Me and Mr. Jones – The Company Story

Creative minds are funny things. They’re often unorganized, random, and work best at 4 in the morning after days of not sleeping. Sometimes, they don’t work at all. I blame my recent drought of creativity on this unending summer. That’s another thing about creative minds — they’re fickle. When summer first began, I was the first of my friends to already have new board shorts and swim suits ready to go at a moment’s notice. My, how the tide turns once you’ve gained a hundred new freckles, and the space outside of your perhaps overly chilled apartment becomes a claustrophobic sauna. The creative mind cannot be confined! It needs to rebel and plow through molds! It might also need coffee, free-trade of course, with non-dairy creamer.

Perhaps this repressive confinement is why we see so many celebrities and public personas in and out of rehab, going through nasty divorces, in trouble with the law and engaged in so much debauchery. Whether you love them or hate them, these people are creative minds. It takes a certain amount of ambition and craftiness to be a Britney Spears or a Tom Cruise. And then when the media gets hold of them, they become characters. We give them pet names, we give them attitudes, we give them their motivations. We confine them into these roles until at last we watch as these roles become their downfall.

I’ll be the first to admit the completely unnecessary — I love gossip blogs and celebrity news. I’ve been overjoyed watching as Lindsay Lohan goes through periods of enlightenment (usually coupled with asinine public announcements about how she’s changed), as Paris Hilton actually does clean up her act (with not one but three books under her belt now — really, what does the Heiress think is so interesting about herself?), and most especially as Amy Winehouse, not as ironically as the media likes to say, repeatedly says “No, no, no!” to rehab. The Wino’s got some guts, even if they are a little mixed up right now. She’s unapologetic, unabashedly edgy and she’s also one of the most talented pop-stars out there right now.

The media has consistently chastised her marriage to Blake Fielder-Civil throughout Amy’s turbulent and tumultuous summer. Their on again off again romance has been put under the microscope more often than Brangelina adopt kids. But this is another thing about creative minds — they need partnerships that inspire them. Without husband of the year, Mr. Fielder-Civil, Amy would not have been inspired to record her second (and most popular so far) album, Back To Black. While I hope that Amy and her husband get better and continue to push out really amazing music, I will not criticize their relationship. You’re my girl, Amy — you do you.

But this brings me to my topic of this week. Partnerships! Partnerships are absolutely necessary in today’s shrinking global community. Apart from the fact that eventually we’re all going to know each other through someone else thanks to social networking sites like Myspace and Facebook, it’s just easier to get your word out by partnering with an entity that is able to supplement your product. For example, The Employment Guide likes to collaborate with outside entities. We’ve collaborated with the AARP on a series of job fairs in support of the Department of Labor’s National Employ Older Worker’s Week (Sept. 23-29) that will help provide jobs to older job seekers all over the country. It’s been alleged that Britney Spears partnered with TMZ and several other photog-agencies to generate some good ol’ fashioned buzz to keep her in the spotlight. Even non-profits are getting in on the game.

The often infamous, always outrageous and unique, international non-profit organization, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), is an old pro at collaborating with celebrities that will position them in the forefront. Their galaxy of stars includes such names as Pamela Anderson, P!nk, Morrissey, Dorothy from “The Golden Girls,” and even country stars like Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton. Often these partnerships are used for shock value and to gain media attention — but isn’t that the point? When choosing who to collaborate with, it’s important to keep in mind your target demographic, the message you want to get across, what the most effective way to get that message across might be, and what your partnership will offer both of you. Non-profits like to use celebrities because it gains them an amount of media exposure that would be impossible if their work was taken alone. Celebrities like to partner with non-profits because it helps their PR image. I mean, I know I was quick to forgive Janice Dickinson for being arrogant and often abrasive when I found out she doesn’t support fur. That’s just cute!

So, while partnerships aren’t always celebrated, they’re always important. One man alone can have the vision, but a team can build the connection between what you see in your head and the consumer. Whether the media likes the collaboration or not, it’s important to stay true to who you are, who your company is, and always believe in your vision. Go make lovely things happen!

October Retreat Reflections

Last month a small number of like-minded folk gathered at Currer Laithe Farm in Keighley for our Schumacher North October Retreat. The focus of the weekend was ‘sharing ways in which we can awaken to a deeper connection with life and each other’ and it turned out to be a nourishing weekend for both body and spirit.

Feedback from Retreat participants:

“I really enjoyed the retreat and meeting so many different people with different perspectives on all the issues we face today. There were both formal and informal sessions where we discussed many topics. We were so lucky with the weather which was glorious. I particularly enjoyed going on cold but bright walks in the beautiful surrounding countryside. I will always remember the animals which live at the farm. The dogs which chased after the car as we left and the goats and cows that live at the farm. The food was delicious and it was good to see how creative and nourishing vegan cooking can be. All in all a great retreat again and thanks to Anna for organizing it and everyone for being there.” Mary


I had a wonderful time. Meeting people new and known, seeing developments in people and the world and being given the opportunity to share perspectives. The thing I loved most about the weekend was the shared respect I encountered. Honestly, this is for me becoming a cultural rarity. I came away with an absolute belief that people care and that the issue facing us is a human one, we need to trust each other, listen to each other and act to our individual passions. Coming to the Schumacher weekend for me is like being filled up with hope and it keeps me going. Till next year a very sincere Thank you for arranging it. X x x. Helen


“I really enjoyed the weekend. For me, being clearer about the structure would have made it easier (e.g. when there was “free time, to walk/ nap” etc…) but I know not everyone would feel this way. Big hug”
Tom

Female in equality for mega rich

With gender equality becoming an ever increasing topic and companies changing old school policies to make sure there is equality for all there has been a big rise in Female CEO’s and business leaders. While businesses are doing more and more to ensure that all genders are treated equally there is still a gap in the numbers of female board members.

The EU established a new policy in 2017 to push for a quota to increase the number of female board members. This is to address the issue of slow progress in large organisations to address the gender equality in high management positions within PLCs. Under this new initiative companies that have a ration of more than 60% men to women in non executive director positions would be make to priorities women when presented with two candidates of equal merit for the same post.

While this is a seen by some as a good and necessary step to realise equality at this level previous attempts of this kind of initative have been blocked by several companies who have accused the EU of meddling into domestic affairs.

Get Me My Mortgage have carried out a study into the top 20 richest people within the UK, this study not only highlights that the majority of the people on the list are self made and have worked for their fortune instead of inheriting it. But actually further highlights the in equality at the very top of the rich list. The study reveals that only 20% of the people on the list are women and none of the women on the list have made it without family money or businesses.

In 2020 there are alot more opportunities for women in the work place and while some companies still have old school views and are seen as having a ‘boys club’ at the top there are plenty of companies embracing the skills and intelligence that a female director can offer to any business. Hopefully as we move further towards true equality we will see a rise in the number of Female entrepreneurs and business women rising to the top.

Business Ecology and Customer Connections

A recent conversation with Harvey Koeppel, executive director of the Center for CIO Leadership, got me thinking about context and its role in business ecology. Koeppel made the point that companies in both the developed world and in emerging markets are focusing more on customers. In established companies in the developed world, that translates to consolidating multiple data warehouses to improve the quality and timeliness of customer data across the enterprise of ecology.

In emerging markets, there’s the same interest in being more customer driven, but the approach is radically different, focusing more on web, mobile, broadband and real-time analytics to get intelligence from a million tweets and quickly feed that information to front-line salespeople to influence which products they’re pushing right now. In both cases the customer focus is being driven by the C suite, and it depends on customer analytics, but it’s a completely different game, Koeppel says. In part there’s an inherent difference: established companies have decades of legacy systems to support, and the vast majority of their budgets go to keeping those things running and adapting them to new environments — e.g., putting a web front end on an old Cobol system — while emerging companies start out using broadband and capturing and manipulating data in real time. Established companies are focusing more on their internal business ecology while emerging companies more easily see themselves and operate in a broader ecosystem.

A similar gap is emerging between the public and the private sector, Koeppel says — in particular in government’s embrace of social media and a focus on data over process. The private sector historically has focused on business process, then applications, then finally data, according to Koeppel, himself a former CIO, but what’s happening in government is turning that on its head. Initiatives like Data.gov and New York City’s Big Apps contest start with the data — lots of data — and then engage people to make it useful with some interesting and surprising results. The World Bank just today announced that it was opening its data catalogue and holding an Apps for Development competition.

All of this is where the connection to business ecology comes in. No organization exists in a vacuum. Whether we talk about companies in emerging markets engaging on the fly with customers in a giant sensing/responding mode, or government entities opening the floodgates of raw data to let constituents make something useful and unexpected of it, the way the world works is changing. It is, I think, a time to avoid incrementalism and short-term thinking. It is a time to question existing business models and re-conceive them within a more porous context, in relation not only to customers but also to suppliers, partners and other entities. It’s time to build a new kind of structure, one that focuses less on controlling the environment and more on finding a place within it.

I wonder, however, if — technology issues aside — large enterprises can overcome their own solipsism to recognize the relevance of other entities, processes and frames of reference. Can they overcome their own legacy mental models to place themselves in a larger context? Of that I’m not so sure.

Organism Is the Wrong Construct for Business Ecology

One of the precepts of the Business Ecology Initiative is that “the enterprise is a living organism in a dynamic and volatile environment and must be managed as such” (Lundberg, 2011). The idea of an organization as a living organism carries with it many implications, one of which is that of single-mindedness. I believe that in a digital, networked world, it will become increasingly important to consider an organization as a multi-minded social system. The reason for this is contained in the second part of the precept; modern businesses operate in increasingly dynamic and volatile environments.

There are three possibilities for the “mindedness” of an organization. An organization can have no mind whatsoever, it can have one mind, or it can have more than one mind.Communication two heads

The industrial age ushered in the development of the mechanistic, no-minded, business. Then, a business was simply a tool, a means to generate profits for its owner. The parts of the business, both human and technological, were considered as no more than parts of the machine – replaceable, without choice, and governed by the needs of mass production: efficiency, predictability and control.

The success of mass production led to mass consumption, which, interestingly enough, made mass production no longer sufficient for success. Now, in order to survive, a business had to face the problem of managing its unprecedented growth. Well suited to this need was the emerging idea of a business as a single-minded organism, after all, organisms have solved the growth problem. The mechanism was to kill or be killed – survival of the fittest. When considered in this light, a business’s purpose is survival, and in order to survive it must aggressively pursue the raw material for growth.

Aggressive pursuit of profits enabled businesses to grow, and to effectively manage this growth, they increasingly turned to the divisional structure. Each division took its direction from executive management (the brain) and had no real say in the governance of the organization. The only “thinking” allowed a division was to manage its operations by anticipating demand and adjusting capacity accordingly. This single-minded, top-down, organism-based model, which operates in a “predict and prepare” mode, is still very prevalent today.

Over the past decade, the competitive environment has become more dynamic and volatile, making success more difficult. The next major mode of thought to emerge recognizes the unique problem-solving capabilities of a business’s community of stakeholders. This approach recognizes that two heads are better than one and views the organization as a multi-minded, social network of human capability.

In order to thrive in this more complex, networked, dynamic environment, an organization activates its relationships, both internal and external, tapping into the knowledge, experience and insight of its members. The goal is to both align divergent purposes toward a single objective and use social synergy to solve messy problems.

Treating a business as an organism where a central brain does all the thinking and the parts respond automatically is becoming an increasingly dysfunctional way to operate. Rather than conceptualize enterprises as organisms, a better metaphor for the future is that of a multi-minded social system.

Business Ecology for Connected Business

This is my first post as executive director of the http://schumacher-north.co.uk/. I’m eager to engage with all of you who have been working on this already or who would like to be part of this important initiative moving forward. — Abbie Lundberg

Information technology’s effect on businesses over the past 25 years has been in many ways like the effect of radiation on comic book superheroes: We’ve gained some amazing powers, but they come with unfortunate side effects. The stitching together of new features and abilities as they’ve come along has caused inefficiency and dysfunction — and at the extreme end of the spectrum, some truly stunning business technology failures. It’s certainly made it hard to adapt business models and operations quickly as the environment continues to change.

Well it’s time to make sense of all this mess; it’s time for business ecology.

Business ecology is about creating a new model for technology-enabled business – one that eliminates waste while creating a more resilient and responsive business operating model. It starts with a more holistic approach to planning, understanding and managing the enterprise, recognizing that everything is interconnected and so nothing can be managed in isolation. Like an ecosystem.

Business ecology addresses business process flows, data design, and the mechanisms you use to control your business – from governance to incentives to event processing. A key foundational piece of all this is business architecture. The OMG Business Architecture special interest group defines business architecture as “a blueprint of the enterprise that provides a common understanding of the organization and is used to align strategic objectives and tactical demands.” More on this in a future post.

One last thing about business ecology: It requires that business and technology become as one. No more trying to get aligned. We’re all in this together.

By now you’ve figured it out: Business ecology is big, and it’s hugely ambitious. Never one to shrink from a good challenge, I’m delighted to take on the role of executive director of the Business Ecology Initiative, a member-driven organization founded by the Object Management Group to provide education, advocacy and a forum to develop actionable means to put the business ecology precepts into practice.

Over the coming months, we’ll be further evolving the business ecology concept and fleshing out the key enablers

All About BPA & NPEs

Bisphenol A (BPA) mimics estrogen and acts as an endocrine disruptor at very low doses. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with the hormone mechanisms of the body. While previous high-dose studies of BPA indicated minimal risk, more recent research into the low-dose effects of BPA on the body’s hormone systems has raised concern among researches and Federal agencies. Source: Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Basis Statement for Bisphenol-A.
“There is no controversy that BPA is an endocrine disruptor, acting by inhibiting the effects of estrogen, a vital reproductive and developmental hormone. … The current consensus of most scientists, as well as U.S. and international government agencies, is that there is sufficient evidence that BPA produces adverse effects at environmentally relevant exposures. Well over 100 studies have documented adverse effects on growth, brain development, behavior, early onset of puberty, changes in sex hormones, male fertility, and immune function as a result of exposure to environmentally relevant doses during the prenatal or postnatal period in animal models.”

NPE’s

PEs (nonylphenol ethoxylates) are a group of chemicals that, like BPA, mimic the sex hormone estrogen. NPEs are highly toxic to aquatic life, degrade into a long-lived chemical that builds up in the food chain, and may harm reproduction and development in humans. Aggregate exposure to NPEs from all sources threatens the health of children, workers and the environment. For more information about NPEs, refer to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s Basis Statement for Nonylphenol and Nonylphenol Ethoxylates.

Why is EPA concerned about these chemicals?

NP and NPEs are produced in large volumes, with uses that lead to widespread release to the aquatic environment.
NP is persistent in the aquatic environment, moderately bioaccumulative, and extremely toxic to aquatic organisms. NP has also been shown to exhibit estrogenic properties in in vitro and in vivo assays. NP’s main use is in the manufacture of NPEs.

NPEs are nonionic surfactants that are used in a wide variety of industrial applications and consumer products. Many of these, such as laundry detergents, are “down-the-drain” applications. Some others, such as dust-control agents and deicers, lead to direct release to the environment. NPEs, though less toxic and persistent than NP, are also highly toxic to aquatic organisms, and, in the environment, degrade into NP.

NP and NPEs have been found in environmental samples taken from freshwater, saltwater, groundwater, sediment, soil and aquatic biota. NP has also been detected in human breast milk, blood, and urine and is associated with reproductive and developmental effects in rodents.

Limited U.S. regulation:

The European Union has already banned or severely restricted many uses of NP and NPEs. However, only last year did the U.S. EPA issue a chemical action plan to address the health risks associated with these chemicals. To date EPA has relied on voluntary cooperation from industry to help phase out the use of NP and NPEs in household laundry detergents, mainly through EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) Safer Detergents Stewardship Initiative. The DfE program incentivizes the production of safer products through a label system, which products for consumer or commercial purchase can earn if they meet certain safety criteria. Currently, the program’s impact is limited to the use of NPs and NPEs in household detergents, although industrial detergents remain a major source of NPEs to the environment.

Maine’s Kid Safe Products Act:

Maine passed a chemical safety law in 2008 called the Kid Safe Products Act, under which manufacturers must disclose the use of priority chemicals of high concern in consumer products. The State may require companies to search for safer alternatives. Priority chemicals in products may be phased out when children are exposed and safer alternatives are available, effective and affordable.

In 2010, Maine named the first two priority chemicals under the Kid Safe Products Act: bisphenol A (BPA) and nonylphenol (NP) / nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs). Manufacturers were required to report their use of NPEs in cosmetics, personal care products, cleaners and home maintenance products by October 3, 2011.

What you can do:

When you choose household detergents and laundry detergents:

READ the LABEL

Look for products that list all of their ingredients.
Look for products that are biodegradable.
Look for products that state they use plant or vegetable-based surfactants (coconut surfactants are one example of a plant surfactant).
Many major brands are starting to introduce cleaning products detergents that do not use NPE-based surfactants

Zero Carbon Yorkshire

On the 27th February 2016 – Campaigners from across Yorkshire came together at Leeds Civic Hall to launch the Zero Carbon Yorkshire initiative to rally people around bold policies that can transition Yorkshire off fossil fuels to tackle climate change and inequality. Zero Carbon Yorkshire are linking in their launch with the Leap Year, arguing that ‘small steps are no longer enough, it is time to make a leap’.

Zero Carbon Yorkshire is aiming for Yorkshire to be the first Zero Carbon region in Britain, with a roadmap as to how Yorkshire can accelerate the transition to renewable energy, insulate our homes to a high standard and radically improve our transport system.  ZCY is building a broad-based,region-wide movement that will bring together businesses, local government, academia, religious groups, campaigners and individuals  in a new and ground-breaking partnership to forge a better future for Yorkshire, demonstrating what a clean, green, renewable-energy-driven powerhouse England’s largest county has the potential to become.

The international climate summit in Paris left us in no doubt that radical changes to our economy are required to achieve the greenhouse gas emissions reductions needed to keep the climate within safe limits. It is clear that we cannot rely on governments alone to take the action needed to tackle climate change – the real solutions will come from the people, from local communities working together with the determination to take control of our own lives and our local economy.  As many parts of  Yorkshire are having to fight  against fracking schemes, fuel poverty and poor air quality, the Zero Carbon Yorkshire campaign  offers a chance to rally around a vision for the world we actually do want. We want to bring warm homes, clean community-owned energy, better public transport and local climate jobs to Yorkshire within the next 10-15 years. It is an ambitious goal but, if we roll our sleeves up and get to work, it can be done. Join us!

Equity and Ecology- Building a Fair and Sustainable Local Economy

This public afternoon workshop was organised by Schumacher North in collaboration with Third Sector Leeds, the statutory representative body for the Leeds Third Sector, and took place on 25 September 2015 at St. George’s Centre, Gt. George St., Leeds.  Judith Blake (Leader of Leeds City Council) had agreed to speak at the event, but was called away on urgent international business.  The Council was represented by Richard Lewis (Exec. Member for Regeneration, Transport and Planning) and Alex Sobel, now lead spokesperson on climate change for the Council and also the director of Social Enterprise Yorks. & Humber.

Other speakers included Prof. Paul Chatterton, leader of the M.A. programme in Social Activism at Leeds University and founding member of LILAC sustainable co-housing project, Mags Shevlin, director of LATCH (Leeds Action To Create Homes), Nigel Foster, director of the Leeds Ahead partnership and former president of Leeds Chamber of Commerce, Mary Brennan of Leeds Poverty Challenge, Naomi Harriet-Brown of Hyde Park Source and Chris Smyth of Leeds Credit Union.

60 people attended, representing a wide range of public, private and Third Sector organisations, as well as concerned individuals.  Workshop session were held on the following topics:

  • Combating Fuel Poverty with energy efficiency improvements to properties
  • How to make affordable, sustainable Community led housing work in Leeds and the surrounding region
  • How can Leeds reduce vehicle emissions through infrastructure and changes in transport use?
  • Carbon Conversations – a tool for facilitating behaviour change in communities and organisations
  • Community Energy
  • Empowering communities towards local food sovereignty

Each workshop group came up with a set of recommendations for action and was asked to select one key recommendation; these were rated by attendants who responded to a feedback survey, and have been presented to the leader of the Council.  The 6 key recommendations were as follows:

  • Follow Bristol Green Capital partnership model for delivering sustainability through partnership with Third and Private Sector.
  • Council to buy under-used land at current market value, put infrastructure in place and sell it on for use for sustainable community projects.
  • Leeds Living Streets – Reclaim the Public Realm
  • City-wide Carbon Conversations programme including public and private sector employees – and management?!
  • A demonstration housing retrofit project combining insulation, biomass-powered district heating, PV generation + digital Smart energy monitoring.
  • A designated funded post in the City to lead on food sovereignty issues.

Schumacher North and Zero Carbon Yorkshire will be carrying forward some of these recommendations in collaboration with the City Council and other partners.

One Planet York Launch Event

The One Planet York launch event occurred on the 15th June 2016 at the Ron Cooke Hub at the University of York.  One Planet York aims to get the city working towards a ‘one planet’ future as current consumption in the UK is using the resources of 3 planets.

Hosted and facilitated by a partnership between Schumacher North, City of York Council, and the York Environment Forum, the launch was an information and networking event for organisations and businesses in York.  York’s first Green Party Mayor, Dave Taylor, attended, and keynote speaker Gary Topp emphasised the importance of collaborative partnerships  between organisations including but not dominated by the council, and shared words of encouragement and inspiration from his own experiences working in Bristol, the UK’s first European Green Capital.

One Planet York uses 10 principles to encompass sustainability;

  • Zero Carbon
  • Zero Waste
  • Sustainable Transport
  • Sustainable Materials
  • Sustainable Water
  • Land Use and Wildlife
  • Culture and Heritage
  • Equity and Local Economy
  • Health and Happiness

A total of 25 ‘Early Pledger’ organisations – companies, community groups and public sector bodies who are showing leadership in the ten ‘One Planet Living’ principles – also attended the launch event including; First York, York Community Energy, Edible York, Yorkshire Water, Get Cycling and St Nicks Environment Centre.  The event encouraged individuals and organisations to ‘pledge’ to One Planet York, to be part of a city working together with the opportunity to network, share and learn from others.

Some areas are already benefiting from collaboration, with Nestles’ Zero Waste factories, electric buses from First encouraging a more sustainable transport system, renewable energy generation and an increase in the application of the national living wage from companies such as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, linking into the principle of ‘Equity and Local Economy’.  Taken together these actions are helping put York onto a more sustainable and resilient footing.