Video Q&A on Culture Shock & Brighton’s brilliant business community

Here’s the 22 minute video of a conversation I was invited to by those wonderful people at Wired Sussex as part of their Homebrewed series.

In it, we talk about Culture Shock, the roots of NixonMcInnes and the brilliant available future for Brighton’s progressive business community.

My first answer is a bit rambley but on the plus side I use the word ‘motherfucking’ at 3 minutes in.


#cltrshck weekly ammo 5

Hello – we’ve got three videos and two articles this week.

Each of these represents a different facet of the principles and practices in Culture Shock. Each of them is handpicked just for you.

Bon appetit.

Chilean Economist Manfred Max-Neef on Barefoot Economics

If you find 20 minutes for a video this week, MAKE IT THIS ONE!

Mesmerising, charming, compelling interview with a very wise South American economist. You may end up in despair. But maybe that’s what you (we) need?

I love his principles, summarised here:

Max-Neef and his colleagues set forth five basic postulates and one basic value principle as a framework for a humane new economics:

  • One, the economy is to serve the people and not the people to serve the economy.
  • Two, development is about people and not about objects.
  • Three, growth is not the same as development, and development does not necessarily require growth.
  • Four, no economy is possible in the absence of ecosystem services.
  • Five, the economy is a subsystem of a larger finite system, the biosphere, hence permanent growth is impossible.
  • And the fundamental value to sustain a new economy should be that no economic interest, under no circumstance, can be above the reverence of life.

Adds more momentum and urgency for me to the ideas of people like Umair Haque, John Robb, Vinay Gupta and those others who see a major collapse coming and a towering need for a new economic system.

Found this via Tom Nixon I think.

Employee ownership in Scotland  – video

Nice 15 min video showcasing different Scottish businesses who’ve transitioned to employee ownership. Good for selling in the ideas at an introductory leve, but what I really need more of in this area is details about the nitty-gritty of how. Please share if you find anything like that 🙂

Platform Economics – a Micro Massive Movement

This is Indy Johar’s talk from our Meaning 2012 conference, and I think some of the ideas that Indy floats and the examples he shares bring to life future possibilities for sustainable business.

As always with Indy, lots and lots of smart concepts and avenues to follow up.

Contribution of open source to Europe’s economy: 450 billion per year

That’s it for me, the headline. KAPOW. Brilliant credible stat for talks and writings for the ‘crowdsourcing is new fangled, unproven and risky’ naysayers. IN YOUR FACE, laggards. 450 big ones.

Not sure who to credit with this one so thank you Internet-at-large!

“The problem is no one is stealing the pepper pots” by David Hieatt

Just a brilliant story about quality and passion (again) from Hiut Denim and Do Lectures David Hieatt.

I won’t summarise it – there’s no point. Just read it!

(And if you like that quick read and want more, watch David’s talk ‘Purpose in Action’ from Meaning 2012).

Further reading: For a book that wraps these ideas up into 8 chapters, check out Culture Shock. It has a five star rating on Amazon, I wrote it and I believe in it.

Onwards! Will.

#cltrshck weekly ammo 4

Here’s a round up of Culture Shock inspired bits and pieces:

New Models of Leadership? by John Wenger. About as good a piece on the challenge of progressive leadership as I’ve read. Absolutely in line with Culture Shock thinking. Lots to chew on. Probably needs a few reads.

Love the opening quote:

“Many people live in the hallucination that they can truly lead other people without being able to lead themselves and this is pure fantasy. It is much easier to try to change other people and not being willing to change ourselves. This exercise of authenticity is very much needed if we truly want to inspire, touch and move the brains and the souls of those around us.”

Digital Disruption Is A Bigger Deal Than You Think from Forrester. Worth bookmarking if only for these two comparative stats from Forrester’s presumably rigorous research:

89% of executives believe that digital will disrupt their industry

39% of executives we surveyed believe that their companies have the policies and practices necessary to adapt to digital

Doesn’t that just capture the challenge beautifully? The Cluetrain happened. The business world sees what is happening, finally, but hasn’t made the changes. I really believe that all successful businesses in the 21st century have to have Tech DNA. This is the day job we do at NixonMcInnes helping orgs make the shift to better thrive in a world of digital disruption, so I’m looking forward to using these stats!

Thanks to @neilperkin (I think) for the link to this piece.

LiquidFeedback – really interesting looking ‘interactive democracy’ platform

At our conference Meaning 2012 a few weeks back, Stowe Boyd talked about LiquidFeedback as a viable platform to unlock a micro-participation and a new age of democracy. I need to do more research, but as I understand it, this open source software project provides a viable approach for groups – be they political or corporate – to raise issues and vote on them digitally.

Could be a huge part of the future, and would love to see if we could use this at NM. Please share in the comments if you know more about this.

‘We’re In a Slow Motion Collapse, TAKE Advantage of the Time Available’ by John Robb. This guy has been about as big an influence on me as anyone in recent times. I found the OODA loop, which led me to think about and then eventually write the chapter on Change Velocity, through John’s writing.

This here isn’t a substantial or particularly informative blog post – but if you let it, if you properly pause and open up, it can make you stop and take stock about the time we’re in and what to do about it.

The state we’re in and the call for a new economy by Tom Nixon. Building on the above post on the need for systemic change, here’s an interesting and passionate plea by Tom about the role that co-operatives and employee-owned organisations can contribute to a better future.

Tom’s blog is essential reading, and this lovely datapoint stood out for me:

“Cooperatives world-wide have 1BN members and the largest three manage assets in excess of 1.6TN (and guess what, they have been extremely resilient through the recent economic turmoil because they did not engage in the insane activities like shareholder-owned banks.)”

Kickstarter launches in the UK. In Culture Shock there’s stuff, as you’d expect, about how crowdfunding and crowdsourcing are changing the nature of business and the relationships between service providers and ‘consumers’ as they’ve been traditionally thought of.  And in particular the fairly straightforward idea that increasingly customers are more like collaborators and investors, citizens are sensors etc. So it’s great to see the most mainstream and successful crowdfunding platform Kickstarter (itself, VC-funded – ah, the lovely irony) now available to list projects in the UK. Whoop!

Cor, that was a nice haul eh? 🙂 Bit of something for everyone in there.

Do share your links with me on Twitter, and keep spreading these ideas.

#cltrshck weekly ammo 3


This is in two parts. Indulgent wallowing in post-Meaning Conference-ness. And then some links as per usual.

The Meaning Conference indulgence

Quite a momentous week – our inaugural Meaning Conference went off with a massive bang. I don’t really have a great deal to say yet, but here’s a nice photo of Vinay Gupta at a pivotal moment in his brilliant talk, taken by Beth Granter . (All of the speakers did an incredible job, IMO, I just love how this photo captures a moment in time).

Abundance breaks the financial system

And here are a few favourite tweets:

Even more satisying have been the tweets where people having been spreading ideas to their teams, following up conversations with speakers, making change happen or just reflecting (sometimes frustratedly). That is the mission of Meaning: to really, properly change business.

Official Meaning 2012 photos

Here’s a bunch of nice photos of Meaning available for you to use under Creative Commons licence.

Well done to our Clive Andrews for taking these – he did a brilliant job.

Be part of Meaning in 2013

If you’d like to get a heads up about Meaning 2013, drop an email to

We’ve set the bar. Next year we gotta go further, bigger in impact, strive hard to go further. That won’t be easy. But it’s a task with meaning…

Your dose of CultureShocky links

The Twitter spin room: What happens when politics goes real-time? One of the big ideas in Culture Shock is about this notion of ‘Change Velocity’ – that the information coursing around the world at a new, accelerated ‘real time’ speed demands organisations to move much faster. And that an organisation’s ability to keep adapting at speed will to some extent influence its likelihood of thriving. With that in mind, this is a really interesting look at US politics and the realtime-ness of debates and so on.

Great short video of Gore CEO Terri Kelly challenging the age-old model of the all-knowing, all-powerful leader. Nice and succinct. Follows up on the content in Culture Shock about Gore and their model of ‘followership’ vs. leadership. She uses the word ‘courage’. LIKE. ‘True leaders will be judged on how much of that power they distributed through the organisation’. Yes!

Campaign against Anti-Social Businesses & Organisations (ASBOs) – wonderful, important, catchy idea from Mark Pinsent, who I think of us as a real Culture Shock ally and advocate. Just the idea alone has a kind of power, doesn’t it? 🙂

Help Save Exeter Street Hall, Prestonville, Brighton – here in Brighton a group of people are on a mission to retain a community space and save it from being sold by a church to property developers. It couldn’t be more in keeping with the messages of Meaning and Culture Shock – and it’s real. These guys are serious and need the support of others – please check it out.

Please review Culture Shock on Amazon

Lastly, if you’ve read Culture Shock, please review it on Amazon – as short or long as you like, as negative or positive, it’s all up to you. But whatever form it takes, every Amazon review helps, my author friends tell me, and I WANT THESE IDEAS TO SPREAD! This isn’t about money – it is about profile and impact. I wanna make this happen. Thank you for your help 🙂

That’s it for this week, changers-of-the-world. ONWARDS.

#cltrshck weekly ammo 2

This week’s fresh Culture Shocky linkage.

The open follower model – an older piece by grandmaster Stowe Boyd, but there’s something very interesting in this snippet, both for organisations and in the context of the social web. Picking up the organisational point, it makes me think directly about Gore, whose concept of ‘followership’ rather than leadership I write about in Culture Shock, and also other great orgs like Valve and Semco. Will the web’s model infiltrate organisations?


The John Lewis motto should be ‘never knowingly underpay’ – piece by Polly Toynbee in The Guardian highlighting how the wonderful partnership has outsourced cleaning, so while the empowered John Lewis workers benefit from bumper bonuses cleaners get £6 an hour. Really interesting in the context of a future where less and less people are ‘on the payroll’ (given current trends). Via @jonathas


‘Here are the things that are proven to make you happier’ – intensely link-rich post with tons of things that make us happier. The usuals – gratitude, people, giving. Via @neilperkin

But I just love the opening quote, which turns out to be from John Lennon:

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”


‘What makes work worth doing?’ – short, undemanding HBR blog, looking at how call center workers created much better results for a student scholarship programme after being briefed in person by a recipient of the organisation’s aid. Just another good reminder of the importance of meaning and purpose (both very cultureshocky).


Two weeks away from Meaning  WHOAH! So excited, so nervous, but mainly very excited. When I look at the speaker lineup I am still amazed and delighted. Can’t wait for Monday 1st October, and tickets are still being grabbed in ones and twos. I know many of you are coming along, but if you’re not, are you CRAZY?!

Ooh, and Culture Shock now has four reviews, which is ace. If you are reading the book or have finished it I’d genuinely love to hear what you thought of it!

Thanks for the links people – keep ’em coming 🙂

#cltrshck weekly ammo

Ready for some brainfood?

I’m putting together a weekly gaggle of snippets and links that relate to Culture Shock, its mission and the interests of its writer and readers.

If you’re a one-time visitor, and want to receive these and my other blog posts, sign up yo’ email address in the top right of my blog and you’ll get mailed each post as it happens (usually 1 to 3 pieces a week).

I’m calling it ammo, cos this is motherfricking revolution 😉


Who’s the Boss? There isn’t one. – Wall Street Journal piece on companies operating in more empowered and democratic ways. Includes Gore (in Culture Shock) and Valve (who damn well woulda been had I come across them before I wrote the book).

What I love about this piece is the expression of some of the downsides of these ways of working – things that current and past NixonMcInnes team will know well, including:

The bossless structure can be chaotic at times, he says, but “you feel like there is total trust and an element of freedom and ownership. It makes you want to do more,” says Mr. Clem, who had previously worked at a large tech firm and smaller start-ups.

Valve Economics blog – Yanis Varoufakis. For those of you who wanna dig right into Valve in depth, check out this blog by their in house economist (how cool is that?!). Thanks to Dave Boyle for sharing this.


Culture inside and outside the corporation – Grant McCracken blog post via super-smart Antony Mayfield. What I love is the truth that when new employees join they get the freshest expression of the ‘culture’, but not the messy, layered, living reality of culture:

Good luck onboarding a new hire. A handbook may capture the most recent, the most explicit, and the most formal of the ideas and values that govern the culture, but that teeming mass of additional ideas it tends to leave out. It will take weeks, sometimes months for the new hire to glimpse all the ideas at work in the corporate culture and the rules that govern when and by whom they’re used. Time wasted. Value squandered. And sometimes a lost hire.


Commons: Alternatives to Markets and States. Piece by Derek Wall in Energy Bulletin. No idea how I came across this one – sorry, sharer of good content! And I haven’t read it beyond the fifth paragraph. BUT. Dan McQuillan, a guy who has consistently blown my mind with cerebral ideas over the last 6 or so years, did a great talk at Social Business Sessions about the Commons. And I know, just know, that there’s something huge in here, something so important that I’m not even ready to peek at it yet. So if you’re ready, start reading 🙂


37signals Earns Millions Each Year. Its CEO’s Model? His Cleaning Lady – Fast Company magazine. Yep, so we’ve all read glowing 37Signals articles and books before, right. But when you read what Jason is saying here, and think about their 35 employees and huge impact, revenues and profits, their sustained journey, and contrast with the ‘sickness’ he talks about that’s represented in TechCrunch, he’s really really REALLY onto something:

I won’t name names. I used to name names. But I think all you have to do is read TechCrunch. Look at what the top stories are, and they’re all about raising money, how many employees they have, and these are metrics that don’t matter. What matters is: Are you profitable? Are you building something great? Are you taking care of your people? Are you treating your customers well? In the coverage of our industry as a whole, you’ll rarely see stories about treating customers well, about people building a sustainable business. TechCrunch to me is the great place to look to see the sickness in our industry right now.


For me, all of these are so #cltrshck it hurts. I am genuinely uplifted by this rising tide of related ideas about how to make things better, seeing these practices gaining profile and momentum.

Let me know if you have any feedback on this format. And please keep sharing them links.

Culture Shock is out – get ’em hot

Hello friends,

THE TIME IS NIGH! The book is out – see photographic evidence of a Culture Shock out in the wild on someone else’s desk.

culture shock book will mcinnes

Get yer copy, and please review it in Amazon and share your thoughts with me.

BUY NOW BUY NOW BUY NOW. <— I used to work in marketing.

For me personally it’s a weird old feeling, seeing a book come out with your name on it. I’ve moved from excitement and fatigue, post-completion, to antipathy and mild warmth in the quiet middle bit, to now a state of excitement and anxiety now that it’s no longer a game but a reality. Terrified of negative reactions, hopeful of new doors opening and a deluge of new connections with people that believe in the same things. Expect most first-time authors have felt something similar.

I know my publishers at Wiley (hi Jonathan and Megan!) feel we have lots to do on the promotion front, so I’m conscious of the mountain we need to climb there, and also of not spamming you guys in my immediate network too much. But you early believers and friends are the crucial first wave!

Thank you again for the help and support many of you gave along the way.

Got a nice bottle of wine to celebrate tonight with the Mrs.

With love 🙂


Open salaries on ‘Show Me Your Money’, Channel 4

If you follow this blog, I reckon you’re interested in progressive business practices.

You NEED to watch ‘Show Me Your Money’ from Channel 4 tomorrow evening.

It’s a documentary about a company experimenting with open salaries, something we’ve done at NixonMcInnes since our inception some 10 or 11 years ago. And something I write about and promote in the Fair Finances (chapter 8) of Culture Shock.

But whilst it feels right, and better, it’s not easy – in fact, it’s gotten harder for us as the years have progressed, so it’ll be fascinating to see how these guys (a plumbing firm, I believe) get on.

More from Channel 4 here:

So very, very Culture Shock and Meaning Conference eh!

Do let us know what you think… be great to hear reactions 🙂

(More exciting is seeing this movement grow, seeing the swell gradually build up into a rolling wave. This is the future of business. THIS IS IT, PEOPLE).

Culture Shock update


A quick update on the book.

The book is now at the final proof stage which means:

  • it has been professionally proofed
  • the manuscript now gets a final check from me and a proofreader
  • we add in the foreword, which is being written by the excellent Traci Fenton from WorldBlu
  • …and the endorsements saying things like ‘This book will save your world, your marriage, your Marmite supplies! – Brigadier F. Comelypants’
  • …some of which are also then added to the cover design
  • Finally it goes off TO BE PRINTED!

culture shock manuscript screenshot

There’s a blog post to be written another time about the strange experience of being a digital person, finishing a piece of work and then waiting 6 months to get it out the door, but not necessarily (or only) in a bad way.

So yeah.

By the way, if you happen to recommend the book to someone you can say to them, with steel in your eyes, that IT IS AVAILABLE TO PRE-ORDER ON AMAZON TODAY but this isn’t a big sales push just yet 🙂


Also, a new but intimately related project is that my company NixonMcInnes is putting on a proper one-day conference around very CultureShocky topics in this fine city of Brighton. That’ll be announced next week, but if the fire for a better world burns hot in you, get the 1st October in your diary… more to follow, comrades, more to follow.


Chapter 6: Introducing Change Velocity

Hi Culture Shock kinda-readers,

Here’s the intro to chapter six, which is one I’m particularly interested in – see what you reckon…



In addition to their Openness another fundamental characteristic of organisations in this progressive movement is their ability to change very rapidly. And their propensity to do so. For me it’s one of their most violent and disruptive advantages.

These fast-moving, fast-changing new players eat away at industry incumbents’ market share through their ability to learn, iterate and change, loop after loop, many times faster than the old guard.

Another change! Another change! Another change! POW. Amazon vs. Barnes & Noble (US) / Waterstones (UK), Netflix vs. Blockbuster, Threadless vs. GAP.

This is not just a business imperative – governments and not-for-profits must also speed up. As Google chairman Eric Schmidt recently relayed in an interview, Andy Grove, the long-serving CEO of Intel said at a dinner in 1995 “High tech runs 3X faster than normal businesses. And the gov’t runs 3 times slower than normal businesses. So we have a 9X gap.” If government would like to emulate the success and practices of Silicon Valley, then they have a great deal of flexibility and speed to find in themselves.

And related to this, one of their other great emerging characteristics is their ability to u-turn. By u-turn I mean not just product innovation. This is wholesale changes of direction.

Whatever you think of it, Facebook has been absolutely brilliant at doing something, hearing a load of feedback, and doing a public u-turn within hours or days. It doesn’t always, and has returned to the same initiatives and goals over time, but the Beacon turnaround sticks out – though there are others. See this Google search for “Facebook u-turn” – 999,000 results (same search for “Google u-turn” returns me 18,200 results, and for Apple 19,400).

I thought of this characteristic again having followed the interesting Netflix story lately.

If you haven’t already heard, they made some bold changes to their product – divided the whole business in two with no consultation, called the DVD mailing business Qwikster, kept Netflix as the solely-focused streaming business.

The outcry has been sustained, and numbers have backed up the complaints – some commentators say this is hitting Netflix’ business.

Now I read that, 23 days later, they’ve reversed the decision – That Was Qwik: Netflix Dumps Qwikster, Won’t Split DVD-Streaming Accounts by paidContent

I always admire a u-turn:

1. You tried to innovate and make change – that takes guts and brainpower
2. You listened – that takes ears!
3. You are humble enough to publicly admit you were wrong – that takes guts

Now having begun to write this I realise that before this little phase of reading and writing I just got off a call with a team in a gigantic multi-national bank. Some young talents in a development programme for top potential future stars have been working on launching a business innovation. Their biggest challenge is what they describe as the internal ‘conservatism’. Making change in that organisation is really really hard. Scarily hard when you think about the above.

So what we are experiencing here is the ability of organisations to rapidly adapt to the world around them.

What is change velocity?

A mate of mine called David has worked his whole career in sales. He is a proud salesman through and through. And he half-jokingly introduced me to one of his favourite concepts a few years ago: “revenue velocity”. This is not how much work the client needs doing in total, but how quickly they need or want to invest that budget. At the time I find it a hilarious encapsulation of his deliberately-cultivated salesman persona both good and bad (though in time running this services business I’ve learnt to appreciate the wisdom in it).

This phrase makes me think about an organisation’s ability to change quickly. Change velocity of an organisation is its ability to change quickly. Not just agility, which is its ability to shift its focus rapidly – an organisation can be agile without internally changing. Not just its speed, which is the speed that it moves at – again an organisation can move quickly without changing. And not just its ability to evolve – an organisation can evolve effectively over time, but can it do so quickly enough?

The higher an organisation’s change velocity, the faster it can shift its focus, the faster it can execute, and the faster it can fundamentally change itself.

Next extract: ‘Why must 21st organisations be able to change so quickly?’

Please provide feedback: via comments on this post, via email to, tweets @willmcinnes #cltrshck.

As always, please feedback and share with people you feel will find this useful.

Thanks Shock-fiends,