Monday, 28 March 2011


Even the originators of the FMA theory (“First Mover Advantage”), Lieberman and Montgomerie, seem to have had a change of heart. Last week I heard the eloquent Professor of Marketing at IMD, Se├ín Meehan, define Apple as a fast follower and not an innovator as such at all.


At last the dumb truth about innovation is being laid to rest. Be best not first. That ‘s also what Jonathan Mills, Director of the Edinburgh Festival, said in laying into “premieres” in the arts.

The secrets of success lie in listening to the customers who use the products, fixing the problems that exist, constantly improving the product (iPad2 looks like being a bigger triumph than iPad1 just 8 months later) and being totally clear about the promise - in Apple’s case a confident “thinner, lighter, faster.”

I loved this assertion about clarity. Most mission statements are a confusing mish-mash.

Better to be a Ryanair saying “we are the cheapest” – and reacting with surprise and indignation to the question “do you do customer satisfaction surveys?” No, they focus all their attention on their core promise. They are living proof that it is better to be respected than liked.

So the message is to nail down brilliantly what you have in that box before you think of getting out of it. Stop trying to be an “original.” Focus on getting better and better and better.

And this is a tough new world.

Motorala’s global market share in mobiles fell from 45% to 9% between 1994 and 2008 whilst Nokia’s rose from 20% to 40%. And now Nokia are facing a near death experience. Brands are not immortal. Not Nokia. Not GM. Not Toyota. Not Apple.

Which is why life is so exciting.

Anyone out there who wants to be the next Steve Jobs might make it if they are as demanding about relentless improvement, brilliant design and speed to market as he is.

They don’t have to be first, though, just much better than the others.

Although looking at the Boat Race on Saturday I wondered if there wasn’t something in FMA after all.

Monday, 21 March 2011


The white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, whose ears and whiskers these are, cuts a very modern figure, oppressed by the tyranny of time.

If you want to think your way though the problem time pressure creates, read Leon’ Kreitzman’s “The 24 Hour Society” or listen to what Lawrie Philpott  thinks – his shortly to be published book “2,500 hours. All you’ve got!” is addressed at time-short CEOs.

Leon notes cavemen used to work 15 hours a week and whilst clock-time rules now - the first thought modern man and woman have on waking is “what time is it?”-   more primitive societies lived by event time – like rice-cooking-time or pissing-time. They worked shorter hours in winter. Their lives were controlled by the frontier of night. Life was simpler.

Lawrie focuses on the need to spend time on the right stuff with the 2,500 hours at our disposal. Don’t work longer as you’ll burn out or, in your weariness, make things worse (“oh my ears and whiskers” – that white rabbit was a classic case of  workaholic.) This hypothetical CEO’s aim is to make their time ensure that their workforce’s time is used best.

Both Leon and Lawrie (who are beginning to sound like a music hall act) recognise time is money and how the speed of change in a modern world has created time-inflation…in other words each second is worth less than it was.

Three brief observations:

1.    What senior managers need are “Time Lords” – people who teach how to allocate time in their organisation. We have business plans. What we also need are “time-plans”.
2.    Saving time saves money.
3.    Whichever way we look at it, we know too little time is spent on thinking creatively about the future and about change….by anyone.

This is not just a narrative about “time-management”. It’s a story about a global world where the smartest are looking at ways to cut and reallocate time and simplify what we do.

All the research I’m doing shows time-stress is spoiling lives, performance and creativity.

It’s time to call in some Time Lords and start thinking afresh.

Monday, 14 March 2011


This is what Oprah Winfrey said:

“Follow your passion. Do what you love, and the money will follow. Most people don’t believe it but it’s true”

Which sounds great until you look at your debt, your food and fuel bill and your rent or mortgage repayments…..But I don’t think Oprah was suggesting you followed your passion into bankruptcy, merely that you decided what you really wanted and that you went for it.

It’s like love. You don’t marry the first person who comes along. You don’t get hitched to a call-centre of a person – “I don’t enjoy them but they get the cooking done”. You marry for better, for richer, in health and in fun.

So here are three questions:

i)    Do you really know what your passion is?
ii)    What do you really need in life?
iii)    Do you actually want to follow your passion?

Most people say loosely I want to be …”fulfilled” and rather weakly flap their hands. What you need to identify is what exactly it is that fills your mind and about which you want to know everything, a focus for all your learning urges.

I met Nicholas Showam MD of Jaly Ltd. at an RSA conference on Saturday. His passion is machines and making things. He could talk forever about the latest bit of kit. He believes we can out manufacture the worlds if we choose to.

He’s followed his passion.

We don’t have to be passionate 100% of the time. We can earn what we need and be pragmatic about budgeting but we must follow that passion like the wonderfully talented Richard Crane, playwright, dramatist and  actor who observed jovially “I’m on the stage…I know all about austerity…and how to deal with it.”

He’s followed his passion.

On Friday I went to Birmingham to the great Pre-Raphaelite Exhibition in their Art Gallery. Birmingham is rocking. Great customer service; taxi drivers who tell you how wonderful the place is and the new Bullring…a revelation of 21st century quality retailing. I love positivism, art and great business. I want more of this and we all need more of it to break out of the austerity trap.

So on Friday I too followed my passion and I believe the money will follow.

Monday, 7 March 2011


It’s been a week of two halves.
The first about “not getting it” – me, my e-mails as Orange, my provider, collapsed; Orange – not getting the restrained fury their laconic call centre is creating.

The second about being cheered up by a presentation from Kirstin Furber HR Director of BBC Worldwide on the power of women. On the basis of what she said the future will be better (and better looking than the past.)
USA data shows women have recently built twice as many companies as men;
whilst they find it much harder to get funded than men, that doesn’t stop them succeeding.

They succeed because:

  1. Their motivations are huge…”I wanted to do something for me…but I realised it was also for the people who worked for me – which was better.”
  2. They want to create a good, sustainable business not just get rich.
  3. They tend to be kinder than men, looking to create a business that outlasts them.
  4. Their sense of the zeitgeist is profound noticing gaps in markets
  5. They are good at “pattern recognition”- a key barometer of success in business
  6. When a female CEO is interviewed she’ll tend to have her top team there with her, in support and answering their special interest questions. (Male CEO’s tend to be seen alone – as the leader.) Women see themselves as conductors of an orchestra – they don’t make the noise.
  7. Women in general want their company to be smarter than they are.
  8. Women tend to be more right brain users but they really work at and try being good at left brain too – their male counterparts tend not to work much at their right brain.
  9. Women have an “irrational love” of their customers whom they regard as part of their family.
  10. Men are measurement obsessed and love doing plans and revising them interminably. Women are looser about possible outcomes saying: “No one expects things to turn out quite the way we predicted.”

The future’s bright if our managements and leaders – female and male - follow the “ten commandments” above but the future certainly isn’t Orange unless they start to have a more irrational love of their customers than they showed this week.