Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Seattle and Starbucks and lessons in innovation

I am visiting Microsoft for an Innovation outreach summit - where about 11 of the world's largest companies are getting together - so a walk around PikePlace in downtown Seattle was going to be a sharp contrast to the next couple of days!

Here is an atmosphere of highly sophisticated (looking) retailers selling all manner of products which when you get them home you have to wonder - why you bought them. It is also home to the first ever Starbucks and so it is possible to envisage that from small acorns...and all that. It seems to be a matter of vision and intent as much as anything else. There is no rocket science to selling good coffee so to grow from a single shop to a global brand must simply be a matter of entrepreneurial imagination and folow through.

Now that they are as big as they - will they ever be able to do something like that again? Although I admire the company - I am not a great fan of the coffee!! Mainly because they seem to sell it in buckets rather than in cups or in quantities that one can manage - perhaps they learnt in old Dinosaur School of Waste.

Nearby there was coffee that was excellent in cup sizes you could manage and if you go anywhere else in the world you can get pretty much a "shot" and pay a price that is also pretty much a shot.

So here is the challenge - how do we keep pace with what customers want and need? Everything else as questions go seems to be noise!?

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

The most ostentatious display of power and debt

Call me a grumpy old man - or it may be that it is April Fools Day - but what can one make of the fact that the American President - especially and 19 other leaders believe they have the right to the most ludicrous display of power.

3 CEOs of GM, Ford and Chrysler were asked to give up their private planes if they wanted a bail out from the US President! Well how come then that the US President travels in Air Force One, has a fleet of helicopters, cavalcades etc., etc., etc., in order to appeal to the rest of the world to help "rescue" the USA!

And are we really to believe that the advisors, senior leaders and others who got is so badly wrong in the past decade are the very ones who now have the "right" answers? Where is the intellectual debate regarding the problems and solutions? It is just so full of opinions and if we are to be dominated by the "chcago" school of economics I am nervous about how best to advice up and coming entrepreneurs about how to plan for the future?

With leaders more concerned with the display of their power and debt - jousting for positions and sound bites - it seems to me that the "man in the street" will have to learn how to be even more adaptable in the future. It is 200 years ago that Darwin was born and it seems to me that at least in economics - it is going to be the entrepreneurial (adaptable) that will survive.

Sure hard working leaders need security - so why do they not just turn up quietly, do the work and get back to their offices! I am really being a grump - but the idea that as tax payers we should see a kind of Roman Emperor entering the City just strikes me as a distraction from getting the work done!

There I have got it out of the system and hope that the leaders come up with something positive!