“What we did establish is that the carrots offered were far less effective than the sticks employed.”
Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts – talking about the ‘limited effect’ of Pathways to Work pilots
Sticks and carrots have a long and noble tradition in the management of donkeys. However even with donkeys there are times when the ‘bribe and punish’ approach to change management fails:
- When the donkey is not hungry enough
- When the effort of reaching the carrot is too great (the burden is too heavy)
In these circumstances we may choose to resort to the stick. But this too will not work if:
- the pain of the stick is thought to be less than the pain of moving forward
- the donkey learns to like the stick and the attention that it brings
But I think the real issue here is not about the limitations of sticks and carrots in the management of donkeys and people.
It is about the complete and utter failure to understand the nature of human motivation. Motivation is that which energises, directs and sustains a person’s efforts. Sustains efforts. Sticks and carrots applied to move a donkey from one (expensive) field to another (less expensive field) do NOTHING to sustain efforts. In fact it is likely to achieve the opposite. The donkey returns to its passive state until more carrots and sticks appear on the scene. And the state wants more enterprising communities?
But the major problem is not treating people like donkeys, and further dulling their enterprising souls. It is that the state believes that this is the most effective, fair and just way of changing behaviour. That this is such a common default setting when trying to manipulate the behaviours and choices of its citizens.
And we wonder why ‘community engagement’ is so difficult. When you have beaten and bribed your donkeys into submission don’t expect them to engage with you, without the use of ever more sticks and carrots.
Perhaps instead of resorting to a coercive approach to change, we might try instead a coaching approach?
Helping people to recognise their long term self interest and how it may be pursued. Helping them to develop the power they need to make progress in their lives. Helping them to recognise that it is possible and that they don’t need to be pushed around by a bureaucratic system of sticks and carrots. That THEY have choices and agency in their own lives. Vegetable wielding bureaucrats do not have to be the architects of their future.
And what if someone decides that their long-term self interest is served by staying exactly where they are?
Well, we could just leave them alone and put our time, energy and investment into those that want to explore pastures new. Why should the squeaky wheel get all the grease?
Because perhaps people are more like sheep than donkeys. When they see some of the flock moving forward others are sure to follow.
Date: Wednesday 21 July
Time: 6.30 – 8.30 pm
Venue: 51b Holme Bank Mills, Station Road, Mirfield, WF14 8NA
(From Mirfield go under the bridge for Mirfield railway station and turn left following the road with the large sign for James Walker Properties.
From Hopton turn right just before the Mirfield railway station bridge and following the road with the large sign for James Walker Properties).
Creative Connections are quarterly events for artists and creative businesses in and around North Kirklees, run by Loca as part of its Creative Business Support Programme.
As well as encouraging the development of a supportive and well connected community of creative people within North Kirklees we are also encouraging people to look at their businesses more professionally and with more of a critical eye. With this in mind we have a very motivational and thought provoking presentation to offer to you.
Mike Chitty is a writer, trainer, coach and adviser on enterprise and entrepreneurship. Despite having a background in physics his work strikes a chord with creative people and artists of all kinds. In this 30 minute session Mike will provide a fast paced, honest and highly practical introduction to The Entrepreneur’s Workshop and introduce us to 10 powerful tools that can help us make sure that our creative enterprises serve us rather than the other way round.
As an extra bonus, we are holding the evening’s event at the new studio of Andrew Warburton, Area Rugs and Carpets where you be able to view inspirational work by Andrew, Dylan Edwards and Amazed Rugs. Andrew will once again demonstrate the production methods he uses to create his bespoke, high quality rugs and there will be the opportunity to have a go for the more adventurous among you.
Creative Connections is a chance to meet informally with other creative people to pick up ideas, information and contacts which may be useful in your work. It’s also a great opportunity to promote your own work and what’s going on creatively in the local area, so please do use it as a platform to let people know about events or projects that you are involved in, or to sound out interest in an idea you’re developing, or to request information. Why not bring along your portfolio, brochures or other visual material to show your work to others and help develop your contacts?
The Loca team looks forward to seeing you at Creative Connections. Please contact us if you have any particular access needs.
Please park in the free car park. Andrews studio is under the barriers to the right. There are three small steps up to the workshop with handrails.
The evening is free and light refreshments will be provided.
RSVP to Loca on 01924 488844 or email: email@example.com
I spent a great 90 minutes with Brian Handley, General Manager of Harvey Nichols in Leeds, and Lee Hicken from online marketing outfit Hebemedia to find out a little more about their work in supporting enterprise across Yorkshire and to explore the possibility of helping to develop their role in supporting emerging artists and crafts people.
Now I am no ‘fashion and retail’ guru and struggle to understand why anyone would want to pay £3000 or more for an Italian Leather handbag, but apparently they do, and Harvey Nichols helps to serve that want. (Not everything in Harvey Nichols has such a price tag. Apparently a coffee in their restaurant costs the same as in Starbucks, some items in the Food Hall match Morrison for price and some of their makeup too matches the High St retailers on price.)
But why are those expensive handbags Italian? Why not British? Or Yorkshire?
- Are we lacking the skills and talent required to craft leather to this standard?
- Are we poor at the marketing and brand building work required to compliment fine craft skills to command this top end of the market? We are simply unable to break the consumers taste for ‘Italian Leather’. Perhaps the Italian High Streets are full of top quality British Leather handbags – I suspect not….
- Does the Italian craft leather industry receive support from its own Government that allows it to perform at this level?
- Perhaps the Harvey Nichols buyers have not found the great British products that are out there, preferring instead to go with established Italian brands that they know will sell?
I suspect that it is some combination of the first three that leads to the failure of British manufacturers to compete at the top end of the luxury leather handbag market. A conversation with Brian convinces me that they do all they can to source locally wherever possible without compromising on quality.
And I suspect that the absence of high quality business support to help with the development of craft and marketing skills is a large part of the problem. I can’t recall seeing a single UK regional economic strategy that emphasises the importance of the craft sector. They tend to focus on ‘high-tech, bio-tech, creative and digital’ but hardly mention the support of traditional craft skills which tend to live of the crumbs from the ‘high growth’ table.
Which is perhaps why Harvey Nichols in Leeds have been able to do so much work with 11 textile mills across Yorkshire, helping to raise their profile. Absolutely nothing wrong with their product. They provide felts and baize for Steinway pianos and the worlds best snooker tables. They provide the fabric for Barack Obama’s curtains in the Oval Office of the White House, and the world’s most expensive suit. Each of the mills was characterised with an obsessive passion for the quality of the product which had allowed them to move up market and hang on as most textile manufacturing headed east. But their marketing and branding was weak, and when they came together at Harvey Nichols to see how an association with the store might raise awareness of their product, Brian said it was the first time that all of them had shared a room to explore the way forward. They had learned a little about how to compete with each other – but very little about how to collaborate. (Perhaps there is a clue here to the prominence of Italian artisan on British High Streets?).
Why does Harvey Nichols get involved in this kind of work?
Well I don’t think it is pure altruism. It is self interest properly understood – a thriving local economic ecosystem is essential for the maintenance and development of the customer base. A good story is essential for brand building and getting people through the doors. This is good business combined with a genuine passion for, and commitment to, high quality manufacturing in the region.
This kind of ‘business to business’ business support was once widespread. In some parts of the world it still is. But in the UK business support has turned into a government funded industry not primarily focussed on responding to local indigenous businesses but on focussing support on strategic priorities (high tech/biotech/creative and digital).
Perhaps in these straitened times we could afford to let this government backed Business Support industry to just fade away and encourage more employers like Harvey Nichols to play a full part in supporting local enterprise. The engagement of businesses in this sort of civic society, using their expertise to develop a viable and sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem will surely create much more value for society than so many corporate social responsibility projects that end up with Lawyers painting community centres….
…and if you are looking to spend £300 rather than £3000 pounds on a Leather Handbag that is ‘Made in England’ you might try Liz Cox.
Enterprise for All was a one day conference organised on behalf of emda by Unleashing Enterprise with a mixture of key note presentations and workshop sessions.
A few things really struck me about it. From the key note speakers and a tour of the exhibition hall it was clear just how much of a grip business and economic development interests have on the enterprise agenda. Enterprise really IS all about business. Business start ups, business growth and business education.
Except of course enterprise has relevance in many, perhaps all, spheres of life. It relates to parenting, cello playing, footballing and planning. To mathematics, politics and dance. An enterprising approach helps with business, yes, but it helps with so much more as well. Because an enterprising person is someone who has a theory about the direction ‘in which progress lies’, and has the confidence, strategies and skills that they need to pursue it. By conflating enterprise with business we do it a disservice. We alienate many who should be our natural allies, and we repel some who we should attract.
Business is a great vehicle for teaching enterprise – but so too is sport, art, history and drama. In Bolivia, enterprise education has been conducted largely through the power of classical music.
I was deeply surprised when another speaker said that ‘Business is Easy’. This has not been my experience. Business is hard. And small business is really hard. There have been times when it has been so difficult that I have though it must be me doing it wrong. And I talk with some of my closest confidantes about my fears and they tell me ‘No – it’s not you, it IS hard’. One mistake and your reputation is shot. It can take over your life and ruin your relationships with friends and family. It can leave you depressed and in debt. It can also be the most wonderful platform for personal development and a fulfilled life. It really is a double-edged sword!
I have never met an entrepreneur, until yesterday, who has told me that business is easy. This is the ‘Enterprise Fairytale’. I would agree that it is relatively easy to theorise about business. To develop ideas, to refine them and to think about business plans. To get advice from business experts and to act on it, or not. All this is quite easy. On paper, it certainly isn’t differential calculus. But in practice it is something else. It is easy to imagine yourself juggling, or being an astronaut or a pop star. Actually doing it is another thing. It is NEVER easy! Good enterprise education needs to help learners to recognise the ‘double edged’ nature of the sword and recognise that a career in business will not be a glorious extension of a 2 day facilitated workshop held in the comfort of the college hall. It just won’t be. Good enterprise education nurtures the resilience, character, determination and commitment that is required to succeed in business or any other challenge that life throws our way. It teaches the importance of craft and skill, of persistence and commitment. And knowing when might be the right time to give up.
And the strange thing is that in my experience, the more honest we are about the challenges of entrepreneurship, the emotional, analytical, physical and financial challenges involved the more likely we are to get good, enduring entrepreneurs. The more we help people to recognise how hard it is to leave the comfort zones and try something different the more likely they are risk it.
I was very struck when another keynote speaker told us about a primary school class that wanted to sell him a presentation. An 8-year-old offered to sell him the copyright! Now I am all for educating young people about the importance of intellectual property, but at 8? Is this really what enterprise education should be for such young children? A Primary Business Curriculum?
Now this is a contested area. No-one holds the truth on this. In enterprise education we have little consensus on curriculum, assessment or methodology. But I know that if my 8-year-old had come home from school telling me that they had been learning about copyright I would be seriously questioning the schools priorities for primary education. I have witnessed primary classes being taught the difference between tangible and intangible brands. And I was once approached in a Leeds hotel by a girl of 6 or 7 wearing a badge that said ‘Sales Executive’. She knew exactly what margin she would make if she could sell me the beetroot plant that she was brandishing. Are we really introducing appropriate content at the right time into the classroom? Do we deserve the respect of our colleagues as educators when we teach this in the primary school? I am not so sure.
Throughout the day I was approached by a number of people who made very similar comments. ’Mike, I agree with you wholeheartedly, but we only get paid for outcomes related to business. I know it isn’t right, but if that is what the funders are paying for that is what we have to provide. It is what the system demands’. I love the irony of this. ’We teach enterprise by following instructions’. But I think it points to a wider challenge for the policy makers and the funders. Does this ‘head on’ approach to entrepreneurship really work?
The title of the conference was also telling – Unleashing Enterprise. Much of the socialisation of young people is all about putting the leash on them. We value compliance, academic achievement, team playing and conforming. Those that dare to see things differently, to do things differently, to paddle their own canoe, tend to be bought back into line, or expelled. And it is not only enterprise that we struggle to unleash. Creativity, leadership, innovation, potential…all of these have been subject to the leash fetish.
I have not done much on the enterprise conference circuit. I have worked in community centres, village halls and at kitchen tables helping individuals and communities to develop their own approach to a more enterprising future. It was a new experience for me. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone – and as always happened I learned a lot!
Last night I found myself in the very wonderful boardroom at Broadcasting Place in Leeds running a masterclass for students on the MA in Creative Enterprise at Leeds Met.
In essence I told them not to worry about being too focussed (See Norman Perrin’s excellent post on Obliquity). I introduced them to the ‘baited hook’ strategy, where you cast out lots of juicy baits and see which ones get a bite. This seems perfect for ‘creatives’ who on the evidence of last night seem incapable of not innovating. They always have new ideas, skills and visions to bring to market. My advice….don’t fight it just find a way to get product to market quickly, and if the bites don’t come, then fail cheaply and quickly. We explored this against a backdrop of ’10 000 hours theory’ that suggests you never have a really tasty bait until you have served your time and really mastered a craft! You pay your money and you take your chance….
I also did some stuff with them on the importance of building balanced management teams with people who can look after great product, great marketing and sales and wonderful financial management. A quick dissection of a few businesses in the room showed them to be packed full of creatives – but certainly short, if not completely absent, of real passion for marketing, sales and financial management. This, to say the least, is a problem. I hope they recognised that perhaps as well as hanging out with other creatives (who provide validation and yet more ideas) they might need to hang out with a few ‘suits’ in order to get the diversity of passion and skill that their businesses need. The course tutor said that she could see a look of relief pass across faces when I said that they should not be expected to be great at everything themselves. That it was OK to build teams, to ask for help. That someone else should be doing the bits in the business that they hate. We explored how proper mentoring and coaching could help fill this gaps and that skills could be begged, borrowed and bartered. The inadequacies of some mentoring programmes designed to help where described by entrepreneurs who had been on the receiving end. So much mentoring is more about CSR and professional development for the mentor than it is about really helping the entrepreneur. We also spent much of the evening talking about the merits of ‘kissing frogs’ and seeing which ones turned into to Princes/Princesses! Don’t just accept the mentor you have been sent. Go and search for the right one yourself!
The 90 minute masterclass (for me at least) flew by – ending with a riff on the importance of managing your own learning, along with a few insights into how to do this, and keeping yourself on track with your own personal vision for the kind of person you need to be. Staying true to yourself. Following your muse.
At the end, as has happened several times before when I have done this kind of gig, participants told me that ‘I really understood the way that artists think and work’. This reaction initially puzzled me. I have a degree in Physics and a schooling in enterprise and entrepreneurship. I did once read Gombrich’s History of Art and I do know what I like….but how could I have developed any real insight into the psyche of the artist?
The truth is of course that artists are people too. The same ideals of psychology, personal growth, honesty in work, and staying true to a personal vision and values apply whether you are an artists, physicist, engineer or nurse. The real secret of my work here is connecting with people about their personal visions – and not getting sucked into the nitty gritty of the business.
I’d love to do more of this kind of short masterclass – so if there are any opportunities out there do get in touch!