I have known Rachel Kolsky for many years prior to my starting here in the British Library Business & IP Centre.
26 February 2013
I have known Rachel Kolsky for many years prior to my starting here in the British Library Business & IP Centre.
19 February 2013
A little while ago I attended a staff talk at the British Library on a project to catalogue books published by the Italian Academies dating from 1525 to 1700.
11 February 2013
Monday 28 January saw the Library hosting CMI Management Book of the Year Award.
01 December 2012
My beloved Eat St. is no more. But this is a good news story as it has been replaced by KERB, and all the great pop up shops are still there at lunch-time, sandwiched between Kings Cross Station and the University of the Arts.
09 November 2012
The BBC has written a story about a new book called Australia's greatest inventions and innovations by Christopher Cheng and Lindsay Knight. It's published as a paperback, ISBN 9781742755649 and is aimed at children.
I haven't seen the book but was interested in the comment taken presumably from the book "In some cases inventors from other countries may also have a legitimate claim, but Cheng and Knight do not want the Australian research to go unnoticed." Ten examples of Australian invention were put forward.
I'm not so sure that the black box flight recorder originated in Australia, although I believe it to be true that their work led to its adoption. Dave Warren's was working on the idea in 1953 but did not patent it. In August 1953, James Ryan of Minnesota applied for what became a Flight recorder US patent. Maybe it was a dead heat -- often ideas come about at the same time, as with the telephone.
The dual-flush toilet is attributed to Bruce Thompson in the early 1980s in what again seems to be unpatented work, but such toilets date back at least to three Californians applying for their Dual flush control for toilets patent in 1953.
I found their disposable syringes story intriguing -- apparently using penicillin in the old glass, reusable syringes meant that they easily clogged up, so a new plastic disposable syringe was invented just after World War II, using the plastic expertise of a local toy manufacturer. I don't know if it was the first, but this work was certainly published as an American patent, Device for injecting penicillin or similar liquids. Here's the drawing.
Anything that encourages curiosity and interest in technology and design is wonderful, of course. I like to think I've never lost that sense of wonder, and stories behind how inventions come about are great -- provided it's remembered that the effort of commercialising the invention is also needed.
02 October 2012
I have to admit that perhaps due to a scientific background, or
perhaps just plain old cynicism, I had always been wary of life
coaching. I decided the only way to address this prejudice was to attend
Rasheed’s workshop five years ago. After three hours I was entirely
convinced by his eminently practical approach, to putting your heart and
soul into your business.
So it is great to see his practical philosophy translated from workshop to published book in the form of Soul Trader published by Kogan Page. And having read it through this week, I would put it at the top of my list of recommended reading for everyone starting (or growing) a business. I am still a big fan of Starting Your Own Business: The Good, The Bad and The Unexpected by David Lester, but Rasheed has addressed the key issue of what you really want to get from starting a business, and to make sure you end up running it, instead of it running you and your life.
Most people do not go into business solely to make money. They want to make a living, make an impact, make a contribution, make a statement, make something of real worth and value. They want to enjoy what they do, and make themselves happy and their families secure and proud. They want to make a break from the humdrum, and express their skill and abilities. But sooner or later many business owners fall into the same old trap, lose sight of what’s important and struggle with life balance.
The book consists of eight C’s made up of seven chapters and a ‘plus’ which focusses on insights to help anticipate and embrace Change.
Early on Rasheed gets the you to conduct a personal SWOT analysis. Which is an excellent way of discovering what you do well, and what you need to work on or get help with.
The book is peppered with examples from his hundreds of clients over the years, and covers a problem I have encountered many times, which he calls the ‘blindness of the visionary’. People become so (understandably) obsessed by their business idea or invention, they completely forget about their customers. This leads to a very expensive and risky approach to market research, where you bring your product or service to the market and then find out if anyone will buy it. Much better to find out as you develop your idea and tailor it to what you customers say they want.
Once again Rasheed gives a practical solution to this problem by showing how to map out your customers. He also explains how to develop a set of customer ‘scenarios’, to help understand the psychology of your customers. He doesn’t shy away from the realities of doing business in the real world as a soul trader. Without sufficient income (and avoiding the number one cause of failure – cash-flow) your business will not survive. Even social enterprises have to generate enough money to pay their staff and to invest in growth if they are to succeed. These are the hard questions that so many avoid tackling in their business plans:
I have been talking to lots of makers recently such as jewellers, and many haven’t properly come to terms with the issue of wanting to make everything by hand themselves, but also selling enough items to make a living.
Courage is term one doesn’t come across often in business books, but Rasheed rightly recognises that this is an essential ingredient in business, and gives practical tips on how you can develop it. I am constantly in awe of the people I meet who are at the beginning of a journey that would terrify me. The book contains an example from ex-Dragon and Business & IP Centre supporter Rachel Elnaugh. Rasheed asked one simple question during an advice session, and at a stroke gave her an insight which revolutionised her life. “I can honestly say that session with Rasheed was like walking through a doorway that has led me into a completely new and completely fulfilling life where success, money and love are all now flowering.”
Cooperation is an undervalued aspect of business, with many people I meet worrying about their competition before they have even started trading. The book talks about the importance of developing business partnerships through cooperation. And again Rasheed gives practical advice on how to grow and then utilize your support networks.
Conversations, which convert contacts into customers replace the ‘hard sell’ for soul traders. After all, no-one wants to be sold to, but everyone wants their opinion to be listened to. This chapter also includes how conversations work via social media channels and what precautions you need to take them online. There a lots of practical examples here, including how to deal with complaints by using, Acknowledge – Reflect back – Say what you can do.
Towards the end of the book Rasheed introduces his two-page business plan. As he says, ‘Business plans are written for two purposes and for two audiences: 1) for you to identify who and where you are, where you’re going and how you’ll get there; and 2) for investors or funders for the same purpose. If you’re seeking funding from others then you’ll need a longer, more detailed business plan…”
To sum up, I found Soul Trader to be clear and simple, friendly and supportive, passionate and soulful – just like Rasheed himself.
09 August 2012
Guy Kawasaki was the keynote speaker at the recent SLA annual conference in Chicago, and here are my notes from his talk.
Kawasaki started by talking about his time at the Macintosh division of Apple Inc. He described them as the largest collection of egomaniacs ever assembled in the US, until the creation of the Facebook development team.
In hindsight he realised that enchantment was a key part of his life, dating back to his first job in the jewellery trade.
Kawasaki has observed many hi-tech speakers over the years, and with the exception of Steve Jobs, they all ‘suck and go long’.
He always uses the 10 point model for presenting. So he told us if he ‘sucks’ today we will be able to tell.
1. Achieve Likeability
- Have a great smile – not just using the jaw, but also the eyes. So crow’s feet are good. Needs to be a Duchene smile
- Accept others for what they are
- Default to ‘yes’ – How can I help the person I just met
2. Achieve Trustworthiness
- Trust others first
o Amazon – have a policy of returning an ebook in 7 days if you don’t like it
o Zappos – buy the shoes online, if you don’t like them we will pay the return postage
o Nordstrom – you can return anything to them at any time
- Become a baker not an eater – a producer not a consumer
- Find something to agree on with customers – it doesn’t have to be a big thing
o Example of a dislike of Opera
3. Perfect what you do
- Do something DICEE
o Intelligent – they understand my pain / my problem
o Complete – the totality of the service you offer
o Empowering – they make you more creative and productive
o Elegant – someone has thought about the user interface
- Tell a story – a personal one, not a marketing one
- ‘My girlfriend wanted to sell Pez dispensers online’ – the story behind eBay
- Plant many seeds
- The key to bottom up marketing – make them available to everyone
- Use salient points when you talk about your services
o Calories vs Miles to burn them off
o Dollars vs Months of food for a family in Eithiopia
o Gigabytes vs X thousands of songs on portable player
5. Overcome resistance
- Provide social proof of success – the white ear-buds that came with iPods were a visual indicator in the streets
- Use a dataset to change a mindset
o Gapminder.org – review of number of children and longer lives across the world
- Enchant all of the influencers in the family not just the ones with the money, e.g. children.
6. Make your enchantment endure
- The Grateful Dead provide a space for people to tape their concerts for free
- Build an ecosystem of the totality of your service
- Invoke reciprocation
o Don’t say ‘you are welcome’ say ‘I know you would do the same for me’
o Enable people to pay you back in their own way
- Don’t rely on money (e.g. price offers) – it is not the core of enchantment
7. Great enchanters are great presenters, so:
- Customize your introduction
- Sell your dream
o iPhone = $188 of parts manufactured in a factory in China, but is more than the sum of its parts
- 10 is the optimum number of slides
- Delivered in 20 minutes at most
- A 30 point font size is optimal – so you don’t read your text out to your audience
8. Use technology
- Social media is free and ubiquitous so use it
- Remove the speed bumps for your customers
- Capta reduces the number of customers
- Sungevity.com – Uses your home address to mock up installation using satellite imagery
- Provide added value
- Example of Alltop.com website – aggregates information by topics
- ‘Eat like a bird, poop like an elephant’. i.e. take little – give a lot
- Use a lot of sources and spread the information.
9. Enchant Up
- When your boss or partner asks you to do something – drop everything else and do it.
- Prototype fast
- Deliver bad news early
10. Enchant Down
- Book by Daliel H Pink – Drive
- Provide a MAP
o Mastery – if you come and work for me …
o Autonomy – if you come and work for me …
o Purpose – if you come and work for me …
- Empower action
- ‘Suck it up’ – be a boss who is willing to do the ‘dirty job’
Kawasaki summed up Enchantment as having;
The Quality of Apple – the trustworthiness of Zappos – and the likeability of Richard Branson.
16 May 2012
Yesterday evening the British Library hosted a book launch for Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do: A Manager’s Guide to the Social Web by Euan Semple.
Instead of a speech, Euan was interviewed by Richard Sambrook a friend and college from their days together at the BBC.
Here are my notes from the evening followed by my selections from Euan’s book:
The tweets from the event have been Storified here.
A more detailed summary from the Strange Attractor blog by Suw Charman-Anderson.
The book comes in 45 Bite sized chapters, each with introductions and summaries. And in fact each chapter can be purchased individually in electronic format. Euan’s idea is to make it as easy as possible to spread the message to those who remain unconvinced by the benefits of social media.
An essential read for anyone with a connection to social media in the workplace (which means everyone), it is very wide ranging, quite philosophical at times, and always passionately personal.
Euan makes a strong case for the democratising benefits of adopting social media and collaborative tools.
However, my experience of both successes and failures to introduce these technologies in various workplaces, makes me think that Euan is somewhat naïvely optimistic (an accusation he is aware of, and attempts to address several times in the book).
He ended the engaging question and answer session by saying he thinks it will take up to fifty years for the change to fully occur, and this strikes me as more realistic.
Here are my highlights from reading the book:
What is the book for? – It is not a “how to” book nor, I hope, is it cyber-utopian vision of the future….I prefer to think of it as a collection of ideas that… can make the web more understandable and useful in the world of work.
Growing up online – We will only be able to take full advantage of the networked world if we grow up, think for ourselves, and take responsibility for our lives and our actions. I am not naïve. I know that, at least to begin with, truly thinking for yourself and saying what you think with any degree of authenticity is a big ask. It may never happen for many people. There may just be too much at stake and too much to take into account for a politician or someone in a corporate setting to really be authentic.
Don’t let the techies ruin the party – …keep things out of the hands of technologists as much as possible. Some of them aren’t so bad, and some of them are re-inventing themselves…if there is a single biggest block to making social media happen encountered by my clients in large organizations it is with their IT department.
Ten steps to success with technology:
Anarchy versus control – Someone once called me “an organizational anarchist” and I have to admit I was quite chuffed at the description and took it as a compliment…. What I am talking about here is not complete free reign for individuals … I am more interested in the possibility of all of us taking full responsibility for ourselves and those around us – the ultimate in democracy.
How about moving democracy inside the firewall instead of outside it?
Bosses who don’t get it – If you can’t get support from your boss, see if you can get support from their peers. Find senior people who get what you are trying to do and enlist their support … Keep talking to them in their language about what you are doing and why – even if they occasionally glaze over!
Collaboration and trust – There is a lot of “collaboration software” out there that is really just the same stuff that failed to deliver data management, information management, knowledge management and is now failing to deliver collaboration. In fact a lot of the tools labelled as collaboration tools actually work against effective collaboration.
Blurring work boundaries – The blurring of the inside and outside raises issues both for us as individuals and organizations we work for. For us it means that we have to take more responsibility for whatever lines we draw between work and non-work.
PR and marketing under threat – I believe that marketing and PR are professions at real risk of disintermediation by the web. We will need people to do our marketing for us less and less as we use the tools in everyday work and start to have more effective conversations between ourselves and our customers.
Help your staff to become your best advocates. Give them the tools and the insights to become your ambassadors online.
The Return on Investment of social media – … I am becoming more robust about the ROI question and turning it back on those who ask it. What is the ROI of the way we do things now? … Where is the competitive advantage in preventing staff from using these tools to build and maintain the networks that develop their knowledge and their ability to get things done. Where is the competitive advantage in allowing your competitors to embrace these changes before you do and potentially re-inventing the industry you are so rigidly clinging to?
Online indiscretions – Much has been made about recruitment teams searching Facebook and LinkedIn to find prospective candidates and the damage supposedly done by online indiscretions. In some ways this is an anachronistic attitude coming from people who don’t themselves engage online. People are becoming much more robust and open in their online lives. Besides, what is so awful about these supposed indiscretions? Rather than worrying about photos of potential recruits drunk at parties, I would be more worried about people who appeared to have something to hide. In fact I would be less likely to employ someone who hadn’t been indiscreet as a student!
Deal with management fears – Online …You can’t hide behind your status or your pomposity. In fact being remote and pompous will severely inhibit your attempts at effective communication on the web.
So the answer is to help those who are disapproving or pompous in reaction to what is happening on the web. Don’t dismiss their reactions or sneer at them but make it easier for them to relax and say what they think. Show them the ropes and hold their hands rather than ridicule them as they discover for themselves the fast changing world they have felt excluded from.
Develop guidelines-not rules, collaboratively – Don’t start with rules. Learn to use your tools, and see how people make them work before you cast too much in stone.
Use Trojan mice – Set up small, unobtrusive, inexpensive, and autonomous tools and practices, set them running, and cajole and nudge them until they begin to work out where to go and why.
Don’t feed the Trolls – The best way to deal with trolls is to befriend them. Even the worst of them are human.
If your critics have shown the energy to engage, and can then be turned around to be supportive of you, then this sends a very strong signal to other dissenters.
Radical transparency – In fact online I recommend that people assume that if you have written something on a computer then someone else will at some time be able to see it.
Does this mean you can’t write about anything? No, but it does mean you have to think harder bout what you are writing, where, and why.
Blogging as therapy – By writing about the workplace you become more thoughtful about your place in it and what it does for you.
My favourite quote in the book comes from Vint Cerf, one of the ‘fathers of the internet’. When asked by a journalist if the internet was a good or a bad thing, he replied, “It is just a thing. Whether good or bad depends on what you are doing with it.”
Euan ends the book with his final blog post at BBC after 21, years about the importance of love at work.