Projects, Thoughts, Wheresmylunch

Quick fix vs long term

In the 80s, I spent some time in the middle east travelling – it was the done thing at that time. Staple diet was generally street food consisting of cheap pizza or more often, felafel with salad and humous in a pitta bread. It did the job, gave me sustenance and provided me with the energy to get through the day. The mass produced fry up created memories as the taste was unique to me and memories of that place frequently flood back as I visit street food outlets that seem to becoming more popular in the UK.

If I want to spend more time enjoying nuances of different taste, this generally means taking more time and more likely costing slightly more than a felafel. Each dish has been crafted by a chef, and the experience enhanced by what is in the garden at that time. Time is spent being looked after by a good waiter or waitress creating experiences worthy of memory.

I chose what to put on my lunch table dependant of many factors. Is it to be special, is it a quick sustenance fix, is the location special, is there anything else that I dont know about, what memories do I want to take with me, is it a healthy balance, is it appropriate for what I need right now, do I want to experience something different etc? All of which are fine dependant on what I need at that time.

Sometimes I need to think about a quick snack, at other times I have time to experiment and really discover something special.

This reasoning can be applied to the work and voluntary life that I lead.

My role is to create a lasting experience for the people that I work with on different shaped interventions, by creating a unique blend of learning based on what is relevant for them at that time. The challenge of course, is that sometimes people want a golden bullet to solve all their problems and are not willing to give the time, effort and investment to deliver it. Similar to the expert chef, those that are good in my area, train for years, are not frightened to experiment with new ideas that could stretch and deliver even better output and thrive on delivering that great experience – but this comes with caveats.

My experience in the middle east does not lend me to remember the precise name or location of the street vendors that sold me food – the experience was adequate.

My world – I work with people that I agree to that want to self select to be the best.

My choice – and a great lunch table to be serving and eating at.



Details matter but should not stop you!

In a few weeks, I am jumping on a saddle and completing the London to Brighton cycle ride on behalf of British Heart Foundation. (You can sponsor me here)

I have never done it before, and despite being fairly fit – I do have a few concerns. Probably not what you would expect though.

Firstly, I booked on the cycle ride via an email from my gym. I was already looking for something to do to prove to myself that my increased fitness was there and this seemed ideal. Details such as – I live a hundred miles from the start line, and transport on a Sunday morning by public transport is not ideal, and how will I get back from Brighton.

Second, I do have a bike. The bike is great, but is designed for throwing self down hills off road and not really designed to lap up the miles on a road – so I need to get a road bike.

Did I mention, that the event is in 13 days!

Where I am now …. Transport sorted (both bits), Bike sorted (ish), and plenty of saddle cream ordered…..

Why do I mention this? Details such as above do matter but should not stop you doing something amazing. Take a leap into doing something that perhaps does scare you – something that is outside of the comfort zone.

I am really looking forward to the event and the subsequent enjoyment of jumping on my bike some Sunday mornings over the summer months and watching the fields go by as I increase my fitness levels and distances.

But I will not forget that the event organised by the British Heart Foundation is the one that started me off.


How do you manage your knowledge?

If you are like me, you may be somewhat overwhelmed by the amount of information and knowledge that is out there right now. There is information (either correct or incorrect) on virtually any subject that you wish to read about on the web, and conversations that you have with people are starting to connect and different abstract thoughts to create something different.

Simplisticly, in a computer, we have RAM and hard drives that store information. The RAM is like our minds – allowing for processing of information that is important now. It has access to the address of more information that is stored on the hard drive (or SSD) that it can draw on as it needs it.

So, a question, how do you manage your knowledge? Sure, there is this stuff in our head that we can replay easily as right now it resonates, but as you collect this over the years, how can you start to access / index this?

Over the past 2 years, I have built up a huge collection of page extracts that I keep on Evernote. There are real life situations that extend this connection exponentially. On evernote, I can certainly search key words and assign tags but this is then restricted to the actual keyword and the tag that I use at that time. But this is inflexible as experiences move us to a different space.

I guess a Google that can integrate brain and machine learning would be ideal – I am not talking to the same level that Keanu Reeves has in the film Johny Mnemonic though or the collective from Star Trek. But is there something that could allow simple access to an data store that does not rely on personal intervention of tags and keywords? A sort of fuzzy logic on stored knowledge?

Where I am in my thinking is that it is therefore the system of recalling of the relevant information in a timely way rather than the data itself. It is a system that allows changing parameters of fuzzyness, that can inform and educate connected data.

I would be interested in understanding how you perhaps manage your knowledge?



Why bother – a tip for exhibitors….

Imagine that you have been weighing up whether to invest £5k to increase the presence of your business. 

You have chosen to exhibit at a largish show and will demonstrate your products to what you already identify as your target market. The decision was a tricky one but it looks like the correct one. £5k is a lot of money for your business but this will be worth it…

So you invest more in stand design and giveaways and you are good to go.

Why then, did you do everything to encourage people not to visit your stand. 

We have all been to these shows where an uninviting presence meant that you didn’t visit that stand. The product may have been great but no… The person sat chatting to their mate, or behind a laptop doing their emails, or looking actually quite bored is not what I want to see.

Tip for the exhibitor – relax, smile and enjoy the experience and remember – try not to sell. Just have a chat with people, and share with them your passion, your excitement and your energy as to why you love doing what you do…


Understanding the reward to risk ratio increases responsibility. 

I was looking at a crowd funding site and was pleasantly surprised to see that they were treating the risk of investment with caution and ensuring that investors understood the risk profile for that investment. They demonstrated an understanding of a reward to risk ratio. They were allowing for and advising those that may not be happy with the risk of crowdfunding that this might not be for them. 

I am looking at online accounting packages currently. Something that will control my business and report my management accounts. I take for granted that industry leading names have the correct and secure access points – probably a sensible deduction but this is different. The risk or perceived risk could actually be managed lower if this assumption wasn’t made. 

I am concerned about the increase in big data capability. We too easily give away information about who we are through signing up to things using our social profile, without understanding the consequences. Sure – we may have something flash up on screen asking for permission but this is not explicit.

Goldilocks lives here – crowdfunding does just about right but others are too cool (and not in terms of fashion). We need to be informed as to what our data profile says about us – how social giants exist and will use the data.  

All this is risk. 

All this is responsibility.

We start with the best intentions but people and processes change. Our data use and profile will and is being used to inform decision.


Dreaming and a plan.

Picture the scene yesterday in the Rugby World Cup when Japan overturned the mighty South African team. Japan, a nation that has lost its last 18 World Cup games, overcoming the multiple world champions Springboks.

They were brave, opting for try opportunities instead of the lower scoring penalties. They had a high risk plan, and it was the belief in this plan which grew and grew as they upset a rugby great nation. A belief that followed through to the amazing last minute effort that saw them take the game.

I would argue that this level of tenacity, this level of focus, is truly the work of a genius leader. A leader that could instill confidence when it was required, and keep the focus at times of hardship and challenge. A leader that was willing to take chances and with it wooed the crowd into their dream.

A sporting event that will be celebrated for not just the win but the determination and effort given by the players.

Well done Japan…. It was a pleasure to watch and behold.


The Queen and Apple

Whatever your thoughts are about a monarch, we must celebrate the success of our Queen. At 5:30pm on 9 September 2015, she became the longest serving monarch in British history.

We also saw the unveiling of some new products from Apple. The products were not a surprise as rumours about the new iPhone, a larger tablet and something going on with TV were rife.

Both Apple and our Queen conjure a marmite reaction – some love them, some hate them and that is fine as choice is our prerogative.

Our Queen has moved steadily through the decades, steadily adjusting to the social nuances that she faces and arguably is the centre of the British society.

Apple has developed, innovated and trail blazed new concepts, invented new markets and continue to bring us revolutionary products.

We embrace stability at our core and demand change at our interface.

Our expectation for either is different as are the demands we place on these expectations.


Checklists. Are they worth it?

I surprised myself last week.

I understand technology but as I had a spare hour, I thought I would check out the Digital Library with Google. I had booked the time with what they call a mentor who would help. What I wanted was simple – I wanted to understand how I could drive more traffic to the Wheresmylunch Coaching website.

Starting with the very basics, we started looking at the basic traffic. At headline level, the traffic was OK and we dug deeper. The more detailed reporting indicated that the traffic was considerably affected by something called a robot. Good robots look at a website and take the information for good purposes such as Google, Bing etc, but my traffic consisted a lot of bad robot traffic. So what I saw was not actually what the results were.

I remember when I started in sales in the last century (ouch). My sales manager was so focus on sales activity, that is number of calls made, that walking around a busy industrial estate picking up complements slips having tried to see a buyer was common. The quality of the call was missed. As the science of sales increased in understanding over the next  3 decades, we start to understand that whilst the top of the funnel activity is important, so to, if not more so, is the understanding of the conversion rates and sales processes.

Uncomfortable with the google results, and reflecting on my initial sales insights. leads me to a place that is highlighted in Atul Gawande’s great book – The Checklist. He articulates the difference between the

  • errors of ignorance (we dont know that we are doing it wrong)
  • errors of ineptitude (we dont make proper use of what we know)

Without spoiling the book, Gawande suggests that experts need to work on checklists and that these checklists then help to reduce the errors of ineptitude. Checklists then form a ‘pre flight check’ before any engagement. It helps systemise with world class accuracy, the experience that you are creating as you engage with others and reduce the risk of something going on.

For us, we are devising checklists to reduce the number of spurious visits to our website – a list of weekly activities to reduce this issue. Making a checklist helps to understand how stuff works and self coach what the outcome should be and initially force build the process to achieve it.


What is money anyway?

On Friday, we celebrated Red Nose Day hitting a magnificent. £1bn being raise for noble and worthwhile causes near and far. We celebrated because we, the general public, make a choice to support or not support the causes that are brought into our front room through familiar faces.

Today, I read about a step towards getting high speed trains into the earl world, although the the 1000 mph train is likely to be costly and raised a question as to what value will this speed be of benefit to us.

We look at Africa, and the devestating outbreak of Ebola and the promises made by the relatively rich countries to offer support and cash in helping to tackle this outbreak. As they do this, thousands of young children die in abject poverty subjected to poor water and sanitary conditions.

In May, we will be voting for the party or coalition that will take us forward for the next five years. Powering this is a mass financed marketing machine, helping the politicians to look good in debate and policy. 

We have experienced the collapse of markets over the past 5 years due to American sub prime influence and ‘bending’ of sensible financial guidelines. The impact is being felt still in the UK and other countries as we cut back on our public spending and services. We are complicit in our anhialation of some of the British industries that make us great. We send in consultants to cut back services in the NHS, we sell off assets for short term gain, and we privatise, privatise, privatise… 

No wonder I am confused as to which way is now up. How can we allow poverty whilst others dine out on champagne and caviar? How do we sleep when we can do so much more

Thoughts, Wheresmylunch

There is comfort zone and then there is comfort zone

Last weekend I went walking with the family to the Peak District. We decided to do an easy walk from Edale up to Kinder Scout and back. This is not a high mountain and was made more interesting by the bouts of horizontal snow driving into our faces at about 30 mph.

We were equipped – we were each carrying a map, compass, spare clothes, emergency food, whistle, bivvy bags, and first aid kit.

We scrambled to the plateau having clambered over rocks and were met with a sharp reminder of the cold winds hit you as you come out from shelter.

We started walking across the plateau and were all taken aback by the next thing that we saw. A couple, probably in their 20s, were walking across the plateau. They were both wearing trainers, the lady in jeans and the man in summer shorts. They were wearing trainer socks, and were not wearing what I would consider to be a substantive waterproof for the environment. Neither were wearing hats. At this time, it was just wind across the top but we had already trudged through a blizzard on the way up.

I had to challenge them. I re-reemphasized that what I saw was not really sensible in these conditions. That when it snowed, and it would, that the temperature would drop significantly and they would be in trouble. They reassured me that they were carrying warm clothes and that they would be ok.

By: Jeff P

I can picture a cartoon – a man with full mountaineering gear talking to somebody on the beach. Certainly as a counter, the mountaineer would feel out of place dressed as they are on the beach so why not the counter.

They carried on walking. As we passed more people coming towards us, the topic of conversation was about the beach outfits that people were wearing. It started to snow, not just downwards but horizontal at 30 + mph into our faces. It was cold. We used a piece of clothing called a buff and pulled this over our noses to reduce the snow impact. It gave some respite although not total.

The ground changed. Previously we were walking along a nice stone path but this had now changed into a peat path. One step would be fine, the next would take you to the knee in peat bog. I was pleased that I was wearing a walking boot as a training shoe would easily have been lost.

I do not know what happened to the couple. I did check on mountain rescue but there were no reports. All indicators therefore suggest that this did not end in tragedy – I hope.

However, some things are sure – the couple certainly took themselves beyond their comfort zone. I am sure that they had lots of mixed emotions as they battled the cold, and I am sure that they will remember the experience for years to come.

It raised several questions for me :-

  • When does stupidity kick in when operating outside of comfort zone?
  • When does dillusion start impacting what and who we are?
  • What indicators do we look for and listen to that could indicate that we are approaching or have gone over the ‘edge’?

We are resilient and adaptable creatures, we construct situations to help us play out the endings that we want to play out. We protect our status by not appearing to be weak, but at what cost.

The walk was lovely for us. Walking in the snow is always enjoyable – the crisp soft compressing sound as the snow gives way under your feet, and the dulling of other sound around you.

This is what attracts me to this ‘home from homes’. This arena is not outside my comfort zone. I have learnt to respect this environment by preparing myself for whatever this can throw at me.

Big learn today on many levels for many people!