Innovation/tech

Ravi Mattu

Today’s news that Google has released a list of governments that seek to censor its servcies or request personal information on users feels like the latest step in the company’s effort to rebuild a reputation that has had some sticky moments in recent weeks and months.

The company’s corporate motto – “Do no evil” – has been used by some as an ethical stick with which to beat it as it moved into China and agreed to self-censor its searches. And its disastrous launch of Buzz, its social networking service, met with much resistance from its community of users and, more recently, privacy regulators.

It was all a bit surprising. In the past few decades, few companies have demonstrated (shaped?) a better understanding of the changing nature of consumer behaviour than Google. So, what happened?

Ravi Mattu

An interesting set of videos over on trendwatching.com, 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

We’ve launched a new section today called 20 questions, in which we talk to leading businesspeople in rapid-fire form. First up: Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter who answers, of course, in 140 characters or less. Definitely worth a read. And keep an eye out for next week’s executive: Guy Hands.

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.

Luke Johnson

I recently participated in a debate entitled “The good society: virtues for a post-recession world”. A couple of my fellow panellists emphasised the importance of promoting happiness rather than material wealth as a true measure of human progress. They believe that advances in gross domestic product are an inferior way to achieve greater wellbeing, and that a concept such as “gross national happiness” might be a better tool.

As I listened to their definitions of happiness, I realised that not many coincided with my view of what made entrepreneurs tick. I have spent decades partnering entrepreneurs, trying to understand their psychology and motivation. I find them hugely exciting to work with, because it is only thanks to their ambition and ingenuity that enterprises are started and fresh wants satisfied.

There is no stereotypical personality, but one can identify characteristics that most entrepreneurs share. At heart they are highly competitive. They do not seek security as their main goal – rather, they actively seek risk, and enjoy overcoming stressful challenges. They are not sheer gamblers, but they embrace dynamism and are willing to invest in spite of the possibility of failure – to have the chance to win.

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

Ravi Mattu

Every organisation needs to think about how it manages its communication and engages with new media. The Catholic church is apparently no different.

“Benedict XVI has chosen to dedicate World Communications Day 2010 to the theme “The priest and pastoral ministry in a digital world: new media at the service of the Word.”

The announcement continues:

The Holy Father urges priests to “consider the new media as a powerful resource for their ministry in the service of the Word and wishes to express a word of encouragement in order to address the challenges stemming from the new digital culture,” the communiqué explained. “If the new media is adequately known and appreciated, it can offer priests and all pastoral agents a wealth of data and content that previously was difficult to access, and it facilitates ways of collaboration and growth of communion that were unthinkable in the past.”

Hat tip: Sameer Padania

Ravi Mattu

A few weeks ago, the most popular story on FT.com was on Dyson’s new bladeless fan. I have to admit, I couldn’t quite figure out why so many readers were looking at it, but who am I to go against the grain?

I did wonder if it had anything to do with the following Dyson has among consumers and this video suggests I may have been on to something. Emma and Molly are two fans of the fan and have created a video showing just how this impressive device works. I especially like the Brazilian music overlaying the clip. What was that I said in a previous post about the changing nature of consumer engagement?

Of course, this could be nothing more than a clever marketing ploy and for all I know these could be Dyson employees or the wife and child of the guy who designed it. Whatever the case, I wonder if it will generate as much attention as our original story.

Ravi Mattu

An extraordinary video has emerged of a London Underground worker who was filmed yelling at an elderly passenger (non-UK readers will not be able to see the video but it might be available elsewhere online). The employee has since resigned.

The incident happened on the day after Transport for London announced a price rise, which couldn’t have been great timing. That aside, it is interesting how quickly this story got out and how the instinctive reaction of a fellow passenger was to film the whole event, presumably on his mobile phone.

The quick dissemination of the message goes to the heart of all sorts of questions on the way we work: if you have a public-facing position, don’t expect that you can get away with anything because someone might be watching (though, London Underground are well covered with closed circuit television cameras – one assumes that if his bosses had seen him on their own footage, they would have been less than pleased but a colleague apparently “laughed and walked away” ); consumers/the public see themselves as more than mere clients – they are stakeholders, and the passenger who took the video claims that part of his motivation was the fact that it had happened on the day after the price increase.

Ravi Mattu

England football manager Fabio Capello has had a remarkably successful career in Italy, Spain and now as manager of England (ok, he hasn’t won anything yet, but they have qualified for the World Cup). Sports analogies are used too often in the world of management speak (even for a sportsfan like me) but according to an article in the Guardian about his presentation at the Global Sports Summit in London, Capello reveals a couple of interesting truths.

First, he says that when he took over England the quality of the players was very high in training but not in matches.

“I understood everything when they played Switzerland in the first match, the same players who played well in training played with fear, with no confidence, and I said this is a big problem of the mind,” he said. “Step by step, game after game, we have improved a lot.”



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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