A mission-driven food business rivals medical science in extending human life, John Vincent, co-founder and CEO of food chain Leon, argued passionately.
He cited the $9 billion sale of Juno Therapeutics by his friend Hans Bishop, who pioneered a ground-breaking cure for one form of leukaemia, and early diagnostic blood testing. “Hans told me he’d rather be doing what I’m doing – telling people to exercise and eat vegetables,” Vincent explained. “All the work I’m doing, Hans said, I’d rather people ate veg and did some running.”
Vincent pointed out that where people live the longest – “blue zones” – there are few medical devices. People eat well, have positive relationships, and their immune system and gut microbes respond, bestowing longevity.
The problem, Vincent argued, was that we’ve come to associate winning with fighting. We fight cancer, fight for our love, fight for what we believe in: “War has become the pre-eminent metaphor that we use in business,” he suggested. “And yet John Scott, ex 2 Para who works for us, has such bad night terrors that when he visits my house, he has to sleep in a hammock 250 metres away because his nightmares can be so bad. How is war useful to us as a metaphor in business?” Vincent decried the idea of “targeting” customers – “Are they the enemy?” – and dismissed “aggressive” business plans. “What does that mean?” he asked. “Does it mean we drag the customers in by the hair?”
He preferred, he explained, his current assistant’s approach when working in the Leon restaurant on London’s Strand. “Her strategy to increase sales was to be nice to the customers and tell them what food they might like,” he shrugged.
To regain our right relationship with ourselves, each other and with the planet, he suggested, we should consider the four “gates” of the ancient Chinese martial art, Wing Chun.
“Know yourself. Connect with others. Free yourself from the rubbish you have inherited that isn’t you. Regain wholeness,” he explained.
As we apply digital to our lives, he concluded, do we want to live in a blue zone, where there are no Fitbits but people live the longest lives – or do we want to live in America, where every third advert is for a medical device and people die sooner, and in greater pain?
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