Friday, 29 June 2012

Of Being Benjamin Franklin

I'm reading Benjamin Franklin's autobiography at the moment. It reads really well - if a little dated - although it was written getting on for 300 years ago so I guess he can be forgiven for his stilted language and phrases.
He was clearly a fascinating man succeeding as a printer, scientist and politician as well as surviving both the French and Indian Wars.Popularly known as "the wisest American" it's easy to see why. I always wondered who the guy was on the 100 dollar bill (not that I've owned many) and now I guess I know.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Of One Island and Two Types of People

I attended a seminar yesterday in Belfast. I knew the person organising it. She asked me if I would be a plant and ask a question in the Q&A session just in case there were no volunteers. So I did. Two other delegates asked a question too and both the session and the seminar finished afterwards.
She told me that the other two delegates were plants too adding that the main speaker had mentioned to her that he had not experienced such a flat audience in a long long time.
There's something about us Northern Ireland folk that we're very reluctant to give of ourselves at these types of events. Maybe it's because Northern Ireland is so small that people fear that a duff question will always be remembered and associated with them. Maybe it's something deeper.
At Legal-Island whenever we do our flagship Annual Review conference we have a very different experience in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. In the latter we have to fight off questions and sometimes have to make it difficult for delegates to submit a question because we get so many. In the former we have to positively incentivise them to submit questions, sometimes by offering a prize for the best question.
There's no prizes for guessing which audience my friend would rather look after....

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Of Great Opening Words

I'm reading another great book at the moment called "Life's a Pitch - what we can learn from people in sales". The author gives a great example of good and bad questions sales people can ask on their way to a sale. Bad, for a sales person on a shop floor includes "Can I help you?" He argues that this is a bad question because it's a closed question and one that invites a No and a closed door. Much better to say "I see you're looking for a suit Sir. Is it dark or light suit that you're looking for?"
Try getting out of their grip then....

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Of What Informs a Good Decision and a Bad One

I've been re-reading Cialdini's "The Power of Influence" for a sales meeting we've had recently. The author argues that there are 6 main influences or, short cuts, we take to get us to a decision, one of which is "Authority". He argues that we can often be blinded by authority and sometimes don't think at all when confronted by it. Instead, we simply do what the person in authority has directed however stupid it may seem.
 On p219 he gives a great example of deference to authority :
 "According to Professor Cohen "In case after after case, patients, nurses, pharmacists and other physicians do not question the prescription". Take for example, the strange case of the "rectal earache" reported by Cohen and Davis. A physician ordered ear drops to be administered to the right ear of a patient suffering pain and infection there. But instead of writing out completely the location "right ear" on the prescription, the doctor abbreviated it to so that the instructions read "place in R ear". 
Yes you've guessed the rest. The patient was rolled over and three drops of ointment were promptly placed in his backside. Strange but true.

Of Rain Plenty of Rain

Wow! Have we had some raid recently! Apparently we've had a month's rain in just 24 hours. This doesn't surprise me for the river to the back of my house is looking really angry just now. Normally you can walk across it in some places - or at least wade across. Not any more.
The children's tyre swing which is usually a good 3 metres from the river's edge is now touching the river. Apparently there's more rain on the way.
Whenever we get huge amounts of rain friends phone to ask if I'm ok but the river has never got near more back door - not by a long way. It means I can sleep comfortably at night. But it does mean no goes on the swing for a good while - how annoying...

Friday, 22 June 2012

Of Quiet Understated Excellence

It's Day 3 of Strategy Day today. On Day 1 we visited the local ASDA store to use their training facilities and jolly good they proved to be too.
Our outside facilitator for the day, Richard, immediately became very excited as he saw the statements on the wall concerning the company's mission and values. By his own admission he's a bit of a business consultant anorak and loves this sort of thing. Out came his Iphone and with great excitement he photographed each statement.
Earlier this week on Day 2 of Strategy he immediately announced to the group that he was at a trade fair on Saturday and was approached by an ASDA employee who was singing the virtues of her employer. ""Ah" he replied with photos at the ready in his Iphone "that's all well and good but can you tell me your mission statement and company values?" Apparently she could, word for word. Impressive.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Of the Great Greenmill Cook Off

 It was the annual Greenmill BBQ yesterday. Come rain or shine we were out by the river determined to enjoy ourselves and a jolly little affair it proved to be.
It was organised, as always by the "Greenmill Mayoress", Kathy, who was on top form co-ordinating the food, drink, people and animals as well as being on rescue patrol for anyone who might have enjoyed too much beer and fallen in the river.
My contribution to the event was a bowl of salad made from quinoa, avocado and red peppers which seemed to go down a storm. I also tried some veggie sausages which didn't work so well sticking firmly to the BBQ grill and requiring major surgery to get what was left away from the heat and onto a plate.

I was also crowned table tennis champion. Okay my opponents were 12, 8, and 7 but as they say it's the winning what counts!

Friday, 15 June 2012

Of Strategy Strategy Strategy

It's Day 1 of 5 today on Strategy. Today, we're reviewing our mission statement which  :
                " A trusted, world class provider of quality legal information and training".
Dell's apparently is :
"Most successful computer company in the world at delivering the best customer experience in markets we serve".
My favourite however, comes from Apple :
"Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad."

Friday, 8 June 2012

Of Hard Times and Lessons

I went to Junction 1's Outlet centre last night to buy a new suit. Being a Thursday I expected it to be, if not packed, then at least busy. But it was neither. Ok it was raining but Thursday night shopping a few years back was a night to avoid if you don't like shopper congestion. Last night the place was almost empty.
Empty too were a good number of the outlets. It was almost quite chilling to wonder around the next corner to see how many shops I visited last year were now no longer there. Those still standing were clearly fighting hard for the remaining business with offers of at least 50-70% off "absolutely everything".
These are tough times but I fear there is more pain to come. Let's hope we emerge the other side of this recession much fitter, healthier and altogether better balanced people having learnt the value of things and the things we should really value.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Of Weekend Escapes

I was in bungalow blight country over the weekend, North West Donegal I mean. Airbrush out all the almost identical white bungalows and you've got probably the most beautiful landscape around in the sunshine at least. And for a good part of my stay it was sunny or at least dry with patchy cloud. I made the mistake of checking three weather forecasts before deciding where to spend the weekend and they were all different. Throwing caution to the wind I headed for Gweedore in the MG with clothes for all types of weather. (Incidentally it was the BBC forecast that got it right).
Property in that part of the world is amazingly cheap at the moment. There's just one thing that prevents me from buying a cheap bolt hole out there and that's the road to it. It is long, winding and very dangerous. In the summer I'm guessing it's not too bad but I wouldn't like to drive it too often in the winter with the rain lashing down through the darkness and with cars coming at you with lights on full beam or with a pair of fog lights gleaming at you.