Social Good Six Interview 35: Graham Allcott

Social Good Six Interview 35: Graham Allcott



Graham Allcott is a best-selling author, speaker, social entrepreneur and the original ‘productivity ninja’.

Armed with a mission to transform stuffy time management training courses into something more practical, human and fun, Graham founded Think Productive in April 2009. The company has since grown to spread the message of playful productivity across the UK and increasingly worldwide.

Graham is proud to be the best-selling author of practical books, ‘How to be a Productivity Ninja’, ‘Introducing Productivity’ and ‘How to be a Knowledge Ninja’, by Icon Books.

As a passionate social entrepreneur, previous roles include founding chairman of READ International, Chief Executive of Student Volunteering England and an adviser to the UK government on youth volunteering. He is currently a trustee of youth homeless charity, Centrepoint.

Graham lives in Brighton (UK) with his wife, son and cantankerous cat. And despite an intolerance of failure elsewhere in his life, he is an Aston Villa season ticket holder.



1-       In no more than three sentences, please explain what you do 


I run a business called Think Productive that runs workshops to help businesses, charities and public sector organisations tackle information stress and overload and love their work again. I’m also a social entrepreneur in the broadest definition: I run and finance a small scholarship programme to promote girls’ education in rural Uganda, I’m a trustee of Centrepoint, and been involved in a couple of other organisations. I’m a former charity chair and CEO, but I’m probably best known these days for my book “How to be a Productivity Ninja”.


2-       Who inspires you? 


There are plenty of inspiring, hard-working and brilliant charity and social enterprise folk like Seyi Obakin at Centrepoint, Matt Hyde at the Scouts, Eugenie Teasley who founded Spark+Mettle, Marie Benton from Choir With No Name, Sam Coniff from Livity and Fiona Dawe who I worked with when she was at Youthnet. David Gold, who runs Prospectus – he’s a guy who is passionate, takes his work seriously, but is also not afraid to call out bullshit when he sees it. Basically, I like the people who have a strong sense of who they are, what their mission is, and how they add value. I find the usual ‘big names’ generally rather uninspiring to be honest. The one exception is Bill Gates: whilst Steve Jobs gets treated like Jesus for changing the software on phones (as well as being disrespectful to his staff), Gates is quietly getting on with changing the world.


3-       What is the biggest change you want to see in the world? 


I was amazed that the topic of climate change was barely mentioned at the general election last year. There seems to be a massive gulf between the changes we need in society and the appetite or ability of public discourse to play a part in creating change. Everyone’s become good at putting on a red nose, or clicking the petition on Facebook and then thinking they’ve done their bit. It strikes me there’s a bit of ‘campaign fatigue’ out there, and charities are competing with so much more noise too these days, it just leads to apathy. We need to create a society where caring about the planet and each other is prioritised above memes, selfies and the shallow pursuit of individual “lifestyle”. I wish I knew where to start with that one, though.


4-       What would you like to be remembered for? 


I don’t actually have a great desire to be remembered, except by my family. There’s far too much hero worship in the charity sector and in business too. I’ve never entered a single business award in my life: it’s a distraction from doing the work. What I know is that lots of people remember me as the person who has helped them get clarity and control over their work, and a few people will remember me as an enabler in their success. That’s enough for me, really. My ego doesn’t crave to be centre-stage. I guess my book might out-live me if I’m really lucky and I’ll be delighted it helped people, but if there’s an idea in me that’ll change the world, I don’t think I’ve found it yet, sadly.


5-       What is the most interesting new idea you’ve come across in the past year? 


I’m writing a new book at the moment about the relationship between productivity, work/life balance and happiness and success. It’s going to be called Beyond Busy, and currently I’m doing a podcast as part of the research, so I’m thinking about those themes a lot, and talking to some fascinating folks on subjects like money and the psychology of happiness. The idea that so much of our reality is just an illusion is a bit of an under-pinning theme so far.


6- Finally, how can people engage with your work if they’d like to learn more/help?; @grahamallcott on Twitter. My book is “How to be a Productivity Ninja”


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