Monday, 3 July 2017


Beware old people lamenting the decline in values especially when despite their nostalgic lamentations things just get better and better. Beware me saying the era of the Beatles, Who and Cat Stevens surpass the musical efforts of Katy Perry, Ed Sheeran or White Stripes.

Just listen to “Bon Appetit” from Katy and discover originality or “Seven Nation Army” from White Stripes where a refrain has been commandeered by Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters “Oh Jer…emy Cor…byn,”….it’s a far left/Marxist political- earworm and it’s stuck in my head.  Things get different and move on but there’s still a lot of naked invention and it’s mostly wonderful… (oh shut up JC it’s still playing in my brain:-….”oh terribly boring…”)

But (always beware BUT) there’s been a perceptible downwards shift in originality, punctiliousness and love of quality that has been allowed to happen through cost-cutting  procurement experts settling for quick, cheap good-enoughness.

The benchmark for “good” is hard to find now. In a world where all presentations are competent no-one stands out. There are few bad cars so OK is a norm (no Allegros or Dolomites).  A sophistication/weariness of our palates means edible is a ubiquitous standard. Fashion falls apart yet quality is insanely expensive.

Two of the most overused derogatory expressions are “it isn’t rocket science” and “it isn’t art you know.” The answers to both of these, respectively, are “yes it is” and “well it should be”.

In a world where production efficiency and cost are the most important things we manage to restructure a premium brand like BA to a new commodity-low but on paper a more profitable business  but (big BUT) with the juice squeezed out. No more trolley services on our commuter trains - remember that spirit-lifting glass of wine on the way home after a terrible day? It’s all gone; too much cost focus; too little love.

The current furore with the Kensington Council over Grenfell is beginning to focus on cost reductions and the saving of around £300,000 by their moving from non-combustible zinc insulation to partly combustible aluminium. The Council employees presumably thought they were doing their job (save money) and hadn’t thought of the consequences. If they had they’d have gone over budget and got into terrible trouble.

We’re all spending too much time thinking about margins rather than quality of experience, taste or performance. And that’s where small businesses with their love of what they do and their customers’ reactions to it come in.

It’s time to reflect on making better, buying better quality and trying to be exceptional. This sounds unfashionable in an age of efficiency and engineered consistency but we’re spending too much time on the peripherals.

Brexit has made this worse. Having a great or a bad trade deal is irrelevant if what you are seeking to sell isn’t exceptional. Germany, after all, got great in cars by being better.

Get better. Stop squeezing out the juice. It’s the juice that gets us going not the orange.

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