2016: it’s getting out of hand
This New Year has kicked off with pretty much all last year’s global problems unsolved, unaddressed, undiminished. What’s the point of ‘resolutions’ unless we do something about them? What’s the point of ‘leaders’ who don’t lead? What’s the point of ‘business’ if it serves the old narrow interests and does not change bankrupt models?
Having said that, 2015 ended on a relatively high note – the COP21 summit on climate change at least held the promise of something actually being done on a worldwide scale to tackle global warming. Jericho’s Jules Peck was there and his 2-part account of the event for The Huffington Post emphasises Cop21’s collaborative atmosphere and the need for action. He quotes journalist Richard Heinberg who summarised COP21 as “not plug and play, it’s civilisation reboot”. Spurred on by indicators of a shift in thinking in the financial services industry, including the City pledging its support of a low-carbon economy, Jules is optimistic about the emerging new-economy vision. He writes: “Delivering on these radical changes will require a sea-change in the process of change. Policy-wonkery and lobbying may play a role but above all what is needed is a new society-wide Big Conversation on paradigm shift and systems change.”
‘Mother I tried please believe me’
One of the greatest challenges we all face– in a world where robotics are threatening to shrink the jobs’ market even further than it already is – is how to prepare young people for the future world of work. This formed the basis of a Jericho roundtable in December, co-hosted with the CIPD. The session explored the role of education, business and the private sector in cultivating ‘character beyond compliance’. How can we encourage resilience and agility, two critical non-academic characteristics that we are all going to need? The conversation also highlighted the importance of the demand side of the equation – the role of business and business leadership.
We are keen to see others join us in our continuing considerations about the future for the world of work – get in touch with Jericho (via firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would like to make a contribution.
Prior to that, on 3 November, Jericho hosted a breakfast roundtableled by Christian Felber, founder of the Economy for the Common Good (ECG) movement. The ECG proposes a new balance sheet for businesses, one that gives space for the social, non-monetary contributions of an organisation. The discussion touched on the genuine public hunger for amended economic metrics, geared towards maximising leisure, wellbeing and environmental stewardship. Neal Lawson pointed out how times of ‘zombie’ economics can give rise to hope in the form of real alternatives emerging from the wreckage. As Gary Mead says in his account of the discussion: “In the economy for the common good, a company would only be successful if it helps achieve the common good… and only responsible companies would survive, because the irresponsible will be shunned”.
Partner articles published towards the end of 2015 called for constructive dialogue and lateral thinking. As Gary Mead points out in this article for Impact Investor, “there is only so much experience of corporate nastiness that one can stomach before reflex cynicism sets in…” – journalists who have “succumbed to war-weariness” need to wake up and smell the fresh air. In an article for The Independent, Neal Lawson asks why political language has to be so ugly and polemical. Instead he proposes a radical new move for political discourse – listening: “Empathy not hate or fury is the real currency of political discourse… ‘Othering’ your opponent is a cheap short cut to a headline but rarely makes any big or lasting change. What is wrong is rarely if ever the fault of a single person – but a system. And I’m not convinced you can build a good society by treating others badly.”
‘Stockpiled safety for a few’
Creating alternative forms of leadership and power structures was the theme of Robert Phillips’ 2015 John Campbell lecture, delivered on 30 November on behalf of Republic, the campaign for an elected Head of State. Robert juxtaposed three Edwards: Edward Bernays, (Sigmund Freud’s nephew and the father of modern PR); Prince Edward; and Edward Snowden. As trust in institutions has been eroded to the point of collapse and PR looking rather sickly (if not dead), Robert explored the enigma of the monarchy’s survival – “one of the last great contradictions of our times” – and the theory behind the idea of nationhood in the age of Edward Snowden. At the start of 2016 Robert spoke on a Radio 4 discussion on trust, “the most abused word in the business lexicon”, and the models that will replace it. In a cover article for Market Leader magazine Robert writes about addressing the crisis in trust, and how PR is not the answer. “In an interconnected world, all of us are smarter than any one of us: organisations that embrace these beliefs will be more resilient, adaptive and creative. They will attract the most – and keep the best…”
As summarised in this account of Robert’s work in this space, real leaders need to learn that trust is an outcome not a message, something “based on actions not words”. Robert’s work is described here as “a citizens’ manifesto – stirring us from neoliberal slumber so that we may realise our distributed leadership and haul conventional corporate leaders into the service of a fairer form of capitalism.”
‘Looked in the mirror, saw I was wrong’
In another programme for Radio 4 Margaret Heffernanended the year by arguing that existing models of top-down management models have outlived their usefulness, and the time is ripe for a better approach to leadership. The programme included RADA director Edward Kemp, who says future stars “are never the supermen or the superwomen… but people who can liberate the energy, imagination and momentum of the whole group”.
In her article for International Business Times, Christine Armstrong uses the EU-debate to illustrate the absurdity of bland, prescriptive, black-and-white policy-mongering in government – “voters are not morons”. Christine argues that “allowing, or better, encouraging debate on the difficult stuff is critical to improving our thinking”. She calls on leaders to “stop trying to impose top-down, command and control leadership in a fluid world.”
Leadership as a positive enabling force was the subject of Deborah Doane’s article on development and philanthropy, published in The Guardian. “In an ideal world”, she argues, “[the likes of] Zuckerberg never would have been allowed to accrue this much wealth and dictate how it would be spent”. Her recommendation to future Zuckerbergs? Relinquish your power; become an enabler for others.
Gary Mead, Partner; Eve Harris, Associate – with thanks to Joy Division for the sub-heads.
– January 17 2016