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.


Customer Service and Customer Experience


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!

Country names

English speakers inventing place names because they find the existing name hard to pronounce isn’t very cool.

What are some other options? One is to use the initials e.g. KL for Kuala Lumpur, USA for United States of America, or LA for Los Angeles. Another, as a mark of respect to the country, is to use the citizen’s pronunciation of their own country. Sure there will be regional accents and dialects, but as long as they are understood (roughly similar), it’s still the better choice. And it flows both ways too. Even then, its still a compromise, since English speakers have created english letters for the place name, to use in place of the local language characters or script.

Some countries change their names entirely e.g. Ceylon to Sri Lanka, or Rhodesia to Zimbabwe. English speakers then think nothing of adopting the new place name as it becomes official. So why not be consistent with other place names too?

Florence, Rome and Venice are Firenze, Roma and Venecia to the locals. I once confused the ticket office clerk at a Firenze train station (probably my Kiwi accent) in asking for a ticket to Venice. He thought I said Vienna! Like the saying goes, ‘when in Rome, do as the locals do!’

Time for a Country name change?



I’m a Kiwi and proud of it. At school I was taught that a dutch explorer called Abel Tasman ‘discovered’ New Zealand and subsequently, the country came to have its name recognised with a dutch place name reference (not even AT’s first choice!).

Aotearoa (land of the long white cloud) is the indigenous people’s (Maori) name for the North Island (extended to cover all the islands of New Zealand, including the Chatham Islands) and its alternative, official name.

Meanwhile, one of the national symbols of the country is the flightless native bird, the kiwi. The rest of the World has come to recognise people from New Zealand as Kiwis, whether; on the sports field, in battle, in business innovation, or in the overseas workplace.

My proposal is that the citizens of New Zealand have a national referendum ASAP, with three choices on the ballot for the future name of the country; Aotearoa, New Zealand and Kiwiland.

If it then came to pass that Kiwiland was overwhelmingly the most popular choice, it would eliminate some confusion for foreigners (tourists and traders alike) and encapsulate biculturalism in the name itself – the Maori ‘Kiwi’ and the English-speaking ‘Land’. New Zealand exporters (tour operators, wine labels, record labels, film makers etc) could also market the kiwi association more strongly. And by eliminating the prefix ‘New’ it would subtly indicate the country has come of age in its own right.

Food for thought?






London Housing Crisis – supply side initiatives



The case for paying school governors

To date, UK schools have relied on the goodwill of volunteer school governors to attend governor meetings and participate in other school activities e.g. staff grievances, student disciplinaries, planning away days and link-governor school visits.

In October 2017, it was reported that schools in Kent alone have a shortage of 564 governor vacancies!  http://www.kentonline.co.uk/kent/news/kent-faces-500-governor-shortfall-133610/   Across South East England, this could be as many as 2,000 governor vacancies or more.

Gone are the days where schools need governors to represent stakeholder groups. Instead they need governors with extensive experience and skills in various professional areas. This allows those governors to provide suitable scrutiny and challenge of school proposals, at the relevant committee meetings.

The problem is, how do you attract and retain part-time governors with the necessary background experience and skills, when all kinds of other organisations also complete to attract non-executive directors, including reimbursing their travel costs and paying a day rate for governance involvement?

Generally in life, you get what you pay for. If people give up their free time and pay their own travel costs to attend governor meetings, then the school can hardly complain about the quality of the governor contributions. Or even complain about a poor meeting attendance record, possibly making some meetings inquorate.

For private schools (funded by tuition fees), if school governors were paid a pro-rata day rate plus travel cost reimbursement, either the school fees would need to cover this cost, or it would be raised through fundraising and lettings activity. For state-funded schools, it’s unlikely that the government will prioritise funding governor fees over core education, so such fees and disbursements would need to be funded from other school sources including; after hours school lettings and annual fundraising events.

Two final points are (1) that introducing a fee and disbursement regime would need to apply to existing and newly recruited governors, in the interests of fairness. And (2) that once some schools start to pay governors fees and disbursements, other schools would need to quickly match these rates, or risk losing governor applicants (and existing governors) to those schools that do pay.  Food for thought?

Life insights

Take the windfalls, dodge the pitfalls and don’t chase the waterfalls!

Virtually everyone fails at school. In the sense of failing to see the potential in fellow students and treating them accordingly.

The watch we wear, counts out time for things to happen to us. Our hearts count out time for us to act on the World.

Once upon a time, we used to colonise new lands. Now the Internet of Things colonises our everyday lives.

We see ourselves qualitatively. The Internet of Things sees us quantitatively.

Wouldn’t it be great if each year, they reserved lots of time in UN meetings, to look at which countries of the world that international charities are having to put so much effort into helping. Natural disasters aside, what scrutiny is falling on those countries’ leaders to eliminate corruption, show true leadership and solve the problems their citizens need solving?