Zilingo is moving fast. From startup to a near billion dollar fashion tech company in just a few short years. When you’re growing at such a rate, it’s essential to hit the pause button frequently – to reflect, reorientate and reboot. Which is why Zilingo’s leadership took time out for a Street Wisdom Singapore in Dec 2019.

Zilingo is a phenomenon that began with a Street Wisdom-like flash of inspiration from co-founder and now CEO Ankiti Bose. One day, as she was was back-packing through Thailand she noticed how the bustling markets there were selling everything from slogan T-shirts to fashion dresses. It started her thinking. Why couldn’t the fashion industry as whole (”exploitative, wasteful and, frankly, completely broken”) leverage technology to ensure businesses – no matter how big or small – can have access to a fair, transparent, affordable, fast supply chain?”

When Zilingo’s youthful and irrepressibly innovative leadership experienced Street Wisdom with David, it’s not surprising they found insights on every street corner.

Zilingo’s COO Aadi Vaidya lives a truly non-stop life. For him, slowing down was a revelation – a reminder of the more relaxed pace of his youth in rural India. “I’ve lived in Singapore for a couple of years now and, frankly, until today I thought the environment was a bit bland. During Street Wisdom I feel like I connected for the first time with the city. Saw the interest and humanity and potential that’s all around. I encountered the earlier assumed evasive, soul of Singapore, in its streets.” He even found time to buy flowers for his fiancée.

Still Sille

I wondered why I was hesitating to write something about the glorious Sille Lundquist, a dear Street Wisdom friend who passed away in January.  And then I received a shared email from her “fan club” (thank you HeartSpace) letting me know yesterday would have been her birthday.   It’s so much more lifeful to mark the day someone was born than the day they died   Especially someone like Sille who was ALL about life and living it.

The sustainability activist Sian Sutherland (of PlasticPlanet) introduced us and Sille,  whose wonderful, heart-filled work (check out her Being Human projects) included holding open-air meditation sessions in the city,  opened her arms to Street Wisdom. Together we led a magical event in Copenhagen (see the blogpost here).  And planted an urban mindfulness seed in Denmark.

You just have to listen to one of the many meditations she recorded to get a sense of this extraordinary human.

Wild Summer Meditation 

I’m going to state the obvious.  Sille was beautiful.  From the soul outwards.  Those who were with her at the end say she left as she lived – in peace – gazing at the mountains.  It was heartbreaking to hear she’d gone.  I confess, I wept big, fat tears into my laptop.  But when I reflect on it, the reason I wasn’t in a hurry to mark her passing is because, in the work she did and the effect she had on us, Sille’s still here.  Happy Birthday.

PS And while we are thinking about people who’ve made a lasting impact, shout out (or is that up?) to Mark Adams.  Indelible Mark is how we think of him.   The inspiration for our Members Club and an irrepressible Tigger of a man. Wander well, Mark

Mindful Market

Over the last months, Spitalfields has become a favourite starting point for Street Wisdom, particularly for our session introducing Street Wisdom to business people.

For hundreds of years it was a wholesale food market with traders shouting out their wares and engaging customers in the argy-bargy of sales banter. Today it’s a hive of hipster stores, pop-up restaurants and bars. But there’s some connection missing. There’s a crowd of people but they are not really interacting. At least that was a feeling that Millie (pictured) had.

So, on her Street Wisdom walk, she decided to set up her own stall – offering free conversations. And her first customers were three (“slightly scary-looking”) older men. Turns out they weren’t East End hoods. They all used to work in the market, were visiting their old workplace and wanted to talk about it.

It was something that all our business participants noticed in their different ways. How we can be in a crowd and yet feel very separate from those around us.  Shopping used to be an excuse to connect. And now it’s a substitute. Maybe we need more ‘marketing’ like Millie’s. Turn shopping back into conversations.

by David Pearl.

Photo by Ines Alonso.

Climate (quick) Change

Last time we held an event in London’s Spitalfields market it was the coldest day of the year. Real stamp-your-feet and stick-your-fingers-in-your-mouth-prevent-frostbite cold. Mark even had to retreat to the West Country with a shovel to dig his family out of the snowdrifts. (Tomé Morrissy-Swan from the Telegraph was one of those not deterred by the blizzard.  Read his article here.)

Last week we were back in the same spot (The Grocer – great bar by the way) and it the hottest day of 2018 so far. A scorcher.

Remember that scene from Notting Hill where Hugh Grant through Portobello Market and the seasons gently change around him?  It was like that, except we’d stepped straight from deep winter to high summer in a single step. Snowblind to sunburned.

What hadn’t changed, though, was the focus – to give people who run, lead and/or work in businesses a chance to experience Street Wisdom and understand how it can be powerfully applied in their own organisations. And like the courageous snow-defying group before them, the participants who gathered this time seemed to immerse themselves from the start.  With really powerful results.

When you look at the streets looking for wisdom not just for yourself but for your teams and colleagues, it’s amazing what you learn.   “Some of the most powerful business conversation I’ve had in my life” said one participant, a business education specialist.  “One of the most thought-provoking workshops I have experienced,” said one professional development expert from a huge city law firm, adding “and boy, have I been to a few!”

It’s hard to imagine, a few years ago, hearing these kind of responses from senior business folk. The climate is changing in more ways than one.

If anyone who took part would like to share some of their experiences, we’d love to hear them.  Please leave a comment below.

And if you’re interested to know more about the new work we are doing with organisations around the world, click here, and let’s talk about how we can bring the wisdom in from the street to the boardroom.

Our next Street Wisdom for Business taster session will be taking place in London on Wednesday 6th June from 2-5pm, if you or any colleagues would like to join, get in touch on [email protected]

Written by David Pearl.

Photo by Stefan Lubo.

Snow Business with David Pearl

So people often ask us if you need good weather to do a Street Wisdom.  And we like to say ‘bad weather’ is just an invitation to look at the city differently.  It’s Nature’s way of reminding us that the urban landscape is natural too.

But even we had our doubts when the event we set up for businesses turned out to be the coldest day recorded in London for 10 years.  Hats off (actually best keep your hats on – woolly hats) to all the people who battled snow and ice to get there.  And if you were stuck on a train or had to rescue your kids from school, don’t worry we’ll hold another one in Spring when the snow will have (presumably) stopped.

We met in Spitalfields at a wonderfully bonkers heated hut lent to us by the nice people at The Grocer.  There were people from small entrepreneurial companies thinking about the future.  And from large corporations thinking about how to create a more mindful workplace.  Also Mental Health organisations.  Oh, and a couple of intrepid journalists (from Telegraph and HR Magazine).

The event was also run by Scott Morrison (aka The Boom) who generates so much energy he’s like a one-man central heating system.

It was a winter wanderland with insights coming thick and fast, we were reclaiming the streets as our own place of inspiration. It’s about giving yourself time and space to let your everyday environment help you solve challenges. A motorbike wheel spinning on the ice helped one participant realise he was stuck in a routine and needed to act on the change he was contemplating. Another slightly self-conscious participant looked up (how often do we do that?) to see construction workers larking around on a scaffolding and it struck her that people who don’t care who is looking at them, have more fun. Another person enjoyed wandering so much they had to get a bus back. Worrying about being late, suddenly gave way to a relaxed sense of enjoying the journey: a release from the tyranny of time that so many of us inflict on ourselves.

After hot drinks and cake, it was off into the swirling snow.  I hope you all got back safely and are finding time during your working days to keep playing with your new creative partner – the street.

If you want to join the growing number of companies who are using Street Wisdom to develop their people, please let us know. We have a new program that could transform their thinking.  And if what we’re doing is in line with your values and mission – you may be interested in a wanderful, high profile opportunity to collaborate. Get in touch.


Mindfulness at Walk – the sequel

The first event with our collaborators, friends and mindful allies Mindfulness at Work was so exciting we just couldn’t leave it there.   Not least because, the more you practise Street Wisdom, the more your learn.   This time we joined MaW’s growing community of Mindfulness coaches among the Halva and Hookahs on London’s distinctly Middle-Eastern flavoured Edgware Road.

We didn’t have much time but it’s amazing what you can discover when you really pay attention.   About presence.  About passion.   About perfume (yes, awakening senses also led to a lessons in scents).  Even about the Police – the ones guarding Tony Blair’s nearby mews house were very curious about our slow walking past his door!

If anyone who took part would like to add their thoughts, comments, perspectives…we’d love to hear them.

Snow & Synchronicity in Stockholm

When we started working with our friends Ogilvy & Mather in Stockholm, we didn’t expect snow (in April) nor did we realise the location was so significant. Take a look at what we discovered and why we are proud to have played our small part in World Peace! And if you were taking part in the event, please leave your comments below. We’d be inspired to hear about your experiences.

Snap out of it – A call to slow down by David Pearl

The journalist and author Carl Honoré confesses he was a one-time speed freak.  Since then he’s become the guru of Slow.  He and I spent a deliciously laid back-day together before Easter and if you can find the time – you can, by the way – take a listen to our podcast.