Leadership

Unpopularity Contest30 Jul

Unpopular

photo courtesy of catdesigns@yahoo.com

The other day I posted a piece on “Lethal Generosity” – a business strategy to achieve thought-leader status by giving stuff away and making life difficult for your competitors. I suggested that the parties involved are impacted by an act of lethal generosity thus:

* Positive for company or individual being generous especially if they can take the “moral high-ground”
* Positive for the clients – the beneficiaries of this generosity
* Negative for the competitors who are the recipients of the “lethal” effects.

Microsoft did it when they saw off Netscape as they gave away their own browser bundled with their Windows package.

A cynic would argue that most politicians use this strategy already but because they are lethally generous with our own money, promising to spend big and tax small, it’s a hard one to sustain competitively.

But the UK Shadow Chancellor recently changed all that in a rather bizarre way by offering to save us all with Tory economic “tough love” and promising to become the most disliked man in Britain. Applying the formula gives us:

* Positive for the Tories who aren’t even being generous and can take the “moral high-ground” for just that reason
* Negative for us, the electorate – the “beneficiaries” of these stringent measures
* Negative for the Labour Party who will be the recipients of the hoped-for “lethal” voting effects.

How about that for a neat inversion of Focus-group-Blair’s New Labour project? The more you loathe us, the better the job we’re doing!

John Major said of his economic reign: “If it isn’t hurting, it isn’t working” but either he was talking to Edwina Currie or he was way ahead of his time. Or both. No moral high ground there but this time round the strategy may prove more lethal to Labour.

Depends on how us voters perceive the reverse psychology…

Leadership

Factors to consider in the use of Lethal Generosity in your business28 Jul

Slip-Air

photo courtesy of catdesigns@yahoo.com

A search on Google combined with an example from my own experience suggests that several versions of Lethal Generosity are currently in operation. Regardless of where it is used, it is a strategy intended to show thought-leadership and gain commercial advantage. In this article I will look at some examples and analyze the ways in which each act of generosity may be more or less “lethal” to the parties concerned.

Shel Israel’s “Global Neighbourhoods” is the best-known source of the term lethal generosity and tells of Jeremiah Owyang’s “Hitachi Wiki” that unified the client and supplier Data Storage community behind his site’s thought leadership. Shel reasons thus: “This is about as far away from the ageing command and control philosophy as you can get. In today’s competitive environment, you need to understand that the customer is in control. If you want to win, give the customer what the customer wants. If you do this often enough and credibly enough it will be brutal to your competitors – unless the competitor rises to the occasion and tries to “out-generous” you back”.

Let us say that the parties most impacted by any act of lethal generosity are:
* The company or individual being generous
* The clients – the beneficiaries of this generosity
* The competitors – recipients of the “lethal” effects.
We can now look at some examples from these three perspectives.

This month (July ’09) Shel Israel’s Global Neighbourhood blog reported on the case of Rackspace, a hosting service that had recently experienced a brief downtime which incapacitated a significant number of their service users. The company immediately used all the social media channels available to them to apologise and explain what happened and what they were doing about it. The interesting thing here is the reactions of their competitors. One, an old-style traditional, attempted to hijack Rackspace customers with the offer of an “easy transition plan” whilst another used their blog to stand behind their competitor as “communicative, forthright and responsive to its customers” and suggesting that Rackspace’s customers stood by them too.

The impact on all concerned is as follows:
* Rackspace is viewed more positively for its responsiveness
* Their clients will feel marginally more positive through the perceived additional trust in their supplier
* The supportive competitor will be viewed positively for their stance as “thought-leaders” whilst everyone will have a very negative view of the old-style traditional opportunist “hijackers.”

In summary, some moral high-ground is taken and the good-guys win.

A less well-known manifestation of Lethal Generosity occurs in the legal profession. Mark Bennet is a criminal defense trial lawyer who makes all his motions to court freely available to anyone, including other criminal lawyers. He says: “I don’t believe I have competition among the criminal defense bar. Colleagues, yes: competition, no. We happen to be fishing in the same hole, but there are plenty of fish for all of us.” Debate following his generous manifesto sees two predictable positions – the cautious, approving “open-source” philosophers versus the “enabling incompetency is still enabling” alliance.

The debate is swung convincingly in the pro direction by Michael Schaffer: “The repeating of work is one of the worst hazards and biggest costs of any proprietary activity – it drains resources by forcing everyone to solve the same problems over and over, and it causes repeaters – even competent ones – to make the same mistakes of invention over and over. In criminal defense that lost time and those mistakes do not just lead to lost profits – they break lives.”

Applying the formula to the lawyer gives us:
* Positive impact for him as a thought-leader in criminal law
* All clients are positively impacted through the availability of tried and tested motions to court
* The competition all benefit, be they expert or “incompetent”

So the lethally generous sometimes need to balance commercial advantage with “the common good” and it helps to have a thought-leader role and an environment in which to debate these issues.

In a final example, I know of an award-winning thought-leader company which gives away free “flatpack” software to clients and non-clients alike that enables them to dispense with the cost of engaging other competing suppliers in the provision of compulsory compliance-related services. The CEO is proud of this act of lethal generosity and in a very active online environment seems unperturbed by the possibility of adverse reaction in the industry. Applying the formula, we see why:

* The company is positively impacted as any slight loss of revenue from gifting, not selling, the “flatpacks” is offset by massive gratitude of clients, both actual and potential
* The clients experience a big positive in cost savings
* Competitors are neutrally impacted if they are other similar high-end suppliers, but the impact is very negative for other competitors lower down the “food chain”.

In this case the CEO could argue that the low-end providers in the market are a drain on resources that prevent the community at large from solving much more mission-critical performance problems for their clients. This simply reinforces his whole thought-leader strategic advantage for his lethally generous company. Unlike the previous example only the low-end competitors are the ones who lose!

In our increasingly connected world, where social media brings greater transparency and sharing of ideas, we as individuals and companies must expect to see more and more of our actions reported on and questioned. The world is a free-market economy although some markets, it would appear, are more free and more lethal than others.

Inspiration

Celebrities Squared19 Jul

coco pops

http://bit.ly/2WJbz8 Yay! Employment suited to my particular talents. Celebs – its only $10 a character – all killer no filler! 8:15 PM Mar 27th from web

Help! We are a group of media-studies students held captive by Mr Bizlike and forced to write the cool stuff he is too drunk to do himself! 8:29 PM Mar 27th from web

We answered an ad for “hip young word-slingers happy to work at home in their pyjamas”. We’re chained to a radiator and living on Coco-Pops! 8:36 PM Mar 27th from web

We’re at 157 K- Does Stephen Fry write all his own tweets? Teams of eruditionists labour night and day to produce pearls he casts before us 8:43 PM Mar 27th from web

That was close, he’s gone to the off-licence again. Rescue us! Wait – look at our twitter-grade. Awesome let’s stay and see if we can 100 it 8:50 PM Mar 27th from web

Malicious hackers (try saying that when you’re drunk) have infiltrated my Tweetbunker. I cannot be held responsible for the views expressed. 8:54 PM Mar 27th from web

Sociodrama

Hipsters of Planet Earth16 Jul

docklands night blog

Hipsters of planet Earth don’t just stand there leaning, we need money We need money and a plan. We need a plan, money and somewhere to lean 9:52 PM Mar 26th from web

With the money we’ll buy up an ailing IT corporate: suits, geeks and bags of bandwidth. That’s the plan, await further instructions. Lean to 9:55 PM Mar 26th from web

Right, that’s done. Now taking advantage of heavily discounted prices we make a highly leveraged bid for every other corporate on the planet 9:59 PM Mar 26th from web

Wow that took a while. Who’d have thought the banks would be so mean? But now we own everything including the banks so keep the money folks! 10:03 PM Mar 26th from web

That was a Thweatre piece, brought to you by Bizlike-Owners-of-Everything plc. The cost of this tweet has been charged to your credit card. X 10:06 PM Mar 26th from web

Music

Mr Bizlike’s guide to becoming the Future of Rock and Roll09 Jul

bandpicsmall

Firstly – a confession or two.

One – I am as old as Rock’n’Roll itself – so there! Born in 1955, my little baby ears thrilled to the sound of Bill Haley rocking round the clock. Yes, some might say that this was the year that youth hijacked the world, so let’s thank the first of many youths and youthesses whose obstinate refusal to listen to their parents’ music created all the fuss. These days our lad’s band often ask me to identify some 60s/70s/80s music that they have heard on the radio of their stolen cars in Grand Theft Auto. Usually, I’ve got it on vinyl. Hah! We’ve carjacked their world now. But more of this later.

Two – I would not be writing this if John Harris had not thrown down the gauntlet (or this week – jewelled glove) by asking whether music writing has lost its way. Having smudged my inky adolescent fingers reading the 70’s finest music journos – Nick Kent, Julie Burchill and that bloke who writes proper books now that she was married to, oh and Charles Shaar Murray and Mick Farren – I feel qualified to answer that question. Yes, those were the days – a tale, a pose, a drug reference and then eventually some stuff about the music/band itself which was either the Future of Rock’n’Roll or shit. And that was the key – the great, hip, young (and-not-so-young) wordslingers really only wrote about themselves – the music was almost incidental. Narcissistic and trivial but beautiful and deep at the same time.

So here are some of my own personal recollections, structured in a way that offers sound advice (sorry!) for young, aspiring musicians like my youngest’s band. Meanwhile ask yourself – is this man the future of music writing? Find out by reading:

Mr Bizlike’s guide to becoming the Future of Rock and Roll

Buying booze the other night at our local Spar, I made a big show of pretending not to notice Richard Hawley who was buying his 20 Marlborough Lights. See him around he always looks the part in his grey drape jacket with the velvet collar, blue jeans with the bottoms turned up and with some good pomade on his quiff. Seemed a shame to ignore him.

Because I would have loved to tell him about the very first time I heard “Coles Corner” on a bus between fog-bound Manchester airport and Leeds-Bradford. I could have reminded him how that evening he told Radio 2’s Johnny Walker about his crazy days touring with the Long Pigs, whose record company he compared to the mad generals in Blackadder Goes Forth – sending them over the top to tour again and again. He might even have been impressed that I could remember him telling how his mum and aunty serenaded the Everley Brothers at the stage door of Sheffield City Hall, and how the Everleys joined in! Apart from other tales of US rockers his dad toured with – one in the habit of showering post-gig in his socks whilst drinking a bottle of whiskey – the really great stuff he told Johnny that night concerned the research he did for the album.

A popular meeting point for courting couples in the city in the 50s, the eponymous corner was overlooked by a café, into which one respondent to Hawley’s request for stories had gone in order to spy on and assess the desirability of his blind date. Finding the only free seat in a booth he struck up a conversation with the young woman there. They eventually realised that they were each other’s dates – she had had exactly the same idea – one thing led to another and they had recently celebrated their golden wedding anniversary! Nowadays I like to think I know a bit about storytelling but I never saw that one coming. And then they played the song…

So yes, maybe I should have told him about that night as we stood by the till in Spar. Because sat on that bus and listening to that song meant I really understood the Arctic Monkeys’ acceptance speech for that Mercury Prize they won at his expense:
“Phone the police – Richard Hawley’s been robbed!”

To my son, his band and all other aspiring musicians in our fair city and beyond, I hope the lesson is clear – know your music history. When they ask me about some old classic, I try to educate them: “Yes, that’s Joe Cocker – former gas-fitter from Crookes, great blues voice honed in the working men’s clubs of Sheffield, went to America, got fucked up on drink and drugs, wilderness years etc but brought back into the public eye when he duetted with Jennifer Warnes on “Up Where We Belong” the theme song to the movie “Top Gun” and you should check her out too – fabulous voice – she was a backing singer with Leonard Cohen – he wrote “Hallelujah” which John Cale covered for Shrek 1 and then that bird off X-factor did it…”

But I digress. I saw that Jarvis Cocker one winter in the departure lounge at Charles de Gaulle airport. Standing tall in his green Loden coat, an item of apparel I’d last seen worn by Douglas Hurd at one of the G8 summits in Switzerland, his owl-like glasses framed by his Beatle-cut, he was taking his nipper home via East Midlands airport. I pretended not to notice him, as well. Now, with the recent demise of Michael Jackson, Jarvis has been reminded of his infamous ’96 Brit Awards bumwiggle and that evening, back in Paris, I could have reminded him of my favourite moment shortly after his subsequent arrest.

Interviewed on some inferior chat show, the snide, oafish host made considerable fun of the Pulp frontman’s v-neck pullover – an item much less fashionable then than it is now. Jarvis recounted how, following his arrest, he was taken to the police station and questioned for three hours.
“What did they ask you?” said the interviewer.
“They wanted to know where I got my pullover” responded our local hero.

Tuning into Dermott O’Leary’s show a few Saturdays ago I caught Mr Disco 2000 (“that’s my pension, that is” he claims) performing one of his new Steve Albini produced songs. The song finished and Dermott’s first question was met with a muffled reply as Jarvis bent down to retie his desert boot. “I rocked so hard,” he exclaimed, “my shoelace came undone!”

Never one to be backward in coming forward (“My new album? It’s about fucking a lot of people”) Jarvis teaches us our second lesson – turn your history into music. He’s one of the common people but he’s in a different class.

Lessons Learned

So, if you check the link to their Xmas 2007 gig at the Highcliffe pub, Greystones (formerly a famous folk club where Billy Connolly, amongst others, performed) you’ll see our Declan’s band busy playing and paying their dues. They’ve studied the classics – they know their music history.

The band vocalist is a rugby-playing poet whose lyric-book, labelled “ONLY GREAT IDEAS”, rarely leaves his side. Hear their take on school and work – Learning Glasses. They turn their history into music.

As for me, well, who needs the NME when I’ve got Twitter and the net? I know my music history and I’m turning the past into the future through my rock’n’roll prose. So no, John Harris, music writing hasn’t lost its way, it’s just found a new one. Eventually everyone will be the Future of Rock and Roll for fifteen minutes, or even longer if they learn the lessons of Hawley and both Cockers.

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