Monday, 6 August 2018


Ask a young person how they are and chances are they’ll say ‘good’ which means ‘fine’ or ‘OK’. It doesn’t mean terrific. Generally good means something more rounded than ‘winning’ or the overused ‘brilliant’.  Years ago I was talking to the CEO of Unipart, John Egan, about the success of his company and the generally poor state of British Industry. ’Why was this?’ I asked. John’s reply was instructive.

“Too few people know what good is” he said and that has got me thinking ever since. To be good at anything the performance has to be seen in the context of other good things; you have to be measured against global competitors. That’s why the Olympics and World Cup are so important. It’s no longer sufficient to be good enough just for Bolton or Brighton.

At this point I’d like to introduce you to Simon Anholt who’s worked, he says, with numerous Heads of State and Heads of Government, helping their countries to engage more productively and imaginatively with the international community. It’s what he says about good that I like. Using a huge database he researches globally what becomes a kind of ethical-performance league table called “The Good Country Index.” His thesis is the more you’re respected the better you’ll do. The more you give the more you get. Good may be measured by the extent to which people say “the world would be a worse place without X”…. or “X makes our world a better place” or “X is a role model to the rest of us.”

In 2014 Ireland came first on the back of economic revival when mere survival had seemed unlikely and en route, unlike Iceland who unilaterally wrote off their debt, paid theirs off.

Last year the top countries were:

  • Netherlands
  • Switzerland
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • Germany
  • Sweden
  • Ireland
  • UK

USA came 25th and is daily getting worse I imagine given its current attitude to collaboration and selflessness.  Here’s Simon’s analysis of what’s wrong with the world.

“Things seem to be getting worse all the time: climate change, terrorism, pandemics, migration, economic chaos… the list goes on. All these problems have grown too big and too complex for any individual nation to solve. But instead of collaborating, nations spend all their energy and resources competing against each other. This has to change if we want to make the world work. This is why the Good Country Index exists.”

It’s curious that everything he sensibly prescribes like union, sharing and looking outwards for inspiration are what all good companies are doing nowadays and what nearly all nation states eschew.

America in particular is a strange case right now. What was once the leader of the world and role model to anyone with ambition is now behaving like a rogue state. American films featuring Gregory Peck and John Wayne – both good guys – have changed to Tarantino horrors instead. Pity. We need a good America.

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