Monthly Archives: March 2012

Andrew Hill

To attend my first Skoll World Forum in the same week as writing a column with the headline “We should stop trying to change the world” may be regarded as imprudent. The Skoll forum on social entrepreneurship, started nine years ago by eBay billionaire Jeff Skoll, probably has a higher quotient of delegates with that precise objective than any other conference on the planet.

What’s interesting is that it also has an increasing number of delegates from “big business”. There were none at the first forum, according to Pamela Hartigan, director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford’s Said Business School. Yet she was on her way to lunch with more than 60 on Thursday, which she considers a positive sign. Read more

Andrew Hill

The problem with conventional wisdom is that academics will insist on testing whether it is truly wise.

So the popular assumption that Lehman Brothers would not have collapsed if it had been Lehman Sisters (to quote, among others, European commissioner Viviane Reding and former UK minister Harriet Harman) seems to take a knock from a new discussion paper published by Germany’s Bundesbank. It concludes:

Board changes that result in a higher proportion of female executives also lead to a more risky conduct of business.

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Given the essentially mundane nature of most jobs, few workers will ever live up to mission statements that urge them to “change the world”.

Vint Cerf is one of the few people who indisputably has changed it. Nearly 40 years ago, he co-designed the ubiquitous TCP/IP software protocols that allow closed computer networks to communicate with each other and form a “network of networks”: the internet.

Andrew Hill

Real Madrid says it has an estimated 300m fans globally, more than half based in Asia. So I shouldn’t be surprised that it wants to put its name to a $1bn theme park in the United Arab Emirates, closer to that growing fan-base.

Computer-generated image of Real Madrid Resort Island (AFP Photo / Real Madrid)

Even so, I worry that such hubristic brand-building projects – the chief executive of Real Madrid Resort Island describes it as “sportainment”, a term I dearly hope never catches on – could distance football clubs further from their roots. Read more

Andrew Hill

Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs’ biographer, has returned to the man and his idiosyncratic management style in a Harvard Business Review article outlining the 14 “real leadership lessons” of Apple’s late founder. (Number one: “Focus”.)

He addresses the fact that some readers of Mr Isaacson’s biography, rushed out last year shortly after Jobs’ death, “fixated” on the “rough edges of his personality”. Mr Isaacson implies that they were misunderstanding the true nature of entrepreneurship:

The essence of Jobs, I think, is that his personality was integral to his way of doing business. He acted as if the normal rules didn’t apply to him, and the passion, intensity, and extreme emotionalism he brought to everyday life were things he also poured into the products he made. His petulance and impatience were part and parcel of his perfectionism.

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Even if you have only half-heard of Gina Rinehart, you will know that she is a force to be reckoned with. She is the Australian mining magnate who controls Hancock Prospecting, founded by her father. Her aggressive approach to business and family relations has prompted three of her four children to sue her.

Andrew Hill

I’m getting fed up with the UK coalition government’s ritual invocation of Victorian values or visions whenever it wishes to urge a put-upon populace to new heights.

In David Cameron’s latest speech, the prime minister calls on the spirits of Brunel, Telford and Stephenson, to inspire new infrastructure investment in the UK, from nuclear energy to new towns. He accompanies nostalgia for the Victorian era with the inevitable negative comparison with other nations’ superior efforts: the French, Dutch and Swiss have cheaper, less crowded railways than the British; the South Koreans have faster broadband; the Indians have newer nuclear power stations; and the Chinese have bigger airports. Read more

Andrew Hill

It’s awkward enough having to hand back one leaving present from colleagues, let alone two. So I think we can all agree that, this time, Hector Sants will stick with his decision to resign as the UK’s chief financial regulator.

Mr Sants will step down as chief executive of the Financial Services Authority in June. The first time he announced his resignation – in February 2010 – he was persuaded to reverse the decision four months later by the incoming Conservative government. He agreed to preside over the transition to a new Bank of England-led regulatory regime (plans for which he’d opposed, as did I), in the expectation of becoming deputy governor. But things have changed.

In 2010, I wrote that Mr Sants had chosen the three worst years in history to run a regulator, taking over as chief executive just before the run on Northern Rock in 2007 and presiding over the watchdog in a year in which the rest of the UK banking system came close to outright collapse. I also wrote that his premature departure would destabilise the FSA. The first judgment still stands. The second – not so much. Read more