Friday, 28 December 2007

Lessons from Lego

Monocle magazine is always worth a read, and online there is a series of video podcasts available featuring interviews with business leaders and cultural commentators.
One of the series features Monocle Editor In Chief Tyler Brûlé in conversation with the CEO of Lego, Jørgen Vig Knudstorp. It's a fascinating insight into how a brand with such heritage as Lego has met the challenges of competition and globalisation. I have always been interested in how brands survive by staying innovative and successful. They survive - of course - by changing, and reinventing their offering.
Lego is a fascinating case study. It is re-engineering itself from toy manufacturer to an ideas-led business. The company is going 'open source'; and will be less about production and more about intellectual property, about development of characters, concepts and partnerships with other IPs. Lego is unashamedly niche, not looking for mass-market share but to appeal to a specific market demographic. Its operating principles are founded on originality and on being authentic. Whether big brand or one person business, there are lessons for us all here.
Check out the video here

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Write A List!

For as long as I can remember i have been a passionate list maker.

To do lists.
Bullet point lists of business tasks and goals.
Lists of personal stuff.
Lists of themes for my new book.

I sometimes wonder how people in business survive without lists. Whilst inevitably I remember all the important things I need to do, and have a clear vision of my priorities, The List is so valuable for all that stuff I might otherwise forget and for coming up with all those good ideas.

As a list-lover I have enjoyed Sasha Cagen's To Do List blog, and now there's a book of the same name, with contributions of random lists of everything from work goals to attributes for an ideal partner. Cagen also conducted some research on people who make lists which is included in an Appendix. It reveals 89% of people who make lists prefer pen and paper then electronic lists and 86% say lists make them more productive. And an overwhelming 96% of respondents said life is better with to-do lists.

Anyway, gotta dash, I have to go and write a list...

Thursday, 20 December 2007


In business I have taken inspiration in a number of different ways and places. In all the obvious ways: from mentors, clients and through challenges. But also through journeys and holidays. And in cafes and bars; over an espresso or a glass of wine.

Our gift to clients this Christmas is some Inspiration Wine.

Sip and be inspired…

Happy Christmas

Bad Service And Six Year Contracts

I overheard an Account Manager from a supplier visiting a client who had a problem with his product.

His predecessor had mis-sold the product, but the new Account Manager wasn't prepared to take the responsibility. The guy who sold the piece of kit had left the company and now the client were tied into a contract.

And not just any contract. A six year contract. Six years??!! I don't know what form my business will be in one year, let alone six years. How can this arcane approach survive in a competitive market?

And to make matters worse, the Account Manager explained - if you have a problem with the contract, you'll have to talk to the Contracts Department.

In my book an Account Manager manages an account with a client. Full-stop. And doesn't divert questions and complaints to other parts of his organisation.

Let’s hope the company will be extinct in six years… in the meantime, I'd rip up that contract.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Another Meeting About A Meeting

I was talking to some guys at a party. Each of them worked for big global organisations. I asked about the trend for doing your own thing; flexible working, working at home, life in the scrambled up world of work. They replied that success in their business was about visibility. Their weeks are full of internal meetings and if you aren't present, then you are out of the loop. That is how business is done.

Do they make all the decisions at these meetings? No. The business hierarchy and organisation is so deep that decision making is not rapid and effective. No-one's immediate boss can make decisions, the culture is risk-averse and executives spend their days crafting proposals and cases for change, for new products, or lobbying for decisions. PowerPoint documents are the currency of communication which are presented and then passed up the chain of management, to head office in the States, several positions removed from the executive who initiated it.

What makes the best case for change? What will get a decision made?
The most robust argument? The most attractive financial forecast?
Nope, the size of the PowerPoint.

If you want to make sure you get your ideas approved, execs are told, "Make sure it's a thick deck". A thick, bulging presentation.

And that - thank goodness - is miles away from the scrambled up world of work where you can make decisions in an instant, just like that, with no meetings, no referrals up and no thick presentations.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Picturing The Goal

A writer friend gave me a Paul Smith notebook for Christmas last year. In it I started to scribble thoughts and goals as one tends to do at the end of one year/ start of the next. I'd revisited the idea of writing a book and one of the notes I scribbled in the first days of 2007 was that in twelve months time I'd have a book published. This week that goal comes to fruition as my book is published on 21st December, 351 days after scribbled that goal.

It's taken a lot of luck and hard graft (and more than a year in gestation) to get a book written and published. Sometimes a clear goal or vision can help empower results. I had a clear vision (and self belief) that the book would happen.

Twelve months ago I visualised seeing the book in Borders, now it's a reality *.

You can achieve a lot in 351 days....

* Well nearly in Borders, it's on Amazon now. Borders in January...

Go with your gut

People ask me what it was that was the tipping point for me going it alone in business. Was it a great business idea, a carefully mapped out business plan or a management-school checklist of criteria?

Where, in fact it was something much more critical than that. It was a gut feeling. It was instinctive.

Gut feeling is a much under-rated business tool, so make sure you act on instinct.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Leap! In Sixty Seconds

There are 6 short videos that have been produced around the release of "Leap!", each about 60 seconds long.

Check them out at these links:

Ideas Into Invoices

Focus On One Thing At A Time

Being Your Own Boss

Find Your Signature Project

Idea Generation

Don't Get Stuck In A Rut

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

The gospel according to ….Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip

When you're out there working for yourself or running your own business, there is no dress rehearsal – You are doing it and You have a limited opportunity to get it right, to succeed. That’s a pretty good motivation, knowing that no-one else is going to make a difference in your business success: it’s you or nothing. You have to pull it off, or else…

I was reminded of this when watching the excellent drama “
Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip” *. The new junior writers just weren’t coming up with good enough material to get a sketch on air. The senior writer knew why they weren’t succeeding; because they knew it wasn’t just down to them, and they lacked self-belief that their writing would make it to air:

“There’s no pressure. They don’t have to do anything. They know that. They’re trying but they know they are not getting anything on the air. Lesson One: they’ve got to live or die on Friday night. They’ve got to feel like success in a 3 minute sketch is the same thing as love and they’ve got to fear failure…”.

Substitute your latest project/ assignment/ product for ‘Sketch’; substitute your window of opportunity for 'Friday Night'; and the same applies.

'Cos we all need pressure...

* and that's the first time I have ever quoted a TV drama for inspiration...