On My Honour…

6 02 2013

It’s no surprise to regular readers that I’m a long-standing member of the Scouts. Scouts make a promise as they’re invested into the movement. It’s what sets us clearly apart from hockey teams and other youth organisations.

On my honour, I promise...

On my honour, I promise…

But honour is a difficult concept to get over to youngsters (and many adults, for that matter). I once  heard it wonderfully encapsulated as:

It’s when you do the right thing, in the middle of the forest, when you know nobody is watching, and they would never know if you didn’t. Picking up someone else’s litter was the example in that particular case.

Personally, I think I’d go a little further. To me, it’s doing the right thing when you know people are watching… and doing it will in some way cause you yourself potential harm. Financial loss, shame, physical danger.

Like facing up to your mistakes when to not do so would cause another to take the blame. Like keeping your word, when you said you’d do something, but doing it unexpectedly turns out to be unpleasant.

I have a friend who is getting in shape for an up-coming half-marathon. She posted her training time the other night and said it was a “bad run”. I retorted that the only bad run is the one you didn’t do… as I sat in my home blogging.

Tonight, it was raining in White Rock. Thinking of my own words, I donned my trainers and went for a run in the drizzle. It was a run that occurred, and by my own definition therefore – good.

As I promised, I’ll post my numbers… good or bad.

3.6km, 24 minutes 232lb.

Well, one number went down… just not the one I’d have preferred.

Sometimes large organisations struggle to act with honour. In order to be profitable they need to pay market rates to staff, and often that is well below the “give a toss” level. Being mindful of this, they use process and procedure to protect them from variable quality in their representatives. That’s why you have to sign stuff when you hire a car, for example… because the company can’t rely on the staff actually checking the car properly before they give it to you. Instead, they place the onus on you, the customer, and attempt to protect themselves with paper.

A total cop out, since most people who are hiring cars are in a rush to get somewhere or wouldn’t know a potentially serious fault on a car merely from giving it the cursory glance they are allowed if it were to hit them on the high street, reverse and repeat the process.

Yet ultimately, as I recently read in “Black Swan” by Nassim Taleb, the larger a company gets, the more fragile it becomes. It loses touch with its roots, its original customer values, the things that enabled it to grow. Instead it relies more and more on market presence. On its brand. Its good name. The one thing that it has left in the hands of process-engineers and pimply youths. Potential suicide. In this day of electronic media and Flash Mobs, it behoves a company well to pay close attention to how it treats customers. It is better in the long run to absorb the small negatives from the few dishonourable customers who might return a car with less than clean carpets than to seriously piss off the honourable ones who you THINK have done something to your car.

Hell hath no fury like a technophile scorned…





Gross national happiness in Bhutan: the big idea from a tiny state that could change the world | World news | The Observer

2 12 2012

I read about this ages ago, in my pre-blogging days. A timely reminder though – I came to it via the David Suzuki Foundation (@DavidSuzukiFDN). Ironically I was having a conversation just the other day about self-worth and Herzberg’s Hygiene Theory with respect to team managers and motivation. Bhutan is doing it on a national scale. Instead of measuring their success with GDP, they use “happiness”. Ken Dodd would be ticked pink.

Gross national happiness in Bhutan: the big idea from a tiny state that could change the world | World news | The Observer.





It’s not all Hash Pipes and Hand-grenades

29 11 2012

Tuesday was a day well spent.

I spent it with two colleagues at a marketing seminar in Vancouver. “The Art of Marketing”. I know, I know… “yawn” right?! The MC was Ron Tite, who sounded like he should have a career doing voice-overs for Futurama or something. Far too hyped and loud for that time in the morning.

The first speaker was David Usher. I vaguely knew him to be a singer. Turns out he fronted a band called “Moist” (Fnaar, fnaar) back in the day. He’s still a recording artist, but has now started to indulge his interests in technology. Most of the women in the audience seemed to be particularly attentive I noticed. He gave a little talk about how his band found “the rhythm” of the show every time they went on stage. A slightly different tempo at each performance. Wouldn’t it be great, they mused, if the audience could set the rhythm? Enter Arduino, a heart monitor and a drum machine. He asked for a volunteer and rejecting the high hands of several hundred females in the  audience of 2,000, he stepped off the stage and cruised for the perfect victim. In the end, he selected one young lady because she averted her eyes from his gaze.

David Usher… and John

Under ever so slight duress, she followed him up on stage and held the device as instructed in both hands. The unmistakable thump of a heart beat began… except it sounded like a drum, not the sound we’re conditioned to hear from watching hospital TV series’. Usher commented on how fit she must be as it was a very slow rate. Once he casually draped his hand on her shoulder though the rate sharply increased, the audience laughed and she went a delicate shade of crimson. It rose higher when he jokingly started to massage her shoulders.

John the guitarist valiantly attempted to strum to the rate, and as predicted the soothing tones slowed down her pulse. Usher sang a few improv lines to the rhythm of her heart, and the demonstration was done.

Usher spoke eloquently about the hard slog and grit needed to produce creativity, but that he believed it was possible for anyone. Then came the classic quote which echoed through the rest of the day: “It’s not all hash pipes and hand-grenades” . Plainly this was not premeditated, and he said something along the lines of “not sure where that came from”. He then gave a generous Q&A session. One lady said she was herself a recording artist and asked for suggestions on how to “break out”. “Do it for the love of the music” was the not entirely helpful response.

After the break, Tite called Flora Ware – the young lady who’d asked the question – up to the stage and offered her the opportunity to sing A Capella to the 2,000 strong  audience. Without hesitation she accepted and belted out a note perfect rendition of a jazz ballad to loud applause.

Mitch Joel was next up, and gave an interesting session about how to better engage the customer and have “sex with data”. He gave lots of great innovative examples including Amazon’s PriceCheck, Kickstarter crowd funding and Chipotle’s Coldplay-murdering Willie Nelson food video. He asserts that the “three screen” era (TV, PC, phone) is passing, as we enter a single screen era.

This video about Samsung’s new Smart Window technology was shown as an example of what’s just around the corner…

More people in the world, it seems, have access to mobile phones than either mains electricity or even safe drinking water.

Randi Zuckerberg (Mark – of Facebook fame – is her brother) was very smiley… and totally forgettable.

Biz Stone came next and was entertaining even if he seemed a little, er, medicated. That or exceedingly laid back. Which is possible given he co-founded Twitter. To the early complaint that “Twitter isn’t useful”, his co-founder Evan Williams is purported to have replied “Well neither is ice-cream! Shall we ban it and all joy?”

Lastly, we had Scott Stratten. From Toronto. But we won’t hold that against him. He said he used to be in HR until he realised he hated people. Then he moved into marketing… where it was OK to hate people. He came perilously close to being a stand-up comedian, but managed to keep a curb on his anti-QR Code rant, and instead gave some hilarious examples of how NOT to use it.

  • Like in aeroplane magazines… when you can’t use the internet
  • Or in emails to mobile phones… when the camera is on the opposite side to the screen you’re reading it on
  • Or in web pages… when the QR code sends you to the same web page
  • Or pulled behind an aeroplane, so you need to run down the street trying to scan it from the sky
  • Or on a dog tag in case the hound gets lost… but without a phone number! (Remember what you use to scan a QR code? Yup – a phone!)

Or my favourite… on the back of a bus! Readable only from a moving vehicle! And note what it gives you access to – Atlanta Medical Center ER. No irony at all…

Update: OK – so I found a really good image showing the bus I was talking about. Unfortunately, since I wrote the post late at night, I had forgotten to do the usual and add the source location. My bad. I was tired. I had added a link to encourage people who were interested to visit their site and read more, but had forgotten to mention it in words.

Anyway, the site owner seems to have an issue with people actually seeing their content, despite it being on a public website, easily locatable via google images, blah, blah, and put up a snotty replacement image instead. OK. A little rude (they’re probably Lancastrian 🙂 ) but OK. The image had words about stealing their bandwidth. OK… but it seemed to miss the point that even THAT image needed downloading from their site.

C’est la vie dear reader… there’s nowt as queer as folk.





Should You Include A Picture On Your LinkedIn Profile? – Business Insider

1 06 2012

“… or, cruelest and most unreasonable of all, too beautiful for your own good.” I’ve always felt that danger, haven’t you?!

Should You Include A Picture On Your LinkedIn Profile? – Business Insider.





Stiff upper lip and all that, eh? What?

8 04 2012

Once upon a lifetime I worked for a company that was acquired by Kodak. Big company culture didn’t seem to suit yours truly and I left. Not long after, the graphs at Kodak all started pointing South. Pure coincidence BTW!

Anyway, I was pleased to see that despite their recent financial troubles, Kodak still has a few folk in Marketing with a sense of humour. On April 1st, they “launched” a product line called “LivePrint”. A very novel idea! Click the photo for more on the story.





Five Leadership Lessons From James T. Kirk – Forbes

5 03 2012

Quite witty, but never-the-less solid advice from Alex Knapp who plainly isn’t kept busy enough by Forbes and has time to watch vintage sci-fi.

Five Leadership Lessons From James T. Kirk – Forbes.





Is a LinkedIn profile reason to part ways with an employer? – FT.com

17 01 2012

Beware what boxes you click on your LinkedIn profile… your boss might not like it!

No FT? No comment…

(You need to sign up for a free registration to read articles on the Financial Times site… sorry, not my rules!)

Is a LinkedIn profile reason to part ways with an employer? – FT.com.





Still waiting for the iPhone 5?

2 01 2012

I bought Mrs. Elephant an iPad a few months ago. She loves it. Sure it’s got WiFi, smooth lines, a limited edition red cover and her name laser etched on the back, but so what? I could be all that too, if I really wanted to. I just don’t like red leather. And I’ve seen James Bond in Goldfinger. I don’t fancy anything being lasered anywhere near me, thank-you very much! So now she’s a big fan of all things with a half eaten apple on them. Yesterday she declared a desire for an iPhone, quote “if only it made coffee as well”.

Ah, well, that reminded me of a great product I learned about on a Pragmatic Marketing course a couple of years ago (which I fully recommend if you’re a Product Manager, BTW). What you need is the Pomegranate Phone. This thing is awesome! For a start it’s made in Canada, so it’s bound to be, well… polite.

Pomegranate phone

Pomegranate phone

But this thing brings phone, email, full internet browser, camera, video, MP3 player, GPS navigation… just for starters.

Add to that a video projector, a global voice translator (think “babelfish“), shaver, harmonica… and – you guessed it – a coffee brewer. Sure, it’s filter rather than espresso, but there is a selection of coffees to choose from.

Pomegranate Coffee Brewer

Pomegranate Coffee Brewer

Impressed? You should be! And if you’d like to visit Nova Scotia this summer, all the better!  🙂





Focus on building 10x teams, not on hiring 10x developers « Avichal’s Blog

17 12 2011

I’m bored. I have two potential behaviours when I’m bored. I either cause mischief somewhere, or I go and read something interesting. This posting I found falls into the latter category. I agree with much of what is written, and have worked in several companies where nowhere near enough effort or attention was paid to teams and their smooth operation. Seeing a group of individuals morph into a cohesive team is a thing of beauty. They care more about each other’s success than their own, spend personal time with each other, and generally operate at higher levels of efficiency BECAUSE THEY WANT TO, not because they’ve been cajoled into it.

I recommend this posting – well worth a read: Focus on building 10x teams, not on hiring 10x developers « Avichal’s Blog.





Thinking Time

16 12 2011

Just came across this posting by Jacob Gorban about scheduling specific thinking time. Well worth a read. So easy to fall into pure reactive mode… especially if you’re self-employed and have one eye on the mortgage payment. Been there; done that. Quite enjoyed it actually…

Thinking Time.