Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Apples & Apples

Steve Jobs has officially stepped aside as CEO of Apple, handing over the reins to COO Tim Cook and taking up the role of Chairman. It’s a move I felt would be good for everyone earlier in the year when Jobs was having more health problems, and hopefully it will make life easier for a brilliant man.

The question everyone’s asking is whether Apple will still have the incredible vision it took to invent or reinvent whole product categories – inspired creations that make Apple one of the world’s most valuable companies. Does Apple have another Blue Ocean thinker?

To be fair, only time will tell if Apple can keep reimagining our lives and growing its bottom line. But I’d prefer to be radically optimistic. And a good reason to be upbeat is this article from Fast Company. It points out that although there are some clear differences between Steve Jobs and Tim Cook as leaders, there are also some important similarities: notably that emotion and intuition play a key role in their approach to life and business. Steve Jobs is incomparable, but at this level the leadership shift is an Apples and Apples match up, a good fit and a great foundation for the future. All the best Tim & Steve.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Roots & Wings

Here’s a brand with a recipe for success. Take high quality, 100% organic ingredients. Harness the power of the collective, employing artisans all over the UK to make your products to exacting standards. Add passion (be liberal with it). Soak in family values. Take it to the market. Then give away 10% of your profits to children’s charities nominated by your inspirational consumers.

Roots & Wings Organic is the name of this irresistible organic brand, making everything from biscuits to body care, soups to sausages. At the heart of their business is the proverb that says the best things in life you can give your children are roots for confidence and stability, and wings for aspiration. And they deliver – Roots & Wings products have been doing nicely at the Great Taste Awards (which have been dubbed the culinary equivalent of the Baftas). Principled, purposeful and participation-driven from producer to consumer. This is a concept born to fly.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Four Splendid Truths of Happiness

Last week I mused on happiness. Here are Four Splendid Truths from someone else who’s given this emotion a lot of thought – Gretchen Rubin is the best-selling author behind The Happiness Project, the memoir of a year spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, scientific studies and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. So, from a feel-good guru:
  1. To be happier, you have to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right in an atmosphere of growth. This is about nurturing certain feelings but as Gretchen points out the sense of growth – learning, advancing, getting better at something – is also key. Purpose and achievement are a big part of happiness.
  2. One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.
  3. The days are long, but the years are short. This is a call to live in the Now – to see what Gretchen means check out her one minute movie here.
  4. You’re not happy unless you think you’re happy: You’re happy if you think you’re happy.
Feels good to me – have a happy day!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Do You Want To Be Happy?

Why do we make choices that we don’t think will make us happy? It’s a question economists from Cornell University have been grappling with, according to The Telegraph.

The question they put to people was whether they’d prefer to take a job with modest pay with the prospect of getting more sleep, or a much higher paying role with “unusual hours” and six hours sleep max. Most chose option B. And more chose it than said they expected it would make them happy.

Why? Some chose the more demanding job because they thought it would make their family happier. Others felt it would give them a greater sense of purpose in life, or better social standing.

One big implication, according to a PhD student involved in the study, is that governments thinking about designing policies to make people happy might end up thrusting something on people they wouldn’t choose for themselves. It wouldn’t be the first time!

But it feels like there’s more to this. Most of the motivations people had for choosing the more demanding option were things that would make them happy anyway. Like the happiness of others. Or a meaningful job. Or being recognized for making a difference.

It just happens they weren’t pursuing happiness as a goal in itself. Which is probably the secret to finding the deepest happiness you can get.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How To Change The World

In his latest book How to Change the World award-winning author and journalist David Bornstein identifies the attributes that define a highly successful social entrepreneur. Here they are – some refreshing wisdom for would-be world changers:

Be willing to self-correct – it takes a combination of hard-headedness, humility, and courage to stop and correct yourself. The social entrepreneur’s inclination to self-correct is tied to the goal rather than the approach or the plan.

Be willing to share credit – in the wise words of Bornstein, “There is no limit to what you can achieve if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

Be willing to break free of established structure – the word “entrepreneur” originates from the French language, and means “to take into one’s own hands.” Look at what is around you, the structures you work within, and the routines that you participate in and consider where you can break free.

Be willing to cross disciplinary boundaries – a primary function of the social entrepreneur is to serve as a kind of social alchemist: create new social compounds; gather people’s ideas, experiences, skills, and resources in configurations that society is not naturally aligned to produce. Simply put, think and act differently!

Be willing to work quietly – Bornstein cites a thought from Jean Monnet, who orchestrated the European Unification: there are those who want to “do something” and those who want to “be someone.” The few who create deep impact more often fall into the first category.

Strong ethical impetus – successful social entrepreneurs aren’t fuelled by a drive to become famous or wealthy, but rather a desire to restore justice in society and to address social problems. This belief is not only evident in their work, but in how they live their lives.

Most of this is about character. Change has always started with the man or woman in the mirror. As Bornstein points out, more than anything else it’s the spirit of the social entrepreneur – their beliefs, attitudes and values – that creates a better world for everyone.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fortune Favours The Brave

The economic forecast for life post GFC was low and slow growth, a trend ringing true across tills of retailers around the world. This downturn in retail land has led to a greater reliance on price-based bargains to entice consumers back in store, and in turn a greater expectation among consumers that price determines where, how, what and when to purchase.

This consumer desire for bargains is a trap to test the mettle of premium brands. Slashing prices doesn’t just mean sacrificing margins in the interests of short-term survival – play in this space for too long and you trade away hard-won brand equity and compromise your prospects over the long-term. Premium positioning gives way to parity with lesser peers, and loyalty that is tied to a price point.

For the brave there’s another response to tough times – to run against the grain, invest and innovate, shift beyond price and reason and engage consumers with new experiences that are even more mysterious, intimate and sensual.

A nice example is luxury and sports eyewear group Luxottica’s Eye Hub retail store launched last year. It took two years of research to create, and involved studying both what customers’ want and what they don’t.

The store is laid out like an eyeball and is designed to give you a taste of what your new rims might look and feel like in any conditions, sporting wind machines, a treadmill, and technology that simulates snow and water glare. 41 touch screens serve as cameras and mirrors for shoppers to check out the frames and play back their own look. At the store’s epicentre is the ‘iris,’ home to the most expensive brands, displayed like a rare wine vault.

The Eye Hub also includes dedicated areas for education and research on eye conditions and prescriptions. Luxottica’s global CEO, Andrea Guerra, describes the store as an experiment, explaining that the world is changing fast, and thoughts have to be bold.

Sounds right to me. Of course being bold and counter cyclical comes with a greater risk – if your investment doesn’t work you fall harder and there’s less to land on. But the alternative is a slow death by discount. As Neil Young once said it’s better to burn out than to fade away. Bravo to the visionary eyewear company.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Melissa Power Of Love

Revolution starts with language, and when you add creativity, connectivity, encouragement and lots of love it’s amazing what’s possible.

Here’s a nice stop-motion animation example, 350,000 post-it notes leaping for love in São Paulo, Brazil, a country on the rise that’s going to change things.

Post-it notes are an instant canvas for spontaneous creativity and story telling. With so little space, it has to be simple, clear and beautiful. We put five of them at the end of each chapter of the Lovemarks books for “Five things to do tomorrow”.

As one post-it storyteller notes: “It is a little window into a different world, made on office supplies.” All hail the humble post-it note.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

FOMO Me

Imagine right now how you would feel if your mobile phone went MIA. Lost? Isolated? Naked? Disconnected and de-scheduled you might even feel liberated for a while ... but then comes FOMO!

Urban Dictionary defines FOMO as the ‘Fear Of Missing Out’, that creeping sensation you get when you’re out of the loop. FOMO was an apt title for the latest album by Liam Finn (son of Neil Finn of Crowded House and Split Enz fame), created in a studio isolated from friends soaking up the New Zealand summer sun.

FOMO is inextricably linked to the idea of opportunity cost – we don’t want to miss out on something we are passionate about, or that our friends are involved with. Research suggests that this state of consciousness is becoming entrenched in our lives, fuelled by always-on digital content and telecommunication. Participation is our priority, driven by an online environment that is available 24/7/365 and responsible for creating introductions, opportunities, sparking imaginations and fostering ideas.

FOMO is debilitating for some but can also be empowering as a motivation to reach out and be part of something else. In an age when a new revolution of one kind or another is born every minute it’s likely that you are missing out on something. So use FOMO as a driver to create connections, share and thrive. Better yet, make generating FOMO in others an aspiration, a benchmark for a truly compelling cause, movement, business or brand. Don’t just get my attention. Grab me by the heartstrings. FOMO me.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Yes In My Back Yard

The term ‘Not in My Back Yard’ or NIMBY has become almost ubiquitous in developing urban centers the world over. Perhaps it’s the extent to which we’ve experienced the NIMBY mentality that has given rise to YIMBY – a cause initially dedicated to the creation of sustainable housing.

YIMBY is now catching the world over, probably because saying YES to something is so much more liberating than just telling people what you don’t want.

YIMBY is about working together to create a shared voice that advocates for smarter, more efficient urban design. YIMBYs are on a mission to create urban environments that people want to live, work and play in.

YIMBYs want to create a positive voice in the urban design debate. They view urban development not as a problem but as an opportunity. If something is not right, rather than just shouting it down their view is to create and offer an alternative – their ideology is about creating constructive solutions.

YIMBYs like growth and the challenges that new urbanism presents. They also take the opportunity to welcome new neighbors into their community. Fundamentally, YIMBYs want to see architecture regain its lost role in the planning, design and creation of urban environments.

It’s a philosophy that is infectious, and offers a lot to learn from. Community meets constructive creativity and positive affirmation. Better cities anyone? Yes, yes, yes.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

We’re Not Alone

Scientists have discovered what’s known as a Trojan, a small asteroid that shares our orbit, diligently forging ahead of us as we circle the sun. Mars has a few. So does Neptune. Jupiter has nearly 5,000. Ours is three football fields across and leads us through space by about 50 million miles. At the same time it moves backwards and forwards in a crazy elliptical pattern, sometimes getting closer, sometimes quite a lot further away. Sketch out the rings and you get a fantastic cosmic fingerprint.

Unimaginatively our Trojan has been called 2010 TK7 (apparently you have to wait until you’ve got a better feel for its orbit before you can give it a real name). I feel a re-brand coming on. What do you think earth’s new friend should be called?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Daddy Cool – A Man of Many Firsts

The NY Times ran a great story recently on the pioneer of keeping things cool. Some 109 years ago Dr Willis H. Carrier invented the first modern air conditioning unit, a device he would later perfect and which would become an everyday part of our lives.

As a child he struggled with math, in particular fractions, and it was his mother who would slice apples into segments and teach him how to add and subtract the parts. This would later play a central role in his creation of the air conditioning unit.

The idea for Carrier’s defining invention came from a left field. He was asked to somehow control the temperature and moisture content of a Brooklyn, N.Y. printing plant, a challenge he did manage to master. This in itself was an achievement, but it was Carrier’s tenacity that created a global industry.

The printing plant was just the beginning, and set Carrier on a path to hone his creation and adapt it for countless applications. It took another 12 years before the Father of Cool installed his first air conditioning unit for the home. This was followed by many other firsts – the first air conditioning unit in a department store, a movie theatre, an office building, a ship, a railroad car, the chambers of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, even the bus from Baghdad to Damascus.

Carrier’s story exemplifies how great business improves lives everywhere and makes the world a better place. The key ingredients for aspiring entrepreneurs: an unrelenting passion for solving problems, creativity, courage, perseverance and a dream.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The New Sounds of Protest

Sometimes it’s simplicity that best captures our imagination. Facing its own financial crisis and a major clamp down on public protest, calls for reform among Belarus’ anti-government protesters has given rise to a new sound of protest – first organized ‘clapping’ and now, synchronized mobile phone alarms.

Highlighted in a recent NYT article – the clamp down of ‘clapping protests’ has resulted in more than 1,830 protestors’ being detained since June. More than 500 have received prison sentences of between 5 to 15 days. The extent of the situation was illustrated in court recently when a protestor – defending police claims of clapping – raised to the judge his one arm.

The response? Welcome to “mobile phone action”, engineered via social media channels. Young flash mob groups converge on the streets, then at the appointed time their mobile phone alarms sound simultaneously. It leaves officials stumped – is this is in fact a protest? Who is responsible? What action can be taken?

History has taught us that protest doesn’t need to be complicated to be profound – it can be as simple as sitting down in a public place (or throwing a shoe!). The power of protest lies in simple human communication. Add just a little creativity and expressing yourself becomes irresistible – and irrepressible.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Business of Football

Here’s another initiative from my home county of Lancashire.

Burnley Football Club (long loved by Labour PR Specialist Alastair Campbell who was tweeting away at the Saatchi 40th birthday party last year) is opening UCFB, the College of Football Business at its Turf Moor ground. This is a great idea. Sport is the 8th biggest business in the world and football is growing exponentially, particularly in the UK where the Barclays Premier League is driving astonishing financial returns. (My younger son, Dan, is hoping to join Manchester City to use his digital/planning/production skills and is also hoping to do a Master’s Degree at FIFA.) For Burnley to take this initiative from its small grassroots community is terrific. I’m sure Manchester City are thinking of also putting significant investment into the grassroots and the development of the game in Manchester and I hope that Auckland University will take a similar position on Rugby Union in New Zealand.

Sport has now become a major business and is a way people can marry their passion with their expertise to fulfill their ambitions off the field as well as on it.

Lancashire Life magazine welcomed Burnley’s initiative and said that they hoped there would be modules on:

a) how to understand what Sir Alex Ferguson is saying,
b) how to tie your scarf like Roberto Mancini.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Restoring Treasures

One of my favorite hotels is the Hotel de L’Europe in Amsterdam. It is owned by Heineken and is on the Amstel just across the river from the famous brewery. Legend has it that the freshest Heineken in the world is drunk at Freddy’s Bar in the Hotel de L’Europe. (Either because it is pumped there secretly under the river or they get daily deliveries.)

The hotel has been completely restored and I stayed there last month. Every room has reproductions of Dutch masters from the nearby Rijksmusuem on display and there is a new all suite Dutch Master’s extensions which has apartments and lofts to rent. The dining room and bars are first class and the service has to be seen to be believed.

It’s great to see the restoration on an old Master.

And, talking about restoration of old Master’s, a new Daniel Silva book is out featuring my favorite hero, Gabriel Allon, Italian restoration expert and intelligence operative – see his dossier here. Portrait of a Spy – it’s not to be missed.

Monday, August 8, 2011

No, Really, That’s It

A few weeks ago I wrote about the rediscovery of a lost rainbow toad in the mountains of Borneo. Here’s another magical amphibian from that fertile haven, discovered about a year ago. Microhyla nepenthicola (a name that seems far too long for a creature this small) grows to only the size of a pea. Which explains why its existence had been overlooked until now. Scientists were only able to find it by tuning in their ears, listening carefully for the frog’s distinctive call. Discovery News has a nice description of their twilight song: 

The frogs normally start singing around dusk, making a series of harsh rasping notes that last for a few minutes, followed by brief intervals of silence. This "amphibian symphony" goes on from sundown until peaking in early evening.


Funnily enough like the rainbow toad this was another case of rediscovery – the frogs had been found before, but were always assumed to have been juveniles of larger cousins. Maybe there’s another principle of discovery here: sometimes listening is better than (over)-looking. And sometimes cool things really do come in ultra-small packages.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Super Shifts (2)

Yesterday I posted five super shifts redefining planet humanity, from globaltrends.com. Here are the second five.

1. New Power Brokers
  • BRIC
  • Social networks
  • G20, which gives developing economies a greater voice in global issues.
  • New financial power brokers – RDE central banks, sovereign wealth funds, private equity and hedge funds – and stateholders bearing stimulus funding along with their constituent tax-payers.
  • The relative influence of the US, Japan and Europe is likely to decline under the burden of heavy national debts, driving more internal focus and reducing their ability to fund international projects of all types whether aid, military or scientific. The age of the “superpower” is giving way to an age of multiple power brokers.
2. Blurring of Industry Boundaries
  • Value spaces are increasingly being defined by consumers, not firms.
  • Example: health and wellness – in the consumer’s mind this extends well beyond pharmaceuticals and doctors to food, fitness, beauty, online services and more.
  • As boundaries blur and everything becomes mobile, firms are increasingly interdependent, having to balance how they compete and cooperate with others, potentially fulfilling multiple roles in a network or across industries.
  • This extends to interactions with society, where new forms of networks and smart partnerships are emerging.
3. The New Consumer
  • More consumers globally with more wealth.
  • The new consumer wants more involvement and personalization, wants it all anywhere, anytime, and wants it to be cheap and chic as the climate of frugality bites.
  • Businesses at all points in the value chain are trying to connect with the consumer to build reputations, trust, loyalty, returns, and market position.
4. Generational gaps
  • For the first time, four distinct generations are present in the workforce in many developed countries. The resulting differences in generational ambitions, attitudes, technology skills and ethics are impacting management styles, how work is done and the ability to attract talent.
  • In developing economies, traits and values are becoming more similar within generations across borders (i.e. globalizing), than between generations within a country or region.
5. Tensions of globalization AND fragmentation
  • Globalization and integration continues, but there is also a growing, opposing trend towards fragmentation – tribalism, nationalism and cultural conflict is on the rise (e.g. anti-globalization protests or the break up of states).
  • Governments are increasingly seeking to erect national boundaries to block or monitor internet content, and technology providers develop proprietary “clouds”.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Super Shifts (1)

Last week I wrote about the world’s booming population, a big undertow changing the way the world works. Here are five more super shifts redefining planet humanity, from globaltrends.com. Another five tomorrow.

1. Mobility in resources, people, products and services, capital, knowledge, beliefs, opinions

  • The ongoing revolution in global communications technologies offers organizations the ability to work 24/7 across time zones.
  • Companies in emerging economies are benefiting from faster knowledge flows to rapidly catch the leaders in many industries.
  • Mobile broadband penetration outstrips fixed broadband, billions of people are permanently “on,” able to work from whatever location they happen to find themselves in, blurring the boundaries between work and personal time.
  • Data has become a deluge and information can be disseminated globally in minutes with a “tweet”.
  • An ever-expanding array of digital entertainment and social media compete for our time.
  • With mobile expansion, time is being compressed.
2. Potential of food and water scarcity
  • In last 50 years, world population rose from 3 billion in 1960 to 6.9 billion in 2010 – and is projected to reach 9.1 billion by 2050. Population and affluence increases will significantly strain critical resources.
  • By 2030, the water gap could be as much as 40% between demand and supply. Geopolitical and social tensions may rise, along with negative economic impact.
3. Global race to be at the forefront of technology
  • BRIC and industrialized nations will race to become leaders in critical technologies – nanotechnology, biotechnology.
  • China is actively pursuing clean technologies.
  • India is building global nuclear power knowledge.
4. Beyond the BRIC Economic Power
  • In 2010, China’s economy surpassed that of Japan to become the world’s second largest
  • India is forecast to be the fifth largest consumer economy by 2025.
  • These countries will account for the majority of the emerging global middle class.
  • The playing field in BRIC is getting crowded both by multinationals and home-grown global challengers.
  • Companies need to start looking beyond BRIC to the next tier of attractive future markets.
  • Based on size, growth potential, natural resource positions and global influence over the next 30 to 40 years, these markets are likely to include: Indonesia, Mexico, Turkey, Iran, South Korea, Egypt, South Africa, Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines and Argentina.
  • BRIC companies are already moving to compete in these regions – the question for firms from advanced economies is how to balance their focus between advanced economies, BRIC and beyond.
5. Democratization of Communication
  • People worldwide have seen their ability to make choices increase beyond imagination.
  • Communications advances have allowed people find their voices and exchange ideas, knowledge and experiences.
  • Communities of choice, including social networks and buying groups, are changing how we interact and behave.
  • Trust and dialogue are critical to building and maintaining relationships with and among these communities.
  • New tools to track the dynamics of influence, organizations that actively understand and manage influence have tremendous opportunities to broaden innovation, co-create with consumers and tap into the value of networks.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Letter to Argentinean People?

When I was in Mexico last week, all the talk was around an extraordinary letter written by the world’s greatest footballer Leo Messi. Or was it? Everyone I spoke to felt for Messi and were pro his cause … now Messi has announced he didn’t write it. Which is absolutely true. But the letter is still brilliant, moving and worth reading…

"I write this letter, with my ears still full of the whistling I received the day of the tie with Colombia, and I think I have no choice but to address these words to the Argentinean people.

It is said that I am the best in the world. Who is saying this? I don’t know. What does being the best in the world mean? I don’t know either. I only know that I am a football player who has done well. I also know and remember my story. From a very young age I started playing football. My childhood was based on work and sacrifice to get to where I knew I wanted to get. In the middle of it the unthinkable happened: my physical development was not right for me to become a professional football player. I needed a very expensive treatment that my family couldn’t pay for. I tried to get for support from Argentina, my country, but I didn’t get it. With my parents, I knocked on many doors in vain. Nobody wanted to take a risk on a small child. Even River closed its doors on me, thinking I was not worth it.

At that moment a foreign club was interested in me. They invested time, money and doctors. They supported my family so that they could live and be close to me. Without rushing things they helped me and then I started to play. With organization and without skipping any steps. That club was Barcelona.

Just then in Argentina someone warned them that they were missing out on an opportunity of a great player. So because they’re not stupid, they arranged a special game with the Argentinean youth club to keep me from playing for Spain. Kudos to Argentina.

Now every time I play for my country, like in the Copa America, I donate every penny I make to charity. All the responsibility is on me. Are you forgetting that Football is a team sport? Do you think things just happen because of magic? Don’t you understand that football, like every sport, is about gaining a few seconds from the other team? In today’s world you cannot improvise…

You want Argentina to play like a local team but you don’t want the work and organization from the club. Without work and organization there is no way to be successful. In Football or in any other aspect of life. Argentineans don’t seem to care about anything, destroying their idols over and over again. You didn’t care about glorifying Maradona to then trash him. And now you want to do it to me?

It’s painful for me to say it: I love Argentina, but I'm tired of Argentineans. I’m tired of giving explanations because some of you think that I am the best in the world. I'm tired of being compared to Maradona, or any other. You glorify me and then assume that I have to be accountable for it. I'm tired of the disrespect to my colleagues when they are compared to me. I'm tired of you not understanding that I am just one of them, and that I wake up every morning trying to do my best.

If Argentineans stopped demanding miracles from me, and started demanding hard work and organization from their leaders, starting with the football leaders, things could get better. If not, it doesn’t matter. But leave me and my family alone."

Monday, August 1, 2011

Full Respect

Unlike England’s pathetic jersey initiative, the new All Blacks jersey is spot on. Retro and classic in design, ahead in technology, half the weight (185g) of the previous shirt, and available in eight bespoke versions for individual players. Another example of Adidas respecting the jersey.