Ravi Mattu

Interesting essay on why PowerPoint is a poor decision-making tool for the US Armed Forces. Does anyone like PowerPoint out there?

Hat tip: The Browser

Ravi Mattu

If Canada’s gold medal in ice hockey wasn’t enough to convince you of the country’s love of the sport, an Ontario company has taken it to another level. IT Weapons has installed a hockey rink in their office as a way both to satiate the bosses’ love of the game but also as a way to attract and retain talent.

According to Jason MacBean, the company’s chief architect: “One of our biggest challenges is retaining young, smart people, and young, smart people need a blend between their personal lives and work. The people we want to attract are people who will appreciate this,”

Ravi Mattu

An interesting set of videos over on, a pretty interesting Amsterdam-based company that does what their name suggests.

The video below, “The next big thing” is particularly interesting in revealing just how quickly technology has changed the way we think, communicate and, ultimately, do business. Just over half a minute in, check out the responses to the question: “How often do you Twitter?”

Some interesting insights on branding too. Maybe it’s not as powerful as we think it is?

Ravi Mattu

Ever read a piece that makes you go hmmm? How about this: the Grateful Dead’s greatest legacy could be the business lessons it offers management academics. If I hadn’t read it in The Atlantic, I’m not sure I would have believed it.

No, really, I promise, I didn’t inhale….

Hat tip: The Browser

Ravi Mattu

The Super Bowl is the big event in advertising and this year was no exception. Google, McDonald’s and Doritos are just some of the brands that have spent a lot of money – and hired a lot of creative talent – to get their messages out there.

The one ad that stuck out for me was the ad above, for Dave Letterman’s late night talk show, which featured Letterman with Oprah Winfrey and Jay Leno. For anyone who has been following the battles between Conan O’Brien and Jay Leno on late night TV in the US in the past few weeks, it was kind of amazing to see Leno and Letterman on the same couch.

Thanks to the internet, you can watch all of the very impressive ads from the event if you missed the game.

PS -In a Super Bowl first, there is even a pro-life ad – see if you can spot it.

Lucy Kellaway

Last month, Sir Martin Sorrell was interviewed on and was asked variously about the world economy, China and the future of the media. As I watched the video of this successful businessman earnestly holding forth, another, more urgent question formed in my mind. Poking out from under the sleeve of his elegant charcoal suit and crisp white double cuff was a tatty piece of pale blue string, knotted with its ends dangling.

I reached for my BlackBerry and fired off the following message to him: “Much enjoyed your interview … Just wondered: what was that blue thing on your wrist?”

In a trice the reply came back. “Relic of my new year in Bahia,” he said. He explained that he had made three wishes for each of the three knots and that only when the string dropped off would they come true.

The remainder of the article can be read here. Please post comments below.

Luke Johnson

A recent New York Times blog and a business book published last year cover the same territory: the many ways you can kill off your business. The former is written from the perspective of the entrepreneur; the latter takes a corporate manager’s viewpoint.

Entrepreneur Jay Goltz’s blog post – “Eleven easy ways to destroy your company” – includes warnings against such things as not carrying enough insurance or hiring the wrong accountant.

The book, The Ten Commandments for Business Failure, is by Donald Keough, former president of Coca-Cola. It identifies errors such as ceasing to take risks, isolating yourself. being inflexible and loving bureaucracy.

The remainder of the article can be read here. Please post comments below.

Stefan Stern

The three most dangerous words in management? “Not invented here.” Only complacent leaders believe that their way of doing things cannot be improved upon. But that attitude can lead apparently successful businesses astray.

As Henry Chesbrough, executive director of the Center for Open Innovation at the University of California, Berkeley, has pointed out, senior management teams can fail to spot important innovations because the new business models they rely on do not easily fit in with the way things are being done now.

Researching the performance of Xerox, the copier and printer company, between the late 1990s and early 2000s, Prof Chesbrough found that, out of 35 projects that had been rejected as part of a review process, 10 had gone on to become highly successful businesses. Indeed, the combined market capitalisation of these 10 new ventures, even after the “new economy” crash of 2001, was twice that of the former parent itself. He calls these unfortunate rejections a “false negative”: the innovations had looked bad, but that was because senior managers were unable to recognise their virtues.

The remainder of this article can be read here. Please post comments below.

Ravi Mattu

A bit of chatter out there about how Starbucks, which has had a rough few years, has quietly launched a new shop on London’s Conduit Street. You can see some pics of the new cafe on Tiki Chris’s Flickr page. They did this first in New York a few months ago, with a cafe that you would have barely realised was a Starbucks cafe.

Judging by the pics, it is a subtle-ish revamp – more communal spaces, like shared tables, more trendy lighting and furniture, a darker and warmer feel to the place, more books and so on.

Will it work? I have no idea but I do think there are a couple of interesting points here. First, Starbucks is applauded for at least being bold enough to rethink what they are doing. When the chain first started expanding outside of its Seattle base, it traded more on being a cool place to go rather than simply being ubiquitous. When Howard Schulz, its founding chief executive, came back to run the company this was one of his key messages; the chain, he lamented, had loss the “romance and theatre” on which the company was founded.

Stefan Stern

Hard work and relentless attention to detail: that’s management for you. Talk is cheap. Visions can inspire, for a moment or two. But without graft – and competence – things go wrong. Any business, no matter how successful, will struggle if it forgets this. There are no quick fixes for organisations that have big commercial and cultural problems.

That is the lesson to draw from the story of Little Chef, the 51-year-old British roadside restaurant chain. For generations, these little cafés, with their red and white signage, have formed a familiar part of the UK landscape. “Fat Charlie” is the diminutive chef in question, smiling out at travelling businesspeople, families and lorry drivers from the side of motorways and A roads.

At its peak, in the 1970s and 1980s, Little Chef enjoyed a dominant market position. But you did not seek out a Little Chef for a thrilling culinary experience. You went there for a reliable cooked breakfast, for plaice, chips and peas, for something acceptable to tired and hungry children. It worked.

The remainder of this article can be read here. Please post comments below.

About the authors

Stefan Stern writes a column on Tuesdays on management. He is winner of the 2010 Towers Watson award for excellence in HR journalism, and has previously won awards from the Work Foundation and the Management Consultancies Association.

Ravi Mattu is the editor of Business Life, the FT's management features section, and a former editor of the Mastering Management series. He joined the FT in 2000 from Prospect magazine

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Elsewhere on Lucy Kellaway

Lucy Kellaway writes a column on Mondays on work , poking fun at management fads and jargon and celebrating the ups and downs of office life. She is also the FT's Agony Aunt.

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Luke Johnson writes an FT column on Wednesdays on entrepreneurship. He runs Risk Capital Partners, a private equity firm, and is chairman of the Royal Society of Arts.

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Lucy Kellaway, FT columnist and associate editor, offers her solution to your workplace problems in a column in the Financial Times. In the online edition of her Dear Lucy 'agony aunt' column, readers are invited to have a say too.

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