and thought provoking and I’m delighted to be part of the community. “
“I just wanted to say a huge thanks to you – I found the decelerator an absolutely wonderful experience, the time spent slowing down, refreshing and reconnecting is truly invaluable. The people (other attendees) and cast were all amazing, and I loved the intimacy. Everyone had something special and unique to bring”
We are going to take a bit of a breather now through to the end of the year, but here’s a date for your diaries – D Day on the 9th of January – a full day of deceleration open to all, encouraging us to start off the new year at the right pace! Click here to sign up for our mailing list and make sure you’re kept updated.
Best of the rest……
One thing we have and will continue to do is bring the deceleration ethos into corporate partners. Based on the success of an event with SAP in September, we were invited back to run another 90 minute “deceleration” session during October. It was entitled, “Business Deceleration: Challenging our assumptions on how to drive change in business” and with the help of a few great cast members, we put on an event that was rated a flattering 8.8/10. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to do something similar in your own companies.
I also had a solo speaking engagement at the University of Lausanne’s entrepreneurship club, where I’d agreed to talk about intrapreneurship, my book and the role that deceleration plays in driving innovation within companies. You won’t be surprised to hear that it had to go virtual, however I was invited to be filmed in a studio in an amazing building called The Vortex on the shores of Lake Geneva. It’s a stunning building that spirals up with many kilometers of student accommodation. I was interviewed by a combo of the lecturer, Anne Headon and a representative of the students. Thoroughly enjoyable.
On the personal front…….
I was able to embark on my annual pilgrimage to southern Crete, one of my favourite places in the world, with fabulous semi deserted beaches and great weather. When I tried to check-in for my return flight I discovered it had been postponed and I wouldn’t be able to leave for another 48 hours. I can assure you that it wasn’t the worst place to be stranded and given what’s going on in northern Europe, maybe I should have tried to stay longer!
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.