Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Captains of Sporting History

Books about sporting greatness get my attention. The Captain Class: The Hidden Force behind the World’s Greatest Teams by Sam Walker is a standout. Walker is The Wall Street Journal’s deputy editor for enterprise. He studied 1,200 teams across 37 sports from the 1880s (some enterprise!), identified the top 16 top performing teams, and then went to work on isolating the secret sauce of their success. There’s an entire pub night argument in this (Real Madrid in the 60s, Australian cricket under Steve Waugh, Australian rugby league under Mel Meninga??). In an article in The Australian, Walker writes:

“No matter the sport, I heard the same handful of explanations: talent, commitment, discipline, coaching, a knack for making decisive plays in the final moments of a tight game. I was struck by the businesslike sameness of these groups and by how nonchalantly their members spoke about winning. It was as if they were part of a machine in which every cog and sprocket functioned ­precisely as intended…But what provides the spark? …When I started out I never expected to reach one emphatic conclusion. So I was shocked and frankly delighted to discover that the world’s most extraordinary sports teams didn’t have many ­propulsive traits in common, they had exactly one. The most crucial ingredient in a team that achieves and sustains historic greatness is the character of the player who leads it.”

Walker identifies the seven core qualities of this Captain Class—from extreme doggedness and emotional control, to a knack for nonverbal communication, to tactical aggression, and the courage to stand apart.

Walker’s top performing teams and their captains are (in chronological order):

The Collingwood Magpies, Australian Rules Football; Four consecutive grand finals (1927-30); captain Syd Coventry

The New York Yankees, Major League Baseball; Five World Series titles in a row (1949-53); captain Yogi Berra

Hungary, Men’s Football; Lost only twice in 53 matches (1950-55); captain Ferenc Puskás

Montreal Canadiens, National Hockey League; Five straight Stanley Cups (1955-60); captain Maurice Richard

Boston Celtics, National Basketball Association; Eleven championships in 13 seasons (1956-69); captain Bill Russell

Brazil, Men’s Football; Two consecutive World Cups (1958-62); captain Hilderaldo Bellini

Pittsburgh Steelers, National Football League; Won four Super Bowls in six seasons (1974-80); captain Jack Lambert

Soviet Union, Men’s Ice Hockey; Triple world champions; Olympic gold (1980-84); captain Valeri Vasiliev

New Zealand All Blacks, Rugby Union; World Cup; undefeated 49-match run (1986-90); captain Wayne Shelford

Cuba, Women’s Volleyball; Won every major title over 10 years (1991-2000); captain Mireya Luis

Australia, Women’s Field Hockey; Two Olympic golds, two World Cups (1993-2000); captain Rechelle Hawkes

United States, Women’s Football; Olympics, World Cup, 31-match run (1996-99); captain Carla Overbeck

San Antonio Spurs, National Basketball Association; Five NBA titles; 19 straight playoffs (1997-16); captain Tim Duncan

Barcelona, Professional Football; 15 trophies in five seasons (2008-13); captain Carles Puyol

France, Men’s Handball; Back-to-back Olympic gold medals (2008-15); captain Jérôme Fernandez

New Zealand All Blacks, Rugby Union; Consecutive World Cups (2011-15); captain Richie McCaw

My game is Rugby and it’s notable that only the All Blacks get ‘freak’ status twice, with two of the greatest captains to ever wear the black jersey and lead their team into battle (but he missed Sean Fitzpatrick…next edition Sam).

Check the book out for Mr Walker’s seven traits of elite level captains. The clues are there when you take the test. Are you Captain Class Material?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Hear It for Herdy

People in Cumbria have cheered at the awarding of the Lakes District the status of Unesco World Heritage Site, joining iconic locations such as the Taj Mahal, the Great Barrier Reef and Grand Canyon as a place of international acclaim. Few people cheered more than my good friends Spencer and Diane Hannah, founders of Herdy.

Commercial designers, Spencer and Diane observed a decade ago that many of the gift products on sale in the Lake District – which attracts 18 million visitors a year – were heritage based. They saw a gap in the market for well-designed contemporary gifts, and started designing unique gifts, accessories and homeware featuring the iconic smiling face of the local and loveable Herdwick sheep. Spencer and Diane worked the business part-time before it boomed following visits to trade fairs.

Today Herdy has four stores – in Grasmere, Hawes, Keswick and Bowness, a thriving retailer network and ecommerce channel, and an inspired sustainability and local reinvestment programme including brand diversification into UK made mattress manufacturing with herdysleep, with its purpose to create a long term, viable commercial use for Herdwick wool.

Herdy were onboard from the get-go in supporting the Lakes District World Heritage application, becoming the Lead Commercial Collaboration Partner representing core values around newness, progression, forward thinking, community and togetherness – and to be the warm, welcoming and friendly face of the bid. “When the UNESCO judging panel visit,” said Spencer at the time, “we want them to see evidence of a truly inspired, united, local community, with a clear identity and a passion for its landscape. The Lake District continues to provide a rich source of inspiration, whether it’s to climb mountains, write poetry, or start a new business.”

In November 2015 the campaign officially launched its commercial collaboration with Herdy, which saw the introduction of a new logo for the campaign titled “United by Herdy.” 2016 included a selection of events promoting the bid and encouraging people to proudly say “I’ve herd” with limited edition tote bags and ‘back the bid’ pin badges and car stickers. 2017 brought a successful outcome, with World Heritage Site status being awarded.

To reprise just why the Lakes District is so special, The Guardian reported that “with its rolling hills, spectacular mountains and stunning lakes, the site not only finds itself in illustrious company, but also becomes the UK’s first national park to be granted the status. The Lakes also boasts sites of historical importance such as King Arthur’s Round Table, said by English Heritage to be a neolithic earthwork henge believed to be the legendary monarch’s jousting arena. The Unesco committee praised the area’s beauty, farming and the inspiration it had provided to artists and writers [including] some of the country’s most beloved writers including Beatrix Potter, who owned Hill Top farm, and the poets William Wordsworth, Samuel Coleridge and John Ruskin.”

Herdy like to keep it simple. Its philosophy is “Smile at the world and it will smile back. Herdy smiles at you and you smile back.”

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Mumbo Jumbo

I use my fair share of acronyms. ABC. ADE. VUCA. RLRJ. FF/LF/FF*. They are a useful shorthand device, but overdoing acronyms with a generalist audience is a great way to lose them. Talking to a bunch of specialists with their own acronyms is AOK.

Acronyms are good up to a point, jargon less so. Jargon often twists the truth and tends to infect and bloat large business organisations. Before you know it, everyone is jumping through hoops, changing the paradigm, synergising, ideating, and circling back. Stuff is being done, but nothing happens. Next thing, corporate claptrap or ‘management speak’ skews or snows the truth to surreptitiously drive an agenda through at the expense of others.

A long time in business does tend to hone your bullshit detector. Don’t hesitate to call out claptrap in a positive way. The classic everyday waffle comes when someone walks up and says “the reality is”. At this point you can be certain you are not going to hear the reality. You are going to hear their reality, which is light years from the reality. Another good one is “to be honest.’ The outtake is they have been lying to you up until now, or what you are about to hear will really upset you. As Oscar Wilde said, “the pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.”

Most of us stray into the land of porkies and whoppers from time to time – something that starts naturally as kids seeking treats. In business, internally and externally, stay away from gobbledygook. Don’t join in the jargon because today’s always-on audience turns off automatically, and rightly so. Marketers and managements consultants are on notice to play their agendas with a straight bat. Mumbo jumbo is easily spotted, easier to share, and most unwelcome. Authenticity is the standard.

*ABC= Ambition Belief Courage
ADE = Assess Decide Execute
VUCA = Volatile Uncertain Complex Ambiguous
FF/LF/FF – Fail Fast / Learn Fast / Fix Fast

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Gearing for Complexity

“The best managers are happy to hold two or more opposing views on an issue because they know the world is complex. And in business, it’s crucial to be able to react to the world in all its complex and paradoxical glory.” Spot on from one of my old academic acquaintances, Professor Sydney Finkelstein at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.

As F. Scott Fitzgerald famously put it: "The ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function is the sign of a first-rate intelligence." Over the years, in business, I’ve called this power of paradox And/And. It’s about putting two unlikely ideas together and discounting neither.

Never was this truer because the chaos factor has ramped up across the board. Running a major company or country is quite the challenge these days, one where freight trains come at you out of nowhere. “That’s what I wake up to each morning. I get a thick book full of death, destruction, strife and chaos. That’s what I take with my morning tea.” – said President Obama, in an interview with Vox.

Turmoil is everywhere and impacts everyone. I often get asked how to rev up a start-up business amidst so much chaos. The acceleration point is as paradoxical as the decision points along the way. Don’t run from chaos. Run towards it. Hire a group who can not only manage change and complexity, but who actually enjoy chaos. You can only thrive in chaos if you bloody love it. To avoid being disrupted, point your trouble-makers at killer problems and get out of their way.

ps the image is from kissassfacts.com and their must-check-out article What's the Most Mind-Boggling Paradox You've Heard, they list 20.

Monday, July 17, 2017

AT Kearney’s 2017 Views from the C-Suite

AT Kearney’s Global Business Policy Council has always been a happy landing pad for me. I’ve always found a lot of value in their focus on how businesses can best adapt and evolve in today’s political, economic and technological climates.

Their most recent report, 2017 Views from the C-Suite: Adapting to Disruption, authored by GBPC Chairman Paul Laudicina and MD Erik Petersen, probes how 400 global executives see the current business landscape, and reveals what these leaders see as the challenges and opportunities in today’s world of business.

Unsurprisingly, the report identifies global political uncertainty as the biggest external challenge businesses face:
  • There’s a strong feeling amongst executives that the economic and political fallout from Brexit will grow, and that populist leaders and extremist political parties will continue to gain support in democracies around the world.
  • There was shared concern about trade, with the majority of executives believing global trade and cross-border flows will decline as a result of protectionism.
  • The majority also believed Donald Trump’s policies will do more harm than good to the American economy.
Executives point to the threat of cyberattacks as the biggest challenge to business operations, especially in light of a recent spike of high-profile cyberattacks:
  • 85% of executives believe cyberattacks will become more frequent and costly, and cyberattacks were identified as the top-ranked challenge to business operations.
  • Business model efficiency, skill at adopting new technologies and the ability to innovate were the next three highest ranked challenges to business operations.
While technology disruption is a key challenge, successful adoption of new technologies was the highest ranked opportunity for business operations:
  • Executives were most focused on cloud computing, big data/predictive analysis, and mobile technology as new business technologies.
  • Improving business model efficiency, improving strategic execution and successful innovation were the next highest ranked opportunities.
  • A favourable competitive landscape was the top-ranked external opportunity. However, almost a third of executives also perceived this as a challenge, often because they’re experiencing weak market growth.
  • A strong macroeconomic performance and expanding globalization were also cited as major external opportunities.
I recommend taking a look at the full report, which can be found here https://www.atkearney.com/gbpc/views-from-the-c-suite

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Ecstasy of Emirates Team New Zealand

Last Friday I opened Unfiltered's conference on Team, Culture and Diversity at the Auckland Museum with a presentation on Emirates Team New Zealand's victory in the America's Cup. The talk was the subtitle of my book 64 Shots - "Leadership in a Crazy World." I was involved in several early America's Cup campaigns - as a sponsor through Lion Nathan's brand Steinlager (great to see them still a sponsor), as a board member for one of the campaigns, and as a storyteller for a book I co-wrote called Peak Performance: Business Lessons from the World's Top Sports Organizations, in which Team New Zealand was featured.

Over three decades Team New Zealand has delivered ecstasy and agony in pretty equal measure. In Bermuda 2017 they delivered a SuperVUCA performance - vibrant, unreal, crazy, astounding. In deconstructing their victory, I mapped several correlations with 64 Shots - the power of purpose, the currency of ideas, flow (passion and harmony), mental toughness, inspirational leadership, and my sole algorithm (IQ+EQ+TQ+BQ)CQ. Plus I threw in a twist on the Peter Principle.

The speech is on my Linkedin page, jump over to read it in full and to share, and while there send me an invite to connect.

KR

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Breffni the Lions Fan

My mate from the Hawkes Bay Denis O'Reilly, social activist and essayist, is a great storyteller. Here is a gem from Den ahead of this weekend's giant All Blacks vs the British & Irish Lions test decider...

There was a “comment piece” from Bryan Gould in this week’s NZ Herald (July 5th) holding British rugby journalist Stephen Jones to task over the bile he spills about New Zealanders in general. Gould, who’s British Parliamentary experience has equipped him to understand that each section of the British Isles has its own way of laughing, except Wales, which doesn't. Jones carries the rugby grief of the land of his fathers on his sleeve, more wails than Wales, so much so that it has come to manifest as a form of Alzheimer’s whereby all he can remember is grudges against the All Blacks.

Gould finishes his excellent article with an indirect admonishment to the acerbic Welsh scribe “And rugby with no help from Stephen Jones will have done what it should be allowed to do – bring people and peoples together”.

So, just last week, the British and Lions Tour brought me and Breffni O’Reilly from Killinkere together. Our lines have not met since October 1875 when my great great grandfather Denis and his wife Margaret and children Mary and James left London for Lyttleton New Zealand on assisted passage.

I’d spotted a story in the NZ Herald some Lions fans heading to Wellington on scooters as a fundraiser for Starship. Winter: State Highway One; Desert Road; Foxton Straights, on a scooter! They must be mad. And so it proved to be. The spokesman for the crew (it seems that this is an intergenerational family feature ) was Breffni O’Reilly. Breffni. We hail from Breffni. I tracked Breffni down left my number. An hour later “Denis?”. “Is that you Breffni?” “Aye it is” “Cuz!”.

We met in on the Wellington waterfront last Wednesday. He had some mates: a Scotsman an Englishman and himself an Irishman. It sounded like the start of a joke. I told Breffni and his mates to hop in our truck. I said I’d give them an experience they’d never forget.

“Er, where are we going Denis?” “To a wake Breffni, to a wake”. Indeed, it was the beginning of the tangihana for the late Bruce Stewart, poet, playwright, poacher. I had some brothers with me. All of us had lived together with Bruce at Walton House in Newtown in the mid-1970’s. Bruce was sort of paterfamilias.

At Tapu Te Ranga I told Breffni to stick by me and the other brothers looked after the rest of our visitors. The architecture of the many buildings at Tapu Te Ranga Marae reflect Bruce: barely a straight line to be seen, odd angles, the warp and weft of a hugely creative personality evident everywhere. The old man lay in his waka mate which looked like a fair-sized pontoon. He was always a big man but as age and illness took over that giant frame he swelled horizontally so that his height and width were vaguely proportional.

I sat Breffni next to me on the paepae manuhiri. The welcoming speeches were given and then we visiting mourners replied, Eugene Ryder on behalf of the Black Power, a speaker from Heritage New Zealand and another from the Maori Wardens. I spoke last as part of our unique group. Out of deference to Breffine my waiata was an Irish folksong “Tralee fair Tralee” which ends “I’m a typical Irishman”.

And so, I found, I am. My cuz and I share the same sense of humour, an unquenched thirst, and, it seems the same manic approach to getting results. He left me his football club hoody. On the eve of the last Test I wished him and his boys the best of Irish luck. No need to repeat myself this time. But, yes, Mr Gould, you are right about the purpose of rugby and I’m grateful for it. Go the All Blacks.   
                          

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Stop Wasting Time

61% of working Americans say they don’t have enough time to do the things they want to do. Everyone is always busy, and books on effectiveness, increased personal productivity and time management have been a constant fixture in bestseller lists around the world in the past few years. Maximizing the effectiveness of using our time – quite often to achieve better work/life balance – has become a common theme of the age of now.

When it comes to time management one of the biggest problems seems to be that most people tend to overschedule their time, according to neuroscientist and musician Daniel Levitin. In a short video he provides some tips for managing your time so that you can free your mind for more enjoyable activities. He advises to take the pressure of the mind and put things into the physical world.

One of his strategies to do so is to write all tasks on index cards and shuffle those according to urgency. That helps to prioritize tasks. Levitin also wants you to calendar everything – even if an event is still a year away, schedule it in along with important milestones.

I agree with him – we should all free up time or headspace for things we enjoy. If you’re not into index card writing here are some of my personal tips on time management.

1) Make technology your servant – not vice versa

2) A fast game is a good game – don’t waste time procrastinating

3) Delegate – don’t do stuff you don’t like

4) Don’t worry!

These four tips can help you to free up some of your time and concentrate on things you enjoy doing. The last one – don’t worry – might seem banal to some. But the fact is we all worry too much. A few years ago a study estimated that we spend 6.5 years of our lives worrying. Another study shows that 85% of what we worry about never happens and persistent worrying is unhealthy. It makes you 29% more likely to die of a heart attack and 41% more likely to die of cancer according to stats by Mercer. If that’s not reason enough to stop worrying I don’t know what is. Concentrate on things you love doing, stop wasting time with what you don’t.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Winding Up Wellbeing

I recently wrote about the importance of personal wellbeing in sustainable peak performance. We need to take care of ourselves first before we can fully succeed and take care of other areas of our lives. When it comes to happiness and wellbeing the notion exists that we are happy if negative emotions are absent from our lives. And the other way round. If you’re stressed or anxious, you won’t be feeling happy.

This is where many of us go wrong according to Martin Seligman, professor of psychology at University of Pennsylvania. In our pursuit of happiness, he says, we should stop focusing so much on negative emotions and spending time to eliminate those. Instead it’s more important to actively cultivate wellbeing. I like it.

Seligman suggests four exercises that can help us to readjust our focus when it comes to happiness.

1) Identify your Strengths: When were you at your best? Write it down and think about the strengths you showed in that situation.

2) Find the Good: Each night write down three things that went well that day.

3) Make a Gratitude Visit: Have you thanked people who showed kindness towards you in the past? Think of someone you haven’t thanked, write a letter. If you’re feeling brave, meet that person and tell them.

4) Respond Constructively: That’s a good one. Instead of saying ‘that’s great’ next time somebody shares good news with you, show more enthusiasm. Celebrate others accomplishments. There’s nothing better than sharing a celebration with somebody and some red wine.

I’m a radical optimist – shifting focus towards the positive rather than dwelling on the bad just makes sense. Being an optimist might mean slightly different things to everybody. To me it means to continuously put oneself into a good space, avoiding negative actions, and making happy choices.

Image: Roxana Barnett Pinterest
 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

One for Wellington

I’m in Wellington New Zealand this week for two monster rugby games, the British and Irish Lions versus the Wellington Hurricanes and the All Blacks. Both games are at the stadium affectionately known as the ‘Cake Tin’ – a circular stadium not unlike a colosseum. When full with about 40,000 people, the atmosphere is electric, the energy kinetic. And so it was last night for the Lions-Hurricanes game, the result was a pulsating 31-all draw – and yes, you can call a draw pulsating, especially as the Hurricanes came back from a 23-7 halftime deficit. Saturday night brings on the decisive Lions-All Blacks test.

I’m an Aucklander through and through. It’s a big international city with a magnificent harbour where we’ll be sailing the next America’s Cup thanks to the grit, guts and genius of Team New Zealand. But as the citizens of the windy capital remark, “You can’t beat Wellington on a good day.”

Looks like the world agrees. In May this year New Zealand’s ‘coolest’ little capital was named the most liveable city of the world in a report by Deutsche Bank in Germany – beating Edinburgh, Vienna and Melbourne. Cities were ranked based on indicators like their crime rate, pollution, healthcare options, cost of living, house prices, commuting time and climate. It’s a big win for Wellington. It’s a vibrant place full of innovation. It’s the Hollywood of New Zealand with Peter Jackson and Richard Taylor and their band of merry pranksters making Wellington a movie making center of global significance. And not to forget there are few better places for café life.

Wellington generated a lot of positive global press earlier this year when the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency and Workhere New Zealand launched LookSee Wellington - a global recruitment campaign for tech talent. That campaign attracted more than 48,000 applications from all over the globe. The world loves Wellington.

Wellington wasn’t the only NZ city included in the ranking. Auckland came in 13th. Personally I would rank Auckland much higher. Wellington might be New Zealand’s capital, but Auckland is the capital of the world’s edge. With Lorde sitting on top of the Billboard charts and the America’s Cup heading back to Auckland, it feels that wherever you are in New Zealand, the idea of “winning the world from the edge” is pretty darn good this week.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Banana Rescue? Shoes That Grow? Why Didn’t I Think Of That!

Some ideas are staring us in the face, but it takes a sideways glance to remove their camouflage. These lateral leaps spring a lock. Having a surprisingly obvious idea is one of the talents of a creative leader.

As someone with a business stake in healthy food, I like what UK supermarkets are up to with fruit and veg that don’t look the part.

The BBC reports that waste of good food is a serious problem. The Government's food waste awareness service, Wrap, found that 1.4 million bananas are thrown out every day for having minor bruises or black marks on their skin, which it says add up to £80m in waste a year.

Better labeling, promotions and creative approaches can crack the perception lock. UK supermarkets are making more space for increasing amounts of less-than-perfect produce. Sainsbury is promoting blemished bananas ("banana rescue" stations in about 500 stores to encourage consumers to use fruit that is overripe or past its best; their suggestions include using them to make banana bread or muffins). Morrisons has a “wonky” range. Tesco, which has a Perfectly Imperfect range, has a strategy that no food safe for human consumption will go to waste from its UK outlets by the end of 2017.

Here another ‘surprise with the obvious’ innovation. Foot injuries and infections are a risk for hundreds of millions of children around the world. Who would have thought of expandable shoes, shoes that grow with your feet, that aren’t costly, and that last long enough to pass on to other children? Kenton Lee dreamed up and didn’t let go the idea, and now its a reality. 100,000 pairs of the adjustable shoes have been distributed across approximately 85 countries. Ideas right in front of us have extraordinary power. What is you surprisingly obvious idea? How will you make it happen?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I’ve Been Asked to Make This Thanks Rhyme

This week I spoke at a lunch for Newmarket Rotary, a service organization in an established Auckland suburb adjacent to where I live. It was fun, it felt like family. Four years ago when I spoke the then president of the club Alastair Macfarlane prepared a poem of thanks. This week Alastair was on song again...

I’ve been asked to make this thanks rhyme
So I’ve given this some of my time
For this special guest
Who’s faced every test
Is still very much in his prime

When we heard from our speaker before
He told stories of Lovemarks and more
This time a new theme
With fresh thoughts to extreme
And a book of ideas to the fore

This new book with chapter and verse
With multiple shots to disperse
Has three score and four
Which means 64
Of ways into which to immerse

And again we’ve heard a new line
From this man who has passion and time
To share unique views
That gives us all clues
In these crazy & demanding times

Your knowledge of business is sound
And with practice and time you have found
That the old status quo
Is no longer a Go
And requires new hunting ground

The new winning equation is Q
Being IQ and TQ for you
Let’s not forget B
Which is also for thee
And the big one of course is EQ

And to beat the odds you need Heart
With Head and Speed to jumpstart
Add Tech as a glue
To make the break through
Your ideas will have power and be smart

Innovation is still to the fore
Inspiration full on to the core
With creative thinking
And marketing linking
It’s the key to winning once more

Team building from singing with friends
Is delivering huge dividends
To those companies who share
And embrace everywhere
Choir Nation that KR recommends

The new future is philosophy
Stretching Google’s capacity
Soft skills we will need
To perform with full speed
With empathy and dexterity

In this high speed era of time
Each idea can bring riches sublime
And today we have heard
Sound thought and wise word
How to scale the steep mountain to climb

So to Kevin we say thanks a lot
Again you have hit the right spot
So please give your applause
To this man of great cause
For his speech you’ve enjoyed and just got

Alastair Macfarlane

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Full Speed Ahead


The impact of technology on modern living is mind-blowing. Tom Trezise, an expert in accelerating innovation in healthcare and in socially responsible leadership, is on the Dean’s Council of Lancaster University where I'm Honorary Professor of Creative Leadership. He sent a note last week addressing technological disruption and preparing people and organizations to succeed. He tracks 25 technologies that will change the way we live. Here they are:

1. Semantic Web

2. Virtual Reality

3. Augmented Reality

4. Immersion Technology

5. Processing Capability and Speed

6. Mobility

7. Battery size

8. Chip Implants

9. Collaboration

10. Data Analytics, Attribution and Value Vectors

11. Robotics

12. Nanotechnology

13. Genetic Technology

14. Social Media

15. Quantum Physics

16. 3D Printing

17. Digital/Smart Manufacturing

18. Materials Innovation

19. Internet of Things

20. Machine Learning

21. Artificial Intelligence

22. Cost Curve Reduction i.e. big data storage

23. Rare Earth Minerals Substitutes

24. Brain/Body Implants

25. Delivery Systems i.e. treatment and prevention of disease

If this mind-bending list is not enough, Tom posed the challenge: Determine what is the evolutionary timeline for integrating the readiness of individuals (early adopters to last adopters), culture (what percentage of people and processes are needed to sustain changes), and new technology that will potentially impact your organization.

As the resident radical optimist, I’d say it’s a 90/10 equation between opportunities and issues. The potential technology has for bettering our lives is breath-taking.

According to Stanford adjunct professor and former Baidu scientist Andrew Ng, a rule of thumb is that anything that a human can do in less than one second of mental thinking will be automated. For those in panic mode on employment, a smart observation comes from Dr Michael Naylor, a finance and insurance academic at Massey University: “Jobs are not replaced, activities are. Some activities will be replaced but the impact on any job will depend on the mix of activities in that job. Some activities within most jobs will be untouched, and demand for the remaining activities may even expand.”

Image: Flaticon
 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Leadership by Lombardi


Leadership is a mix of qualities, and a building of character. One thing I advise students of leadership is to find leaders you can relate to. Study them. Learn from them. If you’re up for turning the other cheek, then study Ghandi. If you like stinging like a bee, study Ali. I like leaders who are winners, and the winner of creating winners is ESPN coach of the century Vince Lombardi, a force of nature who used football to teach life.

Pro Football Hall of Fame Archivist Jon Kendle has just written a piece on Lombardi’s legacy for the Ohio Times Reporter. Anyone coaching a team would do well to study Lombardi. Here are a few selections.

"During practice sessions, Lombardi could be seen teaching football fundamentals, while simultaneously preaching to his players the importance of dedication, love, passion and pride. Lombardi built his teams on the premise of selflessness and unity. He wanted high-spirited, disciplined, talented people willing to pay the price to succeed. His teams were fueled by heart power. He loved his players, and in return, his players loved him."

"Through raw human emotion Lombardi communicated to his players. Good or bad, he never held back. He learned to use emotion to create the desired effect. He motivated, he led, and he taught through his passion, never concerning himself with what others thought about him. He built character through action, teaching his players by example, and instilling confidence in everyone he met. Lombardi’s leadership did not rest on ability, his leadership was a combination of intangibles, it was a culmination of commitment, loyalty, pride, and discipline held together with relentless emotions."


Lombardi himself wrote: “After the cheers have died down and the stadium is empty, after the headlines have been written, and after you are back in the quiet of your room and the championship ring has been placed on the dresser and all the pomp and fanfare have faded, the enduring thing that is left is the dedication to doing with our lives the very best we can to make the world a better place in which to live.”

My kind of coach.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Breakfast Interview with Mike Hosking

Yesterday I had the pleasure of talking with NewstalkZB's Mike Hosking, New Zealand's #1 broadcaster, for a rapid-fire 10 minute radio interview about the delights of being in Auckland and travelling around New Zealand for the Lions tour; Lovemarks and Saatchi & Saatchi; MyFoodBag; Simon Gault's new all day waterfront restaurant Giraffe; optimism, talent and attitude. Perfect way to start the day. .

"The Best Way to Prepare for a Battle Is to Have a Battle”


Ian Foster, assistant coach of the All Blacks, said something today which caught my eye ahead of this Saturday night's All Blacks versus Samoa game at Eden Park, Auckland.

"The best way to prepare for a battle is to have a battle.”

Hello Samoa.

KR

Monday, June 12, 2017

Tipping Talking Point

Artificial intelligence is many things: logical, useful, scary, efficient, marginalising, shocking, exciting, wonderful. An area where I think AI will break wonder-ground before long is in communication. More particularly, in instant translation.

Poor communication, miscommunication and confusion have plenty to answer for down through time. When we can instantly cross the language barrier, advances through intelligibility, collaboration and productivity are self-evident. From travel encounters to customer support, research depth to idea generation, security to… dating, it is through connecting with and understanding each other fast that good stuff can really roll.

Google Translate arrived in 2006, and has grown to over 500 million users worldwide, translating more than 100 billion words daily. Voice speed is the name of the next game changer, and the next communication boundary-crossing frontier presents in the form of speaking, not in writing.

Talk to anyone, anytime, anywhere? It’s a head-turner and, despite the perennial promise of a Star Trek universal translator being right around the corner, some workable applications appear to be at least in sight:
  • An ear device from Waverly Labs that translates foreign languages in real time 
  • A pocket widget called Travis that lets you speak 80 languages in your travels
  • A gadget  called ili that translates English, Japanese and Chinese instantly 
  • Pure Neural Machine Translation by Systran for advanced multilingual communications
We’ll see how fast this moves, but it is clearly moving. Next stop, talking to aliens.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Value of Face Time

About 25% of all US employees work remotely and according to a Gallup study the most engaged employees work remotely 60 to 80% of the time. That doesn’t surprise me. I’m all for working remotely. Some people work better in teams, others work better on their own. Whichever gets the job done. Technology companies today dream up all kinds of ways to set humanity free from the office constantly.

What’s interesting is they don’t practice what they preach. A recent Financial Times article cautions to pay attention to what companies do rather than what they say. Think of the tech hotspots of the world – from the Silicon Valley in the US to the Silicon Roundabout in London. It seems that tech giants still value the power of physical agglomeration.

IBM, who are known for their remote working policies, have called workers back to physical locations. They argue that while remote work increases productivity, face-to-face work is better for innovation and generating ideas. Agreed. Often we are most creative when we bounce ideas off each other and can feed of each other’s energies. Studies confirm that physical proximity benefits effective communication and fosters better understanding between co-workers and improves collaboration. In addition employees spark ideas through chance encounters and unplanned interaction. Steve Jobs once famously proposed building all of the bathrooms in Pixar’s offices in only one part of the building to encourage unplanned meetings. And tech companies all around the world embrace this so called “water cooler effect” and many offer perks for employees living close to hubs. In London one employer is taking it further and offers millennials financial assistance so that they can rent homes in the capital (and close to the office).

All up, I believe that people should be free to choose what works best for them, but face time needs to be part of the equation. In my experience, people who work remotely often work harder and are more productive than those sitting in offices. It’s an important conversation managers should have with their staff – what works best for both sides?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A Short History of Paper

True innovation is irreplaceable. Innovation makes our life easier – it changes our worlds. Here are five refreshers about a well-known world changer, paper:

1. China was the first country to make paper.

2. People started writing on paper because it was lighter than bamboo and cheaper than silk.

3. Paper was initially made from pulped cotton.

4. Today, paper is increasingly made out of paper itself.

5. People believed that computers would usher in paperless offices in the late 19th century.

It’s interesting that people thought the days of paper were numbered in the 19th century already. Today we are hearing the same discussion again and again. Now it’s e-readers and other digital devices that might replace paper and what’s made of paper – namely books.

Those who know me know where I stand in the print vs. digital/tech debate. I love books – always have. I love looking at them, reading them, and treasuring them; can’t resist them (my new hero is Craig Russell's Lennox - in 1950s Glasgow). This is not an experience I can recreate with an e-reader. For me it’s not just books. I prefer writing things down. Communicating with pen and paper is so much more personal than sending an email. It tickles people’s ribs that I reply to emails with a scanned pdf with handwritten notes on it. And apart from my core iPhone utilities, my most sophisticated use of tech is my trusty Montblanc pen, mighty and deadly as it is!

As this BBC article points out, old technologies have a habit of enduring. After all we still use pencils and candles and the world still produces more bicycles than cars. I am confident the same will be the case for paper and for books. There’s nothing like the textual, sensual experience of smelling, holding and feeling a book. Try it.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Sergeant Pepper at 50

The Summer of Love, June 1967. 50 years ago. My daughter Nikki was born on June 24. A Lovechild of the 60s. I was 18 and the music from England’s North West was etched into my persona. The Beatles specifically. The Manchester Beat more broadly. The greatest album of all time – my view and that of many others – Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – came out on June 1. The Beatles’ eight’s album, it logged 27 weeks at No. 1 in 1967 and 1968 and racked up 15 consecutive weeks at the top of the Billboard 200. Sergeant Pepper is recognized as the best-selling studio album in U.K. history, with more than 5 million sales. And 50 years later the 50th anniversary remastered album is running back to the #1 position on the UK charts. A Lovemark blends past, present and future. Sergeant Pepper is a Lovemark.

Why? For me, it was the liberating emotions of freedom and joy, woven with a studio richness (thanks George Martin) crowded with imagination. The North West was a tough place to grow up, and music was a mindful escape route. Sergeant Pepper was the right album at the right time for us to leave both grim and grime.

The anniversary has stimulated a swathe of erudite examinations by music writers everywhere. On The Daily Beast, in his article ‘Sgt. Pepper at 50: The Flaws and Misunderstood Genius of The Beatles’ Most Iconic Album,” Colin Fleming writes “there’s a funny thing about Sgt. Pepper and that’s its strange, strange alchemy: the record works in large part because of its songwriting inconsistencies. It’s not the concept that gets nudged forward, it’s this idea of something suite-like, a feeling, a vibe, an essence, a self-contained zeitgeist that is more about totality and enveloping you rather than focusing attention on individual points, which is to say individual songs.” Yep, my sentiments exactly.

At The New York Times, Jon Pareles concludes his opus with the statement: “Yet while “Sgt. Pepper” has been both praised and blamed for raising the technical and conceptual ante on rock, its best aspect was much harder to propagate. That was its impulsiveness, its lighthearted daring, its willingness to try the odd sound and the unexpected idea. Listening to “Sgt. Pepper” now, what comes through most immediately is not the pressure the Beatles put on themselves or the musicianly challenges they surmounted. It’s the sheer improbability of the whole enterprise, still guaranteed to raise a smile 50 years on.”

Best of all, buy Hunter Davies' book The Beatles Lyrics...every song researched, chatted about with John and Paul, and shared in Hunter's classic Carlisle (!) style. Priceless.

ps I just bought a 6x6 feet limited edition photo of the sessions by Jean-Marie Perier from Snap Gallery's Happy 50th Birthday exhibition. Thank you lads.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Wakatika Ora and the Tribe of Nga Mokai

Putting the brakes on substance addiction is a hard, constant and worthy battle. Drug addiction rips the heart out of individuals, families and societies, and fighting back needs to happen at every level. Two of my long-time mates, John Wareham and Denis O’Reilly, are part of a group of social warriors in New Zealand working with and for hard-to-reach and difficult-to-deal-with communities, notably gangs.

Wellington charity Consultancy, Advocacy and Research Trust (CART) travels the outlands of New Zealand society bringing hope and change to the long-term unemployed, prisoners and former prisoners, the mentally ill, alienated, disaffected, ostracized, impoverished, homeless and disenfranchised.

Fighting substance abuse demands courage, conviction and cash. I’m stoked to see CART have won an $800,000 grant from the government for an innovative two-year pilot initiative—Wakatika Ora (the canoe of the correct path to health) – to push back on substance addiction. Creativity and innovation have unreasonable power, and CART has built a reputation for thinking different through enlightened policies and strategies.

John Wareham (above right) is a global leadership guru, author of business books and novels, former New Yorker, prison educator. Denis O’Reilly is a social activist, business consultant, patched Black Power life member, community resilience developer, chronicler of life on the edge. Both men are philosophers working at the gritty end of society. Both tough nuts with hearts full of love. They met at a function I hosted in Auckland years ago to launch John’s book “How to Break Out of Prison” based on his experiences teaching communication skills to felons at New York’s Rikers Island Prison.

Under the programme, CART is starting at the community level. The approach is holistic, it levers leadership and it brings new personal development modules. They say “we see drug use as a symptom of deeper underlying causes, many of which are social, so we’re intending to innovate with our new personal development modules. If people make personal change then collectively they can change a community. It has been clearly demonstrated that we can’t stop supply but we believe we can reduce demand and thus reduce harm.”

Great change starts at the edge, the edge of reason, of hope, of dreams in flight. And as J.R.R Tolkien wrote in his popular battle of good and evil: “All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost.”

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Future of Work Is Philosophy

The future of work is a hot topic these days. Research here indicates almost half of U.S. jobs could soon be automated. A scary number! It seems that telemarketers, accountants and taxi drivers need to dust off their CVs, whereas jobs needing creativity, manual dexterity and empathy have a much longer shelf life.

I cheer to the thinking that higher order ‘human’ soft skills like creativity, dexterity and empathy are beyond replication and automation. This is not to negate the incredible value that AI might bring to the owners of manufacturing and service companies, nor its ability to put more heart into its chip. However for me it’s the emotional quotient (EQ), not the technological quotient (TQ) that commands the future’s premiums. It figures that employers in advanced economies are avidly seeking skills like critical thinking and creativity.

What counts most ahead is the ability to dream new ideas, reverse our thinking, and make new connections. Machines will do emotion better, but in my view never match human potential. Here is a prescient viewpoint that I think observes the future well. It’s from Charlotte Blease, research fellow at the school of philosophy at University College Dublin, in a Guardian column “Philosophy can teach children what Google can’t:”
“How should educationalists prepare young people for civic and professional life in a digital age? Luddite hand-wringing won’t do. Redoubling investment in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects won’t solve the problem either: hi-tech training has its imaginative limitations. In the near future school-leavers will need other skills. In a world where technical expertise is increasingly narrow, the skills and confidence to traverse disciplines will be at a premium. We will need people who are prepared to ask, and answer, the questions that aren’t Googleable…As a society we need to be more philosophically engaged.”
Amen to that.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Sing Your Heart Out

One of my eccentric friends has this infrequently-visited obsession to get companies to sing. It’s a twist on the Catholic mantra “the family that prays together stays together.” In my friend’s case, it’s “the company that sings together stays together.” It’s singing as a massed team-building exercise, generating huge emotion, drawing stars from right across the ranks, blowing out the frustrations with the minutiae of work for a lung-expanding musical workout. That’s the theory. My friend tested it one day with at a client town hall meeting. The call went out for the best singers in the room to come to the stage. About a dozen people out of 400 got out of their seats (good singers have strong sense of self). And thus the massed singing exercise commenced.

The ability to sing crosses every line that can divide us as humans. So it has been a revelation to discover Choir Nation from Canada. From their About blurb: “Our mission is to bridge the arts and business communities by providing an opportunity for Canadian employees and Canadian musicians to collaborate in a fun, unique and rewarding manner. Choir Nation puts your employees into choirs, pairs each choir with a celebrated Canadian musician, rehearses them with one of our Musical Directors, and then has them perform (with the musician) at your company’s events. Central to the team-building experience of Choir Nation is the rehearsal process – choirs meet once a week with a professional Musical Director to practice the songs, bond with each other, and have a great time singing! In addition to being enjoyable for participants (and entertaining for spectators), choir singing is a powerful team-building element to add to your company’s events.”

Choir Nation is the brainchild of Todd Green, a life-long music fan and Assistant Professor in Marketing at the Goodman School of Business at Brock University in Ontario, and Murray Foster, a professional musician for twenty-five years with over 3,000 live shows and sold half a million records under his belt. He is a Professor of Songwriting at Seneca College in Toronto.

My own singing, such as it is, is restricted to the rugby arenas of Wales and Ireland; 80,000 people singing in unison is a motivating force like few I have experienced. Choir Nation is a great idea and I hope their idea and activation turns into a movement. The world will be a better place if we sing together.

Friday, May 26, 2017

This Week in New Orleans and Manchester


Poet, friend, Robin Dyke writes:

Won’t You Be My Neighbor


If wishes were helpers, how we’d abide.

The tale, two cities in best and worst of times.

Humanity sought and illuminated in one,

its vicious darkness exploded in the other.



In New Orleans the city which begat jazz,

monuments to a racist war come down.

Deliberate restoration, hope’s future

in one empathetic step eases forward.



Jim Crow holds hesitant to full embrace;

lynch the officials the confederate cry.

Their hatred still a snake of poison with us

coiled in a corner, its shadow skulks.



In Manchester, an open, inclusive metropolis

the commodity of carnage crusades in stealth.

A cult of harm, indiscriminate of cause

lurches in self-loathing on its perverse path.



In the caldron moment, the helpers,

good neighbors, right where they need to be.

Instinctive as humanity’s first responders,

unpremeditated assistance, comfort.



And so the spectrum since the garden goes.

To love your neighbor much harder,

than to hate? Out of many, are we truly

one? Awakened or immune we rally on.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Manchester

Mark Nelson, Northern Powerhouse Artist

“The bloody scene is bloody sad.
The bloody news is bloody bad.”

Manchester poet John Cooper Clarke this morning as the death toll rises. 22 with 58 in grave/critical condition.

Philip Collins writing in The Times reminds us:

  • Disraeli called Manchester ‘the philosophical capital of the world.’
  • The Manchester school advocated free trade and democracy.
  • The City stood, and stands, wholly in opposition to Monday’s nihilism.
  • On June 15, 1996 the IRA exploded the largest ever bomb exploded in Britain, complete with 1,000 foot mushroom cloud. 212 people injured.
  • The City completely regenerated following this atrocity. From a failed industrial city into a cosmopolitan open inclusive metropolis.
  • Manchester was the home of Free Speech. From John Bright the Quaker, to suffragette Christabel Pankhurst in 1904 to Bob Dylan’s electric guitar in 1966 (this Judas moment!).
  • Manchester has the highest Jewish population outside London, vast Irish contingent, and the 4 percent of the City who are Muslim have been welcomed as good Mancunians.
  • Shelley said – after the St Peter’s Field Massacre in August 1819, with 11 killed and 600 injured by cavalry charging the 60,000 assembled arguing for parliamentary representation, the people of Manchester “Rise like Lions after slumber, in unvanquishable number.”

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Black Day




A black day for Manchester.

And for Humanity.





Monday, May 22, 2017

Have You Filled a Bucket Today?


Ten years ago I picked up a story book – aimed at kids four-nine, by Carol McCloud and couldn’t put it down.  I was in Jaffé and Neale’s eclectic, independent bookstore in Chipping Norton last weekend where I stumbled upon two copies of the 10th Anniversary edition which I picked up for grandkids Kendall and Chloe.

The humble Bucket book has turned into a Bucket Fillosophy with seven companion books available from bucketfillers101.com.

Like all great ideas, bucket-filling is a simple concept – it’s designed to help kids understand how easy and rewarding it is to express kindness, appreciation and love by ‘filling buckets’.

In our 24x7 VUCA world we sometimes forget how unconditional generosity and random acts of kindness can make all concerned feel more positive and happier.

Personal wellbeing is a key element in sustainable peak performance – and filling buckets is one of the ten most potent behaviours in building our own wellbeing – and thus our own performance.

Wellbeing is important because:
  • It energises positivity and commitment to Purpose,
  • It enhances flow, productivity and performance,
  • The best companies to work for deliberately create happy work environments,
  • Happy companies significantly outperform their peer group.
And here are the ten things I mentioned earlier:
  1. Progress towards meaningful goals contributes significantly to happiness,
  2. Happy people take time to do things that give them pleasure,
  3. Quality time with friends and family is top of the happiness list,
  4. Doing altruistic things for others creates enduring happiness,
  5. Expressing gratitude enhances your own wellbeing and that of the recipient,
  6. Regular exercise increases happiness,
  7. Positive experiences tend to provide more enduring happiness than tangible purchases,
  8. Beyond satisfaction of needs, more money does not make people significantly happier,
  9. People quickly adapt to material advances,
  10. We get little enduring pleasure from short cuts.
Keep filling buckets and your bucket will always be full.

KR

Friday, May 19, 2017

Putting Life Onstage, But Bigger

Broadway is a blast. From the frothy tour de force of Bette Midler in "Hello Dolly" to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop historical “Hamilton” to the wrenching heartache of Arthur Miller’s “The Price,” Broadway stretches the heart and head in every direction. Broadway is a feast for the ears and the eyes. There is an instructive interview in Backstage by Casey Mink with Tony-nominated scenic designer David Korins (“Hamilton”) about visual storytelling. Korins has currently conjured the glamorous world of makeup mavens Helena Rubenstein and Elizbeth Arden in Broadway’s “War Paint,” starring stage legends Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole. Here are insights into the creative world of the set designer:

Putting life onstage—but bigger
“Set design is a master class in humanity and in psychology. Some advice [for getting into set design] is see as many pieces of theater as you can, read as many books as you can, see as many movies, and watch as many television shows as you can. Immerse yourself in culture in general. What we do is put life onstage, but bigger. To become a designer is to become a consummate and professional storyteller. I think the people who tell the stories best are the ones who listen to stories the best.”

Scenic designers are credited with everything but the actors

“If you ripped the ceiling off of the theater and dumped the building upside down, everything that falls out that isn’t an actor is the work that I make. I create the environment for a show or an experience and I sort of conjure up the entire world.”

Collaboration with actors is give and take

“I welcome collaboration with performers. It’s such an interesting conversation to have when someone says, ‘I know why you chose this lamp, but here’s why it throws me off.’ I might push back, [but] that give and take is where the magic of theatricality happens. There might be a tiny detail on the back of a phone or something only the actor sees, but that detail does inform their performance, and the audience feels it.”

Actors get to know the set better than the designer
“Inevitably, I throw a dart at the dartboard a year before we build this thing, and then on the first day of rehearsal I say to [the actors], ‘Here’s what I did,’ and they have to bend their performances around the physical space I’ve created. The nuances and the ‘eyelashes,’ as opposed to the ‘jawbones,’ are things they’re in control of. I’m happy to have them be in control, because by the end of the experience, they will know so much more about the physical space than I ever will…. Probably the biggest compliment I’ve ever gotten in this business is someone saying to me, ‘When I walk onto your stage, I don’t need to do any character development work because I know exactly who I am and who I’m playing.’ ”

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Brief Book, Big Message

ROI – Return on Investment – is one of the epic idea-killers in the corporate playbook. Initiatives to engage in pure research, and creativity for the sake of it, usually get quashed at the starting gate by the ‘Abominable No Man.’ In my early years of leading Saatchi & Saatchi I asked a searching question “What comes after brands?” I didn’t ask for a business plan, a delivery timetable, or an implementation matrix. I just wrote a check, and another one, and another…the result was Lovemarks and it was a sustaining idea for the company for several years.

“The Usefulness of Useful Knowledge” is a small book with a big message by Robbert Dijkgraaf, a mathematical physicist who specializes on string theory. He is Director and Leon Levy Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, established in 1930 with Albert Einstein as one of its first professors. The first half of the book comprises an essay by Dikjgraaf, followed by the 1939 essay “The Usefulness of Useful Knowledge” by the IAS’s founding director Abraham Flexner. Both essays are passionate and powerful advocacies for the unobstructed search for “answers to deep questions, motivated solely by curiosity and without concern for application.” Such a source “often leads not only to the greatest scientific discoveries but also to the most revolutionary breakthroughs. In short, no quantum mechanics, no computer chips.” Some choice quotes from Dikjgraff’s essay:

“In the early twentieth century study of the atom and the development of quantum mechanics were seen as a theoretical playground for a handful of often remarkably young physicists with little immediate consequences. The birth of quantum physics was long and painful. However, without quantum theory, we wouldn’t understand the nature of any material, including its color, texture, and chemical and nuclear properties. These days, in a world totally dependent on microprocessors, lasers and nanotechnology, it has been estimated that 30 percent of the U.S. gross national product is based on inventions made possible by quantum mechanics.”

“The life sciences provide perhaps the richest source of powerful practical implications of fundamental discoveries. One of the least known success stories in human history is how over the past two and a half centuries advances in medicine and hygiene have tripled life expectancy in the West…We should never forget that these groundbreaking discoveries, with their immense consequences for health and diseases, were products of addressing deep basic questions about living systems, without any thoughts of immediate applications.”

“There is a famous, but most likely apocryphal, anecdote that when William Gladstone, then the Chancellor of the Exchequer, visited the laboratory of Faraday in the 1850s and inquired what practical good his experiments in electricity would bring the nation, Faraday answered, “One day, Sir, you may tax it.” The equations were never patented, but it is hard to think of any human endeavor that doesn’t make use of electricity or wireless communication. Over a century and a half, almost all aspects of our lives have literally been electrified.”

“The Usefulness of Useful Knowledge” is a call for courage: for leaders, investors, financiers, government ministers and policy-makers…to just write the check.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

American Gods Shines, Sparks

Is this the edgiest show on television? From the award-winning novel by Neil Gaiman of the same title, American Gods follows the story of a war brewing between old and new Gods: the traditional gods of mythological roots from around the world, steadily losing believers to an upstart pantheon of gods reflecting society’s modern love of money, technology, media, celebrity and drugs. Its protagonist, Shadow Moon, is an ex-con who becomes bodyguard and travelling partner to Mr. Wednesday, a conman but in reality one of the older gods, on a cross-country mission to gather his forces in preparation to battle the new deities.

American Gods is produced by FreemantleMedia, the global creative content network with operations in 31 countries, producing over 11,000 hours of programming a year, rolling out more than 60 formats and airing more than 420 programmes a year worldwide. I’ve been working with FreemantleMedia on their inspirational leadership, high level purposing, and peak performance.

Two weeks ago American Gods premiered on Starz and Amazon Prime Video. The reactions and reviews from fans and critics alike have been absolutely incredible. But Gods hasn’t just been a massive critical hit. “Audacious,” wrote The New York Times. “Beneath the extraordinary imagery is a story about the power and evolution of faith, and of immigrants who helped to build and define American culture, only to see said culture turn against them.” The LA Times: “The result is a wonderfully eclectic mix of gory bloodlust and fairy whimsy, ethereal beauty and tenement apartment realism…In a media landscape littered with real-life villains and fictional superheroes, everyone could use a little godly intervention.”

Over five million multiplatform viewers to-date have tuned in to watch the show on Starz in the US, making it their highest-rated launch show of the season. At the same time, viewers in over 200 territories have been enjoying the show on Amazon. Starz has moved swiftly to order a second season.

Talk about peak performance. FremantleMedia just had a remarkable week. A weekend ago five of their shows dominated ITV’s ratings in the UK. And they have just announced the return of American Idol. (Bravo Cecile Frot-Coutaz, CEO and Expert Ninja)

I’ve written before on KRConnect about how television is the most compelling and engaging medium in the content landscape. It’s an intensely collaborative genre and every element of the ensemble cast, production crew, executives and presenting networks need to be working on the same dream, the same script, and same language. Neil Gaiman and Gods writers and showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green have imbued the FreemantleMedia platform with an epic theme of the worlds and wars of gods, and in doing so have evolved the art form of television narratively, structurally and graphically.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Winning Attitudes at Lancaster MBA

For several years I have been coaching MBA students at the Lancaster University Management School, ranked in the UK's top ten and among the world's top 50 business schools.

This year, I’ve hosted three leadership coaching sessions at the school, working with MBA students to share my experience and prepare them for the unpredictable. Robert Klecha, writer for Business Because (the network for the B-school world), interviewed me this week on the coaching series. His fine article appears here, my interview responses are below.


1. What is the goal of your lecture series?
To help Lancaster’s MBA cohort become Inspirational Leaders, equipped to win in our crazy world.

2. Why did you decide on Lancaster for your series?

I was born in Lancaster. I am a Lancastrian. I believe LUMS has an excellent programme and Peter Lenney’s Mindful Manager Focus provides the perfect context for my Inspirational Leadership programme.

3. As a successful CEO without an MBA, how valuable do you think the MBA skill set is for those looking to take a leading role today?

The LUMS MBA provides candidates with the knowledge and skills they need to be competitive. To this, we hope to add a cultural toolbox that will help develop a Winning Attitude.

4. Given the fast changing business world today, what are your thoughts on the importance of creativity for leaders?

We live in the Age of the Idea. Ideas are the currency of today. Winning Companies will create cultures of Creativity and Innovation. Or whither on the vine.

5. Do you think creativity is something that can be taught? And are some people more creative than others?

Creativity is an art, grounded in science. We were all born creative – look at any three year old at play/learning! – and then it was systematically squeezed and drained out of us. We can rediscover it, and enhance it through learning, practice and confidence.

6. A lot of students have commented on how dynamic and engaging your lectures are, contrasting their expectations of how a CEO acts. How important is it to challenge conventional management methods?

We live in a VUCA world – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous. A world of disruption. To lead – and win – in this environment we need new techniques, skills and a hunger to grow, attack and change. We must embrace ‘Fail Fast, Learn Fast, and Fix Fast’ – and relish it!!

7. If you could give one piece of advice to current MBA students, what would it be?

Make Happy Choices.

8. How do you enjoy giving the lectures and working with the MBA students?


Love it (or I wouldn’t be doing it – see No. 7!!!). I love their diversity, hunger, ambition, wit and approach to life.

9. What is the highlight of your experience at Lancaster so far?

Watching the students start to figure out how good they could really be.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Winning Hearts and Minds in Blackpool

Museums are an essential part in bringing art, culture and history to people. Unfortunately visitor numbers have been declining over the last few years – some of London’s most well-known museums have recorded dramatic drops in visitor numbers, up to 20% over the past five years. What’s the problem here? Guardian art writer Jonathan Jones has a good turn of phrase here: “There is nothing more aspirational than visiting a museum or art gallery. It is an expression of hope and self-esteem. Just as lying in bed all day binge-watching TV and eating crisps is probably a mark of melancholy. Going out to an exhibition or taking your kids to the Natural History Museum is surely a symbol of belief in your family and the future.” Jones’ diagnosis is that it’s not the internet and social media or mindless television. It is the economic squeeze on people. On top of the cost of admission, there is car parking, the family meal before or after…it’s an expensive family outing for populations with declining discretionary income.

Up north on the seaside however, museums are having a resurgence, with a number of major museums and cultural developments underway in resort towns including Blackpool, Southend, Great Yarmouth and Plymouth due to open in the next five years. A report in the Museums Journal (UK) discusses how museums are regenerating towns by capitalizing on their seaside heritage. A growing trend in visitor habits such as staycations and nostalgia tourism has seen seaside tourism regain its position as England's largest holiday sector, and was now worth £8 billion to the economy. “The belief in the sea as a powerful panacea goes back a long way...planting the early seeds of a tourist industry that was to grow into a vibrant and distinctive culture.”

I’m in love with the Blackpool Museum Project. When I wrote about this in July last year I recalled how, when growing up in Lancaster, “Blackpool was our summer Mecca, Disneyland and Nice.” The seaside resort was the birthplace of British light entertainment – music hall, dancing, comedy and circus. Rather than simply presenting visitors displays the proposed Blackpool Museum will be fun, interactive and based on the tastes of ordinary people. The “serious museum with a funny side” will be centered on eight nationally significant themes including the story of how Blackpool became symbolic of the British seaside holiday, the Blackpool Tower story and the great British talent show. It will be fun!

In March this year the £26 million development, spearheaded by the Blackpool City Council, has gotten one step closer to its planned completion in 2020 with a second round of application having been submitted, which includes the final plans and costings for the delivery of the Museum. It is projected to create 40 full-time equivalent jobs, and attract 210,000 visitors each year, including 22,000 new staying visitors with an economic benefit of £12.3m to the region.

Go to http://blackpoolmuseum.com/ to find out more.