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The Slow Movement: Right-speeding

The Slow Movement

The Slow MovementAs I started researching this article, I found myself speed-reading an interview with Carl Honoré. Was the interview dull? No. Rather, it was my need to finish and move on. This is what the Slow Movement is pushing back, gently, against.

The Slow Movement is a corrective. While some proponents advocate slowing down for its own sake, I think the most persuasive advocates of slow are those who see it as being about slowing down to the right pace. I’ll call that right speeding.

Why Slow Down?

‘The problem with the rat-race’ the saying runs, ‘is that if you win, you’re still a rat’.

Going faster never ends. There’s always more speed to add*.

But there is an end to slow. It’s stopping and enjoying the moment. Smelling the coffee, if you like.

Slowing down is a way to access a mindful state, where you can savour the moment and pay attention to the things that matter.

The slow movement advocates this as a positive way of life.

What is the Slow Movement?

I’m not going to take a historical approach to the Slow Movement. And neither will I take a purist stance and try to reflect what different proponents say. Rather, I shall take a pragmatic and authentic approach. By that, I mean, I’ll interpret it in a way that makes sense to me. Because, let’s be honest, ‘slow’ is not who I am.

So for me, the Slow Movement is about resetting the speed dial to where it ought to be. We seem to have gotten ourselves into a speed race in Western Society. And we see it replicated in other cultures too, now, like China and India.

Slow for the sake of slow is one interpretation, but I think the power of the Slow Movement is in slow as a counter to too fast. It’s a recalibration of the accelerator pedal, and a respecting of our built-in speed limits. It’s right-speeding.

The Origin of the Slow Movement

Though I don’t want to go into history, I think my interpretation of the Slow Movement as a correction is reasonable.

Originally, it was a reaction to fast food. Specifically the opening of a McDonalds restaurant in Rome, in 1986. This led Carlo Petrini to found the Slow Food movement as a campaign against the opening of a branch near the Spanish Steps. He wasn’t arguing that fast food is bad. More that we seem to have lost sight of the value of taking our time.

Slow Food

Food was the perfect place to start the Slow Movement. And, to this day, Slow Food is still its most prevalent expression. Three aspects of food make it especially appropriate for slowing down:

  1. Good ingredients take time to grow and harvest. Force feeding livestock and pumping them and their plant feedstocks with chemicals to speed the industrial food processes cannot produce better food: just faster food
  2. Preparing fresh ingredients take time. Pre-preparation to create fast food means storing prepared food. But we know that good cooking needs care and attention. It doesn’t always take a long time, but rushing won’t make it better
  3. How we consume food has both physiological and psychological implications. Let’s call them indigestion and broken relationships. Slowing down your consumption of food makes for better gut efficiency and more fulfilling conversations.

Slow Management?

But in the busy-busy world of management, what does the Slow Movement have to offer a manager like you?

Does it make sense to slow down the way we manage people and the organisations we inhabit?

I would answer ‘yes, it does’. Or, more accurately, I’d say we need to right-speed the way we manage.

How to Slow Down Your Management for Better Results

Management is about people. And working well with other people means building relationships. I think you can see where I am going with this.

Trying to rush management and leadership tasks like motivating, delegating, or feedback is counterproductive. You need to:

  • Slow down and get to know people
  • Make time to listen to them
  • Explain things carefully, establishing the context

Sales and Marketing

This is equally true when dealing with customers or potential customers. Marketers need to take time to build their relationship with possible future customers. And salespeople need to deepen that relationship to turn prospects into customers.

So, take the time to listen to your potential customers.  Because that’s how you can learn from them. And, the more you learn, the easier you’ll find it to make the sale.

Change and Transformation

Businesses don’t seem to ‘change’ now, so much as transform themselves. It’s got to be radical and it has to be fast. Agility is all the rage.

The Slow Movement would point out the need to slow down and design that transformation carefully. But incremental change can work too: a step at a time and a rapid pivot when we get it wrong.

Resistance is inevitable too, and I suspect that the faster the change, the stronger the push-back.

But, I guess we are impatient for the results we believe will come. Especially when we forget the way Virginia Satir showed us that change works.

For me, the place to really slow down and get it right is in communicating the changes:

  • Why it’s important
  • What will be different
  • How it will happen
  • What it means to you

My father used to like the adage:

‘More haste: less speed’

He wasn’t wrong.

What is Your experience of the Slow Movement?

We’d love to hear your experiences, ideas, and questions. Please leave them in the comments below.

To learn more…

The Mindfulness Pocketbook is full of tips to unlock the power of mindfulness and take workplace performance to new levels.


* ‘Going faster never ends. There’s always more speed to add’
Yup, I’m a physicist. This means I know that you cannot exceed the speed of light in a vacuum. But I also know that the faster you go, the more energy it takes to accelerate. So, you will keep speeding up, yet never quite reach the fastest possible. I know… ‘physics’. Always spoils our fun. Not physicists’ fault though. It’s the way the universe is. Like it or loathe it, you can’t escape the rules it has.

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