Posts tagged ‘vision’


A triumphant Olympics was helped by a well organized Olympic Delivery Authority—lessons for business

12.08.2012

I’m glad to see that the third Foundation Forum’s notes (originally sent to me by Medinge life member Patrick Harris) are now public, which means I can refer to them. The latest one is on the Olympics, at a forum held in June, where the speakers were Olympic medallist Steve Williams, Dr Pete Bonfield, CEO of BRE, and Simon Scott, a former Royal Marine who coaches and advises Olympians and business leaders.
   The triumph of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) was delivering us a successful Games, which illustrated how an organization of 20 ramped up to 10,000, while maintaining an innovative culture and an ideal of collective purpose. An organization that could have been hampered by politics—as the satire Twenty Twelve showed could be possible—and actually achieved its goals at £500 million under its £9,000 million budget.
   Its lessons are relevant to New Zealand, not just because we are a sporting nation whose teams have succeeded because of collective purpose, but that they remind us that it’s possible to take these ideas into business and even politics. Simon Caulkin at the Foundation summarized the main points as follows:

  • Whether on the track or in the office, Olympic performance requires a whole systems approach in which all the parts are focused on a clear and single aim
  • With science and determination, nurture can trump nature: only ‘deliberate practice’ can hone raw material into sustained performance, as in the Marines
  • What goes on ‘outside the boat’ is as important as what goes on inside. Values are part of performance

but one might go a bit further. The Foundation expands upon them, but what I take away from the session’s notes are:

  • with the right leadership, and a strategy shared at every level, Olympian tasks can be achieved—but it shows that that leadership needs to have the right attitude, charisma and empathy to understand how to make it beneficial to all parties, and all audiences;
  • in sport, that collective purpose is easier to define; in business and in politics, it’s not. The trick is to put everyone on the same side—the One-ness that Stefan Engeseth wrote about in his book and which I cite regularly in my speeches and in my consulting work—so that a business, organizational or political objective is felt strongly by all;
  • that realistic milestones need to be set—which goes without saying in management;
  • and that the vision must be meaningful to all audiences, internal and external—the importance of “outside the boat”.

   The London Games have been a success so far, and the next major event for the general public will be the closing ceremony. While my wish that a Benny Hill tribute with ‘Yakety Sax’ played to complete the London Games with an appropriate level of British culture might not be realized, I have faith in how it will be pulled off. The right ingredients seem to be present in the ODA, and I’m confident that the Organising Committee was similarly inspired.

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Posted in business, culture, leadership, New Zealand, politics, UK | 3 Comments »


Small is beautiful, whether it’s a company or a country

07.04.2012

My friend Summer Rayne Oakes at Source4Style put me on to an article in The Guardian by Ilaria Pasquinelli, on how small firms drive innovation. If the fashion industry is to survive, she says, it must team up with the small players where innovation takes place, thanks to the visionaries who drive those firms.
   She’s right, of course:

The small scale allows companies to be flexible, this is crucial in order to adapt to very diverse market conditions and economic turbulence.
   In addition, small companies have no other option than to take risk in order to leave their mark, notably if they are start-ups. Small companies habitually lack financial resources though, and it is precisely here where larger organisations can decide to take on a calculated risk and allocate some of their funds, in order to outsource processes, products or development.

   Therefore, it’s important not just to foster the growth of small creative businesses, but entire networks where they can come into contact with the larger ones. And the successful cities of the 21st century are those that can do that through clusters, clever place branding, and a real understanding of what it takes to compete at a global level.
   We’re still largely hampered by politicians who cannot see past their own national boundaries or, at best, look at competing solely with a neighbouring nation, when that has not been the reality for at least 20 years.
   There are exceptions where companies themselves have done the environmental scanning and found organizations to collaborate with—such as the ones Ilaria mentions in her article. But there’s no practical reason other than a lack of vision that they are the exception rather than the rule.
   She gives three examples: Tesco collaborated with upcycle fashion brand, From Somewhere, to use textile waste, which has seen three collections produced; Levi’s is refitting vintage 501s with Reformation, so customers know their old jeans aren’t going to a landfill; and Worn Again, partnering with Virgin, Royal Mail and Eurostar, is making bags out of the likes of postal workers’ decommissioned storm jackets.
   The innovations, of course, need not be in fashion or even sustainability. Look back through the last generation of innovations and many have come from smaller companies that needed the right leg up. Google, too, was started in someone’s home.
   I’ve been pushing the “think global” aspect of my own businesses, as well as encouraging others, for a lot of the 25 years Jack Yan & Associates has existed. It’s why most of our ventures have looked outside our own borders for sales. When we went on to bulletin boards for the first time at the turn of the 1990s, it was like a godsend for a kid who marvelled at the telex machine at my Dad’s work. It’s second-nature for anyone my age and younger to see this planet as one that exists independently of national borders, whether for trade or for personal friendships.
   As this generation makes its mark, I am getting more excited—though I remain cautious of institutions that keep our thinking so locally focused because that is simply what the establishment is used to. Yet it’s having the courage to take the leap forward that will make this country great: small nations, like small companies, should be, and can be, hotbeds of innovation.
   Create those clusters, and create some wonderful champions—and the sort of independent thinking Kiwis are known for can go far beyond our borders.

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Posted in branding, business, leadership, media, New Zealand, politics, Wellington | 1 Comment »


In the wake of the ’quake, a time to be bold

06.03.2011

The Christchurch earthquake is certainly not over, not while the city rebuilds. And the bill, at a meeting I had with some other luminaries last Thursday, is estimated to be in excess of the NZ$20,000 million that the New Zealand Government predicts.
   So, other than juggling the funds, what does the Government intend to do?
   Because for the last decade or so, I cannot see anything from either major party that has fundamentally encouraged the New Zealand entrepreneur to build an international enterprise, nor can I see anything that shows me that the government of the day understands that we face an ever widening gap between rich and poor as foreign-owned companies’ profits go offshore.
   Yet if both major parties are so intent on the idea of global trade and this so-called level playing field, then why has New Zealand always buried under it? It’s not level when our best firms become subsidiaries of foreign corporations, and our innovation makes our innovators very little money.
   A truly level playing field would have seen more Kiwi companies acquire overseas ones—and I don’t mean solely in the dairy sector. Only then can the free-trade pundits claim success in raising real GDP and standard of living for New Zealanders.
   If the bill runs into the NZ$60,000 million region that we bandied about, then those funds have got to come from somewhere. Selling more of the family silver or shifting money around a limited pool aren’t going to cut it. We know this from the post-1984 experience.
   While the world has a demand for intellectual capital, and products and services that are based around the sort of innovation that New Zealanders are well poised to deliver, it’s still astonishing that this sector contributes under 10 per cent to our GDP. It should be doing twice that.
   It should have been grown a long time ago, certainly since the late 1990s when I had begun banging on about it.
   I certainly wasn’t the first, not by a long shot.
   Any effort like this must be coordinated, as any venture: both private and public sectors need to be geared to this reality. But the Government acts as though it doesn’t matter if we keep slipping behind, or if we get locked in to industries as a result of TPPA.
   Singapore might not be perfect politically—as Mr Brown’s blog details—but there is much to admire about its willingness to embrace intellectual capital as a means of economic growth.
   The negative growth we have had over the last few years—and Labour’s complacency during the good years before that—is going to lead to a credit crisis in the future, no matter what the credit-rating agencies say. The earthquake as only hastened this date.
   It’s not unbridled growth I’m talking about here. I am referring to us getting our fair share of the pie rather than ‘make the pie higher’, with the independent thinking I have seen New Zealanders being capable of, time and time again.
   When I was asked on Thursday what I expected to see, I answered: (a) strong New Zealand-owned businesses that are globally oriented; (b) cooperation between public and private sectors on innovation; (c) a real understanding of a level playing field—which does not mean furthering the technocratic agenda, which, ultimately, decreases the potential tax take any government could have to fund social services.
   It’s a long-term plan, and for me, Wellington could have served as a microcosm of what is possible.
   Under Mayor Wade-Brown, it still can, and she has certainly stated on a few occasions that she has a desire to see the tech sector grow in this city. It’s a start.
   And now is not a bad time to start on this course, because Christchurch is going to take us years to rebuild and to pay for.
   If only we had vision on the national stage. Now is, Prime Minister, the right time to be bold, and work for the interests of New Zealand once more.

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Posted in business, leadership, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | 2 Comments »