Common Purpose

My Word Of The Day!



Can you guess?  Answer : Resilience

Willis Resilience Expedition



Life Long Learning

It has been over two years since I finished my MBA at The University Of East Anglia.  After finishing my dissertation I decided to have a break from academic study or personal development courses because I just felt I needed one.  Then last year I did the Common Purpose Leadership and Development Matrix course which I enjoyed and found very inspiring.  I have got to the point where I need something new to stimulate my brain!  I decided at the start of the year to look into ways of embarking on a PHD programme themed in some way around one or more of the following areas – strategic marketing, branding, and partnerships, business modelling, innovation and low carbon markets, social enterprise business models and sustainability.

I have found the process of trying to understand what opportunities may be available, what further study or qualification may be required before undertaking a PHD, along with the all important ways of funding the programme, to be very difficult to navigate.  Lecturers frequently fail to reply to emails, contact telephone numbers are often difficult to find, businesses are difficult to engage, and nearly every programme seems to have its own process, criteria and deadlines with little uniformity even within universities.

I am looking for people who can help me with this challenge.  Would your business sponsor me to do a research programme / PHD, are you a lecturer or business school leader who could help me, are you involved in funding for research, are you involved in supporting people who wish to continue to learn through academic study?  What would you do in my situation.  If you can help please get in touch!

Brain Rules!

We are amazing!  Every single one of us is amazing and if you don’t believe me just read Brain Rules.  Even if you forget all the other things we can do as humans our Brains alone are so incredible they make even the fastest computer with the finest most developed software look very very slow indeed.

I don’t think I need to say too much more about the book, but it does seem to me that sometimes perhaps we take our Brains for granted.  Here are the 12 principles discussed in the book and what they could mean for your business activities.

1 – Exercise boosts Brain power.  If you need to concentrate on stuff, think clearly, remain focused and remember things – the best thing you can do is exercise for 30mins upwards every day.

2 – Our Brains have evolved.  Whilst this means they can deal with the world we live in today, they also have a history which can sometimes explain what may appear to be irrational behaviour.

3 – Every Brain is completely different.  This is because our Brains configure themselves based on what we are doing.  If you want to become a faster reader – read more often – your Brain will do the rest.

4 – The Brain can only focus on one thing at a time.  That’s right, there is no multitasking!  The Brain looses attention after approximately 10 minutes at which point you must refocus it.  Think about Presentations ones you have endured and ones you have delivered.

5 – If you repeat something you increase the chance of remembering it!  Reproduce the surroundings where it first entered your Brain to increase the chances of remembering even more.  How can you incorporate this into your marketing or into your sales pitches?

6 – To commit something to long term memory introduce the information gradually and at regular intervals adding more detail at each timed interval.  What does this mean for your next strategy meeting or presentation?

7 – When you sleep your Brain organises the memories of the day.  New information is best digested before sleep rather than after.

8 – If your Brain is stressed it is because it feels not in control.  Give yourself or other people choices to reduce stress.

9 – Vision is your strongest sense.  Use imagery to increase what you and others can remember.  Powerpoint is configured to use text – but it is actually imagery that is more likely to be remembered.

10 – Smell stimulates emotions and memories at the same time for the Brain making it another very powerful sense.  How can we use this in marketing, and what does it mean for the smell of your products?

11 – Our Brains our pre-programmed for life long learning and exploration – so never stop being curious!

I am in awe of my Brain and so should you be of yours! Take a look at John Medina’s site for more information – its a great web-site and a great book!

Made to Stick

This book is a nice complement to “Making Ideas Happen”.  The book sets out that one of the problems with making ideas happen is that we simply forget them.  Whilst some things seem to stick in our minds other things simply do not.  Unfortunately often the gem of a good idea, or a suggestion to make something that isn’t working work often just doesn’t get remembered and therefore is never actioned.

The book suggests six characteristics of ideas that are sticky:-

-They are simple – if you cannot explain your idea in three sentences or thirty seconds it probably isn’t clear enough in your mind and therefore won’t be able to resonate in someone else’s.

– They are unexpected – that is not to say Gimmicky and a fad or hype, but they have something that triggers enquiry and interest

– They are tangible – not pie in the sky visions that people instinctively understand probably won’t happen

– They are credible – perhaps through demonstration, perhaps through logic or research, or perhaps through other people’s support, but in some way ideas must have a credibility factor to stick

– They are emotional – ideas that do not appeal to people’s emotional intelligence are unlikely to get a positive response, people just think there is a possibility of more work.  You must show your passion and seek it from the audience to make an idea stick

– The idea, the problem, and the solution can all be communicated neatly into one simple story.  People remember stories not academic theory or financial formulas.  If you want your idea to stick tell it as a story.

I think this is quite a useful checklist.  Next time you have an idea and you need other people to help you make it a reality why not try this and see if you can make it sticky!

Final Reflections on Common Purpose!

common-purpose OK, so it is the end of my Common Purpose Matrix course. I have graduated and completed all the modules. I have been reflecting on the experience and trying to sum up what I have learnt, not from one specific event, but from the overall experience. In no particular order – here are the things that strike me!

1) Having a clear and compelling vision championed by someone or by a group of people is an essential aspect of leadership.

2) Leadership is not about authority, it is about having the vision and believing in it 100 percent

3) Understanding the historical context which has led to a present situation is a critical part of moving that situation forward in any meaningful way.

4) Problems or challenges are undoubtedly more complicated and complex than they appear at first. Good leadership often requires an ability to quickly understand and absorb the detail.

5) Negativity in any environment is highly corrosive and damaging to momentum

6) Change does not happen over time, it happens in a split second. It may take a long time to build up to change, and it may take a lot of energy to avoid changing back, but change itself happens very very quickly.

7) Providing opportunities is the most effective way of creating positive change

You cannot make a leader, you can only put someone in an environment where they have the potential to be a leader.

Without a doubt the most important thing I have realised from the course is the value of opportunity and choice. It ‘s been good fun, but what to do now is the question!

What is leadership?

I heard a great quotation last week. You become a leader with great leadership qualities when you can see “the whole vision in glorious Technicolor!” I love this phrase because I think it sums up so neatly when a great leader is able to do. Something inspires them, excites them, makes them passionate, makes them focus, and then they are off. They move into a different “gear” because ignites those qualities in them. They do not rest until they have reached their goal, no matter how long it takes, and no matter what gets in the way.

When I think of great leaders, I think of Winston Churchill, Earnest Shackleton, Nelson Mandela, J F Kennedy, and Ghandi. What seems to unify all these great people, and all the other great leaders there are in life, is having that vision, sticking to it, relentlessly communicating it, and pursing it without compromise indefinitely.

Ernest Shackleton

Ernest Shackleton

For me, if you want to be a great leader you must possess these qualities. Perhaps you don’t have them all the time, and in all circumstances, but for a particular project or cause, something is ignited that brings those qualities to the front of the persons mind. I don’t think you can teach someone to be a great leader but I think you can provide the opportunities and environment for leadership to naturally flourish. I think anyone can become a great leader, but they need to find the cause that brings it out of them!


Build A Brand In 30 Days

build-a-brandI have just started reading Simon Middleton’s book – Build A Brand In 30 Days. I met Simon a few weeks ago when he gave a presentation to my Common Purpose team in Norwich. By coincidence I met him on the train the following morning, and again in the evening at his book launch in Waterstones. Simon is a great communicator and is able to really inject enthusiasm and passion into his discussions and presentations about branding. That ability to really capture the attention and imagination of an audience is such a great gift to have.

I have only read the first three chapters of the book, but I like the easy to read style and language, and the relevant examples that make it easy to translate his ideas into story’s people know and can relate to.

Personally I am not sure that you can build a brand in 30 days – even if they are spread over a longer time period. That is because I don’t think one person can build a brand. I think brands are built by consumers, consumers who pester customers to buy on their behalf – even if that is just another part of their own conscience, and customers who demand more from their brands. Perhaps more products, features and benefits, perhaps better packaging design, perhaps better language or tone of voice which suits them, or perhaps a simple demand that the brand pulls itself together! The greater the enthusiasm with which consumers and customer do this, the more powerful your brand is. I have been privileged enough to manage some great brands – but I never thought I owned them or built them. I did some stuff to keep them in good shape, to keep them engaging with their audiences, and to keep them relevant. Perhaps I did help in some small way to build them, but I was only a small part of an architectural team, the people who did the building were the guys how bought the products, who emailed me when my products weren’t quite good enough, who mentioned the irritations in something that wasn’t quite right, who said when they did or didn’t like our advertising, and who pointed out when a competitor was better than us.

I like Simon’s book and thoroughly recommend it, and I shall be writing more about it from a different perspective in a couple of weeks, but if you don’t own a brand (apart from you own – watch out, this is going to be Simon’s next book!) you can still help to build one. Choose the product you love – enthuse about it to your friends, find out more about it and how you can help it to grow…. what do you get in return? A small emotional stakeholding in something that as it grows and you see it appearing in more places you will be proud of!

A News Room In Norwich

breaking-newsOn the last but one day of my Common Purpose course I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to visit a news desk for a local TV broadcaster. It was a great opportunity to get behind the scenes of how a story can become news and news can become a television broadcast. The first things I noticed were 1) the energy of the team, their enthusiasm and excitement, and 2) the audience’s natural scepticism and negative perception towards the media.

The process of making news is interesting. Information comes into a news room from all kinds of sources, about all kinds of things (business, politics, economics, marketing, Norwich, Norfolk, the UK, celebrations, people, history, etc etc), sometimes by investigation, sometimes by a third party, and sometimes just through observation. News can come from twitter, from a press release, from a phone call or email, or from a spokesperson. Every potential piece needs to be assessed and this is where the editing and production team have such an important role. They must consider if the piece is newsworthy to the audience, have they got the relevant facts and figures, the different perspectives of the story, and where does it fit into the programme format. Above all the editing team and producers must seek to protect the integrity of their programme and reporting, perhaps even their brand.

In any business this would be challenging. In most of the businesses I work with information typically comes from the same familiar sources in the same format – the source and format of information received by a news reporting organisation is rarely the same. If this doesn’t make the challenge big enough, you often have only a few hours to pull your entire product or presentation together. Again, in the typical businesses I work with, a presentation would take some weeks to build and the information that underpins it would have been analysed for several months.

Whatever you may think of the media in the UK, I think we should at least acknowledge the great accomplishment that is a news at six, or a news at ten, every day, every week. It’s never late – it’s never not half an hour, and there is usually something of interest in there somewhere!!!!

Rebrand or Reposition?

lucozadePerhaps it is just one of those coincidences, but recently I have heard a lot of people talking about Rebranding. “We’re about to rebrand”, “We’ve just rebranded”, “We’re going through a rebrand” or my favourite “We rebranded a year ago, but it was a disaster so now are going to do it again”!!

I am always very worried when I hear the phrase rebrand because I think it is nearly always misused and should be considered very very seriously before any business undertakes such a thing. To be really clear, I am not even sure that you can rebrand. I think you can redesign the expression of your brand, and I think you can reposition your brand, and you may do either of these things for perfectly valid reasons, but you cannot rebrand. You can throw your existing brand away and start again – but I am not sure the agencies that seem to be recommending a rebrand would recommend that with such enthusiasm and confidence.

So if you are getting feedback that your brand is becoming out of date, or tired, or slow to react, or boring, or out of touch, what should you do? A rebrand? NO! Listen to your customers and consumers, and ask what is wrong. If it is the product, work hard to update it. If it is the tone of voice of your brand, refine it and perhaps modernise it (do this only based on your customers feedback), if it is the look and feel of your packaging, consider updating the design. My point here is do not rebrand – the values of your brand should still hold true, but do consider improvements to the relevant areas of expression of your brand to keep it relevant and engaging to your audience. This is not a rebrand, or even a reposition – it is at best a refresh to the shell!

Alternatively you may be losing sales, your market may be shrinking, and even worse your share of market may be shrinking at the same time. Should we rebrand? NO! It will do absolutely nothing to improve the position you are in. I don’t want to look at all the possible scenarios which could be driving this unfortunate position in this post, but one may well be that your market is reaching the end of its natural life. A rebrand will not change that – a reposition may do though. A reposition is not about throwing your brand away, it is about making it relevant in a different context. Just as you dress differently when you go to work, when you go to see friends, or when you go to a wedding. People are always rebranding, by changing the style of language they use, the way they dress, the things they talk about. My favourite example of a reposition is Lucozade. When my grandparents were in their 70’s Lucozade was a drink for them, it gave them the extra energy they needed as they were getting older. Today I drink Lucozade, it gives me the energy I need when I go running or swimming. Lucozade has always been about giving energy, inspiring people to perform above their expected performance, but when older people realised they got more benefits from retiring early and playing in a park with their grand children than they did from drinking Lucozade, and as younger people appreciated the benefits of exercise and started to buy gym memberships, a reposition was needed – not the dreaded rebrand!

Leaving Microsoft To Change The World!

leaving-microsofThroughout my life in business I have always been aware of the question, could we do what we do with business, what we do to make money and deliver share holder value, to change the world for the better? Could we use the skills we have to instead of selling more widgets, get more food to people who need it, or instead of becoming more efficient, could we help communities that struggle to grapple with famine become sustainable? On a different level individuals often seem to struggle to balance the demands, stress and focus required from high profile jobs with the enjoyment and reward they want from of life. I think it is generally accepted now, that the one who earns the most if perhaps not always the one who is happiest. Alongside or perhaps because of this dilemma, there is also the new idea that is not realised because it means sacrificing too much, or taking too many risks, or is simply just too scary to contemplate seriously.

Leaving Microsoft To Change The World is the story of one man who left a high paid job, the stress and financial rewards that went with it, and perhaps to coin a phrase followed his heart instead of his head. The book is a great story of someone who had an idea, an inspiration and felt confident enough, or compelled enough to make it into a reality. John Wood came face to face with the lack of education in the third world during a well earned holiday and decided to do something about it. To most people that would perhaps involve giving a donation to a local charity – but that was just not big enough for John. He left his high paid job at Microsoft and began sending books to children in Nepal so that they could read, learn, and become inspired to realise their potential. The idea flourished and soon a few books became a library, then one library became a school, and then several schools, then hundreds, and then hundreds in several countries. John Wood had found his calling in life and by making a massive leap of faith, having the courage of conviction, had managed to help hundreds of thousands of children across the world with an education. In doing so he went from having a job and having a life that never seemed to compatible to simply having “found his place in the world” as he puts it.

The book is a great insight into many things. As a marketing consultant in Norwich and someone who is interested in some of the voluntary organisations marketing Norwich, I was most interested by John Wood’s drive and motivation, the way he used his business knowledge in a charitable organisation, how he was able to move from managing a big team of people to working for a start up organisation, the mistakes he made as well as the successes. He openly shares how he learnt on the move, how he improvised, made the most of all his skills, and reinvented himself. The book is inspiration, a motivation, and perhaps a challenge, as well as a good reference for anyone who is considering starting a not for profit organisation or start up business.

It is also a great read and one that I thoroughly enjoyed!