Monday, 17 January 2011


Seamus Smyth is one of the brightest people I know. He used to work for Shell. Now he thinks a lot and is a kind of intellectual social entrepreneur. He also has very long hair which I miss in the deep thinkers of today who tend to favour baldness. He said this when I asked him what 2011 and beyond held in store:

“The mission to give people more of what they actually want and need, rather than what people make will intensify to a degree that we’ve never seen before as WASTE will become the world’s common enemy.”

I recalled seeing a piece in Fast Company about the iPad wars noting that as many as 80 tablet devices were debuting at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

Seamus is right. Over in China, Taiwan or Japan factories employing thousands of people are working away, trying to keep busy and screaming at their sales forces to sell more. What they make is irrelevant. It’s sheer and utter madness.

The voice of marketing is being deafened by the sound of production making “stuff” – most of it not quite what people want. The God “growth” is what fills the minds of City analysts and the media. So Tesco must be trembling in shame for its appalling  1% yoy decline  for quarter 4 2010  whilst Sainsbury is a brilliant A* student because of its +3% growth. Please.

We are wasting a lot of things right now:
·    Resources - the intelligence to rein in on making the unsellable
·    Space - the unneeded buildings we could flatten and turn into parks
·    Our talent - the bright young minds that will remain unemployed and losing the will to think when we could be coaching them into being thoughtful citizens of the new world
·    Day to day waste - all manner of activities in big companies that use up time and money to no good effect (getting people at the coal face of any business to remove waste would save billions and  they would be savings not cuts)
·    Hubristic plans - expenditure on big and irrelevant capital projects – like the high speed train link. It takes 2 hours Euston to Liverpool by train. Who needs faster than that?

The penalty of the quest for economic growth is extravagance and waste. In a so-called age of austerity it’s a brilliant moment to reduce what you do that has no obvious beneficial effect and to spend a bit more time thinking.

Seamus is right. Waste is the common enemy.

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