Discipline makes Daring possible.

Why Muri matters

Why Muri matters

Absorb.  Adapt.  Transform.

If you’ve ever experienced some kind of shock to your business – like your server being hit by lightning, or a pandemic lockdown – you’ll recognise these three phases of response, even if you went through them unconsciously.

1: Absorb: It’s all hands on deck – you double down, work harder, get people to do overtime, call in retired people, pull in help from fellow businesses or family.  Whatever it takes to withstand the first effects of the shock.

2: Adapt: Things are different now.  The old ways of doing, the old roles, locations and certainties don’t apply any more.  Work-arounds are what’s needed, and you and your team find them.

3: Transform: Now the worst is over, you all take a breath, and think how best to change how your business works, so when a similar shock happens in the future, you’ll be ready for it.  Some of your work-arounds will become part of the system, others won’t.  It’s worth remembering that not all shocks are inherently undesirable – a rush of new customers from referrals is just as much of a shock to the system as a lightning strike.  So it pays to think up some other possible shock scenarios and re-design and re-equip your system to cope with those too.  Or at least plan how you will be able to absorb it enough to give you time to adapt and transform.

Which brings me back to the point.

Muri matters, because if people, machines and systems are already operating at 100% or over when a shock hits, it’s extremely hard to respond effectively.  And only people can make systems work at over 100%.  With no room to absorb, how can you possibly move on to adapt or learn to thrive in the new world by transforming?  Muri destroys resilience.

My way to prepare for this is to share everything about how your business works with everyone in it.

  • Document your customer experience with an OurScore , so everyone can see the context. 
  • Have individuals play multiple roles and deliver multiple aspects of your business promise.
  • Give them the autonomy to develop solutions to exceptions as they occur.
  • Make sure everyone shares their findings.

In other words, introduce the ultimate level of redundancy – make everyone a Boss.

Discipline makes Daring possible.

Ask me how.



As a musical instrument, the triangle is often regarded as a bit of a joke.  A bit ridiculous.  Not to be taken seriously.

Yet a composer includes it in their orchestration for a reason – because it’s unique sound contributes to the experience they wish to convey.  Without it the composer’s promise couldn’t be kept.

When times are hard, it’s tempting to strip back on our offer.  To cut down on the details of our customer experience.

Just remember, it’s your promise you’re really stripping back.  Eventually it will show.

Use your natural ingenuity to find a better way to keep it instead.

The day the earth caught fire

The day the earth caught fire

Last night I watched “The day the earth caught fire” a 1961 film about what happens when mankind, pursuing their own petty rivalries, makes an irreversible and deadly change to the only planet they have.  I enjoyed it, not least for recognising a young (and uncredited) Michael Caine as a police constable.

But for the situation we’re in now – where mankind, pursuing their own petty interests, have made an irreversible and deadly change to the only planet we have, there’s a much better film.

Beyond Zero” tells the story of how a carpet manufacturing business turns itself from “a plunderer of the earth and a legal thief” into a highly succesful circular business that gives back more than it takes.

It’s inspiring, hopeful and above all, practical.   I thoroughly recommend finding a way to watch it.  Preferably with your team, your business peers and maybe even you community.

It’s not too late, but we need to take action now, and we need to take it together.  This film shows one way we can.

What do you do when everything is urgent?

What do you do when everything is urgent?

You’re probably familiar with the decision-makig matrix from Stephen Covey’s ‘7 habits of highly effective people’:


Davidjcmorris, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


The problem is that this diagram doesn’t tell you what to do when everything is urgent, which is how things tend to be by the time we humans get round to dealing with them.

The answer is I think, to start dealing with all of them, focusing first on the things that will either have most impact, or will enable you to still be around to deal wth the other urgent things.

A story in today’s Science X Newsletter illustrates this perfectly.

Methane is 30 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas, but only hangs around in the atmosphere for about 10 years.   So by reducing our methane emissions quickly (especially if we use captured methane to replace new fossil fuels along the way), we can have a big and rapid impact on global warming, while our strategies for dealing with CO2 are taking longer to have an effect.

Like so much else with the climate crisis, we already have solutions to hand, we just need to pick them up and use them.

What do you do when everything is urgent?

Take a deep breath.

Remind yourself that it’s not too late.

Then get started.

Discipline makes Daring possible.



Back in 1978, me and my family were entranced by this BBC series in which James Burke explained how rather than being a simple forward march of progress towards some future pinnacle, history was actually a web of connected accidents.   People built new ideas and inventions on the ideas and inventions of others, who had created these things for completely different reasons.  Connections made that were never ‘meant’ to be made leading to new connections, and new inventions.   Often with what seemed like spookily appropriate timing.

Fast forward 50 years, and I’m enticed into a little online group called ‘Connect the Carbon Dots’ by a mention of this TV series.

In our group, we’re taking the facts, issues and solutions in the soon to be released Carbon Almanac, and connecting them to each other, in a visual, interactive web.  So that someone interested in ‘how to store carbon in soil’ for example can see why that’s a good thing for global warming AND how it also impacts food security, erosion, and pollution.

Looking back, that documentary may have been the start of my life’s work!

Everything’s connected.  Everyone is connected.  Everything’s a process.

You never know what’s going to happen next, but there’ll be an interesting thread to follow.

And life is actually more joyful when you look at it that way.


PS it’s not too late to join in!



I’m sharing this from Seth Godin today, in full.

It’s what I needed this morning.

And I thought perhaps you need it too.

Thank you Seth.

How Change Happens

Slowly then all at once

For people who aren’t paying attention or actively involved, it can seem like cultural change is sudden. One big shift after another.

In fact, cultural change always happens relatively slowly. Person by person, conversation by conversation. Expectations are established, roles are defined, systems are built.

From the foundation

The people in the news and at the podium get all the attention, but they’re a symptom, not usually a cause. Everyday people aren’t the bottom, they are the roots, the foundation, the source of culture itself. We are the culture, and we change it or are changed by it.

From peer to peer

Change happens horizontally. What do we expect from others? What do we talk about? Who do we emulate or follow or support? What becomes the regular kind?

People like us do things like this.

Day by day, week by week, year by year.

Going to the protest of the day, performing acts of slacktivism, hopping from urgency to emergency–this is how people who day trade in our culture are whipsawed. But the people who are consistently and actively changing the culture are not easily distracted. One more small action, one more conversation, one more standard established.

The internet would like us to focus on what happened five minutes ago. The culture understands that what happens in five years is what matters.

Focused, persistent community action is how systems change. And systems concretize and enforce cultural norms.

If you care, keep talking. Keep acting. Stay focused. And don’t get bored.


Discipline makes Daring possible.



What’s the difference between a good stew and a great stew?


Sometimes, leaving things alone for several hours is the best thing you can do.   And as of course you know, the very best stews are tasted the day after you cooked them.

Time is an ingredient we frequently forget to add, and not just to our cooking.    If you’ve got something knotty you’re working hard on or thinking really deeply about, a long bank holiday weekend is an excellent opportunity to add time.

Over the next 3 days, let whatever it is do its thing.   Let it braise, brew, tenderise, meld.   By Tuesday you’ll find yourself with something really tasty.

Till then, enjoy the break.

Why justice must be blind.

Why justice must be blind.

I’m about halfway through John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice.  We’ve finally got to a statement of principles.  Which can be informally summed up as something like this:

“All social primary goods – liberty and opportunity, income and wealth, and the bases of self-respect – are to be distributed equally unless an unequal distribution of any or all of these goods is to the advantage of the least favoured.”

That seems pretty obvious.   Why has it taken 300 pages to get to here?

Because imagining a just system is a process.

We don’t choose where or when we’re born.  We don’t choose our parents or our society or our status in that society.   We don’t choose the talents or abilities we’re born with – any more than we choose our eye colour or complement of limbs.   That’s all down to chance.

That doesn’t mean we have to accept what we’ve landed in.   We can imagine a different kind of setup.

But to do that justly, and end up with something fair, we need a starting point that takes chance out of it.  We have to take ourselves out of space and time, and imagine what we as individuals would accept if we didn’t know where we end up in the particular set-up we happen to be born in.  We have to make ourselves blind, and build our picture of a just system from there.

That takes a lot of thought and empathy with all our possible selves.

It’s worth the effort, because then we can start to shape our societies to move ever closer to that ideal.   Starting with what’s closest to us, our families and our businesses.



I recommend this Vittles article by Dr Andrea Oskis:  Different Food, Same Blanket.

I loved it.  It warmed my heart, made my mouth water and gave me food for thought.

It also made me wonder – could we apply some of this thinking to how we explore familiarity and innovation at work?

Rescuing babies

Rescuing babies

Sometimes, all it takes to solve a new problem is to revisit an old technology, applying the best of the new technologies we’ve developed since we last used it, to make it work far better than last time.

Sail Cargo is one such solution, using ancient technologies in a 21st century way.

Another is Homespun/Homegrown – where the old textile town of Blackburn will grow and make it’s own jeans using the even more ancient technologies of flax and woad, alongside some thoroughly modern manufacturing, marketing and distribution methods.

Babies don’t have to be thrown out with bathwater.

You can fish them out first, and help them grow up gracefully.