Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Small changes, big impact

A good read here from Stuart Reid. Click through to the article for more.

If your organisation needed to save £300,000, would you think about making people redundant? Re-structuring? Business process re-engineering? Or would it occur to you to cancel the olives that you are serving with lunch? - See more at:

The Decline of Newspapers hits a milestone

One for my media /newspaper followers and digital/mobile advertising types. Yes, it relates to US figures, but the figures are telling. I think there's also some more thinking required about digital advertising and why that's not growing for media outlets.

Click through to the comments and further reading.

What it’s like to live with perfect pitch

This is such an interesting read from BBC Click’s LJ Rich.

Monday, April 28, 2014

A potted history of Nokia

and in fact, a potted history of mobile phones. I expect many of these handsets are familiar to some of us of a certain age.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Creativity, collaboration and chickens

I went to an interesting talk last night, Creativity and Collaboration, at The Purcell Room in London. It was a discussion, demonstration and performance on the power of collaboration with writer Margaret Heffernan, surgeon Roger Kneebone (what a brilliant name for a surgeon!) and musicians Joanna MacGregor and Andy Sheppard.

Our culture is fixated on winning – whether that’s TV shows turning hobbies into competitive sports (think baking, allotments and dressmaking) or corporate organisations who routinely measure performance to weed out the weakest and focus attention on the strongest or ‘Hi-Per’ as in ‘High Performance’.

During the discussion, each panellist shared their ideas about the value of collaborative working – essentially the antithesis of our current culture of winning – whether that’s a surgeon in the operating theatre, an entrepreneur putting a team together or musicians playing and improvising. The best performing collaborations worked in such a way that mutual understanding becomes instinctive and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Tacit knowledge of each other, built through years of trust, respect, conflict and osmosis, seems to be the key to successful collaborations. But why collaborate at all?

Margaret Heffernan, author of A Bigger Prize: Why Competition isn’t Everything and How We Do Better, explained how competition is actually destructive by relaying the story of an experiment with chickens.

Happy Hens in a FieldWhile studying natural selection, William Muir, a geneticist at Purdue University, ran an experiment measuring the egg-laying productivity of two flocks of chickens. The first group was a free flock, the birds could roam and mingle as they pleased, while the second comprised only the most productive birds who were specially picked for their ability as the best egg-layers. The two flocks of birds were then left alone to their own devices for a few generations. When they looked at the birds again, the free flock birds were laying eggs at a furious pace and were healthy. But for the descendants of the ‘high achievers’, it was a different story. Most had been killed by hens that saw them as rivals, and the few survivors were in a sorry state, harrying and pecking at one another unforgivingly.

Does this sound like your workplace? Margaret alluded to the fact that it does sound like many workplaces. I hope it doesn’t sound like yours, but I fear for many that coming top, being the best, is at great expense both to one’s own health and the health of those around you and the health of the business you’re working in. We talk about pecking order, being hen-pecked, being a chicken (i.e. a wimp), headless chicken, chickens coming home to roost, to chicken out. I’m sure there are more. Maybe there’s something in this…? It certainly resonated with the audience as there were gasps as Margaret relayed the story.

I didn’t take notes during the session (perhaps I should have done), but I came away with some thoughts…

Competition isn’t the be-all and end-all. Collaboration is a much more successful, if more problematic and difficult strategy. Egos get in the way. The chemistry might not be right. Timing might be out of kilter. Life throws a curve ball at you. There are lots of reasons why collaborations fail but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying.

I’ve always enjoyed collaborative work. Perhaps that’s why I still remember my years at Swan Youth Theatre so fondly – we joined together with a common goal, we had limited resources, but found a way to make a production happen, we fought and we argued, we got tired and fraught, but we helped and supported each other, we learned new things and we had a great time doing it. The majority of my early work experience was in stark contrast to this and was much more dog eat dog and much of it was very unpleasant as a result. And pretty much all my schooling from the age of 9 upwards was about ranking in class and being in the top stream. I’m not sure what good it did any of us. I’m quite sure I learned much more during my time at youth theatre.

The panel were also supportive of failure. Our culture hasn’t given much credence to failure, yet we learn most from our failures. All the panellists reiterated that failures (things not going as expected, bum notes, things not going to plan) gave them more agility to deal with change and difficulties in the future. It strengthened the bond of the collaboration in many instances. Margaret explained that failures should be more than tolerated and that we need to learn from them. She said the only failure that she would reject in the workplace is repetition of the same mistake which shows a lack of attention.

The other key thought I had coming away from the talk was about the length of time needed to forge strong working relationships in teams – whether those teams work together from time to time or more frequently. A lot of time needs to be spent in each others’ company in order to build up the trust, respect and knowledge of each other in order to work well together. You have to find ways to overcome conflict too and in doing all of that, you’ll be able to work in harmony – the kind of harmony Roger Kneebone described when sharing a story about the surgical team who had worked for decades together. He brought the team back together for a surgical simulation to try to get to the bottom of how surgical teams work. The simulation was filmed and when you slowed the film right down to see the interaction between the nurse and the surgeon, you could see that the nurse actually passed the instrument to the surgeon before he actually asked for it. That’s tacit knowledge at play. And takes years of practice.

Yet in our current work culture, it’s very common for employees to change jobs every year or two. Research in the US suggests that the average number of jobs an individual will have between the ages of 18 and 44 is 11. That’s a lot of job changes. And that means that these strong working relationships don’t have time to be fostered. Very often when I work with a client from a large company, I’ll know more people at that company than they do. People simply don’t have the time or don’t take the time to get to know their work neighbours. I wonder what we’re missing out on because we’re not forging strong enough connections with each other?

I’ll be adding Margaret’s book to my reading list.

Monday, April 21, 2014

This resonates with me today

It’s not my job to fix your pipeline problem.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Things that make you go hmmm

Publishers are afraid of Google…

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A good article on mobile game monetisation

Banksy is on to something


The latest Banksy via Kirsty Styles.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Plus ça change…

change next exit croppedI’m lucky to be born with a curious mind and to have plenty of opportunity to exercise that curiosity as part and parcel of the consultancy work I do. And because of that curiosity, I tend to notice more of the new stuff and because of my experience over 25 years in sectors ranging from retail, the arts, construction, public transport, media, advertising and mobile, I can put some of this into context for my clients when it comes to working with them on their mobile strategies and planning.

Last week, I was thinking about insurance and financial services and mobile. This week, I’m back at one of my regular stomping grounds of news media and mobile.

Both sectors are rooted in their ways of doing things. Neither has adapted that well to the digital world. Both sectors are aware that change is happening, but neither seem to be aware as to how fast that actually is (hint – it’s faster than any of us can imagine). Neither sector are clued up about technology beyond what they already know and use – in insurance and backing there are legacy systems from the early days of computing and in newspapers, it’s about print production and the technologies around that. And neither sector consider technology to be core of what they do. Maybe they’re right, but my hunch is that that may be holding them back as they’re not able to attract the right people to their organisations.

Interestingly, both sectors now seem to be embracing some developer culture in organising hackathons, opening up APIs for those hackathons and wanting to engage more with the start-up and tech community. It’s tricky though. When you’re not used to sharing, when you’re not used to open dialogue with external parties and telling them what’s actually going on rather than what you want them to know, it’s difficult to start doing that now. And there are so many hackathons going on in London right now, it may well be too late to join that bandwagon and a new format or approach may be required. Nevertheless, I’m pleased to be seeing collaboration activities happening.

I’ll be honest. I was disappointed last week at the FinTech event I attended last week. Nothing wrong with the event per se, but I didn’t see anything new or exciting or noteworthy. The discussions were sensible in many respects and the Aviva CIO was very interesting to listen to. But there was no leadership or real vision for what the future holds in how our daily lives are changing, especially in relation to the internet of things, big data, privacy and therefore what that might mean for the future of insurance or banking for those people.

The global media industry fares a little better although there are glimpses of hope from the UK. Yesterday, I heard some very interesting case studies from Hearst and how it’s tackling new digital properties and how The Times is moving from having readers to having members. And today, the’s story, as ever, is a strong one when it comes to digital leadership and actually trying new things (car interfaces, smart TV apps) and having its eye on what’s coming next. The majority of media owners I talk to outside the UK are still very wary of making these leaps of faith as they’re not sure what the next thing might be. Most media owners think their competition is other media owners. I imagine it’s not – look at the rise of The Young Turks, Bleacher Report and Jamal Edwards’ SB:TV empire. Bedroom media moguls all of them. No-one saw them coming (except maybe Google, Twitter and Facebook).

Well, I’d love to be able to tell you what that is. I don’t know what it is. I think it would be fair to say that no-one really does. Not even, The Times, Hearst et al. None of us are fortune-tellers. All those companies are openly experimenting, investing in systems, people and processes that are adaptable to change. Another thing they all have in common is really understanding their customers – bringing the experience back to humans – what we want, how we use our devices, when we use them, the content we want to read, the content we enjoy and share the most – that data driven insight then drives the thinking behind new products, services and revenue streams.

Ultimately, what needs to happen is culture change. Getting the right technology system or platform in won’t save your business. Rethinking your business in relation to the digital age just might. Will we still need car insurance with driverless cars? And what does the future of news look like? It certainly doesn’t look like a printed newspaper.

I’m going to leave you with some quotes that have kept popping up on my radar in the last few days:

Jack Welch — 'If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.'

John Kotter – ‘The rate of change is not going to slow down anytime soon’

and finally

Karen Lamb – ‘A year from now, you may wish you’d started today’

I don’t need to give you more stats on how mobile is eating the world or the exponential growth of mobile media and advertising. You can use a familiar search engine to find that out. Hey they even have a whole section dedicated to telling about that with Our Mobile Planet. What I would urge you to do is to do *something*.It may not be the right thing and it won’t be the last thing you do either. Don’t be afraid to experiment, to fail, to learn and to start again. Don’t be left behind though. Create a future you, your family, your friends and your customers will want to be part of.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

How to get featured on BBC Click

Courtesy of the lovely LJ Rich.