strategy for how organisations can evolve purposefully for the future

V. Interesting

Our V. Interesting section is a selection of the thoughts and ideas of others – the people who we respect, learn from and see as co-informers on how organisations can evolve purposefully for the future.

align by jonathan trevor - a leadership blueprint for aligning enterprise purpose, strategy and organisation
Jonathan Trevor


Just re-reading this superb book by Jonathan Trevor and I would recommend it to anyone who is trying to engage with what it states on the cover - but, more importantly, anyone who isn't, yet.

Steve Cook

"Oh the change we could make if we had the will, ambition, sense of purpose, confidence and support to make it. And what if we could let go of some ego, desire for ownership, traditions and confirmation biases just a little bit - just enough to let others in to share ideas and find common ground - and perhaps common routes to a better future.

Imagine if we could do this with our businesses, our communities, our wider society and our own contributions to all of these.

The reason is here and the opportunity is here. The question is, are we here too?"

Surviving Failure

Wonderful and moving piece from the equally wonderful Renee Watson. I was doing my own talk in another room at Business in Oxford when Renee was speaking. I wish I hadn't been because everyone, including me, should have been listening to her instead.

Thank you Renee for all that you and everyone at The Curiosity Box are doing. Good luck and best wishes.

Steve Cook

"Here endeth day two of #bio2020 Business in Oxford and, for me at least, it is two talks down, one to go.

Massive thank you to Jayne Woodley for both her excellent talk and for hosting my own offering.

Once again it has been an enthralling day with so many great takeaways. Role on day three.

See you in the morning."

Steve Cook

"My top Lockdown Songs...
1. Transmission - Joy Division
2. People are Strange - The Doors
3. The Walk - The Cure"

V Purposeful Strategy

Values are meaningless, its all about conduct

A series of comments on a post by Robert Craven yesterday made me think of this, first published in 2018. So, while I'm in retrospective mode, I'm re-posting now.

How will we conduct ourselves in the future?, as individuals and whole organisations, has always been my driving thought and since 2005 my guiding methodology. The concept of 'conduct' as a real informer and manifestation of an organisations future vision, purpose, true culture and actionable strategies is far better than the concept and creation of values.

This time of crisis is, perhaps, also a time of reflection and an opportunity to think about future conduct in a more meaningful way.


Three-year business support programme, eScalate, is now live

Wonderful late afternoon at the first Supporting Oxfordshire's Social Impact sector launch event finding out about this exciting new enterprise programme.

Many thanks to Grant Hayward for sharing more about the Oxfordshire Social Enterprise Partnership #OSEP and the eScalate programme; and to Richard Kennell for talking us through the wonderful work being done by #SOFEA - and for hosting this event.

Steve Cook

"I wouldn't even remotely claim to be in the same league as Simon Sinek or any other of the worlds great thought leaders but I have been, in my own little, slightly weird way, quietly going about trying to encourage people and organisations to think differently about their place and reason for existing - and to change to meet future need - for a long time. It's been a long, sometimes awesome, sometimes painful road for me, but I think we've reached a point now where it's imperative to be visionary, to find new paths and to recognise that we can do and be so much better. I know I can."

Mike Foster

"Thanks to Steve Cook for the catch up and lunch today. Not just for the beer & food, but as usual for the awesome conversation and sharing of a career spanning 34 years as a Global Agency Creative Director to Creative Strategist to Brand Strategist to Business Strategist to Change Strategist.

Could have talked all day. Valuable takeaways as ever."

Steve Cook

"Really interesting time yesterday at the Professional Speaking Association event in London as a guest of David A. Richards MBA. Thinking seriously about #speaking more but need to learn how to do it better. I know my subject areas well and am a veteran presenter but speaking is a different thing for me. But some kind folk seem to think I can do it."

Excellent talk by Chrstine Porath

One company estimated that incivility cost them $12 million a year.   It's amazing to me how some in leadership still allow this type of culture to exist. 

Marketing Week

Podcast: Marketing Week Meets…Philip Kotler

Just spent the last 30 minutes jumping around and shouting "That's right" listening to Philip Kotler here - especially his thoughts on brand purpose, insincerity and common good. 88 years old and still highly relevant, future facing, fascinating and passionate. Superhero.

Make time to listen if you can. #VbrandNOW   #VpurposeNOW

Strategy + Business

How to stand out in a crowded marketplace

I'm not sure that focusing on customers is entirely right in a world that is becoming increasingly citizen-centric and demanding of meaningful social value. I also worry that it perpetuates an 'us and them' culture rather than a potentially more collaborative 'we' based one. Nevertheless, this piece offers useful insight for anyone pondering the type of organisation they are and want to be.

Steve Cook

"Another excellent piece from Jasmine Bina on how brands can, and should, change the conversation. 'If your brand isn’t informing actual business decisions — not just marketing or design — then you’re not really building a brand…'"


The New Definition of Brand: A Model For Every Business Activity

3 Ways To Redefine Your Business Through Branding by Jasmine Bina

Forbes Insights

Managing Change

It’s a well versed rhetoric that in business, change is the only constant. A recent Forbes Insights report entitled “Making the Change” corroborates that assertion. The report suggests that 93% of U.S. based companies are in some state of change regarding their business model.

Steve Cook

"The social dynamics, biases and games that beset prudent strategic thought and action. Really interesting piece here but without objective and impartial contribution that cuts through these barriers, long game thinking and strategic outcomes will always be compromised."

Mike Foster

Did you miss our information session at the Oxford Centre for Innovation with #Brand Strategist, Steve Cook?

Strategy + Business

Get ready for the “you’re it” moment

There used to be a phrase ‘the buck stops here’. This concept is updated here and meta-leadership needs to be taken seriously

the art of war
Sun Tzu

The Art Of War

Read ‘Art of War’ by Sun Tzu. Some principles should never change no matter what changes around them.


Steve Cook

'People only fear two things, change and the way things are'


Pulling the audience into your brand story

Storytelling. As old as humans and as important as ever.

Pure joy division

My favourite band, my biggest hero - Ian Curtis. 40th anniversary of the release of their first album, 'Unknown Pleasures' on 15th June 2019.

Charities Management

Redefinition for charities before marketing

Independent brand strategist STEVE COOK argues that the changing public perceptions of charity and charities mean that the charity sector as a whole and individual charities have to redefine what they are all about before new marketing strategies can be contemplated.

Steve Cook

"My first day to stop and relax for months. I’m thinking about the things that make me most happy. Not the big life things like my family and friends or work well done but the little specific things that just put a smile on my face and a lift in my heart.

An incomplete list of things.

  • Jim Morrison’s poetry put to music by The Doors in ‘An American Prayer’.
  • The sound of a Rolls Royce Merlin engine that precedes actually seeing a Spitfire.
  • The moment just as I walk in to see Rothko’s Seagram paintings.
  • A baby giggling.
  • Heinz Tomato Soup out of a flask during a long walk on a winters day."

See full list here

Steve Cook

"Been listening to Professor Colin Mayer's excellent talk at #bio2020 about corporate purpose. I did my own talk on organisational purpose yesterday.

Rightly, both talks described the need to move purpose to the very centre of an organisation - for investors, employees, customers, communities and, more than ever, contribution to society's future...."

Read more

My new lockdown buddy.

Not a professional post I grant you but cute for a Friday afternoon.

It is Friday isn't it?!

Richard Rosser

"With a whopping 76 speakers already lined up for Business in Oxford 2020 LIVE and a further 20 still awaiting confirmation, we've got an action packed three days of inspirational, engaging and informative content for you to enjoy.

Even better news...there's free parking all day and if you're leaving the car at home (you might as well, it's got quite used to it) you can enjoy unlimited free beer, wine and champagne all day for three days 😂


Please sign up at the link below - the tile says June 2nd but I can assure you it's June 2nd to June 4th!"

#morethannetworking #changethewayyouthink #communityspirit #localsupport

V Purposeful Strategy

Why mavericks and why now?

I wrote this in 2018 at a time when I felt that the very people who were having the brightest ideas about necessary change were also the most marginalised in organisations that were caught between knowing they needed to do things differently but needing to stick with what they knew to maintain a shrinking status quo. In short, I was disillusioned.

18 months later, I've met with so many shining examples of what can be achieved when the shackles of tradition are thrown away that my optimism has well and truly returned.

You know who you are and I thank you for inspiring me and doing wonderful things in the world or, at least, your parts of it.

Strategy + Business

Get ready for the “you’re it” moment

There used to be a phrase ‘the buck stops here’. This concept is updated here and meta-leadership needs to be taken seriously

Steve Cook

"What a stunning publication from Richard Rosser and the team at B4. Excellent contributions from some fascinating people and businesses about highly relevant topics - plus musings from some bloke in a hat. Thank you for inviting me to join in."

Strategy + Business

10 principles for leadership presence

Self-evaluation Sunday! Plenty of great things to think about here and, for me at least, plenty to manifestly improve on. But I think it's very much worth the effort.

Steve Cook

"Wonderful and insightful evening at the OxLEP Business event held at the equally wonderful Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

Aside from the inspirational conversations and learning about the amazing activities of responsible businesses and social enterprises in the county, it was great to hear from Peter Holbrook, CEO of Social Enterprise UK.

Well done to all the organisers, awards winners and attendees."

B4 and the future

A Visionary Ideas Share And Collaborative Discussion

Thank you Richard Rosser and everyone else who attended. I won't lie, I was terrified to be sharing ideas about such an important subject with such a group of highly knowledgeable and highly engaged people. Can't wait to build on all that we discussed. [MORE]

The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce)

Really compelling read here. Worrying, uplifting, thoughtful and enlightening....

“What we’ve discovered is that the institutions of democracy are fragile; the American constitution itself is brittle in the face of highly polarised partisan conflict...This is a recipe for constitutional crisis & possibly democratic breakdown”

Matthew Taylor talks to philosopher Elizabeth Anderson about the history of ideas.

CEO SleepOut

Well done Jo Carter and everyone else involved in #CEOSleepout.

Brilliant way for #VleadershipNOW to lead.

Steve Cook

"Really great to meet everyone The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) event in Oxford last night. So much to think on and address where #creativity stands out as a fundamental for our future - where humanity and technology need to be held in balance for the benefit of society."

Strategy + Business

Can strategy be decisive and flexible?

"Nice read for a Sunday morning. #VstrategyNOW"

Clear choices can provide stability for your organization while also enhancing your strategic options and ability to adapt.


Jasmine Bina

Yes. Users forget the cause after a certain while as well. I think this is because the causes are either 1) not connected to the company’s bigger vision, or 2) just about creating awareness, not real and lasting change.

Beyond Meritocracy

'Equation for a WE first economy' by By Liz Ziedler, Happy City

A short film to explore an economic equation fit for the 21st Century - in honour of 60 years since Michael Young's work on the 20th Century Meritocracy and the subsequent work of the Young Foundation.

Steve Cook

In response to a post by Graham Brown-Martin on Human Centred Design.

"If human-centred design is dying in favour of business/investor-centred design, why can’t we strive harder to create human-centred business and investment, then design will favour that and be human-centred again. It’s an ideal but is it worth pursuing? "


Oxford Centre for Innovation

“Did you know - For 30 years, Oxford Innovation has been at the forefront of providing support for start-ups. #ocfi #startups #tech #Science #oxford #thebest "

Steve Cook

"Consumers and customers have long felt empowered to revolt against organisations they profoundly disagreed with. More recently, they have become highly informed AND empowered. The employee experience has been the opposite – informed then, more recently, empowered..."


Cynthia Johnson

“If you’re not interested in creating change, you’re not a leader, you’re a manager” - @charleneli #MilleniumLive @Mill_All

Oxford Centre for Innovation

Purposeful Business Future – By Steve Cook

In business, things can be catastrophically complex…
Every day there are hundreds, if not thousands, of articles, discussion groups, blogs and tweets about what businesses and their leaders need to focus on now. There are almost as many new and diverse viewpoints, buzzwords, priorities, job titles, ground breaking initiatives, self help forums for CEO’s, novel management structures etc. as there are businesses.

Fast Company

Meritocracy doesn’t exist, and believing it does is bad for you

An end to Meritocracy?

Keep it real folks

Professor ‘Fucking’ Mark Ritson nails some issues with marketing beautifully. He’s even right about Brand Purpose.

Charles Darwin who knew a thing or two about evolution

‘It is not the strongest of the species that will survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones who are most responsive to change’

the social contract by jean-jacques rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau

The Social Contract

I'm trying to find past insights to help with current debates about the future and change - and how these relate to business, government, civil society, the vital links between them, their (shared?) future conduct and contribution and, most importantly, people.

In the pursuit of this I am re-reading, amongst other things, The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and, wow, despite being 250 old, it is so relevant.

You don't have to be a revolutionary to find it inspiring but you do have to be openminded about the concepts within it and the opportunities for change within all the 'stakeholder' communities mentioned above.

Is anyone else searching for answers to big questions or, like me, trying to find the right big questions?

V Purposeful Strategy

Fear | Change | Brave

I've written three musings recently - a kind of trilogy (in the loosest possible sense) - on different but very much associated aspects of the future and our potential conduct to address it well.

These concepts were all very much front of my mind in our pre-COVID19 world but, undeniably, the crisis has moved them and many others to the front and centre of, I hope, action - for almost all of us.

The first talks about overcoming fear and inertia to ensure we don't end up regretting missed opportunities. 

The second discusses change, the ways we have previously considered it and how, perhaps we should consider it now. 

The third explores how we should maybe reconsider what makes us feel safe and what makes us brave when making decisions about the future.

V Purposeful Strategy

Twist, Stick or Fold?

Here is a bedtime story about the changing normal. It asks a lot of questions and gives very few answers but explores some great big what if's. I hope you like it and that it inspires you.

A very short history of feeling safe

Wouldn't it be great if being brave wasn't being brave anymore. What happens when almost everyone is thinking the unthinkable, overcoming fear, doing things differently and making meaningful change a reality.


Under these conditions, doing these things isn't being brave at all.

Strategy + Business

A Brave New (and Rewarding) World

I'm posting this idea in its original form because although it was first published in July 2019, I think that it has some new relevance now. You can judge that for yourselves.

Some people have been focused on the need for serious and necessary change for some time now. They have often been considered as outliers, mavericks and disruptors to the steady state. Maybe now we all have an opportunity to take stock and make choices about what we want the future, our future, to be like and how we will conduct ourselves in it. Maybe we can all be a little bit maverick now.

Oxfordshire Community Foundation

"We are opening applications for our Coronavirus: Community Resilience Fund on 1st April. Please join us for a webinar at 2pm to find out more. Details on how to join the zoom meeting are on our website."
#covid19 #respondbetter #communityresilience #funds

Steve Cook

"This is going to be a fascinating event. Very much looking forward to the insights and challenging debate that it will generate."

The King's Business School Meaning and Purpose Network conference 'The Purposeful Organisation: Where Next?' is now open for bookings. The conference takes place on 23rd June at Bush House, King's College London.

RSA - Mike Peckham and Dr James Whitehead

Network Leadership

We need to revisit how leaders — local, national and global — get things done.

"Absolutely essential way to think about leadership. Even if we are not leaders in the traditional, linear, sense we can still be leaders in the networked, future facing, meaningful progress sense."

The Infinite Game: How to Lead in the 21st Century

I consider the thoughts and ideas inherent in this talk by Simon Sinek on the infinite game and the ways that organisations (and their leaders) must consider themselves and their place in and for the future (an infinite game in itself) to be so important that I share the link again here.


I have been accepted as a Fellow

I'm pleased and proud to announce that I have been accepted as a Fellow of The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce).

The RSA has been at the forefront of social change and action for over 260 years and I'm very much looking forward to engaging with, and contributing to, the Society's key themes (Public Services and Communities, Creative Learning & Development and Economy, Enterprise & Manufacturing), the Future of Work Centre, other Fellows, events and networks.

You can find out more about the fascinating and important work The RSA is engaged in here

Steve Cook

"Really great to meet everyone at The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) event in Oxford last night. So much to think on and address where #creativity stands out as a fundamental for our future - where humanity and technology need to be held in balance for the benefit of society. #VbravenewworldNOW"

Tips on growing your business

Good, essential advice here for start-ups and SME's from OxLEP Business. Of course, it's all easier said than done and it's all more easily done than sustained for future growth.

Strategy + Business

Forging partnerships to create a tipping point in sustainability

This is the high watermark of thinking about and engaging in strategy, purpose, value creation, social contribution, avoiding short-termism and dealing with shareholder push back etc. Well worth a read but more importantly, no leadership should think that this does not relate to them. It very much does. No excuses now.

Steve Cook

"Yes 🔹David A. Richards MBA🔹thank you. I am certain that businesses need to create radically new value sets for the people currently known as employees, investors, owners/leaders, commentators etc. etc – as well as just customers. I think ‘Customer value’ is becoming an outmoded concept based purely on opportunity, whereas the ‘new’ value a business can create is for all and based on a more exciting and necessary vision, as well as opportunity. "...


Simon Sinek

“Value is not determined by those who set the price. Value is determined by those who choose to pay it."

Sam Conniff Allende

Be more pirate, or, How to take on the world and win

Whatever your ambitions, ideas and challenges, this book will revolutionize the way you live, think and work today, and tomorrow. Pirates didn't just break the rules, they rewrote them. They didn't just reject society, they reinvented it. Pirates didn't just challenge the status-quo, they changed everyfuckingthing.

Professor Sue Black OBE

"Alan Turing to be on the new £50 note!! ❤️🙌🏽🤩🥳

I really feel like I’m living the dream now. Things that I’ve been focusing on over my career all seem to be happening at once. Techupwomen - retraining women into tech careers - was amazing over the weekend, #techmums Newcastle graduation today, and now Alan Turing to be on a banknote!

Steve Cook

"The conversations around purpose versus culture, culture versus strategy, strategy versus tactics, ideas versus implementation, values versus behaviour, innovation versus process etc etc rage on and on.

Why does one thing have to be 'versus' another? Why can't all these vital components be created well and, more importantly, created in balance - to work properly together. It's harder to create well considered balance but its much more real and rewarding. #commoncause #goodbusiness"


Steve Cook

'Great partnership and completely in the spirit of Glastonbury's ethos. Co-Operative, society, movement, community. PS, if you didn't know it, The Cure are awesome. Sunday will be an amazing gig.'

V. Commentary

It's confusing out there. Brand strategy will give you clarity

If we all stop waving our arms around frantically, panicking and then reaching for the latest idiot’s guide to business change in the hope of finding new revelations, and take stock for a while…

Said business school

Global Leadership Centre

It’s going to be amazing here.


Steve Cook

'Take some people with priority, often conflicting, vested interests and a loss of objectivity, put them together to define strategy, and see what happens.'

Strategy + Business

Uniting creatives and consultants

Absolutely right. Bring them together but ensure that leadership understands the dynamics of each and how to ensure the best, not the worst, outcomes of both in combination.

Steve Cook

"So excited about Fathers Day this Sunday. As a father of 5 with a combined 107 years of parenting experience, I've been through many tough times. Thankfully, I've experienced many, many more truly wonderful ones and I've learnt much more from my children than I could have possibly taught them.

They are my window (or kaleidoscope) on the world and my greatest leveller."

Steve Cook

"Ok, so this is a blast from the past and although the context has profoundly changed since it was originally posted the sense has not. For me, what has changed is that pre-COVID I merely passionately hoped that fundamental change would happen. Now I know this is an imperative...."

See thread

Steve Cook

"Just want to echo Richard Rosser here. It has been an incredible effort by Lorna Waterfield and the team to bring all of the speakers together, to organise an event of this complexity and scale and to ensure that delegates gain a rich and rewarding 3 days at Business in Oxford 2020.

As for the speakers, I am in awe of the breadth and depth of talent that awaits us.

Anyone who can get a technophobic nervous wreck like me to feel confident about speaking into my computer deserves high praise."

Thrilled to have the opportunity to be in conversation on B4 Live on 13th May. I hope it will be of interest to anyone trying to work out how to make their future better than the present and even the past. We can't go back, we can't stay where we are, but we can go forward with a renewed sense of purpose.

Steve Cook

"Just back from my first, first hand experience (through volunteering) of what the amazing team and volunteers at SOFEA in Oxfordshire are doing. Absolutely brilliant and absolutely necessary.

Without charities, we will lose something vital to the soul and the fabric of society and we will all be poorer as a result. So, wherever you are in the world right now, if you get the chance, please do something to support the idea of charity and contribute to charities themselves. They very badly need all the help they can get and they need it now, more than ever."


The only disability in life is bad attitude.

Harvard Business Review

Creating a Purpose-Driven Organization

"Nothing to add to this. An excellent piece and absolutely right."

THE RSA - Medium

An age of chaos?

"Fascinating piece from Michael Bang Petersen here. Is chaos always negative or can it be an essential, pivotal moment on the path to meaningful progress?"...

"Some men just want to watch the world burn.” Michael Bang Petersen on why people feel a ‘need for chaos’ and how this is affecting current politics.

Strategy + Business

Contracting For Kindness: Where Do Values Fit Into Procurement And Commissioning Practices?

Really interesting piece here from Ben Thurman at Carnegie UK Trust. Whether you are engaged in Public Sector or business bids and procurement, there are lessons in here for everyone. I hope the debate, insights and collaborations lead to much more relevant and inspired conduct - for a future where relationships will need to be built in radically new ways. Be kind everyone.

A Love story, of sorts

I hope everyone gets something from reading this, I did from writing it. Read the article here


What the next government must do to unleash co-operative potential

It's madness. We need to radically reduce the harm we’re currently inflicting on the natural world, while somehow living in a way that engenders widespread wellbeing. But the powers that be don’t seem up to this and our country is badly divided.

"I love Co-Operatives. It's about time they gained the recognition they deserve and their rightful place for and in the future" - Steve Cook

Wait But Why

The Thinking Ladder

This share comes with a health warning. It is a brilliant read but only one of many written by the awesome guys at Wait But Why. So, enjoy, but be prepared to forgo everything else in your lives!!


Steve Cook

Absolutely right @YeomanRuth. Lose the 'us and them' of the traditional corporate model and focus on 'we'. Real collaboration between all stakeholders. Maybe we are all shareholders now?! Sharing in future conduct.

Strategy + Business

Leading with a mission mind-set

"As leaders in our industries and our communities, I look at what I call the opportunity and the obligation we all have to make sure that what we’re doing is creating value, based on values. It’s about your employees. It’s about your clients. It’s about supporting your communities, [knowing] where creating value would be good for your shareholders. It must be the mind-set of not just business leaders, but policymakers and practitioners in both the public and private sectors. We must take on the obligation part, not just the opportunity part, and really balance how we approach things to ask ourselves, “Are we creating equitable opportunities? Are we creating something of value? Are we lifting up as we go, not just innovating at the margin for some better outcome?” Beth Mooney, CEO of KeyCorp.

See the full interview here

V. Commentary

Joining the race to the bottom

Oh dear, just read another article about Customer Experience and why businesses now need CXO’s (Customer Experience Officers) to create ‘consistent customer experiences across all touchpoints’…

We were there

Best band in the world.

Jacci Marcus

The Cure, the actual COOP with meal deals for a £5 (there's nothing else you will get for a fiver) and How to Save our Planet with Caroline Lucas - enjoy folks #glastonbury #coop #inspiring.'

Steve Cook

"So important to get strategy right. A good place to start is to actually think strategically. Too many leaders only thinking about the short term and doing so with a complete loss of impartiality and objectivity. CSO is an essential role but too many are set up to fail."

Strategy + Business

Equation for a WE first economy


Strategy + Business

Rolling toward responsible capitalism

The debate around responsible capitalism/business has been around for some time. This is a great perspective and well worth a read by leaders trying to define their organisations futures.

UK Fundraising

Why running it like a business is no longer an option for charities

In the past, the term RILAB (Run It Like A Business) symbolised activity in the charity sector. It was a way of getting charity leadership, trustees and management to become more business-like in the ways they ran their organisations and conducted charitable business.

Fascinating from Simon Sinek

The Infinite game, leadership and the future. Great talk.

Beyond Meritocracy

The Agency Equation



Why Companies Must Hire Difficult, Disagreeable And Challenging People

Too right.



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