Month: July 2014

Leadership and Politics – what’s the difference?

Leadership engages common interests to pursue uncommon objectives. Arguably, leadership is fundamentally about sustainable design. And it uses clever strategy to achieve sustainable design.

In contrast, politics are about short-term decision making and the tactics linked with short-term thinking. Such tactics might include:

  • borrowing from the future to pay for the present,
  • misleading voters about risk & the root causes of various problems concerning the voters,
  • governing in favour of the lobby group who offer the greatest short term benefits to the political party in power.

Tragically in my view, we have excessive politics and not enough leadership amongst the global institutions and multi-national companies operating and influencing World events. Instead, in my view, we need the best minds in the World, whether in multi-nationals, governments, retired, or in start ups, providing leadership to design win-win solutions that benefit the environment and multiple countries, if not entire continents. This would leave politicians to administer the follow-on details, including how benefits are divided up between groups and across generations, in the spirit of sustainable design.

Political Stability amongst Nations

If nations such as Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Israel & North Korea want greater political stability, it’s likely to come from improved international trade. That’s because trade expands the areas of common interest internationally. Perhaps there are more common interests than various countries realise and more leadership is needed to debate these common interests?

Surely the Arab and Balkan states and various religious groups can see the stalemate suffering that endures in the Middle East (Israel-Palestine) if they continue to duplicate that type of close-neighbour conflict. Surely they can see how much there is to gain from co operation on sustainable design instead?

The Israel-Palestine Conflict

My guess is that for Israel & Palestine, the only real future peace for both will come from sustainable design of a common solution (two recognised states), yet both have entrenched politics and minimal leadership to (yet) achieve it. Probably that design will have to come externally, (at the UN level), because of the high level of legacy bitterness and suffering making constructive debate almost impossible. Such a common solution might involve Israel donating some land that adjoins the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian state, along with joint ventures to alleviate overcrowding in the Gaza Strip. Israel could act to then improve crop farming on the donated land to help feed the population of the Gaza Strip. In return, Palestinians would formally recognise the state of Israel and cease armed activity against it, or risk Israeli ground troops imposing recurrent occupancy (checkpoints & house searches) on their territory.

The Failed State Problem

The failed states are those without any political voice internationally, because they no longer function as a nation. In some ways their governance is like the issues of common law of the oceans, the colonisation of Space, the governance of Antartica and international rules governing multi national company conduct.

Perhaps the leadership solution emerging for the failed states will simply be greater UN governance of these areas, with eventual return to humanitarian self-governance. Why? Every time warring factions within these areas commit atrocities that drive the innocent civilians to emigrate, the flood of refugees become an international problem. Similarly, every time international terrorist groups enter such areas to use them as training grounds (with or without local consent), the results also become an international problem.

At least with UN intervention governance, the humanitarian governance problem can be contained geographically and innocent peoples’ lives protected, so they can survive to ultimately pursue humanitian self-governance. The issue delaying UN governance is under what circumstances should the UN step in to over-ride self determination and how forceful should it become when resistance is encountered?  This is probably a set of criteria to be developed by clever minds and agreed by all UN member countries.

Food for thought?



Prima donnas make for inspiting people. Prima movers make for inspiring people.


Fresh thinking is like fresh-baked, artisan bread:

  • able to instantly stand out from the crowd for its quality, not just its novelty value,
  • dense or airy in its structure,
  • often constructed of relatively few components,
  • a labour of love to produce,
  • appealing to more than one of the senses, and
  • creating hunger within most people who come into its orbit.



Male and female mentors

Men-tors need to take the best of granite tors (giving enduring structure in all kinds of ‘weather’) and beach sand (giving small amounts of themselves to help create valuable beaches that many people can utilise).

Fe-mentors are the yeast to help turn ‘sour grapes’ into award-winning wine that ages perfectly.

Jobs, careers and supply chains

The evolution of jobs through history:

  • In service, pieceworker or indentured serf,
  • Salaried job for life,
  • Series of ‘permanent’ roles,
  • Portfolio of concurrent contracts for own clients,
  • Portfolio of digital money machines,

The new consumer entertainment business model – houses are information deltas that data streams flow into.

Today’s career advice – work for minimum wage, until you can devise and start up a sustainable money machine of your own.

Today’s complex supply chain is tomorrow’s drone journey – drone deliveries of 3D printer raw materials e.g. from the oil fields to the biodegradable/recyclable plates & utensils that you print out for your dining table…

Politics, glamour and sport

Parapente enthusiasts use hot air to thrill themselves and us.
Politicians use hot air to thrill themselves and annoy us.

Supermodels wouldn’t be seen dead wearing thermals.
Parapente enthusiasts would be seen dead without wearing thermals.

Some politicians hope to use politics to achieve a beautiful output.
Some supermodels hope to use beauty to achieve a political output.

Politicians love voters and power. Supermodels love shopping and power. Voters love supermodels and shopping. No one loves politicians shopping for power.

Humans v Systems

Humans have                   Systems have

Doubts                                Probability ranges

Nagging fears                    Outstanding routines

A bucket list                       Outstanding routines

Celebrity envy                   Outstanding routines

Distant relatives                The Cloud

Love & lust for each other        Power & cooling requirements

Satisfaction                        Programme completion

Charisma                            Networked servers

Selective memories          Corrupt disk sectors

Charmed lives                    Uninterruptible power supplies

A fear of robots                Identify robots as just another peripheral to communicate with…

Higher Education Teaching – threats and opportunities

Premium quality universities may preserve blended learning (and blended research) techniques for their creative interaction value. Meanwhile, Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) providers are likely to try to emulate pure digital retailers, offering their client-base modular learning products for personal up-skilling and continuous professional development (CPD).

 Should premium quality universities partner with MOOC providers to offer premium university-branded online learning modules and what kind of demand might emerge?

Regardless of how fast the ‘long tail of higher education demand’ emerges, represented incidentally by supply not just demand, student demand for elite undergrad and graduate programmes will likely remain strong. It’s perceived value comes in helping those students differentiate themselves in the workplace and use premium university content to aid workplace performance.

However, as MOOC providers ‘fatten’ the thickness of the long tail by progressively offering affordable, modularised courses, globally accessible, in multiple languages and able to be studied at a time convenient to the student, premium quality STEM universities need to think more about the post- qualification needs of engineers, doctors and scientists for continuous professional development. Premium STEM universities would also be wise to think about how much of that emerging demand to capture themselves. The set of post-qualification needs could be represented in two dimensions; career seniority skills and career breadth skills.

The faster new professional fields emerge due to global innovation, the harder it becomes for any employee (highly talented or not) to plot a linear career progression that preserves their marketability (embrace sufficient career breadth for what is required). Or have an effective grip over newly-emergent fields that support the organisation’s core mission (enabling them to then achieve hierarchical seniority).

Career seniority skills include; training in budget, project, process and operations management, change management, information & service quality management, business strategy & marketing. Techniques might include; using simulations for planning, improving communication flows and learning risk management practices.

Career breadth skills include; spending time understanding allied innovations and research breakthroughs that have some bearing on the person’s area of greatest experience. For example, for an ambitious doctor going from a large specialist NHS Trust into a small private practice, it may be advantageous to broaden their knowledge of medical imaging techniques and image interpretation.

MOOC’s threat to low quality universities

Unlike for the premium quality university programmes that rely on creative interaction value, MOOC providers can be expected to sooner or later out-compete the low quality universities who can only offer simple lecture-style content of a standardised nature. Such universities have a significant physical cost structure to support, while MOOC providers offer their customers a vastly cheaper price for at worst, the same academic content and (virtual) study group experience.

How can premium quality universities understand market CPD needs better?

A key question to ask might be what step changes will talented and ambitious graduates need to make for their career progression and how can we position to match those needs?

Premium quality universities are arguably in pole position to communicate the value of specific knowledge and problem-solving skills to employers that drives CPD demand back to themselves.

Some business schools already do this well in providing bespoke onsite training courses of short duration to the employees nominated by their client. Therefore, what scope is there to maximise this demand opportunity, not with bespoke organisational courses, but with customised sector training, centred on the generic step changes?

On a related note, could the excess capacity of expensive university research kit (High Powered Laser machines, Wind Tunnels, Wave Tanks, MRI Scanners, High resolution/high speed digital cameras, Big Data Centres) be used in such CPD training courses, perhaps via a fieldtrip visit to the university campus?

If so, two other benefits might arise – with greater ongoing demand, the equipment resources could be scaled up to capture economies of scale for the university. And secondly, the effectiveness of alumni fundraising might rise – offering more CPD courses widens the potential alumni base and for returning alumni, reaffirms the bond with their original institution, which hopefully translates into greater donations.