Tuesday, December 12, 2017

My Team


The Financial Times have just published an extensive mumbo-jumbo piece on my team Manchester City, “the ‘Disneyfication’ of football.” It is a tenet of peak performance that in order to win, you have to always be “in contention.”
Amidst the financial analysis of Man City – “decades in the shadows” of ManU, and “noisy neighbors” according to Alex Ferguson – under its owner since 2008, Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi and his sprawling City Football Group encompassing the UK. Australia, Japan, Spain and Uruguay, and evaluating takeovers in China, India and Southeast Asia, asserted by the FT’s of being “designed to exert Emirati soft power” - the truth lies in the team’s control of the ball and the ability to break through the defenses.
Man City’s unbeaten run - now 11 points clear in the Premier League - under Pep Guardiola is attributed to it ability to string together passes better than any other side in Europe, using possession to good effect: they reach the attacking third of the pitch more often than almost anyone else.” In the sequences of 20+ consecutive passes per game, Man City is without peer in 2017.

Lesson: “Always be in contention.”

Friday, December 8, 2017

Flashback Friday: Desert Island Discs: My All Time Top Ten Tunes


DECEMBER 6, 2007

Thanks to Steve Jobs, we no longer have to concern ourselves with taking 10 songs to our desert island. Now, if we feel like it, we can take 10,000. But don’t panic, here are my all-time Top 10 best songs.

10. No Surrender
The Boss plays this fast, he plays it slow, and no matter what the tempo, it still rings true. “I learned more from a 3-minute record than I ever learned in school.” There is also a great line along the lines of “these romantic dreams in our heads”. I love the 'No Surrender' attitude. It’s not too far away from Saatchi & Saatchi’s 'Nothing is Impossible'. This will always be a Top 10 song for me.

9. You Still Believe in Me
From the great Brian Wilson's Pet Sounds album. I’ve seen Brian Wilson at the Roxy in LA and my son, Ben, and a couple of his mates went to see him last month in London. There he was belting out songs from the Pet Sounds album and a medley of Beach Boys greats. Wilson has lived the hard life of an artist, but there is no doubt that some of his writing and arranging will last forever. 'You Still Believe in Me' is a beautiful little song and always reminds me of the many people that have believed in me during my ups and downs.

8. Celluloid Heroes
A song by one of the world’s greatest storytellers, Ray Davies. The front man for The Kinks is still going strong with a new album currently out, but his heyday was in the 60’s and early 70’s. That was when he captured that very English spirit of Bulldogs and Union Jacks in a way no one else ever did. Ray Davies wrote some of the great songs of that era, including 'Well Respected Man', and 'Dedicated Follower of Fashion', which were sound bites for the Carnaby Street of 1967. 'Celluloid Heroes' broke into my consciousness before I had ever been to the US; it made me want to visit Hollywood right there and then. “Everybody's a dreamer and everybody's a star.” You could put me down for dreamer.

7. A Whiter Shade of Pale
At the Oscars a few years back, I was at an after party and bumped into the lead singer of Procol Harum. 'A Whiter Shade of Pale' must be one of the most loved and most difficult to understand set of lyrics the world has ever been given. It’s one of the defining songs of the 60’s and recently has been the subject of a bitter lawsuit between two of the members of Procol Harum. Almost everybody from that generation can sing the first verse, particularly late in the evening after a couple of bottle of Bordeaux with a bunch of mates. And I can still skip the light fandango.

6. Fairytale of New York
'Fairytale of New York' starred The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl. She was tragically killed in a water ski/swimming accident but was a terrific talent. From Croydon to Cuba: An Anthology is a must own. The video showing McColl singing with The Pogues is an experience second to none. Living in New York as I do, this song represents a fairytale story for all the immigrants who hitched up and made their homes in this most vibrant of cities.

5. Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts
How do you represent Bob Dylan in a Top 10 list? My mate, Brian Sweeney, swears by 'Joker Man'. For me, I’ve always loved 'Forever Young', 'Mr. Tambourine Man', 'The Times They Are A Changing', 'Positively 4th Street', 'Desolation Row', 'Tangled Up in Blue' and so many others. One of the great Dylan stories is 'Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts'. I must have half a dozen versions of this on my iPod, ranging from Joan Baez to Tom Russell, with the crème de la crème being an impromptu jam version by Mary Lee’s Corvette. But this is more than a great song, it’s also a movie. Russell Crowe as the Jack of Hearts (now that he’s earned his chops in 3:10 to Yuma, we’ll let him play the good guy), Uma Thurman as Lily, Nicole Kidman as Rosemary, and Al Pacino as Big Jim (personality, not size). There are 17 verses and I’m still waiting for the sequel.

4. Bird on the Wire
Leonard Cohen was instrumental in shaping my youth. It was very fashionable back then at Bohemian dinner parties (and if that isn’t an oxymoron, what is?) to play Leonard’s first 3 albums. I went to see him countless times, bought all his poetry and sucked up his artistic suffering. When I die, I’ve instructed for the words “I have tried in my way to be free” to be inscribed on my tombstone. It comes from perhaps Leonard’s magnum opus 'Bird on the Wire'.

3. In Spite of Ourselves
Time for a love song - but a fresh, realistic, humorous love song. Try John Prine’s 'In Spite of Ourselves'. He wrote a whole album about relationships and duetted with many top female singers. It’s also the subject of a great music video concert he gave at West 54th Street, and you’ve just got to listen to the words of this song. If it doesn’t have you grinning, you’re just not country. And, as a bonus, the wonderful Iris DeMent joins in.

2. The Road Goes On Forever
If you’ve ever been to hear Robert Earl Keen live, you’ll know that everyone there knows all the words to all the songs. The one they really belt out, their Shiner Bocks in hand, is 'The Road Goes On Forever'. It is a classic romance song that should also be made into a movie. It is the story of Sunny, his girl, chivalry, loyalty, impetuosity and pragmatic reality. A great tale, a great idea, and alone is worth a trip to hear Robert Earl Keen. "The road goes on forever and the party never ends."

1. Thunder Road
At number one, leaving off where we came in, is another song from Bruce - 'Thunder Road'. He sings it at different tempos and at different times, and I’ve probably got 20-25 versions of it. I never tire of 'Thunder Road'. It fills me with energy and enthusiasm for the day ahead.

Let me have your Top 10.

The Crazy Idea Process

Physicist Isador Isaac Rabi, who won the Nobel Prize is said to have said:

“My mother made me a scientist without ever intending it. Every other Jewish mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school: ‘So? Did you learn anything today?’ But not my mother. She always asked me a different question. ‘Izzy,’ she would say, ‘did you ask a good question today?’ That difference— asking good questions— made me become a scientist!’’

Asking good questions is one part of the creative process at Google X (Alphabet’s moon shot factory, which searches for the next big idea).

X’s creative process was recently traversed in a probing article in the November edition of The Atlantic: Google X and the Science of Radical Creativity.

The long and the short of X’s approach as explored by The Atlantic:
  • Address a huge problem, suggest a radical solution, take a feasible path
  • Start with the right questions, not with brainstorming smart answers
  • Invest in both invention and innovation (an innovation is an invention made commercial) i.e. develop an end-to-end process of question / create / discover / produce 
  • Evaluate ideas rapidly (panels of creators who are also judges). Eliminate if the right balance of audacity and achievability is not there – and have failure bonuses for people who shut down weak projects! 
  • Build a culture with ‘psychological safety,’ celebrating high-risk experimentation, rewarding fast failure, and sharing stories of success / failure. 
X exists to ‘solve huge problems and to build the next Google.’ The fruits of X are still to be seen and The Atlantic questions the value of moon shots versus “the modest innovations that typically produce the most-valuable products.”

I look at it this way: innovation flows from creativity (visa-versa to a much lesser degree), and the best way to get a big idea is to have lots of small ideas and to fail fast, learn fast, fix fast. The crazies with the crazy ideas will create the greatest leaps, and organisations like X with the ambition and pockets to go from 0 to 100 are to be roared on. Go X.   

(As an aside, when I was at Saatchi & Saatchi we acquired a shopper marketing company called Thompson Murray in Northwest Arkansas to service our consumer packaged goods clients. We were agreed that the company was to be rebranded to become part of the Saatchi & Saatchi family. But what to call it? I remember arriving at the airport in Bentonville, and when collecting my bag I saw the airport identifier on the carousel. XNA. The company became Saatchi & Saatchi X. From the latest look, they continue to do cutting edge work in the shopper marketing space.)

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Power of Music

I love music. Music can offer an escape, can drum up memories from the past and can be a great inspiration. It’s the soundtrack of our lives. There’s just something really special about it that almost everyone can relate to. That said there’s one setting where music divides people – the office.

Listening to music while you work can be the best or the worst – depending on whom you ask. In an office there’s always at least one person who can’t stand working while music is playing in the background. That can be a problem – especially in the world of open-plan offices. Pondering that problem I looked at some studies related to music and productivity.

Behavioral scientists and management experts have found that listening to music at work can increase productivity. And that’s not all. It also has been proven to improve workplace cultures and upbeat music can increase co-operation between team members. Project management expert Colin Ellis makes an interesting point. Apparently even people who are against music in the workplace, “get in the swing of it” after three weeks or so. Another positive - upbeat music can increase co-operation between team members. The positive effects music can have on people working are vast. Yet I would guess that most offices are not playing music.

One of the most common counter arguments is the claim that people can’t concentrate when music is playing in the background. Whether or not that’s true might differ from person to person, but studies suggest that people are in fact capable of concentrating with background music as we still focus on the most valuable information when we multitask. I agree. (Am listening to Colter Wall's new album as I write this).

In an article in The Harvard Business Review best-selling author and Associate Professor of Leadership and Innovation at Oral Roberts University David Burkus, writes about the fact that many people can’t concentrate when it’s too silent either. It’s why many people prefer working in coffee shops or shared work spaces. It’s all about the right level of background noise.

The solution many people come up with is to wear headphones in the office – either to listen to music, others to drown out the noise of others working around them. But that creates another set of problems as headphones can be a barrier to collaboration. Agreed.

I’m a believer in the power of music. I think that music can actually make you more creative. The solution for the office lies in the set-up of workspaces. There needs to be a space people can access if they want to work in silence and maybe even more importantly without interruption.

The image is one of the most famous advertising visuals from the 1970s - Maxell's Chair Man - see a great backgrounder here.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Manchester Masterclass



Manchester is Britain's great second city. It is to London what Chicago is to New York. It's home of my team Manchester City, and site of a great university, Manchester Met - just crowned the coolest  university in the UK by Liberty Living. I've loved teaching at UK universities - Lancaster, Cambridge and Oxford, and now Manchester Met. They have a terrific Masters of Sport Directorship (MSD) program, I'm there next week on December 6 giving a masterclass "Leadership Challenges in a VUCA World," and back on March 7, 2018 for the Sports Directors Conference. Check out the promo video above and here for a reprise of my 2015 visit. @mmu_business

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Tense Combinations


In the dictionary the word hybrid means “a thing made by combining two different elements.” And a powerful thing it is – you only need to look at the modern age of transport to see this. From those early days when the boundary-breaking Toyota Prius rolled out into the world, hybrid-powered transport has gathered considerable momentum.

I’ve long been attracted to hybrid business models, a state of And / And. Emotion and reason, love and respect, present and future…. you get the idea.

It gets interesting when you refuse to compromise one for the other. You move towards paradox. Work with two competing ideas at the same time. Instead of the best of neither, try to get something better than both. Toyota was always great at this seeking, for example, continuous innovation and cost reduction.

Today the hybrid model is operating across a range of contexts. Three examples from around the traps:

Hybrid Stores – in the retail space a current trend is for e-commerce companies to move into the bricks-and-mortar space to be more engaging with customers. Amazon went in big with its Wholefoods acquisition. Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has launched a chain of Hema hybrid grocery stores. You can eat on-site, take it out or have it delivered. The concept includes tanks of live seafood coming from other countries.

Hybrid Pianos – my generation will remember when Dylan went electric in the 60s; a reframe that caused quite a stir. Progress means mixing it up. In the musical space, on a different instrument, the piano market is getting some juice from hybrid models where acoustic meets digital. In a similar vein to Toyota with its Prius, Yamaha has got hybrid pianos going.

Hybrid Creators – in the generative space, creativity and innovation, the idea of opposing tensions to create the future is front and centre. A recent New York Times article “Kids, Would You Please Start Fighting?” points to the value of ‘healthy disagreements’ in ‘wobbly’ families that are ‘tense but secure.’

At the evaluative stage of creativity, a Stanford professor found that you don’t want a lone creator or a panel of judges on the job of evaluating ideas, you want a group of creators, you want hybrids. Reports the Atlantic on this: “the best evaluators are like player-coaches—they create, then manage, and then return to creating.” Sounds spot on to me, put the brakes on the over-obsessive ‘yes!’ man and push back on the abominable ‘no’ men.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Supreme Win for My Food Bag


















It was a big night in Auckland when My Food Bag took out the Supreme Award for Westpac Business Excellence Awards (Central region). Well done team!!! 

Here is the top line from the NZ Herald article...

Customer love earns love of customers – and a perfect satisfaction rating from staff.

Employees rating their company 5 out of 5 for satisfaction.

Customers who name them as the country's exemplar for excellent service.

Bosses who freely share company performance stats, provide a playground for everyone's kids as well as one of the country's most generous parental and sick leave policies.

My Food Bag is way, way more than just clever answers to the daily 'what shall we have for dinner' question. In this year's Westpac Business Excellence Awards they were recognised for their excellence in customer service and scooped the supreme award for the central region. The awards are delivered annually by Auckland Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) across the Auckland region.

Cecelia Robinson, co-founder with her husband James of the vibrant company, says this year she stepped back from the awards entry to pass over to her team. It's indicative of the culture the pair, with co-owners Nadia Lim, her husband Cameron Bagrie and Theresa Gattung, have created.

"It is quite humbling to read how the team sees the culture," she says. "It's a transition for me, a reflection of the maturity of the team. It was delightful to read my team's reasons for entering and how proud they were of their divisions. We made it a basis of our board meeting to share about the team and culture."

In less than five years, the company has grown from just five to over 150 employees; passing on the core DNA of the founders has been critical to its success. Robinson says it is simple: customers (whom they call foodies) are at the heart of every decision.


Monday, November 27, 2017

Magic in the Room

Here’s a piece from The Atlantic that iterates on ideas in my post on the value of face time. The issue: how much face time is needed for productivity? Is proximity needed, and why?

The answer pointed to here is that it depends on the type of productivity. If it’s personal in that you are dealing with clients or writing a column for a magazine then go for your life in being remote.

But if collaboration is in order don’t bet on technology to get your group creativity on: “the communication technology offering the fastest, cheapest, and highest bandwidth connection is – for the moment anyway – still the office.”

The example of collaborative efficiency given is the forced proximity of an aeroplane cockpit where pilots hardly need to talk to be in synchronicity and on top of a problem. Flying an aeroplane by email communication from remote points, by contrast, is not a good idea.

It does seem there is something magical, or magic-producing, about people being closer together. That something lies in proximity of complex interactions, intuitions, in familiarity, and in being able to make instant adjustments. Seems to be on the right track. To be inspired, to create magical things, mostly we need to be together.

I've just spent two days with 16 of Fremantle Media's leaders. This great entertainment company's dream is "to be the place Creatives call home." Their focus is on "creating irresistible entertainment" (The Young Pope, American Gods, Deutschland 83, The XX Factor, American Idol etc etc). They were unanimous...connecting creativity needs people to be in the room together.


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Diving Into Dylanology





He’s America’s greatest shape shifter; his lyrics are both timeless and endlessly poetic. And he has won the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature. Bob Dylan. One of my heroes.

Harvard Classics Professor Richard F. Thomas shares my admiration for the singer-songwriter. The professor, who teaches a seminar centered on Bob Dylan, has spent half a century decoding Dylan’s imagery and has shared his findings in his book Why Bob Dylan Matters. His reason for writing the book was “to show people why Dylan is important.” The Guardian describes it as “poignant blend of memoir, literary analysis through a classical lens, musicology and, above all, love.”

Thomas segments Dylan’s career into “acoustic, electric, his Christian period, the unpopular mid-80s, his rebirth in 1997” as well as his most recent work. What he admires most is Dylan’s poetry. His music demonstrates the beauty the human mind can produce through art. And it ties in with the classics.

Thomas finds traces of classical greats in Dylan’s music. In Love and Theft for instance, he heard Virgil’s words singing back to him in Dylan’s voice. And there are many other references. His thesis that “Dylan has become Odysseus” is interesting, seeing that Dylan himself named The Odyssey as one of the books most important to him in his 2016 Nobel lecture (alongside Moby Dick and All Quiet on the Western Front).

In a Guardian interview last week, Thomas was asked if he wanted to meet Dylan. His response? “First of all he wouldn’t say anything. But also, Virgil is the poet I’ve most worked on. We know where he was born, we know when he was born, we know when he died. There are a few other anecdotes about him but most in a life that was written 100 years after he died. And that doesn’t bother me. I don’t need to know the poet. All I need is the poetry. Besides, what would I say?”

There’s a nice New Zealand twist to this story, a tangential connection. Richard Thomas was born in London, England and brought up in New Zealand. He received his B.A. and M.A. from the University of Auckland, in 1972 and 1973 respectively. In 2015 Bob Dylan accepted the role of Patron of the Creative Thinking Project at the University of Auckland.

Why Dylan Matters – definitely one for Christmas.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

It's Thanksgiving: How to Live a Happy Life





Happiness has been written about extensively. Scientists have studied the elusive feeling to find out what makes us happy and what doesn’t. The New York Times has just released their latest happiness guide, which is divided into five sections: Mind, Home, Relationships, Work & Money and Happy Life. There’s some interesting points in there.

Focusing on the mind – as happiness comes from within – The New York Times suggests we should learn to tame negative thoughts and approach every day with optimism. I agree. I’m a radical optimist. It’s all about perspective. Change it and shift focus from the negative to the positive. And surround yourself with other optimists. It’s infectious! Another basic but effective one: breathe deep. Try it.

According to the happiness guide, where you live – the country, the town, the neighbourhood and also your home – all have an effect on your happiness. There are new happiness rankings for countries every year – traditionally it’s those with strong economies and high quality of life. It makes sense. But what makes a community happy? A study conducted by the Knight Foundation and Gallup has found that happiness in communities comes from openness (a welcoming community), beauty (a scenic or charming community with green space) and social opportunities (community designed to foster connection). What’s interesting about this is that your neighborhood has the potential to increase or decrease your happiness drastically. (Which is why I live on the Edge on Auckland, in England's most beautiful village Grasmere, on a farm in rural New Jersey, and in Carefree (the name says it all) Arizona (pictured).

The third area of our lives that impacts on happiness greatly is relationships. A study around happiness and social connections has found that people’s happiness depends on the happiness of others around them. Simply said someone’s happiness has the potential to influence and be influenced. Every happy friend increased your chance of happiness by about 9%! The importance of relationships in the pursuit of happiness doesn’t surprise me. Humans are social creatures. We crave community and connection. Interestingly pets can influence your happiness just as much as friends or family. Some survey respondents even said they received just as much support from pets as they did from family. (My daughter Nikki and her family of five chihuahuas subscribe to this view).

We all know the adage that money doesn’t buy happiness. While it’s true that money doesn’t necessarily make you happier, meaningful work and a little extra time will. It’s not only about finding work that is meaningful to you, but also about finding meaning in your day-to-day work. The happiness guide references a column by Georgetown associate professor Christine Porath and Tony Schwartz, chief executive of consulting firm The Energy Project, in which they state the characteristics of jobs that make us happiest: renewal, value, focus and purpose. It’s pretty straight-forward. Taking breaks at work is important. I’ve long said that. It helps to focus. Value is another no-brainer. Employees who say they have supportive supervisors are 67% more engaged than others. Purpose comes down to deriving meaning and significance from work. Simply put finding meaning in your work will make you happier. And there are three buckets to fill every day...if you give and receive Responsibility, Learning, and Recognition every day, in equal parts, you will find Joy.

Lastly the wellbeing guide references the influence of a ‘Happy Life’ on our happiness. It’s all about kindness. Being kind to others and also being kind to yourself. To me it’s also about making happy choices. In personal life and in business.  And by being generous, in outlook and action.

Read the full NYT guide to happiness here.

KR

Friday, November 17, 2017

Freakin' Friday: It’s A VUCA World Alright!

FIRST PUBLISHED TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2012

In my sole but seminal encounter with the Pentagon when they asked me to provide counsel on the semiotics of the war on terror, I was told by them that my framework of radical optimism did not fit their VUCA worldview. “The world, Kevin, is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.” Way to go General! The self-immolation of top brass over the past two weeks has been VUCA-spectacular. Generals Petraeus, Ham, Allen, Sinclair, Admiral Gaouette and Commander Darlak have bought varying degrees of VUCA-disgrace onto themselves and their country.

The windows their actions open into the soul and operations of are startling. I mean what leader of any organization, say for example the supreme commander of the US presence in Afghanistan, has time to write 20,000-30,000 pages of emails to a Tampa socialite. General Allen either has spectacular time management skills, an unusual sense of priorities – or we are more vulnerable than the $711 billion US military budget would lead us to believe.

Much has been made of General Petraeus as the ultimate soldier-scholar, and I am thankful to The Daily Beast for bringing the General’s “lessons on leadership” to my attention. The author is, naturally enough, Paula Broadwell. Context is everything, and in normal situations this reads as a very worthy list.

Lessons on leadership from General David Petraeus:

Lead by example from the front of the formation. Take your performance personally—if you are proud to be average, so too will be your troops.

A leader must provide a vision: clear and achievable “big ideas” combined in a strategic concept - and communicate those ideas throughout the entire organization and to all other stakeholders.

A leader needs to give energy
; don’t be an oxygen thief.

There is an exception to every rule, standard operating procedure, and policy; it is up to leaders to determine when exceptions should be made and to explain why they made them.

We all will make mistakes.
The key is to recognize them and admit them, to learn from them, and to take off the rearview mirrors—drive on and avoid making them again.

Be humble. The people you’ll be leading already have on-the-ground conflict experience. “Listen and learn.”

Be a team player. “Your team’s triumphs and failures will, obviously, be yours.” Take ownership of both.

Don’t rely on rank. If you rely on rank, rather than on the persuasiveness of your logic, the problem could be you and either your thinking or your communication skills. Likewise, sometimes the best ideas come from bottom-up information sharing (i.e., “Need to share” not “Need to know”). Use “directed telescopes” to improve situational awareness.

Leaders should be thoughtful but decisive.
Listen to subordinates’ input, evaluate courses of action and second- and third-order effects, but be OK with an “80 percent solution”. “There will be many moments when all eyes turn to you for a decision. Be prepared for them. Don’t shrink from them. Embrace them.” Sometimes the best move is the bold move.

Stay fit to fight. Your body is your ultimate weapons system. Physical fitness for your body is essential for mental fitness.

The only thing better than a little competition is a lot of competition.
Set challenges for your subordinates to encourage them to excel.

Everyone on the team is mission critical. Instill in your team members a sense of great self-worth—that each, at any given time, can be the most important on the battlefield.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Off to Work, with a Smile

Continuing the recent theme of feel good, work better, here is a great Cumbrian reframe concept around property investment and urban regeneration. The concept: take an unloved building or site, make it iconic and inspiring, turn it into co-working community where people are inspired, and even let start-ups become their own landlords.

The notion at the heart of Michelle Rothwell’s disruptive approach is that the environment we work in should inspire us - and a desk in a dim corner is just not going to do it.

Michelle, who is from Windermere just down the road from my digs in Grasmere, and who is a double world-record holder for endurance swimming, got disenchanted as a commercial property advisor leasing inflexible and uninspiring spaces.

Her insight was that being part of an inspirational community in a flexible collaborative environment is a rich recipe for business growth. “The idea is that businesses don’t lease the space because there’ a desk, but because they want their business to grow.”

Michelle’s first start-up opened an office at 31-33 Princess Street in Manchester city centre in August which it billed ‘the UK’s first property co-working space’. She based her own company there. “I’ve kept hold of the top floor as a co-working space to create and inspire a community. We’re running events there, we’ve got yoga classes, bike facilities, free beer. The next project is to transform a Cumbria pub into a creative business hub.

And get this from a recent HBR article “The Case for Investing More in People” by Bain & co partner Eric Garton, when an employee goes from satisfied to inspired, productivity doubles – and only one in eight employees are inspired!

Work should happen in amazing spaces and places. Bring on the disruptors.

Monday, November 13, 2017

It’s Only Taken 782 Years

Many years ago I was booted out of Lancaster Royal Grammar School, a top all boys school in the North West of the UK, by an unenlightened headmaster because I was to become a dad. In one of life’s glorious ironies, I returned to the school years later when I became a Governor of the school.

It’s only taken 782 years, but an idea I have wholeheartedly promoted as a Governor is coming to fruition. The school is to have a coeducational sixth form, admitting girls as day pupils, from September 2019.

Mixing it up with sixth form girls is a good thing for all kinds of reasons, as current headmaster Dr Chris Pyle points out. Girls and boys bring different approaches which benefits everyone, students are better prepared for life beyond school, leadership and role models are generated which benefits the wider school, and growth in numbers brings benefits of scale. In the case of LRGS, girls get to study at an exceptional school.

To me it’s an equation of positives, and as Chris says, it’s about the school being the best it can be. Here are two early responses to the news:

“Of course boys and girls should be educated together, schools should reflect society.”

“Went to all boys’ school which admitted girls in sixth form. It was a civilising influence on us; only positive results.”

Plato argued boys and girls should be taught together. He was right...as usual.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Flashback Friday: Meeting Francis Ford Coppola

Published 10 years ago on KR Connect..

I spent last week in Latin America. I was in Sao Paulo and Mexico City and both cities were throbbing with vitality, increased confidence and self belief. The highlight of my visit to Mexico City was meeting Francis Ford Coppola. He gave a very interesting session to 600 Mexican executives where he focused on the crossover between art and business. Coppola outlined the need for artists, rather than what he calls “the engineers”, to have a greater say in business, and to bring to it persistence, belief and a refusal to give in to “the struggle”. He told many great anecdotes around Marlon Brando and The Godfather, as well as about his interesting times in the Philippine jungles shooting Apocalypse Now.

What struck me about the guy, in the one-on-one we had after his presentation and before mine, was his sheer love and passion for the cinema and food. These are the two passions of his life and he’s lived both of them to the hilt. His movie making is legendary; his wine making and food business are now a $150m enterprise. And the kicker? Coppola told me he personally approved all the products against the single criteria - “Will people love it or not?” It doesn’t get much better than that.

Later, when I asked him who his mentors were, I was expecting a list of the great directors. His simple response was his mother, father and siblings. One of the good guys.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Is it City?



I’ve been a Manchester City fan for over 50 years, starting in the great days of the 60’s under Malcolm Allison and Joe Mercer with the Holy Trinity of Colin Bell, Mike Summerbee and Francis Lee, and continuing under one of my all time favourite Managers, Joe Royle. During this time the Cityzens have been my greatest Lovemark, and youngest son Dan and I are now season ticket holders at The Etihad.

A lot has changed; Sheikh Mansour, Abu Dhabi, a wonderful ground, a marvellous Academy, the world’s best coach, the most beautiful attacking game in the world and Premier League trophies. All good. But one thing hasn’t changed. Manchester City is still at heart a local club. For local Manchester people. When we play at home Virgin Rail, the M6, and the Airport are not full of traffic – we are not a global phenomenon like our noisy neighbours.

So it is with some trepidation that I have been watching the latest Etihad initiative – The Tunnel Club. The only one in the UK. For between £7,500 and £15,000 you can buy a season ticket in a heated seat, complete with five course meal, a full time sommelier, a pre-match tactical briefing from the coaching staff using the same videos shared with the players, roped off pitch-side access and a view of the players in the tunnel coming out pre-match through one-way glass.

The future is here. Marketed to corporates as “A premium networking space for you and your clients.” Wow.

But is it City?

Tunnel Club seats have been half empty so far – in a season where we’re top of the Premier League, unbeaten, top of our Champions League group, unbeaten. The Tunnel Club feels like a breakthrough initiative, it’s progress, and I’m sure others will follow.

But is it City?

KR

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Visiting the American University in Dubai

My affection for the people of the Middle East goes back to the mid 1970s when I spent over a decade with both P&G and PepsiCo. I return regularly - just spent two weeks in Morocco and then a quick trip to the UAE where I spoke to faculty and students at the American University in Dubai at the invitation of Raj Kapoor, Associate Professor of Business Administration, and lecturer Sedef Sapanli. AUD have integrated Lovemarks into their teaching of advertising and marketing communications. Raj sent a write-up for KRConnect...

Kevin Roberts’ master class at the American University in Dubai on leadership avoided the clichés that so often plague sessions on this topic. There were more than 100 people there to listen, some as young as 18 – others as old as 60. No one was left indifferent.

Kevin was real, personal and compelling. This wasn’t a theoretician speaking. This was advice from a leader who reached the top of the communications business and who served as a point of reference to thousands of professionals globally. Narratives from when he was in the trenches, as well as when he occupied executive suites, sprinkled the session. His passion and humor were contagious.

The subject of change was covered. Here the message was that the world is not just VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous), but super-VUCA (vibrant, unreal, crazy and astounding). This makes the role of proactivity greater than ever before.

Leaders in the super-VUCA world must be inspiring, and part of that is creating the desire in their followers to commit to a company’s “higher-order” purpose; that is, what the company does that has a positive impact on life. Leaders must make things happen – fast. Hesitation, just to avoid making mistakes, can be lethal. Finally, leaders who don’t mentor younger people to become leaders aren’t leaders themselves. Becoming a leader consists of failing fast, learning fast and fixing fast.

The students sat up in their chairs when they were told that the Middle East is ripe for super- VUCA leadership because so many new things are happening here and set to happen in the future. That isn’t true for many other geographies.

Finally, as we might expect from an ad man, Kevin let it be known that he was big on brand positioning. But the surprise came when he urged the audience to think of themselves as brands and market themselves as brands. Great brands have an equity which can generally be expressed in a single word. And so it is with people: the Rock for Dwayne Johnson, the Boss for Bruce Springsteen and the Terminator for Arnold Schwarzenegger.

As students left the room to get on with their day, one could sense that for many, the search for that one word they wanted to claim for themselves had already begun.

The School of Business Administration at the American University in Dubai is widely recognized by students and employers for its tradition of combining academic rigor with practical applications in teaching and research. It aims to provide "job ready" graduates with a range of skills and professional knowledge that is desired by employers.

The School has four Departments: Business and Economics, Finance and Accounting, Management, and Marketing and Marketing Communications. These Departments offer a range of courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

The School of Business Administration offers three programs, a Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.) and a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program, as well as the IAA Certificate in Marketing Communications. The curricula in both programs are rich in conceptual content; however, the primary emphasis of our educational experience is on equipping students with the applied skills and the professional and ethical perspectives necessary for success in the global marketplace.

Faculty members within the School of Business Administration are highly qualified professionals. They are in regular contact with the business community through research, consultancy, and professional associations. Their knowledge and experiences translate into a rigorous and intellectually rewarding environment for students.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Feel Good, Work Better

What do cinemas, nail bars, giant bunnies, gyms, Segways, castles, wellness centres, fireman poles, yoga studios, pizza bars, swings, pool tables, secret doors and running tracks all have in common? Somewhere in Britain, and probably somewhere elsewhere, they are part of someone’s office.

Is this a good thing? Should work have physical boosters? Clearly, there is a cost / benefit factor in buying a big ticket item versus say a ping-pong table to pump work feel-good factor.

Making the physical space fun, personal and connecting is worth every penny. The winning organisations ahead will set up in every way possible to support collaboration, engagement and inspiration. Not just because flexible, musical, healthy and happy spaces are table stakes for talent, but because it’s pretty-well proven that these are critical to increase creativity, innovation, and the future will be built on this. Design guru John Maeda: “Without inspiration, open plan runs counter to creativity.”

Go back to a legend of innovation, Building 20 at M.I.T, which forced solitary scientists to mix and mingle. Building 20 was referred to, among M.I.T. people, as “the magical incubator.” It was an unwanted and under-designed structure where scientists felt free to remake their rooms, customizing the structure to fit their needs.

No need to spend a fortune for work spaces to become more inspiring, more personal and more reflective of a particular culture. Provide some boundaries, bundle some imagination and ideas, and hand office design over to the crew. 

Pic is from a legendary farewell for Net-a-Porter's 2014 London farewell to their CEO Mark Sebba. See HuffPo article.           
   

Monday, October 30, 2017

People Pointers

“There’s nought as queer as folk,’ is an old phrase from where I hail in the North of England. In the workplace, the glory and terror of this comes to full fruition. Probes like this research by business psychologist Dr Linda Shaw into the different types of personalities are worth a scan, since managing all types of people goes to the nub of emotional intelligence. EQ is the hallmark of tomorrow’s leaders.

My approach has been to stay in the super positive, inspire people to better their best, and cut negativity and cynicism off at the knees (venomous snakes need to be relocated, fast).

For aspiring leaders, here is a positive inflection on each personality in this mighty list of 10:

1. THE GRAFTER: Leonardo da Vinci talked about the urgency of doing.

2. THE CHATTERBOX: President John F. Kennedy on Winston Churchill: “He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.”

3. THE WORKAHOLIC: “Nothing succeeds like excess." Thank you, Oscar Wilde.

4. THE COMEDIAN: “I always realized I wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific.” Lily Tomlin

5. THE BIG TALKER: Sales is about relationships, conversations, persistence. Over-promise and over-deliver! “Meet, Beat, Repeat” – Roberto Goizueta

6. THE DELEGATOR: Delegation is a central life skill. RASCI, a superb project management tool, runs on it.

7. THE JUGGLER: Leadership is a synonym for multi-tasking. Think Elon Musk. Electric cars. Self-landing rockets. Tunnels. Mars. And that's just what we know about.

8. THE WALLFLOWER: “The single most significant strategic strength that an organization can have is not a good strategic plan, but a commitment to strategic listening on the part of every member of the organization: strategic listening to frontline employees, strategic listening to vendors, to customers.” Tom Peters

9. THE MICROMANAGER: The last detail matters as much as the big transformational idea, leading you to the next big question. The leadership part comes in knowing when to delegate, when to dive.

10. THE CHARMER: “Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.” Colin Powell

Thursday, October 19, 2017

What Leaders Do

My second post about Canada this week. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke for the nation of Canada which he eulogized one of its most loved musicians Gordon Downie, legendary frontman of rock band Tragically Hip. Gord died aged 53 of brain cancer. He was a hugely recognizable figure his homeland, and was lauded for his thoughtful lyrics, patriotism and philanthropy. An openly emotional and grieving Trudeau said "Gord was my friend and was everyone's friend - it's who he was, our buddy Gord, who loved this country with everything he had. And not just in a nebulous, 'I love Canada' way', he loved every hidden corner, every story, every aspect of this country that he celebrated his whole life - and he wanted to make it better. He knew, as great as we were, we needed to be better than we were. We are less as a country without Gord Downie in it. We all knew it was coming, but we hoped it wasn't.”

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Victoria Canada – Ever Edging Towards Lovability




















My friend Robin Dyke, poet, mentor and change agent, ran his west coast Canadian hometown through the 10 attributes of what makes a Lovemark city, outlined in my post a few weeks ago. Here's what he came up with. Having been to Victoria many times,the city gets my endorsement.

KR’s “Lovemark Cities” post had me wondering, how does my hometown, Victoria Canada measure up? On its surface, Victoria has long favored a lovable attraction as the most English-tasting bit of all Canada. So artist and writer Emily Carr, our quaint city’s most famous resident, described the Crown Colony of her childhood. This more English than the English ambiance has perpetrated Victoria’s image since the late 1800’s – high tea at the very English Empress Hotel being the number one visitor attraction for decades.

Today tourism still reigns as primary economic driver yet like the monarchy the purpose it is serving is increasingly questioned. Where’s the vision? Wherein lies our diversity and distinctive edge? The answers are blown about with no coherence to a whole amongst thirteen surrounding and squabbling municipalities. Our lovability and our future left to reaction, as in open allowance to more cruise boat visits.

How far from great and Lovemark city is Victoria? Using KR’s 10-point size up let me score the ways:

Mobility…walk-able, bike paths galore, drop-in by heli-jet or float plane, face grid lock in/out by auto, bridges r not us.

Cultural Joy…predictable as a Tourism Victoria brochure. 2nd Cousin to mainland Vancouver’s vibrant arts

Connectivity…devise distracted pedestrians and drivers attest.

The Food…the outstanding lies not in our Michelin stars but in our food truck fish and chips

The Sea…splendid harbour anchored by wide sweeps of sea and sky

The People…friendly, multicultural, aspiring entrepreneurial. Best Canadian city to be a career woman ranking

The Sport… ’94 Commonwealth Games the last Hurrah! Climate friendly all year sport and wilderness activity for kids and adults

The Music… tourist savvy street performers and fading acts that tour offbeat towns.

The History…a rich heritage of last century details. Comfort with the status present. What future? That’s the rub!

The Grit…at ease in un-gritted comfort.

All adding up to a liveable journey of modest ambition - yet so lacking in lovability imagination and appreciation of the advantage and potential of the edge of geography we inhabit. Becoming irresistible beyond reason to resident or visitor – knock! knock! Deep connection to our edge is calling.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Flashback Friday: Lee Hazlewood: These Boots Were Made For Walking


TUESDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2007

I bought a bizarre CD six months ago called Cake or Death. It was by a guy I hadn’t heard of for 30 years, Lee Hazlewood. This was the guy who wrote 'Jackson', 'These Boots were Made for Walking', 'Some Velvet Morning' and 'Sugar Town', an outrageously innocent sounding song about dropping acid. Cake or Death is an eccentric album, which is perfect listening when chilling out on a late night plane or when you are in the bath after 24 hours of non-stop, domestic/European hassle.

Lee Hazlewood died last month from cancer, age 78, I think. Hazlewood was an outlaw and a recluse. Having started life as a DJ, he went on to become a producer and gave Wall of Sound legend Phil Spector his start. He discovered Gram Parsons, who met an early end, and recorded an album with Ann Margaret, someone I had a crush on when I was 17 years old.

Hazlewood combined sentiment and humor in a way few writers have ever done. Then he dropped out to hide away in Sweden. I think he ended up in Texas or Las Vegas or somewhere like that. I know I saw a photograph of him on his 78th birthday in a t-shirt announcing “I’m not dead yet”. He and Nancy Sinatra performed 'Jackson' one last time and the curtain came down. Lee Hazlewood died on August 4. A great original.

Image is from a great article by Matthew Fiander at pop.com about Lee Hazlewood "Trouble is a Lonesome Town"

KR

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Compelling TV Series to Watch

Am flying between Asia, the Middle East and Europe, so lots of airplane time – time for bingeing on TV dramas. Great writing, great acting, and great production. Take a look at:

Suburra / Rome in 2008. Church, State and organised crime go at it.

Dr Foster / A brilliant BBC One series. Season one was made in 2015, season two debuted last month.

Luther
/ If you missed Idris Elba’s gripping performance, binge on the entire three season package. Brilliantly written by Neil Cross, now resident in the World’s Best place to live in – Wellington, New Zealand. And watch out for Neil’s latest – Hard Sun – in production with FremantleMedia right now. Will be epic.

Safe House / An ITV series about a couple turning their remote guest house into a safe house. Shot in The Lakes, close to my Grasmere home.

And new series of Madame Secretary, The Blacklist, Narcos, Blindspot and Series 6 of Homeland.

Escape from Trumptwitter and Harvey Weinstein. Watch great television!

KR

Monday, October 9, 2017

Lovemark Cities

It’s an interesting fact that the cities ranked most liveable are not always the cities that are most loved. Traveller Magazine’s globetrotting backpacker, Ben Groundwater exemplifies that fact with a 10 most lovable cities list. That’s not to say that factors such as crime rate, health system, pollution or the cost of living, which are often used to measure quality of life, don’t have an impact on whether or not a city is widely loved.

Take Rio de Janeiro, which makes Groundwater’s list of most loved cities. It’s a Lovemark. On the most liveable cities index (ranked using data) it didn’t make the top 25. While data determines which cities are most liveable, it’s emotion and personal connection that determines which cities are loved. The strongest relationships run on deep emotional connections. A Lovemark creates Loyalty Beyond Reason.

What makes a great city will be slightly different for each and every one of us. For me it should score in these 10 areas:
  • Mobility…great cities enable you to move about easily…and to get in and out of.
  • Cultural Joy…surprises around every corner, sculpture and art etc…cities need these.
  • Connectivity…great broadband is a table stake. Got to connect.
  • The Food…outstanding eating experiences are integral for any city that wants to become a Lovemark…from Michelin stars to street vendors. 
  • The Sea…to me most great cities are anchored near the sea – you need water to sense beauty and adventure. 
  • The People…friendly, fun, entrepreneurial, multicultural, proud.
  • The Sport…a top class team that fans want to be part of. A movement of aspiration, ambition, and winning…a beacon to youth.
  • The Music…streetbeat poetry and stories all set to the special rhythm of the city (‘Girl from Ipanema’).
  • The History…the connecting of past, present and future.
  • The Grit…down to earth, real humanity…the good, the bad and the ugly.
The journey from good to great, liveability to loveability, is about pouring mystery, sensuality and intimacy into the mix. These are my Lovemark cities…
  • Auckland
  • Sydney
  • Rio de Janeiro 
  • Porto
  • Marseilles
  • Beirut
  • Naples
  • Liverpool
  • Barcelona
  • Cape Town
  • San Francisco
… What are your Lovemark cities?

Monday, October 2, 2017

Schools and the "Creativity Crisis"

Creativity and the role it takes in schools’ curriculums is a topic that divides many, suprisingly. When asked if they would prefer promoting creativity or attending to the "academic basics” in an international study from the Pew Research Institute, only 5 out of 19 countries polled indicated they would prefer a creativity-led approach to learning – (Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Canada). The remaining countries either opted for prioritizing the basics or were undecided.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the traditional education system, the need for the system to change and the introduction of digital technology into the classroom to foster learning and increase engagement. This is only half the bill. Bringing back creativity into classrooms is even more important than introducing technology.

Previously I’ve referred to this as ‘education crisis’. Now schools are also facing what Will Burns, CEO of virtual-ideation firm Ideasicle refers to as "creativity crisis." To solve the problem he suggests reframing how creativity is looked at in schools – from a series of downstream talents like music, theater or visual arts towards a more upstream life-skill “that can be applied to all aspects of a student’s life”. Agreed.

Burns goes on to explain the difference between talent and creativity. Being exposed to music – say playing an instrument for instance – is a talent, which can be used to explore one’s own creativity. That makes sense. Students who don’t display any affinities for what’s traditionally labelled the ‘creative arts’ then are at a disadvantage when it comes to exploring and developing their creativity. In contrast to popular belief this doesn’t mean these students aren’t creative. It just means that they need other tools to discover and develop their own creativity.

It’s like Edward de Bono said: “Creativity is the most important human resource of all.” Many are worried about AI and automation taking over jobs, but only few seem to realize that creativity can help here, too. Human soft skills like creativity, dexterity and empathy cannot be automated as easily as hard skills. Think about it. The one thing that differentiates humans most from AI is the ability to dream new ideas, reverse our thinking, and make new connections.

Without creativity there is no progress. Without schools encouraging creative thinking we will run into some serious problems in the future. I like how Burns puts it: “Outperforming the competition is important, but outthinking them is even more so.”

Image source: Pinterest/Psychology

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Lancaster University Leading





More eagerly awaited than Blackwell’s Best Dressed List, The Times and Sunday Times UK Good University Guide league table is out. Lancaster University has shown an irresistible rise, increasing its standing from ninth equal to sixth position and being named “University of the Year.” “In the 19 years of our awards, there has rarely been a more clear-cut winner,” says Alastair McCall, editor of the Guide.

“Rising to its highest ever ranking in our league table this year, Lancaster is at the top of its game. It knows the university it wants to be and as a result makes a distinctive offer to students. Students love Lancaster. The modern interpretation of a collegiate structure, coupled with flexible degree programmes and academics committed to teaching as well as research has been recognised in consistently good outcomes in the annual National Student Survey. Dynamic course content and structure, plus the opportunities many students get to work abroad, is reflected in outstanding graduate prospects once they leave.”

I’m pretty chuffed about all of this. Expelled from school in Lancaster in the 1960s, it has been gratifying to return as not only a Governor of the Lancaster Royal Grammar School but as Honorary Professor of Creative Leadership at the Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) where I have been teaching for several years, following a decade of teaching at Cambridge University (ranked #1 again in this year’s league. LUMS has been ranked #1 school in the world by the Financial Times for the teaching of corporate strategy.

The Times concludes by saying that “Lancaster University, unlike other leading institutions, has not opted for huge expansion but is firmly committed to cementing its place among the elite universities by becoming a truly “global player” in both teaching and research.”

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

A Winning Performance, Sort Of

Congratulations Prime Minister Bill English and the National Party on winning the popular vote on Saturday’s New Zealand general election. National are a middle-ground conservative/progressive party which has commandeered the center of New Zealand’s remarkably stable political system for the last nine years. The prospect of a fourth term in government for the National Party would match a record not repeated since 1969. Bill English proved himself as a winning and popular candidate despite a vibrant challenge from new Labour leader Jacinda Arden. Both English and Arden are from heartland New Zealand roots and both have the interests of New Zealand people in their hearts.

The election result is, however, far from clear. New Zealand has a proportional representation system that has produced coalition governments since the MMP system was introduced. The center of attention right at the moment is not 46% vote winner English, but New Zealand First leader Winston Peters on 7.5% of the vote, who for the third time holds the balance of power. Once with the National Party, Peters formed his own party with a largely retired following of people wanting a fair go in return for their lifetime of hard work. In many ways Winston Peters is an old-fashioned socialist, in the best possible meaning of the term. A look at his speeches shows him battling for people who are disadvantaged by the economic system including middle income New Zealanders. He has served several roles in government, and by many accounts was an outstanding Foreign Affairs minister, pressing for an expansion of the ministry’s outreach to the world. He also has a reputation for turning things toxic, enjoying the battle for the sake of it. A divider not an inspirer. The balance of power comes with immense responsibility – and 7.5% of the popular vote gets a substantive seat at the table, not a mandate to dictate.

Peters has held the country in suspense – to ransom some would say – in previous government formations. There are a number of arithmetical routes to be negotiated in the days ahead. One political analyst said Peters has more in common with Labour – nine policies – than National – with three policies in common. My own belief is that the first sitdown needs to be with National as the winner of the popular vote. There is no rule in MMP that says this should be so, but the weight of the popular vote must compel him to respect this and forge a workable path with National. MMP is the ultimate consensus tool, and it is disappointing in my mind that no political leader since MMP was introduced has had the political vision and willpower to stoke the imagination of voters and win an absolute majority of votes. It’s difficult to achieve anywhere except for Russia and your name is Putin. John Key (now Sir John) did a masterful job – in any worldwide analysis you can do – of actually increasing the vote of his party in two elections subsequent to first taking the Treasury benches. New Zealand Prime Ministers however have tended to be political managers, deliverers and incrementalists, rushing at all costs to avoid “the vision thing.” More is the pity.

New Zealand is a remarkable country in so many respects, with gaping wounds. We love to be #1 in the world, and we are indeed in a whole bunch of top 10s. Last week an international survey placed us #32 for child health, with the incidence of criminal child abuse weighing heavily. Our young people kill themselves more than anywhere in the world (well done NZ Herald for the recent Break the Silence series on examining and seeking solutions to this scourge). Our prison system represents the same institutional race profile seen in US states like Louisiana and Alabama. One business commentator evidenced that New Zealand is in a productivity recession – an economy fueled by immigration and tourism without adequate infrastructure, and not enough global scale of industry (though its coming). To frame the issue, one commentator asked “Why is our GDP per capita so low?” citing our GDP is about US $37,000 per person. Australia's is $48,000, the United States is $57,000, and Ireland's is $69,000.

There are things to sort out, things in the New Zealand psyche and operation that need repair and reframing, and it will take real political leadership – not entitlement – to overcome our deficiencies. Godspeed to all political leaders that they work out a deal that moves New Zealand forward and makes things happen.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Marketing Wisdom from the 18th Century



PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER 19, 2007

The accelerating trend to consumer control won’t be a big surprise to most of you now. Sisomo (sight, sound, motion) and technology are radically changing the balance between producers and consumers, so the surprising thing is that we were ever surprised by it at all.

I’ve always loved to sell, and I’m constantly reminding Saatchi & Saatchi people that advertising is about selling stuff. Once you understand that simple fact a whole lot else falls into place. Anyone who has ever sold anything successfully over a period of years has got to know in their gut from day one that the consumer is boss. You can’t make it work any other way. Try to flog shabby products or half-hearted brands and you get nowhere. Treat the people you are selling to with no respect and you get punished. Act as though you have more important things on your mind and they’ll walk. David Ogilvy once famously said, “The consumer isn’t a moron, she’s your wife”. Today we’d add your colleague, your boss, your friend, your analyst, your judge, your governor, etc. The idea is important. Never, ever believe that you know better. I was reminded recently that this is not an idea born in the 20th century. It’s been with us for a long time. The reminder came in Tim Blanning’s great history of Europe, The Pursuit of Glory, and this statement:

“Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production; and the interests of the producer ought to be attended to, only in so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer.”

We only matter as producers in so far as we promote the interests of consumers. When was that consumer-is-boss-like statement made? 1776, in Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations

Smart people have always believed the consumer-is-boss. Our challenge is to act on it, and transform belief into action.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Winston Churchill: Crazy Times


John Lithgow's Emmy acceptance speech tonight: “First and foremost, I want to thank Winston Churchill. In these crazy times, his life reminds us what courage and leadership in government looks like.”

"A Netflix original drama, The Crown chronicled the life of Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) from the 1940s to modern times. Churchill was a British statesman who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955."

57-0

All Blacks 57, South Africa 0. Oi. Ugh. A few months ago I posted "World Domination: Why are the All Blacks so Good?" On Saturday night at North Harbour Stadium in Auckland, they really showed why. Eight tries to zip. The highlights reel demands repeated viewing.








Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Life Lessons Radio Podcast

Rick Tocquigny and I were are P&G at the same time in the late 70s and early 80s though on different continents, and we've crossed paths many times in the past few years at the P&G Alumni Network. Based in Colorado, one of Rick's many hats is host and producer of Life Lessons Radio (2,185 broadcasts in 8 years!). Yesterday we had a 20 minute conversation in which I managed to do something no one has ever done before, which was to place the novels of Ernest Hemingway and Procter & Gamble's famous one-page memo in the same sentence (crisp get-to-the-point writing style). Check out the podcast here, we talked about the fast crazy world in which we live, mentoring, your ABCs (ambition, belief and courage), being digital, and what three authors I would love to have to dinner (Hemingway being one, listen to the podcast for the other two).


Thursday, August 31, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Business Tips From the Movies: Avoiding a Knife in the Back

KRConnect has been running for 10 years now - 2104 posts - so I can now run those "10 Years Ago" posts favored by newspapers. Here goes.

I saw a great movie en route to Seoul last week - Breach. It’s the true story of Robert Hanssen, a FBI double agent. Hanssen was responsible for the deaths of half a dozen American agents, and the cause of untold damage to America’s national security.

The movie has been shot by Billy Ray, almost as a documentary. Ray has described the movie as “a story about lying in the pursuit of truth”. The tension never ebbs and the cold, chilling sets and tone feel totally believable. Even though you know how the story ends, you can still feel yourself being clouded by confusion and doubt.

Anyone in business will recognize and feel for this real life drama where everyday institutional office pressures are overlaid on the stresses of a typical family life. The acting is brilliant. Two primary characters, Hanssen, and FBI rookie, Eric O’Neill, are intriguingly interlinked, taking turns at playing on the insecurities of one another. There is a universal truth that lies at the heart of this movie; people who want to make a difference, and want to be known for something, need to be appreciated. It’s a theme I hold dear, and we must never forget just how important responsibility, learning, recognition and joy are to everyone in the work place. Create this sort of environment in your business and you are unlikely to be betrayed.