Monday, 14 November 2022


This is not going to be about the folly that occurred in the UK with Ms Truss last month or at least not much about that. 

Liz Truss blames 'anti-growth coalition' for UK's problems in conference  speech | NationalWorld

Instead it’s a reflection on the thinking that has driven business and the management of money over my lifetime. Increasingly in a world currently talking now about recession, growth seems rather irrelevant.  Yet I know few people in business, consultancy or finance who don’t still talk passionately about growth plans.

Last Tuesday the founder and owner of FTX, the high-growth crypto currency platform, Sam Bankman-Fried (hang on - read that name again. Who’s teasing whom?) sent out this message:

“I’m sorry. I fucked up”

The $26 billion rise and fall of FTX crypto king Sam Bankman-Fried -  MarketWatch

From a valuation of over $36 billion earlier this year to nothing today. Can I spell out that value in numbers? $36,000,000,000. Wow. That was impressive growth for a business founded in just May 2019.

At least Sam is honest in his admission but he represents in his quest for growth the underlying horrors that can accompany it. Here’s what he said in an interview:  

“Sometimes the only thing standing between what is and what could be is the will to get there, whatever it requires”

I agree with the thought that determination and ambition are necessary qualities for success in business but, hang on, “whatever it requires” absolutely terrifies the hell out of me.

The “growth thing”, as I’m inclined to call it, is strongly present in the USA. Over half a century ago J.F. Kennedy said: 

“Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.”

10 Things You May Not Know About John F. Kennedy - HISTORY

But I’m beginning to wonder now whether it isn’t growth that’s the enemy, whether the determination to get bigger, to scale your business isn’t a kind of madness. Whether those seeking double digit growth or, in Sam’s case much more than that, haven’t created a nightmare of personal burn out and concomitant catastrophes socially, environmentally and politically.

Recently I was in a restaurant called Wild Flor with perhaps 36 covers. It started in 2019 and now it’s food gets better every time I’ve been there. It’s gradually moving from tasty to dreamily delicious.  But how should they grow? Wrong question. How could they improve? How do they gain even better reputation and become the best? Sam (poor Sam) said “Better is bigger”. No it’s not – not when I’m eating my lunch. 

Wild Flor Hove | Local reviews, interviews, menus and booking

 Growth is a new form of aggression thus the founder of the martial art Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba (1883 -1969) once said:

“If we stop growing, technically and spiritually, we are as good as dead.”

Like many great quotes it’s flawed and just plain wrong. If we merely seek to grow we’re doomed to disappoint ourselves and others because, sunshine, there’s much more to life than growth.


I may sometimes be rather unkind about Business Schools and MBAs. This has mainly been because of their use of historic and often misleading case studies like one called Royal Bank of Scotland, The: Masters of Integration” by: Nitin Nohria and James Weber of Harvard.

Harvard Business School - YouTube

As tech stocks dive and growth is hard to achieve maybe it’s time now to replan the gardens which represent our lives, dig up the failed plants, replenish nutrients in the earth and adopt a strategy of better not bigger. In 2022 things have moved on and that “growth thing” with it. The adulation  of the unicorn (billion dollar businesses are called this) seems yesterday’s fad. Time now to maximise customer contentment, product quality and producer skills not growth.


Growth will come when it’s good and ready not because we seek it for its own sake. 

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