Webcast Gems

I recently had a look at a webcast panel filmed at the University of Berkeley, California to do with the use and abuse of science by the presidential administration of George Bush Jr. In addition to this presentation they also have some great webcasts on poetry, free speech (Berkeley had a huge role in the beatnik and hippie generations). Real player required. Berkeley’s academic rival Stanford has some interesting webcasts analysing how science and technology and will be affected by a Kerry administration or a second term for the Bush administration.

Good Design


When I got my copy of Real Business magazine there was a cleverly designed piece of collateral that caught my eye promoting London Innovation. Based on the theme of gaining a competitive edge, the design motif boasted the top half of ‘Competitive edge’ on the edge of the paper, causing you to open it up to see the rest of the writing. Inside there is copy in a landscape presented fold out booklet. The bottom flap folded into the booklet was labeled ‘The bottom line’. The leaflet itself was a one colour print run in maroon and the money has gone into the staples and folds.

Brand Aid

The relationships between U2 and the technology sector has got progressively more tangled. Hoteliers and rock rock group U2 has seen a number tech developments. In mid June, lead singer Bono took a break from lecturing the world’s politicians to become a managing partner in a new entertainment and media investment fund based out of Silicon Valley called Elevation Partners. Other managing partners include former Apple CFO Fred Anderson, Robert McNamee a Silicon Valley marketing guru and some executive from Electronic Arts. Next you have the limited edition iPod putting them in the Apple camp (which reminded me of the Claudia Schiffer Palm Vx) and then you have their new tour sponsored by Intel? Go figure. I am not too sure how this will affect the U2 brand image and how it will benefit their partners? I recall the slating the Rolling Stones got from their fans for hanging with with Bill Gates and helping launch Windows ’95 to the tune of ‘Start me up’.

Jargon Watch

Much has been made of the ‘word of the year’ : Chav – a kind of decrepid, foul mouthed shell suited degenerate youth as emblematic of the the noughties UK as Harry Enfield’s Loadsamoney was in the eighties. Apparently the word for the year of my birth was ‘hypermarket’, hmmm. More details courtesy of GQ magazine here.

Strategy for Volatile Times

The end of the summer heralded the arrival of three management related documents on my desk, my review of the materials by
Forrester and CurrentAnalysis can be read here.The McKinsey Quarterly reader ‘Strategy for Volatile Times’ was the hardest to analyse since it had a selection of different areas that it focused on loosely bound by the title of ‘Strategy for Volatile Times’. It reminded me of a executive fortune cookie jar or the track listings of those ‘Now that’s what I call music’ compilations from the 1980’s.

Interesting points

I found the ‘Managing for improved corporate performance’ article by Lowell L Bryan and Ron Hulme most interesting. First they make the first assumption that ‘for a company to perform well’ (what I assume they mean by corporate performance) ‘Any definitions must revolve around the notion of results that meet or exceed the expectations of shareholders.’ Basically the thinking is defensive, about husbanding resources and defending the company’s existing position (value rather than growth). So don’t look for people who follow this credo to develop the next market killer like the iPod. With this in mind the authors tried to provide an engine for innovation within the company by recommending a regular review process called a ‘corporate performance council’ of senior executives to meet monthly to get the school reports on ongoing projects and filter out new ones for promotion. This is similar to the existing processes done already at large corporates such as Shell. It also stacks the dice against the geeks and boffins who hold the key to many of the ‘insanely great’ ideas.

Their model for corporate performance is what they call BASICS:

  • Build new businesses – (apparently focusing on your core competences is now out of fashion in management consultancy circles). Much of this approach could be construed to be more indicative of a growth focused company rather than value focused

  • Adapt the core – make sure that the core business keeps up changing times and keys into your new businesses as necessary

  • Shape the portfolio and ownership structure – actively manage the business of M&As, divestitures and financial restructures to maximise shareholder value

  • Keep an eye on crucial strategic functions

No, I don’t have a clue how they got BASICS out of that lot either. Secondly, is it me, or are the critical BASICS activities listed above the ones that would be like wasps round a jam pot for the big consultant firms like McKinsey?