New Year offers us all an opportunity to reflect on what has happened, to draw a fresh breath and to prepare ourselves for what is next.
The very nature of work is changing fast. Disruptive innovation is creating challenges in every sector. Climate change, terrorism and global tensions have created a back drop of uncertainty and volatility. Emerging economies and global markets are calling into question traditional business models, whilst new technology continues to revolutionise the way we behave, learn and communicate.
What opportunities will 2016 throw up for you and for your organisation?
At times like these, where do go to look for inspiration? How can we continue to stay focused and motivated when everything around us seems to be in a constant state of change and uncertainty?
Undoubtedly, you will have heard of the terrible flooding experienced here in Cumbria and the North of England over the past month. Where some people’s properties have been flooded three times in as many weeks. Where bridges that have stood for centuries have been destroyed and where roads have disappeared completely, having been literally washed away by the force of the water.
Terrible scenes of devastation and personal loss. Streets full of flood damaged furniture, carpets and kitchen appliances. Sheep, horses and cows drowned in their flooded fields, whilst static homes float down the river like boats. Yet the response from the people of Cumbria was predictably stoic, considered and inspiring.
Over the past month I have witnessed the very best of community spirit, selflessness and genuine acts of kindness that underpin the values of a healthy society. It’s amazing to see how people pull together in a crisis.
The registrar who waded through deep water to get to our hotels to marry two couples on time. Our hotel staff who walked and waded for hours through floods and rain to get to work, who slept on the staff room floors and put in 18 hour days so as not to let our customers down. A wedding cake donated by a local cake maker because the original cake was stuck in the flood. A local farmer delivering the wedding photographer by tractor.
More widely, the many people of Cumbria who have opened up their homes to neighbours and in many cases to complete strangers, travellers who were caught up in the chaos and had nowhere to stay. Hoteliers who have offered their rooms, free of charge, to those displaced by the floods. Holiday home owners who have handed over their properties to locals in need of a dry place to spend Christmas. Neighbours mucking in to dry out shops and homes and to help those worst affected to get back to some semblance of normality. The list goes on. With bus loads of people from around the country, arriving with wrapped Christmas presents and volunteers turning up in droves, from all over Britain, to deliver food and to help with the clean up.
It isn’t all positive though and like every situation, there is a darker side. A very few greedy individuals, capitalising on people's misfortune and over charging for their services, and even worse, isolated incidences of looting from empty properties. The press working hard to create a drama out of a crisis. Despite the many interviewees demonstrating a resilience that is hard to believe, they managed to lead people into thinking that the whole of Cumbria was underwater, when in fact, England’s second largest county only saw real flooding in a minority of areas. This necessitated a counter initiative from Cumbria’s tourist board to persuade people that Cumbria is very much still open for business and that tourism is still the life blood of the area.
This is a story that is being repeated across the world with the many other environmental crisis we are facing, bush fires in Victoria, Australia, drought in California, record flooding across South America, killer tornadoes in Mississippi. All of this coupled to the Syrian refugee crisis, starvation across Africa and the many other local, national and global challenges we face.
In the main though, this is an example of what communities can achieve when they are motivated to work together. It is a story of triumph over adversity where the human spirit of caring for our fellow human beings in times of trouble comes to the fore.
At Impact, our purpose is to "build organisations that are worth working for”. By this we mean organisations that are financially secure, that give back to society and make a difference in their own communities. Organisations that take their environmental responsibilities seriously and create happy, healthy work places.
I believe that there is much we can learn as organisations from the amazing response to the Cumbria floods. How can we create organisations where people really care about each other, as colleagues, as customers and as a community? How do we generate levels of discretionary effort that are motivated by a shared and common purpose? How do we build in to a profit making criteria, an integrated approach to improving our society and our environment?
There is an old Chinese proverb…
"When the winds of change blow, some people build walls whilst others build windmills."
Change can be perceived as an opportunity or a threat. The challenge we face is, do we capitalise on the opportunities presented, moving away from the constraints of old world thinking, to experiment with the new and the different, or do we hunker down and attempt to survive by holding on tight to our beliefs, to what has always worked for us in the past?
Here at Impact, we believe in exploring new possibilities, embracing different ways of making things happen and, with our customers and our partners, daring to make different things happen.
If you would like to be part of this then we look forward to hearing from you.
Happy New Year!
David Williams is Impact's Founder and CEO. He's based in our HQ in the English Lake District.