Be present slideTo end a busy week and help lead us into the weekend with some downtime (a term I had never heard until technology made its play on our time), I’d like to call out two things to help focus us away from gadgets and devices.

The first relates to this great little photo (on the right). A crowd has gathered to watch a parade, a celebrity or some runners and everybody has jumped to their phones to catch the moment. But isn’t it interesting that nobody is actually watching the event unfold, nobody except one little old lady who is very content to take in that special moment. The look on her face speaks a thousand words. Occasionally, leave your phone in your pocket and just be present.

The other item relates to something I posted on social spaces earlier in the week that received a most positive reaction – handwritten notes. Despite all the wonders of technology most electronic communication lacks the personal touch and if valued, lasts only a short time. Instead people truly value and often keep a handwritten note. I first read this during the 1990s when a famous rugby coach left handwritten notes under the door of each team member before a crucial game. It rallied the troops to great success.

So go on, send somebody a ‘Thank You’ note today. It will please you as much as it does them.


Londoners check their phones 214 times a day

checking phoneA taxi driver laughed at me as I dodged traffic to run to his vehicle, pulling behind me a small suitcase with a laptop bag that was hanging off to one side, plus one phone in each hand. “Those things have created this non-stop society,” he declared. He is right.

We are always switched on, trying to do more in less time. It makes me laugh how the red light of a Blackberry or the ringtone from an iPhone makes people suddenly jump to action, obsessively responding to the latest message. People wait at the ready the moment a plane’s wheels touch down to sigh with relief as they are happily reconnected.

Head of Ariadne Capital Julie Meyer once said society operates at 2 speeds: start-up and history. I agree, but will we ever get control of it? One major UK consultancy has banned employees from sending internal email on a Friday, but we are caught in a circle of connectivity from which we cannot extricate ourselves.

At a key client meeting this week, the chair asked for a short break. Most people just dropped their heads into their devices and emailed the entire time. One person took out an old Nokia Lumia phone, which sent the group into raptures.

FT columnist Gillian Tett recently wrote, “The challenge of the cyber revolution is that the pace of change is so fast that few pundits have good answers about how institutions – let alone societies – can adapt.” She was referring to the changing face of employment, but it applies across the board. We all just run with it. Nobody knows how to manage it appropriately.

In the end, I had to ask the taxi driver for his advice. He looked so calm, despite having to make his living driving bumper to bumper in London’s traffic. “I just handle it day by day,” he said, “one action at a time”.

Internet of Things

smart-pill-technology-marketThe Consumer Electronics Show this month has led to lots of press on the internet of things, where every gadget and device is connected to the internet, and sending and receiving data.

Samsung’s Chief Executive pledged that every single piece of Samsung hardware will be connected to the internet within five years, including TVs and domestic appliances. This is very much science fact, not science fiction, and while many will yell is there no privacy left in this world, I would like to suggest my top 3, the first of which I presented for the first time back in 2008:

1. The kitchen – imagine if you are on a controlled diet and you decide to break the rules and cook a ready-meal in the microwave followed by sticky-toffee pudding. Your fridge sensors notice what has been removed from the freezer compartment and the microwave tells your fridge you are about to cook that high-fat, sugar-and-salt meal. The microwave declines your request. You are the system administrator of your kitchen, so you override the microwave and instruct it to cook the food. Your microwave obeys, but it then notifies the fridge, which as the central processing unit of the kitchen sends a note to your doctor and your insurance company, and now you are no longer insured.

2. Fruit & Vegetables – coming from a background of food, I always wondered why my father had to keep a box of fruit that was always bruised or damaged to one side. With RFID chips on the cartons plus tighter planning with transportation schedules, more fruit makes it to its destination intact and bad apples cannot influence the rest of the crate.

3. The health pill – my favourite of the three, which is a tiny pill that you take weekly that monitors your wellbeing and sends a weekly status check to your doctor over wifi via a traffic light system. If it displays green you continue as normal; amber and you are sent a text message asking you to make an appointment; if the doctor receives a red signal, you are called within the hour. Preventative action can save the health services millions and technology must be used to help facilitate change.

I am all for the internet of things because the possibilities are endless, I just think they could have found a more interesting name for it.

FORO and other matters

Maslow_2014_revised.jpgThe Christmas holidays are just about at an end and people are turning their attentions to the new year and their work. Gifts have been exchanged, clementines and chocolate devoured and the gyms have started their annual marketing campaigns to entice more of us to exercise, if only for two weeks in January.

As the new year rolls in we have other matters to deal with – new terms and skills, even new anxieties. The future of work may well mean no CVs, no performance reviews, no permanence. Business Intelligence might easily be shared in real time via wearable devices, mobile certainly could dominate everything and many business services crowdsourced.

Topping the LinkedIn hottest skills list last year was ‘Statistical Analysis and Data Mining’ and the most popular coding language was ‘Python.’ All of this was new to the average person and business.

The standout thing for me was the sudden loss of time yet it became even more important to assign time to networking, speaking to and meeting important customers and key influencers in our lives. The image above right made me chuckle – I enjoyed my Business Administration classes back in the 80s the most, and no class was complete without Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but last year we added 3 new rows to life’s necessities.

The biggest change of all this year will be ‘FORO’ – the fear of running out, and so our briefcases and satchels will need to include even more cables and devices.

A Happy New Year to everyone.

A view on the latest trends

Annual Trends

I gathered a lot of useful information from my travels this summer and particularly liked a story around global trends. I have mashed some of this with my own thoughts on how technology is at the heart of change:

  1. Rising demand for resources as the world’s population grows – the large emerging markets will drive this need, and as well as staple food and clothing, they will insist on smartphones, online shopping and the fastest connectivity.
  2. A growing urban middle-class in emerging economies – this huge group of people knows what it wants and it buys the latest trends; as the generations grow up, technology will very much be a part of their day-to-day existence.
  3. The population in those economies will experience lifestyle changes – lifestyle means quality of life and this implies disposable income to buy and consume – technology sits at the centre of this movement, be it phones and gadgetry or purchasing via smartphones.
  4. More online shopping everywhere – my key message here is where in the past people went through a process before purchasing something, now we are online all the time, so in effect we are always shopping, especially via mobiles.
  5. The percentage of the world’s population that is over 60 will be a third bigger by 2050 than it is today – let’s not wait for 2050; right now, people over 60 know what they want, they purchase leisure-related goods and services like never before, and they have the cash – this demographic needs to be targeted starting now.

 I like to stay grounded, so as I lead a global project for the company looking to the future, I have started by looking back, as I think the future will be best served by a mix of old-fashioned values and people interacting, combined with the evolution and speed that technology brings.

A Laser Focus


I have used a video of this girl using an iPad in some of my presentations, which underlines how adept this generation is at using technology, plus I have dismissed before words that say kids today cannot focus.

On my holiday in the US this summer, I read a lot of good stuff and came across two stories along the same lines involving different youngsters, so I thought it well worth a mention. One in particular was described by He used to graffiti the classroom, not because he was a vandal, but because he wanted others to see his art – to ‘know’ him. Doctors wanted to give him Ritalin (to treat attention deficit disorder – ADD) and his teacher told his mother not to let them give it to her son.

Instead he suggested that his mother encourage his creativity, that he will work out a way to work with it. How true that was.

A similar story applied to the principal ballerina at the Royal Ballet, who couldn’t sit still for her love of music. Kids do have a laser focus, just not on the often-outdated stuff we give them. We need to learn to work with them on their terms, after all they are our workforce and our customer of tomorrow.

My Future

When asked “How will the future look?” I replied “Differently.” How different I am not entirely sure, but I can confidently say a few things.

  1. The future will include an increasing amount of measurement, ie. using data to crunch our business information. The more we know about our customers, the more we can target them with products they need and want. Why try and sell a lawn mower to a lady who lives on the 10th floor of an apartment block? A scatter-gun approach of marketing to thousands in the hope that five people buy is history. The future market segment is “One.” One person. One set of preferences.
  2. In future, customers will help set strategy arm-in-arm with CEOs. Technology allows us to be better listeners and social media especially is redefining the way business interacts with both customers and employees.
  3. The future is up to me. I will assemble my own degree from the thousands of excellent courses available, most of them free of charge. I will learn when I want, on the device I choose. I will learn on my iPhone on the train to work, on an iPad in the evening and on the laptop at the weekend. Each will know exactly where I left off and at which point to pick up.
  4. In future I will have more control. When I my car breaks down, I will access the ‘Parts’ section of my car’s website, download a new component, print it on my 3D printer, and fit it by watching and listening to instructions. In 60 minutes I am on the road.
  5. Almost everything in future will be connected. When I brush my teeth twice a day for two minutes, my toothbrush will know. I will be given recognition and offered an ‘m-voucher’ via my mobile for toothpaste the moment I walk into a supermarket – my reward is a free tube of toothpaste by a leading brand and a discount towards my next dental check due in 4 weeks.

People will not allow technology to watch us all day, every day, but these things are happening. It will be interesting to see how they play out.

Nowhere to hide

Technology is headlining so much of the evolution we are seeing in business, but for the consumer, digital has changed things even more drastically. Our phone is the passport to almost everything, yet even this device will disappear into our clothing and our cars as technologies such as Microsoft’s PixelSense come to the fore.

The phone is not just what keeps us in touch, it gives us the truth. Advertisers can no longer hide. Just a few years ago, the only way to differentiate between brands of television, sportswear or fast-moving consumer goods was to fall for the adverts coming at us from all angles (and I do like ‘Mad Men’). Today, you get the real views of millions of people and the opinions of those closest to you by turning to one of the social tools on your handheld. A recent survey said that 14% of customers trust advertisers, whereas 78% trust their peer reviews – which is why TripAdvisor,, Amazon and eBay are so powerful. The meaningful data that we can access at the touch of a button means a product whose message is overhyped can be exposed within moments and ridiculed to a joke in an afternoon in tweetland.

‘I am nothing without my Nintendo DS’

A few years ago, my wife was attempting to take my son’s Nintendo DS away from him as a form of punishment for not listening to her. It was the toy he loved the most and like most kids that age, he was glued to the device. He was 8. He screamed “I am nothing without my Nintendo DS.” I was in my office shrieking with laughter at the dramatics. As I reflect today, there is a lesson there.

In Korea, families spend more of their disposable income (22%) than any other nation on their family’s education. Within 2 years, all elementary school education in Korea will be delivered via tablet or other device. In Kent in the South East of England, the Longfield Academy school has provided their students with an iPad (not entirely free, but that is besides the point). I think it goes without saying what has happened to the levels of immersion and concentration in the classroom in those institutions that have adopted the technology that kids were born with – they are digital natives after all.

I have talked before about technology, gadgetry and the internet being the ‘oxygen’ for our youngsters – for them a computer or smartphone is a gateway to a world of communications. So, let’s start building lessons and assignments on these devices, give them the gadgets so that the kids are learning via the tools they are so comfortable with. As Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, said earlier this year, a Victorian schoolteacher could quite easily pick up where she left off in delivering a class in today’s school.

The problem is more ours than theirs – give the kids the tools and technologies that they devour each day, and I think we will be pleasantly surprised by the levels of creativity and engagement.

An i-something or other

I spent the last couple of weeks travelling to Johannesburg and Dubai, meeting my team, talking to clients and helping with deals for some of our exciting prospects.

As ever, I learned some new things – particularly how de rigueur it is to carry several mobile phones. I had to chuckle, people in restaurants obsessively checking all their phones to see if anybody had called or sent a text message – it was most entertaining.  I was asked – and frowned at condescendingly once – why I didn’t possess a Blackberry and only carry an iPhone, as if I were a handbag without a Chanel label.

So, in response, how about we all become i-people with an i-life, devoting ourselves to one company who sponsor our existence? We could live in an i-house or i-pad (get it?), drive a shared or borrowed i-car (recall collaborative consumption), wear an i–suit with our devices embedded into the fabric, have an i-pet and even an i-wife. No, I will not discuss this last one, it will only lead me into trouble!

Throughout my travels the best thing of all was still meeting new people face to face, finding a connection and common talking points and discussing future alliances and partnerships. However cool these devices might be, I don’t ever wish my telephone to be a status symbol; it is a facilitation device, a communications tool, not a pair of Jimmy Choo’s! Forgive my dwelling on fashion, but my apprenticeship was at Versace and I do like a nice suit.