Tim Longhurst's Blog

Think Big Forum – quick post-talk notes

September 3rd, 2008 · 1 Comment

What a day! I’ve just arrived home from Sydney’s Think Big Forum at ANZ Stadium…

I was invited to ‘keynote speak’ at the Forum when I was in Beijing and I decided to change my flights to be included on the speaker list. The way it was put to me was simple, “It’s a business forum, but we’re being innovative about it…” it was to be “degustation-inspired”, with the food theme kept throughout. I was invited to be the ‘group dessert’. What a title. How could I say no?

The day opened with Kylie Kwong talking about her business trials and tribulations (key insight – she swears by the original “E-Myth” book) and was followed by a diverse ‘tasting menu’ of speakers who each had twenty minutes to share their knowledge of the topic.

The format meant that the sessions were fast-paced – 20 minutes each – enough time to get a sense of whether you liked the topic; liked the speaker and wanted more. And that’s where it got interesting – after each session, we were invited to attend a “Master Class” with the speaker we’d just seen. If you were prepared to forgo the next scheduled speakers, you could ‘go deeper’ into the topic. What a great conference model!

So in the afternoon it was time for ‘dessert’… Well, here’s how my 40 minutes broke down…

  • Introduced myself and my work as a futurist / innovation expert
  • Talked about futures studies / innovation and the role they play in business – ie. new products and processes… It all starts by asking the key innovator’s question: “Is there a better way?…”.
  • Talked about the rise of BRIC nations (Brasil, Russia, India and China) and specifically about the rise of China… Then, since I’m fresh of the plane, taught some valuable Mandarin to the crowd “CHINA – LET’S GO!”. Seeing 170 people on their feet cheering in butchered Mandarin was one of the most surreal moments of the day and confirmation that this was a fun crowd.
  • Described the trends I’m seeing in business, particularly some highlights of my favourite innovation programs:
  • The Clean Plumber – constantly innovating, the business’ latest move is replacing a utility truck with a motorcycle for many plumbing jobs – it zips around the Sydney streets with ease; saves on fuel and keeps the business’ promise to be on time.
  • Dell’s Ideastorm, which I believe is one of the best examples of open innovation, particularly given that Dell actually takes advice and turns it into improved products.
  • Australia 2020 – inviting an entire country to participate in your innovation program is a brave move for a Prime Minister – if Rudd pulls it off (by implementing good ideas or at least explaining why he’s not using the ideas he doesn’t like), it could be the beginning of a new attitude of innovation from Canberra
  • and Google… I mentioned the 80/20 rule (20% of time dedicated to innovation), but I also would have liked to discuss their use of Google Labs, which is fantastic.
  • Gave ten tips on how to spot a great innovation culture – that was fun because the pens came out and the heads started nodding – I think I was talking to a room of innovators!
  • Dropped in a top tip – innovation programs are a great ‘Gen Y’ retention tool because they give younger employees a voice and demonstrate that all staff opinions are valued – especially if ideas are acted upon!
  • Examined the major shift from closed/R&D-based product development to open/inclusive innovation programs…

And BOOM! It was 40 minutes… Wait, what?! We’re just getting started… Oh man!

I guess that’s the problem with tasting menus – sometimes you just wish you could have a little more of each dish – and I did get twice as much time as most of the other speakers, after all…

I invited feedback from the audience either through email/linkedin or my blog, so it will be interesting to see if people have something to say here on this post.

After my presentation, all sorts of business leaders shared their stories with me – I met heaps of bankers, a bullet maker (REALLY! YIKES!), a guy whose business is hydraulics, a guy that runs a solar-panel installation business, a bunch of innovation people from Telstra and ANZ, a logistics guy (who told me truck stories), a recruiter, a few marketing types, a couple of event managers… It was a good mix, that’s for sure.

It was a great day (a good way to spend my birthday!) and a really warm crowd to welcome me back to Sydney. Can’t wait to see my family, friends and clients and get settled back into Sydney!

Congratulations and thank you to the NSW Business Chamber and to the BigThinkers who made the day such a great start to my Spring in Sydney…

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Category: Change Agency

Henderson & Horning – a lesson in stakeholder relations

August 14th, 2008 · 3 Comments

A woman’s legs in a pair of fishnet stockings is being used to show how out of touch the management/marketing teams over at Henderson and Horning really are.

Well, the Henderson Horning team (a real estate company, apparently) no doubt think they’ve got their market just right, but if Wade and Gavin are anything to go by, they’re out of line with their stakeholders…

A stakeholder is anyone who can have an impact on your brand’s value.

…And I reckon Wade and Gavin are putting a bit of a dent in Henderson Horning’s brand value at the moment, at least as far as that company’s presence in Google is concerned.

You see, when Wade and then Gavin documented the sexist nature of Hendersen & Horning’s marketing, and the management’s indifference to Wade’s original concerns, Google started giving their greivences a high priority in searches for the company’s name. You can click here to see how Henderson and Horning are fairing on Google. So what would potential customers or employees see if they searched for this company?

Sorry, what was I thinking? I should show you the advertisement in question:

Yeah, that’s right, a pair of legs in fishnet stockings, just at eye level in a Sydney street. Lord only knows why the guy’s got his shirt open and what any of this has to do with ‘massive parking’, but it’s not a particularly thoughtful piece of marketing.

So why don’t I show you my proposed ‘street level’ solution that I suggested to Wade… Can you see it?…

…That’s right… I’ve turned the office number into a “Sexist Advertising Complaints Line”… I thought that was a cute idea that the public would respond to. I guess time will tell if anyone gets out there and blu-tacks a piece of paper to the window… I’m in China right now, so sorry guys, it won’t be me.

Well, there’s a free lesson on protecting your brand and realising the power of stakeholders in the social media environment.

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Category: Corporate craziness

Hey Visa: Trashing a neighbourhood with your brand is not good marketing.

July 29th, 2008 · 10 Comments

Beijing’s “Nanluogu Xiang” Hutong (alley) is a bustling mix of stores, bars and eateries… A favourite of ex-pat’s and locals alike.

At night, the alley is illuminated by the lights from within the restaurants, street lamps and bright red Chinese lanterns.

But tonight, all of this has been washed out in a sea of tacky corporate badvertising.

Stand up and be counted, Visa. Everyone’s been talking about China’s effort to take on the air pollution, but what about Visa’s campaign to create visual pollution?

Here, in this picture, we see a man drilling a hole in a beautiful Beijing restaurant’s wall. Why is he doing this?

Oh, I see – this is why – he’s doing it for Visa! A credit card company…

And looky-here: there’s plenty where that one came from…

The alley I’m describing is narrow – it has room enough for one car to pass by and all the bikes and pedestrians have to scurry out if the way. To fill the alley with lightboxes for a credit card isn’t just tackey, it’s insulting to Chinese culture and offensive to visitors who expect to be able to enjoy Beijing’s charm without multinational’s trashing said charm for a perceived marketing benefit.

Personally, I think they’ve miscalculated. I can’t imagine getting ANY goodwill out of running roughshod over a small Chinese neighbourhood just because in ten days a bunch of rich foreigners will be showing up.

I’d love to know what Visa paid, who they paid the money to; whether the shopkeepers are getting remunerated for the loss of charm; and whether someone from Visa is going to be smart enough to literally pull the plug on this ghastly mistake.

If you’re a marketing rep from Visa and you’d like to respond, get in touch.

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Category: Corporate craziness

Big Ideas – James Harkin’s book – plus, what are your big ideas?

July 25th, 2008 · No Comments

Scanning the “Media” section at Blackwell’s bookshop is one of my favourite things to do in Oxford. Sure, I love the web, but being able to scan and access books in real-time using my eyes and hands is something I still enjoy, while I’m sure it seems a little quaint to many of my techno-futurist readers.

On today’s scan, I noticed “Big Ideas” a book of terms us futurists bandy about to give some of the trends going on in the world. Online resources such as urban dictionary or wiktionary are great starting points for such buzzwords and their definitions, but it was nice to see someone with a sense of humour and a great way with words spin these words into print.

For those of you without a copy of the book in front of you, here are the terms Harkin defines, complete with a Google-search link so you can explore their meaning. Sure, it’s not as comfortable as snuggling up in a sofa with the book, but it takes less trees, and let’s face it, digital is very now.

I’ll confess I don’t recognise all the terms listed below, so I’m going to do some clicking myself. James has left room at the back of his book for the reader’s big ideas, so it only seems natural that my “Comments” area is the perfect place for me to invite you to post your big ideas!

The Advocacy Revolution; Badvertising; Bare Branches; Boomergeddon; Brand America; Citizen Journalism; Compassion Fatigue; The Cosmetic Underclass; Cosmopolitanism; Crowdsourcing; Crunchy Conservatism; Curation Nation; The Cyborg; Declinology; Democratization; Digital Maoism; Digital Mapping; The Economy of Prestige; Electronic Frontier Justice; The European Empire; The Experience Economy; The Free Rider or Collective Action Problem and the Prisoner’s Dilemma; Futurology; Generation Gap; Good Business; Gotcha Politics; Happiness; Incentivization; Infomania; Libertarian Paternalism; Life-Caching; The Long Tail; Maturialism; The Menaissance; Muscular Liberalism; Neurotheology; The New Puritans; The New Utopisanism; The Paradox of Choice; Peer-to-Peer Surveillance; Pension Fund Capitalism; Philoanthrocapitalism; Playtime; Positive Liberty; The Precautionary Principle; Pre-heritance; Proletarian Drift; Protirement; Public Value; Regretful Loners; Resilience; Slacktivism; Smart Mobs / Flash Mobs; Social Jet Lag; Social Networking; Social Physics; Soft Power; Status Anxiety; The Support Economy; Synthetic Worlds; The Time Economy; The Tipping Point; Transhuminism or The Singularity Thesis; True Cost Economics; Urban Gaming; Urban Villages; Virtual Anthropology; Virtual Politics; War Porn; Wild Card Theory or ; Black Swan Theory; Worst-Case Scenarios;

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Category: Communication and connection

China Internet Censorship Index – Scoring Chinese Internet Freedom

July 23rd, 2008 · 2 Comments

Amnesty International’s campaign for China to set a ‘New Human Rights Record’ is gaining momentum in the run-up to the Olympics.

The NGO is scoring Chinese internet freedom via an index (see below). 100% represents total internet freedom, the current figure is just above 30%. This is from the Amnesty CICI website:

“This chart shows recent changes in the Chinese Internet Censorship Index (CICI) value. Values less than 100% shows that sites are being blocked in China (but not outside of China). Lower values indicate more censorship — we’re aiming to get China 100% censorship-free!

So how is this all measured? Thousands of people visiting China during 2008 are registered to participate in the index testing. They receive an email of secret, anonymous links to an Amnesty-run testing site, which allows Amnesty to see what sites are being blocked. Amnesty assures volunteers that the sites in the tests are “ones which a tourist or journalist would feasibly want to access in China”.

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Category: Change Agency