The Wicked Podcast

Alan Moore: Do Build

March 30, 2021 [email protected] Episode 39
The Wicked Podcast
Alan Moore: Do Build
Show Notes Transcript

We talk to Alan Moore about purpose and beauty in modern organisations. What value do we really want to create in organisations?

Author page: https://thedobook.co/products/do-build-how-to-make-and-lead-a-business-the-world-needs
Book page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Do-Build-Business-World-Needs/dp/1907974911/

The Wicked Podcast:
Support us on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/thewickedpodcast
The Wicked Podcast website: http://www.thewickedcompany.com/podcast/
'The Wicked Company' book on Amazon.co.uk: https://www.amazon.co.uk/WICKED-COMPANY-When-Growth-Enough-ebook/dp/B07Y8VTFGY/
The Wicked Company website: https:www.thewickedcompany.com

Music:
'Inspired' by Kevin MacLeod
Song: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/3918-inspired
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Marcus Kirsch:

Welcome to the wicked podcast where we read the business books you don't have time for. I'm Marcus Kirsch. And I'm Troy Norcross. And we are your co hosts for the wicked podcast. Lights,

Troy Norcross:

camera, action. You've got new toys, Marcus, you've got new toys today, don't you? What kind of toys did you get?

Marcus Kirsch:

Well, I got a new camera. And hopefully now we can see all my wrinkles and all my tiredness. Yeah, and I kinda like this app. So I kind of look probably 10 years. Whatever. Yeah, your toys. We were trying new things. We're improving iterative improvement of the podcast. Yes. Eventually look, actually professional.

Troy Norcross:

Come on, come on, don't quit, don't push it too far. But whether it's professional, whether it's not, we've got great guests on the show, and who's on the show today.

Marcus Kirsch:

So today, we have we're talking to Alan Moore. And his book do build is also a bit of a follow up, or, you know, this is his recent book, I first came across him when he wrote a book 11 years ago, called no straight lines about the world's new complexities. And I loved it. So this time, we're talking about to build to him. And there was a great, great conversation about beauty and other things. But what were your takeaways in your actions for our listeners that he pulled out of there.

Troy Norcross:

So I really enjoyed reading the book, it was a relatively quick read, there are so many ideas in there that I'm absolutely passionately believing in. And yet I see them as kind of big, big obstacles to being able to implement, I think, if I'm going to be giving advice to people, one of the things he said that I really loved was just sit for a few minutes, and think about beauty and think about how you can bring beauty into your business. Think about more than profit, think about people in place. And you know, I talk an awful lot about kind of stakeholder capitalism and the like. The other thing that he pointed out was, it's not just government regulation, it's necessary for change. There are lots of companies and lots of individuals that are sitting on huge piles of cash that want to see change for good in the world. environmental sustainability goals. ESG is a number of other things. So I think if I'm going to give advice to clients, it's going to be like, I don't care what your competition is doing that. Okay, what the government is doing. You as a leader, you as a business owner can bring about this change? No, it's not going to be easy. Yes, it's going to be worth it. And I'll get off my little soapbox now. And you tell me what your takeaways were?

Marcus Kirsch:

Well, yes, I think my biggest takeaway as well was the general idea that we have, we need to start telling that story more, which is a bit what part of what we're doing here as well. Right? So and not being afraid to use words like empathy and beauty. But the real thing, and I'm going to pick up on the similar thing that you said with abroad ESG. So I happen just to do a piece of research for a sustainability client of mine. And what this just shows, in piles is a lot of evidence on the fact that B corpse and all these new companies were actually are driven by purpose, rather than by profit. They're performing better, they're making more profit. Who would have thought that? So it's a great thing to hear that. Here's some examples. It gives you hope, because you know, we've we've heard about it on this podcast quite a couple of times in this episode, as well, is we need to change this. And there's a lot of ways to change change. There is a lot of a lot of people doing a lot of creative work out there. And they're doing doing amazing work. So I think some of the examples he's giving us the evidence of, well, you can do this, you can do that. I found really great. So things like B corpse and others are amazing. Apart from the fact that we also talked a little bit about the example of the company that Brian Eno is co founder that can sue countries now because their client as a lawyers company, is planet Earth. And I know I heard it on a different podcast ad but you know, it's a good episode. So uh, you know, on turn Richardson and the future notes, they talk about that in their special which is great. So who brought that in any talk a bit about that company, and what it does. So you know, there's people using The law is using other legal aspects as people using other elements of purpose. And in order to get there, hacking the system, and it's great gives you hope. And I loved I loved those part of the stories that that everyone should know about.

Troy Norcross:

And you're right, and storytelling was was a key element of what he had to say. But before we tell all of his stories, what should we do? Marcus, we should.

Marcus Kirsch:

Let's go to the interview. Hello, everyone. Today, we're here with Ellen Moore. Hello, Ellen. And thank you for making time for us.

Alan Moore:

Well, thank you very much for inviting me. I'm very glad to be here on the show with you guys.

Marcus Kirsch:

We're here to talk about your new book, even so I first came across your writings, because of your previous book, no straight lines, which I really loved. But we're talking about your new book today. So let's start at the top. Please tell our listeners, who you are and why you wrote the book?

Alan Moore:

Well, my name is Alan Moore. I'm the founder of beautiful dog business. And my interest is in how we can make businesses more beautiful and the world that we live in today. And why did I write the book? This last book do build really is asking this question about, I think, what does the world need? I'm not sure that businesses kind of really looked at that question in the way that he really should do. And I felt that for all sorts of reasons, which I'm sure we'll get into in the conversation and chat today that we really need to be focuses on that idea. What does the world need? And what does business kind of really deliver to that? Why are we here? What reason do we exist? What is the value of bringing your business into this world? Who is it serving? Who is it benefiting? Is it only shareholders? Or is it actually people and planet?

Marcus Kirsch:

it? Should we here to talk about UBI even so I first came across bill you're writing?

Alan Moore:

previous which will quit on my mind.

Unknown:

But what a time

Marcus Kirsch:

today, so please tell our riders who you are and why you wrote the book,

Alan Moore:

as an invitation, perhaps to others to have that conversation.

Marcus Kirsch:

I'm gonna ask one question. And one question only about your last book. No straight lines is a lot about complexities in the modern world. Is there any connection between that book and your new book is the one question I wanted to ask just to bridge things a little bit?

Alan Moore:

Absolutely, I mean, it's, it's, I mean, no straight lines, making sense of our nonlinear world, which is full title of the book, which is a bit of a mouthful, even now, 11 years later, but essentially what I was saying in that book, which was actually a seven year project, so I mean, I started out in 2005. There were all sorts of things that were just coming up for me, which I thought were really important for us to investigate and to think about. And what I said essentially was, is we're at the adaptive age of our industrial society. And I was saying that in 2007, I think, from what I could see, and and what we were going to see was sort of a conflation, a, you know, a big smash of economic, social and climatic problems, which would take our world from how we were seeing frame, here's why we call linear an industrial view of the world to one that would be nonlinear to one which actually would really be very problematic for us to understand how we would move forward in that world. And here we are today, you know, in a place which is actually more nonlinear, the one that I thought we would be at actually really quite extraordinary. But I think that the the book coming out in 2011, I think on the back of the global financial crisis no one really was then prepared to listen to what was being said not just by me but a whole bunch of other people. But but the

Unknown:

Yeah, yeah.

Alan Moore:

Okay, and I'll cover where I was. So, so 2011, the book came, came out. And, of course, the reality was is people weren't really interested in the idea of transformation moving into a new place. They were really interested in how do we hang on to what we currently have. And I think what saddened me in this last decade is we've almost doubled down on where we were 10 years ago. And I think the pandemic and all the other things that have gone on the polarisation of the world have demonstrated actually that that economic, social net climactic thing is really creating this extraordinary change shaping reality of the world that we live in. Which of course, has caused huge problems for the for the world. So I think there absolutely is a red thread between those straight lines and do build. I think maybe what i've i've done on that journey, is to learn to become a better storyteller. And I think the we, we really frame and shape our world through stories. And through beliefs, if we can look at just what is currently happened in our world, even over the last six months. The stories that are being told have got nothing to do with science, they've got nothing to do with evidence they've all got to do with storytelling. And I think that what I've seen is that we need to be the storytellers of a world that could be better, and has a better possibility of us all thriving in it, rather than actually be one which is creating polarisation and all the rest of it that we're we're currently seeing.

Troy Norcross:

So can I can I pick up on that? And I absolutely. First off, I want to say I really enjoyed reading the book. And I agree wholeheartedly with a lot of the sentiments within the book. And then I put on my, my sceptics hat, you know, and look at humanity such that it is we were talking about storytelling, I look at what's happened with Brexit and what happened with Trump and what's been happening with the pandemic. And there's very little critical thinking, there's very little looking at evidence, there's very little looking at data, factual or or other, it's emotion, emotion, emotion, everything is driven by emotion, emotion, fear, emotion, anger, emotion, whatever. And I always kind of struggle with the fact that okay, how do I, you know, bring in consulting to an enterprise organisation, and help them without kind of, at least acknowledging this level of fear and anxiety and kind of energy that supersedes that Trumps. I mean, I'm also a blockchain consultant, right? This whole thing with Bitcoin, Bitcoin moved from a little bit of a science project, to a cult, to where it is now, you know, which is between Ponzi scheme and religion. If you look at any of the data, there's no reason for Bitcoin to have any value at all. And yet it does. So how is this that we can move business from a capitalist, pure shareholder focus, where it's all emotion driven, polarisation to a multi stakeholder kind of capitalist approach where you're looking holistically at people, environment and everything else through storytelling?

Alan Moore:

Well, and I think that we have to start from a place I think, that universally engages and invites people into that conversation. And in terms of then, the do bill book or the whole conversation around beauty. What I think is, is that we need to have a conversation about what sustains us for an eternity what actually can help us actually feel that we can be part of something where you know, whether you're making a you know, a vineyard or a bank or an energy company or a farmer or a trainer brand or kind of whatever that actually you can be in service to something which is over other greater good. I can't really comment on Bitcoin because I'm not part of it. I mean, I read about it, and I I understand that. And then of course, there's always a great deal of heat and energy around technology and where those things are taking us. My work I think is, is really sort of taking people back to the idea that collectively we can see a world that we can forge together. And the business is actually a sort of part of that, which is absolutely fundamental to how we move that forward. So the framing, and the reframing, and the replanting of what that means, I think, is absolutely essential to how we move forward. There's many different kind of component parts to that. But to me, I think that's a extremely important.

Troy Norcross:

Okay, so now one of the second half of that, and you said, for an eternity, you know, for long term, I'm lucky if I can get people to think beyond the end of next week. Yeah, I'm lucky if I can get publicly traded corporations to think beyond the next quarter. Because that's all they ever think about. I'm lucky if I can get a politician to think longer than their next election. How do you get people to stop thinking, you know, front of their face, and start thinking longer term, longer horizon, but

Alan Moore:

well, so this is the way that I would, I would I would present that is that nature is not designed selfishly. And she's been running one of the longest r&d projects, we know. She may well be the best designer we've ever had a macro scale at a micro scale. And in fact, her purpose, or the purpose of nature is to support the needs of all life. And the really interesting thing about that is nature does not waste a single atom. So, to your point, I feel your pain. And I understand what you're saying is that nature has a very long horizon line. And there's a an artist programme, Sam keefer. He is someone I worked with many, many years ago. And he said, when God invented time, he created a lot of it. So what so what, so what so why don't we use it wisely. So I think if we want to be around for a long time, if you want to sort of exist in a place, that's really going to be a great plus place for us to be in that we think we need to be looking at nature Steve design model. And the investigation of that I think is really important and interesting, because there's a guy called Frank Vilcek, who I wrote about Indu design. He wrote a book called The most beautiful question in the world. And he was a Nobel Prize winning physicist, that his question was this the world of work of art. Because he says all the theories that describe the laws of nature, macro micro scale, are all beautiful, in the way that they seek symmetry and harmony, or at least balance and the idea that you don't eat everything that is around you. Because the reality is as though once you've eaten everything, there's nothing left. Right? So for me, it's beauty in form, beauty and process. Beauty is ecosystem. And the root word for me around beauty just so that we may I make this absolutely clear. This is not about ascetics, but it's about the fundamental laws of how our world works, which is based upon the principle of eternity and regeneration. And I would also say in terms of what you you've you've just asked me is Larry Fink. As you know, BlackRock is now already talking about the reality that esgs businesses that are investing in new environmental sustainable goals, and all the rest of it, are already seeing a five point benefit, benchmark above those that are not competing in that space in the same way. And just consider what I said, so I'm not going to apologise, they're going to be poetic, I'm not going to apologise for the fact that I'm going to bring all sorts of other things into this in terms of the realities and the arguments I'm going to make. But the fact is, is that the design system of our industrial world is based on an extractive system and an extractive model, which is completely against the principles of actually living a long, eternal, thriving life. You know, we are not good ancestors. We are not building for legacy. And it's crazy. It's like, you know, you get to the age of 70 you got I don't know 20 billion pounds in your bank account. You can't spend it you know, the reality is you can't spend it and, and the reality is also as human beings we are built actually to work collectively together. I know there's there's extreme ends of that spectrum, but Reality is that is how we work. And that is how we will survive. And that is how we will thrive. And so for me that is the argument is like, you can, you can do your kind of like, you know, your KPIs for the end of the week, or, you know, this afternoon. And there may will be times when actually, because of actually, what you're doing requires you to think about what it actually is you're doing that allows you to be efficient or effective within a certain timeframe. But it shouldn't take the eye off the ball, which is actually where we want to get to, in a long term, timeframe, some popular for many, because it doesn't serve their needs. But it's back to the storytelling, we need to tell the story about why that idea of how we're going to be around for a lot longer is really important. And I think also actually, we can tell a better story of the world that guides the world that you're so so the guide is screaming at you right now saying, you know, we need to do this, or we need to do that. We need to do it now. And it's like, Are you happy? Are you happy with yourself? Are you happy with your family? Are you happy in the organisation you're working in? I mean, do you really wake up every day and think I really want to go to work today? And give my very best? No, because actually, what you're feeling is you're in servitude to something which is actually not serving, either you in terms of meaning for me, or the greater good of what is happening. And it doesn't take much shift that in a different type of direction, is what I've discovered and what I believe to be true.

Marcus Kirsch:

It's interesting, you're saying that that, you know, Ms. And general purpose and approach of company now is now so relevant in terms of value for the outset, and how to perceived has impact on clients and talent acquisition and so on. But could you elaborate a little bit more on p corpse, please, for our audience who some of which might not know what that means?

Alan Moore:

When I use it in a book as an example of a whole bunch of different ways in which we could think about organisational governance and who you answerable to. And for me, I write about the court because I thought that it was all about holding yourself to a higher standard, and all business and if that needs to be conducted, if people in place really mattered, then this display be, you know, pause on that for a bit, you know, people in place, if all of those really mattered? Does business really work that way? And they asked this question about through their products and practices, and through profits, and through their profits, they should aspire to did no harm and benefit to all. And they have a programme and a process that you go through. And it's it's tough work by the people I've spoken to about that, where they held you accountable to many different criteria in terms of saying, how are you going to hold these standards up. And I think it's really important in terms of what they are doing, that they're not the only one. But I think they show that there's a very different momentum and interest in the world of this idea of how business can do good in the world. And it kind of leads me back to what I wrote about in do build, which is referencing this lady called Iris Murdoch, who was a philosopher and a writer, actually based here in Cambridge, where she wrote a book called the sovereignty of the good. And I've always been very interested in the idea of the good, I think it comes from maybe my background as a craftsman, and the practice of craft where you are actually always in service to others. And it's something that I've never felt that I could really let let go. And she says in this book, that the good or the seeking of the good, should not be the name of an esoteric object, which should be the tool of every rational man. And I really like that, I think that is a kind of like, how you Yeah, she says that the good, the seeking of the good, should not be the name of an esoteric object, which should be the tool of every rational man. And that is how you bring the good into the world. Right. And, and, and for me, it's, I was in conversation with somebody else the other day when we were talking about this and he said, well, that It sounds like hard work. And I said, Well, why shouldn't it be. And if we, if we are, if we are here, we need to get there, that's going to be some work. And I said, Yes. But you know, I could give you all sorts of examples of amazing companies big and small, really big, really small, they've gone through that process of transformation. And the reality is, is that what they do is they bring the good into the world, but the reality is in doing so, they benefit in so many different ways. To me, there is a there is a coldie sec, for the business of hate, and the business of extraction, and the business of doing bad things to other people in the end, that that karma Rama will come back to you, you know, it may not come back to you, economically, but it can come back to you ecologically, ie, as a friend of mine said, you know, you can't do business on a dead planet, there is no planet B, you know, so you can continue your quest for, you know, growth at all, any cost, profit are all in any cost. But the reality is, there will be a consequence, there'll be an ultimate consequence for that pursuit of that profit. Whereas actually, if you really think about the ideas of reciprocal city generosity, thinking that if we are really going to move forward in a good way, we have to think in circles, which is kind of a bit of a weird idea. But, you know, the idea that the Earth turns, nature turns, there is, you know, a kind of a finite way in terms of how we think we grow and evolve and develop. This is the way that business has to kind of really reengineer itself to play a role in that place in that space. And I've spoken to lots and lots of businesses over the the writing and the development of the book. And I was talking to this wonderful CEO, a guy called Yan vers Bakker, who runs a company called climb works that actually are very engaged with how do you bring the ability to take carbon dioxide out for what out of the year, climate tape tape back, or climate positive, as he calls it. And there's a number of things I actually I wanted to sort of bring up with with Yad and he says, The battles we are facing are the stories about belief. So we don't tell a story about we need to stop doing things. But every story we're telling is around, we can do something. And I think that's really important for everyone to hear that they can play a role in this, that we can act. And that he also believes that within the next five years, there will be no CEO on this planet, in charge of a large corporation that will get away without having a climate target, or a carbon target, or a larger sustainable target. Or the fact that actually they are charged with what I would call the fundamental need to achieve the equilibrium between ecology, economy and society. Of course, there will be, as we're seeing at the moment, there are a lot of people doing a lot of pushback in terms of that. And that's absolutely fine. And that's absolutely okay. This has always happened. But I think that is where the reality is, in terms of where we're going. And that's where I sort of go back to so if we want to move forward, we have to think in circles. And we have to think about circular economy and regenerative economy, which is the heartland of beauty for me, rather than the idea that I just take as much as I possibly can for the benefit of me, and nobody else. Because I think we've had a good chance over the last 12 months, shall I say, to have a good look into the abyss. And I think the vast majority of us would, would prefer that we don't look any further into the abyss that perhaps we look somewhere else in terms of what a better life might look like, for us all.

Troy Norcross:

Okay, I want to I want to shift away from companies and zoom into the bigger spectrum of governments. Because today, governments measure against each other based on GDP. Gross Domestic Product, is it growing? Is it bigger, and everything the government's are looking at is consumption, consumption, consumption consumption? Yeah, I mean Chancellor of the Exchequer in the US Hey, Rishi sunak says, You guys have been sitting at home doing nothing putting money in the bank and my heavens, you've been paying off your credit card debt. As soon as this is over, I need you to get out and spend, and you buy fast fashion, I need you to go out and spend money is possible it is possible to get the economy running again. Yeah, when you've got government demanding this, as you say, consumption at unsustainable levels. You Rishi sunak had a chance to come to do a reset on what was considered to be societies and yeah, values, growth at all costs, are we going to look at people and we're going to look at an environment or we're going to look at customers and, and he's passed it up? How are companies supposed to fight against the demands of the government to grow? But, and I'm being controversial, I'm totally with you. I've no questions asked me, we're getting asked,

Alan Moore:

I don't think you're being controversial. And I think it goes back to this. So the title of the book do build, you know, how to lead and make a business The world needs was, was really specifically chosen, because I didn't talk about politics, I talked about business businesses, the engineer change, business has some money. You know, Larry Fink sits on a shedload of money. And institutional shareholders sit on a shedload of money. And if they decide that they want to change the conversation, and if they feel that their customers want to change the conversation, they will change the conversation. I think politically, we don't have the we don't have the political politically, we don't have the leadership that we need. And it's why I say business is the engine of transformation and the engine of change. And from the conversations I've been having LED, you know, sort of impart or beginning of this year at the end of last year, I know there are some really well, there are people actually, so there are people, which are, you know, one man bands, but there are people which are really big players that sit on big chunks of change, that actually want change in this world. And there and they all understand that their assets in terms of their financial capital can make a huge difference. We hear a lot about, you know, the Koch brothers, and, you know, all the others, which have a right wing agenda, that want to keep the status quo, that yes, they're out there. But there are a whole load of other people that are really pushing for something very fundamentally different. What Yan says me from client works, again, is that I have people coming to me say, how can we make a difference? How can we make the change? We want to do this. And I think that it's okay at the moment that you know, these guys, are we what we know is is all government, in many respects is always five years behind the curve ball. Let's just say Western democracy, I can't comment on other things. So don't really have a political knowledge for that. But there is there is a group of people, I think, collectively globally around the world that really will positive an enduring change. And they are driving for that. And in the book, I've put in 50 businesses that I said, I think, I believe to be beautiful, and a whole range of different scales right up to a country and their cities. Which understand that they're not waiting for their politicians to set the agenda. You know, we have Sadiq Khan here in London, you know, the Mayor of London, he's a very powerful man, you know, mayor's around the world are very powerful people, they sit on some really massive budgets, and they have an autonomy, which is very different to, to government. So in some respects, there is a bit of kind of, you know, I don't know flag waving from the government. And yes, they have the levers of power to a certain degree. But if everybody turned up tomorrow, to their, to their bosses, or to their politicians who said, I demand this change, I want this change, I want to be able to contribute to climate take back or whatever it is, then ultimately, you have to listen to that. I mean, what we've seen, I think, just to go a little bit, cut a metre for a moment, in terms of back to the right and no straight lines, which is 11 years ago, 15 years ago, what I saw was, is that the promise of a better world for everybody within the West was completely and utterly broken. You know, right up into the middle classes, forget all the other people that were, you know, hopefully trying to get onto that ladder. And it broke us and why was Because there were people that were only in the business of making money at all in any cost, you know, profit all any cost, I say until it costs you everything. And I remember being in a meeting, you know, the best part of 11 years, 12 years ago, where a guy from McKinsey sat within this group. And he said, what you have to understand is when the threads finally break, that's when the shit really hits the fan. And that's all about identity is about economic security, resilience. And here we are in a place where there's a lot of unknowns, and there's a lot of fear. And it's very easy for certain people, shall we say, that can then exploit that fear of those people, because they just want a roof over their head, you know, hot water that runs through the taps, heating food on the table, to be able to love their children, all the rest of it. And to go about their daily lives. That's what they want. And that's all been politicised. Because what has happened is in fact that that as that fabric has come on, done, there's a lot of fear, of course, there's a lot of fear. And politically that can be exploited. And that's exactly what you know, populist public politicians have done. Our job is to say, that, in fact, you know, varies a different possibility and the opportunity that we can create, and we can make. And that's where I think, the the I did the the idea that. Well, what I what I've experienced is, in terms of the beauty thing is and talking about beauty is it's a universal language for everybody, and exists in every aspects of our lives. And it appeals to people, and they yearn for it. And I think beauty is our homecoming. And I know it sounds weird when you talk about it in the context of business, but the realities, just sit with it for a moment, your listeners to sit for a moment and just think about beauty in terms of how does beauty sit within their lives in every aspect of their lives of what does that mean? And that is when you know, it's a homecoming, and it's not a theology. And it's not an ideology, but I think it's a fundamental truth.

Marcus Kirsch:

Yeah, it is. It's a beautiful picture. And unfortunately, as usual, we have very little time and too many questions and we could talk to you for for hours and hours. So Alan, for now, I will just say, thank you so much for your insights and for your answers and for giving us time. Thank you for great conversation.

Unknown:

My pleasure.

Troy Norcross:

You've been listening to the wicked podcast with CO hosts Marcus Kirsch and me Troy Norcross,

Marcus Kirsch:

please subscribe on podomatic, iTunes or Spotify. You can find all relevant links in the show notes. Please tell us your thoughts in the comment section and let us know about any books for future episodes.

Troy Norcross:

You can also get in touch with us directly on Twitter on at wicked and beyond or at Troy underscore Norcross, also learn more about the wicked company book and the wicked company project at wicked company.com