Ross Ashcroft, Founder of the Motherlode Studio and Director of "Four Horsemen", on leading by example and building new models of ownership based on the principles that you advocate.

Meet... Ross Ashcroft, Director of "Four Horsemen" feature documentary...
What specific projects are you working on that relate to 'new ownership'?

Buckminster Fuller said "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." Those timeless words are relevant today so the most important thing to do when promoting new models of ownership is to lead by example and build an organisation based on the principles you advocate. That way, it becomes practical not theoretical. This is what we have done with our employee-owned company, Motherlode.

We feel shared ownership and collaboration is the 21st century model and it’s effective because it incentivises our people differently and gives customers and clients an experience or product that far surpasses market expectations.

Creative and financial success at Motherlode is collective, not individual. This creates a wonderful collaborative working environment that makes you eager to get to work in the morning. We adopted the same model with "Four Horsemen" - all the key staff who worked on the film owns a share of it. This meant no one ever said ‘that will do’. They worked until the product was, in their eyes, right.

What companies or organizations do you think "get" new ownership and are at the forefront of this mega trend in terms of their products, services, experiences and business models? 

We might think its “new” ownership because collectively we have forgotten about this way of organising ourselves to do business. That was easy to do during the triumph of neo-liberal economics, predatory capitalism and the false promises of globalisation. The new ownership principles have been around for years. We just need to rediscover them.

Anthemis Group get it. Their founders were frustrated working in monolithic corporates so three years ago got out and founded a progressive organisation. One of their founders, Sean Park, claims “a hierarchy is a response to a low trust environment” and he’s right. Command and control is now obsolete, especially as the lowest paid employee can access much of the same information as the Chairman or CEO. The Anthemis model is a collaborative network of businesses that are positively disrupting the financial sector.

At Motherlode, we ‘get it’ and actually any other way of organising ourselves would be counterproductive. The results after just three years of trading prove we are on the right track. I would also say that the British businessman John Spedan Lewis got it. He was ahead of his time when he founded the John Lewis Partnership in 1864. Everyone thought he was mad but look at the quality and profitability of that business.

Also we mustn’t forget about the pioneering José María Arizmendiarrieta. He founded the Spanish co-operative Mondragon in 1956 when the Basque country was on its knees. Recessions and depressions are the time to make changes, not to continue doing the same thing and expect a different result. 

Why did you agree to speak at PICNIC? What are you hoping to bring to the event? What are you hoping to get out of participation?

I believe business can change culture and society far more effectively than politics or any other top down diktat (strict order). Coming to PICNIC and speaking about what we have discovered whilst making "Four Horsemen" and the challenges we and others have overcome to create our businesses allows an exchange of universal ideas that move everyone forward. 

Corporate Social Responsibility should not have to exist – and now, quite rightly, it is widely regarded as a joke. We should all be striving to close the gap between who we are and what we do. PICNIC is instrumental in facilitating that conversation.

For decades, we have unconsciously accepted the marketing line “Because you’re worth it” but in reality this just gets us further from our human lifeblood which is collaboration and co-existence. Being involved with PICNIC allows us to birth new ownership platforms and a business culture / philosophy which will render the current disastrous business models obsolete.

"Recessions and depressions are the time to make changes, not to continue doing the same thing and expect a different result."

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