The problem with the discipline of nutrition is that it has a tendency to make us think of eating as a science, and lose sight of the fact that food is actually something quite wonderful and, dare I say, a little magical. We have become obsessed with looking behind the curtain to understand HOW IT ALL WORKS, but has it led to a better understanding of what nurtures us as humans? After all we have been eating for millions of years; in examining the microscopic detail, have we missed the big picture?
In the last few centuries nutrition science has developed with the goal of improving our health – identifying components in food, separating them from the food to study them, and reducing what we eat to a collection of elements. We’ve counted calories, weighed and measured our fats, proteins and carbs, and separated foodstuffs into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ – good cholesterol and bad cholesterol, good fats and bad fats, good carbs and bad carbs. But when we separate the nutrient from the food it can lead to us overcomplicating eating. Recently the fad for ‘clean eating’ has led to a proposed new eating disorder, dubbed ‘orthorexia’, with people’s obsession with healthy eating leading to problems with both their physical and mental health. So can we rely on the experts to tell us what to put on our plates – do they really know what’s best for us?
Well, yes and no. The challenge with science is that we are so good at it these days we are constantly making new discoveries. And because of this the guidelines are frequently updated. So while in the 1980s we were all told that margarine was better than butter, nowadays the more natural hard fats such as butter and lard are creeping back into favour. And science is rarely simple and occasionally not particularly pure either. There has been controversy recently over studies from the 1970s into fat and sugar. We were told at the time that they revealed that fat was the big killer but now it seems that the studies were misrepresented (or worse) – sugar may have been the culprit after all. No wonder it is so easy to get confused about food.
So how can we simplify eating while ensuring we consume foods that nurture our bodies? Well I don’t think we can dismiss nutritional science out of hand. There have been some amazing steps forward in our understanding, but at the same time there is a lot more going on when we eat than science can unearth by breaking food down into its constituent parts. It is somewhat arrogant to assume that the latest piece of research, or superfood discovery is the end of the discussion in nutrition and what creates health.
We can take a leaf out of food writer Michael Pollan’s (author of books such as In Defence of Food) book in learning to eat ‘real’ food. By this we mean not taking short cuts, cooking meals ourselves from scratch, using great ingredients. Following that one simple rule will improve your health no end as you’ll be avoiding all those unnatural chemicals added to manufactured foods and cutting back on sugar, salt and processed fat without even thinking about it. Also of importance is eating together with our families or loved ones, taking the time to enjoy meals rather than grabbing food on the go and being wary of massive food fads and fashions. We can avoid the scare stories in the popular press and the flash in the pan obsessions over this nutrient or that superfood by keeping an eye on advancements in food science through reading more in depth and scientific writing. The key is balance.
So don’t feel you have to atone for that chocolate bunny you ate last weekend by spending the next fortnight living off green juices. We shouldn’t obsess over food and can all enjoy a little treat once in a while.
Go well – Kate
By Kate Cook, author of Kate Cook’s Wellness Guide
Most businesses are eager to be at the cutting edge of the technology revolution and quite rightly – falling over themselves to be hyperconnected, ahead of the trends. There are downsides to the worldwide web but there are very positive up sides too. Most of the nutritional research papers I read to update my body of knowledge I obtain through web digging – something that would have been quite impossible a few years ago. It enables me to be very nimble in my uptake of the latest research, something that chancing on a book, or waiting for a published journal to appear on my desk made it impossible to do a few years back. I am also very grateful that we are able to connect with like-minded people across the globe, of course that has its downside too, but used in the right way we are able to build communities of people who can generously help each other.
But in relying on tech too much are we in danger of forgetting what it is to be human? We need to remember to solve business problems in a human way, not merely focus on box-ticking, or allow a computer to dominate our decision making. We are more and more often letting machines take over, and becoming distanced from what makes us human. One area where this really impacts our lives is in the world of food. Eating is one of the crucial things that makes us human and what we eat makes us either dynamic, engaged, happy, healthful humans or depressed, demotivated, sick humanoids. But we have become increasingly distanced from the real food that nurtures our bodies, favouring instead manufactured foods and convenience eating.
When we eat conveniently, we fuel our bodies with food-like imitations, where life, energy and essence have been replaced by synthetic sensations. These foods are designed to look, smell and taste appealing but are largely devoid of the energy and nutrition that come from eating food grown by the sun, full of the life-giving micronutrients that power our energy output. When we replace real food, of the sort our ancestors would recognise, with these chemical concoctions, we reduce our ability to function as human and lay ourselves open to the possibility of a whole host of minor, and not so minor, ailments; from tiredness to type 2 diabetes and beyond.
As employers we know how important it is to maintain our machinery, our hardware and software, but what about our human resources – how many of us are making sure our people have what they need to function optimally? For example, studies suggest that there is an association between obesity and lower productivity at work -and if that tide doesn’t turn then we may find that we are unable to find employees fit enough to work. One study estimated that lost productivity time (LPT) costs the US economy $42.29 billion annually. This was thought to be a conservative figure because studies which use BMI data rely on self-reported weight, which is often understated. The estimate also does not include the costs of recruiting and training new staff and the impact on co-workers’ productivity.1 A study of 15,000 people in the US and UK found that employees with poor nutritional balance reported 11% lower productivity than healthier colleagues.2 Surely it is time to pay attention this powerful connection. Though the focus on nutrition and its impact on the workplace has, to date, mostly been on the link between poor diet and chronic disease and obesity (the long term impact) it stands to reason that poor diet will also have a short term impact in terms of energy and productivity.
The health of our employees is key to our business success – yet a large proportion of our human resource is sick. How can we restore it back to full, engaged, dynamic power? Through the power of real food.
Kate Cook’s Wellness Guide is available free for Kindle for a limited time. Download the book here.
- Reilly, Sally, ‘Eating the Profits.’ Personnel Today, 4 July 2006: 26.
- ProQuest online article, 6 Aug. 2009.
Scrolling through the stories on any news site these days one could be forgiven for thinking that we are living in an increasingly divided and unequal world. It is heartening to hear of millionaires, such as Warren Buffett and the Gateses and Canadian CEO Jim Estill, who want to share their wealth to improve the lives of others. But while a millionaire who thinks tax evasion is ‘smart’ is in control of the largest economy on Earth it still seems to many that a fairer world is more out of reach than it has ever been.
The irony is that, while the President of the USA (as well as Brexiteers, Marine Le Pen, et al.) believes that the solution to his country’s perceived financial and social woes is to keep out immigrants – either by building a wall or by stopping them at immigration control – a policy of inclusion could generate greater wealth for all.
In their book Nine visions of capitalism, Charles Hampden-Turner and Fons Trompenaars explore the secrets of wealth creation and conclude that cultural inclusiveness is the key to success. Interestingly both diversity and inclusion are required – diversity on its own can lead to the problems we see in America and Europe today as well as many conflicts of the past (such as those between Protestants and Catholics in seventeenth Century Europe or between Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda). The authors say:
Contrasting values must be joined and reconciled to make them virtuous. Polarized values are vicious in their mutual hatred. Yet our discredited politicians aid this polarization with their sterile jousting between ideologies. The irony is that those we reject could potentially make us whole, providing the missing pieces of the puzzles.
They go on to explain why immigrants are often more successful than those born in a particular country. In America, they note, those immigrants who find themselves more included, such as Jews, Chinese, Japanese and Indians, do better than those who are excluded such as blacks and Latinos. A study from 2000 found that one third of Silicon Valley’s wealth was created by Chinese and Indian immigrants entering the US after 1970. The success, say Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars may even be due to difference: ‘they are different perforce, a condition they cannot change. They therefore decide to make a difference.’
The book also proposes that the current Anglo-American model of capitalism is failing and needs to learn from models in other cultures if Western economies want to continue to grow. Part of the problem is our perception of wealth:
A community is only better off when it creates wealth, that is, when it generates more money among its members than they began with. If money has simply moved from one pocket to another then X may have outsmarted Y but no wealth has been created by that relationship. Competition is important but if this leads to a zero-sum game – wherein gains and losses total zero – then there is no gain for the society or the economy.
What creates wealth, say the authors, is ‘an inclusive relationship between diverse parties’, employees and owners, producers and consumers, lenders from borrowers, and so on. The book explores nine very different forms of capitalism, including analyses of China’s spectacular growth, Singapore’s hybridisation of East and West, and the Conscious Capitalism movement, and examines how our economies can benefit from their example. The authors see a positive future if we can learn to appreciate and incorporate difference. ‘Reconcile values,’ they say, ‘and you help to create wealth for everyone involved.’
Nine visions of capitalism, by Charles Hampden-Turner and Fons Trompenaars is available in the Infinite Ideas store for £10 (rrp £25), with free postage in the UK (shipping rates to other parts of the world vary).
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As our winter draws (reluctantly) to a close we plunge once more into a world where winter is coming, and brings with it sex, intrigue, swordfights, skulduggery and dragons. Unless (or possibly even if) you’ve been living on a wi-fi free desert island for the last five years you will realise we are talking about Game of Thrones, season 6 of which reached our screens this month. The programme makers have been teasing us for several months with what we do and don’t know; what may or may not have happened (yes, we’re talking Jon Snow here). One trailer had Bran declaring that ‘they have no idea what is going to happen’, something that over the years has proven true time and again. We knew the programme was fabulous entertainment right from the start of Season 1 but what we didn’t realise until Ned Stark lost his head was that in this series anything can happen. Bad things will happen to good people, heroes will die, villains will prosper and at no point will we feel this world is safe.
Game of Thrones is possibly the most widely discussed programme on television. With only ten episodes per season it is on our screens for little more than two months out of every year, yet the internet is alive year round with articles on the characters, photographic memes and speculation regarding what’s going to happen next. Why has this programme so inspired us? It has to be in the quality of the storytelling. Compelling characters, a mysterious universe that not even the characters who live in it understand (people thought dragons had died out years ago and nobody believed the white walkers were anything but a myth) and events that frequently extend beyond the protagonists’ control have us perpetually on the edge of our seat. Now, what if we could get people this excited about business?
Business is the dynamic force that shapes our economies and our lives. It’s crucial to the survival of western society as we know it. Business is about progress, wealth creation and opportunity. It should be exciting – fun, even – yet it is frequently discussed and taught in dry and theoretical tomes or through the clumsy medium of presentations reliant on screens of charts and bullet lists. You might not remember every single intricate detail of what happened in the last five seasons of Game of Thrones but we bet you could easily give a rundown of the key highlights. But how much of the last business seminar you attended can you remember? How much of it did you go home and relate to your family or discuss with your friends? How many memes did it generate?
So by bringing the worlds of business and Game of Thrones together we hoped that we could imbue business theory with some of the excitement we feel when we watch the series. Once you take away the dragons and swordfights you start to see more similarities than differences. This strange medieval fantasy kingdom may not look a lot like our world but a lot of its essential ingredients – ambition, deceit, bravery, folly, triumph, disaster – feature in many a news story in the business press. Here are just a few key places where Game of Thrones and business touch.
Nice guys finish last: In the Game of Thrones universe it is not sufficient to be morally right like Ned Stark and his family; one must also be a clever – and lucky – player of the game. The same can be said for business: in this high-stakes world success is not granted simply to those with the best ideas, those who entered the market first or even those who put in the most work. Business, like Game of Thrones, is full of surprises and those who make it to the top do so by not only staying one step ahead of the game but learning to control it rather than having the game play them. Lose focus even momentarily and you lose your advantage. This does not mean you have to be an unprincipled swine to get ahead: the dastardly Petyr Baelish is the exemplary game-player but Daenerys too has demonstrated strategic skill while maintaining a strong moral code.
It’s not what you know but who you know: In Game of Thrones that also includes what you know about them, and how you use it. In business it usually means networking rather than blackmail (though of course that’s not unheard of either). Cersei, Lord Varys and Petyr Baelish all operate networks of people to bring them intelligence on other game players and help them leverage their strategic advantage. So vast is Varys’ network in fact that he is nicknamed the Spider. We all know we need to network more but often only think of it when we need something (a recommendation, a job). But networking is a daily business – Ned Stark left it too late to try to cultivate relationships, staying holed up in Winterfell after the war, and look how well that turned out for him.
You know nothing: Well all right, not nothing, but you rarely have all the information and skills you need to succeed entirely solo. Which is why you need to develop a great team around you. Daenerys has many queenly attributes but she could not have got where she is now without Jorah’s strategic advice, Daario’s muscle, Missandei’s cultural knowledge, or her dragons. A weak spot left unguarded provides an advantage for a rival. Which is why truly successful individuals know themselves well enough to pinpoint their weaknesses and take steps to do something about it.
You win or you die: If you want to succeed you have to be prepared to fail too. But that need not mean taking foolish risks, plunging into the unknown and hoping for the best. Instead you need to follow Baelish’s example and learn how to take calculated risks. Petyr Baelish has been the invisible hand, influencing events, even orchestrating the death of John Arryn, which began the war of the five kings. But at no point has he got those hands truly dirty. He’s always kept at a safe remove from the action – we know he was behind Joffrey’s murder but nobody in the world of the programme could connect him to it. His options are still open and he can pull away from a plan at any time. If you are patient and take incremental, small risks you stand a much better chance of achieving your goals than if, like Renly, Robb or Viserys you insist on going in all guns blazing.
Once you start seeing similarities between Game of Thrones and business it is hard to stop. Next time you have to give a business seminar why not throw in a few examples – it’s almost certain to get you more notice than yet another pie chart, spreadsheet or bullet list.
Game of Thrones on Business by Tim Phillips and Rebecca Clare is available to buy. To be in with a chance to win a free copy, tweet us your top business tip from the show to @Infinite_Ideas
We have just had to endure another stomach-turning electoral contest in which fear, venom, character assassination, unfunded promises and unproven assertions wrestled with each other and which those we collectively abhorred the least eventually won. Thank God we endure it for only six weeks in five years, yet it does us immense damage and sours the public mood. Rarely, if ever, has politics been so bereft of ideas, so sterile in its jousting, so destructive in its name-calling, so locked into rival ideologies that its partisans can no longer think, much less create.
Yet there is another movement afoot, one that is growing at astonishing speed, faster even than the digital revolution. Computer power has been credited with doubling in size every eighteen months but crowdfunding, sometimes called peer-to-peer lending is doubling every three months. But are we comparing like with like? Surely crowdfunding is just one additional way of getting investment funds, a way suited to smaller, maverick projects and can not even lay claim to political significance. We hope to show that it could change capitalism profoundly; it may not be overtly political but it has social and political repercussions of a very meaningful kind.
Crowdfunding is for the moment confined to the Internet. It uses various platforms, such as Kickstarter and Crowd Cube, to put ideas before a ‘crowd’ of on-line investors. A project is described and a request for enough capital is communicated. The crowd either meets the minimum capital needed to launch the project or it does not (money for under-subscribed projects is never collected). About one third of all projects are fully funded and go forward. Those receiving insufficient backing may have failed in any case and it is better for everyone that little loss was incurred at this early stage. However, a project may be relaunched in the future with a revised prospectus. We believe it is a matter of time before this development is picked up by mass media with millions of viewers and becomes a variety of Reality TV with totals raised broadcast during the programme, and with the whole culture celebrating innovation as a way of life. Commercial TV could find a new source of revenue by taking 5% of the total raised.
So let us compare the ‘democracy’ of our electoral process with the democratic potentials of crowdfunding. How do these contrast?
|Electoral process||Crowdfunding process|
|The first-past-the-post system gives big advantages to the majority parties at the expense of all minority interests, e.g. it takes 3.9 million UKIP voters to elect one solitary MP.||Most funds go to small minorities, enabling them to nurture new ideas that go viral on the Internet, with the potential to change everything through daring novelties and life-changing creativity.|
|One party wins and another loses nearly everything in a zero-sum game wherein gains and losses cancel each other out and power is wrested away from opponents in life-shattering ways.||All parties win where the project succeeds, entrepreneurs, investors employees, customers and the community. Ideas have been transformed into new realities beneficial to their instigators and the crowd of enthusiastic supporters and cheerleaders.|
|The game is to achieve power over people, get the electorate to buy your promises, attack and rubbish your opponents and consign them to opposition benches.||The game is to achieve power through people, use their funds to keep your promises and realize the ideals in your prospectus with their money and their moral support. You seek to convert all those involved to your viewpoint.|
|The system is fiercely and relentlessly adversarial. We are right and our opponents wrong, foolish, dangerous and destructive. The least feared and hated party wins. The Devil vies with the Deep Blue Sea.||The system is cooperative and co-creative with investors as midwives of procreation and with only projects that are truly needed receiving funds. Investors are seeking to improve their society, and where they succeed they profit.|
|The system requires millions of pounds to operate large organizations. This puts the electoral systems at the mercy of rich donors who buy access and expect a return for their money.||The system operates by funding thousands of good ideas and small organizations. Funding goes not to power but to potential, to the idea whose time has come, to those with dreams to realize.|
|Large amounts of money from very few people buys continued dominance and conformity to what rich people demand.||Small amount of money from a wide variety of people, fund a very diverse range of new ideas, which change us radically.|
|Large investment portfolios tend to the lowest risk possible and to markets where prices can be administered by market domination.||Small investment portfolios can afford to stake less but risk much more on changing society for the better. Dramatic success is possible.|
|The viewpoint in almost entirely quantitative. Everyone wants just one thing and the answer is more.||The viewpoint is almost entirely qualitative. Everyone wants to help their society but in different ways.|
|The attitude to minorities is that now they have been beaten, they should yield to majority control. They are losers and should be marginalized.||The attitude to minorities is that they are a potentially creative resource and come up with ideas the majority would never hazard. Diversity is infinitely precious.|
|The whole purpose of politics is to realize your own economic self-interest and asserting these aggressively is enough to win.||The whole purpose of crowdfunding is to realize meaningful ideals by offering these to the public for sharing with you.|
|Ideological politics is sterile because everything within one polarized extreme has been tried and one is not allowed to borrow from the rival viewpoint. It is off limits.||Crowdfunding is an industry espousing radical ideas and hence borrows the vehicle, private enterprise, from the Right while the ideals are largely from the Left. Any new political idea is a hybrid of Right and Left.|
|The argument is about redistribution and the power of government. Can it confiscate what others have made? What will this do to enterprise and motivation?||The argument is about pre-distribution. Might companies who promise their crowds to be fair, to promote women, to pay good wages, train their people, and be sustainable, gain better access to crowdfunding?|
|Competition is the life-blood of both politics and business. We we all want more and some of this must be taken from our weaker brethren.||Diversity is the life-blood of both politics and business. Where we are sufficiently different invidious distinctions vanish and nearly all can succeed on their own terms.|
What is unique about crowdfunding is that it starts even before a product or service has been made or any unit of currency spent. It is an idea, an abstraction and a value in our mind’s eye. We can share it with others, discuss within the ‘crowd’ what sort of world we want, producing any number of wealth development and satisfactions. It is a potential rebirth of the Puritan ethic insofar as it begins with the reason for our being and what we should do on earth and whom we should serve with the one life we have. It is the potential sheet anchor of the Innovative Society. Members of parliament have powers to help redesign capitalism as a beneficial force in our nation and insist that it builds industries which engage and develop us all. Where every organization performs before an appreciative crowd the world is changed.
Charles Hampden-Turner and Fons Trompenaars are the authors of Nine visions of capitalism (with Tom Cummings). It will be published on 7th September 2015. To preorder, please email email@example.com.
To find out more about Charles Hampden-Turner and Fons Tromenaars, and their company, please click here.