Category Archives: love

Are you still useful?

This week I went to ‘Overturn’ the MA in Innovation Management Degree Show at Central Saint Martins. Who even knew you could do a MA in Innovation?

Innovation expert Max McKeown (taller than I expected) delighted the audience for over an hour with a great presentation and some rather interesting innovation discussion featuring;

  • If anyone wanted or expected future to be exactly the same as it is now
  • How washing machines have made women in America fat
  • Pondering over to what extent past experiences affect our behaviours

Pretty intense stuff for a school night, but the observation that really struck a chord with me was;

If you have been with your firm for less than 6 months then you are still useful.

You are still useful because new people have enthusiasm that something can change. New people bring diversity as they are external to established systems and can see where change could make improvements. New people ask questions. New people challenge ‘the way things are done around here’.  Six months were how long it took for a person to stop being new, to stop asking the challenging questions, to stop believing that something can change.

The next question was how long we thought it takes for a new person in an organisation to get listened to.

There was a range of answers. All over 6 months.

So there we go, organisations employ people for their skills and experience to get the job done as well as their potential to ask questions and drive change. For the first six months they tend to do that, question and challenge, as time goes by they challenge less until they are one of the team, conformed to the status quo. That is just when they start to get noticed and gain influence. But by that point it is too late.

Sound familiar? Or not? Love to know your views.

P.S. Central Saint Martins Kings Cross Campus in London opened last September.  It is an awesome building, part of the regeneration of the Kings Cross area. Find a reason to visit if you can.

I’ve never cried in a hardware store before. Although perhaps you have.

I was in E Hayes & Sons in Invercargill in New Zealand. A strange place to hang out on holiday amidst the natural beauty of New Zealand’s South Island you may think. And you would be right.

But this is why.

On the way to Invercargill I watched a film starring Anthony Hopkins called The Worlds Fastest Indian. It was made in 2005 and based on the true story of Burt Munro and his quest to turn his 1920s Indian Scout motorbike into the fastest motorbike in the world.

Burt was a somewhat eccentric motorcycle fanatic who spent his time tinkering with his motorbike in his shed, making improvements to the engine and bodywork. He would often work through the night choosing his passion for speed over sleep. He improvised with found items rather than ‘proper’ equipment. He would cast parts in old tins and make his own barrels and pistons.

In 1962 he travelled alone to the USA to fulfil his ambition to achieve a worldspeed record at Speed Week on the salt flats at Bonneville, Utah.

His local community, friends and family did not believe that he could do it. Even the local motorcycle club were sceptical about their eccentric neighbour. The only person who did believe in Burt was Thomas, the small boy who lived next door.

Against the odds, Burt and the motorbike arrived in Utah, 8,000 miles away in one piece. Burt charmed officials to let him race despite not registering, being 63 years old, riding the oldest bike in the competition with no apparent regard for his own safety. He had no safety parachute or fire extinguisher. Officially both were required in order to be eligible to race.

Burt broke the world record achieving 179 mph. Burt returned to Bonneville several more times setting more speed records in his lifetime. Burt died on 6 January 1978, aged 78.

“You live more in five minutes on a bike like this going flat-out than some people live in a lifetime” Burt Munro

Burt’s story inspired me because of his passion (for motorcycles) and his single-minded pursuit (of speed) – and his success despite the odds.

It is an enchanting and beautiful story told with love and humour. I fell in love with Burt Munro a bit. So that’s why, when I came across his motorcycle bike and memorial to Burt in a hardware store in Invercargill – it was all a bit emotional.

So if you ever feel in the need of inspiration against the odds, take 90 minutes out of your day-to-day life and watch The Worlds Fastest Indian. 

You can’t get romantic about baseball

I’m currently on route to the FIA conference in Australia. On the flight yesterday in between being fed like a Christmas goose I managed to get a spot of inspiration.

One of the in-flight movies was Moneyball Starring Brad Pitt and directed by Bennett Miller.

Based on the bestseller Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, Moneyball is the true story of the Oakland A’s baseball team general manager Billy Beane.

Billy knew that they couldn’t compete with the big budgets that the other teams had to buy players so he had to win using different tactics.

Billy developed a new way of recruiting players by using computer based analysis to buy combinations of players with undervalued, yet complementary skills to form a winning combination. From changing the ‘normal’ approach based on the collected wisdom of players, managers and coaches Billy focused on buying ‘wins’ rather than players.

At first he was criticised for reinventing a system that had been working OK for years and threatening the game and the way that ‘things got done’. Then his strategy started to work. With his team Billy changed the game. His strategy was adopted by others. In fact two years later the Red Sox won the world series using Billy’s philosophy.

Despite his overall success Billy still thought he failed because the Oakland A’s didn’t win the final game of the season. His personal goal was all about his emotional romantic attachment to the game and that last win.

What can we learn from Moneyball

  • It takes guts to try something new
  • You can’t win by being the same as everyone else
  • Helping people understand and bringing them with you is very important – it can be lonely without allies.  It was only when Billy helped the team understand his strategy that he started to see success.
  • You have to have passion. Billy’s passion for his team and emotional involvement with the game was a driving force.
  • Billy tells a baseball scout who criticises his strategy to ‘adapt or die’. It’s true. The world changes, your competition changes and you have a choice to adapt or to die.
  • Know what success looks like and celebrate it.

So watch it for yourself. It’s got a great song at the end that made me cry a little bit and proved me wrong. You can get romantic about baseball.

Here’s to the crazy ones

I surprised myself last week how upset I was when I heard that Steve Jobs had died. It’s been hard to digest all that has been written about Steve in the last week. For me, the 1997 Apple advert The Crazy Ones’ just about sums it up. So I’m sharing it here.

Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.

I believe that Steve Jobs was a crazy one. And he changed the world. Thank you Steve.

Will you donate just £1 for my birthday?

So its my birthday, I’m another year older. 38. How has this happened? Seems like only yesterday I was hanging out at Virginia Water Lakes with Stan Gower in my knee socks and sandals.

My priorities have changed a bit over the years. These days I’m a marketers dream; anything that says anti gravity or anti ageing or age defying and I’m there.  Can’t get enough.

This birthday I have to admit that I have been very impressed with the direct marketing I have received. Lots of organisations are helping me celebrate. Facebook Causes are onto me and even Next are offering me £5 off my ‘birthday’ order. This is a big improvement from the birthday direct mail I used to get a few years ago.

From about 1997-2003 I used to get mail from one of those companies that take free ‘glamour’ shots of you in Vaseline edged lenses and then charge you hundreds of pounds for the prints. I think they were featured on Watchdog once.  Every year the letter started, Dear *Harriet, Have you ever wanted to look really beautiful like the models in the magazines…? one year the letter made me cry real tears.

So my point? I’m getting to it. I treat my birthday like many people treat New Year, as an opportunity to reflect on what has happened in the last 12 months and hatch fresh plans for the future.

So this year I have been thinking about who has inspired me. Who has made an impact on my life. One such person is Simon Berry.

Simon and his partner Jane are the inspiration behind Colalife, a charity that hopes to be able to use Cokes distribution networks to get vital medicines out to rural areas in Africa in order to save lives. Simon and Jane have given up their day jobs and are about to move to Africa to get the Zambia Colalife pilot up and running. Awesome.

So, if you were thinking of buying me a birthday present, and actually even if you weren’t, please can you help Simon and Jane help children who are dying in Africa because they don’t have access to basic medicines that you and I take for granted.

Please sponsor the Colalife cyclists Nigel and Bill who are cycling 400 kilometres across Normandy to raise a target of £6,000  to save lives. So help them out.  You can sponsor them here. 

Just £1 will fill an AidPod with simple medicines to help a mother in rural Zambia rehydrate her child and save her child’s life (there are only 70 retail pharmacies in the whole of Zambia – and public clinics can be a 20 kilometre walk from home).

You can also tell your friends on Facebook and Twitter and perhaps some of them will donate £1 too. Or maybe more…….

So together we can help save lives. We don’t need to look beautiful like the models in the magazines. We just need to make a difference. Right now.

That’s all.

*yes according to my passport Harriet is my first name.

A story of fish and focus

Imagine the scene, a small Mediterranean island, miles of beautiful beaches, warm sunshine, fragrant olive groves and a scattering of tavernas serving local, fresh food and wine.

A businessman on holiday strolls along the port and is fascinated by a fishermen hauling in his catch.

Noting the quality of the fish, the businessman asked the fisherman how long it had taken to catch them.
 “Not very long.” answered the fisherman.

“Then, why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?” asked the businessman.

The fisherman explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.
 The businessman asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”
 “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, have a nap in the afternoon under a palm tree. In the evenings, I see my friends and family, have a few beers, play the drums, and sing a few songs….. I have a full and happy life.” replied the fisherman.

The businessman ventured, “I can help you…… If you fished longer every day, you could sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you could buy a bigger boat. With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you could buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have a large fleet. Instead of selling your fish to a middleman, you could negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You could then leave this little island and move to a city, from where you could direct your huge enterprise.”

“How long would that take?” asked the fisherman.

“Oh, ten, maybe twenty years.” replied the businessman.

“And after that?” asked the fisherman.

“After that? “When your business gets really big,’ replied the businessman “you can start selling shares in your company and make millions!”

“Millions? Really? And after that?” pressed the fisherman.

“After that you’ll be able to retire, move out to a small island, sleep in late every day, spend time with your friends and family, go fishing, take afternoon naps under a palm tree……”

I love this story. Sometimes, on the treadmill of daily life its easy to lose sight of the important stuff. The stuff that doesn’t really matter like the latest Apple gadget, expensive fashions, a bigger house or a bigger boat.

Are you swept along by what you think others think and expect of you? Or are you doing what you are passionate about and enjoy? Take a deep breath and think about what is important. Now focus on achieving that.

If you like this you might also like

Fish! – Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul, John Christensen, Ken Blanchard

The Fred Factor – Mark Sanborn

The Element – Sir Ken Robinson

The Four Hour Working Week – Tim Ferris 

Are you an Eater or a Baker? The Art of Enchantment

For me the word ‘enchantment’ conjures up images of scenes straight out of a fairy tale; beautiful princesses, handsome princes, mysterious breadcrumb trails, charmed forests and magic spells.

Guy Kawasakis latest book ‘Enchantment’ explains all the tactics you need to enchant in real life.

‘Life itself is the most wonderful fairy tale’ Hans Christian Andersen

Guy defines enchantment as the process of delighting people with a product, service, organisation or idea. Enchantment is also about inspiring action and changing hearts and minds. Guys’ theory is that if we enchant, we will be more successful at ‘getting things done’ and as a result we can make more of a difference.

So to me enchantment sounds like it could be another word for fundraising.

Enchantment is a quick read and a checklist full of practical tips and stories that will help you to become an enchanter; from realising your passions and goals, use of positive language, building rapport, telling stories, tactics to nudge people to choose a preferred solution, overcoming fear and resistance, practicing your genuine smile and a formula for the perfect handshake (yes a formula!).

Key to the philosophy of Enchantment is building relationships and always considering, in any interaction, how you can help others. I love Guy’s analogy that people fall into two camps; you are either an eater or a baker.

  • Eaters want a bigger slice of an existing pie.
  • Bakers want to make a bigger pie.
  • Eaters think that if they win, you lose, and if you win, they lose.
  • Bakers think that everyone can win with a bigger pie.
  • True enchanters are bakers

Twitter, where anyone can provide news and updates and Google making advertising accessible to small businesses are examples of organisations with a bigger pie philosophy.

So team, are you an eater or a baker? I dare you to take some action, get baking, and make your life, and the lives of others more enchanting.

If you like the sound of enchantment you may also like the following;

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard – Chip and Dan

Heath Delivering Happiness – Tony Hsieh

Nudge – Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness Richard H Thaler, Cass R Sunstein

Whoever Tells The Best Story Wins – Annette Simmons

The Book of Awesome – Neil Pasricha

Confessions of a Public Speaker – Scott Berkun

 

Change is the natural state for the earth – it will never be finished

On Friday I went to Down House, the former home of Charles Darwin. Down House is a stunning property with beautiful gardens and a museum of Darwin’s life.

Apparently Darwin wrote The Origin of the Species here; his controversial masterpiece introducing his theory of evolution rather than the perceived wisdom of the time of divine creation, i.e. that life is designed by some divine power.

“Change is the natural state for the earth – it will never be finished.” Darwin

Darwin did not conceive his theory of evolution by natural selection in a vacuum. He was a collector of ideas, things and theories. He considered and developed his thoughts over a period of time, many of which were inspired and consolidated by his findings on his epic voyage of discovery aboard The H.M.S Beagle’.

Some ideas that fed Darwin’s imagination included;

  • Economic theories of supply and demand
  • The theory that scarcity led to competition between individuals for survival and that war disease and famine prevent over population.
  • Calculations by a number of scholars that the earth was indeed very old. In the 1600s Bishop James Usser calculated from the Bible that the earth was created on 24 October 4004 BC. (Love the specific date of 24 October!)
  • Fossils being proof that other species formerly existed and that they must have either died out or changed significantly.

The Origin of the Species was published 1859, the result of two decades of careful and cautious thought. Darwin delayed making his theory public for nearly 20 years. He knew that his view that life was not designed by a divine power would be controversial. Darwin wanted to have clear thoughts on how to counter arguments and he spent time evidencing his theory in a number of ways.

For example he investigated how plants spread from place to place. He immersed seeds in salt water for long periods to see if they could last the time it took to travel across the ocean and still germinate. He also sought opinions from a range of academic and professional disciplines.

As Darwin predicted, many were passionately opposed to the concept of evolution of the species. Including Emma, his wife who was deeply concerned by Darwin’s lack of religious faith.

My particular favourite opposition to the theory of evolution is based on the watchmaker argument. The watchmaker argument is that if you found something as complex as a watch lying on a path you would assume that someone had designed it. Therefore complex living things must have been designed. Brilliant.

I would place Darwin in the innovators of all time category for several reasons.

1. He had a sense of natural curiosity and bravely asked “why?”  – to challenge fundamental beliefs on creation itself.

2. He was a collector of things, theories and ideas. He wasn’t a lone genius, it was the combination of these ideas that inspired his first thoughts of the theory of evolution.

3. He was brave, even though it took him 20 years to share his thoughts and findings.

4. He was inspired by Rev John Stevens Henslow (1796-1861) who was a professor of Botany at Cambridge. Henslow advised his students to go out and ‘observe for themselves’.

5. He found a subject for which he had a passion and natural aptitude.

6. He remained focussed and continued to experiment to prove his theories after Origin of the Species was published.

Darwin described life as a constant struggle for survival. More creatures are born than the worlds resources can sustain. Any individual with an advantage over its fellows would be more likely to endure long enough to reproduce and pass on advantages to the next generation. Brutally described; those who did not adapt to circumstance will perish. Life is survival of the fittest.

So if we apply Darwin’s theory to business evolution.  Business is then also survival of the fittest. Those companies that cannot adapt to circumstance will perish. That’s why if companies are going to be successful, and survive they have to be innovative. They must be able to change to be better than their competitors and adapt to the needs of the customer and the marketplace environment in which they live.

Ask yourself – Are you adapting to survive in your environment?

If you are interested in this you may also like

Origin of the Species – Charles Darwin

The Element – Sir Ken Robinson

Where Do Good Ideas Come From – Steven Johnson 

My Groupon story…….”But they still whip up an amazing fish curry”

From half price pedicures to cheap jive lessons to exclusive restaurant deals, Groupon offers you daily deals in your local area. The deal only activates if enough people sign up, encouraging customers to promote the deals and the collective buying power guarantees the merchant a minimum amount of business. Groupon keeps half the money and the merchant gets the rest.

Groupon has been applauded for making this innovative business model work. On the face of it, it sounds like a win-win arrangement. The customer gets cheap stuff and the merchant gets increased sales and profile of their product.

However scratch under the surface and Groupon doesnt always provide the best experience for the consumer or the merchant.

Let me tell you my Groupon story….

My friend bought some Groupon vouchers for a fish pedicure as a Christmas present at Pasha Clinic in London. After a month of phoning an engaged line and sending regular emails into the ether in an attempt to redeem the vouchers before they expired, my friend was getting somewhat agitated.

The customer service team at Groupon who claim on the website that “Nothing is more important to us than treating our customers well.” Suggested she just keep trying.

Eventually, after six weeks she got through and had a rather heated conversation with Pasha Clinic who didn’t have any weekend availability before the voucher ran out. They did offer up a weekday lunchtime. Although she then added that if we had paid full price they could have found us an appointment. My friend ended up putting the phone down on the less than satisfactory response from Pasha Clinic. Then she received this email. I kid you not.

“you are extremely rude. i cancelled your name from our system.  you failed to provide proper details of your voucher and still blaming us on being late. You should be saying sorry for taking our time with your incopitance to provide basic voucher detail. you have no telephone manner at all.  it is sad that you live in the most civilised country but have no idea about being civilised.
you bougth a £9 worth treatment and vaiting to be treated like a queen. looser. now forward my mail to geoupon  so make sure you dont come back.”

Priceless.

Groupon were very apologetic about the above email and have given my friend Groupon credit for the vouchers. Presumably so she can waste another six weeks of her life chasing another great value deal. Bet she can’t wait.

I’ve got several points to make,

1. Firstly the customer service of Pasha Clinic is so terrible it’s practically comedy. Pasha Clinic I wont ever use you – even though your website looks quite good.

2. I’m sure that Pasha Clinic are not the only company to have been inundated by customers. (I understand that one coffee shop in Portland  was swamped with a stampede of over 1000 customers on the first day.) However, Groupon officials state that ‘deal’ subscriptions should be capped in advance to a reasonable number to deal with this situation.

3. Companies need to consider carefully what a Groupon deal means to their business; can they cope with the increased business, are the terms and conditions on the deal right, are they sure they are not actually driving themselves into bankruptcy?

4. However much of a mess merchants get themselves into there is no excuse for poor customer service and the above email.

5. The weather is getting warmer and my trotters are not up to scratch. And you know how important good trotters are to a lady.

I’d love to know if you have had a good or bad Groupon experience.

If you are interested in the Groupon phenomenon, Bob Phibbs the retail doctor has quite a lot to say on the matter too.

P.S. And while we are on the subject, Groupon recently made an ‘interesting’ Superbowl advert in which actor Timothy Hutton begins by making a plea for the people of Tibet before delivering the punch line: “But they still whip up an amazing fish curry” Groupon have apologized and the ad has been withdrawn but you can watch it here.

 

 

If you are alive and breathing there is still time

On Sunday 13 March I went to a School of Life Sunday Sermon. If singing Eye of the Tiger at 11 o clock on a Sunday morning with a hall full of strangers wasn’t enough, I also got to listen to Sir Ken Robinson talk about passion.

Ken asked us to think about the sequences of past incidents – and people who have had to meet in order for us to be here on this planet. To be born at all is a miracle – so, asks Ken, “what are you going to do with your life?”

Ken Robinson believes that everyone is born with extraordinary capability. The tragedy is that most people have no idea of what they are capable of so therefore don’t think they are capable of doing anything. As a result many people spend their entire lives doing things they don’t care for, plodding along at a life that they have merely a general tolerance for.

It all begins at school. The education system is linear, in that if you are not good at a core subject, for example maths you are thought to not be good generally. Innovation and creativity are stifled and teachers struggle to promote creativity, as they are uncertain of their own creative abilities.

Human beings are imaginative, as Ken puts it “it comes with the kit” Humans are always investigating something new, we are inherently curious about the world.

According to Ken, the secret of a fulfilled life is to find that something that you have passion for as well as a natural talent for. Simply being good at something isn’t a good enough reason to do it – you have to have passion too.

“The problem human beings face is not that we aim too high and fail, but that we aim to low and succeed.” Michelangelo

Ken delighted us with stories from his book ‘The Element’ of people who have found their talent and their passion and made a leap of faith to ensure that they do live a life they love.

Ken urges us all to get inspired to follow our dreams and find our personal passion to live our life. So what you going to do? Answers please.

If you are interested in this post, you may also like to read the following books.

The Element – Ken Robinson

Now Discover your Strengths – Marcus Buckingham

From Good to Great – Jim Collins

Business Beyond the Box –  John O’Keeffe

Linchpin – Seth Godin