Monthly Archives: March 2011

This Thursday we talk with Brian Robertson – one of the most visionary thinkers on organisations I’ve ever found.  Brian has been a serial entrepreneur since launching his first business at the age of 12.  He is the co-founder of HolacracyOne – the company behind the spread of Holacracy: a whole system practice for organisations – and is an all round kick-ass organisational visionary!

What is Holacracy?
Brian developed Holacracy to address a very specific need.  He saw how the organisations of the future need to be able to adapt incredibly quickly to fast changing circumstances in order to survive and thrive in the evolving business arena. Holacracy is a system for organisational governance and decision making that has conscious perspectives baked into the actual processes!  So, despite its dodgy name (sorry Brian ;)), it’s a friggin great invention.
Using Holacracy in your business is like upgrading your entire operating system. After initially thinking that it was all a bit boring, in the end I realized it was like swapping a file-o-fax for an iPad!

Why Brian Robertson?
There are 3 main reasons why I wanted Brian to share his awesome insights on Waking up the Workplace

  1. We have actually implemented key parts of his holacracy system in an innovative internet company here in Amsterdam. In December 2010, this organisation won the High Growth Award 2010 for the Netherlands, with 570% growth between 2007-2009. So, I know for a fact that this stuff works.
  2. He is truly a unique visionary. I find that most of the attention in conscious business goes to leadership development, and much less to organisational structure or “practice”. Brian is a master at understanding organisational structures, and how to super-charge them.
  3. Finally, when I first met Brian, I was literally in awe at the immense theoretical depth that he has been able to translate into a very practical and “workable” system. Although his work is based on very in depth theories and practices, he makes it easy to use, from improving the effectiveness of your meetings, to literally Waking up the Workplace!

So, joking aside, this is an interview I’m really looking forward to, as I consider Brian a great personal friend and a genuinely amazing guy.

So make sure not to miss this interview and join the conversation with Brian Robertson!
It starts at 8pm CET on Thursday 31th March, which is 7pm GMT, 2pm Eastern time and 11pm Pacific time. Timezone not listed, click here.

For Brian’s Bio, click here

Do you struggle to have effective meetings (that don’t last hours) and clean and powerful decision making processes in your workplace?   Share your experiences in the comments below!


“I spent a long time as a journalist, and there was a lot about being a journalist that I liked, and I was good at it, but I never felt a burning passion about what it was I was doing. I never felt that what I was doing was making a significant contribution to a better world. I didn’t really realize that that was what I was missing, I just knew I was missing something.”

That was the start of our rich and inspiring interview with Tony Schwartz, last Thursday. He then continued to share with us his ideas about high performance, and the need to manage our energy, instead of our time. Time is a finite resource: whatever we do, we will only ever have 168 hours in a week.

At the same time, things are ever getting more complex, and that puts more demands on us. Physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Those are the four types of energy, or ‘gas tanks’, that Tony distinguishes:

  • Physical: the quantity of your energy
  • Emotional: the quality of your energy
  • Mental: the focus of your energy
  • Spiritual: the purpose to which you put your energy

What Tony’s organization The Energy Project is saying to organizations, is that rather than getting the most out of people, they need to start investing in people.

“If their ultimate goal is to get the highest productivity from their employees, for the longest period of time, the best way to do that is not to demand more of them, but to actually meet their core needs so that they’re not preoccupied by those needs, and so they’re freed, and they’re fuelled, and they’re inspired to bring all they’ve got to work every day. Very different kind of approach.”

The key to solving the ‘personal energy crisis’ mirrors the solution to the energy crisis in a world of finite resources: renewable energy. We need to learn how to renew our own resources, our ‘gas tanks’. A world of more, bigger, faster, eventually leads to depletion, to emptiness, and burn-out. A world in which people are renewing creates sustainability.

One of the things we can do to wake up the workplace, ironically, is to take naps in the workplace. The body is designed to sleep twice every day. It’s meant to sleep for a long period at night, when it’s dark, and for a short period in the middle of the day. People who take naps are dramatically higher-performing during the three subsequent hours after the nap. The Energy Project actually has a renewal room with a comfortable bed for people to take naps!

The responsibility for managing our energy resources is ultimately our own, but organizations can do a lot to support their employees in bringing themselves to work fully. Some of the questions Tony addressed in the interview include:

  • How do we create an environment in which people can physically take care of and renew themselves?
  • How do we create an environment that grounded in high positive energy and appreciation for one another?
  • How do we create an environment in which we give people the opportunity to focus on one thing at a time, for significant periods of time?
  • How do we define the mission we’re on, in a way that resonates more powerfully and more clearly for people, so that when they show up for work, they feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves?

Tony: “If the organizations we go into say, well you know, I don’t want to deal with this spiritual stuff, that’s soft, that’s stuff that people should handle for themselves, what we say is, well, here’s all we mean by spiritual: what we mean by spiritual, is the energy derived from the experience that what you do really matters.

So let me ask you this, Mr. Executive: do you think that your people bring more energy to the table, when they believe that what they’re doing really matters? And that’s a no-brainer, isn’t it? That’s an unequivocal ‘yes’!”

The experience that what you do really matters: that’s what had been missing for Tony in his earlier years as a successful journalist. Tony: “Let me say this without a moment’s hesitation: the companies that thrive a decade, or two decades from now, are going to be the companies that embrace these principles, as sure as I’m sitting here talking to you right now. It’s only logic. They won’t be able to survive without it.”

Want to hear more? Listen to the recording of the entire interview with Tony Schwartz! Register for free, and you’ll get an email with a link to the downloads page.

Wondering about your own physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual ‘gas tanks’? Take the free Energy Audit on the website of The Energy Project, where you will also find loads of other awesome resources for managing your energy!

That’s what we took from the interview, but what about you? Share your insights and questions below!


After such an inspiring start to the series last week, I’m excited to tell you about our second speaker – Tony Schwartz.

For those of you who don’t know Tony, he is the founder and CEO of The Energy Project, a company that helps individuals and organizations fuel energy, engagement, focus and productivity by harnessing the science of high performance!

He’s written and co-authored a whole bunch of books, including the seminal ‘The Power of Full Engagement’ and the #1 bestseller ‘The Art of the Deal’ with Donald Trump.

To give you an idea of why we chose Tony to be one of the speakers on the series, I want to share with you a quote from ‘The Power of Full Engagement’:

“The ultimate measure of our lives is not how much time we spend on the planet, but rather how much energy we invest in the time that we have.”

And by energy, Tony means physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energy.

Basically, Tony is an energy expert! He knows what it takes to be able to consistently perform exceptionally. Which I’m sure you’ll agree, is totally necessary if you want to truly work in service of the world, and really give your greatest gifts!

So come and join the conversation with Tony!

It starts at 7pm CET on Thursday 24th March, which is 6pm GMT, 2pm Eastern time and 11pm Pacific time. (Note, this is an hour earlier than first advertised)

For Tony’s Bio, click here.

To get the conversation rolling already, why would you like to have more energy available to you? What would it enable you to do?


Wow! What a thing to say! Consciousness – not office complexes, or sales figures, or revolutionary new products, or share prices, or brand reputation – but consciousness, that thing we all have but often struggle to explain or intervene with, is our greatest asset.

It was during our call with Brian Johnson last week that Brian revealed that this had been the biggest insight he’d had during his life as an entrepreneur.

It cuts against so much of the accepted idea that we have about what business is. I think it’s such an important and challenging statement that I want to take some time to unpack it a little further, and relate it to my own experiences and dreams.

How different would business be if we invested in consciousness?

How many businesses or organisations today treat the consciousness of their people as their greatest asset? How many companies treat their Human Resources as something above and beyond a bolted-on department and resource, and integrate the support and development of those people’s consciousness, as the very central element of what business is?

I was struck by what Brian said, that for him, work was about giving his greatest gifts in service of the world. What would business look like if this was the role of business development, and not simply the increasing of the financial bottom line? How different would work become?

If we start with the commitment to consciousness as being our greatest asset, then what do we do differently in the way we run our businesses? There are, I think, two important pieces to distinguish between.

The first is that, if consciousness is our greatest asset, how do we invest in that asset, and develop and nurture it, just as we would a traditional tangible asset like a flagship product? This is a huge question, and one deserving of an enquiry all of its own. But for now, I want to concentrate on the second piece.

A most honourable pursuit of happiness

If consciousness is our greatest asset, then in what context is that asset best placed to thrive and reach the heights of its inherent potential?

It reminds me of something a friend of mine was telling me last week – about when he was involved in business training in the early 90s. The depth of those trainings, he said, went so far as to actually result in people realising they no longer wanted to work for the company that had provided the training in the first place. What happened? The companies got scared – the aim of expensive in depth training was to increase productivity, not to lose their valued employees!

And from the perspective of the business, I can completely understand that. How does it help the business if your development programs result in people leaving?

But I think there’s also a larger issue at play here. If we start from the perspective of the world – of all people – then what is it we want above all else? Perhaps we want people to be happy, and for people to find the ways in which they can – as Brian said – give their greatest gifts in service of the world.

From that perspective, I think there is little more honourable than assisting people with that self discovery, despite the possibility of them leaving your own small part of the world – your company – as a result.

How many business leaders – if they really took the time to enquire – would find that their employees were there because they deeply wanted to be there, and felt empowered to give their greatest gifts?

As Jim Collins articulates in his seminal book Good to Great – one of the first steps for a company making the journey from good to great, is to make sure you have the right people on the bus. Without the right people – the people who are intrinsically motivated to work in service of the business mission – the path to greatness is going to be derailed before it even begins.

A question dear to my own heart

How do I create the circumstances where I am released to work in service of my larger dream and serve the world with my gifts?

It’s a question that I’m asking myself constantly, and probably indefinitely. It’s a question that feels all the more potent and fundamental when held in the context of my idealism.

It’s also a big question, and one that is not going to be easily answered, especially in our current business culture. And neither is it, I believe, one that is meant to be answered by much of our current business culture. Why? Because it’s not the burning question that most people hold – it’s not the enquiry inherent in their own consciousness. And I for one do not feel called to admonish anyone for not sharing my own ideals.

But for those of us that do feel called to explore that question, I invite us to share that enquiry. Let’s share our dreams and our successes, our doubts and our struggles, our advice and our expertise.

Let’s invest in our consciousness, and realise the return on that investment. Let’s start to shape a workplace where we are more awake, more fulfilled, more impact, and ultimately, more happy.


Yesterday, we kicked off the series with a beautiful dialogue with Brian Johnson. (Check out the downloads page if you missed it!) During the Q&A, Richard from the U.K. asked Brian: “For an aspiring entrepreneur, what one book is a must read to start a business with higher ideal than the majority of current businesses?” Brian responded that if he had to pick one, focusing on the ‘nuts and bolts’ level of business, he’d go for 37signals’ Rework.

Here’s a list of all the other books he mentioned during the call.

(Conscious) business

Optimal Living



Authentic Happiness
Furthermore, in reaction to a question by Lindsay Ruiz, Brian generously offered to share his Philosopher’s Notes summary of Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness which you can download here. You can find more info and a number of pretty cool questionnaires at

Conscious Investors
Finally, Marni Melrose asked a great question about conscious investors, which Brian offered to share some more thoughts and resources about. We’ll update this post as soon as those are in, so check back in a few days!

In the meantime: What are some of your favourite books, links, or other resources on conscious business?


Today we kick off the series, and I can’t tell you how excited we are about it (and I must admit I have a few nerves too ;)) We chose to start this series with a dialogue with Brain Johnson, and I just want to take a moment to tell you why!

I first came across Brian when I heard an interview between him and philosopher Ken Wilber. The title of the conversation perfectly encapsulates what inspires me about Brian, and why he was one of the first names on my list for this series. It was entitled entrepreneurial idealism.

Brian is not only an entrepreneur; he is a visionary, a philosopher and an idealist – a rare combination for someone so successful.  For me, he is a wonderful example of how business and consciousness can combine to create truly inspiring work in the world!

The bottom line is, Brian is awesome, and he’s doing awesome stuff, and we feel honoured to be starting this series with him.

So come and join the conversation today with Brian!

It starts at 8pm CET, which is 7pm GMT, 3pm Eastern time and 12pm Pacific time.  If you want to join, and haven’t registered yet, fill in your details in the registration box to the right and I’ll send you instructions on how to join 30 minutes before the call.

During the second part of the call we’ll be opening it up to questions from you.  If you’re unable to join the call, post your questions for Brian below, and we’ll select the juiciest one to ask him live on the call!

For more information about Brian, check out his biography here.