My Writing

My Writing

I get my best ideas from listening to people. Fortunately, that’s my job.

I like to say that people are my library, and my daily writing practice is a way to discover what’s in it: new ideas, inspiration, wisdom, and a little whimsy for good measure.  As your humble librarian I invite you to check out a new idea every day. No late fees ever.


Building bridges for CEOs

Purpose, People, Planet - Profit for Impact Triple Bottom Line Building Bridges for CEOs
The new triple bottom line. Scale for Impact

This week I was at a stunning event called Basecamp. On the second morning, the facilitator created an open space for a few people to choose to step forward and offer a topic they are passionate about, creating an invitation for others to join them for twenty minutes. I found myself stepping forward and saying something along the lines of:

“I want to create bridges between those who live and breathe a focus on Purpose, People and Planet and CEOs of large organisations.

I often hear people say “ah, but CEOs only care about profit“, but over and over again I have found CEOs who lead from purpose and profit is an outcome.

I also recognise the power of the word “more”. The world is complex and ambiguous, so can we all do more to move towards leading from purpose rather than profit. We can, so let’s talk about what we can do to create bridges”

I was blown away by how many people joined that conversation! I drew up the scale for impact model above (see original post here) then each persona shared for a minute. So many people seemed to be released to be able to talk about building bridges and the possibilities that can create!

From that event, we’ll be continuing that conversation across continents via video. I’m also always happy to talk to people in person (in London) or on video, do book a call at the link below if that calls to you.

Part of building bridges is telling real stories about real leaders generating real results by putting Purpose first (with Profit as an outcome of that, as opposed to the focus of the business).

The day I got back from Basecamp, one of the most humble, unassuming and purpose-driven corporate leaders posted something I will share with you today. The company he leads was, in late 2018, the highest valued company in the world, yet most people have never heard of him. His words resonate with me, so I encourage you to read on.


Gravitricity – innovation can be simple

innovation and energy storage

Innovation = Doing things differently and doing different things

I coined this definition of innovation some time ago. Sometimes it is about technology, sometimes simply about changing opening hours of a shop.

Recently I came across an idea to harness gravity in disused mine shafts to generate and store electricity, with multiple uses, including balancing power to electricity grids.

I liked the idea. Well, liked it so much I invested in Gravitricity through CrowdCube. Oh, and Crowdcube itself is another simple innovation, a way to crowdsource investments in businesses, a simple extension to the crowdfunding concepts innovated by Kickstarter etc.

Who gets on the bus? Enrolling your followers

My singular focus with clients is to support brave and transformative change. In #OpenLeadership, such change is neither top-down or bottom-up, it is integrated, iterative and involves everyone at their level of context.

In Cascading Leadership as a core model to deliver such powerful change, the focus is on the three areas of Align, Engage, Enrol and how to combine, order and iterate these.

Of these, today a short post from the master to talk about what it means to Enrol, ultimately it is all about people choosing to Align with a vision or idea, be Engaged to make a choice and act, then to “get on the bus”.

Over to you, Seth:


Knowledge Speaks. Wisdom Listens.

Knowledge Speaks. Wisdom Listens.

One of the things that I admire the most about the inspiring Chip Conley is his ability to distil what he learns down to elegant simplicity. One such phrase is “Knowledge Speaks. Wisdom Listens”.

Recently Chip has started daily mini-blogging on what he calls “Wisdom Well”. Follow the link to subscribe and enjoy this short blog-let.

Knowledge Speaks. Wisdom Listens.

Why is the owl perceived as the wisest animal in the kingdom?

It’s not its laser-sharp night vision or the fact that it can do the Linda Blair 360-degree swivel of its head, or even that it cocks its noggin in a curious and wise fashion.

The owl’s real differentiator is its ears—call him the best listener in the forest, especially at high frequencies. Since owls have no sense of smell, their world is all about listening.

Follow their example today. Instead of proclaiming your knowledge, ask a few catalytic questions instead.

When could you be better served by listening rather than talking?

Learnings from Writing: Purpose, Commitment and Patience

This image is of the site traffic for this site over the 18 months to October 2019. In that time period traffic has grown well over five-fold.

Overall, the site has been in place for a little over two years, with 750 posts, an average of nearly 600 words per post, 450,000 words in total. For those who’ve encouraged me over the years to write a book, thank you! It seems I prefer (for now!) short-form writing, but this is about the equivalent of eight books now in the posts here. Back to the growth in site traffic, this growth over eighteen months (of more than 5x in view, more than 7.5x in visitors) feels pretty strong. Since the site first started, it is even stronger.

In all this time this growth has come down to one thing. Content.

What potential lessons are there here?

For me, it is about Purpose, Commitment and Patience

I write because my Purpose drives me to share what I learn

I write because I choose to make that Commitment

In all of that, I am human and I love an audience, I love to know that people read what I write, so it is energising to see growing numbers doing just that. That site growth has come purely from keeping on at writing, what is called “organic” growth in website terms. No ads, no whizz-bang search engine optimising, simply content. So, to get this far has taken two years, thus Patience.

Sharing some simple models for leadership

Over the last two years and more I have now posted over 750 daily posts, as well as collaborated on numerous projects and begun developing a book on leadership.

Out of the well over 350,000 words written and many thoughts developed from listening and working with others, the image above is of three distilled models for leadership that have come from this.

Today I’ve launched a new page on this site, Open Leadership, which will host models for leadership and ideas that emerge, including the three models illustrated pictorially here.

This new page will host the models and ideas that are developed, articulated and then shared, one at a time, each month in the monthly newsletter started in September for this purpose of sharing. To subscribe to this newsletter, sign up on the My Writing page.

All of the best ideas come from listening, collaborating, synthesising, distilling. I am here to listen, so a) I hope one or more of these models for leadership and ideas inspire you to action, and b) I’d love to hear what sparks in your mind and talk to you about your own ideas.

Being More. Leading in our ambiguous world

Purpose, People, Planet - Profit for Impact Triple Bottom Line Being More

“This idea of purity and you’re never compromised…you should get over that quickly…the world is messy, there are ambiguities”

President Barack Obama

These words from President Obama in a recent talk that I tweeted about this week (read on for link to the tweet and video):

We live in a complex and ambiguous world. Let us hold firmly to our values and also seek to understand, not to judge. There is a real power in the word “more”, so let us always seek to do “more”, to be “more”, as well as to accept ourselves and others and all our imperfections.


No one ever made a decision based on a number

decision based on a number

An unexpected “bucket list” moment

Last week I was sat in the centre of the front row at the Royal Festival Hall as Hannah Gadsby came back on after her incredible show Douglas to receive the acclamation of an adoring crowd. It had been one of the best shows I’d ever seen in my life, the crow was making so much noise and there was so much applause.

One thing was missing, I realised. A feeling rose in me, articulated in my mind as: “This woman deserves a standing ovation”. I looked from side to side and realised that nobody was standing. In a fraction of second, I realised I had to stand. From my place at the front of the theatre, I did just that, then I didn’t look around, I could simply hear and feel the crowd of 2700 all stand as one and the volume increase still further.

Hannah briefly made eye contact as if to say “thank you”, then, no more than a few seconds later, she left the stage. If I’d had “start a standing ovation at the Royal Festival Hall” on my bucket list, then “tick”.

Now a question. After reading that, do I have your attention, and are you at least a little interested in seeing Hannah Gadsby’s show “Douglas”?

Always, always start any talk, any presentation, any pitch with a story.

What kind of story? Why a story?


Curating 13 learnings from 13 years of Brainpickings

Brainpickings from Maria Popova

At certain stages of life, many of us focus more on Editing rather than Accumulating. For me, part of that is to cut back on the newsletters and news outlets I read and pay for.

One that will always stay in my core list is Brainpickings from Maria Popova, a weekly newsletter of exquisitely curated thoughts from artists and writers, each with many links to dive deep into the depths of art and literature. They come out each Sunday and I can often get lost for hours. Oh, and if you enjoy Brainpickings, do support Maria’s art by setting up a monthly contribution.

Now, as I am now well over 750 daily posts on this site, sometimes I write “long read” posts, developing thoughts and ideas. Other times my blogging has evolved to curate posts from others.

Today, I am curating the curator, as Maria recently posted a special Brainpickings. Please note that I have edited down this long post to simply the summary learnings. For the full depth and also her favourite Brainpickings posts of all time, follow the link to the original article.

Maria is a great gift and curator. It is a true gift and wonderful wisdom to read and look to apply these 13 learnings.

Each of these is wonderful, each we can look to apply more in our self-leadership. We must constantly invest in leading ourselves before we can truly lead others.


Pay respect to your competitors

Derek Jeter on his retirement. Re2Pect

“Business is war. I go out there, I want to kill the competitors. I want to make their lives miserable. I want to steal their market share. I want them to fear me and I want everyone on my team thinking we’re going to win.”

This quote comes from Kevin O’Leary, billionaire, Shark Tank celebrity. He calls himself “Mr Wonderful”, which says it all about mindset.

Business is not war. It is not life or death. If you lose you do not die. If you win, you do not kill your opponent. Business is a game, just like Sport. There are winners and losers, there are scores, there are measurements, there is success, there is failure. However, it is only a game.

We then have a choice as to the way we choose to play the game.

This weekend I’ve just watched what was, to me, one of the greatest team performances in sports.

Today I want to talk about what that says about respect.


Beware of simple ideas

simple ideas

Regular readers will know I love to distil to simplicity, with ideas such as Ockham’s Razor, the Da Vinci quote “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication“, as well as the idea that “if I’d had more time I would have written something shorter“.

What I don’t tend to write about, though, is that before seeking to distil (including distilling to these relatively short daily blog posts), I often read and research in-depth to understand the background (and I’ve just linked to five earliest posts as background).

As an example, yes I posted strong opinions quite a while ago about the lack of viability of the WeWork model, but prior to doing so, I read everything I could find about their numbers and business model. Mind you, as soon as I read about “community adjusted EBITDA” my bullshit detector went into overdrive!

Today, then, I’m curating a terrific post from Tim Harford of “Undercover Economist” fame. In this, he warns of the danger of simple ideas. In a UK context, I very much agree with his assessment of Labour party ideas and even policies around such things as nationalisation, shares in companies to the public etc. Depending on your politics, the ideas may well be both simple and really positive. However, read into the detail (and yes, I have done), their policies stack up about as poorly as WeWork’s initial IPO valuation.

So, for more on the idea of being wary of simple ideas, over to Tim Harford.


When what’s best for all is best for the individual

system and individual

We live in an era where it feels capitalism has run amok and the wide-ranging teachings of Adam Smith have been woefully inaccurately reduced to the level where many feel it is a virtue to be utterly single-minded in focussing on their own self-interest.

What if, however, we focus on what is best for all, the system, society. What if, in so doing, this, in fact, is better for each individual.

I’m spurred to this both by a recent experience getting on a train, as well as by a wonderful post this week from Rory Sutherland in the Spectator. After reading Rory’s thoughts, you may never look at how people clear an x-ray scanner line at an airport the same way again.


Flip your thinking – how long will you live?

Flip your thinking script

Today sharing a story I first heard from Chip Conley sitting on the terrace at the Modern Elder Academy in Baja, days after meeting his amazing Dad.

How long will you live? What type of life will you live? Society has deeply embedded structures and beliefs in so many areas, age is one of them.

Read this piece by Chip both with a view to age and ageing, and also to ask yourself: “where else might I flip my thinking?”


Take the time to write less

write less is more

On average my daily posts take under five minutes to read, yet an average of over an hour to write.

I’ve taken as long as three days at an offsite with a client leadership team to land on a strategy that is simply one word.

When I work on Business Strategy Coaching with a client (see here) we can have meetings and calls over weeks and months simply to hone down their message and story to the absolute essentials so they have maximum impact in the short time they may have to present it to decision-makers.

“Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.”

~ Blaise Pascal

Literally translates to: “I made this one longer only because I have not had the leisure to make it shorter.”

from an earlier post:”If I’d had more time….

What would be possible for you if you took the time to go deeply enough into learning and research on a topic that you could then write less about it?

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