Archive for March, 2009

G20, Gordon Brown & Themba

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Today Gordon Brown stood up in St Paul’s and gave a speech urging the world’s financial institutions to follow the kind of basic, simple guidance we would give our children about being honest, straight forward, sensible etc.  He was suggesting that rather than follow the current US catch phrase of There is No Alternative (T.I.N.A), we should be guided by the African response to the this The.M.B.A, There Must Be Another way.  He pointed out a lovely coincidence, themba means ‘hope’ in Zulu. 

On this, I’m with Mr Brown, there is always another way, you just have to shift your perspective, seek other views, look beneath, behind and to the side of the issue.  It is all too easy to  say “I had no choice.  There was no other option..”   If something is unacceptable, we shouldn’t accept it, that in itself is another choice.

Creativity and innovation don’t usually come easily; it took Edison thousands of experiments to perfect his light bulb. The fact is, he had a number of key criteria that he needed his light bulb to fulfil for it to be acceptable.  If we set the right criteria, then we are more likely to come up with an acceptable solution.  Well done Mr Brown… Themba!!

“History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives.”    Abba Eban

“Man has no choice but to love. For when he does not, he finds his alternatives lie in loneliness, destruction and despair.”


Litter Alert!

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

I heard that today there was a move a foot to get everyone in Yorkshire to pick up a bit of litter.  The lady championing this observed that this would happen if this was the movies!  I’m all for anything that gets the country cleaner, and especially that removes the blight of litter from those very  beauty spots that people travel to see (and then despoil!)

The interesting idea here is the power of getting many people each to make a small change.  When these tiny changes are amalgamated they create an amplitude that has huge power.  Sometimes rather than trying to go for a huge shift, one is better to make a series of tiny ones.  If repeated regularly, it is surprising the difference this can make, after all, in the words of the Chinese sage Lao Tzu “The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step

When we take one step toward to God, he takes seven steps toward us.”    Indian Proverb


Hubble photos

Friday, March 27th, 2009

There are a series of awe inspiring photos taken by the Hubble telescope available on the Telegraph website.  You really need to take a moment to enjoy them. 

The phrase ‘awe inspiring’ is much over used but if you want to see something cosmically beautiful take a look now!

Sometimes we just need a reminder of what life is all about and what is important. .

Have a wonder full day..

Knickers to you!

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

Fed-up with the violent and anti-feminist actions of fundamentalist Hindus, who consider themselves to be the self-appointed guardians of ‘true’ Indian culture and values,  29-year-old journalist called Nisha Susan decided to strike back.  Following an attack on a pub by 40 SRS  (Sri Ram Sena – the Lord Ram’s Army) members, who beat up every woman they could see, Nisha was seething mad.  What could one woman do in the face of this kind of aggression?

Being a thoroughly modern ‘Millie’, she set up a Facebook group called the Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women.  By next day it had 500 members, and today is has nearly 60,000 supporters.  The group’s aim was to encourage and support women to behave as they wished and not be repressed by these extremists. 

Then they came up with a bright idea. they encouraged all their followers to post a pair of pink knickers or chaddi to the SRS by way of protest!  Quite literally saying knickers to you!  Yesterday I discussed bricks as a form of communication, today it is knickers. I wonder what tomorrow will bring!

On a more serious note, getting your message across requires effort.  You have to get the other person’s attention before communication can take place.  If you have an important message to get over today, how are you going to make sure that they hear you?

“Years ago, I tried to top everybody, but I don’t anymore, I realized it was killing conversation. When you’re always trying for a topper you aren’t really listening. It ruins communication.”   Groucho Marx

“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. When we really listen to people there is an alternating current, and this recharges us so that we never get tired of each other. We are constantly being re-created.”   Brenda Ueland


It is all communication .. even when it is a brick!

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Sir Fred Goodwin, of RBS notoriety, was the unfortunate victim of a vandal’s attention last night when his ?3m Morningside home and black Mercedes were damaged.  Illegal as these actions were, they undoubtedly communicated much of what many people are feeling right now. 

Communication does not have to be verbal to be clear or potent.  What actions could you take that would give voice to powerful messages about how you are feeling?  How do your customers communicate with you and your business using this non-verbal language.  If you don’t pay attention to the more subtle cues, the next message may come attached to a brick!


Your brain really does switch off when given ‘expert’ advice!

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Professor Berns has discovered that our brains literally can be seen ‘switching off’ when offered expert financial advice.  He monitored 24 volunteers using fMRI technology whilst asking them a  series of questions spanning the range from gambling to guaranteed payouts. 

“During some parts of the game the subjects had to make decisions on their own, while in other parts they were advised by an expert economist.

The subjects tended to take the advice, even though it was not always likely to lead to the highest possible earnings. Their brains also showed different patterns of activity when advice was available and when it was not.When participants had to make choices by themselves, they showed high activity in brain areas such as the anterior cingulate cortex and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which are involved in active decision-making and probability calculation.”

It is another example of Flight / Fight behaviour.  Emory University have observed that when confronted by money related ‘stuff’, we have two main responses, boredom and fear, in other words, flight / fight!

I would imagine that this our response to expert advice which  spans a much wider area than just the financial.  If it is important and we don’t really understand it, then we are likely to turn to an expert, and we then find ourselves in this position of being apt to surrender our power to them.

Be careful who you pick.  Do remain critical.  Despite all indications to he contrary, you are the expert on your life.

.. of course, as this is ‘expert advice’ you should retain your personal right to ignore it!! 😉 

“An expert is someone who knows a lot about the past.”   Tom Hopkins

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


O2 & Vodafone to co-operate

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

In an, at first unlikely, deal Britain’s two largest mobile phone companies have agreed to co-operate under a network pooling deal.  This will allow them to merge their infrastructure and co-build new sites, thus reducing costs to their customers.

Whilst the two brands and networks will be independently managed this will enable them to improve services and potentially reduce costs.  It is exactly this kind of reframing that we need in today’s market place.  They are able to compete on tariffs, service levels, customer service and branding.  As customers we don’t care about the underlying hardware as long as it works well!

Changing the terms on which we compete is one of the recipes for succeeding going forward.

“The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation.”    Bertrand Russell


A brand new car for £1300!

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Tata, the Indian car maker who brought Land Rover, have come up with a car for the Indian market in the 21st century, the Nano, costing only ?1,300 new.  A team of 500 engineers spent 5 years designing this and it is sufficiently innovative that they are applying for 34 patents.

This is what you get for ?1,300 . . .

Top speed 65mph
Engine rear-mounted 623cc, 33bhp multipoint fuel injection engine
Transmission continuous variable transmission
Fuel consumption 50mpg
Body sheet metal with crumple zones
Extras air conditioning and airbag optional. No radio, no power steering, one windscreen wiper

I think this a great example of innovation for the current situation.  I bet if they were to make it available in the UK there would be a queue of people wanting a brand new car for little Johnny rather than a banger.

Now is the time to change the game to suit you and your situation.  Now is the time to offer something radical to your customers.  Do you have any good examples of this you could share?

“Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity – not a threat”

“Innovation is the central issue in economic prosperity”   Michael Porter


Why the best jokes are harder to remember…

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

The thing is our brains are better at remembering the predictable, and the general rather than the specific & the original; which is why old jokes are easy to hang on to. Jokes like:-

 “My dog’s got no nose”. 

“Oh dear, how does he smell?


We have all heard it, and once heard, it’s never forgotten…

However the truly clever joke has an unexpected twist. It takes our brains off their typical and predictable paths and that is why it works. This is why we we find it hard to remeber a more original, clever joke, such as:-

Two men are in the woods when one collapses. He’s not breathing, his eyes are blank, so his friend calls 999.

“My friend is dead. What should I do?”

“Stay calm,” says the operator. “First, let’s make sure he’s dead.”   There is silence, then  ….. a  shot.

“OK,” says the caller. “What now?”

It is the job of a leader to be able to take his team to a different way of thinking and acting (see yesterday’s blog comments for a practical example of this need.)  Our familiar paths and methods serve us well, but can lead us into traps too.  Let’s make our lives a bit more like the good jokes than the bad ones shall we?

So I’ll leave you on a better one…

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are camping at night when Holmes nudges his colleague and says: “Tell me what you see.”

Watson ponders: “I see millions of stars.”

“What does that tell you?” says Holmes.

“That there are billions of galaxies and planets; that God is all powerful and that we are insignificant. Why, what does it tell you?”

“Watson, you idiot. Our tent has been stolen!”

“We’ll change when you do!”

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

Said Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader in response to Barack Obama’s offers of a ‘fresh start’  to relations between the US and Iran.  He says, “We haven’t seen any change.”  Obama’s campaign slogan was “Change We Can Believe In.”   I guess that now is the time to demonstrate why others should believe in him .  Is this a time for Gandhi’s  famous “Be the change you want to see”?

Talk is cheap.  Now is the time for a real leader to behave differently.

This little impasse is not restricted to the political sphere.  I often hear staff make similar observations about their bosses.  Do you have the courage and vision to show people how you want them to respond now?  I’d love some real life examples if you have any…

“If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainty.”  Francis Bacon

“Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means.”  Albert Einstein