Quote(s) of the Week


“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” – T.S. Eliot.

(and that was before Facebook and Twitter).

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Me on Instagram? Surely not!


Talk for the Dubai government at Judge Business School at Cambridge University recently. https://www.instagram.com/mbrinnovation/?hl=en

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Paper Vs. Screens


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Focus on the self


Here’s a little gem from Time magazine (20 May 2013).

In the 1950s families displayed a wedding photo, a school photo and maybe a military photo in their homes. The average middle class American family now walks amid 85 pictures of themselves and their pets.

But that’s not the good bit. This is…the average American 1-year-old has more images of themselves than a 17th Century French king.

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How to unblock a brain


I find this interesting. I was struggling with my !$%*&@? map again yesterday. Peering at the illustration on a huge sheet of A1 paper getting nowhere fast.

Then for no real reason I decided to write up the text by ‘category’ as a word document. Hey presto! All of a sudden certain items jumped out as total nonsense, while with others I could see connections that, counter-intuitively, I hadn’t seen on paper. It sometimes works the other way around too. So if you find your mind is blocked using one medium I seriously suggest you try another.

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Dystopic Thought for the Day (is that even a word?)

“Let’s imagine… if you glimpsed the future, you were frightened by what you saw, what would you do with that information? You would go to… the politicians, captains of industry? And how would you convince them? Data? Facts? Good luck!

The only facts they won’t challenge are the ones that keep the wheels greased and the dollars rolling in. But what if… what if there was a way of skipping the middle man and putting the critical news directly into everyone’s head? The probability of wide-spread annihilation kept going up. The only way to stop it was to show it. To scare people straight. Because, what reasonable human being wouldn’t be galvanized by the potential destruction of everything they’ve ever known or loved?

To save civilization, I would show its collapse. But, how do you think this vision was received? How do you think people responded to the prospect of imminent doom? They gobbled it up like a chocolate eclair! They didn’t fear their demise, they re-packaged it. It could be enjoyed as video-games, as TV shows, books, movies, the entire world wholeheartedly embraced the apocalypse and sprinted towards it with gleeful abandon. Meanwhile, your Earth was crumbling all around you. You’ve got simultaneous epidemics of obesity and starvation. Explain that one!

Bees and butterflies start to disappear, the glaciers melt, algae blooms. All around you the coal mine canaries are dropping dead and you won’t take the hint! In every moment there’s the possibility of a better future, but you people won’t believe it. And because you won’t believe it you won’t do what is necessary to make it a reality. So, you dwell on this terrible future. You resign yourselves to it for one reason, because that future does not ask anything of you today.

So yes, we saw the iceberg and warned the Titanic. But you all just steered for it anyway, full steam ahead. Why? Because you want to sink! You gave up!”

From Tomorrowland

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People as Pets

A Korn Ferry study of 800 business leaders across the globe has found that business leaders think that tech will create more value than people in the future. 44 per cent of bosses go as far as saying that automation, AI and robotics (let’s create a new acronym here and call it AAIR – as it void, vacuum, full of hot…) will make staff “largely irrelevant” in the future.

Reminds me of a boss I heard about not so long ago that referred to his people as “pets” (the only reason the management team employed people at all is that regulation made the company do so).

Ref: CityAM 17.11.16 (P09)

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Nice map


Why didn’t someone think if this before! (Thanks J).

In the car today.

Radio: “If you haven’t done your Christmas shopping yet there’s still a month to go”
Me: “F*%$ off” (It’s still November)
Radio: “We’re giving an Amazon Echo away. It’s great. I mean She. There’s a person inside”
Me: “FC*£@@!!*&%$$K off” (There’s not)

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Richard Watson on The Future, Automation and AI

I did a talk at the University of Northampton Business School last week, but before I started I spoke to John Griff at BBC Radio Northampton. The funny thing was that while I’d been told about this well in advance I’d totally forgotten. Hence zero preparation on my part. But guess what, because I didn’t prepare anything I didn’t obsess about what I was going to say and therefore didn’t screw it up (also due to an excellent interviewer that asked some good questions and put me at ease btw).

One of my more intelligent interviews with a great ending…

BBC iPlayer….(spool on to 1 minute 15 seconds)

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Celebrate Failure!


Bit of a thing going on here….whiteboards and blackboards turning into an obsession. Can’t quite see this working at a British University.


Here’s something I wrote about the importance of failure 10 years ago.

You don’t read about failure very often. And I’m not just talking about ideas that don’t see the light of day. I’m talking about people too. Why is this? What are we afraid of? After all, it’s not as if it’s unknown. Most companies — indeed, most people — fail more often than they succeed. It is the proverbial elephant-in-the-boardroom. And yet by being scared of failure, we are missing a great opportunity.The point about failure is not that it happens but what we do when it happens. Most people flee. Or they find a way to be “economical with the actualite” as a former British Government so elegantly described it.

“We launched too late.” “Consumers weren’t ready for it.”No. You failed. Own up to it. Own it. This should be a beginning, not an end.

The problem is this: Most people believe that success breeds success and they believe that the converse is true too, that failure breeds failure. Says who? There are plenty of people who fail before they succeed, some of whom are serial failures. Indeed, there is rumoured to be a venture capital firm in California that will only invest in you if you’ve gone bankrupt twice.

Take James Dyson, the inventor of the bag-less vacuum cleaner. He built 5,127 prototypes before he found a design that worked. He looked at his failures and learned. He then looked at his next failure and learned some more. Each adaptation led him closer to his goal. As someone once said, there’s magic in the wake of a fiasco. It gives you the opportunity to second guess.

None of this is to be confused with the mantra of most motivational speakers who urge you not to give up. Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration they say, and if you just keep on trying, it will eventually happen. And if it doesn’t, you’re just not trying hard enough. This is a big fat lie. Doing the same thing over and over again in the hope that something will change is almost the definition of madness. What you need to do is learn from your failure and try again differently.

All of which brings me to my first point. It is what you do when you fail that counts. Remember Apple’s message pad, the Newton? This was a commercial flop, but the failure was glorious. Indeed, who is to say that the tolerance of failure that is embedded in Apple’s DNA is not one of the reasons for Apple’s success with the iPod and iTunes?Does this mean you abandon your failures? Yes and no. Your idea could be right but your timing, delivery, or execution could be wrong. Who could have guessed that the one-time AIDS wonder drug AZT had been a failed treatment for cancer or that Viagra was a failed heart medication that Pfzer stopped studying in 1992?

As Alberto Alessi once said, anything very new often falls into the realm of the not possible, but you should still sail as close to the edge as you can, because it is only through failure that you will know where the edge really is. The edge is also where real genius resides.

So what I’m interested in promoting are the people whose ideas never get off the ground or rather get somewhere other than where they intended. These are the people who fail on our behalf. The unknown innovators that push things so far to the edge that they fall off. The unlucky or naïve few who open up a new trail — and get scalped — before someone else can see a way through with the wagons. (How’s that for a new historical definition of second-mover advantage?).

There’s a great quote by the English sculptor Henry Moore that sums this up pretty well: “The secret of life is to have a task, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for your whole life. And the most important thing is: It must be something you cannot possibly do.”

So here’s my idea. Rather than putting up statues to people who did something that was successful, let’s build a monument to the people who didn’t. Let’s celebrate the lives of people who invented things that didn’t work or tried to do something that was just plain crazy. A monument to the unknown innovator in pursuit of an impossible dream. The people we watch with perverse envy when we are too scared, too self-conscious, or too constrained to fail ourselves. Because without these wonderful people, there would be no progress or success.

Here are my top five tips for failing with greater frequency and style:

Try to fail as often as possible but never make the same mistake twice.
Set a failure target as part of each employee’s annual review.
If projects are a failure, kill them quickly and move on.
Create a failure database as part of knowledge management.
Set up annual failure awards. If this gets too successful, stop it*

*Stephen Pile’s Book of Heroic Failures spawned the Not Terribly Good Club of Great Britain. Unfortunately the club received 30,000 membership applications and had to be closed down because it was a failure at being a failure.

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