Monthly Archives: July 2011

By any other name…

Having worked on a couple of projects in Russia, I was interested to see this news item on BBC today.

“Russia classifies beer as alcoholic”

The idea of beer being thought of as “soft” drink got me thinking about the influence the names we give to things influence our behaviour. It reminded me of my first day at Grammar School – in fact the first few minutes!

Our form master introduced himself to us and then gave us some of the basic rules and spelt out the expected behaviour standards. He went on to say …

“You are now at the Grammar School and you are here to learn.
We don’t have a playground, we have a school yard,
we don’t have playtime, we have morning and afternoon break …”

It set the scene and we were left in no doubt that we had to “put away childish things”! I don’t know what effect it had on our creativity but it sure pointed us in the direction of study.

Do the names you give to things in your business have a positive or negative effect on the way you behave?

Could you change people’s attitudes to issues such as performance management, appraisal and staff engagement if you called them something else?

What would could you call them and how would it help?

It may be obvious to you but …

Just a quick post based on an incident this afternoon.

I was in the Bureau de Change waiting to buy some Euros for a trip next week. A couple of people ahead of me in the queue was a woman in her sixties. She approached the desk and said “I’d like to give my grandsons £30 in Euros each” and then waited. The assistant sat and waited for a while and when it was clear that no further information was forthcoming, she said “How many grandsons have you got?”

It was a scene reminiscent of “The Graduate” where Benjamin is talking to Mrs Robinson on the phone at the hotel and she says “Isn’t there something you need to tell me?” He then goes into a bit of a monologue about how grateful he is etc. and she interrupts with “The room number Benjamin, the room number!”

Sometimes we forget to communicate important bits of information because it is obvious to us – we need to be aware that it may not be obvious to others.

Have you ever done anything similar?

What can you do to avoid similar problems?

Logical Developments … well maybe not!

If you are looking to develop your business and call in outside help, you are likely to be told to:

  • Be clear about where you are trying to go [some form of vision or mission statement]
  • Analyse what is going on in the market / world [STEP and market analysis]
  • Examine your strengths and weaknesses [SWOT or resource analysis]
  • Produce a plan to help you get there

Different advisors will use different jargon for each of these stages but they all mean the same thing – a logical analysis of the situation, a logical assessment of your capability to compete and a logical plan for moving forward. A very logical approach.

Usually, this is sound advice, particularly  if you want to improve gradually and it is certainly better than not doing any analysis but… there is a hidden danger.

if it is logical to you, it will be logical to everyone else!

and that will make it easy to copy and hard for you to differentiate yourself.

To make a step change in your performance and open up new possibilities, you sometimes need to think differently, look at the market differently and act illogically.

Aircraft landing at Nice - Cote d'Azur

(c) Jim Yates 2011

Think about Stelios and EasyJet for example: He didn’t say… “how can I make air travel a bit cheaper?” – “He thought ..”If I can make it as cheap to fly from Liverpool to Malaga as it is to get a train from Liverpool to Edinburgh – enough people will go to Malaga for the weekend to make it profitable!” [You can insert your own choice of cities – the idea’s the same!] By doing this, he created a profitable niche in a very challenging market [and acquired a lot of imitators over time!]

It may sound logical once you get to the idea but you wouldn’t get there by logical, analytical thought processes. You might be able to construct a logic for how you got there by working backwards but you’d never get there in a logical linear fashion.

So how can you look at your product, service, market from a different angle and come up with an offering that excites new groups of customers?

Do you have the skills to help your team to come up with radical, illogical answers?

How can you encourage new ideas and more importantly stop crushing them?

Don’t do that, do this!

Sometimes we forget the simple ideas which we know work and can make a real difference! So it is good to be reminded from time to time.

I recently attended a  Business Scene talk by Lara Morgan who sold her business Pacific Direct  for £20 million a couple of years back. In the course of her candid, energetic and insightful presentation, Lara commented that the use of Pareto’s Law [80:20] rule had been instrumental in her approach, allowing her to focus on what really mattered in her business.

I’ve known about the rule for many years but Lara’s comments got me thinking and reminded me of something I’d worked out some time ago!

If 80% of the value of what you do comes from 20% of what you do then:

The time spent on your most valuable efforts is worth 16 times that spent on the least valuable activities!

How does that change your attitude to:

  • Delegation?
  • Developing your team?
  • Focusing your efforts?
  • Outsourcing?

So what are you going to cut out or pass on to others next week?