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April 2014
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Book news

Mick contributed to "New Eyes: The Human Side of Change Leadership".

Mick addresses the leadership implications of Big Data, and suggests its value can best be realised by enterprises fully embracing customer centricity and creating strong networks of innovation.

He then shows how the 4Es leadership framework can enable organisational change to capitalise on this revolution.

Get the bookNew Eyes

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Blog archives

TEDxAldeburgh - Nitin Sawhney - What is the point of music?

Leadership of a  different kind – through music

In this talk Nitin asks the question ‘what is the point of music?’ For an answer he draws on his own personal experiences of music, Indian musical thought, dance, theatre, cultural identity, the concepts of a ‘universal sound’ and the individuals unique ‘voice’.

Nitin Sawhney’s output as a musician is astonishing. He has scored for and performed with many of the world’s leading orchestras, and collaborated with and written for the likes of Paul McCartney, Sting, The London Symphony Orchestra, A. R. Rahman, Brian Eno, Sinead O’Conner, Anoushka Shankar, Jeff Beck, Shakira, Will Young, Taio Cruz, Get Cape Wear Cape Fly, Ellie Goulding, Cirque Du Soleil, Akram Khan, Mira Nair, Nelson Mandela and John Hurt. Performing extensively around the world, he has achieved an international reputation across every possible creative medium.

Often appearing as Artist in Residence, Curator or Musical Director at international festivals, Sawhney works tirelessly for musical education, acting as patron of the British Government’s Access-to-music programme and the East London Film Festival and acting as a judge for The Ivor Novello Awards, BAFTA, BIFA and the PRS foundation. He is a recipient of 4 honorary doctorates from British universities, is a fellow of LIPA and the Southbank University, an Associate of Sadler’s Wells, sits on the board for London’s Somerset House and Whitechapel Gallery and in 2007 turned down an OBE for ethical reasons.

Original video here

Marx, Motivation and the Power to Create - Matthew Taylor, RSA

MatthewI am always a fan of Matthew Taylor’s blog at the RSA. This recent post caught my attention.

It was more than slightly intimidating earlier this week to host an event with David Harvey, one of the world’s leading Marxist thinkers. Nevertheless listening to the great man and reading his book I was reminded of why – although there are many powerful aspects of Marxist analysis – I have never been attracted by the whole world view.

It comes down to human motivation: In essence Marxists tend to blame what they see as the most regrettable aspects of human behaviour on the capitalist system. So, for Harvey, capitalism relies upon and inculcates blind greed among the capitalist class (exhibited, for example, by the efforts made by the very rich to avoid their tax obligations) while fostering a combination of mob consumerism and bovine acquiescence among most of the rest of us.

Conversely, Harvey’s happy, enlightened post capitalist society seems to rely upon the emergence or a much more benign human psychology. Indeed Harvey is explicit about the importance to his case of a belief in the perfectibility of the human spirit – it is why he abhors the depredations of capitalism and why he believes in a radical alternative.

In contrast, I believe human motivation is both more constant, in that the same features and vulnerabilities express themselves – albeit in different forms – whatever the social context, and more complex in that – with Freud – I see inherent tensions playing out in the human psyche.

Crudely superimposing very basic elements of cultural theory and the Freudian account of the personality, I suggest we have three core drives: the pursuit of pleasure (roughly cognate with id, freedom, individualism), the pursuit of power (roughly cognate with ego, progress, hierarchism); the fulfilment of duty (roughly cognate with super-ego, universalism, solidarity).”

Read the rest of Matthew’s post

Robots - Wally Bock

RobotFrom Wally Bocks excellent Three Star Leadership Blog

Once, robots were the stuff of science fiction. No more. The Economist has released a Special Report on Robots. The Guardian reports that since Ray Kurzweil joined Google, that company has been snapping up artificial intelligence and robotics companies. 

Robots have already generated major changes in manufacturingRoomba, the vacuum cleaning robot is cleaning floors in more homes every day. OK, maybe it can’t clean the bathroom yet and it’s sure not up to the standard of Rosie from the Jetsons, but change is afoot.

The question is “What kind of change?” Technology forecasters and robot manufacturers say that all will be rosy. Science fiction writers have a different idea. Remember that the term “robot” was coined by science fiction writer Karel Capek. It’s based on the Czech word for “serf labor.”

In most science fiction, the robots aren’t content with serf labor. They take over and things don’t turn out well for human beings.

Here are some resources to help you figure out what robots and their kin mean for us all in the future.

From Kellogg Insight: How to Stop Worrying and Love the Robot That Drives You to Work
“Discomfort about “botsourcing” can be reduced by manipulating the human-like attributes of machines.”

From BBC News: US Navy tests robot fire-fighters
“A humanoid fire-fighting robot is to be tested by the US Navy as the latest move towards a more robotic military.”

From Annie Lowry: Hey, Robot: Which Cat Is Cuter?
“Crowdworking platforms are advancing the speed at which robots can do anything — and everything — better than humans.”

From Colin Lewis: The Ultimate Productivity Hack Will Be Robot Assistants 
“There is another seemingly mundane but profoundly important application of this technology: to better managers ourselves and our time. The future of productivity is coming, and it will rely on Artificial Intelligence.”

From James Young and Derek Cormier: Can Robots Be Managers, Too?
“Robots are starting to enter homes as automatic cleaners, work in urban search and rescue as pseudo teammates that perform reconnaissance and dangerous jobs, and even to serve as pet-like companions. People have a tendency to treat such robots that they work closely with as if they were living, social beings, and attribute to them emotions, intentions, and personalities. Robot designers have been leveraging this, developing social robots that interact with people naturally, using advanced human communication skills such as speech, gestures, and even eye gaze. Unlike the mechanical, factory robots of the past, these social robots become a unique member of our social groups.”

From Wharton: Robot Journalists: ‘Quakebot’ Is Just the Beginning
“When an earthquake hit Los Angeles recently, Ken Schwencke, a journalist and programmer for the Los Angeles Times, was first to get the news out. Woken up by the tremors at 6:25 a.m. on Monday, March 17, he went to his computer and found a brief story already waiting, courtesy of a robot — an algorithm he developed and named Quakebot.”

Read Wally”s original post

My Grandmother, Customer Service and Big Data

Burton on Trent Town Hall

Great customer service – in the 1920’s

My grandmother (Nellie) was born in Shoreditch in London, in 1887. After she married, in 1917, she eventually tried Sainsbury’s. They used to deliver her groceries to her door. Nellie was not a rich woman. Sainsbury’s leadership was built on convenience, value, cleanliness and great service – and home delivery was central to this for all of their customers.

Nellie moved to Burton on Trent after my mother was born, at the end of the 1920s. She found a new grocery store, Wilkinson’s, near the Town Hall.

It was not a chain, and the staff knew her by name. She often bought the same produce. A side of streaky bacon, if I remember her stories, was a staple. And whilst there wasn’t a formal loyalty program, Nellie was occasionally given new things to try, or handed special treats for the kids.

She got personalised service from the best and most convenient place she could find.

My mother later shopped at Wilkinson’s, too. In the 1950’s and 60’s, she visited on a Tuesday, placed her order, and paid. I remember walking in with her, and was fascinated by the huge bacon slicer. The order was delivered to our home by van on Thursday.

Consider how we shop today

Buying a camera, perhaps? Well, we probably first read the reviews on the web, ask the advice of friends both real and on social media, and comparison price shop. We might also pop into a bricks and mortar store to hold the camera and ask more details. Yet the chances are we don’t buy the camera then. We might order it from Amazon before we walk out!

Customers since retail was invented have looked for perfect, personalised service – using all the channels, information and search tools open to them. Today, they are also using all the data and mobile technology that they can get their hands on – more than ever before.

And today’s customers don’t see channels – they see information and results. That’s why all retailers must understand how data and insights generated are critical to the customer experience.

Today’s Customers – and their Digital Day

First thing in the morning, we download newspapers and check email. Facebook, Twitter, eBay, voicemail, phone calls: which of these are in your morning digital routine?

At each step, data is created. What we do, where we “visit” – both in the bricks-and-mortar world and the digital one – and what we see or buy is noted somewhere. Most of the data is collected by the websites visited or the services used.

The government watches us too – they are recording what taxes are paid, what education we have, what cars are driven, what laws are adhered to, how passports are used, who is in the family circle, and what our medical history is.

At work, there’s more email and the web. Depending on the company, customer data is collected – sales, credit histories, names, addresses, likes and dislikes. Internally, the company collects data on suppliers, its manufacturing plants, process performance, and distribution systems. There is data on employee performance, salaries, and more.

Booking flights, hotel stays, or going to a restaurant creates more layers of data. In the evening, during leisure time, millions of people stream music over the web, or upload pictures so that friends and family can see what they are doing and where they have been. Not just pictures are recorded – but also which friends view the pictures, their comments, where the photo was taken, and the camera settings used.

“Big Data” is a buzz-concept

Everyone is talking Big Data. But too often it gets discussed in technological terms. What is its real meaning for business strategy?

Remember the old adage “data – knowledge – insight – wisdom”? Well, “Big Data” is only as useful as the insight and ideas that are derived from it. We accumulate lots of data but we can’t always make sense of it. We need to extract wisdom.

Read the rest of Mick’s post