Discipline makes Daring possible.

Playing with change

Playing with change

Aversion to new kinds of food is an instinct that kicks in for humans at around 2 years old.  It’s a safety mechanism, evolved to protect the species.   Just when they start toddling about, beyond the immediate reach of adults, children become extremely wary of whatever goes into their mouth.

As all parents know, this causes huge problems, when you’re just trying to get them all fed properly.  This wariness can fossilise into a refusal to try anything new, leading to a choice between becoming what my mum used to call ‘A Marks and Spencer cafeteria’, or turning mealtimes into battles.

A non-stressful way to handle this wariness, is to give it its due attention, and give children time to overcome it themselves.   Instead of putting new foods in front of them and expecting them to try them immediately, you introduce new foods as part of play.

Playing with carrots, broccoli, blueberries, with no expectation of having to eat them seems to release a child’s natural curiosity, and from painting with beetroot, it’s a small step to tasting it.   Before you know it, your children are happy to try new things, mealtimes are enjoyable again, and you’re cooking the same meal for everyone.

Once you understand why children get fussy about what they eat and take it seriously, the right approach becomes obvious.

As I was watching this on TV, I wondered whether a similar approach might work with adults and work.  Perhaps, if we can find ways of letting people play with changes, with no obligation to make them, we might unleash their natural curiosity and creativity and so not only end up with  happier people, but better changes too.



Listening to Start the Week on Monday, I heard Grayson Perry give a brilliant definition of sanity:

“Sanity is being all of yourself, to everyone, all of the time.  Not schizophrenic or chameleon-like.”

Authenticity follows on from this: “Authenticity means bringing all of yourself to bear on a topic” – in other words, bringing your whole self to the work.

So, if it feels like your job might be driving you insane, you could be right.

More than skin deep

More than skin deep

Professor Richard Murphy has sparked controversy (again) this morning with his AccountingWEB article: Do you recognise your own accounts?

In it he suggests that companies of all sizes consider their published accounts as part of their marketing, and own them in the same way they would any other part of their marketing collateral.

I agree.  Your promise isn’t just superficial fluff, it’s the essence of who you are and the change you seek to make in the world.   It should be reflected in everything you do, even the parts many people don’t see.

How you do one thing is how you do everything.  Dissonance undermines trust.



My friend Mary Jane Copps (aka The Phone Lady) sent out a brilliant tip for delighting prospects today.    It got me thinking again about self-service.

When supermarkets first arrived, housewives were delighted.  No more queueing at counters to be served, you could just pick and choose whatever you wanted from the shelves of one shop and check out.   They could work to their own timetable.  They were empowered.

The same is true of many online services.   I can renew my passport, book train journeys, order print, buy tyres, whenever I want to.  I’m no longer tied to someone else’s schedule – in some cases not even for physical delivery.  I’m empowered in ways that I never dreamt of as a child.

There is however, one place where self-service really doesn’t work well, and that’s when things go wrong – when I make a mistake, or something doesn’t arrive on time, or I’m not sure what to type.

Cycling through frequently asked questions that aren’t my question, or being directed to a forum that shows hundreds of others with the same (un-addressed) problem is disempowering, and disenchanting.    I want to follow my own schedule – I need help now.    Forcing me to spend the first 60 seconds of a call to the helpline listening to  instructions to visit the website is disrespectful.

Of course self-service reduces costs for the provider.   If you make it obvious that’s the only reason for it, you’ll disgust your customer.

On the other hand, if you make sure it enables them to follow their own schedule in every scenario, you’ll delight them.

An antidote to the news

An antidote to the news

It would be easy to get depressed if all I saw was the news.   It would be easy to feel helpless against the natural and human forces that seem to be sending the world to hell in a handcart.

Fortunately I get out quite a bit and meet other ordinary people like me.   People who are trying to make the best living they can in the best way they can.   And what I see is a different take on what ‘best’ means, what ‘wealth’, ‘prosperity’, ‘growth’ might mean, and a willingness to act on that, each person rippling out from the centre of their own small circle.

Those ripples will meet, join up and create a larger change – probably before anyone in the news has really noticed.

Bring your whole self to work

Bring your whole self to work

Conventional economic theory views human beings as rational seekers of pleasure and avoiders of pain – ‘homo economicus’.  We must be forced to work by the threat of starvation, while at the same time we must be persuaded to gratify every passing whim in order to boost consumption and profits.

Asking people to “Bring your whole self to work” is an acknowledgment that this view simply isn’t true.

But sometimes I do wish that people would respond to this request as ‘homo economicus’:

“Pay me for my whole self then.”


Take a closer look at Bentham’s ‘Springs of Action’ here.

Practical optimism

Practical optimism

Last Monday was ‘blue’.  This week is supposed to be the gloomiest week of the year (for those of is in the northern hemisphere at least).    All that’s left of Christmas and New Year are the debts and broken resolutions.   Easter and Spring Bank holidays are a long way off (even though the Easter eggs have been in the shops since Boxing Day).

I don’t buy it.

For me, the days are getting longer.   Snow can’t lie for long if we get it now.  Spring is on its way.  People and businesses are up and about again, getting stuck in with new plans for making the world a better place.

But here’s a practical idea for next year:

Take one of the too many get-togethers that happen in the run-up to Christmas and move it to the beginning of 2021.  The best works Christmas party I ever went to took place in February.

Celebrate each other outside the prescribed calendar of feelings.




Once people had seen a wheel, they didn’t have to invent it.  They used it to improve a process – moving heavy things, hunting, war, playing.

Once people in England had seen a brick house, they didn’t have to invent it.   They used it as a model for building new, bigger,  more comfortable houses.  Then they used it as a model to build more comfortable and permanent houses for more people.

Once people saw the internet, they didn’t have to invent it.   They used it to re-invigorate old processes – shopping, talking, sharing information.

Once you have a process for doing something, you don’t have to invent it.   You can build on it to regenerate old processes you want to keep, or to create new processes that were not possible before.  You can use it to come up with a much better version.

Our civilisation is built on streamlining processes to make room for inventing new ones.

Many people see ‘process’ as restrictive, stultifying, oppressive.

That’s not because it’s process, it’s because people are inventing the wrong things.



For many in the business world, especially in the financial world, better is simply a synonym for bigger.   Growth of profits is all.   What else could better mean for business?

Well, it could mean making better things, things that are useful as well as profitable.  Things that are not harmful to the people who buy them.

It could mean making things in a better way, with more care for the resources that go into them and the effects, unintended or otherwise, that arise from the use of these resources.  It could mean finding ways of making things that re-use resources, so no further damage is done.   It could mean making things that undo some of the damage already done.   It could even mean creating positive, intended side-effects that make the whole environment better.

It could mean making things that give the people buying more of what they really want – agency, mastery, autonomy, purpose and community – which might mean making fewer things, and more opportunities for people to get together and achieve these ends for themselves.

It could mean giving the people making things more of what they really want – agency, mastery, autonomy, purpose and community, so that they can live richer lives at work, and at home.

This is growth, but not as we know it.  Enrichment, rather than accumulation.  Better, not merely bigger.

The good news is this kind of growth is unlimited.   Better makes bigger sustainable.