Flexibility revisited

Flexibility is the parent of hope.

Flexibility needs the clothes of honour to be respectable.

Improve the flexibility, improve the credibility (except if honour is at stake).

With sources of flexibility, the more you look, the more you find.

The first step in managing flexibility is measuring it.

Flexibility indicators belong in every KPI system. They shouldn’t be the elephant in the room that everyone ignores.

Flexibility hates glass ceilings, racist signs and ignorance. It loves to hang out with innovation, dreamers, strategists, financiers and engineers.

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Keeping it real

Adventure used to involve people taking up personal challenges – taking calculated risks that involved an element of danger. And putting their body under some kind of skills or fitness test. We got fitter. We increased our life skills. We even built our confidence. Now, many of us watch a handful of (overpaid) celebrities do all that. Or worse, play a computer game where the game characters have the adventure, at the expense of us developing life skills.

Parents, teachers and guidance counsellors are in a cold war with entertainment companies. Thanks to marketing hype, the ambition to be somebody and do something is getting relentlessly hijacked by entertainment. Since ultimately we’ll pay a high social price for that, can’t governments wake up and tax entertainment companies far more heavily to compensate?

When will the masses realise social media is both angel and devil. It’s good for exchanging ideas and refining our views. It’s good to rediscover long lost friends, separated by geography. But it’s bad to give a running commentary on how we’re feeling at any given moment.

Who taught the youth that all their meaning should come from computer games and reality TV? If self reliance and life skills build progress, then the one industry with a brilliant future ahead of it is life coaching. Maybe we now need life coaches in schools alongside the educators?

Life Bites

We used to take chances. Now computer systems allocate them to us.

When did the life skills of the group mutate into the lifestyles of the wannabe famous?

Is there a future for romantic love between people? As the apps of meaning, respect and mental health quietly die, what’s replacing them in the version upgrade?

The obesity epidemic isn’t just about lifestyle choices. The real concern is people feeling worse about themselves and eating to compensate.

We used to look to our parents and people we directly encountered as role models. Now it’s the rappers, club footballers, movie stars and super-hero characters we see from a great distance.

Car-crash TV used to be watching noble characters in cop shows and medical dramas save lives and unite, in spite of style and value differences. Now car-crash TV is watching shallow, self-obsessed, celebrity wannabes kill time in a big brother room, on a stage, on an island, in a jungle, or on a chat show.

Show me the money…

In modern day Britain, most would probably agree that the NHS and schools need more funding each year. Better internal management might reduce waste and create greater impact. But the UK government could show a lot better leadership too.

Successive UK governments don’t so much lack courage (feeling fear but taking action anyway). The bigger problems are arguably that they:

  • lack incentive (complacency and dogma seem to have set in),
  • lack clarity (can’t agree what the problem is), and
  • lack imagination.

What more could be done by central government, regardless of political party?

  • bar politicians from serving more than three terms (a maximum of 15 years in parliament). New blood would bring fresh approaches, minimise complacency and cronyism. But what if not enough people stepped in to replace outgoing politicians? True leaders will step in to lead, because they care.
  • enlist pro-bono advice from professional consulting firms, about how they would go about solving complex societal problems.
  • scrap the ‘first past the post’ voting system, in favour of proportional representation. With at least one annual referendum on a big political issue (not just Brexit either).
  • ensure stronger messaging in early-years schools (all UK schools) about why education is so vital for self reliance, so fewer students drop out later. Perhaps self-reliance has fallen out of fashion? Ironically, the first step towards caring communities begins with self reliance and two strong legs of your own.
  • change criminal penalties to put a far greater weighting on the economic costs to society from crime. Cyber crime, fraud, domestic abuse, human trafficking and narcotics trafficking would likely see stronger minimum jail sentences.
  • simplify the  UK tax rules. The costs of complexity are way too high and borne by all of us.
  • change the rules on the proceeds of crime, so the ‘Mr Bigs’ have no chance of parole, until they offer up all the deemed global proceeds of crime. The government could usefully put such proceeds directly into bigger UK police budgets, where the proceeds are not able to be returned to the victims of crime. Bigger police budgets aren’t so much about turning the UK into a police state. But instead about increasing the arrest rate for those committing crime (currently there is too much focus on crime level stats and not enough on arrest rate stats instead).
  • change the rules on taxation – seriously look at introducing negative VAT on healthy foods, sportswear and the exercise industry.
  • prevent extensive tax avoidance amongst a relatively few companies and wealthy individuals, by changing the rules. Pierce elaborate tax-haven structures, citing substance over form. And create a special set of punitive employment taxes for those making a living as tax advisors.
  • review how UK foreign aid money (the approximately £14B of public money per yr) is spent. Earmark a bigger chunk of it for disaster relief and vaccination programmes (direct distribution of goods not indirect distribution of money). And give nothing to countries who choose  to fund their own space programmes. Or fund terrorist training camps within their borders.
  • apply a common-sense UK approach to immigration and social housing. Setting and defending quotas is a distraction and any figure set is inherently subjective. Having a local government policy to house anyone who decides to live in your jurisdiction probably isn’t realistic either. It just creates unmanageable responsibilities. And cruelly raises peoples’ expectations to unrealistic levels.

Family Life

You can choose your friends. But you can’t choose your family. Maybe the best life comes from the combination of the things you choose and the things you experience – just imagine if we controlled everything or nothing. How impoverished our lives would be!

We all have biases, inadequacies and character shortcomings. Other people, including family members, help us understand and overcome them. Some people coach, guide and mentor us. Others penalise us. Some just listen and commiserate with us. Or help us put the little things in perspective. All feedback is good, even if just to make us realise that all feedback isn’t necessarily fair or accurate.

We need friends, who share our interests and values. But we need family too – they’re there for the long haul, so have to be more patient with us than our friends. And help us with our roots, grandparent and sibling relations, being a close partner and perhaps parenthood. Probably the older we get, the less our friends actually need our support. But that isn’t true for the younger generations – our kids, our nieces and nephews.

Authority is familiar around families, but is awkward in peer friendships. So perhaps family experiences help us more in our professional life than friends can. We adjust to generational differences in a family setting, helpful training for the workplace. We adjust to hierarchies in families, again useful for the workplace. We accommodate a wide variety of personality types in our extended families, helpful for customer relations in the workplace.

Perhaps the final word comes on our gravestone. Universally, our name is linked to that of our families, no matter how fabulous our friends were in life. But that’s ok. They are cool enough to cope.

A trick of the tale

_MG_3123Ideas are the currency of flexibility. While new born babies are the currency of hope and hate is the currency of despair.

Despair needs repair, like aware needs underwear.

The first problem of innovation isn’t developing a better mousetrap. It’s figuring out how to sail across the oceans of red tape. To reach tiny islands that can be turned into vast new lands.

Does a child’s mind see stale ideas donning fancy dress? And then chasing other ideas around the garden, shouting and laughing.

Does sex stand in the way of love? If we all hold some love in our hearts and we then create more of us…

 

Customer Service and Customer Experience

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We live in the age of online retailing and call centre customer support. We side-step consumer advertising in favour of social media shopping comparisons between friends – chatting about the customer experience, as well as the product. Yet too many consumer mass market companies still think customer service. Not customer experience.

For some consumer brands, it gets worse.  To them, customer service simply means serving the customer, period.  Never mind how or when! A commuter train breaks down in the middle of nowhere in the depths of winter. Its brand managers focus mostly on getting the train moving again. Supporting the stranded passengers comes a distant second. Ditto the airlines and airport staff.

(Some) central and local politicians seem intent on taking their inspiration from these kinds of companies. Voter service means sounding concerned, making long speeches, criticising everything the opposition parties say and when forced to act, calling for yet another investigative review, at the taxpayers’ expense. Meanwhile, the voter experience (think air pollution, lack of affordable housing, limited school choices, flammable high-rise tower blocks, expensive transport choices etc) continues unchecked.

Some companies conduct customer surveys (including asking the wrong questions), design their retail website poorly, keep the customer in a long call-waiting queue, or charge steep day-rates for standard support. Rather that modest day rates for customised support.

In summary, too many mass market companies pay lip service to perceived customer service. Instead of moving straight to real customer experience. Mass market products need to be simple to use, clever in function, durable and value for money.

Mindset change please guys!