Monday, 21 April 2014


As you know I’m writing a book. This makes me question everything I read and get very tetchy (ask my wife.) In my research I’ve just come across Georg Vielmetter who runs the European leadership and talent practice at Hay consulting. He’s spearheaded their study Leadership 2030 which is the result of a foresight research and analysis program conducted by Hay Group

and Z_Punkt. The research (it says) “pinpointed six megatrends that will create the greatest shifts in the business environment.”

Georg (that’s right, no “e”) and Z_Punkt together raise all the instincts of a Private Eye investigator. (Who’s pulling whose I wonder?) Well  Z_Punkt are based in Cologne and seem quite a weighty bunch whose role in life is  - hold on while I sit down - to “futurise” business.
We all know that “futurising” is best left to J.K. Rowling. Because no one in business or government ever gets it right. Futurising is work for fiction writers. That’s why people who write fiction love the idea of an uncertain future.

So what do Z_Punkt make of it?  (By the way Z_Punkt’s the sound an elastic band makes when pulled back then released snapping painfully across your fingers. So I’ll call them Z_Punkt_ugh! In future)

These are “Megatrends 2030” courtesy of Z_Punkt_ugh! and Hay.

1. Globalization: Asia dominates the global economy, and a new middle class emerges.
2. Environmental crisis: Sustainability moves from CSR initiative to business-critical imperative.
3. Individualism and value pluralism: Freedom of choice erodes loyalty and overhauls employee motivation.
4. Digitization: Work goes mobile, and the boundaries blur between private and professional life.
5. Demographic change: Aging populations intensify the talent war.
6. Technological convergence: Powerful new technologies combine to transform many aspects of everyday life.

I feel like bursting into that song from Annie, the musical:
“The sun'll come out tomorrow
Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow
there'll be sun
Just thinkin' about tomorrow
Clears away the cobwebs and the sorrow till' there's none
When I'm stuck in the day that's grey and lonely
I just stick up my chin and grin and say ohh…”                                                                               repeat …

Because I think I knew all that megatrend stuff, I think the Asia thing, the ageing thing, the green thing, the mobile thing, well I think I knew all that - didn’t you? I don’t think that’s “futurising” anything I think it’s “sun’ll come out tomorrow” stuff.

But it gets worse.

The leader of the future will be “Altrocentric”. No that’s not “Al” is in “Allan” it means focusing on others. The leader of the future will be sweet and kind, give people presents and sing them to sleep. The leader of the future will be useless. Just as the footballer of the future unlike that nasty Suarez with his beastly nippy teeth, will be sportsmanlike, never tackle and will applaud his opponents’ goals.

Me? I’m back to writing and my own brands of centricity: prandiocentricity, risocentricity, bibente-centricity.

That’s lunch, laughter and booze.
Z_Punkt_ugh! to you all.

Monday, 14 April 2014


I was asked to talk to a group of small businesses in Lewes. If you haven’t been to Lewes go there. It’s perched on a hill which runs down to the River Ouse, the fragrant scent  of Harvey’s the Brewery suffuses the place with its antique shops and organic cafes. Once upon a time Oxford was like this, reflective and inward looking. At night Lewes quietens as its inhabitants go indoors to pubs and dining rooms and talk, drink and think. The architecture is Elizabethan in part, unlike its rowdy brother Brighton with its Regency look-at-me white stucco. Lewes is alive with a sense of rebellion, independence and talent. Home to Glyndebourne, musicians and craftsmen it’s one of those places that remind one why Britain is so extraordinarily rich and stable a country.

So there I was in the genial Con Club, sun shafting through the windows. As I started, my key theme being you should tell people about how good you are and be assertive - because you are your own salesforce, I reflected on the irony.  There I was an ex-Ad Man who’d worked on big budget commercials, talking about why marketing on a shoestring was so wonderful, a bit like a chef talking to hungry people about dieting.  Yet I learned so much from them and about their businesses and felt humbled as, following my advice they expressed themselves vividly, confidently and with passion about their products and services.

A carpenter who talked of his love of wood and his passion for working it, another saying he loved what he did, really understood it and had an absolute certainty of success, another who talked of the joy of transforming people they taught, another of the sheer pleasure of giving pleasure in her B&B (I want to stay there) and another who talked about photography with an appetite that’s rare and an ability to project magic - “at my best I do photographs that knock people’s socks  off.”  It was a morning of passion, insight, self-belief and colour. They all, when it was drawn from them loved what they did. Life was a formula balancing passion and pragmatism; a compromise between art, joy, a story to tell and paying the bills.
I learned  small is really beautiful. These were people who lived, breathed and spun threads of love around what they did. They used all their senses not just their left brain. From Pilates to theatre to arts to caring I heard great stories, people describing change as though it was fun and normal.

Respite from writing my book? Yes but also an education in the terror and the ecstasy of being your own person not an employee. I hope I boosted their sense of being special and helped them become a bit more marketing assertive. These were great storytellers when unleashed. And that‘s the best marketing tool of all.

Some of the slides from my presentation are included

Monday, 7 April 2014


We can all make the mistake of getting stuck in the same old groove. But business can’t be treated like Su Doku, a game with straightforward rules.  Yet words best designed to make anyone scream like corporate template and company strategy (usually because there isn’t one) are same old groove words for most people.

If we are going to make well informed, even inspired decisions we have to get outside the groove and consider our situation from a different perspective - what Professor John Kay of the LSE calls “obliquity”. He says obliquity (pursuing our goals indirectly) is necessary because living in a world of uncertainty means the problems we encounter aren’t always clear and we often can’t pinpoint what our real goals are. Things change and people (the behaviour of whom is often hard to predict) change too. Direct approaches are often unimaginative whilst ‘muddling through’ for a bit can sometimes be a much more productive answer.

Stories of improvisation beating the corporate plan abound but I enjoy one Malcolm Gladwell tells. Big corporate Goliath being outwitted and outgunned by the guerrilla tactics of David armed with the 1000BC equivalent of Remington XP-100 (rated the most accurate hand gun in the world). David knew he’d win so long as he improvised out of the reach of lumbering Goliath’s but what’s baffling is that Saul and the other spectators  only foresaw this as a toe to toe duel because that’s how you did things in those days in Israel. They were thinking in “like-we’ve-always-done-it” terms rather than let’s improvise and win terms.

In business, stories of small, loose thinking winners include Nike winning as a Vietcong style upstart founded in 1964 against Adidas founded 1948 – Nike is now twice the size of Adidas, Facebook against My Space (in June 2006 My Space captured 80% of social networking traffic (up from 76% in April). Facebook was second with 7.6%. The ball has been dropped in most markets we are looking at and no one really knows where it is. Better to improvise rather than pretend the ball’s still in sight.

We all tend to overestimate power whether it’s physical like Goliath’s or exploited by people who feel they’re expected to flaunt it. That’s a high risk strategy on their part but some seem to think it worth taking. Chuck Prince ex CEO and Chairman of Citigroup certainly seemed to think so as he made the defining quote of the 2008 crash on the very eve of the credit crunch:-

“When the music stops, in terms of liquidity, things will be complicated. But as long as the music is playing, you’ve got to get up and dance. We’re still dancing.”

 You make decisions that solve problems by taking each on its merits and not being hamstrung by a rigid plan. Strategic plans can make one option blind. Remember Mike Tyson:

“Everyone has a plan till they get punched in the mouth”