Archive for June 2010


What we need from leaders in the new decade: creativity leads the list

22.06.2010

My friend and colleague at the Medinge Group, Ava Hakim, passed on a few papers from her day job at IBM. The first is the latest edition of a biennial global CEO survey, while the second asks the next generation of leaders—Generation Y. The aim: to find out what these groups think about the challenges and goals for CEOs.
   Unsurprisingly, both studies (involving thousands of respondents) had commonalities, though Generation Y placed global awareness and sustainability more highly on their list.
   Creativity, however, is ranked as the most valuable leadership trait. What society doesn’t need, they tell us, is the same-again thinking if we are to make progress in the 2010s. The old top values of ‘operational excellence’ or ‘engineering big deals’ no longer come up top in this new decade.
   Or, as I heard from one gentleman yesterday, we can’t afford to have the sort of ‘experience’ certain people tout, for they do not have 25 years’ experience—they just have one year’s experience, over and over again, 25 times.
   You know I’m going to say it, so I might as well: this sounds like the sort of ‘experience’ some of my political opponents have had, day in, day out. Groundhog Day comes to mind.
   Indeed, the studies indicate that we have a far more complex world, and same-again thinking isn’t going to cut it.
   In the first study (emphasis in original):

Creativity is the most important leadership quality, according to CEOs. Standouts practice and encourage experimentation and innovation throughout their organizations. Creative leaders expect to make deeper business model changes to realize their strategies. To succeed, they take more calculated risks, find new ideas, and keep innovating in how they lead and communicate.

The most successful organizations co-create products and services with customers, and integrate customers into core processes. They are adopting new channels to engage and stay in tune with customers. By drawing more insight from the available data, successful CEOs make customer intimacy their number-one priority.

Later:

Facing a world becoming dramatically more complex, it is interesting that CEOs selected creativity as the most important leadership attribute. Creative leaders invite disruptive innovation, encourage others to drop outdated approaches and take balanced risks. They are open-minded and inventive in expanding their management and communication styles, particularly to engage with a new generation of employees, partners and customers.

And:

Creative leaders consider previously unheard-of ways to drastically change the enterprise for the better, setting the stage for innovation that helps them engage more effectively with today’s customers, partners and employees.

The study also highlights an increase in globalization, especially in developing markets, leading to greater complexity. It also says the most successful leaders are prepared to change the business models under which they operate.
   In fact, the world we now live in demands that our leaders are globally aware, and see the need to compete in a global market-place.
   The implications for this city are that Wellington can no longer afford to see itself as merely the capital of New Zealand or the geographic centre. It is one of many cities that must compete for attention and resources at a global level—which means creating world-class centres of excellence for our industries. Creating such clusters can even help them stay domestically owned.
   The study indicates that the style of leadership is going to be, necessarily, internationalist—which means we can’t afford to have leaders who are monocultural, and fake multiculturalism. This, like any aspect of a brand, must be embodied for real. It doesn’t mean giving up what ‘being a New Zealander’ is; it does, however, mean that we have to be able to communicate with other nations and cultures, seeking advantages for ourselves.
   Innovation is a driver both in terms of internal processes and as a core competence—so leaders had better be prepared to do this. And being closer and more transparent with customers—or in the case of a city, citizens—is something practised by the most successful leaders, says the study. It reminds me of the topics in the first book I contributed to, Beyond Branding—where integrity and transparency were at the core.
   When it comes to the Generation Y study, the results were similar. This table summarizes the two quite well, and notes how the two groups differ:

   I don’t want to be giving the impression that the second study is less important, but realize that some of you are sorely tempted to see me wrap up this post.
   I will say, quickly, that the lessons are clear: the next generation expects leaders to be globally minded and sustainable.
   Chinese respondents in the second study, in fact, valued global thinking ahead of creativity. This perhaps highlights where the People’s Republic, above the other Chinese territories, is heading: looking outwardly first and delivering what customers in export markets want.
   As creativity is naturally a trait among Wellington businesses, it’s nice to know that many are already prepared for the challenges of the 2010s. And some of our most successful names would not have got to where they are without global thinking, even if some have been acquired by overseas companies: 42 Below, Weta, and Silverstripe come to mind.
   However, I can’t see these traits being reflected in politics—and that’s something I hope we can change in the local body elections, for starters.

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Posted in branding, business, China, culture, leadership, marketing, media, New Zealand, politics, social responsibility, Wellington | 1 Comment »


Autocade grows to 1,100 models: slowly but surely

22.06.2010

Some weeks ago, as we neared this milestone, I planned to write a small blog post on reaching 1,100 cars at the Autocade site. And to show that these milestones are not rigged, we wound up with a fairly ghastly motor at that 1,100 mark.

Image:Nissan_Cherry_GL.jpg

Nissan Cherry (E10/KPE10). 1970–4 (prod. unknown). 2- and 4-door sedan, 3-door coupé, 3-door wagon. F/F, 988, 1171 cm³ (4 cyl. OHV). Small, front-wheel-drive range from Nissan, slotting beneath Sunny. First Nissan-designed car with front drive. Short front doors on all variants. Sporting model X-1 featured twin carburettors and 80 bhp. Unusually styled coupé (KPE10) from 1971, wagon from 1972. Mid-cycle update 1973. Exported usually as Datsun 100A and 120A. Usual Japanese virtues of quality, hitting Europe and American markets when they faced crises, and establishing Datsun as a leading player.

Yes, the old Cherry. Remember the horrible coupé model that looked like a mix of a regular Nissan Cherry, a SHADO Mobile from UFO, and a potato? It even looked bigger than the sedan—not what you’d usually expect when you consider the etymology of the word coupé.
   Although Autocade hasn’t become a car reference site that slips off the tongue of most enthusiasts, 1,100-plus entries are nothing to be sneezed at. I have even noticed that Wikipedia sometimes references it—supporting my theory that if it exists online, Wikipedia will believe it. Never mind that something might be totally legitimate and be covered in the international print press: if it can’t be found by the editors on Google, it doesn’t exist. So much for meritocratic coverage—because even Google will refuse to list certain things. (On this note, the current Yahoo! Search is more comprehensive.)
   But even then Wikipedia will get the occasional thing wrong. I noticed that its reference to the Camina, produced by Saehan of Korea, comes from Autocade. Yet it’s cited in Wikipedia as the Saehan Camina. Sorry, chaps: the vehicle was the Camina, with no reference to the company, although its successor was the Saehan Gemini.
   I’m not saying Autocade is perfect—I found a few errors myself today—but I spot so many errors on Wikipedia that could be avoided if all netizens—and I include myself—were more responsible. Like email, blogs and YouTube comments, many things on the ’net go into a form of decline once the original purpose is lost. Of course Wikipedia editors need to rely on search engines, because there are probably too many people abusing the site, creating a culture of suspicion. The initial wave of contributors who came on board, hoping to beat the encyclopædias, has gone. Senior editors need to find a final arbiter that is impartial, and a search engine’s robot is freer from bias than a human being.
   Perhaps I am being protective and even slightly hypocritical when I say I prefer the slow growth of Autocade, and its limited number of sysops, to the rapid development of Wikipedia. Of course information should be free, but the limited scope of Autocade helps ensure just a little more accuracy. The main problems I have with Wikipedia reflect less how many of its editors work (though I have cited at least one exception), and more how many of us choose to interact online, especially with the cloak of anonymity.
   You can’t change that without changing the way people work online and take pride in what they do—and that’s just not going to happen when certain governments are quite content to divide us into the information-rich and the information-poor. But that is a point for another discussion.

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Posted in cars, culture, internet, publishing, technology | 1 Comment »


Norman Macrae, RIP

17.06.2010

I learned the sad news that Norman Macrae, CBE, 旭日章, passed away on June 11, just shy of his 87th birthday.
   Norman was one of the great visionaries and forecasters of the 20th century, and served as deputy chief editor of The Economist till his retirement in 1988.
   Among his forecasts was the fall of the Berlin Wall, the advent of the internet, the move toward teleworking, and the pressing concerns of sustainability and the global income gap.
   His work included a series of “retrospectives” written from a future date, which continued Norman’s trade-mark analysis on current and emerging trends in the global economy. With his son, and my friend, Chris, Norman authored The 2024 Report, whose predictions of broadband internet and its implications, made in 1984, only began coming true over the last decade. At the time, critics said Macrae and son were too optimistic—although history has proved them right.
   I sent my condolences to Chris earlier today. The world has lost one of its foremost business editors, a great socioeconomic expert, and visionary.
   Without Chris I would not have joined the Medinge Group, and it was through him that I realized so many of the Economist forecasts that I had read over the years were the work of his father.
   I understand The Economist will publish an obit this week.

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Posted in business, culture, internet, media, politics, publishing, technology, UK | No Comments »


Let the Outrageous Fortune come

15.06.2010

Almost any New Zealander will recognize this image: a cast photograph from the long-running TV series Outrageous Fortune.

   When I first heard of this show from Antonia Prebble, before she started filming, I have to admit I didn’t think the premise would see it last five years (and counting). But for New Zealand television and the folks this show employs, I am glad it has.
   Like all good shows (Life on Mars, State of Play, Cracker)—and a few bad ones (Pop Idol)—it was eyed up for a remake.
   The British, who have never been that great at remaking shows usually (remember the Russ Abbot sitcom Married for Life, based on Married with Children? Or the remake of Who’s the Boss?, called The Upper Hand?), decided it would see how well West Auckland transplanted to London. Cue Amanda Redman instead of Robyn Malcolm, and a rebrand to Honest for ITV:

   No, it didn’t work. According to some expat Kiwis whose comments I read, the pilot was virtually a shot-by-shot remake that added nothing to the original. I do not know about the remainder of the series, but the fact that it was not renewed by ITV says something.
   The Americans, who have never been that great at remaking shows usually (Sanford & Son, Life on Mars, Coupling, Cosby, Ugly Betty, Three’s a Crowd, Eleventh Hour, Too Close for Comfort, The Office, Viva Laughlin, Kath & Kim, Payne, Amanda’s, The Prisoner, In Treatment, Worst Week, All in the Family, State of Play, etc.; Shameless and Gavin & Stacey are on the cards), decided to give this a shot. Getting in the chap who made Veronica Mars and Catherine O’Hara (the Home Alone Mum, after Rene Russo turned it down), Cheryl West became Jackie West and the show was renamed Good Behavior.

Only the pilot was made. I never saw it, but indications were that it was not good.
   Still, you have to admire the Americans for not giving up. The show’s been retooled, Virginia Madsen and David James Elliott (whom I know you ladies like) have been hired, and, as Scoundrels, it débuts on ABC on June 20. A series has been commissioned.

   The publicity touts this as an ‘original’ ABC series (yeah, right), but I actually hope it goes well for them. Why? Because the Kiwis who created Outrageous Fortune, I believe, will earn royalties on each episode. We might pooh-pooh it because we are purists, but I’d rather the money flowed inwards. While we haven’t exactly exported Kiwi culture in a Flight of the Conchords way—because the show has been Americanized—I’d still rather a decent Kiwi concept got there and, in its small way, reverse the tide of the reality TV junk that so often comes westward across the Pacific.
   Like Scorsese’s The Departed, a remake that sparked interest in the original Infernal Affairs (無間道), we might see Americans track down the original Outrageous Fortune on DVD. That, too, can only be a good thing.

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Posted in business, culture, humour, New Zealand, TV, UK, USA | 1 Comment »


It’s time to consider open source

14.06.2010

Certain media are reporting the city’s [debt] in the $200 million–$300 million mark but our outside-council research reveals this is a very conservative estimate. It’s likely to be more.
   Regardless of whether it’s $200 million or half an (American) billion (scary just saying it), any deficit that’s nine digits long can’t be good for a relatively small city.
   One of my plans after I get into office will be to balance the budget, which is why I have been going on about growing jobs and businesses in such a big way. In a very shortcut way of explaining it: more new businesses, more ratepayers, fewer reasons to increase the rates. Which, I might add, this current administration has already locked in for us over the next few years, letting the next mayor get the blame.
   I object to any cuts in library services, even if there is a strong denial that that is happening. In a knowledge economy, we cannot afford to create a class system of the knowledge-rich and the knowledge-poor.
   On this note, recently I asked Don Christie of the New Zealand Open Source Society to examine an open-source strategy for Wellington City. For starters, we discussed how the library software is a proprietary system that costs this city a considerable amount—when there is a New Zealand-developed open-source program that many other cities have implemented.
   While it would be nice to keep believing we can afford expensive software to run city services, I don’t like debt, and I certainly don’t like owing people any money.
   And I’m not prepared to sell off our water to technocrats or any profitable part of the family jewels to see the hundred-million figure reduced.
   There are good examples of open source working for cities and creating significant savings. Zaragoza, Spain, has been moving to a complete open-source desktop. And it’s not the only one.
   Furthermore, open source will mean jobs in Wellington. This will mean new jobs. I have already gone on about the tech clusters being a vital part of this city’s economy. Open-source skills are in high demand, and if overseas trends are anything to go by, we can attract these skilled people to our city. Already Wellington is a centre of excellence in many IT-related fields. I’m talking about extending this and making a real claim to open-source. Let the world know that Wellington is the home of not just the most advanced software and visual effects’ companies, but logically extend that to open source as well.
   It’s projected that by 2020, 40 per cent of jobs in IT will be open-source-related, so if we don’t do it, another New Zealand city will. I’m not about to give up one of our most important advantages, one which has been emerging in the capital since the 1990s.
   Such moves can be done with the city and Wellington’s private enterprises working together—but this will need to come from the top, and be put in motion by a mayor who’s passionate about job creation. It’s one of the biggest challenges we face, and I seem to be a lone voice on focusing on this for our city.

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Posted in business, internet, leadership, media, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | 9 Comments »


Chevrolet doesn’t understand branding

11.06.2010

After the chaps at Autocar began following me on Twitter yesterday—after all, I had been reading the magazine since it was part of the Ministry of Magazines, in the post-Iliffe days—I noticed a Tweet about Chevrolet asking its dealers to not refer to the brand as Chevy.
   What?
   According to Autocar:

A leaked GM memo revealed: “We’d ask that whether you’re talking to a dealer, reviewing dealer advertising, or speaking with friends and family, that you communicate our brand as Chevrolet moving forward.
   “When you look at the most recognised brands throughout the world, such as Coke or Apple for instance, one of the things they all focus on is the consistency of their branding. Why is this consistency so important? The more consistent a brand becomes, the more prominent and recognizable it is with the consumer.”
   The document was signed by Alan Batey, vice president for Chevrolet sales and service, and Jim Campbell, the GM division’s vice president for marketing.

Bad example there, Alan and Jim.
   Coke is to Chevy as Coca-Cola is to Chevrolet.
   And no one ever complains of Coke being inconsistent.
   This is the sort of daft thinking that makes any of us brand professional shudder: total amateurs talking about branding—out of their rear ends.
   It’s this lack of awareness of what branding is, inter alia, that started GM down its slippery path—with only a brief reprieve when Bob Lutz, aware of what GM’s brands stood for, was around.
   By demanding that Chevrolet people not refer to the brand as Chevy does the exact opposite to what brand experts and marketers recommend today: to be one with the consumer.
   I can understand if Chevy was a very negative word, but it isn’t. It’s an endearing word and it does not create inconsistency with the full Chevrolet word. It complements it, connects the brand to the audience, and, perhaps most importantly for GM, builds on the brand’s heritage.
   After all, Chevrolet itself has encouraged the use of the Chevy name for decades in its own advertising—including during its heyday. Omitting the use of Chevy instantly cuts many Chevrolet connections to its stronger past. And that’s a past that can be used for internal brand-building and loyalty.
   There was even, formally, a Chevy model in the 1960s—the line that later became the Nova. The Chevy II nameplate even continued in GM in Argentina in the 1970s.
   The Chevy diminutive is used in many countries where the brand is sold, including South Africa, where it was once as local as braaivleis, rugby and sunny skies.
   Maybe GM can’t afford the same branding advice it used to—in which case it might be better to shut up than issue memoranda that can be ridiculed so easily.
   Or get Bob Lutz back again. One month after retirement, and the natives have lost direction again, Bob.

PS.: From Robin Capper on Twitter, who sums this blog post up in 140 characters or fewer: ‘Poor Don McLean: “Drove my Chevrolet to the levee, but the levee was dry” just doesn’t work’.—JY

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Posted in branding, business, cars, culture, marketing, USA | 1 Comment »


Chatting to TV, radio and internet journalists for the mayoral campaign

11.06.2010

There have been a few times in the history of this blog where I stepped away from writing regularly. At the end of 2006, I had a pretty good excuse: I was in France. This time, my reasons for stepping away for a few weeks do not include: (a) I was spending too much time with the Miss Universe New Zealand contestants; (b) laziness; (c) being trapped in 1983 and discovering that DCI Gene Hunt controls the Lost island.
   I was, however, chatting to a few more of the parties that we needed to realize some of my election promises. And doing a few media interviews. And looking at more ways Wellington could get nearer balancing its budget, as our deficit has ballooned over the last decade.
   On May 15, I joined my opponent, Councillor Celia Wade-Brown, on Access Radio’s Espace Français, in what was my first political interview in French. I expected a nice-natured chat till our hosts said they wanted a political debate. So the Councillor and I gave the audience one, coming from very different angles. I believe we are the only two Francophone candidates. And I don’t think Access does a Cantonese programme.
   You can listen to the interview here, though they only store the programmes for six weeks. You can also download from this link.
   I kept Leauna Zheng waiting for weeks while I prepared my emailed responses to her interview for Skykiwi, the leading Chinese expats’ site in New Zealand. Despite her wait, she wrote a marvellous article (in Chinese, here), and for those of you relying on Google Translate, please note that the term Chinese expatriate is not translated correctly. (I believe this is the first Chinese-language interview to include my name in Chinese ideographs.)
   And, finally, my interview with Bharat Jamnadas on Asia Down Under aired last Sunday. He’s very kindly put it on YouTube, though the aspect ratio is a tad off and I look thinner than usual. There are very nice comments from two members of the Wellington business community, Laurie Foon of Starfish and Brent Wong of Soi, to whom I am extremely grateful.

   The conversation at the end about Wellington v. Auckland was a good laugh, but there were some serious bits.
   And this Tuesday just gone, it was a pleasure to play a “dragon” in a Dragon’s Den-style setting analysing some of New Zealand’s entrepreneurs for New Zealand Trade & Enterprise.
   My thanks to Bharat, Leauna, Kenneth Leong, Laura Daly at Access Radio, Jean-Louis Durand and Arlette Bilounga, and Maria Gray and David Powell.

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Posted in business, China, culture, humour, internet, leadership, media, New Zealand, politics, technology, TV, Wellington | 1 Comment »