Monday, 8 June 2020


In common with many I’ve led my life thinking growth and scale was good. Who, I used to think,  wouldn’t want to be CEO of BA, Tesco or better still Boeing? 

Over the past few years, and especially the past few months, this issue has been on my mind. I noticed the EU Aviation Body published a list of high and low risk airports. Predictably,  Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Glasgow and Manchester get the thumbs down. Most of us wouldn’t  have thought of flying from Bournemouth , Southampton, Southend or Bristol which are categorised as low risk but low stress too. Easy parking. Uncrowded. Smaller and better. 

I predict more airlines will avoid the turmoil of the giant traffic jams, of looking for extra runways and pay-outs and instead seek out slots in the low risk airports devoid of luxury shopping malls and crowds.
And who needs super Jumbo jets. After Covid 19 (with Covid 20 and 21 to come in due course) all we know about confining crowds in monster cruise ships and huge planes should make us look at travel differently and think smaller.

And shopping. Where department stores as theatres of excitement will continue to delight but bad ones will rightly die. Hurray for Harrods, Selfridges , Jarrold and Fortnum and Mason. Boo to Debenhams, House of Fraser and Primark. And big applause to the currently struggling-to-breathe let alone survive small independents in the stroll-and-wonder congregations of small shops in the Brighton North Laine, the Shambles in Tunbridge Wells and the Rows in Chester. Small, specialist and exciting is a good starting point for the future.

Advice? McKinsey, Deloitte, Bain, PWC, WPP? They are full of very clever, big-thinking, expensive people. But in our current world they seem a bit like the ancient Persians or Egyptians. Perhaps in the future we’ll look back at them and their pyramids of HQs and wonder what that was all about.  Bigger. Was that what it was about?

Or have we all been caught out by this moment in history to question virtually everything and start to apply principles of common sense not just private equity visions or Warren Buffet’s wisdom - or is it wisdom?

I enjoyed the story in the Times about face masks. Personally I hate them. They make me feel queasy and my glasses steam up. However if they help reduce infection we should probably use them. But, say the sceptics, they haven’t been tested properly in a big matched sample so how we can use data to establish their worth or worthlessness?  To which the answer is – what about parachutes? Did they ever test parachutes versus placebo parachutes? I’m still laughing about that.

This is not about size or growth alone. It’s about values, quality and great experiences. It is not about crowds – sorry O2 it is not about you.

Will we have the courage to face up to thinking smaller being a solution? I hope so. The alternative is monstrous.

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