Author: Oli Barrett

Other People

Other People

To quote an old proverb, “one man’s meat is another man’s poison”. Or, as they say in France, “one man’s fish is another man’s poisson.”

For men and women everywhere, it’s a reminder that what might be heaven for you, is hell for someone else.

I’m not sure whether Jean-Paul Sartre was into his fish, but he certainly reckoned that “hell is other people”. A thought which may resonate with someone who has just experienced four months of lockdown.

Firstly, even within the same household, there have been many lockdowns and even the closest of families may have experienced things extremely differently.

Likewise, for an individual, lockdown may have seemed to be heaven or hell, sometimes within the same day, week, or month.

This matters because it should make us wary about rushing to a consensus about how we work.

When was the last time someone asked you these questions, and really LISTENED to the answers?

Where do YOU do your best work? How well equipped is YOUR home as a place of work? How important to YOU is being around other people? How can I make YOUR work more enjoyable?

These questions matter, because we are all unique.

Yes, “mi casa es su casa”, however when it comes to being at our best, I won’t confuse my house with yours.

How do YOU work well?  

Going Slow

Going Slow

“There is more to life than increasing its speed”, said Gandhi.

It could have been different. Offices, pubs, restaurants closed. No commuting. A chance to unwind, chill out, reflect.

And yet person after person I’ve spoken to has revealed that lockdown has been full on. Back-to-back calls. Fighting for survival or bracing through hypergrowth.

The peaceful reflection never quite materialised.

Today the talk is of revving the engines. Kickstarting. Build build building. We’re travelling at 100 miles per hour and preparing to go faster.

Maybe we need to find a different gear.

The challenges are clear, with jobs at risk and businesses on the line. We can’t afford to become less productive. If speed really is the key then maybe the secret is less not more.

Viggo Mortensen said “One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from a horse master. He told me to go slow to go fast. I think that applies to everything in life. We live as though there aren’t enough hours in the day but if we do each thing calmly and carefully we will get it done quicker and with much less stress.”

As I order my next espresso, pick up Fast Company or check out the latest accelerator, I’ll ponder those words.

“Go slow to go fast”.

In a year of surprises, it might just work.



I had a recurring dream when I was young. I was in the back seat of a car, going downhill, out of control, unable to stop.

Sitting in a school hall one day, I finally decoded and banished my downhill dream. Despite the uniform, despite sitting and listening, despite being told to be quiet, I realised that, despite appearances, I wasn’t in the back seat.

This week I’m reflecting on the work of Young Enterprise UK (led by Sharon Davies) and Founders4Schools (founded by Sherry Coutu CBE). Both do phenomenal work connecting students with the world of work.

Schools face so many pressures, and yet we all have the most incredible opportunity – to change the way a child feels about themselves. To foster in them a sense of potential and excitement for their own adventure.

Most of all, to banish the potential nightmare that they will only ever be passengers in their own life.

That’s why people and programmes which promote activity and discourage passivity are important.

Every child should leave school having experienced what it’s like to start something. A club, a team, a venture – it could be anything.

Because that sense of agency is central to fostering a nation of self-driving young people. Recognising that they too are starting up, and that they deserve all of our support.

The Online Business Embassy

The Online Business Embassy

Here’s an idea;

The UK should open an Online Business Embassy as soon as possible.

Here’s what it should have;

1) A regular showcases of British companies looking to go global.

2) A warm welcome for international business visitors including an embassy concierge service making introductions.

3) Plenty of opportunities to connect British companies with global partners and investors, and international companies with British partners and investors.

4) Spaces to learn about international markets.

5) Regular virtual events to share market insights and inspiring stories.

6) A special focus on health, cleantech and education in the wake of COVID-19.

7) The full support of HM Government and significant backing from the private sector.

What do you think? What do you like? What’s missing?

The Online Business Embassy. Created by the UK to connect the world of business.




Remember restaurants? Here’s a tip. Instead of asking the waiting staff “what do you recommend?”, try asking “what do you recommend, for someone who eats everything and is fairly hungry”. I guarantee the answers will be better.

Too often, the simple “what do you recommend?” gets the answer “it depends what you like” or “it depends how hungry you are”.

I’ve been thinking about questions because recently I’ve been kicking myself. For weeks, I’ve been asking people “what are the changes you’ve seen during the pandemic which you think are worth keeping?”. Time after time, I’ve heard an interesting but limited reflection around flexible or home working.

Instead, I should have asked this; “APART from more flexible and home working, what are the changes you’ve seen during the pandemic which are worth keeping? And HOW do we keep them”

This is a time when so many changes are worth exploring, and preserving.

  • How can funders remain this dynamic?
  • How can skills-based volunteering support people & places left behind?
  • How can some education programmes remain virtual
  • How do we “follow the science” on climate change?
  • How can we maintain this rise in community spirit?
  • How can a renewed belief in what’s possible be captured?

What about YOU? What’s your answer to my NEW question?