"I'm an alien. I'm a legal alien. I'm an Englishman in New York". The lyrics of Sting's popular rendition fill my thoughts as I contemplate the similarities and differences between my life and the song. In my case I am not in New York nor am I am Englishman either. But I am effectively an alien living in another world: I'm a South African in London.
As a strategy consultant, entrepreneur, author, and professional speaker now living in one of the world's foremost global cities alongside New York, I am uniquely positioned to offer insights into the changing trends that are shaping the world we live in and the way we work. Tracking these trends is my passion and one of the lucky few; I'm immensely privileged to earn money by living out my passion.
With this in mind I have assumed the role of London eye with an eye on the future. For the next couple of months at least, I am Bizcommunity's appointed foreign correspondent, during which time I'll be posting blog entries with diverse perspectives on the new world of work from a London viewpoint.
It all began just under a year ago, when I packed up my house, and my wife and three young daughters, and moved to Wimbledon, London. TomorrowToday.biz, my business in South Africa, was going really well and together with my business partners we had picked up a lot of international clients and needed to bolster our growing UK team. My wife is British, so it fell to me to make the move. As a proud South African, I have been quick to point out that this is a business decision, and hopefully a temporary stay away from my beloved birthplace.
We arrived in August last year, and after a few weeks of getting settled into a new house and getting our girls into their new school, one Monday morning I put on my best suit and bought a train ticket for Canary Wharf, the sexy new location for London business. I work from home, and only had one potential client in Canary Wharf, so the act of going there was more symbolic of a new start in a new city. That was 15 September 2008. For those with good memories, you'll be laughing, because yes, that was the day Lehman Brothers went bust. As I was going in, thousands of tearful workers clutching boxes of their possessions were leaving.
The contracts that had lured me to London were all cancelled within a few weeks as almost all companies reacted with whiplash speed. Directives were issued from on high - no conferences; no travel; no consultants; no training! This sort of knee-jerk reaction may have seemed necessary for short-term survival - but I doubt it really made a difference. In fact, I am guessing it hurt companies more than it helped them. When you try and cut fat with a hacking carving knife, you invariably cut out some muscle too.
Regardless, it was a harsh start for a new arrival. And London has remained at the centre of the economic storm ever since. Countries like South Africa seem to have weathered the financial crisis much better than expected. But London still feels beaten up.
So, here I am. Committed to a three-year stay in the vibrantly diverse financial hub of London, lecturing at London Business School (on talent management), speaking at conferences and events around Europe and the Middle East (on the new world of work and multigenerational workplaces), writing my next book (on the megatrends shaping the world of work and what the landscape will look like after the recession), and enjoying more "work-life balance" than I had expected (it may take the full three years to stop feeling like a tourist in one of the world's great tourist destinations!).
My next blog entry will be on the four trend areas everyone should be tracking. The one after that will be a comment on the recent government scandals in the UK and what they can teach us about what happens when government loses touch with the people (this is going to be a positive spin on SA government).
So stay tuned if you are one of those who'd like a small insight into what happens after comes next - a view from an African in London.
[29 Jul 2009 11:10]
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