Taking the Mojolife message to Whitehall

A few months ago, when the idea of MojoLife was first taking shape, I told my kids we’d be presenting the idea to the Prime Minister within a few months time. “Yeah right, dad,” came the reply. Well we didn’t manage to get in front of Mr Cameron last week in London, but we did attract the attention of the Cabinet Secretary and one of TV’s infamous ‘dragons’.

The occasion was Civil Service Live, a 3 day exhibition at Olympia aimed at inspiring the public sector to deal with the unprecedented challenges coming from the global meltdown and the inherited debt of the last government. The concept was to introduce recession-busting ideas from the private sector, so MojoLife got the call! 

Because Sara Knowles and myself (MojoLife’s co-founders) have both emerged from challenging experiences of one sort or another, we believe we’re in a unique position to put the spark back into people, companies and organisations. When change forces itself upon you (eg through redundancy), it’s tempting to blame the things you can’t control and bemoan the fact that money is tight. But that’s exactly the time to think creatively. 

We had to raise money to exhibit at the show, and through the sponsorship of companies like Cassons Accountants (big supporters of Speakeasy and MojoLife), and some co-exhibitors who shared our stand, we were able to mix with the likes of BT and the Post Office and punch above our weight. In more than the obvious sense, our exhibition stand spoke for what we represent. It was a collaboration with 3 other companies, and one of the most colourful and active stands despite a budget that was probably 10 times lower than any other. 

Thanks to Ashley Boroda, we were the only exhibitor to run a stand-up comedy class. Our flowers (mojo colours) were the envy of the hall. But most of all, the message of hope and empowerment which underpins MojoLife was enthusiastically embraced by the hundreds of delegates who came our way. 

They divided into 2 main camps:

  • Those who were facing forced or voluntary redundancy
  • Those who were searching for strategies to manage change within their departments. 

What was interesting was that those lower down the pay grade were asking for the mojo-approach, and those at the top (including Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell, pictured left) were equally receptive to our ideas. Many of the ‘guru speakers’ at the event were espousing similar philosophies of self-empowerment and creative thinking – on the one hand good to hear, but on the other we felt we could have done a better job of getting the message across without quite so many bullet points! 

Ashley didn’t provide the only comedy moment. On the final day there was a rumour that TV Dragon Peter Jones was in the building. We got ourselves in the zone, and soon enough there was a scurry of activity – nervous security men and busy paparazzi – and a very smart, extremely tall businessman headed our way. The only problem was he was looking the wrong way as he passed our stand.  

I hate mithering famous people, but Sara has no such qualms (as evidenced by her recent encounter with Sir Ken Robinson). “Oi, Peter!” she yelled (or words to that effect). She got his attention. Slightly flushed but otherwise on good form, she pitched the MojoLife concept to the fearsome investor. Peter Jones’ teeth flashed that TV smile. He turned to me and I blurted something out about the business concept and our hopes for the future. “So your business shrinks,” opined the Dragon. I was lost for words. I was thinking, “No it doesn’t! It’s going to grow and grow…” Thankfully at this point, the comedy genius of Ashley Boroda ‘got it’ and suggested (if you’ve read Lynne Truss’s excellent Eats Shoots & Leaves you’ll understand) that a grammatical error might explain my confusion.

 There’s a world of difference between, “Your business shrinks” and “You’re business shrinks” and of course, in a way, we are business psychologists! 

Now that the dust has settled we can look back on a hugely successful week. Our round-table discussion had a fully engaged audience, and it seems we’ll get another chance in the Autumn to host a discussion – this time in the Cabinet Office itself. 

Ashley, Ameena Ahmed from Direct Path Consulting and Lesley & Chris Kay from Parallax Consultancy were fabulous companions on the MojoLife stand and I like to think we spread a degree of optimism and positivity throughout the entire hall.  

There are some brilliant people within the Civil Service and the Public Sector at large, but the world we live in has changed dramatically in the last 3-4 years. People moving from the public to the private sector have to think about packaging their expertise and telling a compelling story about who they are and what they offer. It’s a different language to pay grades and job titles, policies and procedures. It’s now about what problems you can solve, what you’re really good at, what you believe in and what motivates you. 

And for those public sector servants who remain, it’s now a matter of doing more with less – and that includes getting the most from the workforce. I recall listening to Daniel Pink’s RSA talk on motivation. Apparently, in jobs which require intellectual input rather than simple laborious tasks, as long as pay isn’t perceived as a source of injustice, offering someone more money makes them less productive. Yes, that’s LESS productive. The three things that make people more productive are AUTONOMY, MASTERY AND PURPOSE.  

A large part of the MojoLife philosophy is that people should develop their natural capacities and pursue things they feel strongly about. This gives them purpose and helps them come alive as a human being. Where people in an organisation feel they’re contributing to a wider purpose, they become revitalised and more productive than ever. But this culture starts at the top. As Sir Ken Robinson puts it, good leaders are like farmers. They don’t make things grow themselves; rather, they create the conditions under which things can grow naturally. 

I hope you’ll join us at MojoLife in some capacity – as a client, a sponsor, an associate training provider or just an individual who believes in creating a future of his/her own choosing. If that’s a journey you want to start, we’re with you all the way!

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