Thursday, July 28, 2016

Beauty And The Business

I love the English Lake District (I have a sanctuary in Grasmere) and it’s National Parks Week in Britain. An interesting piece in the Guardian, looks at the intersection between beauty and business in the national parks. One of the case studies is giftware company Herdy which is one of my Lovemarks, a beloved brand that reaches out into the world.

I’ve been working with Herdy founders Spencer and Diane Hannah for two years now. Herdy is helping the Lake District – England's largest national park and a place of breathless beauty  with its bid to become the UK’s first national park to be awarded World Heritage status from UNESCO. Herdy is an official partner. The campaign is using the Herdy brand in leaflets and across social media. Look out Grand Canyon, Great Wall and Barrier Reef; here come the Herdwick Sheep!!

The marriage between business and beauty, which isn’t always an easy one, is unbeatable when you get it right. Being based in a national park, as The Guardian piece notes, brings entrepreneurs challenges such as broadband, recruitment and logistics. And on the park side of things, a balance has to be struck between commerce and conservation. Herdy, inspired by the Lake District’s lovable Herdwick sheep, has found the sweet spot. Its products are sold across the country and to Europe, Japan and the US. The company returns 2-10% of its profits to projects that support upland fell farmers and the rural community. Herdy is about how the brand interacts with its neighbors. Other examples in the article of turning the national parks to commercial advantage include solar powered cheese and a region that is not just in a beer’s branding but in the product itself.

Roll on beautiful business.

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Blackpool Museum Project

“Oh I do like to be beside the seaside.”

When I was a young boy, Blackpool was our summer Mecca, Disneyland and Nice all rolled into one (although we’d never been to any of the foreign three!!). The first ever seaside resort for the working class. Home of the Blackpool Tower, the Illuminations, Stanley Matthews and Stan Mortensen, the Circus, the Golden Mile, Blackpool Rock and the Winter Gardens.

I was there a couple of weeks ago speaking to the Blackpool and Fylde College graduates and will be back on September 16 – as patron for the annual BIBA Awards at Blackpool Tower.

The City Council are in the middle of a great project – a £26 million museum for Blackpool which will be like no other. It’ll be fun, interactive and based on the tastes of ordinary people, not the elite. It will tell Blackpool’s story in eight themes.
  • Oh I do like to be beside the seaside The great British seaside holiday: the story of how Blackpool became symbolic of the British seaside holiday both at home and abroad.
  • How Bizarre Fun, thrills and escapism: Blackpool capitalised on our desire for fun and escapism by creating experiences that ranged from the breath-taking to the bizarre.
  • Reach for the Sky The Blackpool Tower story: The story of how Blackpool created one of Britain's most iconic landmarks; a tale of high drama and deception, but ultimately success.
  • Roll-Up! Roll-Up! Britain’s greatest circus town: Britain is the birth place of the modern circus and Blackpool is Britain's greatest circus town.
  • Ta-Da! The great British talent show: featuring comedy, magic, music and dance performance, Blackpool became the northern home of variety; a very British format that grew from music hall and has in recent years moved from the stage and onto our television screens.
  • Everybody Dance Now The home of dance: the chance for a dance has always been one of Blackpool’s biggest attractions. Discover how Blackpool became the global capital of ballroom dance and why dance, in all its forms, is such an important part of our lives.
  • Let us Entertain You The magnificent Winter Gardens: Blackpool created the best Winter Gardens complex in Britain and attracted national and international stars and incredible events. Even today the events and programs reflect the diversity of great British popular culture.
  • It’s better with the lights on The Blackpool Illuminations: in order to extend the season, Blackpool created the Illuminations. It used electric street lighting to create one of the world’s greatest light attractions.


Image attribute/source: Blackpool Museum /

Monday, July 18, 2016

FB Live With Sree

One of the joys of launching a new book – in my case 64 Shots: Leadership in a Crazy World – is meeting a bunch of interesting new people. I wrote about Michael Wolff on Friday. Today it’s Sree Sreenivasan, tech evangelist/skeptic, former professor of journalism and Columbia and former chief digital officer of The Met. Today Sree is a one-man television channel, utilizing the wonders of Facebook Live for a series of long form conversations and walks, in my case it was walking around the decks and rooms of my Tribeca apartment. It’s a 40 minute conversation about 64 Shots, leadership, the crazy world, art, design, where we’re from (Sree has New Zealand high school qualifications via the Marist Brothers high school in Fiji, one of the stops on his global life tour). Take the tour!

Visit my book's website:


The two most asked questions today – in New Zealand – “What’s for dinner tonight?” (And the answer is My Food Bag!)

In the USA – according to Michael Wolff, and inadvertently confirmed by Saatchi & Saatchi NY CEO Brent Smart, who asked me at dinner last night, "What are you watching now?”

The Golden Age of Television.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Lunching With Your Heroes

I was told when I was younger – “Don’t ever meet your heroes, you’ll be disappointed and disillusioned”.  Terrible advice.  I’ve met Rowan Williams, Peter Blake (the artist), Earle Kirton, Colin Bell, Mike Summerbee, Hunter Davies, Tom Peters, Norman Schwarzkopf, Colin Powell – all heroes of mine … and loved ‘em all.  
Thursday was special.  Lunch at Michael’s in New York.  Michael’s is a classic American restaurant, run by Michael McCarty who paces the floor checking in on all his guests.  An ambling, shambling force of nature.  Michael hosts all the Media Power Players in the City.  The bigshots all have their own tables, backs to the wall, facing outwards, accepting fealty from their followers, and checking out who’s with whom, as the pieces move on the NYC Media chessboard.  
And I was with a hero of mine; a wonderful writer with Vanity Fair, British GQ, and author of the best book ever written on Rupert Murdoch – Michael Wolff.  Brilliant, prolific, provocative, punchy, new father of one year old daughter, 62 years young, and for me – ‘The Authority’ on all things interesting on media, politics, culture, … and so magnificently opinionated.
He put a bid together to buy New York magazine and nearly pulled it off.  He went to Adweek in 2010 as Editor with a brief to save it; he lasted a year!!  (The man who fired him was on the table next to us.  A handshake was exchanged – just! – as lunch ended.)
I rarely venture uptown into this world.  But a summer lunch with the heroic Mr Wolff at a Rosé splashed Michael’s takes some beating.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

What CEO’s Should Be Focusing On In 2017

At last week’s AT Kearney Global Business Policy Council retreat in Warsaw we reviewed the results of an April 2016 CEO survey on their top five concerns for 2017 and beyond. This survey stimulated me to outline my answers to this question What CEO’s should be focusing on in 2017?

I believe CEO’s should be focusing on these 5 things:
  1. Adopting internal disruption as a way of life.
    There is nothing more inevitable in our VUCA world than disruption is just around the corner. The Fast Eat The Big; and technology trumps traditional. If you are not actively engaged in disrupting your own culture and your own business, then someone is targeting to disrupt you; you just don’t know it yet.
  2. New skills.
    The old days of command and control, silos, and internal competition are dead. In our new crazy world we must all adapt or perish. Integration, collaboration, connectivity and creativity are the skills we need to survive and flourish. No easy task. A mind-shift change followed by intensive ongoing coaching, training and role modeling is required.
  3. Embrace and relish a more with less culture.
    Eliminate and reduce waste. Adopt zealously and positively Jeff Bezos’ mantra, “There are 2 kinds of companies. Those that want to charge more. Those that work to charge less. We will be the second kind.” We all should be.
  4. Beware of the Rising Tide of Nationalism and Populism.
    Think Global Act Local has never been truer.
  5. Creating a culture based on creating more leaders; not followers.
    A culture which is inspiration based, against a Purpose which is at the Heart of the Enterprise and which is embraced by all.
(All these are based of course on Roberto Goizueta’s performance mantra of… Meet. Beat. Repeat.)


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Sunday, July 3, 2016

A Song For Summer

A Song for Summer – from a hot, new Italian talent – EDO – son of my friend Leonardo Ferragamo. Beautiful.

"EDO" has just released his first single One Day Closer. This song is available on iTunes.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Tell Me A Story, America

It's the 4th of July weekend in the US. To celebrate Independence Day, here is an essay I wrote for USA Today and published last week. Happy 4th. KR

I’m an English-born New Zealand citizen with homes in Arizona and Tribeca, New York, and heading a New York-based global communications network owned by the French. Do these entanglements qualify me to write about A.T. Kearney’s America@250 initiative? In the spirit of freedom and opportunity, I’m hoping so.

My gravitational pull has always been to the edges, the fringes, the margins. It is from here you can best observe, listen, consider, plan and prepare for action. In so many ways, America represents the center: the biggest, the best, and the brightest. Yet in contemplating America’s 250th birthday in 2026, I find it remarkable that today’s two most-watched television programs are a zombie-infested dystopia on the one hand, and a power-mad medieval realm on the other.

It’s been long remarked upon how our best sci-fi, horror, and fantasy shows reflect the deepest fears of the culture. (I’m thinking here of Invasion of the Body Snatchers as a parable of communist infiltration and Godzilla & Co. as stand-ins for nuclear catastrophe.) The Walking Dead is a thrilling show, but what does its message of eat or be eaten have to tell us about our societal temperature? And Game of Thrones? As Clive James recently put it in The New Yorker, the show’s great lesson is that its shrewd, heroic, deep-feeling dwarf is “bright enough to see the world’s evil but not strong enough to change it.” Brilliant entertainment that present twin portraits of lands where everything is broken and all systems fail, The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones speak not to the American Dream but the American Nightmare.

What does the Millennial generation (defined as 18- to 34-year-olds), now the largest adult population in the U.S., make of our national dream? A telling anecdote: when asked what the American Dream means to them, a group of young people wondered if it was the name of a racehorse, a game show, an anti-depressant? The American Dream – what Nobel Laureate Saul Bellow once described as “the universal eligibility to be noble” – simply did not apply to them.

If Millennials think of themselves as wandering around in a Walking Dead world, however, they’re honing some marvelous survival skills. The first generation of Americans that’s unlikely to do as well financially as their parents, Millennials have adapted in ways that include embracing the sharing economy, enjoying the benefits of greater mobility and free content, and generally accepting a less materialistic and more politically tolerant attitude than their elders. What Millennials have figured out is something I’ve spent my entire career rooting out: it all comes down to Purpose.

When pundits and politicians talk about America’s surging or waning competitiveness on the world stage, you hear a lot about GDP, Fortune 500 companies, military resourcing, population growth, the prominence of our schools and universities. Those things are good and important supporting points, but they are not the same as an inspirational dream. Look past the data. It is the idea of America that makes it a once-in-a-millennium historic phenomenon and force of good in the universe.

America, above all else, is a story. It’s a story the nation tells itself and tells the world. In a New Yorker essay “One Year: 
Storyteller-in-Chief,” Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Junot Diaz wrote about how “one of a President’s primary responsibilities is to be a storyteller. . . If a President is to have any success, if his policies are going to gain any kind of traction among the electorate, he first has to tell us a story.”

In an increasingly crazy world, it is imperative that leaders are great storytellers. FDR knew this during WWII as witnessed by his weekly radio fireside chats. During his 2008 candidacy, President Obama was able to inspire hope and dreams in a new generation of voters that through the example of his personal story – the American Dream made manifest – he might be able to single-handedly repair the terrible fissures in our governance. And that storytelling impulse is front and center in the nation’s founding documents. People invoke the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bills of Rights as if they are Biblical texts come down to us from on high. The spirit of the Constitution – the way it acknowledges human fallibility and weaves the necessity for reconsideration, change, amendment into its very fabric – is not so much didactic or political as it is novelistic. The Founding Fathers were great storytellers! They created the freest country on earth through language. (Among its many attributes, the phenomenon that is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton underscores this fact: the overflowing love of language is the reason that rap is the perfectly suited vehicle for this great musical.)

When Gallup Research finds that U.S. confidence in Congress is only 8% and in the Presidency 33%, when America’s Dad stands accused of being a serial sex offender, how can the country’s core institutions and corporations begin to rebuild trust and connections? As the Founding Fathers knew well, revolution begins with language. Language drives purpose, perception, action, and outcomes. A Machiavellian, Game of Thrones world needs more optimistic, uplifting language, a stronger sense of purpose, more inspirational storytelling.

We need a new Inspirational Dream for the United States of America’s big birthday. Something that unites all of our citizens and represents a rallying cry for our place in the world. Crystalizing an idea that vast into a single line is a challenge worthy of a poet laureate. Well, everyone hates a coward, so here’s my starter attempt: “Create a harmonious and sustainable country that shines as a beacon for good in the world.” By “harmonious” I mean the requirement to represent all the people, not special interests. By “sustainable” I mean “thriving in perpetuity,” without fear of collapse or insolvency. And by “shines as a beacon for good,” I mean to always aspire to do what’s right, even when no-one’s looking.

Is there deep-rooted distrust of our great academic, business, and cultural institutions? Are we seeing in this year’s presidential cycle a wave of insurgency that speaks less to divisions between Red and Blue, rich and poor, than general contempt for longstanding political traditions? Are there critical issues that need addressing like failing infrastructure, incarceration, income inequality, climate change, guns, and civil rights? Most definitely. But considered on the world-historic stage, America is a teenager—it’s young enough, optimistic enough, resilient enough to absorb argument and tough self-analysis and push ahead.

America will be 250 years young on July 4, 2026. Should we look upon that calendar date with boundless confidence? Grave concern? Or, worst of all, profound indifference? Me, I’m not just an optimist, I’m a radical optimist! As Colin Powell said, “Perpetual optimism  is a force multiplier.” Come the sestercentennial, I’ll be waving the Red, White, and Blue, playing Springsteen loud, and getting my bottle rockets ready. Because our national story is still being written. And it’s a great one.