But how does a polymath continue to motivate himself? Is there a dream job waiting? “I think I may already have my dream job. I’d love to have more influence sometimes, like being in a really important sounding job in business and government where you’d have huge budgets and freedom. But most people I’ve seen in those sorts of jobs are quite hemmed in by political and commercial realities. I’d love to train to be a Jungian analyst when I am older and less restless and chatty and also to write a really long, crafted novel. But both of these are not things that will happen unless I have a dramatic change in lifestyle or fortunes – as they require years of ‘not working’ or at least quite a bit more ‘spare time’.”
It’s not difficult to spot an evangelistic aspect to this friendly version of cooperative collaboration. Could there be a spiritual dimension to his vision of ethical business, even though it is a vision rooted in logic, the most secular of disciplines?
The book for which John has received most recognition is his Green Marketing Manifesto, in which he replaced the classical ‘Four Ps’ (product, place, price and promotion) with his own ‘Four Is’ (ideas, intent, interaction, innovation). It’s a definitive look at how real collaborative cooperation in business can lead to truly good things happening.
But this fascination with ways of doing things in other places and other cultural moments is for John Grant rooted firmly in the here and now.
“The hard-edge of ‘traditional’ business is born out of an inhumane idea,” he points out, “namely that society somehow could or should function like a ‘machine’. It’s often daft and counterproductive to work in this way, but you can see why it would be self-perpetuating. I’m much more a fan of modern enlightened business – with a focus on values, culture, innovation and so on. This is part of a broader alternative metaphor of society as being like a co-operative ‘village’.”
“I’m fascinated by religions, and their role in social change,” he seems to confirm, “looking back to things like cargo cults, guilds and the co-operative movement. I’ve often drawn from revitalisation movements and gift economies. I’m interested in how rituals and customs form symbolic images. I guess I am basically a closet anthropologist.”
“I think there is something spooky and alchemical about the combinations of creativity and groups. It’s like our brains aren’t really quite as bounded and separate as we think they are. We seem to absorb parts of other people, whether moods, thought styles or even their IQ. If there is any spiritual side to my work it’s more about being more fully human, freer – rather than any noble calling or morality. A lot of the ethical side of it is about a common sense view, about stripping out the selfdeception that goes with vested interests.” Michael Fordham
Published on Jun 25, 2010