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Birth of an Idea

I was running a consultancy, which I’d built from zero to an $11m turnover in the Middle East over just 18 months, and everything was wonderful…until the parent company started behaving strangely. At first it was late payment of expenses, then the wages didn’t come through, and finally they ‘forgot’ to pay the rent on the villa. Not good. Not good at all, as under local law their failure made me liable, and put my liberty and possessions at risk. I sued them and won with expenses, but it took two and half years to receive only 40p in the pound on a substantial debt.

Then came the next bombshell, when the side-effects of a medicine nearly killed my wife. I reflected and wrote about the perverse behaviour of certain companies and governments, the impact on their fortunes and reputation, and the effect on those that depend on them. Gradually it became clear: we’re all in this together. We feel it in every community that we belong to, whether it’s a village, sports team or workplace. Every outstanding company that I’ve worked with has deliberately encouraged this culture. Failure to honour this bond results in tension, unhappiness, poor communication and inefficiency.

That crucial insight led to ‘espresso’, which examines the world through the prism of secular ethics applied in five domains: our relationship to ourself (‘Self’), one-to-another (our ‘Culture’), one-to-many (both ‘Work’ and ‘Society’), and many-to-many (‘Politics’). 

A code of secular ethics applies equally to the smallest local unit of a friendship, or family, or company,  as to a large complex public authority or geopolitical grouping anywhere in the world. Organizations that deny or ignore this truth are destined to fail, because they neglect the one thing on which they depend: interdependent human beings. Us.

It may be justly said, “Theory is fine, but the cut and thrust of life is not like that.” That may be true, but if we want to live as healthy, contented people on a thriving planet, we’re going to have to meet that challenge, both individually and collectively. The global aftershocks of 2008 and the damage wrought by our response to CoViD make that challenge even more urgent. I believe that ‘espresso’  shows that we can all contribute to a better world, but we have to be given the chance.

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