In a FAST-PACED world filled with DEAD­LINES, meet­ings and key per­for­mance in­di­ca­tors, a RIS­ING num­ber of BUSI­NESSES are push­ing back in a quest to find BAL­ANCE and AU­THEN­TIC­ITY.


meet the com­pa­nies tak­ing back time, find­ing bal­ance and choos­ing to grow dif­fer­ently

It’s ironic, I sup­pose, that I’m bom­bard­ing The World In­sti­tute of Slow­ness founder Geir Berthelsen with emails beg­ging him to re­spond UR­GENTLY as I’m un­der DEAD­LINE. But, this is the odd sit­u­a­tion we find our­selves in. Geir, I as­sume, gets these rushed re­quests quite a bit, but not only does he re­main good-na­tured about it, he at­tempts to pull me from the ‘dark side’ where dead­lines, chaos and work stress dom­i­nate by send­ing me a YouTube video, ‘Mu­sic and Life – Alan Watts’, by South Park cre­ators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

“It’s a com­mon mis­un­der­stand­ing to ask the ques­tion, ‘Why slow?’,” he writes. “The ques­tion should be, ‘Why fast?’, and it should be an­swered with, ‘You want cer­tain things in life to be fast so it helps you have more time to en­joy the things you can in life slowly.’”

Geir then goes away to en­joy said life for a few more days be­fore he gets back to me again and, in do­ing so, teaches me more about busi­ness and the art of work-life bal­ance in that time than I’ve learnt dur­ing my 20-year ca­reer.

In a world where the words ‘fast’, ‘quick’, and, if you’re a word­smith, ‘su­per-speedy’, dom­i­nate busi­ness, it might seem coun­ter­in­tu­itive to cut the pace. Yet, off the back of the rise of slow travel, slow liv­ing, slow money and even slow cities (Goolwa, South Aus­tralia, was the first ‘Cit­taslow’ in Aus­tralia), start-ups and es­tab­lished in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies world­wide are in­creas­ingly do­ing ex­actly that as they join in what’s be­come widely known as ‘the slow busi­ness move­ment’.

But go­ing slowly isn’t an ex­cuse for lazi­ness, ter­ri­ble ser­vice or bad-qual­ity prod­ucts – or even a refuge for those who no longer en­joy their jobs. It’s about say­ing no to the or­di­nary and mak­ing time to fo­cus on the projects you re­ally want to work on while put­ting a spot­light on other, of­ten ne­glected ar­eas of life such as com­mu­nity or per­sonal re­la­tion­ships and in­ter­ests. Sim­ply put, just as slow food is tastier food, slow busi­ness is of­ten bet­ter busi­ness.

Geir, who started his ‘slow rev­o­lu­tion’ think­tank as a way to ac­knowl­edge that lack of time – or our perception of ur­gency – is a gar­gan­tuan chal­lenge for the Western world, says it’s a trend that’s only go­ing to be­come more pop­u­lar as we seek equi­lib­rium in our lives. Af­ter find­ing suc­cess by help­ing in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies and ad­ver­tis­ing agen­cies meet the chal­lenges of time, Geir even­tu­ally di­ver­si­fied into a range of his own busi­ness ventures. These in­clude SlowCon­sult­ing and SlowBeer, and he’s cur­rently work­ing on the launch of SlowShop­ping (his sec­ond at­tempt at it af­ter the first launch – dare we say it – hap­pened too quickly).

“We’re work­ing to fa­cil­i­tate a whole new mind­set,” he says.

One per­son who’s ex­pe­ri­enced the power of switch­ing to slow is Jerry Stifel­man, founder and cre­ative di­rec­tor of The Change Cre­ation, a US-based brand-strat­egy and de­sign agency. Back in 2008, at a time when busi­nesses large and small were floun­der­ing un­der the ef­fects of the fi­nan­cial cri­sis, Jerry’s com­pany was in the en­vi­able po­si­tion of en­ter­ing yet an­other state of growth. He could have taken the money and run but, in­stead, chose that pe­riod to slow the busi­ness right down, strip­ping the team back to its core mem­bers and reg­u­larly chat­ting with staff about how to make ev­ery­one’s per­sonal and work de­vel­op­ment jour­ney richer and more en­joy­able. It wasn’t an easy de­ci­sion to make ad­mits Jerry.

“The cre­ative busi­ness in par­tic­u­lar is fun, but it can also be­come all­con­sum­ing, so it made sense to be crys­tal-clear about bal­ance,” he says.

You want CER­TAIN things in life to be FAST so it HELPS you have MORE time to EN­JOY the things you can in life SLOWLY.

“Be­cause of the way the world has evolved, it’s all too easy to lose our con­nec­tion to the very de­tails that make life worth­while and in­ter­est­ing. Work should be a mean­ing­ful ex­pres­sion of in­di­vid­u­als, but also re­mem­ber that the rest of your life mat­ters – joy mat­ters, love mat­ters.”

Nine years on, The Change Cre­ation is still tick­ing along nicely, and Jerry says he en­joys a far bet­ter work-life bal­ance than he ever has, as does his team.

“[Tak­ing things slow] makes me more present in the mo­ment, I think, and more ef­fec­tive when it comes to fo­cus­ing on a work task,” he says. “It’s also made me more joy­ful and avail­able in my per­sonal life,” he adds, ex­plain­ing that other busi­nesses would do well to fol­low suit – whether it be by re­duc­ing work hours, ex­tend­ing dead­lines or sim­ply par­ing back how much work, or how many clients they take on.

Best of all, he’s adamant it doesn’t have to mean less money in the bank, or an up­hill bat­tle to get your name out there. “A team of hap­pier peo­ple deeply en­gaged in life – in my ex­pe­ri­ence – will out­per­form a team that’s com­pletely driven by the im­per­a­tives of a project,” he says. Con­nec­tion in place of speed could be the key to suc­cess.

Sim­i­larly some tech com­pa­nies, such as web app de­vel­op­ers Base­camp, are fo­cus­ing on staff, not fig­ures, with founder Ja­son Fried pre­vi­ously ad­mit­ting that he’s not in­ter­ested in per­form­ing the cookie-cut­ter mo­tions of an in­dus­try notorious for burn­ing peo­ple out with un­re­al­is­tic work­loads, hours and tar­gets. “I like the peo­ple here too much,” says the au­thor of Re­work: Change the Way You Work For­ever.

In­stead, Ja­son be­lieves in slow growth that will pro­vide longevity. Since the com­pany was founded in 1999, it has grown to 100,000 pay­ing cus­tomers – and only 50 staff, all of whom ben­e­fit from four months a year of “sum­mer hours”, work­ing just four days a week.

As the com­pany says on their site: “Treat­ing peo­ple right is fun­da­men­tal to how we do busi­ness. We’re also big be­liev­ers in busi­ness 101. >

Be­cause of the way the WORLD has EVOLVED, it’s all too easy to lose our CON­NEC­TION to the very DE­TAILS that make life WORTH­WHILE and in­ter­est­ing.

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