Boris Johnson’s speech to the Conservative Conference raises morale

October 1, 2014

It is widely reported that Boris Johnson is positioning himself to become the next leader of the Conservative Party and then Prime Minister. His Conference speech illustrates why.

His speeches are coded messages. They are also irresistibly witty. Today [September 30th 2014] he addressed the Conservative Party annual conference. You can see a report of the speech here.

On the eve of the Conference, UKIP announced the defection of a Conservative MP Mark Reckless to its Party. Boris brushed aside this near-crisis PR story with a humorous nautical riff about throwing the Kippers overboard along with [Alex] Salmond.

Boris banishes bad thoughts

The assembled Party activists roared their approval. Boris had banished bad thoughts. Wit had magicked away melancholia.

Compulsive watching

It was compulsive watching. Like any great performer, he succeeded in captivating his audience. I suspended disbelief. I warmed to Boris’ World.

The world beyond Boris

But I didn’t believe a word in a world beyond Boris. Particularly when he outlined why there was the only one man to lead in Europe. He was building up to saying that man was David Cameron. And he did, with a touch of irony suggesting that his words are funny and charming and not to be taken literally.

And I did find his words funny and charming and not to be taken literally. And if I had been in the Hall, I would have smiled and clapped. Just like David Cameron did.

These are my leadership questions

Will Boris influence the influencers? Will The Conservative party decide it needs Boris as leader before the General Election? Will he be in good position to take over from David Cameron if the Conservatives lose the next election?

Perhaps. And if so, he will deploy an unmatched skill at making people forget their problems. Until, sadly, they have to re-emerge from Borisland.


Thoughts on a chocolate teapot

September 22, 2014

Teapot
Chocolatiers in York have produced a chocolate teapot that can be used to brew tea. A very English project?

York, home of the Chunkie bar, can lay claim to being one of the two great chocolate centres in England, the other being Birmingham, home of the venerable Cadbury site at Bournville.

Chocolate is a wondrous material for product development, being perfect for liberating the creativity of food technologists in ideas for a near infinite array of shapes, sizes, flavours, colours, and fillings of chocolate products.

The uselessness of a chocolate teapot

The uselessness of a chocolate teapot has become an ironic saying about futility. Another example is the uselessness of a concrete parachute.

The chocolate challenge

Anyway, there were these food technologists who were challenged to make a chocolate teapot to see if it could do the one thing it was reputed to be useless at, namely brewing a cup of tea.

Cue for action. With no little ingenuity the techies produced a chocolate teapot that could hold an infusion of tea leaves in boiling water until ready for pouring. The result, a nice cup of tea with a slight chocolate favour. Well done all.

The impossibility of uselessness

When gainfully employed as a new product team trainer I liked to argue for the impossibility of uselessness. A chocolate teapot might not brew a cup of tea but it might be a nice retirement gift, or a present for the cricket captain too often found in the double teapot pose.

Not so impossible, and a nice exercise for creativity workshops

Next week

Thoughts on a chocolate chess set


Will you say yes to yesware?

July 31, 2013

Yesware offers a way of managing your emails. As emails increasingly are becoming unmanageable, the product is tapping into a widespread business and social need

The Yesware organization has hit on a great business idea. The videolink here is the corporate webpage

Its software has attracted positive reviews:

Yesware does a few things;

Tracks emails – you can see when someone has read your email, and more (please read their FAQ for info on any limitations)
Custom email templates
CRM Sync – connect email right to your CRM
Analytics – see your email analytics right in Gmail

It’s designed and marketed for Sales. But, “Hello” link builders… meet your new best friend.

I look forward to following its progress. Meanwhile, here is the output of an imagined nightmare scenario for the entrepreneurial organization:

To Yesware

We are a global company with headquarters in the Vatican. Our CEO has encouraged us to use social media to promote our brand and to retain a customer focused approach. Can you help us.

To Yesware

We are a global megagiant. We would like to do no evil but we are increasingly plagued by email messages that sneak though our very expensive spam filters, purporting to come from potential customers. What should we do?

Dear Yesware

Loved the review I read about about you on the web. You should beware of phonies out there wasting your time with spurious emails. I bet you get thousands every day. You should try our proven nukespam system which reaches millions of potential customers every day and filters out time-wasting replies

Dear Yesware

Jime bottle is the pretty much buy our clean no in the Internet. Lowest prices for oval tube boring. Wrapping oral tube supplis.

Dear Yesware

We successfully promote crowdsourcing events. We need a system to avoid infiltration from security forces, hackers and leakers, imprisoned fraudsters, juveniles using parents’ smartphones. Can you help us?

Dear contact [Message from Yesware]

Thank you for your contribution to the overwhelming volume of traffic we received due to recent publicity on the world-famous Leaders We Deserve site. Unfortunately we have become the victim of a service denial attack. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.


There’s too much news out there

May 2, 2013

Overwhelmed with newsI’ve been distracted from my customary scan of news sources recently. Now that normal service is being resumed, I have noticed how many leadership stories that are reported every day

This week I would have liked to have followed-up on at least six stories:

The Bangladesh factory tragedy

Hundreds of workers died in a factory building collapse and subsequent fire. The over-simple treatment in the UK focuses on the poor pay and wage conditions of those in the Bangladeshi ‘sweat shops’. [Primark is said to be offering hardship aid to its supplier]. The globalising drive for cheap sources of supply is also being scrutinized. One dilemma to be addressed is the economic benefits of international trade as a country develops.

Krugman and Keynes

Paul Krugman continues to express the neo-Keynesian view that austerity programmes are inadequate for dealing with the exceptional social hardships of a severe recession. He believes the majority of economic commentators are missing the point. Ironically, Keynes was himself frustrated that conventional wisdom of the time seemed unable to appreciate his arguments. Krugman feels pretty much the same, offering this rebuttal of one counter argument. Economies, he says, are not like families. Income and spending are inter-dependent. If we all cut spending our incomes will fall too. He also rejects the idea that this is a leftist spending-spree mentality, but necessary a short-term measure for exceptional economic times.

Alfredo Saenz

Then there was the surprise retirement of Santander chief Alfredo Saenz who is expected to collect a goodbye present of around $100,000,000 rather than cop an investigation into his activities by the Supreme Court .

UKIP

Back in the UK, local elections this week [Thursday May 4th 2012] are seen as a measure of protest votes away from the traditional political parties. The anti-immigration and (even more anti – European Union) party UKIP is tipped to poll well under the leadership of its somewhat unconventional and ebullient Nigel Farage, who is also standing for Parliament in a by-election.

Larry David and his mother

An article by American humourist Larry David looked at how his mother would have reacted to his being arrested for terrorist offenses. It provoked a storm of protests. When told he had confessed she replied “well he probably didn’t want anyone else to suffer.” The article saves me from going any further with an idea I had for a blog which was going to be entitled “every mother is a potential terrorist”.

Reginald D Hunter

Anti-racist comedian Reginald D Hunter is in trouble for using racist language at a Football Association dinner. Or at least I thought it was humour with a political intent, in the tradition of Lenny Bruce.

Coping with overload

This ‘six for the price of one’ blog post is my attempt to cope with information overload. Hope you liked it. Normal service, as they say, may be resumed shortly…


Ann Widdecombe’s ‘Are you having a laugh?’

March 28, 2013

Ann WiddecombeTV Review: BBC1 Wednesday March 27 2013

Last night I watched a rather sad late-night programme fronted by Ann Widdecombe. Her focus was the hurt caused to Christians by assorted humorous treatments of religious themes. The humorists she interviewed argued they were mocking not Christianity but attitudes of Christians

Background

Ann Widdecombe has celebrity status in the UK, for her uncompromising views on matters political, social, and religious. Following a career in politics she moved into the world of media and journalism. Her visibility is enhanced in a culture which delights in unself-conscious eccentricity. Her views are mostly of a socially conservative kind which she is prepared to back up by taking a moral position, at one stage refusing higher office during her time as a junior Government minister which would have required her to work against her beliefs.

A regiment of mockers

In the programme ‘Are you having a laugh: Humour and Christianity’ She offered an unshakable position, setting out to confirm it under the guise of rational discourse. Anger at the mockery naturally led her to name, shame, and confront a regiment of mockers ranging from the Monty Python team, Ricky Gervase, stand-up comedians as a tribe, and a few producers of other assorted media programmes.

Feel my pain

Her pain, induced by what she sees as the mocking of her beliefs, seemed genuine enough for some of her interviewees to show empathy, not a quality particularly manifest by the interviewer. I found my own sympathy diminishing she moved from the [in]famous crucifixion scene ending of the Life of Brian film to other less cogent examples of blasphemy through mockery.

Dangerous Territory

There was one point made about fundamentalist evangelical Christians in America, which fitted in with the general narrative, and yet was different. For once, Widdecombe’s views were not expressed with clarity. She seemed to be sensing dangerous territory to be skirted. Or maybe she felt that however egregious were the actions of these leaders, the basic point did not really fit into the theme of blasphemous mockery.

The arrogance of the mockers

The examples seemed to be located along a wide spectrum of any mock scale. Collectively they capture the libertarian component in British culture rather well. The perpetrators, one confessed to the confronting Widdecombe, are often prone to arrogance and a belief in the superiority of their views. Ms W, who presents herself as rather similar to another Conservative, Margaret Thatcher, in her grasp of irony, found only pleasure in the repentance of the wrong-doer.

So long as it doesn’t offend…

I detected an inauthentic note in her conclusion that ‘we’, (presumably Christians), should be more robust about such humour,’as long as it doesn’t mock ‘our’ beliefs.’ Quite so.

It was then I turned

I watched the programme feeling that I really should go to bed, or turn over to anything else that might provide me with less disappointing viewing. Eventually, I turned to my trusty non-religious tablet, and began writing…


Scientific custard and the dominant rational model of management

December 7, 2012

CustardA festive tale of custard, scientific management, and a British obsession since the days of Charles Dickens

Management as taught is very much a subject grounded in rationality. It attracts those approving of practice informed by scientific methodology. As the festive season approaches, I am reminded of a story.

The science of management

Someone I knew as a schoolboy returned from his first science class bringing good news to his family. In future, he announced, there would be a modern scientific approach to making the family custard, which he would supervise.

The experiment abandoned

After several less-than-successful attempts at home, he quietly abandoned his efforts. His mother reverted to making custard in her unscientific way which somehow turned out all right. Undaunted, the schoolboy continued his studies and become a research scientist, still believing in the universal virtues of the scientific method.

A brief history of custard

For those unaware of the British obsession with custard go Google which will provide you with much useful information. Here’s the Guardian’s take:

[Custard is] a lumpen, pustular, gungy memory of a smelly school canteen. In Britain, childhood and custard go hand in lollipop-lady hand. I know of no better food to calm a choleric toddler or mollify a stroppy seven-year-old than a knocked-up bowl of Bird’s. It comforts like mum and a blanket. [In Oliver Twist ]Mr Bumble’s orphans cry to have it with cold jelly, and who could blame them?

The word ‘custard’ comes from ‘croustade’, a sweet and eggy ‘crusted’ tart from the Middle Ages. Around the 16th century the filling became a dish in its own right, and has changed little since save for the Great Custard Split of 1837, when Clarence Bird developed a cornflour-based custard powder for his allergy-prone wife. A face splatted in custard pie has been a trope of farce almost since the birth of cinema.

Cultural analysis welcomed.


City fan has recurring nightmare that his team lost the Premiership

May 16, 2012

City fan Eric still has a nightmare that his team lost the race to the Premiership title

Eric was interviewed in Leaders We Deserve some years ago. It was at a time when supporting City was a burden to be carried. Eric was recovering from an era of successive relegations from the Premiership and then the championship. The joy of recovery was tinged with bad memories.

Then it all changed

In the early hours of Monday morning, [14th May 2012] having joined in the first night of celebrations over City’s greatest triumph, he went to bed a contented man.

His worse nightmare

But even at the moment of City’s greatest success, his worse nightmare began. Looking gaunt, he describes his nightly torments:

“I’m back watching the QPR game. We are well in control but not winning. Then Barton gets sent off. They are down to ten men. Even we can’t lose it now. The dream’s so life-like. I’m Pozning with glee.[The Poznan: Curious City celebration, involving synchronized jumping up and down].

Then they break away and score. We are going to lose. In my dream the whole stadium is full of jeering Reds. [gleeful United fans].

Then they score again. We go behind. The Reds are cheering.

We pour back at them. Wave after wave it was. But whatever we do, the goalie pulls off miracle save after save. Now it’s extra time. Only one minute! [here as elsewhere, Eric's dream is a distortion of reality]. The Etiad [stadium] changes colour from blue to red. The whole sky goes red. The cheering and jeering is dreadful.

I wake up covered in sweat. I can’t believe it’s a dream.

Yesterday I went over to the celebrations at Albert Square. Fantastic. But after when I got home and got to bed, it was that same nightmare. Nothing changed. United win out again.”

True fans have to suffer

A truly sad tale. We send Eric our congratulations and condolences. True fans have to suffer. But not like this.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,612 other followers