Discipline makes Daring possible.

Following orders

Following orders

Of course there are benefits to simply following orders.  It allows people to avoid responsibility.

Which means that if you want your people to take responsibility, giving them orders won’t work.

Giving them a blank page won’t work either.

You’ll have to find another way.



Not many people know this.

I’m an anarchist.

I believe in autonomy and self-determination.   I don’t believe that anyone has the right to tell anyone else what to do – except in rare cases where doing so might save a person’s life.

I also believe in collaboration and co-operation – the getting together of autonomous individuals to achieve something much bigger than themselves.

To co-operate successfully, participants need to know what they have to do.   They need to know when it has to be done.   But that knowledge doesn’t have to come from someone telling them as they go.   It can come from a shared ‘document’ everyone can access, whenever they need to.

That’s why I like the idea of a business as an orchestra.

Often, when people think of an orchestra, they focus on the conductor.   But the conductor isn’t there to tell players what to do, they’re there to help them keep time, and to provide hints to aid this particular interpretation.   It’s up to each player to choose how to get the right sound out of their instrument at the right time.  What has to happen, when, is recorded by the composer in a score.

The conductor is a role, like a cellist or percussionist, not a position in a hierarchy.   In fact it’s perfectly possible to run a succesful orchestra without a conductor – you simply get people to take turns.

What really pulls an orchestra together is the score – a map of the sound experience to be created for an audience.

The person behind the score is the composer.  They’re the one whose legacy lasts longest, and scales furthest.

So if you’re an employer, and like me, you have a problem with being told what to do, consider rethinking your role.

How could you make yourself a conductor rather than a boss?

Or even better, how could you make yourself a composer?


Hint: talk to me about becoming a Disappearing Boss.

The grandmother of invention

The grandmother of invention

I finished this book over the weekend.   I thoroughly recommend it.

If I had to sum it up: “Whatever your problem, there’s a very good chance it’s been solved before, several times, both by other people and in nature.   Necessity may be the mother of invention, but research is the grandmother.”

As usual, it’s given me more threads to follow – for example, a Russian called Genrcih Altshuller codified a Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) back in the 1940s.   But I bet you’ve never heard of him.

And I learned that the most interesting problems are contradictions, such as “How do I ensure a consistent Customer Experience without losing the opportunity to delight?”; and that really inventive solutions resolve them.

What makes me angry

What makes me angry

On the whole, I’m a pretty laid-back person.

But you know what really makes me angry?

Seeing amazing micro businesses die when their owner disappears.  Whether that’s because they’ve sold up, gone off to do something else, or simply wound down and died.

All that innovation, all that care, all that value, wiped out.  Wasted.


It makes me really angry.  And I’m on a mission to do something about it.

Because all it takes to avoid that waste is a decision to ‘disappear’ from your business earlier, on purpose, replacing yourself with a flexible, supportive framework that enables others to be ‘a boss’ instead of you.

The irony is that by doing this in plenty of time, you’ll start to enjoy running your business again.   You might even want to grow it.  But you won’t have to be there.

Help me on my mission.

If you know an amazing micro-business that deserves to last longer than it’s owner, tell me about them, put them in touch.

We need these amazing businesses to be around for longer.

They’re what makes our commercial life worth living.

Magical thinking

Magical thinking

This book, ‘Alchemy’ was recommended to me by the talented Andrea Horgan, (along with ‘Evolutionary Ideas‘) so of course I had to interrupt my current reading for it.


It’s a useful and entertaining read, and so far I’d sum up the findings thus:

  • Businesses that put their clients first do well.
  • Businesses that think about their clients as human beings rather than economical or mathematical abstractions, and then put them first, do exceptionally well.


I’d add:

  • Businesses that build that thinking into everything they do, do exceptionally well for a very long time.  Even after the founder is long gone.


It’s not magic, it’s simply focusing on the human.  But not many people do that.

Hard work

Hard work

It takes a lot of work to maintain a garden like this.

And the only way to renew or change it is to uproot everything and start again.

Much better to build a garden that can evolve with little tending.  Even at the cost of some untidiness.

That’s where the delightful surprises come from.



I’m fascinated by the tension between process and freedom, between order and chaos, between prescription and exploration.   So naturally I couldn’t resist buying these books to find out how people working in a completely different discipline approach the same issue.

In the first book I’m reading, ‘The Uses of Disorder’, the author describes the difficult transition people have to make through adolescence – that stage where we have the ability to fully exercise our powers as human beings, but without any life-experience to guide us.  We have to find our own identity, but identity is forged though experience – messy, uncomfortable and maybe even distressing.   This prospect makes some people frame an identity for themselves in advance, as a way of avoiding experience.

Most of us ‘grow out’ of this stage as we are unavoidably exposed to otherness, but some people continue to close themselves off to anything that might undermine it.  The author’s point is that this doesn’t just happen on an individual level, but also at the level of a group or community, which is where this starts to get interesting.

For these authors, a city is a framework that can be enabling or disabling.   And what makes it enabling is a certain amount of disorder, because disorder enables people to encounter the different, the new and the alternative.  In other words, disorder helps us to grow aand thrive as human beings by opening up possibilities.  So if you want to city (or any community) to enable people to thrive, you want it to be somewhat disorderly.   Not so disorderly that people get no chance to absorb change, but disorderly enough to allow people to find their own change.

Similarly if you want your business to help the people in and around it (including clients) to thrive, you want it to be a bit disorderly – not so disorderly that people don’t know what to do, but disorderly enough that people can find and create their own change.  You want controlled disorder.

The good news is, I think, that you can design it in.  Which is why I use the idea of a Customer Experience Score, rather than a process.   With your Customer Experience Score as the floor, you can safely leave room for exploration and interpretation.

Discipline makes Daring possible.

Just in case you were wondering

Just in case you were wondering

I did a little bit of research this morning, using data from the Office for National Statistics.

By my calculation there are around 82,595 what I might call ‘ordinary’ private sector businesses (employing 1 – 19 people) who have commercial electricity contracts expiring by December this year.

Anecdotally (from radio phone-ins and Twitter), companies like these are being asked to sign new contracts for electricity at around 10 times their current rate.

That is simply unsustainable for most.  Many will be forced to close, costing up to 314,790 people their jobs and removing up to £60,255,000,000 in turnover from the economy.

If I include businesses employing up to 49 people, we’re looking at losing up to 280,279 businesses, 524,974 jobs and £121,344,002,000.

I’m all for bosses disappearing.  Not their businesses though.   I’d like to see them flourish.

Which is why we need to cherish our ordinary businesses.



Over recent months we’ve seen some extraordinary behaviour from big institutions.   Employers knowingly break the law.   Airlines and holiday companies sell flights they know they can’t deliver.   Energy retailers bill small business customers amounts they know are impossible to pay.   Policemen murder women.  Or shoot first and ask questions later.  A holiday park is prepared to evict its guests to observe a bank holiday.  Politicians no longer pretend to tell the truth or even talk sense.   Journalists publish easily verifiable lies to create false outrage.

Thankfully, ordinary people are not like this.  Ordinary people rush to help when someone collapses in the street, or asks for help on Twitter.  Ordinary people go out of their way to keep a promise they’ve made.   Ordinary business owners agonise over having to lose people.  Ordinary business owners pay their suppliers on time and almost always over-deliver for their customers.

That’s because ordinary people operate in what you could call the ‘natural economy’.   We know the world doesn’t run on money, but on the promises we make to each other.  We know that even money is really just a promise.

Let’s celebrate and cherish the ordinary.  That’s where a better future lies.

Who do you help your client to become?

Who do you help your client to become?

Most of the time we don’t buy to meet a simple need.   We buy to get a job done.    We don’t buy a drill, or even a hole in the wall, we buy ‘putting a picture up’, ‘fixing that broken chair’.

Even then, this isn’t what we really buy.   There’s a bigger job behind the immediate job to be done, the job of becoming a better version of ourselves, in a way that others will notice.

That means that at the heart of every Promise of Value is an unspoken promise.  A promise of transformation, that goes something like this:

“Working with us will enable you to become who you want to be, in a way that is congruent with your values, beliefs and style, so you can join the tribe that feels like home for you, with the status you seek.”

It’s clear from this that it is not just what you do that matters, but how you do it.   And if you are to be congruent with your client’s values, beliefs and style, they must in turn be congruent with at least some of yours.

It’s well worth identifying what the minimum level of congruence must be, in order to make working together satisfying for both you and your clients.   What values must your clients espouse with you?  What behaviours must they share?  What must they believe that you also believe?

Once you know this, you know what kind of people you are a good option for.  Therefore what language you need to use to speak to them so they feel seen.

Now you just need to know where to find them.