Simple Pleasures

How was your Easter? With the four day Easter break so early this year the weather was warm, and the rain last night made it even better – the water tank was getting low. I am thinking back over the last four days, feeling refreshed and wondering what contributes to that feeling … we all know that time away from work doesn’t necessarily leave us feeling energised.

I started keeping a diary when I was 14 or 15 years old. In those days the notes were just records of activity, no reflections or opinion. Maria gives me a hard time that not only was my diary-taking a simple list of activity … it tended to be the same set of things repeated week after week. But my teenage years were happy ones .. full of simple pleasures. And so was this last long weekend.

Reading: I wasn’t up for sleep one night, so spent half the night reading Harrison Owen’s book on Open Space Technology.

Swimming: Usual drill except I took Johanna with me and she swam in indoors while I looked at the black line.

Bike riding: 3 times Johanna and I (once with Rachel) peddled along the Merri trail which winds its way through parklands in the northern suburbs and past our house.

Cleaning: the shower is my job

Cooking: Inspired by Jamie Oliver’s experience cooking for local Italians who turned their noses up at his fancy flavours, I slow baked some tomatoes with oregano from our garden and tossed it with some ‘rags’ of home made pasta. Wonderful.

Friends: We visited some friends who were camping down at Cumberland River. It seemed half of Melbourne was down there, naturally there were thousands at Bells Beach for the Pro surfing, but Anglesea and Lorne were also packed. CR is a superb spot … our friends have been going to the same spot with a bunch of other families for years. Two of our girls joined them this year.

Surfing: Of course, being down the surf coast meant I had to spend a couple of hours trying to catch some waves.

TV: Maria and I watched an old movie, Thirteen Days, the story of how close we came to nuclear war during the Cuban missile crisis.

Music: Our family room has a computers, TV and music, each with capacity to listen via headphones, so we can be together rather than separated. While Maria was reading beside me and a couple of the kids were on the computers I found myself watching/ listening to a music channel counting down the ‘best 1000 songs of all time’!! I spent an hour and a half thoroughly immersed in quality songs, the words and music reaching out of the box and grabbing my soul.

I even washed the cars ….

And went grocery shopping,

And then yesterday we ripped out the tomato plants to make way for some winter vegies.

There is an old Kellogg’s Corn Flakes advertisement that bore the tag line, ‘the simple things in life are often the best.’ My Easter was full of simple things.

I hope you had a good one too.

Long weekends and Living Assets

I love and hate public holidays.

I love them because, like this weekend just gone, it brings people out of their homes into the public spaces. They move slower, seem to smile more, and engage with other people as part of a collective whole … whether they are at a festival, or queuing at a supermarket checkout.

I hate them because we can’t bill. And this season is a shocker. In Melbourne we’ve got 5 of them in a few months. (We so need a redistribution of public holidays; the long stretch between the Queens birthday in June and Melbourne Cup in November is gruelling. Good for billing but.)

At the end of the day, public holidays, when sucked for regenerative value, are fantastic because people need refreshing. Which brings me to something I have been pondering of late …

I did an interview for an audio magazine called Business Essentials last week. (great publication by the way) In the context of describing Ergo Consulting and what we stand for, the question ‘isn’t that idealistic?’ was posed. It got me thinking again about how traditional business thinking makes it pretty easy to appear radical. I thought the same thing when reading last week’s Economist, whose special report on Asset Management was essentially about funds management, which is not how I think about business assets.

12 months ago I was fortunate to meet pioneer business thinker Jay Bragdon, whose book called Profit for Life (Published by The Society for Organisational Learning, 2006) I had read when it was released . Jay argues the case for Living Asset (people and nature) Stewardship and has researched over many years the performance of companies who look after their living assets, as well as their non-living assets (capital). To test the commercial value of Living Asset Stewardship (LAS), he constructed the Global Living Assets Management Performance (LAMP) Index ®, and compared its performance over 10 years from 1995 with Standard and Poor’s 500 Index and the Morgan and Stanley Capital International (MSCI) Index. He selected 60 global companies according to their commitment to LAS relative to their industry peers. The annualised returns over 10 years were LAMP: 17.37%, S&P 500: 9.07%, MSCI World: 7.04%.

Why do I use this blog space to regurgitate figures like this? Because it’s time for us to realise that what might look radical, even soft and idealistic, is actually good business sense. Which doesn’t mean it should be the primary reason the look after people and the environment, but the argument that says people are not resources, and that business has a responsibility to care for the environment, are not the quaint thinking of leaders on the margin.

I resonate with what Jay describes as the two fundamental truths of Living Asset Stewardship. (i) Profit can only arise from life. Economic systems are sub-systems of biological ones. (ii) In a healthy world, profit must serve life.

Ergo’s approach to business is based on Living Asset Stewardship. How is this different from a traditional way of thinking about business? I include a table from Jay’s book for your interest and musing. (Note the last line – that’s mine!)



Existential Attributes
Paradigm: Organic, living system Mechanical, non-living system
Context: Integral to web of life Separate, web is an externality
Culture: Networked, emergent Structured, ordered
Defining Elements: Living assets Non-living capital assets
Dynamics: Self-organising, humanistic Directed, materialistic
Reason for Being: Serve humanity / life (infinite) Serve owners / managers (finite)
Functional Attributes
Authority: Decentralised, localised Centralised, hierarchical
Governance: Diffused responsibility Command and control
Workplace: Open, interactive Closed, bureaucratic
Communications: Transparent, shared access Restricted, limited access
Learning: Self-directed, spontaneous Prescribed, formulaic
Strategic Thinking: Holistic, inclusive, organic Analytical, reductive, acquisitive
Leverage: Inspired employees Financial engineering
Key Metrics: Balanced scorecard Financial indicators
Values-Based Attributes
Mission: Quality of life, service Quantity of profit, financial wealth
Vision: Sustainability, harmony Control of resources, markets
Organisational: Eco-centric, collaborative Anthropocentric, competitive
Employees: Value generators, assets Costs, potential liabilities
Leadership: Serves, mentors, teaches Dominates, orders
Financial: Low debt, self financing Higher debt, frequent borrowing
Profit: Means to fulfil a mission End in itself
Public holidays: Regenerative opportunity Missed billing opportunity