Month: November 2012

Ace Ideas, Bad Ideas

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Does it do the job?  What it? Any it.  So does it do the job?

Well whatever it is, it had better do the job, that’s important, fundamental, a given.  Does it look good too?  Does that matter? Answer YES!

A great example of function + design = good, no scratch that, GREAT products is Dyson.  Yes, the vacuum cleaner company.  The company that designed the… funky ballbarrow, countless vacuum cleaners, the airblade hand-drying system and now the hot + cool fan heater.  Ballbarrow, now that’s a good one, perhaps his best.  Just think 5000 years on a wheel and hey presto an upgrade on the design.

Fantastic!

These days there are around 750 engineers designing products, building products and testing products.  They are the ones with the really bright ideas.  I’m certain that most of the ideas don’t make it off the page, but hey why not try?  Dyson uses the now familiar Japanese approach;  Sony invented the Walkman using the same process.  Invent loads of stuff, and I mean absolutly loads of stuff, the funkier, the more off the wall the better and that’s how Sony Corp. found the Walkman – Genius.  Yes but hey, how much stuff did they get through to get that one? I don’t know but it must have been a stack of stuff.

So Dyson believes in loads of inventions, getting things wrong, setting a course for the unanticipated, it’s a plan.  It’s an interesting approach, it took him 5127 prototypes and 15 years to perfect the bagless vacuum cleaner.  It was launched under the Dyson brand and called DC01 and within 2 years it was the best-selling vacuum cleaner in the UK.

His motivation… solve a problem, how to make a vacuum that didn’t lose suction.  Problems, life’s little ones, now they are the mother and father of invention.  If you are gonna be an inventor, an innovator begin with a problem and solve it good and proper.  Same approach with his new fan.  The problem how to have a fan that didn’t cause buffeting of the air flow.  Now let me tell you, I’ve been around a bit and slept in some not so high-class, hot and sticky places where air-con is not an option (a 5 Rupee a night Ashram on the top floor right next door to the meditation and yoga room as just one of them).  Enter the humble fan to keep you cool at night while you sleep (try to anyway), and sure enough the buffeting is annoying, so annoying you don’t actually sleep until you can’t possibly do anything but and by that point the fan doesn’t matter, so GO Dyson! Gets my vote.

Dyson also believes in youth.  Great idea that one, I couldn’t agree more, but…

You gotta make sure they know that it’s not just about research and theory.  They have gotta be creative, practical and not least inspiring to their fellow young designers.

So how would we generate young designers, engineers; when it would seem we are more than capable of having universities spilling over with media types but no engineers?

Well, it’s a concern, that much is true.  It’s actually down to the teachers, lectures, those who impart the knowledge.  They have gotta make it stimulating, its got to ignite the innate curiosity.  The subject has to stand apart.  In short its gonna have to attract the best, most creative, most open-minded, inquisitive types.  They gotta be allowed, no scratch that too, encouraged to pull things apart, de-construct, reverse engineer to see how things work, and more importantly how they could work better.  And when they get it (yes, could be any it) to work better, reward them, reward them well.

Its perseverance, not giving up when the world seems to be against you, that’s the point when you should push a little harder.  Just when everybody else is slowing down, they’ve got the answer, well that’s when you need to push through, try just a bit more.

So, does it do the job?  But, does it do the job better than the competion?  And, when its doing the job does it look good?

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Politics-Press-Banks; Secret State!

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Watching the UK Ch. 4 drama Secret State last night I was struck by the apparently freely open relationship between the PM and a journalist.  Far fetched?  Perhaps, but I can’t help thinking I’ve seen this story some where before.  Perhaps its something to do with the Levison report being published today. Or am I just a cynic?

I then read that Barclays have sacked 5 staff over LIBOR manipulation.  But… what about Bob Diamond? should he have been allowed to part on terms or like most folks sacked as well?

So that’s:

Politics – expenses

Press – intrusions

Banking – cheating

Secret State may have been a drama for TV but how often does fiction mimic real life?  Spooky I know.

I’d like to make a suggestion at this point.  The truth wont come out, we, the public, the every day Joe’s will NEVER know how things are really done.  But, and this is important, we don’t want to know either!  Everybody wants the Banks to do well, we can all benefit from that, yeah? Most people don’t pick-up a paper or read the latest on the internet and turn away, no they read on.  After all they’re celebrities are in the public eye so its okay yeah? And, nobody ever thinks that politicians are under paid but they are just like most people, given the opportunity they’ll do the best deal for themselves, yeah?

My suggestion is this, politicians earn plenty, but housing in London is a problem so provide accommodation free for those that need it.  I don’t mean give them an expenses allowance, I mean provide the house, apartment, room that is needed and when the MP is replaced give it to the next one to use.  Pay MP’s well, it will attract the brightest minds then.  High pay isn’t a motivator, but low pay (perceived anyway) sure is!  Perhaps a stay in some sort of Local Authority run housing will focus the minds of those making the decisions?

My suggestion is this, private life is private, even if they are public figures so leave what’s private alone and go for something really news worthy.  The general public is actually intelligent and they only read what’s there to read.  Perhaps a truly independent overseeing commission with powers to remove Editors, Staff and Publishers and/or to levy really heavy fines and award compensation might just focus the minds of those deciding to publish?

My suggestion is this, banks deal with money, measure performance in money, see the solution to any problem as an expression of money.  Banks lend money, provide a place to save money, sell financial products to guard against risk and gamble money.  Split them up!  Lending/Saving Bank, Financial Products Bank, Gambling Bank.  And if they are insolvent, LET THEM GO BUST!  It’s a business just like any other.  Perhaps the prospect of real failure, you know the kind where you actually do lose everything might just focus the minds of those making those decisions with somebody elses money?

Now you might think I’m some kind of raving lefty and you’re entitled to your opinion, I don’t know where or how I’d describe myself on that kind of a spectrum.  But all I’d actually really like to know I can lead my life in relative safety knowing that those who want to be in control are in control and that they can control.  I don’t need the detail, I’m not an expert, never will be, but the rules need to be set.  The true failing is not the behavior of politicians, press and bankers it’s actually the rule makers who made the wrong rules and then didn’t enforce them.

Caveman Software – Helliday Shopping

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I was thinking the other day about the typical responses people make to circumstances as they happen and I realised that we (humans that is) are still programmed on Caveman Software.  To illustrate:

Q.  Why are we fatter than ever before (in the western developed countries at least anyway)?

A. Caveman Software, we eat too much and don’t do enough, our bodies are tuned to fat, it stores it, if we starve ourselves it stores it even more and then it makes us think it tastes nice.  Our lives are sedentary not like when we were cavemen, hunting, gathering and running away from things that might eat us!

Q. Why do men show-off when a pretty women is in the room (this probably doesn’t happen if they are married and their wife is present, but not always, see the divorce rates in the West)?

A. Caveman Software, men are trying (and yes ladies in some cases it really is subconscious, they can’t help themselves) to attract a mate, essential when you wanted to make babies & there was a shortage of appropriate mates, but not so much these days perhaps.

Q. Why are women such good home makers (I know men do home making as well but my wife does it better than me, and you’ll never know what it takes to admit I’m not the best at absolutely everything)?

A. Caveman Software, women would stay at home and rear the children, cook and generally look after the weaker members of the community.  There were no machines around to help.

So you see we remain on Caveman Software, an upgrade is needed, soon, quick, now!

Looking to the future is one gonna happen any time soon? I don’t think so actually.  But does that prevent us from moderating our behaviour? Well, no actually.  We could, because we are intelligent enough (yes that’s right I mean YOU!), we could think a bit more, not much but yes a bit more.  Take that time, the time you would normally be humming that tuneless tune, the annoying one, the one that just wont get out of your head to stop, think and then act.  You are not a bull, but you are in a china shop so to speak.  If you think like that you’ll notice the improvement soon, I promise.

Right, so you’re now thinking, it doesn’t hurt does it? No I didn’t think so. Now you have to shop for those festive essentials, presents (be generous) without the need to be violent, verbally is bad, physically is really bad and physically with verbal violence, that’s the worst (might even get you locked-up).  Remember, Christmas is a time of giving and it’s just around the corner, next month actually, about 4 weeks.

Car Parks, don’t stop and wait for the woman to put the car seat in, then strap her child in, then put the shopping in the car, then get herself in and eventually move off.  You do this and the queue of really angry drivers behind you will bring the car park to a chaotic standstill.  Instead move on, find another space, be calm, don’t let the red mist descend.  Find a space, pay the fee (I know it will be far more than it was last week, but hey its still gonna be less than next week so who’s the winner?) park and shop.

My advice is go early, really early, the earlier the better.  Go on a Sunday as well.  Go before the churches empty, before the rest of them are out of bed after the Saturday night blow-out and shop fast.  No stopping, no hesitation, be generous.

At last it’ll be over, done for another year.

Give your presents with grace and kindness.  I know you paid more than you would have liked, but you will forget that bit (that’s Caveman Software kicking in again, so ignore those feelings anyway).  Enjoy the day, once a year aint gonna kill you.

Remember Caveman Software got us to where we are today, so it aint all bad.  You just gotta learn how to operate the functions to get the best out of it.  As soon as an upgrade becomes available, get your hands on it, you need it.

Actions & Doctrines

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Actions and doctrines must show some coherence, you must never abandon your principles for the prospect of temporary gain. This is true in business as it is in life generally. Friendship will always outweigh diplomacy, it will outweigh strategy and it will outweigh straightforward commercial offers, now, then and afterwards.

So what am I actually saying here?

Well simple really, make friends. Make friends socially, in business, in politics, in fact any time you get the chance make friends. They will come in handy and they will be supportive I guarantee. Friends make the deal right, they make it happen and they make it easier, I guarantee.

Your actions should, no must be such that they can, will, do foster friendship. Your doctrines should, must be based on developing, fostering and keeping friendships. This is the only way you can get to a happy agreement. The only way, I guarantee. This is sustainable, long lived, future proofed and will if you work at it will bring prosperity, benefit to both, all concerned, I guarantee.

So coherence, what’s that all about?

Well if you’re applying this in the workplace, in your business you will have policies for how you conduct business. If you don’t then you need some, soon, I mean real quick, like right away. Your policy should say what you are gonna do and how. So this should be reflected in your actions. Now if it doesn’t then sooner or later (I suggest sooner is going to be the case) you are going to put out the wrong message, and that’s just confusing. Worse still you won’t be encouraging friendship, and that’s gonna cost, time, money and then some. I guarantee.

Actions & Doctrines make them coherent.

Demand for Quality

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I was reading over the weekend about the BlackBerry 10 OS launch for the end of Jan. 2013.  At first a surprising date, they miss the Christmas retail rush for new hand-sets and tablets but then I read deeper and was really impressed by the fully thought through strategic value proposition they are going to be making.

Remarkable!

In fact I’m waiting for the BB ‘L’ series launch.  I’ve always been a Nokia man, I have an N8.  Great camera but the phone itself is passe, an also ran.  Having recently purchased a PlayBook I was wowed by this piece of technology for £129.00 inc. vat each.

Remarkable!

So I’m looking forward to the BlackBerry London and will switch, I assure you.

BlackBerry have made it clear they are not going to compete at the low-end of the market, it’s not what they do.  This could be a death knell but I don’t think so, in fact I’m going to be buying some stocks and just watch them go!  This is a clear statement of intent, a vision, a mission, A STRATEGY NO LESS!

Now… looking at bakery trends in Switzerland (a great leap this one I know, but we supply the bakery industry with industrial/commercial bakeware and refurbishment services), the Swiss demand quality for food stuffs.  However, price is increasingly becoming the differentiator for rival retailers, German discounters Aldi and Lidl now have a firm presence in Switzerland.

The differences in price from budget to premium can no longer be supported, the premium product with the higher prices is not being purchased, the gap in quality is not sufficient to support the higher price.  In fact COOP have been undercutting the discounters in a bid to shed any image as a high-price retailer.  They are boosting efficiency through centralised production and distribution, automation and job losses as a result.  But importantly they are not reducing the quality to the lowest level possible, it’s a mid-market offering at a lower than discount price!

Aryzat (the worlds largest baker) are also restructuring along the same lines; centralised production and distribution, automation and job losses.

We are plainly in an age (but it wont last for ever) where quality is demanded, expected but the battleground is price when it comes to sales or are we?  The BlackBerry strategy may just demonstrate that it’s still to do with who you are, what you are selling and who to.  In short where markets are mature, fragmented and commoditized you are gonna have to compete on price, NO OTHER OPTIONS APPLY!  If on the other hand you have a product which retains its uniqueness, its special appeal you could go the niche route.

You get to choose.  Make the right choise and future secure for now (yes you are gonna have to keep doing this you know), make the wrong choise and its all over, right now, no going back, no re-runs, that’s it.

If you are going to head down the low price route a word of warning….

Think of your business as if it were a bridge; customer requirements on the one side and delivery of the product and/or service on the other.  You lower operating cost’s to point where you have removed all of the structural redundancy of the bridge, in other words you stop investing in your business, cut cost’s.  You begin the process of delivery, if what you are aiming to deliver is within the remaining, existing capability and never any more you are gonna be okay.  If on the other hand you try to overstretch your business, over-load the bridge, it will collapse.  I absolutely promise you this!

Low price will often mean a lot of re-organisation and investment before you go on the low price journey, so be prepared, be ready because its gonna be painful.

Sometimes it could just be better to do what you do, do it really well and sell it at a price that is justifiable.

The Drama of Work!

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Although I work in a manufacturing and processing environment my work is never-the-less emotional.  How could it be anything but?  It has no profound relationship to the events of my life outside of work, but the emotions I feel can and often do reflect the emotional currents of my life, they spill over.  I try to work at some point every day, because it can be a refuge from those every day emotions.

When you are going through a broken love affair, the death of somebody close, or some other disorder in your life, then you need a refuge, mine is work.  However, when desperation comes of a near-catastrophic nature then you are paralyzed, even at work.

Because it is important, if my work is interrupted I’m like a raging ocean, tall, unruly and tempered.  It angers me so.  You see work is emotional, its dramatic.

When you are at work you are a parody of yourself, even though you feel the emotional pull and pull again of the days events.  You can only afford to ever show just part of yourself, you are an actor acting the part you play at work.  You go to work and get the habit, you stay on as it were.  You have formed an emotional tie the work itself, the people, those acting their part in the play of work, you are bonded to them, bonded to the work.

Work is a drama, a tragedy, thriller, comedy… and you play but a small part in the production.

My advice to those young managers and leaders:  don’t bore your work colleagues!  I mean even if you have to resort to totally arbitrary instructions, or pointless tasks, at least keep your team awake, captivated.  Just keep on going any way you can.  The work, the show must and will go on.  Be a part of it, aim to play the principle whenever you get the chance!

The Human Spirit is not Static

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Promote your most dynamic, the ones who have gained familiarity especially the ones who gain it quickly.  Promote them, promote them quickly, promote them now, especially now when the economic situation appears difficult.  They will be stars, your stars and like stars some will shine brightly and some will burn out quickly but promote them you must.

Look for those who have a relaxed charm, lucidity, an easy unfazed communicator, because communication is central to what you do, what you make, how you serve, in short your business.  Communication is key, the only thing that actually matters in the end.  They should be cool, the cooler the better, self-assuredness is good, its darn good actually because people listen and if they’re a great communicator…. you get the idea.

They are gonna have to be able to think quickly, and if at all possible they should be witty too.  A bit of humour will make a good impression, keep people listening, get their attention.  Be witty means that what they are communicating will be listened to and if they’re a great communicator…. you get the idea.

If the person is young (and they will be I assure you) you are gonna have to give them a jolt, a shot of reality.  They are going to be think to themselves they are indestructible… well they aint and its your responsibility, duty even to jolt them and make sure they keep it real.  These guys are going to be telling your story, making sure that the world knows what you have to say, what you have to sell, the product you offer, the service you provide and they are gonna have to communicate, be listened to.  Being down to earth will mean that they communicate the truth and communicating the truth is important, they are going to be listened to and if they’re a great communicator…. you get the idea.

You cannot under-estimate the power of communication and if you have great communicators in your team they are going to communicate.  So you must, absolutely must make sure they communicate truthfully and accurately.  that they communicate the vision, the mission and that they communicate what you are good at, great at, really great at.  They should be stars, shine bright and have some longevity but they should also have breadth, be able to communicate your offering across a range.  Intuition, look for this, important this.  Life experience, look for this, valuable this.

What should they be communicating:

  1. They should be able to persuade your potential customers and employees that you can be trusted
  2. They should be able to present the plans as better alternatives to your competition
  3. They should be able to help guide the organisation
  4. They should be able to prove they are clever with great communication skills

If people can’t trust the integrity of your organisation, then regardless of how great a product or service you have to offer, they wont do business with you.

The Human Spirit is not Static so pick your stars well and often.