Monday, 27 September 2010


When I run creative workshops there are two conditions that really make them work:-

  1. Understanding the context in which the ideas will exist – in what sort of mood will the customer be who receives news of your creative ideas
  2. Appearing to be super-active – one idea isn’t enough – you need a flurry of activity in which another good idea shines brightly
So I read about the latest news from Waitrose with pleasure .They’ve scarcely put a foot wrong since the banks went barmy in 2007 and fell in love with quantum mathematics and financial products no one understood.
Here’s their track record: the launch of Essentials, the purchase and then the brilliant development of Duchy and now the cheekiest price promotion ever.
Remember Avis? They said “we try harder” over 40 years ago in comparing themselves with market leader Hertz when like Waitrose today they were a lowly 5th.
Here’s the Waitrose game – price matching Tesco on 1000 key branded items and blasting this from the top of page 3 in the Sunday Times (great PR).
“There’s a perception that we are massively more expensive than the other supermarkets and this dispels that myth” says Mark Price Waitrose MD.
It does - at a stroke, in a marvellous piece of creative jujitsu.
Waitrose has nicer shops, much smarter staff, better quality, wider choice of quality food, a better value range, a better premium range (Duchy versus Finest – who wins?) and now price parity with “terrible Tesco” (that’s not me being pejorative that’s what a lot of shoppers call them.)
The Tesco machine will of course brush this aside and march on but it’ll sting them and Waitrose has leapfrogged those others around and above them.
Waitrose are setting an example to all other brands who are in the no-mans land of “other brands”. They have become real contenders - they are exciting, they understand the hopes and fears of middle England and are stomaching a £26M. margin hit.
Like the other success brands of this century they are saying “how can we be shapers of and players in the sort of world this is going to be? And how can we be the bringers of a flow of good news?” This is real business creativity in action.
My book on creativity “Brilliant Business Creativity” is published by Pearson – it shows techniques that help you get ideas almost as good as these.

Monday, 20 September 2010


Michael Winner’s ads for Esure the direct insurance company took the medium apart in a pleasant way and probably sold some policies. Whatever else it put self important creativity firmly in its place.

So this ad from Psychologie the magazine which I saw on the London Underground recently is just that – only an ad – but raises some interesting questions.

“Is it better to love what you do or do what you love?”

Interesting because it is so far from reality for most people, some 50% of whom hate what do and therefore do what they hate but they do need to pay the bills so needs must. And to many people (increasingly) the Dickensian expectation of Mr. McCawber that “something will turn up” turns out like that hoped for goal in extra time to be just a delusion.

We should (of course) decide what we really want to do and if we can do that which very few people can, we should do whatever it takes to achieve it….training, studying, self promotion, networking …whatever.

And if we have a job that isn’t exactly what we really wanted then we should try to do it really well, get on with our colleagues, do more than is expected and most of all make a difference…and yes, try to love it.

The trouble with life is that if we aren’t grateful for its being so much fun and so exciting, perpetually, and, yes, full of challenges and surprises then we’ll be exposed to constant disappointment.

So if we love what we do the chances are we’ll end up having the chance of actually doing what we love.

In the end we can control our own destiny.

(The second edition of my book the Secrets of Success at Work (published by Pearson) is due out shortly)

Monday, 13 September 2010


A lot has been written about this subject and most of it quite angry and in the style of “the unacceptable face of banking”. Bob Diamond new CEO of Barclays as ever to the fore.

But the accumulation of wealth seems normal enough and actually quite healthy. Indeed over time the spending of individual wealth on great art, music, buildings or sport (because that’s where money tends to end up) has been a good rather than a bad thing.

What needs more study is whether bonuses actually work.

Anton Surorov, a Russian economist, shows the problem with human relationships based on reward systems is there’s no going back. Once you say 'do this and you get x', the agent to whom this is said will only do whatever it is if given x or, more likely, start negotiating to do it only if given 2x in the future. Mr. Crow are you reading this?

So far, so bad.

Neuroscientist Brian Knutson takes us a stage further forward. MRI studies of the brain show that when people anticipate getting a reward the activation in the part of their brain called nucleus accumbens is identical to that a drug or alcohol addict will display.

So once on that bonus treadmill you are hooked.

Worse than that, such activation predicts behaviour one would seek to avoid in employees: “both risky choices and risk-seeking mistakes”.

Intuitively many of us know the reward structures we have in place today are not aligned to performance…would Wayne Rooney play better football if paid more? Would Tiger Woods play worse if paid less? (Well we actually know the answer to that in the Ryder cups of the past which may tell us something interesting about his highly addictive nature.)

The big question is about what really motivates people, what really transforms their performance. Look no further than Daniel Pink’s book “Drive” on this subject which I really recommend.

Monday, 6 September 2010


Matt Ridley’s piece in Tuesday’s Times is deeply shocking (“This discredited science body must be purged”). It’s to do with the wilful bias and distortion of global warming evidence. In a week tarnished by gambling, the Pakistanis and cricket and now this, nothing will quite be the same again.

I for one will stop believing virtually everything I’m told.

And so should you because no-one, not the church, men of “honour”, seekers after truth, scientists and philosophers is above cheating and mendacity it would seem.

The impact of this on our lives and our education is potentially horrific and grist to the mill of, for instance, that large vocal minority of creationists in the USA (only some 20% or so I believe but I distrust that figure now). If so many scientists are liars, what price “Big Bang”?

And this is a very black day for the green movement.

As Matt says “I have concluded that global warning will probably be a fairly minor problem…”

But he only goes part of the way towards dismantling a whole edifice of scientific chicanery.

From the death of David Kelly to the Himalayan ice caps who’s to believe?

Not it would appear scientists whose agenda is no longer to discover the truth so much as to make their point; more advocates than explorers; more purveyors of fiction (or worse “faction”) than fact.

It’s a sad story. Just give them a hard time, accuse them of fabrication and stop relying on them. That’s their penalty for cheating us.

Read his article