Thursday, July 20, 2017

Hear It for Herdy

People in Cumbria have cheered at the awarding of the Lakes District the status of Unesco World Heritage Site, joining iconic locations such as the Taj Mahal, the Great Barrier Reef and Grand Canyon as a place of international acclaim. Few people cheered more than my good friends Spencer and Diane Hannah, founders of Herdy.

Commercial designers, Spencer and Diane observed a decade ago that many of the gift products on sale in the Lake District – which attracts 18 million visitors a year – were heritage based. They saw a gap in the market for well-designed contemporary gifts, and started designing unique gifts, accessories and homeware featuring the iconic smiling face of the local and loveable Herdwick sheep. Spencer and Diane worked the business part-time before it boomed following visits to trade fairs.

Today Herdy has four stores – in Grasmere, Hawes, Keswick and Bowness, a thriving retailer network and ecommerce channel, and an inspired sustainability and local reinvestment programme including brand diversification into UK made mattress manufacturing with herdysleep, with its purpose to create a long term, viable commercial use for Herdwick wool.

Herdy were onboard from the get-go in supporting the Lakes District World Heritage application, becoming the Lead Commercial Collaboration Partner representing core values around newness, progression, forward thinking, community and togetherness – and to be the warm, welcoming and friendly face of the bid. “When the UNESCO judging panel visit,” said Spencer at the time, “we want them to see evidence of a truly inspired, united, local community, with a clear identity and a passion for its landscape. The Lake District continues to provide a rich source of inspiration, whether it’s to climb mountains, write poetry, or start a new business.”

In November 2015 the campaign officially launched its commercial collaboration with Herdy, which saw the introduction of a new logo for the campaign titled “United by Herdy.” 2016 included a selection of events promoting the bid and encouraging people to proudly say “I’ve herd” with limited edition tote bags and ‘back the bid’ pin badges and car stickers. 2017 brought a successful outcome, with World Heritage Site status being awarded.

To reprise just why the Lakes District is so special, The Guardian reported that “with its rolling hills, spectacular mountains and stunning lakes, the site not only finds itself in illustrious company, but also becomes the UK’s first national park to be granted the status. The Lakes also boasts sites of historical importance such as King Arthur’s Round Table, said by English Heritage to be a neolithic earthwork henge believed to be the legendary monarch’s jousting arena. The Unesco committee praised the area’s beauty, farming and the inspiration it had provided to artists and writers [including] some of the country’s most beloved writers including Beatrix Potter, who owned Hill Top farm, and the poets William Wordsworth, Samuel Coleridge and John Ruskin.”

Herdy like to keep it simple. Its philosophy is “Smile at the world and it will smile back. Herdy smiles at you and you smile back.”

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Mumbo Jumbo

I use my fair share of acronyms. ABC. ADE. VUCA. RLRJ. FF/LF/FF*. They are a useful shorthand device, but overdoing acronyms with a generalist audience is a great way to lose them. Talking to a bunch of specialists with their own acronyms is AOK.

Acronyms are good up to a point, jargon less so. Jargon often twists the truth and tends to infect and bloat large business organisations. Before you know it, everyone is jumping through hoops, changing the paradigm, synergising, ideating, and circling back. Stuff is being done, but nothing happens. Next thing, corporate claptrap or ‘management speak’ skews or snows the truth to surreptitiously drive an agenda through at the expense of others.

A long time in business does tend to hone your bullshit detector. Don’t hesitate to call out claptrap in a positive way. The classic everyday waffle comes when someone walks up and says “the reality is”. At this point you can be certain you are not going to hear the reality. You are going to hear their reality, which is light years from the reality. Another good one is “to be honest.’ The outtake is they have been lying to you up until now, or what you are about to hear will really upset you. As Oscar Wilde said, “the pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.”

Most of us stray into the land of porkies and whoppers from time to time – something that starts naturally as kids seeking treats. In business, internally and externally, stay away from gobbledygook. Don’t join in the jargon because today’s always-on audience turns off automatically, and rightly so. Marketers and managements consultants are on notice to play their agendas with a straight bat. Mumbo jumbo is easily spotted, easier to share, and most unwelcome. Authenticity is the standard.

*ABC= Ambition Belief Courage
ADE = Assess Decide Execute
VUCA = Volatile Uncertain Complex Ambiguous
FF/LF/FF – Fail Fast / Learn Fast / Fix Fast

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Gearing for Complexity

“The best managers are happy to hold two or more opposing views on an issue because they know the world is complex. And in business, it’s crucial to be able to react to the world in all its complex and paradoxical glory.” Spot on from one of my old academic acquaintances, Professor Sydney Finkelstein at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.

As F. Scott Fitzgerald famously put it: "The ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function is the sign of a first-rate intelligence." Over the years, in business, I’ve called this power of paradox And/And. It’s about putting two unlikely ideas together and discounting neither.

Never was this truer because the chaos factor has ramped up across the board. Running a major company or country is quite the challenge these days, one where freight trains come at you out of nowhere. “That’s what I wake up to each morning. I get a thick book full of death, destruction, strife and chaos. That’s what I take with my morning tea.” – said President Obama, in an interview with Vox.

Turmoil is everywhere and impacts everyone. I often get asked how to rev up a start-up business amidst so much chaos. The acceleration point is as paradoxical as the decision points along the way. Don’t run from chaos. Run towards it. Hire a group who can not only manage change and complexity, but who actually enjoy chaos. You can only thrive in chaos if you bloody love it. To avoid being disrupted, point your trouble-makers at killer problems and get out of their way.

ps the image is from kissassfacts.com and their must-check-out article What's the Most Mind-Boggling Paradox You've Heard, they list 20.

Monday, July 17, 2017

AT Kearney’s 2017 Views from the C-Suite

AT Kearney’s Global Business Policy Council has always been a happy landing pad for me. I’ve always found a lot of value in their focus on how businesses can best adapt and evolve in today’s political, economic and technological climates.

Their most recent report, 2017 Views from the C-Suite: Adapting to Disruption, authored by GBPC Chairman Paul Laudicina and MD Erik Petersen, probes how 400 global executives see the current business landscape, and reveals what these leaders see as the challenges and opportunities in today’s world of business.

Unsurprisingly, the report identifies global political uncertainty as the biggest external challenge businesses face:
  • There’s a strong feeling amongst executives that the economic and political fallout from Brexit will grow, and that populist leaders and extremist political parties will continue to gain support in democracies around the world.
  • There was shared concern about trade, with the majority of executives believing global trade and cross-border flows will decline as a result of protectionism.
  • The majority also believed Donald Trump’s policies will do more harm than good to the American economy.
Executives point to the threat of cyberattacks as the biggest challenge to business operations, especially in light of a recent spike of high-profile cyberattacks:
  • 85% of executives believe cyberattacks will become more frequent and costly, and cyberattacks were identified as the top-ranked challenge to business operations.
  • Business model efficiency, skill at adopting new technologies and the ability to innovate were the next three highest ranked challenges to business operations.
While technology disruption is a key challenge, successful adoption of new technologies was the highest ranked opportunity for business operations:
  • Executives were most focused on cloud computing, big data/predictive analysis, and mobile technology as new business technologies.
  • Improving business model efficiency, improving strategic execution and successful innovation were the next highest ranked opportunities.
  • A favourable competitive landscape was the top-ranked external opportunity. However, almost a third of executives also perceived this as a challenge, often because they’re experiencing weak market growth.
  • A strong macroeconomic performance and expanding globalization were also cited as major external opportunities.
I recommend taking a look at the full report, which can be found here https://www.atkearney.com/gbpc/views-from-the-c-suite

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Ecstasy of Emirates Team New Zealand

Last Friday I opened Unfiltered's conference on Team, Culture and Diversity at the Auckland Museum with a presentation on Emirates Team New Zealand's victory in the America's Cup. The talk was the subtitle of my book 64 Shots - "Leadership in a Crazy World." I was involved in several early America's Cup campaigns - as a sponsor through Lion Nathan's brand Steinlager (great to see them still a sponsor), as a board member for one of the campaigns, and as a storyteller for a book I co-wrote called Peak Performance: Business Lessons from the World's Top Sports Organizations, in which Team New Zealand was featured.

Over three decades Team New Zealand has delivered ecstasy and agony in pretty equal measure. In Bermuda 2017 they delivered a SuperVUCA performance - vibrant, unreal, crazy, astounding. In deconstructing their victory, I mapped several correlations with 64 Shots - the power of purpose, the currency of ideas, flow (passion and harmony), mental toughness, inspirational leadership, and my sole algorithm (IQ+EQ+TQ+BQ)CQ. Plus I threw in a twist on the Peter Principle.

The speech is on my Linkedin page, jump over to read it in full and to share, and while there send me an invite to connect.

KR

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Breffni the Lions Fan

My mate from the Hawkes Bay Denis O'Reilly, social activist and essayist, is a great storyteller. Here is a gem from Den ahead of this weekend's giant All Blacks vs the British & Irish Lions test decider...

There was a “comment piece” from Bryan Gould in this week’s NZ Herald (July 5th) holding British rugby journalist Stephen Jones to task over the bile he spills about New Zealanders in general. Gould, who’s British Parliamentary experience has equipped him to understand that each section of the British Isles has its own way of laughing, except Wales, which doesn't. Jones carries the rugby grief of the land of his fathers on his sleeve, more wails than Wales, so much so that it has come to manifest as a form of Alzheimer’s whereby all he can remember is grudges against the All Blacks.

Gould finishes his excellent article with an indirect admonishment to the acerbic Welsh scribe “And rugby with no help from Stephen Jones will have done what it should be allowed to do – bring people and peoples together”.

So, just last week, the British and Lions Tour brought me and Breffni O’Reilly from Killinkere together. Our lines have not met since October 1875 when my great great grandfather Denis and his wife Margaret and children Mary and James left London for Lyttleton New Zealand on assisted passage.

I’d spotted a story in the NZ Herald some Lions fans heading to Wellington on scooters as a fundraiser for Starship. Winter: State Highway One; Desert Road; Foxton Straights, on a scooter! They must be mad. And so it proved to be. The spokesman for the crew (it seems that this is an intergenerational family feature ) was Breffni O’Reilly. Breffni. We hail from Breffni. I tracked Breffni down left my number. An hour later “Denis?”. “Is that you Breffni?” “Aye it is” “Cuz!”.

We met in on the Wellington waterfront last Wednesday. He had some mates: a Scotsman an Englishman and himself an Irishman. It sounded like the start of a joke. I told Breffni and his mates to hop in our truck. I said I’d give them an experience they’d never forget.

“Er, where are we going Denis?” “To a wake Breffni, to a wake”. Indeed, it was the beginning of the tangihana for the late Bruce Stewart, poet, playwright, poacher. I had some brothers with me. All of us had lived together with Bruce at Walton House in Newtown in the mid-1970’s. Bruce was sort of paterfamilias.

At Tapu Te Ranga I told Breffni to stick by me and the other brothers looked after the rest of our visitors. The architecture of the many buildings at Tapu Te Ranga Marae reflect Bruce: barely a straight line to be seen, odd angles, the warp and weft of a hugely creative personality evident everywhere. The old man lay in his waka mate which looked like a fair-sized pontoon. He was always a big man but as age and illness took over that giant frame he swelled horizontally so that his height and width were vaguely proportional.

I sat Breffni next to me on the paepae manuhiri. The welcoming speeches were given and then we visiting mourners replied, Eugene Ryder on behalf of the Black Power, a speaker from Heritage New Zealand and another from the Maori Wardens. I spoke last as part of our unique group. Out of deference to Breffine my waiata was an Irish folksong “Tralee fair Tralee” which ends “I’m a typical Irishman”.

And so, I found, I am. My cuz and I share the same sense of humour, an unquenched thirst, and, it seems the same manic approach to getting results. He left me his football club hoody. On the eve of the last Test I wished him and his boys the best of Irish luck. No need to repeat myself this time. But, yes, Mr Gould, you are right about the purpose of rugby and I’m grateful for it. Go the All Blacks.