Archive for September, 2008

The Dangers of being an ‘Expert’

Monday, September 29th, 2008

I am very fond of nice coffee, and prepared to go out of my way to get a really good cup.  I have a reasonable machine at home but it isn’t ‘just right’ and I was prepared to spend quite a lot to get the perfect machine.  So I searched the net and found a place about 30 miles away that had the machine I wanted to try in stock and available for demonstrating.  I was impressed by the site and the emails I exchanged with them.  The clincher was the guy described himself as a “barista”, which is what you call the guys who make espresso.

So I arrived, eager to buy.  My opening comment was I have X machine now, but the coffee isn’t hot enough.  His opening line was “Well you won’t get a better coffee than X…”  Over the next 10 minutes he steadily, yet somehow politely, talked himself out of a sale, and even my wife, a raving cooking fan, left without so much as looking around at his shop full of ‘goodies’ so cross was she at his attitude.  It was a little bit like an eager young man turning up at a cat house and being told by the madame that he would have more fun on his own with a copy of playboy…

His mistake was that he made no effort to find out what we wanted or why we wanted it.  He didn’t establish who he was talking to or our level of expertise/knowledge.  He may or may not have known more about the subject than me but he never tried to establish that.

It is so easy for an expert to fail to recognise & respect his client’s expertise or alter his language and delivery appropriately.  A real expert does not need to show off his knowledge or make others feel stupid.  So if you are a consultant or expert, take care!

“Expert: Someone who brings confusion to simplicity”  Gregory Nunn

“If stock market experts were so expert, they would be buying stock, not selling advice.”  Norman R Augustine

Banking Crisis … if you aren’t a winner

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Now I certainly am no expert on this sector, and I wouldn’t know a derivative if it bit me in the ‘proverbial’! However, it seems pretty clear that those clever lads and ladettes who have been in receipt of all those mega-bonuses were not quite as clever as they thought either! There seems to have been some pretty fundamental mistakes made in their core businesses and now Bradford & Bingley has joined Northern Rock and HBOS on the scrap heap of losers. So whilst I have no expert recipes for saving them (or anyone else for that matter!) I would observe that if what you are doing isn’t working then it is clearly time to do something different, time, in fact, for a Change.

Easy to say, and much harder to do, but so many folks, when things are not going well, just keep doing more of the very behaviours that have got them into trouble in the first place; in other words.. First stop digging! Someone close to me called yesterday, feeling unhappy about not being able to break out of this kind of pattern repeat. One way out of it is just to break the pattern. Go somewhere different, talk to someone new, read a different type of book, go to a different pub… it really doesn’t matter much what you do as you don’t know what it takes to make it work, so introducing this kind of random ‘newness’ into your life at least gives the Universe an opportunity to step in.

Change is scary and complex, but it is also organic and once we infect ourselves with just a little of the bug, it can lead us to also sorts or places and possibilities. I am not suggesting this is a recipe for successful corporate strategy, but it certainly is one component that can have unexpected value..

 “Don’t fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of a life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have.”

“Everyone has a ‘risk muscle.’ You keep it in shape by trying new things. If you don’t, it atrophies. Make a point of using it at least once a day.” Roger Von Oech

Belly dancing your way to oblivion?

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

Last night we went to a Moroccan restaurant, where in-between-times, they put on a a belly dancer.  Now that may seem like a good way a good way of bring in in the punters and differentiating yourself from the competition.  However, this luckless lady wasn’t engaging enough or good enough to make it anything other than an intrusion on our evening.  Interestingly, that night we watched a late night movie set in Algiers about a woman who became a belly dancer and the difference was plain to see.

The thing is, if you are going differentiate yourself from your competitors, make sure it is a good difference.  Make sure that you have really understood their needs, and are adding value.  After all, if McDonalds gave a free cactus with a every burger that would be different but not in very positive way…

Part of this lady’s problem was that she had failed to understand the essence of the art is to engage the the audience.  Make sure you have understood how to engage your customers…

“Not engaging in ignorance is wisdom.”  Bodhidharma

Wall Street rescue plan

Saturday, September 27th, 2008

Democrats & Republicans are frantically arguing about the package proposed by the US president to spend $750 billion shoring up the financial markets to prevent the US economy going into a tail spin. I have no doubt they all believe that this is a serious situation, and that they, and the people they represent, are in grave risk of getting seriously hurt by this situation. However, I have heard politicians earnestly arguing that it is un-American to interfere with results of a free market, and others saying that if there is money going here then they need other funds to help schemes they deem worthy. All these principles and good intentions and meanwhile Wall St burns…

Principles are all very well and when you are about to spend a sum equal to the GNP of Canada then you need to give it a little thought, however, there is a time to think and a time to act. Imagine arguing with your wife about which things you should drag out of your burning house first, the budgie or the holiday snaps…

Leaders act, they need an instinctive grasp of how to look after the people who look to them. Few of us will ever have to face this kind of decision, but fiddling whilst Rome burnt didn’t help Nero and is unlikely to work any better today.

“What to do if you find yourself stuck in a crack in the ground underneath a giant boulder you can’t move, with no hope of rescue. Consider how lucky you are that life has been good to you so far. Alternatively, if life hasn’t been good to you so far, which given your current circumstances seems more likely, consider how lucky you are that it won’t be troubling you much longer.” Douglas Adams

Auto Erotic

Saturday, September 27th, 2008

Today my son is out in the drive, washing his new car. By new of course I don’t mean ‘new’, I mean new to him. He is loving his new pride-and-joy. I still remember fondly my first car, as I suspect we all do, and that heady period when we lavished it with time, care and goodies. I spent hours fitting a tape deck in my Hillman Imp, in which even the heater was regarded as an ‘extra’.

The thing is we spend time, care and resources on those things that matter to us. Conversely people can observe where and with whom we spend our time and energy and deduce what is important to us and where they sit in the pecking order.

Make sure that today you are attending to those things and those people who are truly important to you and don’t let yourself get distracted by all the ‘noise’. For each day that you manage to pull off this trick, you will bring your inner and outer worlds closer into alignment.

“Good things happen when you pay attention.” John F Smith
“When you make a commitment to a relationship, you invest your attention and energy in it more profoundly because you now experience ownership of that relationship.” Barbara de Angelis

Contrary-wise… advice on how to make hay when it is raining!!

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

Warren Buffet, the richest man in the world, has just invested $5 billion in Goldman Sachs.  His advice is “Be greedy when others are fearful, and be fearful when they are greedy!”; this is interesting advice.  He is not afraid of going against the trend and following his own sense of direction.  I think this is bold advice for today’s leaders.  How are you going to differentiate yourself from the herd  if you are just following along.  Look at the fundamentals, ask searching questions and follow your own insights.

There is real opportunity in the market place now for the bold and the brave; don’t be paralysed by all the negative news, use the imagination, brains and wisdom of your team to take positive action and control of your destiny!

Resources:

  1. LA Times

Mungiki – the face of change?

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

Ross Kemp’s gang program tonight features the Mungiki, a violent gang, cum sect from Kenya.  I heard him say “They are just trying to effect Change.”  The thing is that there are many ways of bringing change about, from brainstorming & dialogue at one end of the scale to a machete in ‘de bonce’ at the other extreme.  If you fail to engage people in the what you do, then sooner or later they make their feelings known…  If you have a system that create winners and losers, then sooner or later the losers will withdraw from the game.  In order for your business to have a long term future you have to create a genuine Win:Win:Win whereby not only you, but your suppliers and customers all gain genuine benefit from the transactions.

“Technological change is like an axe in the hands”  Albert Einstein

Resources:

  1. BBC Online

Wall Street Crash

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

The recent mayhem on Wall St with the nationalisation of Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac, the crash of Lehman Bros and AIG, are all examples of business change in its most radical, most mordant form.  If you loose sight of the basics about how you add value to your customers and create real wealth rather than paper profits, then sooner or later, people are going to wise up and call your ‘markers’. 

A wise business reviews what it is doing and why it is doing it on a regular basis.  It is important to make the time to question what is being done and challenge established ideas.  It is often helpful to involve outsiders in these sessions to bring in some fresh thinking.

Change is really unavoidable, if you aren’t driving it then the chances are, sooner or later, you’ll end up with its tyre tracks down your back….

“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.” Abraham Lincoln

Saying "You are important" or "I love you"

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

As human beings we all need to hear that we are important, that we are loved, whether it is by those who are near and dear to us or those at work.  At home it makes us feel emotionally secure; at work it makes us feel financially secure to know that we are  valued.  The trouble is that we don’t all speak the same language.

We have all heard that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, but there seem to be an infinite number of planets we all come from and when those who are close to us fail to communicate in the ‘right’ language we feel less valued and special.  Of course this cuts both ways and no doubt we are all just as often the sinners as those sinned against..

Whether it is in the family, or in the work place, we need to make sure that we take the time to get on the same wave-length and communicate our appreciation of those around us in terms that they can hear and value.

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”  Albert Schweitzer

Tomtom 730 traffic

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

I have just replaced my rather ancient Tomtom Go satnav (which was the first of their models) with the new 730t.  Tomtom have really nice philosophy of constantly upgrading their software and making that available free, so my old model has a lot more functionality than it did when I bought it.  It is easy to download and and upgrade them so if you have an  older model, do check this out.

The new machine has a better chip in it which means that it grabs the satellites much faster and holds them better.  It has many new innovations that I’m sure will be very helpful.  You can upgrade the maps free and users are able to post corrections so we don’t have to wait years for the official version to be updated. 

The 730 is pretty similar to the previous model the 720 (which you can now pick up for around £185, so it is  a bit of bargain), but the 730 has two new nifty tricks up its little plastic sleeves.  It has IQ routing , which means that Tomtom collects real life data of journey times from users so it knows how long various journeys take at various times so it not only can give you better estimates of when you will arrive, but can get you there faster.  The traffic version of the 730 comes with a little gismo to collect RDS traffic data and factor that into its routing calculations.  The other new feature is Advanced lane Guidance which tells you exactly which lane you need to be in on motorways so as not to miss key turns etc.

You  can update the machine with not only revised mapping data but also useful lists of Points of Interest (POI’s) which are little databases of things like car park locations, ATMs, your favourite hotel and pub chains, supermarkets etc.  So if you are in the habit of meeting at a particular coffee shop, the Tomtom can take you right there, and the 730 is a much slimmer beast than my old one so you can take it with you, when you leave the car.  You can also download speed camera locations.

It is highly customisable and I’m looking forward to giving it a road test very soon.