The history of business is the rise and fall, ebb and flow of corporate empires. Likewise with the ideas that drive business. From 'scientific' management to e-commerce, systems theory to connectivity, six sigma to globalisation.

Nick Drake, the long lost singer-songwriter hailed by many young musicians today as a powerful influence, sings a beautiful, wistful song called Place to Be. Attention today is one of our scarcest resources, so I listened three times before I really got what he was saying. We all need a place to Be – with a capital B – where we can be still and hear our own creative voice.

As an Oxford mis-educated lawyer, I'm meant to 'define my terms'. As a free thinker, I refuse to do so, not out of petulant rebellion, but because too tight a definition limits thought and leads to stereotyping. So I prefer hints and examples.

The Re-think alternative to book clubs is to explore music with friends instead. To me, there are few things more fun and stimulating than sharing and really listening to your friends' musical tastes. Not only do you expand your own repertoire of enjoyable music, but also you discover more about people than at a dinner party.

Listening to other peoples' stories of bad service has become as uninteresting as hearing your hairdresser's latest holiday experience. We try to empathise and nod sympathetically while mentally we glaze over. But bear with me – there is a point to the stories that follow, and a possible way out of the jungle of indifferent service, in many ways a more subtle enemy of real improvement than poor service.

Science fiction writer Douglas Adams has a wonderful notion in his novel Dirk Gently's Holisitic Detective Agency. Imagine a future when you are so busy that you don't have time to believe in all the things you know you should. The solution? You outsource your thinking to an electronic monk, who is programmed to believe for you. This future is already with us: today's electronic monks are the experts, law-makers, consultants, life coaches, and therapists who, if we're not careful, take away from us the ability to think things through for ourselves.

As a professional speaker and coach on creativity and innovation – which I call in my new book 're-thinking' – I believe it's time to re-think the fashionable dogma of work/life balance.

In Re-think I advocate having a Dictionary of Word Origins as your bathroom reading. Not only will this impress the hell out of visitors, it also gives you the opportunity to learn, or re-think, something useful in a few short minutes rather than sedate yourself with Calvin and Hobbes or back copies of Private Eye.

The World Cup is clearly more about the foreplay than getting down to the real thing. More column metres and TV briefings than even an ardent football fan like myself can follow. So here's the Re-think self-assessment quiz to see how committed you are.

Speaking at large company events, I'm often approached by delegates who ask me for advice on leaving the corporate fold. They've seen the grass outside their executive cubicle window, and it usually looks greener.


Copyright © 2015 Nigel Barlow. All Rights Reserved.