Monday, February 8, 2016

The Food Hall as a Lovemark

Is there a better Food Hall in the world than Harrods in Knightsbridge? The best fresh fish, amazing shellfish, ethnic delights from Lebanon, India, Hong Kong, with the best of transitional British scattered all around.  Cheeses sans pareil, cold cuts extraordinaire, all beautifully laid out and displayed mystery, sensuality and intimacy in action.  Not to mention,  the live in real time dining options of The Caviar House, Galvin Demoiselle’s Bistro, Bentley’s Sea Food, The Steakhouse, etc, etc.  Harrods is Europe’s biggest department store with 330 departments and one million square feet of retail space.  And my favorite.  Its motto Omnia Omnibus Ubique (sounds very amazon!) - All Things for All People Everywhere… and the Food Hall is its finest moment.


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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Negotiation Across Nations

It’s no longer unusual to do business that transcends borders. What used to be an exception has become the norm in the world of global connectedness we live in. Negotiating business across different nations and cultures, however, can be quite challenging as many things that are acceptable or even expected in one culture are a no-go in another.

A diagram on The Harvard Business Review’s website visualizes different countries’ negotiation styles. It places countries on two axes depending on their acceptance of emotions and confrontation in business negotiations. “For cold-as-fish negotiations, go to northern Europe or eastern Asia. If you want hugs and small talk with your deal go to a Latin country,” as Frank Jacobs sums it up in an article on In some ways he’s right. I have travelled across the world and have done business in quite a few places – it still astounds and fascinates me how different we tend to approach business in different places.

It all sounds relatively easy. Do your research and be respectful. But when you’re sitting at the negotiation table and you’ve got a goal in mind, it suddenly is a lot more difficult. And the styles depicted by The Harvard Business Review’s diagram are not the only things to look out for. Cultural differences already begin with different ways of greeting each other, eye contact or the composition of your negotiation team.

An article in the International Journal of Economics and Finance points out some of these differences – Chinese for instance greet each other with personal questions and Japanese exchange gifts before starting a first business meeting, while in most Western countries negotiations tend to be strictly about business.

Considering there are so many different dos and don’ts when it comes to intercultural negotiations it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. Sometimes conventions even change within cultures. In China and India for instance, there can be up to 30 different regions, each with their own conventions, as noted in an article in the South China Morning Post.

Erin Meyer, professor and program director for Managing Global Virtual Teams at INSEAD, suggests finding a cultural bridge – someone who is from the other culture or knows the other culture intimately – to help you at the negotiation table.  Interestingly some anticipate these differences in styles to disappear in about 20 years as a result of generational change, globalisation and digital connectivity.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

World Changing Lancaster University

For the last five years I’ve worked as part of the MBA programme at my hometown Lancaster University’s Management School (LUMS).  Chris Saunders ran the programme during this period and Peter Lenney, leader of the Mindful Manager programme, took over this year.

Despite being ‘only’ 50 years old, and being located a fair way from London and urban Britain, the School is making waves.  I teach a Leadership decision-making module four times a year, using the real life, real time world of Saatchi & Saatchi to stimulate pragmatic thinking, not just theoretical cases.  The problem – and solutions – are played out in real time in front of the class’s eyes.  The students work individually and in teams and love the pace and turbulence of the real world.

The Global MBA rankings – based on 2012 graduates’ rankings have just been published:
  • Overall LUMS Ranking Globally – 35 – behind the normal suspects Harvard, Stanford, Insead etc,
  • UK LUMS Ranking – 4 (behind London, Oxford and Cambridge – not bad company to keep),
  • LUMS Global Ranking for Strategy – 1 (ahead of Harvard),
  • LUMS Global Ranking for General Management – 8 (behind Darden, Harvard, Tuck, Stanford and Northwestern),
  • LUMS Global Ranking for International Business – 5.
Winning the World from the Edge.

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Monday, February 1, 2016

Chasing Sticks

Every January my old friend Robin and his wife Marline leave the snows of Canada for a sojourn in Hawaii, in the little village where Robin proposed – and Robin uses the time to smile, laugh, reflect, pause, think, read and write.  He’s reading Pulitzer Prize winner Kay Ryan’s new collection ‘Erratic Facts’ and he sent me something I wanted to share with you.

Fool’s Errands:

A thing
cannot be
enough times:
this is the
rule of dogs
for whom there
are no fool’s
errands. To
loop out and
come back is
good all alone.
It’s gravy to
carry a ball
or a bone.

Thank you Kay.  Thank you Robin.

We’re all still carrying the ball.

It’s gravy.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Black Box Thinking

We’ve been told that ‘making mistakes is normal’ and ‘it could have happened to anybody’, but regardless of these assurances nobody feels good about making mistakes. In his book Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About SuccessTIMES journalist Matthew Syed points out that even though we are always told to ‘embrace failure’, hardly anybody does.

Admitting failure is not easy – especially in business. It’s important to show people that they’re allowed to make mistakes but there is also the lesson of accountability. According to Syed, a “stigmatising attitude towards error” is the reality today despite the many articles telling us that mistakes generally are a good way to learn.

The truth is we’re afraid of making mistakes and even more afraid of admitting we’ve made one, which is why sometimes we try to cover up our errors to avoid fault. Removing the fear of making mistakes won’t stop you from making one, but according to an article in The Guardian, having the right attitude and state of mind enables us to learn lessons from our failures.

In Black Box Thinking, Syed argues that our attitude towards failure has serious implications and proposes a “rigorous testing of business strategies” to avoid making the same mistakes over and over again. The airline industry is an example, as reflected in the title of the book. Syed reasons that flying has become the safest way to travel because we have learned from past failures and that we should take that ‘Black Box Thinking’ into other industries.

I agree. Past failures often are the foundation of success later on. We should fail fast, fix fast and then learn fast from our mistakes. And then move forward.

Image attribute/source: / / Matthew Syed

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

“Song for Jen” No. 1 for Cumbria Appeal

At the bedrock of my business and leadership philosophy is the idea that you have to move people if you want to get things done. Whether it’s turning a company around, getting a sports team to play well together, or asking a mom to buy a box of cereal, it always starts with connecting to people emotionally. The same holds true for major relief efforts. Don’t drown us in data, pile on the pie charts, or speak in lofty abstractions—tell me a story about a person.

Since December of last year, I’ve written several times about Storm Desmond, and the devastating impact its record-breaking rainfall had on the idyllic county of Cumbria in the English Lake District, including blocked roads, collapsed bridges, and thousands of flooded homes. The Cumbria Flood Recovery Appeal, launched by the Cumbria Community Foundation, has done tremendous work helping residents and businesses slowly begin to regain a sense of normalcy in the New Year.

The Appeal’s latest offering is perhaps its most emotional and popular yet. “Song for Jen,” written by Vaughan Kennedy and sung by Leeds-based singer Liz Keeting, is available for download from iTunes for just 79p, with every penny going direct to the Appeal, with no fees or expenses deducted.

The songwriter’s agent, Malcolm Thorogood, recently explained the story behind the song during an interview on UK radio. “Jen is a Kendal flood victim in her sixties who was living by herself. She was made homeless by the floods with no family near. She has lost everything,” Thorogood said. “Previously I had asked Vaughan Kennedy to send me a few songs on a CD from his ‘cupboard.’ It arrived the day after I learnt about Jen and one of those songs happened to be about a woman who had lost everything. I thought it was a perfect ‘Song for Jen’ and the thousands of others made homeless by the floods and therefore it could be a good fundraiser for Cumbria Flood Appeal.”

A testament to the impact organizations can have when they touch people’s lives emotionally. The morning after its first radio play, “Song for Jen” reached No. 1 on the iTunes UK “easy listening” chart—ahead of Andrea Bocelli—and currently charts at No. 39 worldwide. Please open your hearts, ears, and change purses to this beautiful work on behalf of a most worthy cause.

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