Harvesting Hope for Humanity’!

What hope this photograph of heroism evokes!

Of course, heroism always inspires. But this is a particularly powerful example. The act itself is noteworthy, but the irony of the incident makes it unprecedented. The image multiply magnifies the deed, and has caused it to resonate around the world.

You would, in fact, be hard put to find an action that better defines a message, than a black man possibly saving the life of a white supremacist demonstrating at a Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest.

The BLM movement has arisen largely due to the loss of non-white lives at the hands of white US police. After a particularly brutal incident resulted in murder charges against the officers involved, protests erupted all over the USA and around the world. This, and the sheer number of such incidents, has given rise to claims of institutionalised racism. Consequently the protest demonstrations are continuing.

It was at one of these in London that the incident in this photograph took place. White supremacists were counter-protesting and riots were developing when, somehow, this man got himself knocked over and isolated and was rescued, picked up and carried to safety on this black man’s – Patrick Hutchinson’s – shoulders.  What a fine example of innate human decency.

And it isn’t as rare as you might think.

Yes, you could argue that every instance of brutality highlighted by BLM points to humankind’s bestiality. Or that humans are governed by self-interest (WIIFM), or that their thinking can be overtaken by culture, ideology, or crowd hysteria. But this story proves that is not necessarily the case. There is an expression that claims, regardless of skin colour, “If you cut me, do I not also bleed?”

The fact is, ultimately we mostly all have the same wants and needs. Consequently, when we acknowledge this, and are more accepting and tolerant of the fact, we could all get along far better. Possibly without any of the discord, disruption and destruction that so often manifests in our lives.

BLM is a specific form of this. It is therefore a challenge that we need to confront and address. But perhaps the best way to do so is to acknowledge a universal being with universal needs, and to look for a way to meet those needs. This is ultimately what I am trying to achieve with what I call “Universalism” and my “Universalist Manifesto.”

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My book, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped presented ideas for changing our economic and socio-political systems. It attempted to promote discussion and debate around them. Now I have, however, written a new book that takes them further through what I call “The Universalist Manifesto.” Provisionally entitled. “Searching for Better:  Exploring Ideas for Eliminating Conflict and Improving Quality of Life” I am currently searching for a publisher, but if you are interested in the learning more and/or would like to help in that quest please contact me.

Plea for Greater Tolerance!

“I disagree with every word you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it.” I was raised believing those words were uttered by the French philosopher, Voltaire, to capture the very essence of democracy. Alas, how far we seem to have moved away from it! Today the very concept seems anathema.

On both sides of the Atlantic (where democracy has historically prevailed) there seems to be increasing intolerance, antagonism and even vitriol, towards anyone who has a different opinion or view. Popular, populist posturing prevails. And, as everyone becomes entrenched in their positions, anyone who holds a different opinion is deemed to be an idiot, deluded or the victim of “fake news.” This increases the invective and more and more the language becomes hate-filled, hateful, and hurtful. So the tension tightens and the pattern spirals.

Needless to say this is counter-productive. Ultimately democracy depends on collaboration. Thus if democracy is to survive we need to return to Voltaire’s statement, put it into practice and restore – and ensure – greater tolerance.   As long as you respect and honour your fellow human beings you should be free to say whatever you think, without any fear of recrimination or victimisation. Please can we go back to that as a de facto standard? It is the only way that we will build the tolerance we need to meet the challenges we as a species – and the world as a whole – needs.

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My book, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped presented ideas as to how we could change our economic and socio-political systems and attempted to promote discussion and debate around them. Now I have, however, written a new book that takes them further through what I call “The Universalist Manifesto.” Provisionally entitled. “Searching for Better:  Exploring Ideas for Eliminating Conflict and Improving Quality of Life” I am currently searching for a publisher, but if you are interested in the learning more and/or would like to help in that quest please contact me.

Political Parties: Past Their Sell-by Date?

Do political parties still work? Do they serve the purpose they were created for? Or, perhaps more importantly, is it even possible for them to do so? These are key questions for our times.

Political unrest unbounds and perhaps more so than ever; even in countries that have historically been stable – most notably the UK and USA. As the long-time bastions of democracy this is alarming. It begs questions as to the very future of democracy.

Particularly noteworthy is that both are largely two-party nations, governed by the political party that secures the most candidates – albeit in radically different systems. Yet both appear to be so divided as to be almost ungovernable. So much so that some doomsayers are even predicting the possibility of a second civil war in the US. The UK, on the other hand, is suffering from a complete anomaly in that, while it is possibly equally divided, one party – in what may be a victory of epic pyrrhic proportions – has just won by one of the biggest margins in its electoral history.

In both countries trust in politicians is at an all-time low. In the USA the constitution is held as an infallible, timeless guide that will help people overcome all odds, and deliver “the American Dream.” In the UK, however, where the constitution is largely unwritten, there are mounting calls for a new written constitution to address the ills. These are somewhat limited at present but growing, and underscored by increasing demands for:

  • Proportional representation;
  • A lower voting age;
  • Greater devolved power or independence.

While there is no doubt that fresh thinking is called for – which will more than likely make new constitutions inevitable – you have to ask whether current thinking is just papering over the inherent faults built into our existing systems. And perhaps the biggest fault line is the concept of the political party itself. What if the concept of the political party is itself an anachronism?

In an age of increasing change and complexity, the concept of a “broad church” organisation being able to address all the concerns, values and issues of a significant proportion of the population is no longer the proposition it once was. Scientific and technical advances dispel the dogma of the past and it simply isn’t feasible for traditional conservative values to meet the demands of feminism; nor can the melting pot of mass migration and diversity easily meld with the idea of tribal sanctity and purity. It is like a reverse prism: you simply cannot collate all the different causes into a single, white policy beam.

In such an environment ideas like greater proportional representation or a lower voting age are simply a desperate attempt to hold on to the past and promote your opinions or beliefs. This may lead to greater compromise but the historic instability of countries like Italy and Israel are not good advertisements. In a world being battered by humanly generated environmental and climate challenges, compromise is not going to be good enough.

Similarly the concept of independence, in an increasingly globally interactive world of mutual inter-dependence is a quixotic fantasy. Already the concept of the nation state is being challenged, and it seems likely that one of the root causes of our distrust of politicians is that they are “in the pockets” of the people who hold and control the bulk of the money. As Nobel-prize winning authors Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo point out in their book, “Good Economics for Hard Times” developed economies now face the same big challenge as developing economies: an increasing wealth gap between the wealthy few and the rest.

Those problems will never be addressed by political parties spouting passé ideologies and supported by an electorate who cling to those ideologies out of a sense of tradition or because of the way their parent always voted. It’s imperative we find a new way of governing ourselves and protecting our resources. Political parties in their current guise are certainly not going to achieve that. Nor, I would argue, are they capable of being reformed to offer that kind of ability. They are a dog that has had its day and won’t hunt any more.

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My book, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped presented ideas as to how we could change our economic and socio-political systems and attempted to promote discussion and debate around them. Now, however,  I have written a new book that takes them further through what I call “The Universalist Manifesto.” Provisionally entitled. “Searching for Better:  Exploring Ideas for Eliminating Conflict and Improving Quality of Life” I am currently searching for a publisher, but if you are interested in the learning more and/or would like to help in that quest please contact me.

Calling for Proper Disaster Recovery Planning!

Disasters are difficult to predict. Their timing, cause, extent and effects all vary. The only thing you can say for sure is that the better prepared you are the less dire the consequences will be. That is why every good executive and every well-run organisation has a Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP). For the last half century or more – ever since computers became an integral part of doing business, and perhaps even before that – a plan for meeting and recovering from disaster has been deemed an essential part of good organisational governance. The Coronavirus pandemic provides a glaring example of why you need one. Unfortunately, it also provides a good example of poor Disaster Recovery Planning.

With Covid 19 deaths on the scale we have been witnessing, it is perhaps natural and inevitable to point fingers and look to assign blame. Certainly there are many who are jumping into the fray to do just that, even as the crisis rages and before any balanced assessment can be undertaken and the various different approaches taken can be compared. Unfortunately, much of this is simply partisan posturing which demeans carers, critics and criticised alike, and does nothing to ensure that lessons will be learned and lives will not be lost unnecessarily in the future. Nor will a DRP. A DRP does, however, provide a proper framework for conducting a post-disaster review. Not only that, it provides the foundation for plan improvements that will help mitigate the effect of future disasters and save lives.

For starters, key to any DRP is that it is regular tested to ensure preparedness, as well as to gauge both how appropriate and effective the action to be taken is likely to be. Most governments claim to comply with World Health Organisation (WHO) requirements and so have had a basic DRP in place for dealing with a pandemic. It may or may not be possible to verify this, but it seems clear that, even if they did, they were never tested. For proof of this, you need look no further than the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) available when the crisis broke.

It seems pretty obvious that any contagious disease will make demands on your frontline healthcare workers at the very least and that they will need protective gear in order to limit the contagion and spread of the disease. So how come we not only did not have that, but struggled to get access to it? Again it is obvious that if the pandemic is global there will competition for the equipment and thus there should be enough for immediate needs with clear steps for additional sourcing or manufacture.

As most of us now know, the basic requirements to deal with any pandemic are:

  • A constant state of readiness, since it is a disaster that can occur at any time;
  • The identification of the disease and how it spreads;
  • A method of testing for the disease;
  • Creating the capability for mass testing;
  • Steps to prevent the spread of contagion;
  • The safety of healthcare and other essential workers;
  • How and when to scale back on the measures taken in an appropriate manner.

DRP switch button

This is unlikely to be a comprehensive list but at the very least these should therefore provide the framework for any pandemic planning. Accordingly the steps to be taken should already have been established, the resources identified, and their availability secured so that the time it takes to “kick into gear” is reduced to an absolute minimum and there is little chance of avoidable delays. Naturally, as a layman observer, I cannot comment on the extent to which these were or weren’t in place, but the circumstantial evidence – the time things have taken and the problems being encountered – suggests that they were not. As a pandemic is probably the disaster we are most likely to face it begs the question as to how well-placed we are to face other disasters.

In fact, following the Great Recession of 2008, the pandemic is the second disaster to befall us in little more than a decade. Clearly, the time has come for all governments to have a proper DRP in place: one that is regularly checked, audited and which can be used to assess how well government is meeting its accountabilities and safeguarding the interests of its citizens. Hopefully this will also provide a framework for governance that will reduce partisan bickering and improve government effectiveness, both in the planning and the execution.

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Please get hold of my book, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped to read my ideas as to how we could change our economic systems and promote discussion and debate around them so that we can answer these questions to restore democracy and safeguard a better future for future generations.

The Ride to Nowhere

As the UK approaches the forthcoming election, the political scene is as dank, dark and dismal as the weather. There isn’t even the light or warmth of a single new idea or even the prospect of innovation down the road. And all this at a time when politicians concede that “politics is broken.”

Politicians acknowledge that they have lost the trust of people, but persist in chicanery, deceit and peddling downright lies. Every politician who talks about why they went into politics says it is because they want to contribute and help make a better society. Yet they seem to lack any sort of moral compass and be incapable of ever answering a question, let alone telling the truth. Depressing doesn’t even begin to touch on the feelings the situation invokes: we are diving beyond despair.

As we revert to a classic ideological clash between socialist and capitalist ideologies, I question whether I am the only one who can see the pendulum we are on.

Margaret Thatcher swept the Conservatives into power on the back of the discontent caused by poor social management and a struggling economy offering abysmal service and handicapped by one strike after another. The restoration of better economic conditions has resulted in those times being largely forgotten for 40 years.

Now, however, her ideology of minimum government interference and trickle-down economics is proving to be fallible as well, and we witness wealth increasingly concentrating in the hands of the wealthy. Yet the Conservatives continue to promote the same policies. A brilliant cartoon in today’s Times newspaper depicts them as the back wheel of an old Penny-farthing bicycle with the front one being Brexit – itself symbolic of a national desire to go back to the “good, old days” when “Britannia ruled the waves.”

If the cartoonist were apply the same logic to the Labour policy he might perhaps replace the Penny-farthing with an ox-wagon. Although perhaps a little extreme, that would represent the nature of the backward step Labour are proposing with their manifesto and so many of the policies that would restore those pre-Thatcher conditions. Their leaders claim that what they are proposing is not revolutionary but is “transformational.” They may be justified in their claim, but is retrogression really transformation? Do we really want to adopt policies that have failed everywhere they have ever been introduced?

The thing is that pendulum moves but it never goes anywhere. It just oscillates back and forth, from one extreme to another. Unfortunately in this instance the extremes are both undesirable yet we seem to be in the throes of yet another conflict between the two with all the doom, gloom and disaster that comes with them. Yet we seem to be incapable of getting off the damn thing. Like it or not, we are riding this pendulum on its nightmare journey to nowhere. By heavens it is depressing, and I want to get off.

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Please get hold of my book,  The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped read my ideas as to how we could change our economic systems and promote discussion and debate around them so that we can answer these questions to restore democracy and safeguard a better future for future generations.

What if we are at the end of a societal life-cycle?

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Hmm! Societal life-cycle eh?

Could it be that we are at the end of a societal life-cycle?.Have you ever thought about that possibility?

I was stunned recently while reading William Bridges’ 1991 book, “Managing Transitions: Making The Most of Change.” What caught my attention was his statement, “The idea that organizations and societies have life-cycles has been around a long time.” Of course I have been long aware of the concept of the product life-cycle but the idea of an organizational life-cycle was something I had seldom consciously thought about. And I had certainly NEVER thought about a society having a life-cycle! The idea stopped me in my tracks.

Could this perhaps explain much of the political turmoil in the world today? That is a question that certainly warrants consideration.

Building on Shakespeare’s “Seven ages of man” idea, Bridges argue that organizations also go through what he depicts as “The seven stages of organizational life.” He identifies these stages as:

  1. Dreaming the dream (i.e. Identifying a better way)
  2. Launching the venture (i.e. Finding others who share that vision)
  3. Getting organized
  4. Making it (i.e. Turning the vision into reality)
  5. Becoming an institution (i.e. Becoming fixated on status – and hence the status quo)
  6. Closing in (i.e. Complacent self-satisfaction with the way things are)
  7. Dying (i.e. Lost sustainability results in some form of demise)

Bridges freely admits that this is his own framework and that there may be others, and also that there is no fixed time for these stages, but his point is that they exist and there are dynamic stages of transition between each one, with what he calls applicable “Organizational Development laws.” These are:

  1. Those who are at home with the necessary activities and arrangements of one phase are likely to experience the subsequent phase as a severe personal setback
  2. The successful outcome of any phase of organizational development triggers its demise by creating challenges it is not equipped to handle
  3. In any significant transition the thing that the organization needs to let go of is the very thing that got it this far
  4. Whenever there is a painful, troubled time in the organization, a developmental transition is probably going on
  5. During the first half of the life-cycle – up to and including Making it – not to make a transition when the time is right for one will cause a developmental “retardation” in the organization.

Accordingly Bridges argues that “failing to understand the developmental course of organizational life not only confuses issues like the organization’s resistance to innovation, but mistakenly suggests that these are simply “problems to be fixed, rather than the normal behaviour of a stage in the life of the organization. What such an organization needs is not fixing but renewal.”  Citing examples like the US army and IBM he identifies renewal as involving finding ways to reincorporate the energy of the first 3 phases by:

  • Redreaming the dream
  • Recapturing the venture spirit
  • Getting reorganized.

So, what if this does also apply to societies? It seems to me it would be a worthwhile exercise to assume it does. What worlds it might open up. Yet, whether it does or doesn’t may actually be irrelevant. Either way, it certainly seems that we need to take stock and to follow these three steps to recreate, revitalise and re-energise our broken society.

To find this path we need only to ask 3 basic questions:

  • What is it time to let go of?
  • How will we spend our time in the “neutral zone” between the old and the new?
  • What is this new beginning going to require of us and others?

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Please get hold of my book,  The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped read my ideas as to how we could change our economic systems and promote discussion and debate around them so that we can answer these questions to restore democracy and safeguard a better future for future generations.

Tax Reform: More Urgent Than You Think!

Priority urgent 26502187_sTax reform is more urgent than you think. The implications of “The Disappearing PLC”  an article in the October 2014 issue of Management Today make this clear. To say it is food for thought is to significantly understate the case.

The article highlights the fact that, since 1997, the Wall Street high, public listings have declined 50% in the USA and UK, 23% in Europe, and 5% in Asia. It goes on to say “Few observers doubt that something fundamental is afoot – and it’s structural rather than cyclical. In other words it is not a blip.” It explains this is driven by two converging forces.

The first is economic. Here the article states, “The publicly quoted company essentially looks like a creature of the 20th century. Modern business is cash generative far earlier and much less capital intensive then even half a century ago. The need to mobilise outside sources of capital is so much less.”

The second is managerial or ideological. The article cites concern about “public companies fading innovation mojo” and quotes Professor Clayton Christenson “who has the unofficial title of the world’s most influential management guru”  as fretting that “companies anaemic appetite for investor capital is further evidence of this of just this, boding ill for US jobs and growth.”

Another cause of this decline that the article does not specifically identify is what can only be described as “merger mania.” With public companies like Cadbury being subsumed into organisation’s like Kraft Foods it seems inevitable that the number of listed companies must shrink. This compounds the apparent the apparent dearth of new listings that the article bemoans.

Add to this the points I make in “The Democracy Delusion” about industrial scale tax avoidance (epitomised by companies like Amazon and Starbucks making profits of billions in the UK and paying no taxes), and it becomes abundantly clear that this has massive implications for governments. How are they going to replace shrinking tax revenues? Only last week there was an item on the news about tax revenues in the UK being less than forecast!

All this makes makes tax reform more urgent than you think. It imperative that we revisit and reform our national tax systems – URGENTLY.  If we don’t we will be walking blindly into socio-economic and political crisis that will by far exceed any of the major calamities of history in scale. That is why I wrote the book: to try to offer a solution that will help prevent this. Of course it does not have all the answers, but at least my suggestion that companies should not pay tax at all is a provocative starting point for a very important discussion.

Rethink the Response to Civic Nationalism

The status quo is not what it was. The recent referendum in Scotland is having an ongoing ripple effect that carries the promise of inevitable change. And we need to ensure that we shape that change to safeguard a better future.

Many people are still wondering how the result turned out to be as close as it was and how a relatively small and seemingly innocuous minority reached a groundswell of over 2 million people. Yet, for once, political analysts seem united.

They all agree that the separatists were able to exploit the percolating prevalent and persistent dissatisfaction with central government and surf the wave of discontent. They call this “civic nationalism.” They see this as disillusionment with politics and politicians, resulting in people looking to regain control of their own destiny.

Feeding Frenzy at the trough 14289342_sIf, however, that is the case, the answer is certainly not to create more levels of government. Not to create more troughs for incompetent, self-satisfied and self-serving politicians to feed at.

The answer to any problem cannot be more of the same. Yet, all the solutions currently being proposed to civic nationalism revolve around a model that offers more of the same. You need to think very carefully before you allow this to happen.  Einstein said, “You cannot solve a problem from the same level of consciousness that created it.” If the system is not doing what it is supposed to, then you have the wrong system. You don’t need to repair the system, you need to replace it. So let’s rethink our response to civic nationalism and focus on the causes.

While the situation seems unique to the UK, civic nationalism is a widespread problem with the causes fundamentally the same everywhere. So let’s work together to develop a new system and not be rushed into anything that will not solve anything and ultimately leave us even worse off. Let’s ensure that we enable a future that is better for all.

A Fractured Society: Pointer to a New Dark Age?

“Rich double their wealth in five years.” That was the front page headline in a recent Sunday Times. Now I don’t know about you, but for me that is ominous, because living standards for the rest of us are falling.

A BBC report claims that, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, a mid-range UK household’s income had declined by 6% in this time. So here you have clear evidence that the rich are getting richer while the rest of us are getting poorer. And, while the report suggests that this decline “was felt equally across high and low income groups,” (one has to question the dividing line between rich and high income) it adds that, over time, the affects will be felt more by the lower income groups.

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Political self-serving is leadership treason!

The ceaseless cycle of Christmas carols has been put away for another year, only to be replaced by another seasonal cycle with no joy, little originality and only the veneer of goodwill. If the miserable weather and post-holiday blues are not enough, the newspaper headlines will certainly drown you in the dismals!

After a blissful two weeks of virtually news-free isolation, the first headline to greet me on the doorstep on return from holiday was this from The Sunday Times; “PM in new year cash giveaway: Election pledge to raise pensions until 2020: Hints at income tax cuts for all to come.” This was followed by broadcast news that shrieked the next day’s headlines; “George Osborne targets £25 billion more in spending cuts.” It appears that the 2015 election campaign is now underway! Talk about conflicting messages! If you want evidence that politicians are more concerned with re-election than anything else, you don’t have to look any further.

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