Monthly Archives: April 2012

It’s possible to do things differently

I just read an article called “Can there be ‘good’ corporations?” by Marjorie Kelly. She is busy writing a book called Owning Our Future: The Emerging Ownership Revolution. The article is REALLY good. Please read it. It points out some very interesting things around the rise of new forms of business, alternatives to the old “shareholders earn all the profit” model. It also explores the story of the John Lewis Partnership, the largest department store chain in England which is 100% owned by employees. I’m blown away. I’ve been into these stores hundreds of times and never known how radically different its underlying structure is.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

  • 1. There is an alternative to capitalism. This is the heresy that the keepers of the temple do not wish us to utter. It is possible to organize a large, sophisticated, modern economy that tends toward fair and just outcomes, benefits the many rather than the few, and enables an enduring human presence on a flourishing Earth.
  • 2. Getting there is not only about regulation but about emergence. As organizational change theorist Margaret Wheatley writes, “emergence” refers to what happens when local actions spring up and connect through networks. Without warning, emergent phenomena can occur, such as the rise of the organic food movement. Such movements rely not on central leadership but on shared vision.
  • 3. The generative economy is not a legal exercise but the embodiment of an emerging value system. Companies in the generative economy are built around values; the John Lewis Partnership’s core value is fairness, while Organic Valley’s core values are sustainability and community.
  • 4. Generative values become enduring through the social architecture of ownership. The generative economy is built on a foundation of stakeholder ownership designed to generate and preserve real wealth—resources held and shared by our communities and the ecosystems we live in. These enterprises don’t have absentee ownership shares trading in a casino economy, but ownership held in human hands.

More people need to know that it is possible to do things differently. South Africa is an incredibly entrepreneurial country but young entrepreneurs need to know the alternatives or else they will simply create businesses modelled on the corporates of old which are out of alignment with the rising consciousness of current generations.  What worked for the Baby Boomers does not work for Generation X and Y. We need to do things differently. So read this article and go tell your friends that run their own businesses or might one day want to start their own business, to read it. It’s possible to do things differently.


Talking About a Revolution

The internet provides us with more information than you can shake a mouse at. We can google any topic and find ridiculous amounts of information – that to read in its entirety would take months if not years. I could give a billion examples. There’s nothing you can’t look up, except for maybe the restaurant a friend told me she’d heard about called something like “Alibaba’s 9 wives”. I’ll admit I never was able to locate it. So let’s say you have a problem to solve: your company is failing or your dog is ailing. You can start reading but you will have to be selective or else your company assets could be sold off and the dog dead by the time you’ve read all the potentially useful stuff.

Say you follow anywhere from 200 to 500 people on Twitter. (I have no idea what the averages are for this…bear with me). And say 100 of these people post links to articles on subjects you’re interested in professionally or personally. That’s 100 articles a day to choose from, on subjects of your choice, popping up in your Twitter account. 500 articles a week. 26 000 a year. And that’s if these people you’re following only post one link a day.

So there’s a tipping point. The point at which you stop researching and decide to take action. The point at which you stop researching models of cars you might like to buy and walk into a dealership.  The point at which you stop researching different diets and pick one to try. I believe the increasing availability of information is leading to analysis paralysis. There is simply too much available, too quickly. You need to act. Most of the time, you’ll be able to go back and research the next step.  Unless you were researching property prices or birth methods and have sold the house and had the baby.

I believe the universe is calling upon us to develop other skills. Not recalling information as much as being able to process information and intuit what will serve us. A surgeon can look up 10 ways of doing an operation instantly, but will still be required to choose which method is most suited to the case in front of him. And then the small task of performing the actual surgery of course. A lawyer can look up precedents instantly but will still be required to select which will support his case and which nuance of facts is most closely aligned to those before him. He’ll then have to actually weave the arguments together to convince the judge. I sense that the internet is forcing us to evolve faster and think smarter.  Schools and universities have not, for the most part, recognised that this is not a shift in emphasis, but a full scale revolution in learning. Information is not much of a currency anymore. Knowing STUFF is not that valuable. Knowing HOW things work, deep understanding and being able to critically evaluate options – that is valuable. For this reason it may make more sense for a company to upskill an existing employee who understands the HOW, rather than employ a graduate who knows the WHAT, but will take at least 2 years to develop the intuition and confidence to  be able to apply that knowledge.

I think the expression “Of those to whom much is given, much is expected” is applicable – in a different sort of way to the concept it usually refers to. In this sense it means that we have been given so much information, that with it comes a greater responsibility. A responsibility to use the information available to heal ourselves and the planet.  (At the risk of sounding a little Michael Jackson.)

The research on how our brains have developed as a result of things like the ice-age and human diet is fascinating. If we could look far into the future, I think we’d find that the rise of the internet will significantly affect how human brains think and how we evolve as a species.

But it could go any which way. Let’s imagine just 3 people surfing the net tonight. One is researching how to build nuclear bombs, one is looking up Heal The World lyrics while switching back and forth to Facebook and one is researching solutions to child malnutrition. What are YOU doing with all the information at your fingertips?