Speakers of the week
This week, Chartwell’s Rafe Fletcher, reflected on some of his favourite storytellers:
1. Levison Wood
Levison Wood came to prominence through his series of walking adventures on Channel 4. These have seen him traverse some of the world’s most dangerous, wildest, and remote territories. They include The Nile, The Americas, The Himalayas, and The Caucasus. Levison is a fantastic writer and orator. He crafts stories encapsulating the physical and emotional toll of such expeditions but also the wider geopolitical situation of these regions.
2. Liz Nicholl
In 1996, Great Britain suffered its worst performance at an Olympic Games for almost fifty years, coming 36th in the final medal table. Just twenty years later, the team came 2nd at the Rio Olympics, becoming one of only two nations ever to increase the number of medals achieved in five consecutive Games. Liz Nicholl has been a driving force behind this as an senior executive with UK Sport since 1999, and CEO since 2010. Her story shows how effective resource allocation, cultural change, and ambition can transform an organisation.
Michael Hayman is the CEO and co-founder of Seven Hills, a PR company campaigning for business and entrepreneurs. Michael contends that profit motive can no longer solely justify the existence of a business. In his book, ‘Mission’, he says that business must create a story that shows it having a wider purpose. Airbnb co-founder, Joel Gebbia, said Michael had pinpointed ‘the importance of social purpose to the entrepreneurs and businesses who are transforming societies around the world’.
Like Michael, Rachel Botsman sees that businesses need to create an effective narrative. Rachel talks about this in terms of the ‘trust leap’ consumers make in using new ‘sharing’ technologies. The rise of apps such as Uber, Airbnb, or Bla Bla Car has forced a rethink in how trust is built and destroyed with consumers. There has been a shift from institutional to distributed trust. This raises complex new questions on how traditional businesses can either restore institutional confidence or leverage consumer-consumer based review to compete in this new environment.
5. Parag Khanna
Parag Khanna is one a select group of geo-political commentators able to tell the story of Asia’s economic emergence from a non-Western centric viewpoint. He has just finished work on his latest book, ‘The Future is Asian’, which is due to be released early next year. In this, he shows how the US and Europe are diverging on their approach to trade with the region. Europe and Asia are averse to ‘America First’ protectionist policies. As such, Parag predicts that Euro-Asian and intra-Asian trade will thrive. Consequently, this will be the century that American dominance is undone by powers from the East.