Discipline makes Daring possible.

Switching context

Switching context

One of the overlooked and most pernicious effects of being overburdened is the way it shrinks the world around you, narrowing your vision to just what’s in front of you and your horizon to just what’s next.

There are some who are clearly well-served by this situation (Tim Gurner merely said it out loud).

If you’re not one of them, here’s a tip:

Switch context.  Put yourself in a different place.  Even if it’s only for an hour.  It doesn’t have to be a restful place, just different.  The idea is to broaden your horizon, take in new stimuli, get your brain out of the rut it’s in.

And if you employ people, encourage them to do it too.  Do it with them.  Sometimes the discipline you need is to step away from the business and do something else instead.

Daring will follow though.


I’m switching context for the next few days, to refresh my body and my brain.   I’ll be back next Monday.

Take care.

What will it do?

What will it do?

What will it do?

When we start our businesses, we don’t really know.

We know what we want to do.   More of the things we enjoy, less of the things we don’t, with no interference from the boss.

We have an inkling that left to ourselves, we can probably produce something much more in line with what the customer wants than we were able to as a small cog in a big machine.

Or we hope that having experienced a problem and found a new solution, there might be others who will welcome what we’ve discovered.

In truth, we don’t really know who they are, what they want, or how they want it.

That’s fine.

The job of a startup is to find that out.  We need to be observant, flexible, opportunistic, open to a different who, a different what.  A certain amount of thrashing is inevitable.

But once we do know who and what, thrashing no longer serves.  Now we need to concentrate on how.  Hand-crafting a consistent customer experience, ‘doing things that don’t scale’ until we’ve really hit the mark.

Until finally, we’ve answered the question “What will it do?”

You’re no longer a startup.

And the next challenge begins.

Because if you really have hit the mark for a significant number of people, the next question is “How can I do it like this for more people?”, “How do I replicate my actions through other people or through software so that I can reach more of the people who want what I can offer, in the way that I offer it?”

You don’t have to scale of course.  You can stick with a handcrafted service and a select clientele.  Just make sure they are paying you full value for that.

But if you want to reach more people, have an even bigger impact, you need to think about scaling up the system you’ve inadvertently designed.

Scaling up starts with treating it as a design, rather than a happy accident- soon to be overtaken by the next.

Which means starting by writing your design down.  So there’s a reference point, a specification, an intention.

So that from now on, everyone knows what it has to do.

Otherwise how can you work how best to share the work? Or how best to automate it? Or whether the solutions you’ve chosen actually do the job?  How do you know where to be flexible and where to stay firm?  Or where you can leave it to the people on the ground to decide?

It doesn’t mean the design can’t change, it just means that every change is in service to what everyone knows it has to do.

And as we’re discovering with HS2, waiting until its half-built to decide exactly what it’s meant to do, is an expensive way to fail.

Discipline before you start building makes real Daring possible later.

Ask me how.

Self care

Self care

I think quite a lot about ‘Muri’ – wasted effort due to overburdening or stressing people, equipment or systems.

It’s the Cinderella of waste, mostly ignored by management consultants and gurus.  Perhaps because it exposes the dark heart of capitalism.  The more you sweat your ‘assets’, the more money you make.   Who cares if you break them along the way, as long as your pile ends up big enough for you to move on and do it again?

Things are different inside small employer businesses – at least the ones I know.

There, the ‘assets’ most likely to be subjected to Muri are owners.   They are the ones who take up all the slack.  Who ‘go the extra mile’, ‘give 110%’, ‘do whatever it takes’ to keep the promises they’ve made.

Not because they’re aiming for burnout, but because they haven’t yet realised that if they share the work effectively with their team, nobody needs to overwork themselves.

‘Sharing the work effectively with your team’ is easier said than done, and easier done than you imagine, when you visualise your business operations as a musical score, and your team as an orchestra performing it over an over agin, getting better all the time.

Putting this in place could be the ultimate exercise in self care – for you, your business and your team.

And everyone will thrive as a result.

Discipline makes Daring possible.

Ask me how.

The tragedy of markets

The tragedy of markets

“All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.” Adam Smith 1776

Smith thought the ‘invisible hand’ of the market would prevent this in the future.

He was wrong.

Perhaps its time to re-embrace the idea of ‘the commons’?

A resource, owned by no-one, managed by a rolling team to ensure its benefits can be enjoyed by everyone, including non-human communities, present and future.

What if you made your business a commons?

A resource, owned by employees (including you), managed by those employees for the benefit of present and future customers and employees?

It’s not as hard as you might think.  And once you’ve commoned your business who knows where you might go commoning next?

Discipline makes Daring possible.

Ask me how.

Promises, promises

Promises, promises

We all make promises, all the time.   And more often than we would like, we break them.

Life happens.  The unexpected happens.  Sometimes they were promises we should never have made.  However painful, those breaks can be understood and accepted.

To make a promise you have no intention of even trying to keep is unforgivable.

Connecting the Dots

Connecting the Dots

Tomorrow, my friend and instigator of Connect the Carbon Dots, Anna Cosentino will be presenting our tool as part of the Carbon Newbie Summit in New York – part of New York Climate Week.

As well as contributors to the Carbon Almanac like Anna, there will be speakers and panelists from:

  • United Nations
  • Environmental Defense Fund
  • World Economic Forum
  • Upstream
  • New York Passive House
  • Amalgamated Bank (a bank that’s fully divested from the fossil fuel industry)
  • Mastercard
  • Allbirds
  • NBA
  • GreenPortfolio
  • Earth Finance

The whole summit will be live-streamed from 9:30am ET (2:30pm BST), and you can follow along on the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Or use the same link to access the recording to watch at your leisure.

If you don’t know much about the climate crisis, or you’re worried that all the effort you’ve put into reducing your personal carbon footprint might just have been a con to keep things as they are, this summit and our tool will help you find more ways to make a positive impact.


Radical simplicity

Radical simplicity

“Good design is as little design as possible”.  Dieter Rams.

The point is not just to keep it simple, but to keep it radically simple for the user.

That takes radical empathy.

And that means radical focus.

It took me 6 months to work out how to get back to the home screen on my ipad.  Not because I’m stupid, but because I’d grown up with Microsoft, and it wasn’t designed for me.

You can’t do radical empathy for everyone.


Save it for the people who really, really need what you can do for them.

Then blow their minds with how easy it is to buy and use.


Discpline makes Daring possible

Ask me how.

9 bad reasons why you might want to disappear from your business

9 bad reasons why you might want to disappear from your business

Here are 9 negative reasons why you might want to disappear from your business:

– You fall ill.

– Your partner falls ill.

– Another family member falls ill.

– You get run over by a bus.

– Your partner gets run over by a bus.

– You burn out.

– Your parents need care.

– You have to move house.

– You have to move country.


And here are 3 very positive reasons why you should disappear before you need to:

– You want your business to make a bigger impact now. Serve more customers, better, support more people working in it, and make that work more meaningful and fulfilling for them.

– You want your business to become an asset, not a job. The source of your pension, an income for your family, an income stream for your next venture. To sell it for more money.

– You want your business to take on a life of its own. To become your legacy, continuing to make an impact long after you’ve gone.


– You are still able to do whatever you need to do.

– Your business can continue to support you while you’re away.

– You have a business to come back to if you wish.

A modest amount of Discipline when you’re a team of 3 to 9 people, makes all this Daring possible. More quickly than you think.

Whispering out loud

Whispering out loud

Today I will mostly be standing in line.

I’m joining the Queue for Climate and Nature, organised by Business Declares and Business Stand Up.

I’m not brave enough to glue myself to a road, or throw baked beans at a painting, but I can queue quietly and amicably with hundreds of other business people like me, to sign a book.

A thousand people whispering at once can make quite a bit of noise.

Maybe I’ll see you there?

Never be afraid to write down the OurScore for your business.

Never be afraid to write down the OurScore for your business.

“There were boisterously spiced empanadas, tamely flavoured empanadas, tightly crimped and crisp empanadas and loosely folded, sloppy empanadas. The standardised recipe couldn’t overrule the uniqueness of each cook, their personality, and experiences, which they inevitably infused into their cooking.”*

This is why you should never be afraid to produce an OurScore for your customer experience.  Like a musical score, it looks prescriptive, but each and every performance of it will be unique.

This is also why you should never automate more than the admin parts of it.  Only humans can humanise an experience.



*from Kevin Vaughn, writing for Vittles Magazine today.