business innovation

Fake it til you make it?

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Are people basically divided into two broad camps – the ‘fake it til you make it’ (the marketers & promoters) and the ‘keeping it real’ camp’?

‘Fake it til you make it’ is about projecting confidence, whether real or illusionary. It’s downside is arguably in making our social groups less cohesive and less real. ‘Fake it til you make it’ can be spectacularly successful – politicians, singers/rappers and A-list movie actors being examples of this. Ironically though, politicians campaign to solve real problems, rappers rap about their gritty own life struggle to success, whilst successful actors choose to star in movies that often have themes of real strength from overcoming adversity of some kind.

Some pioneering cultures have a phrase about ‘keeping it real’. Others talk about ‘keeping your feet firmly on the ground’ (unless you work for the weather service, the airlines, the navy, NASA or Virgin Galactic).The ‘keeping it real’ camp includes support groups, social workers, therapists, counsellors, teachers, coaches, trainers and assessors of all kinds. This camp arguably advocates that ‘struggling to succeed is simply walking the journey’ is what life is about and that being honest about this struggle helps us to build important bridges with fellow human beings. In the world of entertainment, reality shows are in theory about ‘keeping it real’, although programme directors inevitably choose hyping the truth over the reality, if if means improving the viewer ratings in a competitive industry.

What about in the field of design – which camp do designers fall into? Steve jobs said ‘Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.’ In product design, great and successful designers don’t tolerate fake. They are obsessed with building amazing, perfection and excellence. In contrast, fine artists can excell at illusion in their art, folling the viewer’s eye into almost believing the two dimensional is actually the three dimensional. Or that the World shown within their art reveals a far more beautiful perspective on the World outside. Musical artists and actors generally want to create real. It’s the marketing staff of their companies that want auto-tune, edit and airbrush.

Whichever of the two camps a person falls into, perhaps real performance is still the key goal and ambition the driving force. Oscar Wilde famously said ‘all of us are in the gutter, but some of us are looking up at the stars.’ Life arguably isn’t about ‘suffer in silence’, ‘know your place’ and ‘mustn’t grumble’. It is about ‘be the best that you can be’, ‘dare to dream’, ‘give yourself a break’, ‘learn from your mistakes’, ‘recognise the perfect parent does not exist’,  ‘respect yourself’ and ‘strength through adversity.’

Lastly, somewhere along the line, as we switched from selling the products of our labour to selling the services of ourselves, the ‘fake it til you make it’ mantra started to dominate, in business, in our romantic lives (as singles) and increasingly, everywhere else. How do we jolt ourselves out of that mantra?

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The green planet that keeps turning…

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Cycle to work,

Cycle some cool ideas on-route,

Recycle at work,

Recycle your ideas at work,

Cycle home,

Recycle at home…

Labour forces

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The biggest benefit from organised labour membership is in buying time to invest in retraining. It’s no longer protection from workplace change, or insurance against change.

If wages are being pushed down because the race for automation is being run faster than the race to increase worker productivity, or the race to protect markets from global trade, retrain in something requiring human knowledge, ingenuity, human empathy or personal consultancy, that cannot easily be relocated offshore. An example of each is as follows: cleaner, university researcher, social worker, management consultant.

The owners of businesses likely aren’t interested in choosing between a small number of staff with a union-won set of conditions versus a large labour pool of un-unionised job applicants. Instead, their dilemma is how fast to invest in fully-automated business models.

School teachers may become an endangered species, if it becomes easier for students to gain knowledge directly and cut out the middleman. Future employers will only care about the education standard reached and the relevance to their customers, not the way a school subject was taught.

Pile ’em high and sell ’em cheap…

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Age creates a World full of contradictions,

That Youth can make no sense of,

And Age cannot explain.

 

We all want less deprivation, cleaner air,

Universal excitement and human dignity,

But aren’t smart enough to achieve it.

 

Like a vast discount supermarket, full of stock,

Where far too many goods, cover too few real needs,

And too many products jostling for attention,

Have long exceeded their useful shelf-life in the World.

 

As artificial night follows natural day,

Future value will attach to the digital services,

That no one understands how to create, only to consume,

And the synthetic biology of 3D printers,

Designed by self-organising software programmes,

Slowly replaces the handmade shop goods of yesteryear.

Using Finance in new ways to solve social problems

If we make and operate more trading markets, how can that solve some existing social problems in our communities?

In one example, creating a new product in the swaps market, we could swap bundled consumer poverty debt for public-body, impaired asset-liability (toxic/polluted land). That then gives a pool of almost penniless people (or a poor country heavily in debt), an asset instead of an unpayable financial debt. The asset may rise in the future, but in the meantime, as well as collectively paying the ongoing running costs, they can collectively pay an annual insurance premium to limit their downside risk.

From the public body’s perspective, they :

  • alter their custodial obligations (the shape of the land borders they physically manage),
  • minimise any controversy with their auditors on property, plant & equipment (PPE) impairment values,
  • swap a physical liability for a financial liability of the same NPV,
  • significantly reduce PPE liability volatility,
  • avoid ongoing various running costs, relating to maintaining the physical asset, including; regular valuations, impairment reviews & access management.

The public body can then re-finance (against other unutilised collateral sitting on its balance sheet) the financial debt (interest rates) and match future income receipts against that debt in the normal way, to progressively pay down the debt.

In another example – derivative creation, can we split off the impairment discount from the unimpaired net value for a land or building asset? This idea may be of interest to the Housing Sector e.g. large Church & Council housing estate owners. The impairment value could be traded publicly, once derivatives representing it are created, perhaps to be known as ‘impairment value derivatives’ or IVD’s.

Thereafter, a fall in IVD value might occur, as the outcome of legal cases (relating to similar types of impaired physical assets held by other parties) establish payment liabilities on the owners of such properties. A gain in IVD value would occur, as investors speculate that impairment value attached to such IVD’s over time becomes excessive. And speculate that emerging new technologies make asset repairs & land remediation cheaper and more viable, causing a contraction in the impairment value. In the meantime, IVD shareholders could hedge their downside holding-risk (legal liability risk in particular), using insurance policies that cap the liability to themselves (effectively an insurance excess) and transfer most of it instead to the insurance industry.

The future of Accountancy as a profession

The-future-of-Accountancy

What purpose does the BBC programme ‘The Apprentice’ serve?

Yesterday, I watched episode four in the latest series of the BBC TV show ‘The Apprentice’.  At the end of it, Alan Sugar fired all three of the poorest performers (Ella Jade Bitton, Sarah Dales & Steven Ugoalah). But not before they lost all professional and personal dignity, squabbling in the board room, with the project manager of the losing team (Ella Jade), pleading repeatedly with Lord Sugar to be given another chance.

A triple elimination in one week, along with post-dismissal pleading was a new low point for the series. Is the underlying quality of the applications really that bad, is the screening process to allow them to participate in the series the problem, or is it just the nature of the task that creates a race for bottom place? On a related note, if the CV’s of the Apprentice wannabes really are as great as they claim, why do so few of them step up to lead an ‘all stars’ team in any given episode?

I know one of the purposes of the series is entertainment and that Lord Sugar donates his sizeable series fee to charity. However, the viewer cannot help but wonder, why are the end results of each task so mediocre, whether creating their own video channels to go on the World’s largest video-sharing site, or simply selling market stall products (with TV cameras rolling that in themselves, attract curious punters)?

For any of the wannabe apprentices, especially in the early episodes of the series, doesn’t it occur to them that their best chance of not appearing in the bottom three for elimination is to put maximum effort into effective teamwork?

Arguably, for Lord Sugar to go into business with the winner, two qualities will stand out – one is very clever business ideas, executed well. And the second is stunning leadership qualities. Perhaps if the ‘prize money’ was quadrupled to £1M, it might attract a superior group of wannabe apprentices and reveal in the tasks, a far more stunning range of ideas, delivery and leadership in action. From Lord Sugar’s perspective, does he want to go into business with someone with amazing potential for a mere £1M investment, or go into business with someone who believes their own hype, for a very expensive investment of £250,000?

Personally, I’d far rather watch a version of The Apprentice, with:

  • less tantrums and loss of human dignity in the boardroom,
  • less smarmy sales pitches to very savvy and seasoned business buyers (even after 3 prior episodes, some project managers still seem to think you can sell complete lemon products, solely by baffling the buyer with youthful sales charm),
  • less editorial emphasis on the backchat between prima-donna contestants during the task,
  • more coverage during the task of heroic teamwork to problem solve,
  • most importantly of all, FAR more design-brainstorming time spent at the front end of the task – none of the wannabes seem to realise that time spent doing that well will pay off massively in the final Boardroom analysis.

As well as delivering far better end results, a change in emphasis might restore some viewers’ beliefs in business activity (and Lord Sugar’s TV series emphasis) as a positive economic force.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b04n9pcd/the-apprentice-series-10-4-online-video-channel

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/news/the-apprentice-2014-alan-sugar-gets-rid-of-the-nohopers-with-triple-elimination-9826264.html

Lastly, a real business innovation contrast with the above process. Two Imperial College of London computing graduates Ashley Brown and Simon Overell recently launched an online fraud-busting start up company (spider.io) which was then acquired by Google. Granted it was at least a year of intensive effort to create the end result (not two days as for The Apprentice tasks). My question is, would university graduates of the calibre of Mr Brown and Mr Overell have been attracted to join a series like The Apprentice, or is the instant loss of 50% control and the incentive money just too small to be worth bothering about?