THE RISE OF SLOW
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.