Sustaining and building culture, like creativity, requires river banks. Water moves carelessly
and powerfully, creating landscapes and smoothing the stones in its path.
Now consider that same colossal force, channeled for good by the banks that guide it. It becomes an intentional community and mode of creating. We are not talking about control; nothing can control water, humans or true creativity - what we are talking about is consented direction.
On a casual Saturday morning not so long ago I was carelessly musing what the banks of the Tomfoolery
river could be and I stumbled on this thought:
‘what would Robin Hood do?’
As a little boy I can clearly remember watching Robin Hood Prince of Thieves at a hotel 100m metres away from our ancient family beach cottage. From the moment the introduction started I was spellbound. In my five year old mind this is what I was made for – for war, love, change and justice.
Back in the present I unpacked the phrase, finding that the question of, ‘What would Robin Hood do ?’ could guide us in three ways:
1. It gives us a grid to live simply
Business is about managing cost, generating turnover and maintaining margin right? What I love about ‘What would Robin Hood do?’ is its glorious exposition of a simple life (in business terms, it’s exactly the equivalent of managing costs).
When we started Tomfoolery I had nothing. As a 32 year old I chose to live and work from my original room in my parents home (which I hadn’t stayed in since I was 17) I caught delivery vans for free in in the middle of the night to get to meetings in Johannesburg and our storyboards were drawings done by my incredible artist mother screaming – ‘I can’t do this!’
When we moved into our studio my desk was an old door grabbed in a hurry from behind my parents home and our kitchen was a camping stove and bar fridge donated in sympathy by some students.
But despite our apparent poverty, in the words of John Little – ‘in this place we are kings!’ You know why? Because it is honest, because it is ours, because we chose it and because we are free.
2. It reminds us to fight hard
It sounds so trite, but the bottom line is that we are aspiring fighters. When I say fighter don’t think power suit, power tie, power stare – no, that’s not us. If anything we endeavor to be gentlemen and ladies in every respect- always eager to take the liberal point of view.
Practically, I think the things we fight for are turnover, margin, integrity and change. I don’t think you have a business if you are not prepared to fight for those things?
But, one year down, one of my greatest learnings has to be the how of the fight.
3. It celebrates giving away
Finally, the product of 1 + 2 should (with grace) = 3.
For us, the bottom line is that we want to give away. We want to follow the example of Robin of Locksley flinging gold from the roof of his home. Why? I am not sure, other than that it feels right… and it would be fun? Because change is better than a holiday home in St Francis?