It seems a lot of things have come unstuck during lockdown.
The office has moved from being an almost invisible fixture, a fact of life of work, to an option. For many, commuting has become an expensive and potentially hazardous choice. Businesses that depend on passing trade have suffered enormously when people stopped passing.
There’s been another side of the coin. I heard part of an interview earlier in the week when the person being interviewed was rejoicing that as the office was now optional, a whole new range of jobs could be globally sourced. Businesses have discovered that they can cope without a significant proportion of people they put on furlough. A government committed to balanced budgets had found not just a money tree, but a forest of them.
Our habits have changed.
The way we shop, How we meet. What we buy. How and where we spend our leisure time.
The business, social and economic models we had at the beginning of this year have come apart. In coming apart both the existing flaws, and the looming threats have become clearer.
- We could have been more prepared, and weren’t. The scale and speed of the pandemic may have been a shock, but we weren’t even prepared for a smaller one.
- We found out about the fragility of our economy – from a disproportionate dependence on shallow service industries, an extractive finance industry to hugely exposed supply chains.
- We found out about the jobs that really matter, and noticed the inverse relationship between pay and societal contribution.
- That making money by moving money around doesn’t create anything other than increasing inequality.
- Our relationships were tested, and we found out who our friends are. Not always where we thought.
- We are able to imagine, globally, what might happen if the individual consequences of climate change, from floods to forest fires joined hands and just how remarkably vulnerable we are. Our collective hubris has been put on show.
We still have all the pieces of what we’ve broken though, and have a choice as to how we glue them back together. Like some global version of “The Repair Shop“, we can, if we choose apply skill, care and a spirit of craft to restore much of what has been lost:
- Our sense of community
- Our respect for nature and its abundance
- Understanding that contribution beats the hell out of consumption.
- That enough is fine, and that more than enough is usually wasted on trivia.
- Realising that financial wealth is capricious, and only the tiniest fraction of what true wealth is.
How do we start putting things back together?
Waiting for our politicians and corporate leaders looks like it will be a very long wait. Not that they are bad people (though I can’t help feeling some qualify) so much as they are deeply entangled, like some bloated Gulliver, by ties to the vested interests that benefit from the skewed economy we have created. Platitudes, financial, social or political won’t do it. It needs something altogether more substantive. We don’t have time for gradual.
A new form of business is in my view our best bet. Alan Moore talks and writes about beautiful businesses. I like the juxtaposition – beautiful and business are not worlds we normally put together – but why not? At their best, these businesses:
- Create and support communities
- Inspire – from Accounting (think XERO) to Music (Santa Cruz Guitars)
- Develop Craft Skills that feed people for life.
- Help heal the world, not exploit it.
- Create legacies, not liabilities.
It starts with us. What we buy, where we buy, who we support, what we build.
In the Originize community we talked last night about beauty, and reached the conclusion that the opposite of beauty is not ugly, it is abuse of potential. I think that’s what beautiful businesses have – potential.
To use our glue with care.
footnote. If you want to see how we’re looking to develop the beautiful conversations that trigger beautiful businesses, you can see one tonight – and maybe join in.Register here.