Tuesday, August 15, 2017

In Praise of Air NZ

Air New Zealand is - alongside My Food Bag - New Zealand’s premier company. They fly 16 million people a year. That’s a lot of trust. Most of my miles with Air New Zealand have been across the Pacific, from America and Asia, a few hundred times I guess as I have come back home. I loved flying them through the Lions Tour. No fuss. No drama. No bullshit. Just customer-focused, professional, friendly, light touch, and engaging approach to safety (seen their latest video?) but safety nonetheless.

It says a lot for the New Zealand government’s longsighted expertise in ownership and governance of major commercial enterprises that Air New Zealand has thrived (NZ Govt owns 52%). For the past 15 years Air New Zealand has been led by three outstanding CEOs: Sir Ralph Norris, Rob Fyfe, and Christopher Luxon. Each has set a superb cultural context for customer experience, married with outstanding engineering and financial skills needed to steer an organization as complex and safety-conscious as an airline; together with 10,000 brand ambassadors working every day to bring an unselfconscious Kiwi professionalism to their roles in the air and on the ground.

Air New Zealand regularly wins global and regional awards for customer experience, and regularly attracts favorable media attention. Monocle Escapist just wrote about “Easy Flying” as their correspondent hopped around New Zealand on the regional airline network, advocating Air New Zealand “for those of us who value smart service and a sense of humour.”

I have been especially pleased at how Air New Zealand wove the silver fern symbol into their plane livery next to the treasured koru tail piece. Back in 1999 I advocated for this along with my creative colleague Brian Sweeney, we mocked up some black 747s with a giant silver fern – so I have a personal stake in every Air New Zealand plane I board. Read the story here.

The business of hosting guests – New Zealanders and global visitors – has evolved into our largest industry. Gone are the days of tearoom snacks with decrusted white bread sandwiches filled with hundreds and thousands (remember them, in Greymouth a few decades ago!). Air New Zealand sets the standard for the he amalgam of Kiwi attitude of helpfulness and generosity with their incredible food, wine, music and media offerings. I wrote about this 10 years ago here at KRConnect.

I’ve often pushed for New Zealanders to be world-changing over world class. However I don’t really want a world-changing airline, I want it to be world class, and Air New Zealand does it exactly right. Hats off to all 10,000. That’s lot of love.

Monday, August 14, 2017

KR Podcast with Linda Coles "Tell Us A Story"


















Just posted, a 23 minute podcast with Linda Coles, foremost NZ Linkedin influencer (530k followers). We dive into Lovemarks and how they came to be, PepsiCo stories including one that led me to General Norman Schwarzkopf, the future of retail, Jake Millar's visionary business education video channel Unfiltered, and both being from the North of England, we talk local politics.
http://tellusastory.podbean.com/e/kevin-roberts-ex-global-saatchi-and-saatchi-chairman-talks-lovemarks-and-a-lot-more/ 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Name The First Advertising Agency That Comes Into Your Head.

Exactly. Chutzpah & Chutzpah is a history of Saatchi & Saatchi by Richard Myers, Simon Goode and Nick Darke (Michael O’Mara Books, London, 2017). It is an insiders’ story of the first 20 or so years of the most famous advertising agency in history. Chutzpah & Chutzpah is the sixth independently-written book about the agency. It is compelling and irresistible reading. The book is dedicated to founding brothers Charles and Maurice Saatchi, “whose unique talents and chutzpah inspired us to reject mediocrity, to have no fear of being first, to believe that whatever has gone before counts for nothing, and that the unthinkable can be achieved.”

Myers, Goode & Darke (Saatchi originals across creative, management and design respectively) take us on a 195 page ripped and rip-roaring adventure across the founding of the biggest advertising company the world had known, and its subsequent explosiveness.

The agency was, at its core, very British. Literate. Erudite. Funny. Ironic. Sarcastic. Superior. This was 1970; Monty Python, the start of the 747 era, the women’s liberation movement, heavy metal, Richard Branson founding Virgin, BP discovering oil in the North Sea, the death of Jimi Hendrix, the break-up of The Beatles, Nixon’s presidency, Jesus Christ Superstar. Television was the dominant and vital force. Britain was throbbing, and Charles and Maurice Saatchi had a dream and a dare to blow things sky high.

Chutzpah & Chutzpah catches the cultural semiotics that drove a golden era of advertising (alas, before the onslaught of Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon, creating trillions of dollars of shareholder value against the meagre mega-millions of advertising holding companies. At least advertising had Lunch). A sampling:
  • Nothing Is Impossible
  • We can achieve anything
  • The biggest risk is not taking risks
  • There are no boundaries, no rules that particularly matter
  • We stand for the single-minded pursuit of creative originality and excellence
  • Come to the edge
  • We are naughty and fearless
  • We are walkers of the walk
  • We have pure determination to win
  • Saatchi people will go to any length, and make any sacrifice, to win new business
  • Never put your best people on new business; put your luckiest
Other phrases the authors assign Saatchi & Saatchi in years 1-20:
  • Self-belief bordering on arrogance
  • Fearlessness, ingenuity, and chutzpah
  • Swashbuckling, shrewd, sensational, surreal
  • Unparalleled household fame
  • Unsurpassed creativity
  • Masters of Illusion
The actor playing Lafayette in the musical Hamilton exclaims in one of the show’s most popular lines, “Immigrants, we get the job done.” Charles Saatchi had the reported chutzpah of, on a slow news day in London, insuring his creative department for one million pounds, a vast sum of money in the early 70s. The Saatchi brothers had global ambition to be the world’s best and biggest, and they cleverly laced this positioning with the original globalization theorist, Harvard economist Theodore Levitt. Chutzpah & Substance. Soon enough Saatchi & Saatchi was doing legendary campaigns for the biggest brands in Britain: British Airways, BP, ICI, BT, British Coal & Gas, Cadbury Schweppes. The history of the Conservative Party assignments – and the future of Britain – resulting in three election-winning performances is well covered by Myers, Goode & Darke. Through its acquisitions the agency gained Procter & Gamble’s coveted business, and won the business of Toyota and Lexus in the U.S. which it has held for three decades. Collectively, the Saatchi & Saatchi agencies represented, supported, led, quarreled with, inspired, and cajoled clients and brands with sales running into a multi-billion dollar stratosphere. Advertising does make the world go round, and while the business of selling with great ideas has been contaminated by data science, a brilliant idea still goes all the way. 15% or more.

Having ambitions for global dominance – meant that the Saatchi & Saatchi Nothing Is Impossible culture had to inculcate worldwide. There was a waiting audience. In New Zealand, for example, a country who until 1972 had called Great Britain “home,” there were a bunch of mavericks – King, Cullinane, Thorp, Grieve, Bradley, Wicksteed – who gave rise to an agency that just so got the Saatchi & Saatchi attitude that they became one of the most celebrated global agencies. And in Italy. In Spain. Argentina. Brazil. Australia. China. Russia. The Saatchi & Saatchi attitude found willing participants.

My own Saatchi & Saatchi journey began at its founding. My first employer, fashion designer Mary Quant, was a founding shareholder in the agency in 1970, and taken by the chutzpah of the Brothers, I pledged to hire the agency without pitch wherever I was in the world in the future – in Geneva, Casablanca, Toronto, Auckland, Sydney. I did this. And one day I was phoned up to save it.

Chutzpah & Chutzpah is a chronicle of 200 firsthand accounts from alumni, of bad behavior and bad language by good people working at the apotheosis of business and creativity. There are a number of piss-ups and punch-ups but throughout the essence of Saatchi & Saatchi’s trajectory was one of “growing phenomenally, making money, creating great award-winning work, doing winning media and helping our clients be massively successful.” Visionary advertisers are acknowledged in Chutzpah, including Lord King of British Airways who was infatuated to the core, and Bob Field of Toyota in New Zealand, the franchise’s leading country per capita, who greenlighted an outrageous idea on the spot. (“Bugger.”)

I have unconditional love for Saatchi & Saatchi. When Arthur Sadoun, chairman and CEO of Publicis Groupe, spoke to Campaign in 2016 about “the reasons why the Saatchi team is going to succeed,” his first reason was “the incredible strength and attractiveness of the brand…we are talking about the most brilliant brand in the world.”

Myers, Goode & Darke recount an early invocation of the Saatchi & Saatchi brand: “The culture has the attitude of a mongrel fighter, a kind of ‘we may be brash outsiders but we’re going to win’ certainty.”

Make things happen.

KR.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Zentivity Calms Stress and Discontent in the Workplace

My cobber in D.C. Leland Schwartz is always onto a good thing. He sent me a just-published book called Zentivity: How to Eliminate Chaos, Stress, and Discontent in Your Workplace by Marianne Clyde which asks: “Why is it that when illness is related to emotional, mental, or relationship factors, are we more likely to hide and deny it, hoping it just goes away? This doesn’t make sense. If we simply addressed the issues up front and learned techniques to help ourselves and our employees overcome them, we would see direct results in enhanced job performance, a more positive outlook, and focused productivity.”

Reports show that 43.8 million Americans suffer from some kind of mental illness. Even more are dealing with difficult emotional difficulties such as divorce, health issues, parenting problems. The impact on the economy is a whopping $225.8 billion a year. The wise employer is one that recognizes the connection between strong mental/emotional health in the workplace and increased productivity, lower costs and stronger bottom line.

Zentivity offers practical, easy-to-implement solutions to help business leaders achieve a level of mental and emotional stability, creating a strong internal locus of control, enabling them to respond wisely and efficiently to stressors and unexpected crises in the workplace.

Based on the practice of 10 Essential Principles, Marianne Clyde, licensed marriage and family therapist, offers leaders a way to strengthen their own sense of well-being and offer support to those they lead. She lays out a step by step guide to develop strong individuals, leading to a stronger team and better productivity.

Learn how to:
  • Get rid of old emotional programs that keep spinning in the back of your consciousness, sabotaging your efforts, and replace them with thoughts and beliefs that work. 
  • Respond instead of react, so there's less to clean up later.
  • Understand how your personal history informs your decisions and opinions, and how to apply that in understanding others.
  • Strengthen your awareness of yourself, others and your surroundings so you can respond in a way that maximizes time and energy.
  • Communicate effectively so you can be heard and respected.
  • Find a way to practice gratitude, respect, non-judgment, forgiveness to maximize your effectiveness.
  • Get grounded through meditation and mindfulness, without losing your edge or taking up too much time.
  • Detach from drama and chaos to keep a clear and balanced perspective.
  • Be the same balanced, healthy person in business and at home.
  • Just breathe.... (and why you should).

Monday, August 7, 2017

Do You Remember?

When was the last time you memorized someone else’s phone number? Drove somewhere without Google Maps turned on? Didn’t use technology to organize your appointments? Technology certainly has made our lives easier – and will continue to do so in the future. In the last few years the way we all recall events and organize our lives has changed drastically. With technology doing so much of our memorizing for us, are we losing or deteriorating our ability to recall information naturally?

In the 1990s Harvard University psychology professor Daniel Schacter discovered that photographs could distort people’s memory and determine which events people remembered and which they forgot. Thinking about social media and the way people today use the different platforms to share photos with their friends this study still carries relevance today.

The device which does most of the ‘reminding’ for us today is the smartphone. There’s even a scientific term for it: “cognitive offloading.” It describes the notion that we save brain space by assigning duties of our brain power onto a device. Two psychologists from the University of Waterloo – Evan Risko and Sam Gilbert – examined existing studies in order to find out what impact cognitive offloading has on our memories and the way we think. Interestingly there are both positive as well as negative consequences.

As pointed out in an article on CBC News, putting information into our phones or computers frees up brain space, which then allows us to think about more complex or more important issues. It makes our brain work more energy-efficient so to speak. But there’s also another side to the argument. Other surveys found that people are getting terrible at remembering things simply because it’s something they’re not attempting to do anymore. In consequence that makes us vulnerable and very dependent on technology. They have a point.

Researchers from the University of California, Santa Cruz and University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign confirm that notion. Their findings suggest that an increased dependency on the internet impacts our problem solving abilities, recall and learning negatively.

That certainly provides food for thought. To me it comes down to balance. Technology can make our lives easier, but if you can’t remember your own phone number without looking it up, you are probably overdoing it.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Happiness Without Borders

I‘ve blogged about happiness and personal wellbeing at length. In recent years happiness has gained ground all around the world. There’s World Happiness Day, the World Happiness ReportThe Happy Planet Index and almost ten years ago France followed Bhutan’s example and included happiness as key metric for their country. It’s great to see that happiness is being perceived as more and more important in an otherwise achievement driven world. The “Happiness without Borders” initiative in the UAE is now bringing happiness into corporate culture. As part of the program ‘chief happiness’ and ‘positivity officers’ from various government agencies are providing free consultations and offer interactive workshops to support organizations to “establish a culture of happiness and positivity.” I love it.

Looking at how important happiness can be for our personal wellbeing as well as our performance it makes sense to introduce ‘happiness’ training into organizations. I’m a firm believer in personal wellbeing as key element in peak performance. When you look at rankings of the best companies to work for you will notice they usually have something in common. They are known for making working there fun. And happy companies significantly outperform their peer group. No surprise here.

Happiness does not only affect our mental wellbeing, but also has been found to have a significant effect on physical health – it seems that for some people “subjective well-being can influence health and longevity.”

Pondering this I took to Google and discovered even more interesting studies on happiness. Experts speaking at ‘Happiness and its Causes’ recently held in Sydney, found that while wellbeing and happiness are words that are often used interchangeably they are not the same. Happiness is an ingredient in wellbeing, but you can have wellbeing without happiness. That certainly provides food for thought. Just think about the adage that money doesn’t buy happiness. What it boils down to is a sense of purpose and meaning. And studies confirm that people who are focused on giving back to communities or on personal growth were more likely to be happy than those who weren’t. It makes sense and also applies in business. Purpose is why people work for you, buy from you, stay with you, share you and proliferate you. It really is about making happy choices – both in personal life and in business and enabling others to do the same.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Future of Learning

We are facing a crisis in education. Education simply hasn’t kept up. Teaching methods, teacher training, the stuff we’re learning and the ways we measure success are outdated. This should change. Education matters.

Last week at a PwC conference in New Zealand, Nick Mowbray*, director and president of Zuru, an incredibly successful toy business founded in New Zealand and now based in China, called for an entrepreneurial infusion into education. Looking at Switzerland and the Nordic countries – similar in size to New Zealand, Mowbray said "They have loads of global brands and global companies, and we have very few. I think it's how we can create these global companies, and it starts earlier, with education." Mowbray said digital, social and entrepreneurial skills were the new requirements for success, but many New Zealand children were getting an education "from the past".

"So it's just the basics of how do I make a product, how do I make a service, what is my channel plan, what is my marketing plan, what is my sales plan? All of these basic skills could be taught in school from a young age."

A recent article in Forbes by Daniel Newman looked at six digital trends in classrooms:
  • the introduction of Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality 
  • the move away from BYO device policies, 
  • the redesign of classrooms with help of SMARTboards and SMARTdesks, 
  • the use of artificial intelligence, 
  • personalized learning, and 
  • the gamification of learning. 
There are schools are already implementing these technologies. Take virtual reality. With the help of different apps teachers are now able to bring the outside world into the classroom. This is where learning becomes immersive, collaborative and fun.

Innovative learning models are the way of the future. Unfiltered, which I chair, is disrupting business education through its video-based programming for getting up-close-and-personal with business leaders.

Already we can see that the use of these modern technologies in education is working. But there’s one very important prerequisite for the success of these programs. Teachers have to embrace it and support it. I like how The Economist phrases it: “Closed-mindedness has no place in the classroom.”

*This is a company boilerplate worth pinning on the wall: Founded in New Zealand in 2004, ZURU has become the fastest growing international toy company in the U.S. market. The company has flourished since its small beginnings in a garage, and the company is now made up of 500 team members building ZURU’s brand across the globe, and employing over 7000 operators. ZURU brands are distributed and marketed in 121 countries. Driven by innovation and marketing, ZURU strives to create a standard of excellence in its product engineering, marketing and distribution practices.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

When Lions Roared

The British & Irish Lions have left New Zealand with a drawn series. Humbug. The All Blacks should have won the final test by 17 points but for blown opportunities. The drawn series was like "kissing your sister"...along the lines of “rugby was the winner on the day.”

As preparation for the tour I read a new book by Tom English and Peter Burns When Lions Roared: The Lions, The All Blacks and the Legendary Tour of 1971, which brings to life one of the greatest stories in rugby history.

“When the enigmatic Welshman Carwyn James was appointed as coach of the side, he faced a gruelling schedule: a twenty-four match slog around New Zealand, which would include a four-Test series against the All Blacks, the best side on the planet.

“No Lions team had ever defeated the All Blacks in a Test series. Since 1904, six Lions sides had travelled to New Zealand and all had returned home with their tails between their legs. But in 1971 a tour party led by John Dawes set out to carve their names into the annals of sporting history with their assault on the great bastion of world rugby.

“Lying in wait for them was team after team of hardened rugby warriors from the length and breadth of New Zealand – grizzled forwards, powerful backs and players capable of footballing magic – and an All Blacks team filled with legends of the game. As the Lions began to light up the rugby fields of New Zealand and the Test series loomed large, it became clear that a clash that would echo through the ages was about to unfold.

When Lions Roared delves to the very heart of that famous summer as Lions, All Blacks and provincial players from New Zealand recount their memories to bring to life one of the most celebrated tours in rugby history – one that changed the game forever and continues to resonate powerfully to this day.”

In addition to the astute commentary from English and Burns, When Lions Roared is largely told from the point of view of the players. From the Lions, the legendary Barry John, Willie John McBride, Gareth Edwards and JPR Williams along with David Duckham, Gerald Davies, Mike Gibson, Gordon Brown, Mervyn Davies, Derek Quinnell, Fergus Slattery, Roy McLoughlin and Ian McLauchlan. From the All Blacks, Colin Meads, Sid Going, Ian Kirkpatrick, Bryan Williams, Bob Burgess, Peter Whiting and Jazz Muller. For any rugby nut of a certain age, these names are burnished in the memory banks of epic contests.

There’s a great 13 minute video of the 1971 tour to accompany the book, including Ian Kirkpatrick’s 60 metre scorching try in the second test, and JPR William’s 40 meter drop goal which sealed the series for the Lions 3-1. They also won all 20 games against New Zealand provincial sides.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Smart Cities for Wellbeing

Technology, data and sensors – the architecture of the Internet of Things – are raising the IQs of cities around the world. They call the emerging sentience a ‘Smart City’. Connect everything and everyone, and the possibilities for efficiency, comfort, fun and human wellbeing go north fast.

There are all kinds of benefits in connecting beings and things, not least: low energy costs and maintenance, on-demand public transport, congestion-free traffic, city-wide Wi-Fi, apps for revealing empty parking spaces, super-fast immigration, poor air-quality alerts, remote air traffic control , solar-powered phone-charging park benches, and cool bike-sharing schemes. Over in Rio de Janeiro, football-loving people in a favela can play the beautiful game into the night through powering lighting with their own footsteps. The floodlights are powered by kinetic tiles under the Astroturf.

The trick, as with all ideas, is to work back from people and not forward through machines, in order to make people’s life better. So fit technology to a problem rather than installing technology for its own sake, protect against hijackers, and work hard to keep Big Brother at bay.

Things don’t truly get smart until a city uses technology to respond to the needs, wants and dreams of its individual people. A smart city makes a commitment to system-level thinking but also it oozes with empathy. Boston city website curates information through content based on how a resident thinks about an issue, such as moving or owning a car (c.f. organising info by department). Singapore’s elderly people can use a swipe-card at zebra crossings to give them more time to cross.

The power of an idea is intense, just so long as it improves people’s lives. It’s the emotional quotient that counts most, and that comes back to leadership. As American political theorist Benjamin Barber said: “Above all we need smart mayors and smart citizens, not smart cities.”

Image: Pavegen

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.”