Tuesday, 27 July 2010


Something weird happens around this time of year. It’s called a delusion.

“Everyone goes on holiday.

Nothing ever happens.

I get bored.”

Yet this is the best opportunity, apart from January (when everyone, supposedly, is ill, broke and nothing happens) to get your act together.

For a start there are six things to do.
  1. Refresh your mind and body by taking time off to do stuff you wouldn’t normally do (go to the cinema in the afternoon; go to an art gallery; visit a wonderful garden; go for a long, energetic walk; visit somewhere near where you live where you’ve never been but should have been etc.) You might even have a short forget-about-it-all holiday. But don’t overdo it – as Placido Domingo said recently “if I rest, I rust.” 
  2. Refocus. Work out what you want to achieve personally and for your business over the next six months and quickly (the essence here is speed) create a plan to achieve it.
  3. Do a major clear-out – computer, office, wardrobe. See how much useless never-want-to-see-it-again stuff you can dispose of.
  4. Practise presenting. Get out an old presentation you did. Revise it. Practise how you could make it ten times better.
  5. Do some creative thinking – set up a creative workshop or on your own do some basic creative exercises.
  6. Create a short range practical marketing plan that will revitalise your business by Christmas.
You have a relatively undisturbed four or five weeks to focus on six things that really matter and could change your life.

Have a brilliant get-ahead-of-the-game time while all the major corporates like the Government, BP, Toyota and Apple are winding down and taking a well-earned rest.

Monday, 19 July 2010


“……and that’s why I went into HR”…

Opposite me was Curtis Ruptash who, let’s face it, has a pretty exotic name, one you could envisage an impresario proclaiming….”and now helped by his exotic assistant Gossamer, Curtis will attempt the quadruple Salsa on one leg whist playing the oboe…the amazing Mr. Ruptash!!!!!” Drums roll….

At 16 Curtis was on his way to become a rock star in Canada with the group called Pretty Rough. Instead he ended up in HR doing benchmarking studies and quantitative diagnostic work helping define attitudinal and potential behavioural shifts in that complex entity called a “company”.

From drugs, sex and rock and roll to personnel – through choice! Wow! How provocative is that?

He still plays, with a group called Peabody and Sherman’s Playdate – check them out.

They are highly creative, doing sophisticated improvisation, a bit jazz, a bit reggae, a bit whatever and as he put it

“we pull each other out of our comfortable little spots whilst following, or staying true to, a melodic theme”

That sounds exactly how you should manage a great company and, for perhaps the first time, I understood why Curtis had shifted his musical gaze to HR.

It’s why companies like BP, Boeing and BT should be hiring more musicians because in the modern world if you can’t improvise you can’t survive.

Now Curtis, about that Salsa….

Monday, 12 July 2010


This idea came from Jayne Haines, a very senior HR lady from GlaxoSmithKline whom I heard talking last week.
She worked in Denmark for a while where the idea of the “red thread” was fixed in the culture (by the way it’s claimed on the web to be untranslatable. The best they can manage is to describe it as the main thread of a plot.)
Elsewhere it is described as the ancient Chinese belief that we all have invisible red threads, around our ankles as it happens, which identify who our true soul mates are.

More prosaically it is said by some to come from the red thread woven by ropes used by the British Navy to make them impossible to steal and sell on.

Jayne’s sense was it defined the essence of who and what you were so when she said “I’d die if I didn’t go running” she was describing something so viscerally central to the core of her being it captured what she stood for.

For some this might be singing, bird watching, mountain-biking, doing mathematical riddles, writing, painting, gardening, chess …. In other words passions which obsess the soul and inform a person’s character and development.

This essential thread – the story of our life, the real brand that we are – gets closer to helping understand what it is that distinguishes people one from the other and what makes each special. It helps give a more tangible meaning to life.

And it could also apply to larger or people created entities like corporations or brands.

So the question is what is your red thread?

What is your brand’s red thread?

And what is your company’s red thread?

What , in short, really makes you tick and ultimately turns you on?

Thursday, 8 July 2010


I ordered a bottle of sparkling water in a restaurant the other day.

When it arrived it said “Schweppes Abbey Well - British Natural Mineral Water – sparkling”, on the label with a rather dull water colour of a country scene.

The old marketing man in me bridled a bit.

The old “Shh…you know who” brand hadn’t travelled too happily from its home land of Tonic Water and Ginger Ale (can you honesty say any other Schweppes product was worth bothering with?)

And wasn’t it now owned by Coca-Cola whose own sortie into the mineral water market is best forgotten?

It tasted all right, I thought, but it was unlikely to be more than natural tap water and bicarbonate of soda (and this from a hater of cynicism.)

I then turned the bottle round and read the back label (unfortunately few people actually do this).

Here amidst other stuff is what it said:-

“Schweppes Abbey Well Natural mineral water comes from a single naturally protected source in Morpeth, Nothumberland from a well 117.5m. deep. Every last drop has been naturally filtered through water-bearing white sandstone for at least 3000 years.”

If that isn’t a cracking story hidden under a proverbial bushel I don’t know what is.
Shame on you Coca-Cola.