Thereâ€™s the language of business – a world of accountants, reason, utility and rationality – then thereâ€™s the language of Tim Smit. The language of originality and truth, the language of Beauty. According to Smit, we are arriving at a period where we are collectively rediscovering beauty. He is insistent that what he is talking about is not, in fact, â€˜hippy shitâ€™, but rather a reminder that â€œThereâ€™s more to life than existence and consumption and utility.â€ We are increasingly aware of our responsibilities as a society, with a wealth of knowledge on hand from the web and the means to question it. We see the undeniable greed and irresponsibility of those who have been managing the country and it’s finances playing out each day in the news. It seems we no longer want to plough our money, efforts and hard work into faceless corporations. Thereâ€™s a move towards wanting to buy better, work better and live better.
Whatâ€™s the story?
For a long time thereâ€™s been the feeling that more and bigger is better, but things are changing. The advent of social media channels like Twitter and Facebook have helped businesses communicate with their customers and share ideas and stories much more easily. This sharing of information gives us more power when we decide who, as a consumer, we want to invest in. We are all constantly searching for meaning in our lives and as consumers we are beginning to look for this in what we buy and what we do. This search for meaning can be utilised in business, even within the financial and practical world of securing funding – venture capitalists and investors want to be part of a story too. In Smitâ€™s words; â€œUtility is dull if it doesn’t come with the hidden romance of something beautiful behind itâ€ It provides them with the reason why they
should support your business. If you feel part of something then you can invest yourself fully, you want to do your best for each other. Your contribution then means something to everybody else and yourself. A shared risk inspires a shared passion. As Smit puts it â€œThe moment you decide to go down in flames together, youâ€™re not going to go down in flames.â€
The right track?
If you arenâ€™t honest with yourself about what you find beautiful, about what really inspires you, then Smit would say that you are doomed to fail. This is because even if you win, it will feel like â€˜ashesâ€™. It will be a hollow victory. Maybe you are motivated by proving to your family and friends that you can make a success of yourself, but, having everyone else think you are fantastically successful may not feel quite as good as you might expect. Smit was very successful in the music industry and when he reached the pinnacle of that career (heâ€™d written the biggest record in French history that spent 15 weeks at number one) he broke down – he realised it meant absolutely nothing to him. And if something means nothing to you, does it matter if you fail or succeed? Because Smit says â€œThings that matter make the blood course through your veins in different ways.â€
Smit thinks that thereâ€™s a general misunderstanding when it comes to optimism. In his experience it isnâ€™t about a business plan where all the imaginary figures add up, itâ€™s about following your gut and completing a project using sheer will and passion. It is about sharing the life affirming beauty of your vision with other people and trusting them to help you get there. To really care about what you are doing and to really care about and trust the people you are doing it with, this is the lifeblood of success to Smit. People bring the beauty and meaning to a business. When people are reminded how beautiful life and work can be, and if they are trusted and feel a love of the shared enterprise, they will flourish. They will be inspired and work hard. Itâ€™s normal
for things to be difficult, life is difficult, but loving what you do will make success a damn sight easier to achieve, and you are much more likely to have a grin on your face along the way.
Tim Smitâ€™s Beautiful Business RulesÂ
- Youâ€™re not allowed to start work in the morning at Eden unless you have said â€˜Good Morningâ€™ to as many people as possible. (“Donâ€™t start work by working, itâ€™s all about communication”)
- You have to read two books that are outside of your sphere of interest and then review them for your colleagues.
- You have to watch two plays that are outside of your sphere of interest and then review them for your colleagues.
- You have to watch two movies that are outside of your sphere of interest and then review them for your colleagues.
- You have to watch two concerts that are outside of your sphere of interest and then review them for your colleagues.
- You have to prepare a speech once a year about why you love to work for Smit. If you cant do it you must resign. (This helps employees be honest with themselves about what is making them unhappy in their job and then actually do something to rectify it.)
- The top 80 team members have to conduct a guerilla act of kindness (“Share your good fortune”).
- You must prepare a meal for the 40 people who make it worth you getting up for in the morning. (“Because breaking bread together has very little to do with eating and everything to do with sharing ideas.”)
- Everyone has to learn the samba drums and play together. (“This helps them realise that the sum of all our parts can be magnificently bigger than the individual.”)