In episode 28 we speak to Patrick Lawson, Group Strategy Executive at Spur Corporation, about human-powered reignition strategies.

We examine what it means to be human, referring to both the Western philosophical and the African philosophical perspectives as examples, but concluding that humans are so very complicated, and capable of such complexity, that it is almost impossible to define us.

We speak to Patrick Lawson and hear from him on how the Spur Group has innovated, exploring what life will look like for their clients after lockdown. And that sometimes innovation is returning to those important things in life that we’ve forgotten.

Join our conversations around reintegrating post lockdown.



Theran Knighton-Fitt: Hello, welcome to the next episode of the mental health and wellbeing in COVID-19. The second episode of our season three. It’s episode 28, but it’s the second episode of our reignition edition, which is essentially a new focus that we have been on since the official lockdown ended, and we are all into this phased, levelled approach. So, the purpose of this current season, as we go forward, is to help organisations, companies, leaders, employees – to help you – with some tips, tricks, resources, so that you can flourish individually, and as an organisation, into the future, not just in COVID, but into the future as well.

So, that’s the purpose of what we’re doing. The angle that we’re going to be taking, of course, is along that line, there is a focus on reignition during reintegration. How do we reignite our organisations to be able to respond appropriately and effectively? Respond well, to the current moment and the future that it will bring. Of course, the key stakeholders that we will be speaking to are the organisation itself almost as its own entity, but then to the leaders and employees that make up that organisation. Yeah, the series is brought to you by Mygrow, the emotional intelligence platform. Don’t forget to sign up for your free access. If you haven’t, we were initially giving a 21-day free trial during the official lockdown, but we have extended that to essentially be an extra two weeks. So, if you were getting to the end of your 21 days, don’t worry, there are two more weeks for you. And if you’re signing up now for the first time, sorry, you’re signing up for two weeks.

On Mygrow, you will be able to get access to some of the resources that we’ve made available throughout this entire series so far. Just go to the COVID-19 tab and you’ll see some of those resources. Okay, quick recap of the previous episode. The key concepts we talked about were the power of self-talk. I walked you through a couple of experiments, just showing that the way you talk to yourself really does have an impact on your output, on your performance. We spoke about a growth mindset. Some key takeaways were that if we can change the way we think or if we can change the way we talk, then current problems we face will begin to seem different to us.

Today’s episode, we’re speaking about human-powered reignition strategies with Patrick Lawson. What is a human? That’s a concept I’m going to be trying to tackle in a moment. Then we’re going to chat with Patrick. He is an old friend of Mygrow He is the executive in charge of strategy at Spur Group. I’ll introduce him in a little bit more detail just now. And then I’m going to be speaking just a little bit around this question of “how can we empower humans so that we can unlock their potential in our organisations?” and we will get to that after our chat. Okay, let’s dive into this very difficult question: what is a human? One of the biggest questions in human philosophy. Since we have had frontal lobes, we have asked and tried to answer this question. And I’m going to try now, in, what, four minutes, I’m going to answer this question.

I’m not actually going to answer this question, I’m going to do a little bit of a sneaky sidestep and try and answer the question by coming at it from a slightly different angle. Now, the reason I can’t answer this question quickly is because this question is not answerable academically, it is too big. And there are a few different reasons, but the main reason is because, as human knowledge has increased, and as we have, you know, as a result of the some of the fields like anthropology and psychology, history and some of the humanities, we’ve realised that this question is much bigger than we may have philosophically thought it was, back in the past. You see, the worldview, the context, we come to this question from, it will change the way we answer it. And there are many different answers to it.

So, for instance, one of the classical answers to this question, specifically from the Western perspective, has been this tripartite understanding of what a human is – mind, body, spirit – has been built on in this emotion, and there’s different things added on. But that’s, in many ways, been a bit of a skeleton for a framework of “what is a human?”. But that’s just from one worldview, from the classically Western philosophical perspective, starting back in the day with the ancient Greeks. Now, I think part of the reason we answered the question that way from that perspective, is because Socrates, the father of Western philosophy, one of his great contributions to the field of philosophy was definitions; the ability to be able to separate out this from that etc. That has been, as a result, a very strong tradition in Western thinking, the ability to be able to define things. So, of course, an answer like mind, body and spirit, is a very simple, neat definition. They are separate categories. Maybe they’re intermingled a bit, but they are separate. They are definable.

As I say, that’s just from one specific worldview’s way of looking at it. If we take this question and look at it from a different perspective, maybe from an African perspective, well, we don’t have quite the same closely-defined, individualistic view on it. The West has always been very strong in an individualistic view of things and of humans, as well. From an African perspective, we’ve got an idea like ubuntu which the lines are a bit more fluid: “I am because you are” or “through you I am”. It’s not as easy to nail down an exact definition. Because the lines aren’t quite as defined. There is much more of a social interplay in what a human is. Same thing is true. If you look at Eastern cultures, some Eastern frameworks of thinking and worldviews. The human is in some ways, just an extension of the family. Family is the main unit, not the individual, and things like honour and shame are so deeply connected with the family unit, and you’re sort of almost as an extension of that. I’m not an expert in that. So, don’t take what I’m saying too far to it’s extremes. But what I’m trying to say here is that the perspective we come from, does change the way we answer the question. You see, the question may not sound like a very complicated one. But it has a lot of very complicated answers. And in some ways, it’s actually a bit of a ridiculous question. So, this is how I want to, sort of, come at this question from a slightly different angle.

Let me do it this way. Imagine one egg said to another egg, “what is an egg?” I mean, to be able to stand outside and you just look at that. That’s a bit of a ridiculous question. You know, that second egg would be like, “I’m an egg, you’re an egg, that’s what an egg is”. Maybe if he had frontal lobes and had the ability to think he would be able to say, “I am”, or if it was a Western philosophical egg, “I have a shell, I have an egg yolk, I have an egg white”. You know, maybe if he were super clever, if his brains were even more complicated, he’d say, “I am pre-omelette” or “I’m potentially scrambled” or, I don’t know, he would potentially have more than just a simple “I’m an egg, you’re an egg”. But the thing is, the egg can’t answer that question. Because the egg can’t ask that question. Humans are the only things that ask that kind of question. Humans are the only kind of creature that can come out with the complexity of answers. “I’m mind, body, spirit, I’m socially, I’m emotionally, I’m, you know, spiritually.” It’s only humans that unpack a question, that can even ask that question. But then secondly, unpack it with complexity, and this is how I want to get around, sort of sneaking in through the back door for an answer. “What is a human?” A human is complicated.

Humans are complex. Humans are not just in who we are. We are capable of complex thought, complex emotion, complex intervention and invention. Humans are incredible. We did a whole episode, episode 16 of the series, talking about the power of the imagination, imagination being the engine of human, I forget exactly how we said it, human accomplishment, I think is what we said. Because humans are complicated and able to engage with complexity, we are also able to respond to things that have complexity, and we’re able to respond complexly, if that’s a word, to things that are complex. And we’re seeing that right now. In fact, as we look around the world and we see the innovation and the speed of some of the things that have happened, as we’ve all had to deal with COVID-19. The speed of invention, the speed of out-of-the-box thinking has been phenomenal. It’s been quite amazing to, as a human, be able to sort of step back and look at what humanity is doing, be able to put things in place that are, that two months ago, there was no groundwork for it. The speed at which we can move is phenomenal. And part of the reason why I would say the reason is because humans are complex and capable of complexity.

So, the power of the human person is phenomenal. Now we’ve got a guest today, Patrick Lawson. The reason we’ve got him on for today’s episode around the complexity of “how do we deal with this complex moment in a way that’s going to help our organisations move forward?” Part of the reason he’s the perfect candidate is because of his specific and personal value on the human person. His role is the group strategy executive for Spur Group. Spur Group that’s, that includes Spur Steak Ranches, Panarottis, Rocamamas, Hussar Grill, John Dorys, Casa Bella, pretty much all the restaurants, minus a few. That’s all part of Spur Group. Now, Spur has a history, Spur has a legacy of innovation. If I just think about my own childhood, you know, Spur was super involved in my birthdays and in taking me seriously as a young child. And they’ve had that kind of legacy all the way through. And they’ve been a thought leader in many ways. Now, Patrick is in charge of strategy for the whole group. His role is to help the company flourish into the future. And we’ve had a lot of interaction with Patrick, over the last couple of years, he’s an old friend of Mygrows and we’ve had conversations with him around the power and the role of the human and how we protect that going forward. So, let’s get him on and see what he can share with us around maybe what Spur is doing in this moment to try and be innovative around human-focused strategy and human-focused responses to what’s happening. So, Patrick can you hear me?

Patrick Lawson: I can indeed, Theran.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: Thank you so much for being on the show. I’m really looking forward to this conversation.

Patrick Lawson: Awesome to be here.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: As I just mentioned now to the viewers, I think a while back, I said, you’re a friend of Mygrow. We’ve had multiple conversations with you over the last, I don’t know how long it’s been, a couple of years, specifically around this value of the human. What I forgot to say, right now, and I’ll say it now, just before I throw the ball to you, but for the viewers, Patrick’s had a very keen interest in what’s happening with the future digitally. He’s taken a keen interest professionally, but then also personally in what’s happening with AI, machine learning. You know, “the robots are taking my job”, all that kind of thing because his role at SPU group is literally to help navigate a way forward. Part of that for you is a real value of the human and not wanting to lose the human. So, before we get to that, how’s it been in these last couple of weeks for you at Spur Group, it’s crazy times for you guys, well for everyone?

Patrick Lawson: Yeah, Theran. Definitely. You know, we’ve, due to the regulations that were put in place early on, we had restrictions on trade. That was just before the lockdown. And that had a significant impact on our ability to trade. And then we went into full lockdown, obviously, all of us shut. And to level four, we’re able to open some of those restaurants again for delivery only, which is an incredible moment for us. It’s a great weight, it lifts off the shoulders. As some of the work we’ve done in the last couple of weeks while we’ve been in lockdown is now coming to fruition in being able to open the restaurants in an environment that they were never designed to do. If you think about our restaurants, they were designed for people to come in, enjoy an experience, food is certainly part of the experience. And now in this context of being delivery-only, a lot of that’s been taken away. How do we store a present value in that space? So, it’s been a real busy couple of weeks. Yeah.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: Yeah. And I read recently that you’ve taken the decision as a group, I think, to not open until it is actually conducive business-wise. That must have been a pretty big decision to make.

Patrick Lawson: A very big decision to make. There are some commercial realities. Again, as I’ve alluded to, just now, you know, the restaurants are designed for sit-down trade. And the business model works around a sit-down trade. And there are not many of them that would be profitable outside of that. So, we were taken a bit out of context, to be honest, in the media releases, but what we were saying is, don’t expect all restaurants across the board within our group to open when we go to level four, because commercial realities are that most of them, in fact, would not be profitable in that scenario. So, a few of them are able to open and those that can open on a one-on-one basis. We are certainly trying to do that.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: Sure. Well, I mean, one thing is clear, it’s a time of tough decisions. I mean, there’s so many, you know, to go back to the complexity theme, again, there’s so many complex dynamics that are all at play here. And of course, when we’re chatting economically, that’s got its own complexities. Okay, let’s dive into this question. I’d love to hear from you, some of the innovative ways that Spur Group, or Spur, I’m not sure which of your restaurants you want to answer this question through. But what have you done already, you know, to continue this legacy of innovation? What have you done to try and take the human experience seriously as a company?

Patrick Lawson: So, I’m going to wind back a little bit. We started our digitisation journey a while ago. We have introduced various things that wouldn’t be considered innovation now, only because everyone else is in that space now, but, you know, the usual digitisation, through customer-facing applications and all of those kind of things. We spend a lot of time understanding customer data. So, we have loyalty programs, and we have a very good view of an understanding of Theran when he comes to one of our brands. What does he like, what does he not like?

Theran Knighton-Fitt: He likes Chico the Clown.

Patrick Lawson: He likes Chico the Clown.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: He likes it when you sing Happy Birthday to him.

Patrick Lawson: We know that, we know when Theran’s birthday is more or less because he keeps coming back, or one of the kid’s birthdays is. So, there’s a lot around data that we’ve done. There’s a lot that we utilise then understanding that in trying to make sure that our one-to-one communication, is on point. I mean, you know, when we speak about innovation, I often think about what, what is it that stimulates that innovative pivot point, or inflection point? You know, there’s generally something that stimulates that or kickstarts it. At the moment, we have COVID-19, which is highly disruptive, sometimes there are market influences or there are legislative requirements that create these, this need for innovation. And right now, a lot of what we’ve done around the impact on COVID is not only in response to the lockdown, but again looking beyond lockdown.

What does life look like beyond lockdown? People are saying there’s a new normal, you know, normal is not going to exist. We’re going to go back to a new world and I largely would agree with that. But what does that world look like? How does Theran’s behaviour, before lockdown, going to change? As we go post-lockdown, is he going to want to go to restaurants as frequently as he did? And if he does, what are the health and safety concerns that Theran has? How would he choose to engage? Would you rather order in? Would he collect on the way home? Is he going home or is he working from home? So, it’s really leaning into these different lifestyle changes that are going to happen to us as human beings and therefore our customers and trying to understand where we need to be, so that we remain relevant and on point when a customer needs us. Customers have different needs. Food fulfils many different functions for people, and it obviously has a very basic function of nutrition and needing to fill our tummy, but there’s also this experiential part around food. It’s a place where people gather together, it’s a time for people to gather together. It’s a break from work. It’s lunch. There’s various different points in a human being’s day and time and lifecycle where food plays a significant role. And we’re looking at how we remain relevant in that time.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: What do you think we are at risk of losing in the new normal? From your perspective around this connection? You know, you’ve mentioned connection. I mean, it brings to mind for me a conversation we had before where you guys were doing something, I don’t know in which restaurant it was, but you, you had this voluntary option of everyone to put their cell phones in a box so that you could try and foster conversation at the table, instead of just being on your devices, which was obviously a – seeing that we’re losing something with a digital age creeping in and fighting to reclaim something. What do you think we’re losing or at risk of losing?

Patrick Lawson: Yeah. I’m just going to segway for a moment and I’ll come back to your question. Very often, we tie in innovation into something technological and new and never done before. But sometimes innovation is also actually going back to the simple things in life that we’ve forgotten. And you contextualise that cellphone in a box as innovation and to an extent, I suppose it would be, but it’s, it’s just reclaiming that which in many instances, we’ve forgotten. So, what I think we’re going to lose, I think, because we’re all, we’ve learned how to do so many things digitally. Now in the period of lockdown. We’re all now Zoom specialists, Team addicts, you know, Hangouts pros. We do everything digitally. And we’re stuck at home if we have families like you and I do, we have the benefits and the blessing of being able to engage with our families. But if we are home alone, we are home alone. And the only engagement we have is digital. But as human beings, we need connection with other individuals. I personally am highly stimulated by connection with other individuals. And my concern is that as we move into this digital space and I look at particularly young children of today, teenagers, looking again at my teenagers, how much of their life lives in this ethereal space, and how false that space can be, and how much of our own humanity, our own individualism or individuality, we are losing in that space and how much of our authenticity, we are losing in that space. That makes us as a human, as humans, that makes us different than individual and therein lies the strength and the beauty of the imperfection, of being human. And where our worldviews, you spoke of earlier, all of these are slightly different, based on, not only the country we brought up in, or our own religion or, but our family context, our schooling, now so many things that give us different perspectives that when we start to ask those questions that you were speaking about earlier, we bring different perspectives. And it’s those different perspectives, when they are collaborated together, that very often are the seed of a really big innovative idea. So, my concern is that as we become more and more digital, we start to lose the foundational essence of what it is to be truly human.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: Patrick, I, you know, as you know, from our chats, I really resonate, I guess we both resonate with each other’s views on these things. And, what’s fascinating for me is we’ve been, for the last couple of years, we’ve been looking to the digital future of AI and all of that, and now we’ve been hit with another vision of a digital future. Which is fairly simple, it’s just remote working and doing everything on the internet. But you know, there are concerns as to what we will lose, some of those social and relational dynamics for me, that we will lose. I do believe that the future isn’t doom and gloom and there are ways that we can actually invest into new ways of doing things that can reclaim some of what we may lose. And I am a firm believer in the fact that the future will be better than the past that we have a chance now to push reset. And to start, you know, remembering some of those old things, you know, we talked, you talked just now about, you know, doing something we’ve forgotten about. That’s not innovative, maybe but it is innovative when, when it hasn’t been done, when everyone’s just on their phones, actually just putting a box on the table for them to put their phones in, so they can talk like humans, that is innovative, and I’m excited about the innovation that will come in the current season. Anyway, that’s all we have time for today. Patrick, thank you so much for your contribution for being on this episode with us.

Patrick Lawson: It’s wonderful meeting with you again, and wonderful being here. Thank you very much.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: Next time in person.

Patrick Lawson: Indeed, over a good coffee.

Theran Knighton-Fitt: So, that was Patrick Lawson from the Spur Group. Didn’t want to give us any advanced warning of what it is that Spur is going to be doing, innovatively how they’re going to respond to this moment. But whatever it is, I’m pretty certain that it is going to be something that is aimed at trying to protect some of the value that Spur has always seen and always offered us as humans, the ability to have real human connection and to take the human experience of eating seriously. So, let’s see what comes from Spur. They’ve always been a leader in the field of innovation in the space of innovation in this industry. I’m sure they will continue to be so.

Alright, let’s move on to this other question. This next step, how do we unlock the potential in our people? Isaac Newton as he was sitting under his tree. This is the moment he discovers gravity, why is it that he discovered gravity and not an egg? Well, to go back, it’s because humans are complex. Humans are complicated. And humans can understand complicated things. We can come at complex problems with innovation. It is the frontal lobes, essentially that enables us to be different to the eggs, all the eggs out there. Doesn’t matter how many eggs you put together, they’re never gonna discover gravity. They will feel the effects of it, I’m sure but they will never discover it.

It is the frontal lobes of the human person that can do that. But the frontal lobes don’t operate by themselves. As I said, humans are complicated. We are not just cognitive beings, we’re not just intelligent beings. We have emotions as well. And there is a relationship between the emotional centres and the cognitive centres of the brain. In fact, so much of what, so much of the reason why we do not reach our potential and do not unlock power and strength is because the emotional centres have a way of shutting down the frontal lobes. We’ve chatted a little bit already in a number of episodes about subconscious identities, about stories that we get hooked on. Remember, Susan David with emotional agility, we’ve talked about the, I think we’ve talked about the billboards we believe about ourselves, the narrative identities, the characters that we play, we find ourselves falling into victim mindsets that have a creator role. There’s so many different ways in which our psychology hinders us and so much of that is connected to the emotional centres.

So, if you can develop the emotional centres, which is essentially developing emotional strength, EQ, if we can do that we can unlock the frontal lobes, we can unlock the potential of what the human person can do. And in this moment, we are at a time where we need the innovation. We need new ideas, we need new ways of handling the current moment, the current season. You see, it’s not just Isaac Newton sitting underneath his tree that’s going to help us. It’s not just the lone, brilliant genius out there, the one in 1000 or one in a million. That’s all of us. It’s every employee you have, can be unlocked, every staff member you have has something to contribute. And we are moving into a season where those individuals, we have been in the season and we’re continuing into the future, a season where there are so many dynamics, there are so many things that we are trying to deal with complexity, and they clash.

Remember a couple of episodes back, we spoke about that force field analysis or that force field theory of when these things clash, there is a mess, there is energy but it is not actually accomplishing anything. But if we can align all those vectors and get us all facing in the same direction. The power we can unlock as we reignite ourselves to move into the season, is phenomenal. So Mygrow has put together a Reignition Support Package, a tool to enable you, as an organisation, to unlock the individuals, the staff members, the employees, to equip to empower the leaders to be able to lead forward into the unknown in an effective way, and therefore, as a result,the combination of leaders and employees together, the company.

Now is the time where we need to see companies being innovative. But companies are always innovative because of people. There is no machine learning, there is no AI, that is going to tell Bootleggers to now start delivering pies, which I got a message the other day saying that’s what they doing, Bootleggers is a coffee company here in South Africa. Netflorist as well has like a major change in what they do. I’ve heard a number of different stories of companies who have taken these massively innovative shifts and pivoted in order to stay alive. A computer is not going to tell us how to do that, a computer is going to help us, Zoom is going to help us, it’s going to really be a great tool for us to go forward into this world of remote work or maybe hybrid remote work and partly connected, partly not.

It’s the humans, it’s the humans themselves who are going to come up with innovation, but only if we can help them to flourish.

So, if you’re interested in finding out more about the Reignition Support Package, please email [email protected] and we will be in touch with you. Just a reminder again to make sure you go and get your free trial of the Mygrow platform. Two weeks is what we’re offering. If you have had a free trial, it’s been extended. But as of now you’re going to be on a two-week free trial. And in that, in the platform, you can get access to our different resources, all the different things that we’ve made available throughout this series.


Please make sure you share this webinar series on whatever social channel you’re on. If you’re watching on Facebook, if you’re watching on YouTube, like it, follow us, spread the word. Let’s help others to benefit from this package, from this offering that we’ve been making available.

Now you may be in this at home, alone by yourself, you may be going through this with others. Everyone is in this differently. But we are all in this together. And one thing is for certain if we’re going to come out of the other side in a way that flourishes and helps to create a better world than the one we left behind a couple of months back. It’s because each of us is going to have been unlocked and our potential is going to have been allowed to flourish. Not a great combination of words there grammatically speaking, but you know what I’m saying:

If we are going to flourish, if we are going to be able to unlock our potential as individuals, as teams, as companies, we are going to be able to see a world that is better than the one we left behind.

I’m looking forward to that. I hope you are too. I will see you in the next episode.

Watch our other webinars around reintegrating post lockdown.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x