Show me the Monet

I might be imagining this, but I somehow remember writing that one day it would be proven without a doubt that art had health and healing benefits. Enter, stage left brain, an artist called Alexander Melamid. He has just opened something called the Art Healing Ministry in, where else, Soho in New York.

‘Patients’ can book an appointment to be exposed to fine art for various psychological and physical ailments. Mad? Well that can probably be treated too. A 20-minute evaluation and treatment costs from around $120.

BTW, if you think this is total nonsense I suggest that you pay a visit to a great cathedral and consider how your feelings change when they are exposed to a mixture of art, architecture, lighting and possibly music.

Demographic realities

Almost 33% of the US workforce will be aged 50+ by the year 2012.
Ref: The Economist

In the mid 1950s 9% of adults were single in the US. The figure is now 44%
Ref: Innovation Watch

In Australia 25% of women will never have children.
Ref: The Australian

By the year 2025 people aged over 60 will outnumber those aged under 25 in the UK.
Ref: Daily Telegraph

There is expected to be a 36% increase in the number of people aged 75+ in Japan between 2005 and 2015. During the same period the number of people aged under 5 years-of-age is predicted to decline by 13%.
Ref: McKinsey Quarterly

Just one person will occupy 34% of households in Japan by the year 2025.
Ref: National Institute of Population and Social Security Research

80% of UK wealth is held by people aged 55+.
Ref: Daily Telegraph

By the year 2020, one fifth of American GDP will be spent on healthcare.
Ref: The Economic Intelligence Unit

In 1970, the average woman had 4.5 children. By 2000, this
figure had fallen to 2.7.
Ref: The Next 100 Years by George Friedman

In 1800, average life expectancy in Europe and the US was about 40. By 2000 it was roughly 80.
Ref: The Next 100 Years by George Friedman

In the 1950s the fertility rate in South Korea was 4.5%.
It is now 1.5%.
Ref: Jacques Attali, A Brief History of the Future

China and India are expected to account for 40% of the global labour market by the year 2030. Meanwhile, the working age population is expected to decline by 23% by
2050 within developed countries.
Ref: World Migration Report 2008

How to buy friends and influence people

Here’s a good one. A partner at a major law firm in London recently ‘sold’ a work placement position for £1,150 at a charity auction. This was despite the fact that the firm has a policy on social mobility and equal opportunities.

Is this a one off case? No. The trend of putting a monetary value on work experience is not uncommon. News from Notting Hill is that quite a few investment banks and such like regularly ‘sell’ work experience slots at charity auctions, with the result that the children of the said same lawyers, bankers and so on can effectively buy a good bio – no aptitude or skills required.

The Future of Post Offices and Postal Services

First it was office mail. Then it was music and photography. Then it was newspapers and books. Now it’s public libraries and post office services. The digital revolution has rapidly created a number of new industries, but it is also slowly destroying – or at the very least challenging the conventions of – a number of very old ones.

Historically, population growth, rising incomes, globalization and the increasing number of individual households and businesses meant more and more people communicating with each other. In short, more people meant more people thinking about things and buying stuff that needed to be delivered from one place to another.

However, more recently, the growth of digitalization, virtualization and mobile communications means that we have witnessed a significant shift away from the physical delivery of paper-based items such as bills, payments, statements, letters, postcards and greeting cards. And it looks as though this shift will accelerate, with magazines, newspapers, movies, games and books all becoming members of a weightless economy, which does not require physical distribution, warehousing or delivery.

But the challenge isn’t restricted to declining volumes of physical mail. The postal industry is also facing rapidly rising transportation costs, regulated pricing, strong unions and the impact of new competitors that are much less restricted by legacy costs such as pensions.

Not looking good is it? But I’m a firm believer that where there’s a big problem there’s also a large opportunity waiting in the wings. Post offices and postal delivery services come from a public service tradition that fits nicely with emergent trends like localism. The Post Office may not be loved, but it’s still largely trusted by its local community.

If everyday life continues to speed up and becomes more virtual and less personal then ‘glocal’ organizations like the post office can bring a certain level of calm – even humanity – to communications. Moreover, the more that communications shift to digital formats and the easier it becomes to send communications without an intermediary the more we will value the cut-through of highly tactile nature of paper based communications.

And let’s not forget either that the predicted death of post offices is dependent upon a number of critical assumptions, all of which can easily be challenged. For example, it is widely assumed that the shift to digital communications is unstoppable. This is indeed the most likely scenario. But it is possible to imagine other worlds where things start to move in the opposite direction.

What if, for example, spam, data security or identity theft become such a problem that people revert to the security of paper based communication and physical delivery for important things? What if the use of email was proven to be more damaging to the environment than paper or what if the sheer volume of internet traffic meant that speeds slow down to the point where people stop using it? Or what if government concerns over censorship mean that a free global internet is eventually replaced by a series of highly regulated national intranets?

Whatever happens nothing is likely to happen overnight, so in the meantime here are a five ways to deliver a first class postal service.

1. Emphasise that post offices are part of the local community and forge relationships with other local community providers (e.g. public libraries), even sharing physical spaces with some to reduce costs.

2. Post offices need to grow non-mail revenues, especially insurance & financial services.

3. Make post offices physical fronts for e-services and provide print on demand for all government forms. Consider relocating some of the services relating to passports, driving licences, car registration and income tax into larger post offices.

4. Turn post offices into business support centres for SMEs and sell a range of office related products ranging from stationery to computer equipment.

5. Instead of focussing on ‘sending services’ why not create revenue streams relating to ‘receiving services’? For example, extend the idea of the PO Box to larger boxes or lockers where online goods can be received and stored. These boxes could even be chilled for food delivery.

Giving up technology (is difficult)

A study by of 1,000 people by Intersperience, a customer research firm, has found that 53% felt upset when denied access to computers and other devices connected to the internet for a single day. A further 40% found that they experienced loneliness when unable to go online. Overall, the impact of switching off from the internet was similar to giving up addictive drugs such as tobacco or alcohol.

World’s smallest computer

The prediction that computers will one day become so small and so cheap that we’ll sprinkle them on almost everything is not taken very seriously by some people. However, news that researchers at the University of Michigan (US) have created a computer measuring one cubic millimetre may change a few minds. The dot-sized machine contains a microprocessor, pressure sensor, battery, solar cell and wireless radio that enables it to transmit data to other dot sized devices.

Facebook fatigue?

6 million people in the US and 100,000 people in the UK have given up using Facebook according to the website Inside Facebook. The Social networking website currently has around 690 million users worldwide, but some commentators worry that its novelty status is starting to fade and that early adopters are starting to adopt other things.

Consequences? Possibly the “inevitable” float will be brought forward.

More answers than questions

Everyone is focused on what’s happening. But let’s for a moment consider what isn’t happening. Why aren’t Alastair Campbell and Piers Morgan coming forward with comments on what one would think would be an area of interest? Where is the broad support among Tory MP’s for Cameron? Where is strategy wunderkind Steve Hilton and where on earth is PR supremo Matthew Freud? And are we really supposed to believe that this whole sorry saga is limited to one newspaper in one company in one country? I find it almost inconceivable that the News of The World was the only title doing this.