Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Man-flu is serious, ok?

This week I have a touch of the man-flu.  It's not proper flu because I'm able to go about my daily business, but there are some very important differences in my behaviour.

1)  I have a sore throat.  This causes me to cough occasionally and requires me to suck lozenges.

2)  I have slightly less energy than normal.  This means, when socialising, I can only stay out for two or three drinks rather than for an all-nighter.

3)  This is the most important difference.  I will talk about having "man-flu" EVERY FIFTEEN FREAKIN MINUTES.

This is a much misunderstood condition and it sometimes means I have to do things like spend the morning on the sofa with a blanket over me while I watch "Love Actually" or "4 Weddings and a Funeral".... sorry... I mean "Anchorman".

If you know someone with man-flu, please help.  Give a lozenge, or maybe a hot lemon drink because otherwise that person will be going on and on and on about feeling ill for a very long time.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Authentic and innovative beats tried and tested

There's a fear that's sweeping modern culture at the moment and it's one I think we need to get rid of. It's the fear of failure.

Recently I've heard politicians, teachers and business leaders all talk about how we need to stamp out "the culture of failure" or similar such cliched statements. Failure is necessary in any institution. No, it's essential in any institution if it wants to move forward.

I've seen caution in action in many of my previous jobs. Managers and consultants often acted out of fear rather than conviction. The best ones I've worked for have always had a vision - the worst have always had fear. I remember on more than one occasion a consultant calling my boss because they were concerned that I might have mentioned my sexuality on air (yup, this happened more than once, even though I'd not mentioned my sexuality on air on either occasion). I was then given a talk about how our listeners might not be quite as liberal as I think they are and that we're best off just "not playing that card".

I was always a bit baffled because I never really intended on making the show about my sexuality. I had worked primarily in entertainment-based radio and the whole spectrum of both my life and the world around me has informed this. The fact that these consultants didn't want me to mention my sexuality was down to fear. Fear that the ratings might go down if I was completely authentic on air.

I bring this up because this morning I listened to the Z100 Morning Show from New York City. The US is more socially conservative than the UK and yet this market leading breakfast show is presented by an openly gay man. The research might say the audience are a bit socially conservative but when they're presented by an entertainment product that they enjoy, guess what, they consume it.

Steve Jobs was known for saying that he didn't want to do lots of market research because the consumers didn't know what they want until they had been shown it. There is a lot of merit to this. It beats the cautious strategy in my opinion. Don't get me wrong, research is great for telling you what your audience or consumers think of what you already do - but it can't effectively tell you how to innovate.

I think any really great business or public sector organisation relies on being innovative and authentic. This will mean, from time to time, that you "fail" at things. Great! Learn from it and move on. Two of my favourite quotes from NLP are "There is no failure, only feedback" and "What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail". I suspect the businesses that employ those attitudes will be the ones that come out of the economic downturn much stronger than their competitors.