Posts Tagged ‘Innovation’

Apple and Google: the result of their patent wars

Saturday, October 20th, 2012

The net impact of Apple and Google taking each other on in the courts has not seemed to affect the public and their buying decisions.  Android phones are being activated at a rate of 1.3m per day!  The Samsung S3 outsold the iPhone 4s in the US in August, though admittedly this was just before the iPhone 5 was due to launch, but it is still the best selling phone on T-Mobile in the US.  It has however made a lot of lawyers very rich. In fact these two companies have spent more on law suits than R&D.  It makes me wonder just what improvements in their products and services we might all have been enjoying if they had decided to invest in them rather than in this legal battle. 

Many years ago I was involved in a top level bench marking mission to top Japanese corporations.  One of our executives asked why they were willing to share their ‘secrets’ with us and they replied “By the time you have succeeded in copying us, we will have moved on..”  In a fast moving world, it seems to me that focusing on the thing which drives you forward is a better bet than looking over your shoulder.  It is interesting that Apple introduced a chip into their new ‘lightening’ cable (the one that connects the new iPhone and iPod to your PC) to ‘authenticate’ it as a genuine Apple accessory.  Within mere months of its introduction the reverse engineers have discovered that it is a relatively simple chip, in fact far simpler than those used in print cartridges, and it is likely to be easily bypassed.  The thing that no one has succeeded in copying Apple in, is its style and joined-up offerings, that make the vast majority of its users feel secure, looked after and chic.

The irony is that they have quite different strategies.  Apple want to create a safe ‘walled garden’ within which they control everything and make sure it works.  Google are interested in the whole net experience and seek enable technologies that will extend and enhance that experience, such as mobile phones, tablets & programs that draw you into engaging more with them such as Google maps.

So what are the lessons for the average business?  I think they are:-

  1. Be clear on what are really good at
  2. Be clear on your strategy
  3. Understand why your customers choose you
  4. Focus on the things that drive you forward
  5. Don’t forget that it is often the quality of the relationships you have that are your key differentiator.  In real life, most of us do not have such distinctive offerings as Apple or Google, and people do business with people they like and those who help them to be successful



  1. Gizmodo
  2. BGR

Taking getting paid chicken feed to a whole new level!!

Monday, April 16th, 2012

In Uzbekistan, teachers are being paid (literally) with chickens!  Although the authorities said receiving the chickens was voluntary, a teacher in the Bukhara region in central Uzbekistan said the chickens had been forced on them.  “We were forced to take ten chickens each,” he said. “One Serbian chicken is valued at 5.5 soms ($3 at the official rate)… Local chickens are cheaper but we were left no choice.”   Does this mean that slowly chickens maybe become an accepted medium of exchange there?  If you start breeding them would you literally be making money? 

I guess this is one creative way to deal with an economic crisis.  In Germany after the first world war, when there was hyperinflation and the currency became effectively useless, cigarettes became a de facto currency, as you needed a wheelbarrow to carry round your bank notes!

When systems stop working, people will find a creative way round them, the real trick of Change is not to wait till disaster strikes, but to keep asking, “Is there a better, smarter way of doing this?”  When I was a mere snip of a lad and first started work, I’d often ask older and wiser folks why we were doing it this way and was usually told “That’s the way we‘ve always done it..”  It was a poor answer back then and a dangerous one now!  If you don’t challenge yourselves, then someone else, somewhere else will….

“I want there to be no peasant in my kingdom so poor that he cannot have a chicken in his pot every Sunday” – Henry IV

“The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.” – unknown

“Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken.” – Chuck Palahniuk


  1. News report
  2. Poultry pay
  3. German Hyperinflation

S.O.S. – How the Titanic established the need for wireless telegraphy or radio

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

The Titanic is much in the news at present with its centenary and the 3D re-release of the hit movie of that name.  As a proud citizen of Godalming, we remember Jack Phillips, the senior radio operator, and local hero.  He is credited with manning the radio to the end trying to get help for the stricken liner.  I knew all this, but what I didn’t realise till this week, is that at that time, the radio was seen as a piece of new fangled gadgetry with dubious serious use on a boat.  Post-disaster it became de rigor.  It is hard to imagine that radio was once seen in this light, so essential has it become. 

On a smaller scale I remember when I was working for SmithKline Beecham some 20 years ago, a huge global corporation and early adopter of email, being sent on a training course with the site director.  He sat next to me and scornfully enquired why he was learning this when he had a secretary?!  By the time I left, a mere 4 years later, people of his grade were spending 2-3 hours a day working with email!  These days, in Britain alone, we send 2,000,000 emails   a   MINUTE!

What is unthinkable at one moment in time becomes taken for granted moments later.  Such is Change!  Try to think the unthinkable and maybe you can be the author of Change in your Life and your business

“It’s not true I had nothing on, I had the radio on.” Marilyn Monroe


  1. Titanic and radio
The distress signal picked up by a 14 year old

This is what the radio was like back then











New tunes from old instruments?

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

I visited a pub in Ticehurst called the Bell.  Imagine my surprise when I visited the loo to discover water music here has nothing to do with Handel!  They have converted, or should I say recycled, 3 old French horns into urinals!  They have used old hats as lamp shades and turned a pile of books into a pillar.  Looking at something and seeing a whole new use for it is quite a skill.  This applies in all aspects of life, especially work.  How could this person’s skills be better used elsewhere in the business?  How could this set of competences be used make a different product?  How could a different market sector be approached with our skill-set or products?

Sometimes Change is just about a new way of looking at something old.  There was a very good TV show called Whose line is it anyway, which gave a set of comedians a variety of objects, such as a traffic cones,  and they had to come up with all sorts of silly uses for them.  This kind of silly, playful exploration can be just the right way to explore the limitations which you have placed on yourselves.

“What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”  TS Elliot

Catalytic Clothing or Fashion that Works!

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Catalytic ClothingDesigner Helen Storey MBE and scientist Tony Ryan OBE  teamed up to produce something radical, clothing that cleans the air around it!  In March, the City of London was issued with an ultimatum by the EU Air Quality Directive: cut emissions or face a fine of up to £300 million. An estimated 3,000 deaths per year are caused by dangerously high levels of PM10 (harmful particles likely to be inhaled by humans.)  The material is treated so that it catalyses the air around it.  Read more about it here

I love this as a totally innovative approach to a global problem that enables ordinary people to make a difference about something that they normally could do nothing about. 

Not being bound by previous limitations is a great way to start change.  Combining two entirely unrelated brains / disciplines is another.  Add  a burning platform and you have a recipe for successful change.

“Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I don’t design clothes, I design dreams.”   Ralph Lauren

When innovation is a new spade…

Monday, November 7th, 2011

I loved this story.  Here is a major telecom company who are usually all about highly technical innovations who have discovered a quicker, cheaper way to dig a hole!  It only goes to show that we should never fail to re-examine how we do what we do.  So much of the way we work, the way we live goes unexamined and taking a fresh perspective often reaps unexpected fruit, like BT and their new spade.  When you believe that you already are doing everything the best way you fail to challenge yourself and your thinking.  If you create a culture or a mind-set that enables/encourages people to ask questions and challenge assumptions, then innovation flows.

“Innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea, or because they realized something that shoots holes in how we’ve been thinking about a problem.”  Steve Jobs

Snow Lessons today

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

I know that the schools are closed today, and there are no lessons, but there are Snow Lessons.

One of the things that I find breathtaking is the transformation that this weather brings about.  It covers up all manner of things and makes all these new shapes, the light is different, and we can literally see things differently.   We have to drive differently.  The town was full of people who had walked down.  They carried rucksacks to get food home.  Some were pulling sleds… in the middle of the road.  This weather unleashes all sorts of creativity.  People talk differently to each other.  The weather is a force for change.  It teaches us that if you provide a suitable environment, and sufficient stimulus, people change en masse

What have you learnt from this weather?



“The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event.  You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?”  J.B. Priestley

“Snowflakes are kisses from heaven.”  Author Unknown


“There must be another way..!”

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

After last night’s snow fall we had 9” of snow in our drive.  It slopes uphill to a narrow, ungritted lane, and had to be cleared if we were going to have any chance of getting out any time in the next 5 days.  So my family and I were out shovelling snow  but it was quite damp and stuck to the shovel even when inverted, this made it much harder to shift.  After a while my son said “There must be an easier way!”  This is a very important statement as it is so often the trigger for change, indeed, until someone says this, nothing will change.

So I had a think and came back with a board about 5’x2’ and we used it as a snow plough… much easier and we were clearing vastly more snow in half the time… 

So if you are confronted with a situation where you feel that what you are doing isn’t really working…. ask yourself “Isn’t there something different I can do?”

“Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.”   Albert von Szent-Gyorgy


Google and the goats

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009

Google has decided that the best way to protect their HQ from brush fires in the countryside surrounding their building is to unleash a herd of 200 goats.  They crop the grass and fertilise it at the same time; and by keeping the grass short, the goats reduce the risk of bush-fires.  A spokesman said that the goats were cuter to look at and better than listening to mowers. 

So another innovative solution and an interestingly low-tech one for such a hi-tech company.  Breaking the mould in your thinking is a great way forward.  Sometimes the simplest solution is the best way forward.  We often tend to seek complex and expensive ways to resolve our problems when sometimes we would do better to take a note out of Alexander the Great’s book and just cut through the Gordian Knot (he was told he could have the city of Gordium is only he could untie their very complex knot; after trying and failing to do so, he just cut the rope.)

If you took one of your problems you a 5 year old, what would they do / suggest?

“Simplicity means the achievement of maximum effect with minimum means.”  Einstein

“The main purpose of science is simplicity and as we understand more things, everything is becoming simpler.”  Walter Bender


Reasons to be Cheerful… part 3!

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Today, in the heart of the worst economic crisis in 80 years, Tesco posted record profits of ?3b.  Now I’m not a wholehearted fan of Tesco or their methods, but they are a great example of what is possible if you proceed with a sense of possibility and not despair; if you make it happen.  At a more local level, two of my clients have had both achieved record performances.  The first had a the best year ever last year and the other has had a record first quarter this year, hitting sales of 3-4 times those they were achieving when we first started working together.

Every situation presents opportunities, opportunities for someone.. we have to decide if that someone is gong to be us!  If you allow yourself to be imaginative, to be playful, to have fun with silly ideas, you’ll be surprised by what you might uncover.  Then, having spotted something, don’t let the counsel of fear persuade you that it is all pointless, that you’ll fail, what’s the point?

Today is the best possible day to make something happen!

“It is often hard to distinguish between the hard knocks in life and those of opportunity.”  Frederick Phillips

“Seize the opportunity by the beard, for it is bald behind.”   Bulgarian Proverb