Archive for the ‘leadership’ category


Nostalgic thoughts: what sparked my interest in fashion magazines, and Nike’s 10 rules for business

01.03.2023


 
I have told this story many times: I became interested in fashion magazines with a 1989 issue of Studio Collections. In fact, it was its fifth anniversary issue. I really liked the typesetting, photography and print quality. I was probably one of the few people disappointed when they went to desktop publishing and the typesetting quality deteriorated in the 1990s.

No such problem at Brogue (well, British Vogue) in 1991, which was still put together the old way. Coincidentally, my first issue of this venerable title was also an anniversary one, namely its 75th. Linda, Christy and Cindy were known to everyone, even young straight boys like me (actually, especially young straight boys like me). Here the visuals and the article quality were influential, and I had grown up reading largely British car magazines, such as Car and Autocar (though I began with Temple Press’s Motor in 1978). The British way of writing resonated with me and it was familiar territory.

My journey in this world, therefore, began eight years before I started Lucire, and the ideas had brewed for some time.

Yesterday we uploaded three articles from 1998 and they were quite terrible. I might have known what the benchmark was from the late 1980s and early 1990s, but we sure didn’t hit it in our writing a year after we started. I like to hope that we have since got there.
 
 

 
Someone shared Phil Knight’s 10 steps in business for Nike, when it was a fledgling enterprise back in the 1970s. I had seen this a long time ago, in the late 1980s, and even used to share it with my students in 1999–2000. I hadn’t seen it since.

They are aggressive and macho, which probably ties quite well in with Nike and its early days (John McEnroe was more than a suitable ambassador). They probably lend themselves quite well to sportswear. But a few of these are universal in business.

I like (7): ‘Your job isn’t done until the job is done,’ and the third of the eight ‘Dangers’: ‘Energy takers vs. energy givers’. Bureaucracy, naturally, heads that list of dangers, and rightly so.

You should ‘Assume nothing’ (5).

I don’t know if they still follow these tenets, but some definitely remain relevant.


You may also like

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, culture, design, leadership, media, New Zealand, publishing, UK, USA | No Comments »


The expectation of invisibility

03.01.2023

I rewatched Princess of Chaos, the TV drama centred around my friend, Bevan Chuang. I’m proud to have stood by her at the time, because, well, that’s what you do for your friends.

I’m not here to revisit any of the happenings that the TV movie deals with—Bevan says it brings her closure so that is that—but to examine one scene where her character laments being Asian and being ‘invisible’. How hard we work yet we aren’t seen. The model minority. Expected to be meek and silent and put up with stuff.

Who in our community hasn’t felt this?

While the younger generations of the majority are far, far better than their forebears, the expectation of invisibility was something that’s been a double-edged sword when I look back over my life.

The expectation of invisibility was never going to sit well with me.

I revelled in being different, and I had a family who was supportive and wise enough to guide me through being different in our new home of Aotearoa New Zealand.

My father frequently said, when speaking of the banana Chinese—those who proclaim themselves yellow on the outside and white on the inside—that they can behave as white as they want, but there’ll always be people who’ll see the yellow skin and treat them differently. And in some cases, unfairly.

He had reason to believe this. My mother was underpaid by the Wellington Hospital Board for a considerable time despite her England and Wales nursing qualification. A lot of correspondence ensued—I still remember Dad typing formal letters on his Underwood 18, of which we probably still have carbons. Dad felt pressured—maybe even bullied to use today’s parlance—by a dickhead manager at his workplace.

Fortunately, even in the 1970s, good, decent, right-thinking Kiwis outnumbered the difficult ones, though the difficult ones could get away with a lot, lot more, from slant-eye gestures to telling us to go back to where we came from openly. I mean, February 6 was called New Zealand Day! Go back another generation to a great-uncle who came in the 1950s, and he recalls white kids literally throwing stones at Chinese immigrants.

So there was no way I would become a banana, and give up my culture in a quest to integrate. The parents of some of my contemporaries reasoned differently, as they had been in the country for longer, and hoped to spare their children the physical harm they endured. They discouraged their children from speaking their own language, in the hope they could achieve more.

As a St Mark’s pupil, I was at the perfect school when it came to being around international classmates, and teachers who rewarded academic excellence regardless of one’s colour. All of this bolstered my belief that being different was a good thing. I wasn’t invisible at my school. I did really well. I was dux.

It was a shock when I headed to Rongotai College as most of the white boys were all about conforming. The teachers did their best, but so much of my class, at least, wanted to replicate what they thought was normal society in the classroom, and a guy like me—Chinese, individualistic, with a sense of self—was never going to fit in. It was a no-brainer to go to Scots College when a half-scholarship was offered, and I was around the sort of supportive school environment that I had known in my primary and intermediate years, with none of the other boys keen to pigeonhole you. Everyone could be themselves. Thank goodness.

But there were always appearances from the conformist attitudes in society. As I headed to university and announced I would do law and commerce, there was an automatic assumption that the latter degree would be in accounting. I would not be visible doing accounting, in a back room doing sums. For years (indeed, until very recently) the local branch of the Fairfax Press had Asian employees but that was where they were, not in the newsroom. We wouldn’t want to offend its readers, would we?

My choice of these degrees was probably driven, subconsciously, by the desire to be visible and to give society a middle finger. I wasn’t going to be invisible. I was going to pursue the interests that I had, and to heck with societal expectations based along racial lines. I had seen my contemporaries at college do their best to conform: either put your head down or play sport. There was no other role. If you had your head up and didn’t play sport at Rongotai, there was something wrong with you. Maybe you were a ‘faggot’ or ‘poofter’ or some other slur that was bandied about, I dare say by boys who had uncertainties about their own sexuality and believed homophobia helped them.

I loved design. I loved cars. Nothing was going to change that. So I pursued a design career whilst doing my degrees. I could see how law, marketing and management would play a role in what I wanted to do in life. When I launched Lucire, it was “against type” on so many fronts. I was doing it online, that was new. I was Chinese, and a cis het guy. And it was a very public role: as publisher I would attend fashion shows, doing my job. In the early days, I would be the only Chinese person amongst the press.

And I courted colleagues in the press, because I was offering something new. That was also intentional: to blaze a trail for anyone like me, a Chinese New Zealander in the creative field who dared to do something different. I wasn’t the first, of course: Raybon Kan comes to mind (as a fellow St Mark’s dux) with his television reviews in 1990 that showed up almost all who had gone before with his undeniable wit; and Lynda Chanwai-Earle whose poetry was getting very noticed around this time. Clearly we needed more of us in these ranks if we were going to make any impact and have people rethink just who we were and just what we were capable of. And it wasn’t in the accounts’ department, or being a market gardener, serving you at a grocery store or takeaway, as noble as those professions also are. I have family in all those professions. But I was out on a quest to break the conformity that Aotearoa clung to—and that drove everything from typeface design to taking Lucire into print around the world and running for mayor of Wellington. It might not have been the primary motive, but it was always there, lingering.

This career shaped me, made me less boring as an individual, and probably taught me what to value in a partner, too. And thank goodness I found someone who also isn’t a conformist.

When we first met, Amanda did ask me why I had so many friends from the LGBTQIA+ community. I hadn’t really realized it, but on reflection, the answer was pretty simple: they, too, had to fight conformist attitudes, to find their happy places. No wonder I got along with so many. All my friends had stood out one way or another, whether because of their interests, their sexuality, how they liked to be identified, their race, their way of thinking, or something else. These are the people who shape the world, advance it, and make it interesting. They—we—weren’t going to be pigeonholed.
 

With fellow nonconformist Stefan Engeseth in Stockholm, 2010


You may also like

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in cars, culture, design, interests, leadership, marketing, media, New Zealand, politics, publishing, Sweden, TV, Wellington | 2 Comments »


Engaging your team: an excellent video tutorial from Insight Creative

02.11.2022

This is particularly good stuff, especially in these times when companies want to hang on to their employees and foster a better internal culture. Insight Creative’s Staff Engagement Masterclass video tutorial has some excellent advice, in line with a lot of what I’ve preached over the years. Their model is excellent and really breaks down the process with some practical advice on how to communicate with your team. Check out the introduction video from CEO Steven Giannoulis below (one of the very few Rongotai College old boys I’m in touch with these days!) and click through on the link for the full tutorial (sign-up required).
 


You may also like

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in branding, business, culture, leadership, New Zealand | No Comments »


On the mayoral races in Wellington and Toronto: Tory for us, not for them

06.09.2022

Almost makes you want to run for mayor again.

I had a look at my 2013 manifesto during the weekend and it wasn’t half bad. And, with respect to our candidates in Wellington, each of whom I know socially (and politics aside, actually like), it goes into more detail, and is arguably more visionary, than what I’ve seen from them to date.

It was quite uplifting to read this from Stephen Olsen writing in Scoop, covering the 2022 mayoral candidates’ meeting at St Peter’s Church last night:

To be honest the lack of rigorous thinking made for a lacklustre event. It even had me pining for the 2010 and 2013 Mayoral campaigns of an outsider, Jack Yan, who did reasonable and intelligent things like put forward a detailed manifesto and who did justice to the role of an articulate, knowledgeable and expressive candidate. (A disclaimer being that I was on the Back Jack team of 2010 and a supporting advisor three years later).

It was written without bias, and evaluates each of the three leading candidates.

Stephen concludes:

Tory Whanau did have a few Jack-like moments in calling as forcefully as possible for more democracy, more boldness, more engagement of citizens and more community-based co-design opportunities to rejuvenate Wellington. However for her campaign to get some wind under its wings it will need far more amplitude on those basic but vital notes. It’s not a time to pull punches.

In both of the elections I contested, I said we could not have politics as usual. I stand by that, because look at the lack of progress between 2013 and 2022 when voters choose politics as usual: rising rates, little change in the industry make-up (which is another way of saying very few high-value jobs have been created as a proportion of the total), which leads to a lack of economic resilience (and things being unaffordable for Wellingtonians). I said as much nine years ago.

Paul and Andy represent the old guard, and are conservative. Tory is a well read woman—I recall seeing Richard Rumelt’s Good Strategy, Bad Strategy in her office, among others, and she is aware of the world outside politics. She is the same age Mark Blumsky was when he was mayor, and the same age I was when I first ran. A good age, young enough to articulate a vision and have the energy to carry it out.

Whomever took a jab at her ‘inexperience’ as detailed in Stephen’s article obviously does not know her history or background. That person evidently does not know Wellington well enough, either, or just how well the last 30-something mayor we had improved the place. Maybe their memory’s playing tricks on them now and they’re out of touch. I mightn’t have agreed with everything Mark did, and maybe there are some rose-coloured glasses at play—but I do agree with the digital advancement this city made under him. Anyone miss the wooden bus stops along Courtenay Place? Anyone? Bueller? I thought not.

Our choices this year are Tory boys or Tory in name. Tory Whanau would make a fine mayor and (finally) the city’s first non-white mayor, too.
 
It wasn’t nostalgia that had me looking up my 2013 manifesto. It was one Jack Yan running for mayor this year. Not me, but the guy in Toronto.

Jack’s finally got his website up and got in touch, in good humour, as he saw the crazy coincidence of not just the name but of running for mayor of one’s city. I naturally forwarded on the emails I received thanks to mistaken identity. Out of interest, I had a look through what I wrote back then and sent it on out of interest. Just helping a brother out.

He probably doesn’t need it, as he has good, comprehensive policies tailored to his city. There’s a Tory called Tory running there. Torontonians have way more candidates to choose from. To the folks there, give the guy a chance and check out his website at jack2022.ca.


You may also like

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in leadership, media, New Zealand, politics, Wellington | No Comments »


They’re brainwashed by the cult of Boris, so the next Tory leader will be an ideologue

10.07.2022

Sean O’Grady puts into his opinion piece what so many of us have said. He does it far better than I could.

They backed Johnson through the Dominic Cummings scandal, through the resignations of two ethics advisers, through the scandal of a party donor paying for the decoration of his flat, through the mishandling of the pandemic and the mismanaging of Brexit with a rotten deal, Partygate and law breaking, an unlawful prorogation of parliament and breaking treaties and international law, allegedly trying to get Carrie a £100,000 job and Wilfred a £150,000 treehouse, depriving kids of free school dinners … and much, much more …

So it’s not just Johnson who’s morally compromised, but the whole Tory party, with rare exceptions. They are all guilty men and women because they voted for him, campaigned for him, sustained him, lied for him and generally disgraced themselves and the country in the process. They were all members of the cult of Boris, and they knew exactly what he was.

They didn’t care because he was a winner. He hasn’t suddenly turned nasty – he was like this since about the age of eight. He’s outlived his usefulness to them, but if they thought the devil incarnate could win them the next election they’d be signing his nomination papers right now. Parties tend to get the leaders they deserve.

Sunak, Javid and others are in no position to be preaching about integrity. If seeing the monarch mourn her husband whilst sitting alone due to COVID-19 restrictions at the same time Johnson partied at his ‘work event’ didn’t concern them, are we to believe that they are one bit concerned about sexual assault? Pull the other one.

If the Tories are smart, they’ll go for someone well outside this band of muppets. But as O’Grady also states, ‘Your next PM, like Johnson, will be chosen by about 90,000 mostly elderly, reactionary and unrepresentative members of the Conservative Party.’ In such cases, name recognition and familiarity will decide the next leader. Sadly, that’s unlikely to be anyone from the moderate wing of the Conservative Party. That is now a minority.

Will they promote a better culture than Johnson did? Possibly. If they have some sense of organization and leadership. But that alone is not going to fix the UK’s problems. Ideologues should not come before pragmatists, but it’s hard to see any other outcome given what the Conservative Party has become.


You may also like

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in culture, leadership, media, politics, UK | No Comments »


One award, one interview—positive publicity for May–June 2022

07.06.2022


 
On to more positive things. Earlier this year, Luxlife got in touch with us, to say Lucire had been shortlisted for their awards. It was later confirmed that we had become their ‘Most Pioneering Online Fashion Magazine 2022’, which I was very happy about—especially as we started 25 years ago.

The judges did know of our UNEP partnership, and the fact we had diversified into print in 2004 (and kept that going in different countries). These points differentiate us from pretty much every fashion magazine. The fact family (namely my father) helped keep things going even during the toughest times, including the GFC, also distinguishes us—and a lot of this success is down to him.

You can read our release here, and I mention it on the Lucire website, too.

I was also stoked to see my interview with Komoneed go online. Komoneed is an online community providing global and local knowledge on sustainability, while avoiding false and unfounded information. You can even read it in German, and I had to clarify to a few people that no, I’m not fluent—this was thanks to Komoneed’s translators. The Aston Martin is also not mine—this was a press car from 2007, but I said to Komoneed they could pick whatever photos they wanted from our photo gallery. In fact, I’m still very proud of the story I wrote on the car 15 years ago.
 


You may also like

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in cars, internet, leadership, media, New Zealand, publishing, social responsibility, UK | No Comments »


Ingredients of leadership

17.12.2021

My friend Sarah Jane Adams is undertaking research on leadership and asked for what people thought being a good leader meant. Here are 10 that I gave her on her Linkedin. They are in no order and are the first 10 things that popped into my head. Not saying I’ve managed to do all of them consistently, but I try.

Recognize every individual for who they are and what they bring to the table.

Acknowledge your own limitations.

Don’t assign someone something you aren’t prepared to do yourself if you were in their shoes.

Work with people who can think beyond themselves and who can look at the bigger picture.

Communicate clearly and succinctly. Jargon is for losers.

If you have a good team, being transparent with them is a good thing.

Do not put up with anyone who thinks they can hold you to ransom or to hold up your work. Replace the buggers.

Are you instilling love or fear? If it’s the latter, you haven’t led.

Do what you love. It’s easier to lead when you do.

And don’t be a dick.


You may also like

Tags: , , , , , ,
Posted in business, leadership, New Zealand | No Comments »


My tribute to David MacGregor

28.11.2021


Digital art by David MacGregor

I hope the media will say more because David MacGregor had packed so much into his 50-something years on this planet. Here is my tribute on Lucire. Not everyone can claim to have discovered Rachel Hunter, created the Family Health Diary TV commercial format (and others), founded the first online men’s lifestyle magazine in New Zealand (Emale, or to give it its official form, eMALE), conceived and co-founded Idealog, and won a heap of advertising, marketing, and magazine publishing awards in the process. A brilliant man who never stopped creating.


You may also like

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, internet, leadership, marketing, media, New Zealand, publishing, technology, TV | No Comments »


Big Tech: you’ve already lost against mainland China

21.10.2021

Big Tech often says that if they’re broken up, they won’t be able to compete with mainland China.
   Folks, you’ve already lost.
   Why? Because you’re playing their game. You believe that through dominance and surveillance you can beat a country with four times more people.
   The level playing field under which you were created has been disappearing because of you.
   You’re the ones acquiring start-ups and stifling the sort of innovation that you yourselves once created.
   If the US believes it should create more tech champions, or more innovators, then Big Tech needs to get out of the way and let people start the next big thing.
   But we know this isn’t about China.
   It’s about them trying to preserve their dominance.
   We all know they’ll even sell data to Chinese companies, and they’re not too fussed if they have ties to the Communist Chinese state.
   To heck with America. Or any western democracy. Their actions often underscore that.
   Without the innovation that their enterprise system created, they’ll increasing play second fiddle in a game that mainland China has played for much longer.
   I already said that Chinese apps have surpassed many western ones, based on my experience. Through a clever application of The Art of War.
   And if the world stays static, if all everyone is doing is keeping the status quo in order to get rich, and innovation is minimized, then it’s going to look like a pretty decaying place, sort of like the alternative Hill Valley with Biff Tannen in charge. Just recycling the same old stuff with a whiff of novelty as a form of soma. Pretty soon that novelty turns into garishness as a few more moments are eked out of a decaying invention.
   Where’s the next big thing, the one that’s going to have a net benefit for life on this planet?


You may also like

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, China, internet, leadership, technology, USA | No Comments »


Facebook continues to give in to fake accounts, much like the UK with COVID-19

10.07.2021

At the beginning of July I noticed Facebook had changed its reporting options. Gone is the option labelled ‘Fake account’, replaced by ‘Harmful or spam’. It’s a small change that, I believe, is designed to get Facebook off the hook for failing to remove fake accounts: since you can’t report them, then you can’t say they’ve failed to take them down.

   Except, if you choose ‘Harmful or spam’, Facebook does acknowledge that your report is for a fake account:

   Of course they’re harmful. Harmful to us regular people who have to pay more and more money to reach our human supporters since the fakes command an increasing amount of fans on our pages, for instance. It isn’t harmful for Facebook’s revenue or Zuckerberg’s wealth. So it really depends how you define harmful; one would imagine that a competent court would define it from a consumer’s point of view.
   Their new group policy, where Facebook has also given up against the bot epidemic, letting fake accounts join public groups, is a disaster. As you can see, the majority of new members to one group I oversee—and where I usually get tips to new bot accounts—are fakes. They’ve used scripts to join. It’s a bit of a giveaway when there are brand-new accounts joining groups before they’ve even made friends. The legit names have been pixellated; the fakes I’ve left for you to see.

   It’s not as bad as, say, giving up on the people who elected you to run the country and letting COVID-19 do whatever it wants, killing citizens in the process. But it comes from the same dark place of putting people second and lining your pockets first—Mark Zuckerberg does it, Robert Mugabe did it, etc. Distract and plunder.
   In The Guardian:

Boris Johnson will revoke hundreds of Covid regulations and make England the most unrestricted society in Europe from 19 July despite saying new cases could soar to 50,000 a day before masks and social distancing are ditched.

   In fact, one Tweeter jokingly showed his interpretation of the UK’s COVID alert levels:

   On this, let our own Prof Michael Baker have the last word. Also in The Guardian, which I shared three days ago on Mastodon:

   Baker said public health professionals were “disturbed” by the UK’s return to allowing Covid to circulate unchecked, and that the phrase “living with it” was a “meaningless slogan” that failed to communicate the consequences of millions of infections, or the alternative options for managing the virus.
   “We often absorb a lot of our rhetoric from Europe and North America, which have really managed the pandemic very badly,” he said. “I don’t think we should necessarily follow or accept Boris Johnson and co saying: “Oh, we have to learn to live with virus.’
   “We always have to be a bit sceptical about learning lessons from countries that have failed very badly.”

   We really need to be confident of our own position on this. There are too many, especially those propelled by foreign forces with their friends in the foreign-owned media, advocating that we follow other Anglophone countries—probably because they lack either intelligence, imagination, pride, or empathy. I’ve spent a good part of my career saying, ‘Why should we follow when we can lead?’


You may also like

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, internet, leadership, media, New Zealand, politics, UK, USA | No Comments »