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Monkey Business with The Eden Project's Sir Tim Smit

Sir Tim Smit is no ordinary chief executive. He swear, blasphemes and detests meetings. In addition, the co-founder of The Eden Project, an award-winning, global garden enveloped in a Cornish crater, was pretty reluctant to lay down rules for his staff who have welcomed over 18 million visitors to the epic garden since 2001.

But, after increased pressure from the project chairman (and a ‘write a management scheme or one of us has to go’ situation), Tim went away for a weekend with “two very good bottles of wine” to get something down on paper. That weekend, Tim wrote The Monkey Business, a landmark management manual in the business sector which has been studied and used as inspiration by numerous companies since. Here are the best bits, in Tim’s own words, so you can inject a little Monkey Business into your own life.

  1. Say good morning to 20 people before you start work.

  2. Read two books each year that everybody who knows you would say are completely outside your sphere of influence and interest and review them for your colleagues.

  3. Go and see one big show, one movie, and one big play. How else are you going to get the cold stream of knowledge flowing through your head and wake up to new ideas?

  4. Stand up and make a speech to your colleagues every year about why you still feel excited to work for the Eden Project. If you can’t make that speech convincingly, you must go. It concentrates the mind.

  5. Prepare a meal for the 40 people who make coming to work worth it. (We make it less than 40 now because some of my colleagues are very bad at cooking, and it was playing havoc with our domestic lives.) The principle is that anybody who thinks that eating together is just about eating understands nothing. After the sun goes down, we give ourselves to the people we are around a table with by candlelight. It sounds a bit hippy-sh*t, but it’s true.

  6. Do something unspeakably nice for someone who you do not know and will never know you did it once a year. All 80 of my senior team do this because I believe fundamentally that if you have good fortune and you do not share it then it will be removed from you.

  7. Finally, all 500 members of my team have to learn how to play samba drums. The point of it is very simple: once you have the experience of the world adding up to so much more than you could do on your own, you think, ‘OK, the world feels good. We can do anything.’

 

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