The Bullog – June 2021

Greetings Bullogers!

A Vision for Good Growth

There are definitely pros and cons of living in Switzerland. The flag for example is a big plus (apologies, I couldn’t resist that one). But one new con that I can add to the list of many pros, is negative interest rates. That’s right, you have to pay Swiss banks to keep your money for you.  Can you imagine? Thankfully when I read the small print of the letter I received from UBS in Geneva, I discovered that I would need to have a current account credit balance of over Fr.250,000 before this policy kicked in.  I’m just a little shy of that and breathed a heavy sigh of relief.

It did get me reflecting on the whole polarizing question of economic growth and whether it’s necessarily a good or a bad thing. I was indoctrinated for over 25 years in the corporate world that growth was necessary for a company to survive. If people wanted pay rises and promotions and if shareholders wanted ever growing returns to encourage them to invest more, then a company had to maximise growth.  All business decisions were taken on that basis, somewhat myopically I would argue.  Governments have of course been complicit in this overarching economic narrative, by believing that GDP growth was a pre-requisite for a country’s economic and their own political survival,

Of course there a huge problem with this narrative in that we are already grossly exceeding planetary boundaries and rising carbon emissions mean that we are on target for catastrophic 2.5 degree climate change.  Our friends at WWF claim that we already need 1.6 planets to carry on living in the same way as we currently do.  Moreover, the population of the planet, our headcount if you like, is set to increase to 9.9 billion by 2050!  Given this population growth is pretty much unavoidable, what’s to be done?

I believe we need to go beyond a binary discussion between “All growth is bad” versus “low or no growth” is good. Sure, we’ve seen the rise of concepts such as the so-called Circular Economy touted by many as something of a panacea to this dichotomy. However, it’s clear we need something more of a regenerative economy if we are to redress the balance.

It’s often useful to turn to nature for some ideas and metaphors that can be applied to business challenges – so-called biomimicry. Let’s face it, nature doesn’t stagnate – it’s constantly going through cycles of growth and decay following the seasons. It’s certainly regenerative, where some things die and get replaced by new life. One of my favourite metaphors is the amanitas mushroom, one of nature’s most powerful symbionts, basically recycling bad stuff into good through its mycelium root network (the concept is explained beautifully in this short video by a friend of mine called Marina Ruta who is using it as a basis for a game on collaboration and partnerships).

Growth per se is not bad, but the most important thing is to focus on what businesses we want to grow and what ones we should let go.  Frankly, I’m all in favour of unbridled growth when it comes to the likes of Tesla stealing market share from the its combustion engine rivals, or nutritious food companies like WholeFoods outcompeting McDonald’s.   I’d love to see energy major’s like BP or Equinor’s renewables divisions grow exponentially, while decommissioning much of their operations in the Gulf of Mexico or the UK’s North Sea.  In true amanitas style, perhaps Aberdeen or Houston could see massive growth in ecofriendly decommissioning companies, displacing the myriad oilfield service companies who currently occupy these cities.

Growth in these kinds of companies, “Good Growth”, should be applauded and encouraged.  ESG (Environment, Social, Governance) investment is already moving the needle and over time, hopefully a short time, the old economy will die and be replaced by the new.

The power of slowing down

It was great to have so many of you join us for Craigberoch’s Spring Reset event on 16th of May. We offered about three hours of deceleration, reflection and inspiration and once again the feedback has been extremely positive.  Some of you also joined us for our Craigberoch Café alumni event, which we hold on the last Sunday of every month – mark your diaries for the next one on 27th June.

Virtual events are of course part of the new reality, but there’s nothing quite like getting together in a physical space. We are very hopeful of being able to get back on the Isle of Bute in September and October and have a number of exciting events planned. These include our BE on Bute co-working, or as we prefer to call them, “co-being” residences (or as someone once quipped, it’s like “WeWork in the Woods”.), Decelerator Labs over a long weekend and five days Monday to Friday will be held in early September and at the end of October respectively. Full details are available on our website where you can register to be kept informed.

Writing and Speaking

I am part of Scottish Enterprise’s Global Scot network and was invited to speak at one of their events. To borrow from a football analogue, I suppose you could call it a home fixture as I was speaking to an audience of mostly fellow Scots.  This meant I didn’t have to make the usual jokes about people struggling to understand my accent. In fact, I’ve taken to suggesting to Zoom audiences that they can click on audio settings and select “speech to text translation” for subtitles, remembering of course to click the “Scottish dialect” option. I do find it quite amusing when you see some people clearly searching for this fictitious functionality.  Zoom is very good but not that good yet!

I did two other talks which had something of an Italian theme, where a Zoom subtitle feature might have come in useful. I did a Fireside chat to a group of intrapreneurs at Generali, the insurance company. Great to see a growing number of corporates embracing the concept of intrapreneurship. Also, a separate interview with Fausto Turco, CEO of Si-Net in Italy on various leadership themes which, given his English was a little poor and my Italian being limited to pizza toppings, actually required a translator.

Best of the rest……

A quick roundup of other activities includes a board meeting of the League of Intrapreneurs.  Regular Bullogers will recall that I’ve been involved with this fabulous group since its inception.  There is great excitement within the team about Global Intrapreneurship Week taking place on the 7th to the 11th of June.  There are going to be many great speakers including:

+ Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Prize Winning Economist

+ Otto Scharmer, Head of MIT’s Presencing Institute for Systems Change

+ Shalini Kantayya, Director of the Award-Winning Documentary, Coded Bias

+ Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO, Acumen

+ Cheryl Dorsey, CEO Echoing Green & Skoll Foundation Board Member

+ Rob Acker, CEO,

Check out the full programme here.

I’m delighted to say that Craigberoch will be hosting a 90 minute session on Tuesday 8th at 7pm (UK), 2pm (EST) on the topic “Business Deceleration: How art, music and improv can unleash the creative power of aspiring intrapreneurs”.

Check out the full programme here and last but not least, I can offer Bullogers special passes for just $99 (a discount of 75%).  Use code #GIW21GA99 when you register here.

On the personal front…….

Last month I spoke about my “randonée” skis and walking up the nearby peaks along with Penny the Dog and enjoying some fresh snow even at the beginning of May.  Well, the weather in most of Europe continued to be very cold and wet throughout much of the month, which meant to snow was falling from an altitude of about 1500m. I actually did my last day of skiing on the 1st of June in the sunshine, a whole month later than I have ever skied before in this region!  It was of course fun, but frightening at the same time, given the clear and tangible changes that are happening to our climate.  February and May appear to have swapped places from the weather point of view#

Penny and I were also joined by a group of friends for a long weekend of hiking, cooking, wine tasting and even painting.  You can see our collective artwork here entitled “50 Shades of Switzerland”.  Great fun.

OK, 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,

Gib* 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.