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.


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


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

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.


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-makes…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 to find out more.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Emoji Face Heart and Hand

Did you know that there’s a new school of academic and corporate research dedicated to studying emoji and their use in human interaction?

That’s right. Emoji cannot only be sent, but also studied. We’re talking esteemed institutions like the University of Toronto and the University of Minnesota. What's more, the small symbols have traveled it into the corporate world. The use of emoji in marketing has increased over the last two years, several brands have fully incorporated them into their strategies and some brands are creating their own – think Coca-Cola, Star Wars, Dove and Toyota.

While some emoji seem to have universal meaning that transcends language barriers, not all symbols mean the same around the world. In Japan, for instance, the “surfer” emoji can imply the sender wants to break up and “surf out of a relationship”.

In a previous blog post in 2014 I wrote about the top ten used emoji on Twitter. Back then the heart came in on number one, followed by the “tears of joy” emoji. Not much has changed in the top 10 since then except the tears of joy” emoji takes the top spot today. 

What does that say about us? We like to share our happiness and joy with others. Also an interesting point: Some researchers suggest that the fact that we’re using affirmative emoji more than other types is due to our desire to be seen as positive people and to brand ourselves as fun individuals. An outlet for radical optimism.

It also makes sense that the most popular emoji in general are the ones that fall into the categories of face, heart and hand. We like to connect with people and we want to know how others are feeling – these emoji can help us do that.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

CEO Genome Project (Part 2)

Last week I wrote about the CEO Genome project by leadership advisory firm ghGmart. The #1 trait they identified in CEO success was making fast decisions with conviction, if not necessarily perfect ones.

The other three are served today. They are:
  • reaching out to stakeholders; 
  • being highly adaptable to change; 
  • being reliable and predictable rather than showing exceptional, and perhaps not repeatable, performance. 
The first trait here – the second most-important once – involves highly tuned communication skills, and herein is an interesting discussion, as just over half of the CEOs who did better than expected in the minds of investors and directors were actually introverts. The study found that in the recruitment process, candidates who displayed a lot of confidence had more than double the chance of being chosen as CEO, even though particularly confident CEOs were no more likely to show better performance once they got the job. Don't ignore the stronger quieter types - think former All Black captain and world champion Richie McCaw.

Two other findings are interesting, according to the Washington Post report on the study. “Nearly all of the executives in their sample who were candidates for a CEO job had some kind of major mistake, the project found, such as overpaying for an acquisition or making a wrong hire, in their assessment. Nearly half of them also had what the researchers called a career "blowup" that pushed them out of a job or cost the business a large amount of money — and three­ quarters of that group went on to actually become a CEO.

And here’s one in the eye for the Ivy Leagues. Only 7 per cent of the best­ performing CEOs — who ran companies from Fortune 10 behemoths to those with just $US10 million ($13.2 million) in annual sales — had an Ivy League degree, despite the conventional wisdom that pedigree matters. "There was zero correlation between pedigree and ultimate performance," said Elena Lytkina Botelho, a partner at ghSmart and a co­founder of the project, while acknowledging that number could be higher if they were just looking at large Fortune 500 firms.

Studies such as the CEO Genome project are grist to the mill for my investment in and new chairmanship of the business education company Unfiltered. Subversion of captains of industries and MBA programs is high on my agenda. “Winning the world from the edge” takes on new meaning.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

450 Calories and Less

The need to slim down is a health imperative for the majority of people in most of the world’s countries. There are multi-million and billion dollar industries invested in weight loss, from diet to exercise to devices and procedures and low calorie food. All of it is hard work; persistence is required; though it helps when there are some well-designed products at reach.

Many of KR Connect’s readers will know I am Chair of the innovative New Zealand company My Food Bag, the clear market leader in food home delivery service. Last year we launched Bargain Box, designed for more budget-conscious families and those seeking better value-for-money. This week we launched Fresh Start designed specifically for people who want to lose and manage their weight. Fresh Start combines portion control, healthy eating, and cooking techniques with each meal nutritionally balanced and 450 calories or less.

Our chief dietitian and MFB co-founder Nadia Lim says many people are looking for greater levels of control and accountability when it comes to their diet.

“For many Kiwis, managing weight is an endless battle. As we age, we tend to become more health aware in terms of our dietary needs, but it can be a challenge to improve our eating habits and consistently stick to them. As a dietitian, I’m passionate about helping Kiwis to eat better, and this new range takes the guess work out of ingredient shopping, meal preparation and calorie-counting.”

Fresh Start delivers ingredients for five recipes door-to-door each week in 10 portion or 20 portion boxes. The 20-portion box serves five dinners for four people for $199 - $9.95 and 450 or less calories. The range features more vegetables and lean proteins than other My Food Bag offerings and lower levels of carbohydrates. It excludes all refined sugar. The meals feature lean proteins, large volumes of seasonal vegetables, lower volumes of carbohydrates focused on wholegrain or vegetable-based sources, and no refined sugar. Fresh Start allows users to choose from three plans ranging from 1200 calories a day to 1800 calories a day, depending on their level of daily activity.

And we’re providing our customers with tools including meal planning, recipes and ingredients – as well as advice and support they need to help them with successfully losing weight and improving their health and wellbeing.

So what does 450 calories or less taste like? Yummy!! Here’s the line-up:

· Vietnamese Chicken Laab with lemongrass, capsicum and sprouts

· Moroccan Baked Fish with spiced roasted capsicum, courgette, spinach and chickpeas

· Sumac Sesame Chicken with cauliflower, cucumber and tomato tabbouleh

· Ginger Pork Sirloin Stir-Frey with five-spice, broccoli and capsicum

· Cumin Spiced Beet with super seed broccoli slaw.

Check out

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Unfiltered – disrupting business education

Unfiltered is a rapidly-growing New Zealand startup focused exclusively on business education. Today I joined its board as chairman. Business education is a sweet spot for me, principally because I believe traditional business schools have not kept pace with the way millennials think and act. No more corporate treadmill for them, they want to be at it straightaway. Entrepreneurs straight out of high school. Learning by doing. Learning from mentors. Dreams into action.

Such is the story of Jake Millar, 21, who co-founded Unfiltered – his second company - with school friend Yuuki Ogino. Unfiltered’s website features more than 110 long-form interviews with entrepreneurs and business leaders, and has aggregated 1.8 million video views since it was formed 17 months ago. Its paid subscription website has successfully attracted 150,000 individual and corporate users, and an enviable list of sponsors that include PwC, Bell Gully, NZTE and the University of Auckland Business School.

Unfiltered has built a reputation for securing interviews with business masterminds following what Jake describes as a “high-trust, strong-relationships model.” Jake’s long-form interview techniques delve into the marrow of business and the challenges, failures, difficulties – and triumphs – each person has faced. Taken as a body of work, the Unfiltered interviews offer up a spectrum of daring ideas, humility and scar tissue, inspiration, and simple ways through the clutter of complexity every business operator faces.

I’ve been teaching, guest lecturing and generally disrupting at business schools all over the world for the past 20 years, and in the time I have with students I attempt to be as impactful as anything else they will experience during their degree programs. And so it is with Unfiltered. The world's mobile and desktop screens are hungry for content which is compelling, uplifting, fascinating, optimistic – and quick. Unfiltered offers the ability to scale this disruption right across the business education landscape.

Joining me on the board is Icebreaker and former Air New Zealand CEO Rob Fyfe. Today’s announcement reveals the governance that will drive Unfiltered’s expansion strategy to the United States to replicate its New Zealand-proven model. The company has just closed a NZ$1.2 million seed funding round.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Assess Decide Execute

I lean heavily on the BQ factor – “Bloody Quick.” In my book 64 Shots: Leadership in a Crazy World I recount that, classically, a leader does three things: assess, decide, and execute. Short-handed to A.D.E. Typically in a business, leaders spend half their time interrogating the data, checking the facts and assessing. They spend 30 percent on discussion and consensus. The other 20 percent – execution – is a hospital pass to some poor sucker down the line. This is most businesses today: strategically driven, by-the- book, MBA-obsessed, ponderous. I argue for this model to be inverted: 20% assessing, 10% deciding, and 70% focus on execution.

A new 10­ year study from a leadership advisory firm ghSmart and economists from the University of Chicago and Copenhagen Business School, published in this month's Harvard Business Review, and reported by The Washington Post, backs up my intuition and finds that the most successful chief executives often don't fit the typical A.D.E. mold.

The researchers behind the study, called the CEO Genome Project, used a database of comprehensive performance appraisals and extensive biographical information of 17,000 C­suite executives, including 2000 CEOs. The database includes everything from career history to behavioural patterns to how the executives performed in past jobs, decisions they've made and demographic information. Their analysis examined a sample of 930 of those CEOs to come up with the traits and patterns that most predicted which ones became a CEO.

The #1 trait of successful leaders deciding with speed and conviction, even without all the needed information. The reports says “high-performing CEOs they stand out for being more decisive. They make decisions earlier, faster, and with greater conviction. They do so consistently—even amid ambiguity, with incomplete information, and in unfamiliar domains. In our data, people who were described as “decisive” were 12 times more likely to be high-performing CEOs.”

In 64 Shots I cite Colin Powell’s 40/70 Rule: “Use the formula P+40 to 70, in which P stands for the probability of success and the numbers indicate the percentage of information acquired. Once the information is in the 40 to 70 range, go with your gut.” The Post article references Jeff Bezos’s latest letter to shareholder in which he extols "high ­velocity decision­ making." Echoing Powell, Bezos wrote that "most decisions should probably be made with somewhere around 70 per cent of the information you wish you had. If you wait for 90 per cent, in most cases, you're probably being slow." Being wrong isn't always so bad, he said. "If you're good at course correcting, being wrong may be less costly than you think, whereas being slow is going to be expensive for sure."

Elena Lytkina Botelho, a partner at ghSmart and a co­founder of the project, said the #1 trait was the most surprising. "We frankly expected to find that strong CEOs stood out for the quality of their decisions — that they turn out to be right more frequently," she said. "But what very clearly stood out was the speed. Quality was likely something they developed earlier, but then they're willing to step up and make the decision faster, even with more uncertainty." ­

Other findings from the survey:
  • The highest-IQ executives, those who relish intellectual complexity, sometimes struggle the most with decisiveness. While the quality of their decisions is often good, because of their pursuit of the perfect answer, they can take too long to make choices or set clear priorities—and their teams pay a high price. 
  • High-performing CEOs understand that a wrong decision is often better than no decision at all. As former Greyhound CEO Stephen Gorman, told us, “A bad decision was better than a lack of direction. Most decisions can be undone, but you have to learn to move with the right amount of speed.”
  • Decisive CEOs recognize that they can’t wait for perfect information. To that end, successful CEOs also know when not to decide. But once a path is chosen, high-performing CEOs press ahead without wavering. 
  • And if decisions don’t turn out well? ghSmart’s analysis suggests that while every CEO makes mistakes, most of them are not lethal. “We found that among CEOs who were fired over issues related to decision making, only one-third lost their jobs because they’d made bad calls; the rest were ousted for being indecisive.”
The book of the study, The CEO Next Door: What it Takes to Get to the Top, And Succeed, Based on the World's Most Comprehensive Leadership Study by Elena Botelho, Kim Powell can be ordered from 800-CEO-Read.

Oh, and the other three traits? Read my next post.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

There’s a brew going down at The Lakes

Part of the Cumbrian food and taste experience, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, is The Lakes Distillery. Interestingly, The Lakes District was once part of Scotland - hence a long association with illicit whiskey distilling! Founder of The Lakes Distillery is Paul Currie who co-founded the widely acclaimed, award winning Arran distillery, and a man who has grown up in and amongst the distilling industry.

After years of searching for the perfect venue, Paul came across some derelict farm buildings from the 1850s near Keswick, and in 2010 his dream started to turn into a reality. Against all odds, this Victorian farm has developed into a world class whisky distillery and visitor centre, with over 100,000 people visiting the facilities each year.

The Lakes Distillery now legally produces whiskey, vodka and the Lakes Gin (it’s best appreciated neat) and keeps waste to a minimum: it recycles water and heat and uses only grain, yeast and water in its process.

The goal is to produce a collection of world class spirits, and is on its way having being names by Timeout as “one of the best new distilleries in the world.” When asked in an interview how a new distillery can win the battle against fierce competition, Paul emphasized that there is nothing more important than quality. “The beautiful surroundings gave us a geographical advantage, helped us to build our brand. But the critical value of our business is always to enhance the quality to the best. Our goal is to make spirits that everyone enjoys, and become a leading brand to spirits fans.”

Cheers to that.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Why are the All Blacks so Good?

I’ve written for NZ Rugby World every month since issue number one, 20 years ago in April 1997 – and I was thumbing through the archives this sunny Saturday morning in Auckland when my copy of the latest, special edition was delivered.

Gregor Paul, editor of the world’s favourite rugby magazine, just published a special edition celebrating 125 years of New Zealand Rugby. He focused on why the All Blacks are so good.

Here in summary are 15 values which help explain the AB’s continuous improvement and sustainable peak performance.

1. Sacrifice
  • Give up things that won’t help you reach the summit.
  • Proves that the goal is worth chasing.
2. Respect
  • The legacy, the team, and the role of every individual.
  • Leave it better than when you found it.
3. Gratitude
  • Pressure is a privilege. Be grateful to have the opportunity to experience it.
4. Acceptance
  • Handle disappointment, man up, and do your job bloody well, whatever it is – for the Team.
5. Speed
  • In the mind. A positive attitude. Fail Fast, Learn Fast, Fix Fast.
6. Trust
  • Believe in yourself, your skills, your game-plan, your systems and your mates.
7. Mental Toughness
  • Learn and practice TCUP.
8. Awareness
  • Uphold the higher standards. All the time.
9. Open Mindedness
  • Flexible thinking, responsive to new ideas, relish change.
10. Accountability
  • Everything can be done better. Use examples of the best players making mistakes. Everyone is accountable for the Team’s performance.
11. Dedication
  • Master basic skills.
  • Meet. Beat. Repeat.
12. Leadership
  • Everyone is a leader.
  • First know thyself.
  • Know what you’re doing, why, when and where.
13. Honesty
  • With yourself and your team.
  • Review performance shortfalls brutally and directly.
14. Core Role
  • Do your own job. Trust your mates to do theirs.
15. Continuous Improvement
  • Wake up the next morning and figure out how to improve.
  • Repeat daily.
Let’s see how these stand up to the latest threat – the British and Irish Lions in eight weeks time. Don’t miss the greatest sporting challenge of 2017.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

A Lion has Passed

At 6.30am on a wintry, cold 1989 Toronto morning, two partners of Egon Zehnder knocked on my door. They had been sent by Douglas Myers to find an operator to run the newly merged Lion Nathan NZ conglomerate of beer, soft drinks, supermarkets, hotels, wines and spirits. A few months later I had packed up and left Pepsi Cola Canada to move to the other end of the world to work for the most charismatic, paradoxical, irresistible, revolutionary I would ever meet. A great man. A great New Zealander.

He taught me about daring to dream, about the complexities of people, about driving performance, about winning, and about being a new New Zealander.

I loved him, respected him, admired him, trusted him and was driven by him to Learn, Fail and Fix.

He was caring and demanding in equal parts. He was provocative, brave, controversial, passionate and independent.

A pirate amongst sailors.

He passed today. 78 years young.

A New Zealand Lion.

Sir Douglas Myers. R.I.P.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

I Love Laura

Laura Kimpton is a California-based, American contemporary artist. She is known for her Monumental Word series including installations at Burning Man and now on the rooftop of the James Hotel near my New York home in Tribeca. “LOVE” is right in my wheelhouse. Other words in the series include “BELIEVE”, “LIVE”, “MAGIC” and “DREAM.” Kimpton reportedly liked the juxtaposition of LOVE seen together with the Freedom Tower in an outside location and has said that she sees herself as the messenger of love in a time when there is so much hate in the world. Her website states that “her creativity stems from a desire to question traditional views on social interaction, therefore invoking through her art a reaction from her viewers that ultimately completes her projects. She is continually exploring new mediums in her search for revelatory communication.”

Two more connections I like about Kimpton’s installations. First comes from LA-based New Zealand art critic and journalist Lita Barrie in a Huffington Post essay on the ‘LOVE’ installation at Las Vegas’s Venetian Hotel:

“Hotel art” has a pejorative reputation in the serious art world, considered facile, derivative, and inoffensive decoration bought through commercial art consultants and hyped by PR agencies who are unfamiliar with art history or the aesthetic or philosophic significance of real art collected and curated by scholars for top tier museums and art collectors. But a few hotels have managed to transition beyond this line and acquire serious art to share it with the public.

“Kimpton is fascinating because, as an outsider artist, she refuses to be put in a box or to pander to commercial galleries, or what she calls “an art world run by left-brain people, running a right-brain world.” Her use of sparrows in LOVE came from living in Siena, where sparrows flock in great numbers, and this led to her realization that “you are free to love anything you want - especially yourself.” The word “love” takes on multiple meanings through Kimpton’s use of the cut-out birds, so that “love” is not restricted to just monogamous romantic love, but represents a flight of fantasy into a more universal feeling. Like Alice she riddles the meanings of words, on the “other side” of left brain logic. Although I was apprehensive about viewing “hotel art,” I came away from this experience uplifted. After talking with Kimpton in-depth, I had no doubt that she is an authentic artist.”

And here is the third connection, hotels, of which I know more than a bit as a global resident and consultant:

“Kimpton’s journey began as an insider within the hospitality industry as the daughter of a hotelier, Bill Kimpton, who made his name refurbishing run-down buildings in urban areas and collaborating with innovative chefs like Wolfgang Puck to create exciting hotel restaurants. While Kimpton understands this industry implicitly, thanks to her innovative father, she also comes from a strong art and psychology background, having earned both a BFA from San Francisco Art Institute and an MA in Counseling Psychology from the University of San Francisco. Kimpton has worked on the periphery, yet she has also been accepted by the art establishment that collects her work.”

Laura Kimpton’s work is being shown by HG Contemporary on West 23rd Street, New York, starting on May 4th, 2017.

Two thumbs up.

Photo by Peter Ruprecht

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

CricHQ shortlisted for UK Sports Tech Award

CricHQ is the world’s leading data company, with the goal of becoming the world’s leading cricket broadcaster. They have been shortlisted as Best-Integrated Digital Media at the world’s leading sports technology awards, to be announced in London in early May. Over 70 sports from 30 countries were represented from 30 countries.

I took on the role of Chair of CricHQ at the end of 2016, working with founder/CEO Simon Baker and the team to scale the company within the framework of the world’s second largest sport (football being #1). CricHQ currently scores one in every 10 balls played at all levels of organized cricket around the world, including 54 out of 106 national governing bodies, 350 associations, and thousands of leagues, tournaments, clubs and schools.

CricHQ is an exemplar of New Zealand companies winning the world from the edge. Founded and headquartered in Wellington, CricHQ has operations in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, United Kingdom, South Africa and the United States. In February it announced the acquisition of My Action Replay, a Bristol UK company that has perfected low-cost video capture of cricket matches at a very local level – school and club – meaning you can select you son or daughter’s fours and wickets at the press of a mouse.

Cricket is an engrossing, vibrantly exciting game, with enough pauses for reflection on the meaning of life. Until CricHQ, the game was decidedly analog, recorded on paper and consigned to filing boxes. CricHQ’s data and video tools are building a new world for players, fans, parents, administrators, coaches – and importantly, talent spotters. Take India, the world’s second most populated country where cricket is the national passion – spotting talent in all its corners will become possible with CricHQ when it is embraced throughout the country. CricHQ is becoming the lifetime home for players in a statistically-driven game.

See video interview here about my dreams for CricHQ.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Making Happy Choices

Am in Porto, the great river city of Portugal, with two great companies – Sonae, speaking to their 100 top leaders, and Sogrape, the country's leading winemaker, working with their marketing teams on four creative projects.

We’re staying on the River Douro at the Pestana Palacio do Freixo, built in the 18th century by the famous architect Nasoni – beautiful.

A couple of thoughts from our sessions by Rui Patriarca, Sogrape Marketing Director.

You only live once? (YOLO)


You live every day.

You only die once.

Even when happiness forgets about you sometimes, do not forget about happiness.

Making Happy Choices.

Thoughts from a country where Destiny is at the core of its spirit.