Thursday, 28 September 2017

Travel and Sameness

Travel is many things; Inspirational, Educational, Entertaining, Revealing and so much more.

When overseas, I do not watch TV, listen to radio or read newspapers including Australian on-line papers.
My lack of knowledge of the German language meant that from Berlin, I sent a message to Australia asking who won the German election.
I arrived back in Australia this morning and grabbed a copy of the Melbourne Age at the Airport Lounge eager to catch up on what is important locally.
Having scanned the first few pages and finding nothing to inspire in depth absorption by my jet lagged brain, I turned to the sport. I read the few paragraphs of trade discussion concerning Gary Ablett.

I returned the paper to the stand.

I simply had no interest in what were fundamentally the same articles and story lines as 10 days before.

It was like a slow-moving soap opera, the ones where you catch an episode after 2 or more weeks absence and it really doesn’t matter.

It appears the same people are still advocating for coal fired power and regulating the gas supply.
The quality of the Marriage Equality debate has not changed.

A high-profile sportsperson has been charged following a bar incident; same story, different name.
A certain President continues to be outrageous on Twitter and grand final entertainment is yet again detracting from the spectacle of the contest of skill and athleticism of the teams actually playing in the game.

We need leadership, particularly in areas of energy, transport infrastructure, environment, economic, social and technology. We need leaders that have the courage to make decisions for the future and commit to them for the long term. We need leaders with courage.

Instead, we have a former Prime Minister, the current Federal Attorney General and Leader of the Party that holds much power in the Senate talking about a song to be performed at a sporting contest that most attending would not know, if they did would not know what it was really about and is being performed by an international act that most would not know about.

My return from a period removed from the news cycle revealed just how futile, petty and juvenile our Leaders have become.

We deserve better.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Seeing Green and Writer Revelations

As I write, I am hurtling through the German countryside on InterCity Express. And I mean hurtling as the speed reading is 248 kilometres per hour.

I have just been served a cup of tea and 50 minutes in to the journey, I am feeling relaxed and contemplative.

The view outside is a sea of green, all shades of green. The blight on the landscape comes in the form of power lines and their supporting steel structures. I have never before so starkly noticed this visual pollution.

I leave Berlin with a heavy heart. I loved Berlin and if I was 30 (or more) years younger, living there at least for a period of time would very attractive.

It appears to have a lower cost of living than many other so called major cities. It also has a lower cost of living than Sydney, Melbourne and possibly Brisbane. In several conversations with people from other countries who have chosen to live in Berlin, relative low rent was mentioned as an attraction.

Our group from MND and ME referenced the low cost of restaurants and other services and goods. One item I pay $8.00 for in Brisbane was 2 Euro.

Berlin is a City I felt very at home in, language aside.

I made new friends in the MND and ME community and re-connected with others I had met previously.

I was also hoping to establish new contacts in relation to my business plans and at least two people I met will become the focus of future projects.

There was an unexpected unfolding that initially challenged and subsequently energised me.

On the first day in Berlin, a lady from Canada asked me what I do for a living. My answer was initially less than articulate. It was the first time this question had been asked of me since I departed my past Corporate Life. I eventually replied that I am a “freelance writer” and further discussion followed.

It was most liberating and exciting to answer this question on a dozen or so other occasions, and far more instantly articulated too.

It also provided unexpected reinforcement of my decision which on Sunday, will have been in effect for 3 months. It has gone quickly and I cannot recall a single moment when I have wanted to be back at my old desk.

It is surprising the opportunities that arise from nowhere. Perhaps the most extreme came from a conversation with a most interesting, successful and high-profile gentleman. He asked me a few questions about my writing before asking to swap contact details, adding he is seeking a ghost writer for his book. I reluctantly explained that I was not a book writer, however further discussion revealed other opportunities for collaboration including content for his website.

As much as I would like to spend longer in Germany and Europe, I am looking forward to heading home. There is a collaborative project I am working on and we will be launching before Christmas.

There are several other ideas I am keen to “pitch” as well as following up opportunities coming from this trip.

Melbourne beckons in a few weeks’ time and there is a bike ride in the Snowy Mountains in December to ensure life is not all work and no play.

My question to you is, if you could answer with anything you wanted, how would you answer the question “What do you do for a living”?

Monday, 25 September 2017

Berlin Marathon Wrap and Meeting Marathon Man

Well, that was fun. Seriously, yesterday and the Berlin Marathon was fun, from the time I woke and got ready, breakfast, making our way to the start, the marathon itself, the after party and then dinner.

It was all fun.

I have never thought much of the Ossie, Ossie, Ossie, Oi, OI, Oi chant that first became popular during the Sydney Olympics. I have always felt it was a little “simple” and we really could do better.

However, hearing it yesterday when Australians’ in the crowd noticed the flag on our shirts was an entirely different experience. It was wonderful. And there was a dozen or more groups of Australian supporters, some with the obligatory inflatable kangaroo.

The Belgium supporters had large inflatable pretzels.

There was a more overt multi-cultural feel about Berlin compared to New York and many more runners of my age and older. I recall being in the starting compound at New York and realising how few runners were of my age and wondering if I really should be there. I had lots of company yesterday.

Our MND and ME team seemed relaxed although some later confessed to nerves. I have tangible evidence of my relative relaxed state.

At the start in New York, I was standing with Matt from the MND team and we checked our heart rates. My stationary standing heart rate was 91 (would normally be low 60’s) and his was a few beats higher. I checked it yesterday with a minute to go and it was 71. A tangible indication of my more relaxed nature.

At about the 28 kilometre mark, a runner from Australia came beside me asking how I was going. He was wearing a neck to ankle superman suit, inclusive of cape. As you do.

He happened to be at the after party last night, still in the Superman costume. (as you do).

He recognised me from our chat during the run and (bizarrely) asked if I remembered him. He would be about 50 and started running in 2008. Yesterday was his 317th marathon. He ran Sydney last weekend, Berlin yesterday and over the next three Sunday’s will compete in the Cologne, Munich and Melbourne marathons. When he completed the Gold Coast Marathon on 2 July 2017, he achieved a new world record. It was his 313th marathon.

He doesn’t look like the typical endurance athlete, was a little taller than me and I estimate some kilograms heavier. He just loves it.

The costume he wears is not Superman. It is actually Marathon Man. His name is Trent Morrow and this is his website . It was great to chat to him and he was very generous.

What is next on my agenda?

There is a group trekking to Mt Everest Base Camp in 2018. This has enormous appeal and I was very keen to be a part of it. However my cardiologist said I was not to go into such thin air.

So, what is next?

I have no idea, but I do know something or someone will materialise. It always does.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Life Lesson From The Berlin Marathon

It is the eve of the day I have been working towards for 12 weeks.

I sit in my Berlin Hotel Room feeling a sense of anticipation and excitement. I also have a degree of concern about the weather that will greet us in the morning. Will it be wet, windy, humid or hot? Then again, I have no desired formula for what perfect weather will look like. 

The weather will simply be, what it will be.

Tomorrow is the day of the 2017 Berlin Marathon.

I do struggle to articulate why at just a few days short of my 59th birthday, I am setting out to run my second ever marathon.

The first was in New York in 2015 and as amazing experience as it was, everything about it was hard and just hurt. I was injured through much of the preparation and went into the event still injured. It was satisfying to finish and it was a sensational experience to be a part of an amazing event and to see New York from a vantage point that relative few get to enjoy, but it wasn’t fun as such.

I said I would never do another, but here I am.

The constant injury and the drudgery of training for New York were drivers in my decision to not make my way to another marathon starting line. A huge part of my motivation for New York was being a part of the MND and Me foundation team and fund raising. This was the reason I entered the event and the reason I persevered.

I was also driven as much by wanting to be a part of a unique event, to be able to say I was not just a marathoner, but I was a New York City Marathoner. 

Very little about New York, was to do with the actual running of a marathon. It was a combination of a Charitable commitment and perceived kudos of the New York City Marathon. Ego was a factor.

In Berlin, I am again a member of the MND and Me team and proudly so. The foundation does extraordinary work.

However, I am here for “me” this time too. I am here because I want to run the Berlin Marathon. This time it is about the event, the 42 plus a little bit Kilometres that make up the Marathon.

I am not obsessing about a time, I really don’t care what it is. I am here to enjoy the event for the sake of the running. In New York it was about something else; in Berlin, the sites of the City and the size and encouragement of the crowds are looked forward to, but it is the run that is my primary sense of enjoyment tomorrow.

I am incredibly grateful for, and humbled by the messages and support from Family and Friends. It is really very moving, emotional at times and motivating always. Thank you.

All that is left in the preparation is dinner, a good night’s sleep, breakfast and the starting line.

And the lesson I have learned is, if we take action in life for true and authentic reason, everything is far more enjoyable and satisfying and I think this is a lesson to take to all aspects of life.

I am running the Berlin Marathon tomorrow, for all the right reasons this time.

NB: Apologies for the layout and other issues in recent posts. The European version of the site operates quite differently to Australia, making layout and editing somewhat difficult. (I am also out of time sync with my wonderful volunteer proof reader which doesn't help)

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Berlin – Two Tales, One City

By the title, you may be expecting an article about the East and the West but that is not the prime intent of my musings today.

Berlin appears to me to be a City at ease with itself.

It is not in a hurry like New York; It is not manic like Paris can be. The pace on the street is more akin to an Australian City.

The people I have come in to contact with have been friendly, welcoming, eager to help and happy.

There appears to be many foreign residents and they too speak well of the City.

It is a seemingly young City and it looks to me as if there is a very high proportion of people aged between 20 and late 30’s. However, there also appears to be few children.

Berlin is proud and positive.

Much of my day has been spent surrounded by sadness. I had identified “The Story of Berlin” museum as one I wanted to visit. Attached to it is a Hitler museum documenting his rise to power and we know the rest.

I also visited the Jewish memorial and the Topographie des Terrors.

Berlin is incredibly open about the scars on its history, the atrocities performed on a wide range of minority groups, the deportation programs and the horrors of the concentration camps.

They in no way celebrate it. They do however understand it is a part of their history and outline the facts in a straight forward, detailed and often pictorial way. Almost too detailed at times.

The ability of this City to re-build physically after the destruction endured between 1943 and 1945 is amazing. However, more amazing is the ability to confront its history, presenting it for all to see and understand.

I haven’t been to Japan but I doubt their history is available for all to see and read.

Berliners are courageous too.

There are also many situations where Berliners have protested against Government policies, taxes and wrong doings, and often with success. Other times the guns were turned on them but they still presented next time.

If you are over the age of 20, chances are you will know someone who was in Berlin during the war and worked in the war effort. 

Friday, 22 September 2017

Face to Face With a Little Cold War Reality

I caught a Taxi this afternoon. It wasn’t a long trip.

I travelled from my Hotel in Berlin to Berlin Vital Expo where the formal registration took place for the Berlin Marathon. I am number 58,818.

It was a most enlightening Taxi ride.

But I will come back to that later.

Earlier in the day, I joined a Fat Tire Tours Group for their “Berlin Wall and Cold War” Tour. Our tour guide was Ciaran who hailed from Ireland. Our experience was enchanting, educational, entertaining and thought provoking.

Ciaran took us on a tour tracing the Cold War history of the East and the West, the events preceding the raising of the Berlin Wall, the Eastern architectural changes that occurred as “dictators” changed and the way of life of those in the East compared to the West.

He outlined with physical examples the efforts the East went to in order to protect their way of life by inhibiting exposure to western culture, manipulating information, restricting discussion and a regime of propaganda. Residents of the East had little say in how they dressed, what the read and the music they could listen too.

I wasn’t exactly shocked to learn that one in nine residents of East Berlin were registered secret police informers, but I was disappointed.

We learned of children falling in to the river that separated east from west and how they would be allowed to drown. If help came from the West, they would be shot as soon as they entered the water and if help came from the east, the saviours would be shot also, by their own under suspicion of attempting to escape.

We went to the Russian Memorial and learned about the history that resulted in its establishment. We also learned about the Berliner’s less than complimentary take on the centrepiece of the memorial referred to by Russia as being the Unknown soldier.

We also heard about the events that lead to the fall of the Berlin wall and these are well worth researching because at the end, a “stuff up” at a press conference directly hastened reunification.

Something that came as a surprise to me was learning that a few years after the fall of the Berlin wall, many of those previously living under the suppression of the East wanted the wall to go up again.

In the East, they lived a controlled, consistent life with job security and life certainty. Each day was a mirror image of the last. When Germany became “whole” again, they were subjected to market pressures because “the state” no longer provided for them. Many struggled to adapt.

Back to my Taxi journey.

My driver was older than me. He asked why I was going to the Vital Berlin and was impressed I had travelled to Berlin to run their marathon. Berliners have great pride in their marathon.

He asked about my day and my reply resulted in further discussion and me asking if he was from the East of the West. He was from the East.

He was very clear that the falling of the wall was positive in all ways. He conceded many struggled to survive in the new world of the west but said the concern they expressed about this were with the security and knowledge the wall was never being re-instated.

He said the struggles he has faced as an under educated East Berliner of the separatist days finding regular and reliable work since re-unification are irrelevant compared to the freedom of thought and expression he has enjoyed for nearly 30 years.

He told me he was 21 years old when first locked up for political insubordination. Further, he told me he has no idea what he did or said that resulted in being locked up at 21 years of age.

I gathered he was incarcerated on several subsequent occasions.

He admitted he was a free-thinking young Eastern Berliner who despised the subservience his family, friends and countrymen had been subjected too. He said he was also aware of the rules however his concerns must have filtered through to his everyday way of life.

He suggested that those who say they want the wall restored, do so for political reasons and in reality, do not want a return to separate states and all the fear that brings. However, my taxi driver is most proud that they get to express their desire because for so long, opinions were not allowed.

It was a fascinating day, made even more so by my short taxi ride that brought the learnings of the day in to reality.

I also suspect very many people here will have similar stories to tell, and tell them they should.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

A (Self) Lesson in Calming

The best laid plans etc etc etc.

Leading up to travelling, I always intend to be well organised. I intend to have pre-determined what I need and what I want to take, to have decided the bags I need, technology priorities, music to load and books to read.

I intend to have understood functions or events I am attending and applicable dress codes and any other matter that may impact clothing needs.

I have always failed to fulfil my intentions, be it a 2-month overseas trip or two days at the Sunshine/Gold Coast.

I always find myself frantically packing a few hours before needing to be at the airport and not only stress myself, but all those around me too.

I always take too much and always leaving something out.

I sit writing this post, enjoying a leisurely cup of tea. I will shortly arrange some dinner and head quietly to the airport.

The habit of a lifetime has been broken. Investing a little time actually considering what I need for my European sojourn, having everything ready in advance and then putting a third of it away again before packing has me ready to go, well in advance.

Not only do I have less luggage than I typically take away for a long weekend, I am relaxed and looking forward to the trip.

The discipline and planning I exhibit in my business life has rarely transferred over to my private life. Preparing and then executing a “travel ready” plan is a good example to me of the value of applying business disciplines to other aspects of life.

After all, we apply personal ethics to our business practices, so it should flow both ways. Shouldn’t it?

Monday, 18 September 2017

Worth of Work v Value of Work

What is the worth, of the work we do?

Alternatively, what is the value of what we do?

Is the worth of what we do different to the value, is it calculated and assessed differently or is it the same? Does it even matter?

The market place dictates a price for our skills and services. This may be based on the tasks we perform, the goods we produce or the things we sell. Our “price” may the linked to the people we lead and how we go about this, the strategies we develop or the projects we manage.

We accept the price and perform our role.

But, how valuable is it?

What if the value of a role was assessed based upon the severity of the impact, should it not be done for a day, 3 days, a week, a month or more.

What does history tell us about the value of Bankers? What would happen in a country if banks were closed?

In 1970, Irish bankers went on strike seeking better pay and conditions. Not much happened. Pubs and other business guaranteed cheques based on their knowledge of individual customers. There is even a suggestion that GDP growth did not suffer.

The strike continued and eventually, after 6 months, the Bank staff and management decided to return to work in case it was decided they were actually no longer necessary.

Two years earlier in New York, sanitation collection workers went on strike*. After 3 days there was an estimated 30,000 tons of garbage on the street and by the time the strike was settled 6 days later, this had grown to 100,000 tons.

The City had been brought to a halt. Reports suggest garbage was waste high in the Lower East Side.

Who is worth more and who performs the most valuable work? Bankers or Sanitary staff?

In one case, life went on with a little inconvenience. In the other, life stopped.

I realise the comparison I have made are from a time long past, but they are in the same era and chances are, in 2017, a bank strike in one country would have less impact than in 1970.

The impact of teachers, medical practitioners, transport staff and others not arriving for work would be much greater than many other much higher paid roles shutting down.

The worth of a role is out of proportion with the value we place on a role.

Ask yourself, what would happen if my work was not done for a week and would it really matter? If you are brave enough.

*In New York, sanitary staff maintained services to hospitals, aged care facilities and similar entities.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Doing Your Best Is Environmental

When did it become unacceptable to “do your absolute best”?

When did it become necessary to put a number, a percentage, a factor or a time on everything?

As toddlers, our parents encourage us to do our best, however when we start being assessed at school, doing our best is passed over for actual results.

What if the results our parents think are great, do not represent us doing our best?

In our working life, chances are there are measurement parameters to be met.

Is it possible such parameters are driving results that are less than they would be if the culture was “do your absolute best”.

If you operate in a highly metricated environment, you will have almost certainly come in to contact with people who meet the target almost precisely, in each and every reporting period.

So, why this tendency to count and to measure, and then to reward accordingly?

Put simply, it is easy.

In a way, it also delegates performance responsibility to the “operatives”.

If the requirement was to “do your absolute best”, there is a responsibility for Leaders to provide a high-performance environment. This includes support, IT, people, product and processes.

This is hard, very hard, so it doesn’t happen.

However, I pose the question, how is performance being adversely affected by metricated KPI’s?

This subject has come to front of mind as a result of a question I have been asked more than a hundred times these last weeks.

I am running the Berlin Marathon in 8 days and everyone, absolutely everyone wants to know my target time.

My objective in Berlin is to run the absolute best marathon I can do, given all the circumstances leading up to, and then on the day.

Will it be hot, cold, wet or dry? Will I get a great night’s sleep or will there be a fire alarm at midnight?

My objective is to do my absolute best marathon given the environment I am presented with on the day. I have no control over the environment, and in most cases, no one else has control either.

When I outline this, I am further pushed for a “time specific” answer.

We are so programmed to access everything numerically and then make an assessment as to the result being good, bad or indifferent.

As I said, I have little or no control over the environment I will face in 8 days’ time.

In business, a Leader is able to create an environment where team members can do their absolute best.

It takes courage to implement such an environment. It is far easier to default to numerical targets.

It takes courage to trust rather than question operatives.

It takes courage to implement a culture of “doing your absolute best”.

It takes courage to argue that targets detract, rather than enhance results.

Back to my marathon on 24 September, if I was to nominate a target time of say 4 hours 30 minutes and the circumstances of the day meant I was well ahead of target, I may back off my effort and finish in 4 hours and 30 minutes.

My supporters and fellow team members would applaud my “time”, but I would know I had not run to my absolute best on the day.

I would have under-performed, but only I would know.  

All Leaders have the ability to drive a better culture, but few exercise it, defaulting instead to numbers that ultimately can restrict performance

Enjoy your weekend.

For regular readers, I will be back on Monday 18 September.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Social Media Tells Marketers Everything - Nearly

My work today has been to make progress addressing two different, but related challenges.

Preparation is underway to launch a new venture and I have been working on this. We don’t intend to be secretive when we launch meaning we will engage in some marketing and awareness activity.

And it is the marketing of the new venture that makes up my second challenge.

The funds we have available to allocate to marketing are minimal; in fact, funds are at the lower end of minimal.

This is not so much of a problem as it might have been in times past because now we can resort to the wonders of social media.

There are all the usual options, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Tinder, Blogs etc; come to think of it, perhaps not Tinder.

We can simply “put it out there” and wait for the millions to discover the sheer wonderment of our offerings. However, it was the science of coordinating these various platforms that was driving my investigative talents today, including the design of an ongoing social media maintenance plan.

My work was progressing well and I moved forward in my own comfortable paradigm aided greatly by a compelling combination of little knowledge and huge naivety.

And then……………

I discovered “Psychometrics”. Before you reel backwards with much scorn, please note again my confessed high level of naivety.

Psychometrics is a data driven sub branch of Psychology. This science is fascinating, incredibly powerful and just a little scary. 

Specifically, I discovered the extensive work of Stanford Psychologist, Michael Kosinski.

However, before I talk about his findings, I pose the following for you to consider. If you are a low to moderate user on Facebook, it is possible you have clicked the “Like” button, all up, on 68 occasions.

Michael Kosinski has proven (proven not assumed or calculated) that based on an average of 68 “Likes” by a user, it was possible to predict:

  • Skin Colour to an accuracy of 95%
  • Sexual Orientation with 88% accuracy
  • Political Affiliation (85%)

He also quotes being able to predict if the “Liker” smokes, drinks or takes drugs and even the current marital status of their parents.

In Australia/Oceania, 48.1%* of the population are on Facebook. In North America, it is 72.4%.* Worldwide, 26.3%.* are on Facebook.

The ability for a moderate to well-funded Corporate, Political Party or any entity with a position to promote, idea to push or product to sell, to communicate carefully tailored messages via Facebook advertising and posts to separate highly specialised demographics' is amazing.

To this amateur starting out, this is all just a little intimidating.

But maybe there is another way, another strategy to adopt? Now, for Tinder, do you swipe right to approve?

*Source –

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

It Is About Doing, What It Is We Do

What occurs first?

Is it a sense of tiredness that causes the inability to call our creative brain in to service or does the lack of creative energy lead to a feeling of tiredness?

I have been dealing with a wide range of matters these last 24 hours, most requiring mathematical calculations and numeric reasoning.

I often make a mental list, and sometimes a physical list of possible daily writing topics even if on most days, when I sit down to write an entirely different subject unfolds itself in print.  

Today’s list is blank.

Perhaps the lack of diversity in my conversations these last 24 hours is to blame. Ah, that’s it, I now have a reason, or is that an excuse. Either way, it means I am dissolved of responsibility so all is ok because that’s the way it works.

I am happy to call myself a writer. I am not claiming to be a particularly good writer, but given I actually write and produce content regularly, it is a writer that I am.

There is this thing called “writers block”. This is where we sit at our desk to write and cannot do so.

A friend and publishing book level writer re-arranged her “other” work so as to always have all day Tuesday for writing. On a Tuesday, a few months ago during mid-afternoon she told me she had managed to find sufficient distraction to avoid any writing today. This is not writers block because she didn’t get to the stage where the block kicks in. To be fair, she is making good progress on her next book.

I think we can all perceive what writers block is and all have a similar image.

Lets look closer at this "block" thing.

I imagine sitting in my office back in my Corporate Days and the phone rings. It’s the Chief Manager and he asks how the work the Board asked for is progressing. I advise it is not going well and he follows up with open questions seeking first to understand the issues so a solution can be agreed. This is sound management practice.

However, the response I imagine providing is “not today, I have Board Block”.

What would the response be if the brick layer building the new fence called in saying he has “mortar block” or your barista tells you she has “caffeine block”?

Do other creative content producers have “blocks”? Why do we never hear about a photographer being unable to press the shutter button? (Do digital cameras have an actual

Sure, a photographer may have days when they are not all that happy with their photos, but they still took them and it is only after the field or studio work is done they discover any quality concerns. Come to think of it, most photographers are exceptionally self-critical of their work, but all photographers execute, always.

I have read of famous writers saying there is no such thing as having a “block”.

One such writer said he is born to write just as he is born breathe. Another said he has to write to feel alive while the third said writing is his love and he would never block his love.

If I am to call myself a writer, then I write.

If I am a writer, there can be no such thing as writer’s block, because if I claim there is, I am not a writer.

We are all “creators”, no matter what our skills, our role, responsibilities, expectations or requirements. So, create we should. It is about the doing.

Although, I have to say, the idea of saying to the Chief Manager “I have Board Block” does appeal to me, but it would have to be face to face so I could enjoy the look on his/her face.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Competing With The Younger Generation and the IT Dilemma

“It will be hard because I am so much older than the other graduates. They are much further advanced than I am in all things IT and I am not sure my work experience will compensate”.

These were the words of my Tuesday coffee shop interview/conversation today.

He went on to explain some the “apps” and software being used by his younger University student colleagues to take notes in lectures and tutorials, prepare and collate information for assignments and then to finalise and submit their work.

“I am so out of touch and this is most evident in group work. I have to spend so many more hours reviewing notes and research and then putting together my contribution.”

We chatted further about the origin of this comparative gulf in IT knowledge and how to rectify it. He is considering doing further post-graduate study but was not sure where to start.

My conversation partner has been studying his degree of choice while also working full time. He has attained junior management level and his career is progressing ahead of normal with a seemingly bright future. This additional degree is aimed at enhancing his career prospects in a specific area of interest.

He outlined this interest as being centred on people development, skill enhancement and coaching. This distribution model involves identifying corporate training needs, designing targeted programmes and managing their delivery.

He further talked about the growing outsourcing and specialisation of these services and where he would like to position himself, his business.

I wondered out loud if the so called “IT Gap” is an ever-present problem as the pace of development and launch of new apps and programmes is a daily occurrence. As soon as something new is released, it becomes outdated.

He assured me the primary problem has to do with being a graduate who is so much older than his contemporaries. He added that his educational upbringing was of such a different era, one where he touched-on technology whereas his younger colleagues were imbedded in it.

I empathised with my fellow conversationalist and the dilemma faced keeping up with developments in technology, particularly keeping up with the younger generation.

And his age – 2 months short of his 25th birthday.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Forever Young When it Comes to Education

I spent each day of last week in the company of two gentlemen who in their own quiet way, were setting a great example to all.

The first had spent his early working life as a jackaroo before moving to many years across several properties as a Farm Manager. Hard work indeed but he loved it. A recent bout of cancer has made continuing in that occupation impractical. There are more important things in life, even if it has taken a threat to life to bring this to the surface.

He is 71 years of age. Farm Management is not ideal for building a nest egg.

The second gentleman had perused a career working for various regional councils. He was a little less communicative about his precise roles but I gathered it was to do with regional tourism.

He is exhausted with his current work and admitted to not being comfortable with recent changes and seemingly meaningless additional processes. He suggested many of the changes are aimed at ensuring there is a defendable position in the event of a problem, rather than preventing the problem in the first place. An increasingly familiar story.

He is 66 years of age.  He lost most of his wealth in the Global Financial Crisis.

Both had travelled from interstate to attend a training course that required computer skills far outside what had naturally been acquired during their working lives.

In additional to the cost of travel and accommodation, both had made a considerable investment in course fees and each had purchased a new computer specifically for the training.

Both worked inspiringly hard each day, and then long in to the night reviewing the day’s content. Both were focused, positive and determined to learn.

They were also communicative, fun and engaged and our conversations during breaks covered very many topics.

There were several things about these two gentlemen that represent a great example to us all, irrespective of age.

They were both determined to “do life” rather than let “life do them.”

In both cases, circumstances were such that they had a need to re-train and they were excited about learning, developing and the next phase of their working life.

Finally, they owned their circumstances, complained not once, and never suggested they were owed a living.

I am sure they will succeed.

Impressive indeed.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

When Planning Becomes Procrastination

Like many others, I am drawn to various quotes. They can act as a reminder or a prompt about an action, or the consequences of not taking an action.

One that comes to mind is:

“Fail to plan and plan to fail”.

Today I am wondering how useful this really is.

I am not suggesting planning is a bad thing. If we simply dive in without considering the pros and cons of an idea or concept and the steps involved to execute, we may fluke a positive outcome but more likely the opposite will unfold.

I do wonder however if planning can become a vehicle for procrastination.

Many a venture has failed to start because there is always one more detail to address, one more issue to pre-empt or one more problem to anticipate; more time is always needed.

This thought process has been prompted by my own procrastination over recent weeks. I have been developing plans for a concept under research for about 18 months. Each day the planning I do becomes more complicated and more detailed, which of itself is not such a bad thing. In my case, it reached the stage where it was “planning for the sake of planning”, and when I self-analyse why, the answer I get is quite revealing.

I am delaying actually starting. I look for reasons to stay in the planning stage rather than moving to execution. When I delve deeper, I am satisfied the reasons for procrastination are not fear of failure or concern about loss of capital.

If it fails it fails and by definition, very few would even know. The financial commitment to start is minimal so losing the investment would not be particularly painful.

So, why my delay?

Deep down, I don’t believe it will work.
I would be entering an already oversaturated market with a product and service that has no differentiating feature or unique benefit. Bluntly, if I was the consumer, I wouldn’t change brands to that which I am developing.

The reality is, as much as I would like to enter this market, I have been more attached to the idea than I have been to actually doing it. While I am in the planning phase, I can have meaningful discussions with all and sundry about what I am doing. If I actually “start”, these aspirational conversations cease, replaced by outcomes and these would not be pretty.  

Many good ideas and concepts fail because there is insufficient planning as the overwhelming tendency is to be impatient to actually start. To be stuck in the planning stage combined with a lack of impatience probably requires a very honest self-discussion to determine “why”.

My next step? Move to Plan B, although in reality, it is more like Plan M.

Friday, 8 September 2017

When Loyalties Are Challenged

It is an interesting time of the year.

For many of us, it is a time where traditional loyalties and conflicts are challenged.

Our loyalty and commitment is under self-scrutiny, and those declining the passing of judgement do so because they are totally consumed by their own obsession. 

The decisions we make are influenced equally by affection as by dis-like. This dis-like may be driven by a group, or be isolated to a single entity. Either way, our decision is inclined to be instinctive rather than considered, emotional not practical.

And alliances change quickly. Less than a week ago we may have been singular in our support for another and equally definitive in our disdain for others, but now the incompetent is cheered as the hero.

We may delight in our choices in equal measure as we do to our guilt at the decisions we make. We support who we do based on respect, or based on dislike. Both passions are equal and authentic.

Our ability to shift is alarming but we all want to make the correct decisions.

Naturally, I am referencing the start of finals, or play offs for our major football codes

Most of us support teams that have failed to qualify for the playoffs. Most of us will have selected teams we hope succeed in the playoffs. Our decision to prefer victory for one team over another even if we have no attachment to either allows us to remain emotionally involved, but not emotionally committed. In many cases, this decision is driven more by the desire for the defeat of an adversary and not the joy of victory.

There are far too many occasions in sport and in life where we secretly celebrate failure in preference to celebrating victory.

I wonder, is this healthy, is this courageous and is this emotionally positive? It is however “safe” and “safe” never created much at all.

If your team is in the finals, best of luck. As for me, my support is with the favourite or the best performed because I value sustained performance and reward for method and results. Besides my AFL team is out of the contest and my ARL team finished in first position, so my decision is easy.

Wishing a healthy, invigorating and active weekend to all.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Building Resilience Is No Isolated Solution

I have become increasingly fascinated at the growth of the “Resilience Industry”.

Many organisations have conducted “resilience” training for management and staff while others have the topic on their agenda. I am aware of less sophisticated scenarios where a staff member or middle manager has been told they need to be “more resilient”, "toughen up".

Put simplistically, resilience is currently a fashionable Corporate Buzzword.

I wonder if the fascination, or so-called fascination with the concept of resilience is actually counterproductive.

Are we treating the illness at the exclusion of the addressing the cause?

We are being trained to be more resilient but against what?

Resilience is defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as being:

1.       The capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused by compressive stress and

2.       An ability to recover from or adjust to misfortune or change.

The Oxford says much the same but includes the words “recover quickly from difficulties; toughness, the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape”

Let me rephrase this in to Corporate Speak:

1.       The ability of our people to better manage highly stressful workloads and business environments and

2.       To better cope with organisational change.

I totally support the creation of workplaces where all employees feel better able to cope with busy work pressures and constant change. Further, resilience training is important, but not in isolation.

I am aware of situations where an employer has been exceptional in providing flexibility and support to staff who have suffered illness and breakdown, particularly where work factors have been accepted as a significant contributing factor.

However, less common are proactive measures to prevent such situations.

Resilience training programs are not the solution. They are part of the solution but only a small part.

We need resilience programs but only after we perfect the areas we are seeking to be resilient against.

Organisational change is necessary but it can also be stressful.

Departmental structures change as do responsibilities. Reporting lines are disrupted and comfort zones are disrupted. Some roles may be deemed redundant and from that, people may be re-trenched.

All this is valid.

I have been in leadership positions through very many periods of Corporate Structural change including several instances of ownership change.

Without exception, there have been very sound reasons for such changes. Almost without exception, communication of reasons and preparing of staff for change has been shameful.

I have also been party to numerous changes in workflow caused by improved technology or the implementation of new outsourcing arrangements. Again, the explanation of the reasons for the changes and the preparedness and training provided to adapt has been inadequate at best and disrespectful bordering on the dishonest at worst.

It is narrow minded and dare I say, a version of cowardice to be providing resilience support as a means of coping with such poor and lazy leadership practices.

Teaching resilience understanding and techniques is excellent but only when it is one only component of a strategy, and not the only component.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Compliments and Criticisms

It is so easy to be critical and seemingly so hard to be appreciative

There is a comparison with investment markets. They tend to go down at a faster rate than they go up. Historically, they lose value at about twice the rate they gain value.

Given most of us do not take short positions when investing, our emotions when an investment is losing value are far more intense than when it is gaining value.

What we perceive as poor service generates frustration, just like an investment losing value causes frustration.

Conversely, we take it for granted when we make money and we take good client service for granted.

We are quick to complain or express our dissatisfaction but slow to complement our satisfaction. Or to put it another way, we are far more comfortable, articulate and expressive in the negative than we are in the positive.

How much better would we be, and we would all be if we actively looked for, and complimented good service?

I am off too Europe in a week or so and my itinerary included a flight with Air Berlin. Subsequent to my booking, Air Berlin went in to receivership and as of today, assurances my flight would proceed as planned resulted in me having no concerns.

A text message today requested I call my primary carrier and when I did so, I was advised the receivers have ceased operating the route I was booked on.

The service person was well prepared to assist me and was empathetic to the inconvenience this caused me. A range of solutions were offered including new connection details. The options for a train transfer or using an alternative airline were explained and the relative benefits or otherwise of each new transit airport were outlined.

I had a range of questions which were comprehensively answered.

I moved some 4 flights and changed departure days and what was an annoying situation was resolved as seamlessly as possible and to my satisfaction.

The call completed with me expressing my appreciation for the care and attention provided in what was a tough situation.

Perhaps we could all focus on being as willing to compliment as we are to criticise, and in all walks of life.

And, to whoever it was from Virgin Australia who looked after me, thank you and well done.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Long and Relentless Hours of Work - Learn From Athletes

We are taught, and we teach, hard work delivers results.

In many challenging situations, we default to working harder, working longer or both. Not only is this our own response, critique of hours being worked is often the default reaction of Leaders.

I have worked in organisations where a close check was kept on how many hours are being worked. I know of one company, a significant (now) publicly listed organisation. where it was strongly rumoured the CEO required a weekly report of when access cards were first activated by each member of the management team each morning, and last activated each afternoon.

This resulted in behaviours that in some cases were as amusing as they were paranoid.

And the currency of hours at work applies not only when there are issues or problems. The push is all too often to work longer, or be seen to work longer all the time. More is better.

In conversation with an experienced professional on 30 June this year, (a Friday) they confessed their state of mental exhaustion from running flat out towards the end of the financial year. Their real concern was knowing that on Monday, they had to run even harder as the clock had returned to zero for the start of the new financial year. They were doubting their ability to continue under such repetitive stress and said they feared making errors that would be costly to both clients and their own reputation.

Put simply, we tend to gravitate to what is easier to see and easy to count, and hours worked is visible and countable.

A senior colleague of mine from days long past had a very clear mantra, “output matters, not input”.

The importance of tapering has long been practiced by athletes and is viewed as being mandatory if an individual’s best performance is to be achieved. It is also scientifically proven. or to put it another way, tapering is critical to achieving maximum output.

Amateur endurance marathon runners get to the taper stage of their preparation and have feelings of guilt believing they should do more training than their taper dictates. They will regularly over train and their subsequent performance suffers, or worse, they become injured and their state of mind suffers greatly.

In business, we push others, or push ourselves to run hard all of the time. We then suffer frustration when illness (injury) occurs, quality suffers, mistakes are made and morale deteriorates (state of mind).

The innovative business is one that recognises the need for employees to have peaks and troughs within their work cycle, just as the athlete does in their training plan. A successful entity will require, and schedule creative or thinking space for staff and provide a means by which ideas can be channelled and then treated with respect. This time is prioritised and mandated.

Over the years, many business practices have been incorporated in to sport. It is past time a few went the other way.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Power of Curiosity

Curiosity – the desire to learn or know about anything: Inquisitiveness.

My challenge, my desire is for us all to regain our curiosity.

We enter this world inherently curious. Everything is new, intriguing, exciting or frightening in varying combinations. 

Our natural infant tendency is to be intrigued by the simplest things and stimulations. We can play for ages with a rattle and every new touch and texture is a source of intrigue.

We grow, our knowledge develops, as does our ability to observe and ask questions in order to satisfy our curiosity.

Busy lives of those most influential in our life mean that often our curiosity remains unsatisfied. This may be our teachers who have so many competing priorities combined with a need to adhere to a curriculum. If only they were allowed more flexibility to not only teach, but also inspire curiosity.

Our parents are busy, often providing short and convenient answers and explanations as they deal with the diversity of challenges from you and your brothers, sisters, friends and all associated pressures.

We learn to dampen our curiosity, to refrain from asking and to stop challenging the authenticity of short form answers or explanations. We protect ourselves.

We become accepting of the normal, less inclined to question the unusual and arguably default to taking the easier, less confrontational but less curious path.

We spiral to easy acceptance.

Join me in actively re-gaining our youthful curiosity and reject the barrier of comfortable banality we wrap around ourselves.

Commit to being more attentive in all areas of our lives and refusing the acceptance of trivial explanations but more importantly, lets commit fully to providing answers and explanations be it family, business, social or wherever. Let us encourage research, investigation and enrichen our and others lives by exploration rather than interpretation.

We can improve our own world, and that of all who move through it by returning to our childhood curiosity and doing so openly and proudly.

Be curious, proudly and assertively curious.

Welcome to your new week

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Logo Importance - Actual Image or Original Intent?

How important is a logo and its meaning to the success of a business?

Can a logo be the making of an organisation, or the breaking?

For our major brands, the mere mention of their name is reflected by an instantaneous mental image of their logo. Think Apple, Coke, McDonalds, Ford, Adidas and many other international technology, food, clothing and motoring conglomerates. In fact, every category of business will have highly identifiable brand names and associated logos.

Is it the logo that matters more than the meaning of the logo? Are we locked in to the visual impact and its memorability rather than what the image may actually mean? Can a well intentioned meaning evolve over time to be a negative or even offensive image, or does the familiarity of that image supersede the meaning?

In the world of technology, the IBM logo was the most recognised for decades, where as Apple now occupies that position, and is in the top 3 best known of all logos.

There are many different versions of the original meaning of the Apple logo ranging from an association with the computer term “byte” through to paying respect to the death of a designer from ingesting a bite from a poisoned Apple. Does it matter what the meaning is?

In motoring circles, a common belief is the BMW logo is an interpretation of a spinning aircraft propeller with the blue depicting the sky. If this is true, does it matter that the company was a war time manufacturer during the second war? However, the reality is more likely to be the colours on the logo were chosen to reflect those of their original home in Bavaria.

I ask again, does the actual meaning behind the imagery of a logo matter?

Let’s consider the logo of a highly successful international business.

Its logo depicts an image of mythical figure widely considered in academic circles to be representative of deception, darkness, or even evil.

This is a business with over 26000 outlets across 75 countries selling more than 8 million of its core product per day.

The business successfully presents as a safe family location with a positive persona and a daily "must go to" venue for millions of people.

The business originated in a sea side area and the logo design was reportedly selected because it depicts a connection between land and sea.

The picture on the Logo is that of “Melusine” a medieval character, half female and half twin tailed sea serpent. Having twin tails separates this character from that of a mermaid who has a single tail. The legend is quite fascinating reading.

It could be said the historically held view of the logo imagery is not one of wholesome, happy goodness.

This does suggest the widely accepted meaning of a logo has zero impact on the success of a business and it is more important what the intent of such a logo is. In this case, its seaside heritage.

More important is what was on offer. As appealing and memorable as a logo may be, first came an innovative product, delivered in a way the market desired that meets a need and is replicable across highly diversified markets of varying cultures.

Perhaps this is something to keep in mind when the new VP of Marketing or new Brand Director wants to tinker with the logo. Get the product and service right first.

And the name of this highly successful, growing international business is – Starbucks.