10 Companies with a digital culture

Way back in early 2016, in his predictions for the year to come, Econsultancy founder Ashley Friedlein attempted to define digital transformation.

This was his attempt: “The journey towards being a digital organisation where “digital” means two things: firstly, focusing on the customer experience irrespective of channel, and secondly, having a digital culture.”

But what is a ‘digital culture’? Friedlein suggests there are seven defining characteristics of a digital culture:

  1. Customer-centric
  2. Data-driven
  3. Makers and doers
  4. Transparent
  5. Collaborative
  6. Learning
  7. Agile

Read the full article here…

We must find purpose beyond technology

There is no doubt we are entering a time of exponential change in technological innovation.

Just look around. We are witnessing self-driving cars traversing the streets in California and Texas. Doctors now perform open-heart surgery with robotic arms, in some cases from a remote operating room hundreds of miles from the patient. Robotic exoskeletons are creating a “super labor force” by enhancing the strength of workers, and human capabilities are reaching new heights in factories, warehouses, and construction sites.

Read the full article here…

Creativity and Machines

Machines might actually be better than humans at creativity. So … what’s left for us to do?

But some jobs — and industries — will still require a human touch. Technology researchers Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson have a guess as to which ones.

A surprising report published this spring projects that 30 percent of current jobs in the UK might be replaced by automation in the next 15 years. That number is 21 percent in Japan, 35 percent in Germany and a whopping 42 percent in the United States. The losses will come mainly from the transportation, banking and retail industries, and largely around jobs that involve a lot of routine, repeatable tasks.

Read the full article here…

The Upside of Uncertainty

Who is more persuasive: A person who expresses great certainty about his or her views, or a person who is less sure? If you are like most people, your intuition is that certainty makes you more persuasive. And this makes sense. A person who expresses certainty seems better informed; perhaps more credible. Most of us have had the experience of being persuaded by someone simply because they were so sure about what they were saying.

Read the full article here…

Clutter raises $64 million to store what won’t fit in your closet

If you heard venture investors were pouring tens of millions into storage, you might think it was cloud storage or flash storage. But that’s not the kind of storage we’re talking about with Clutter.

The Los Angeles-based startup, which helps customers store their physical belongings like clothing and furniture, has closed a $64 million funding round from big name investors. The series C is led by UK-based Atomico with participation from Sequoia Capital, Google Ventures (GV) and Fifth Wall.

Read the full article here…

Apple reveals HomePod smart speaker

Apple has announced a voice-activated loudspeaker powered by its virtual assistant Siri.

Like devices by Amazon and Google, Apple’s HomePod speaker can respond to questions and control smart home gadgets such as lights.

Analysts say Apple has been slow to improve its Siri virtual assistant and launch a smart speaker, after Amazon launched its Echo in 2014.

The company has pitched HomePod first and foremost as a music player.

Read the full article here…

‘Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word’: We Need Nice People for Nasty Times

At the gym the bloke with the next locker silently moves his kit out of my way without looking up at me. At the shop a woman talks on her mobile as she pays. Down the pub a guy checks his phone as he pisses. A man on a bike shouts at me as he turns a corner. Someone’s eating a bacon sandwich on the tube. He’s sat next to a ‘manspreader.’ There are kids cursing on the top deck of the bus. There’s pizza packaging on the pavement. Queueing seems to be the hardest concept. And sorry seems to be the hardest word.

‘What do I do to make you want me?
What have I got to do to be heard?
What do I do when it’s all over,
And sorry seems to be the hardest word?

Read the full article here…

We Are Now ‘Uber’s Children.’ Here’s What it Means for Your Business

We want what we want now. And we’re used to getting it. We are Uber’s children–we’ve been trained to have everything on our terms, and have it instantly, for free, thanks to the ride-sharing company.

The phrase Uber’s Children (coined by Adam Morgan and Mark Barden of London marketing agency eatbigfish) sums up the unreasonable expectations consumers now hold. We have such demanding expectations across every category we visit. And these expectations don’t dip between categories; if we see something is possible in one category, we don’t understand why we can’t get it somewhere else. So in this era of ever-stretching unreasonableness, what can we expect next? And how can we get ready for the future? Unreasonableness can show up in many forms: cheaper, quicker, more personalized and more streamlined. And here’s how it’s transforming some key industries.

Read the full article here…

Liar liar.

Many people believe it’s possible to quickly spot a liar through eye movements, nose touching or some other ‘micro-expression’.

In fact, these methods are quite inaccurate and can be very misleading, particularly across different races and cultures.

Numerous studies have shown that even trained police officers fail to spot lies this way any more than if they had used pure chance.

Thomas Ormerod is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Sussex.

He has particular expertise in security screening and how to spot liars.

He works with airports and border officials who need to have robust measures in place and helps train their security teams.

Ormerod uses a different method that’s been found to be 20 times more accurate, identifying liars over 70% of the time in one study.

The secret lies in good, old fashioned conversation.

For example, by gently encouraging the deceiver to provide detail to their story, they tie themselves up in knots and holes start to appear.

Even novice security officers had up to 80% success by simply asking open ended questions and slowly building the pressure.

Yet why would this simple approach be so much more successful?

The secret lies in our basic human desire to be considered honest.

Humans are highly sensitive to the fear of disapproval and shame, depending upon the context.

When you know this, it becomes easier to leverage in others.

The need to be honest overwhelms the desire to lie when the potential loss or shame is too great.

This has some implications for the conversations brands are seeking.

Brands are trying to create relationships and ‘dialogue’ with consumers, particularly via social media.

This is great when there’s something positive to talk about.

When the story is less flattering then conversation mysteriously starts to dry up.

Clearly then, if you enter into dialogue you need to be prepared to tell the truth.

Or be prepared for the consquences of being less than forthcoming.

After all, spotting liars is pretty simple when you ask the right questions.




Pokémon Go: 5 Reasons Why It’s Brave

There’s just a chance you may have heard of Pokémon Go by now…

The new, reinvented mobile app game based on the 90s pocket hit, was downloaded so many times from launch, it became the number one app within just 5 hours.

It’s a great example of a Brave brand. Everything is in place to ensure long term success. The brand stars are aligned.

Why do we think that?  Here’s 5 reasons:

1) It’s Bold. By utilising Google Maps and overlaying gameplay, players can hunt for Pokémon in their own physical world whilst simultaneously enjoying the fantasy of the game. This subverts the idea that video games equal sedentary behaviour at home – it’s encouraging exercise instead, for an average of 43 minutes per day.

That’s a big shift in what has previously constituted a mobile game.

2) It’s Relevant. The astronomic number of downloads show that interest levels are sky high. This is a new way of gaming and has caught the imagination of a global audience.

3) Pokémon Go! is A player. The app’s developer Niantic are playing the long game. Free download gets it on as many handsets as possible. Then the fun will really begin with other consumer brands falling over themselves to pay to be part of the gameplay. It’s almost limitless in terms of reciprocal marketing potential.

4) It’s Visible – a Google search reveals 35 million results. It’s almost impossible to avoid such is the hype and news coverage. If you can’t find Pokémon Go then you’re doing it wrong.

5) It’s Easy. As a free download it’s laughably accessible to any one of the 8 billion people with a smartphone. No distribution issues (except when demand exceeds server capacity) and it’ll update itself with every iteration.

With all 5 Brave factors in place we predict a very bright future for Pokémon Go.  Provided it can maintain relevance in the face of inevitable competitors, who knows what it’ll offer in just 12 months from now.


Sparks 8

Welcome to Sparks – our regular digest of thought-provoking ideas and thinking from around the world.  This month our theme is disruption and upsetting the status quo.  Don’t get comfy…



Why real disruption must be uncomfortable.



Lessons learned in innovation from an ex-Apple insider.



Why best practice is just average



Why it’s more rational to design for emotion.



What we can learn from Britain’s greatest test pilot.



Why digital technology is useless at creativity.



Stop waiting for perfect

February 21st of this year saw the passing of one of the greatest pilots who ever lived, aged 97.

Eric Brown – or Captain Eric Melrose ‘Winkle’ Brown to give him his full name – was an extraordinary man, even for the heroic wartime generation.

During his career he flew 487 different types of aircraft, more than anyone in history.

He also held the world record for aircraft carrier take-offs and landings (2,407 and 2,271 respectively)

It’s also very unlikely these records will ever be beaten.

There aren’t enough aeroplane types still flying and the last pilot who tried to beat the carrier landings record had a nervous breakdown at 1,600.

There’s a good reason for this.

Landing on an aircarft carrier is incredibly difficult, dangerous and mentally demanding.

Even now, with advanced radar technology, electronic guidance and radio communication assisting, it’s really tough.

Eric Brown had none of those things when he was the first person to land a twin engined aircraft on a carrier in March 1944.

An aircraft that theoretically couldn’t land on a carrier because it’s stalling speed was too high and it was too heavy for the arrestor gear.

It was also discovered that if either engine failed on the approach, the plane would go nose first into the sea within two seconds.

Everyone expected it to drop like a stone in to the sea, or destroy the arrestor gear and crash.

But Eric Brown did it anyway. Having never flown the aircraft just 2 months before.

It was wartime and it wasn’t possible to wait for perfect conditions.

He had to get on with it.

As a test pilot, he always prepared as well as he could.

But eventually he had to just climb aboard and fly to see what would happen.

The imperative of war produces extraordinary leaps in progress and technology.

It’s probably fair to say that most of what we all work on each day, isn’t quite so life and death.

We worry about things that are bold, different or a bit risky.

We find reasons not to, have lots of meetings and generally procrastinate until all risk can be removed.

Except it can’t.

So let’s take some inspiration from Eric Brown.

Stop waiting for perfect and just fly the thing.








Do it on purpose

When my eldest son (3 years old) whacks his little brother (18 months) with something plasticky or fist shaped I quickly have to decide “Did he do that on purpose? Or was it an accident?”

It usually doesn’t take more than half a second to realise when it’s deliberate. There’s a look in the eye. A purity of intent. Nothing will dissuade him from getting his Lightning McQueen car back.

He has purpose. He’s there to prevent his little brother playing with his stuff.  End of.

Legendary England manager Alf Ramsey knew all about purpose. He had clear roles for every player on the pitch and why they were there.  Nobby Stiles was under no illusions about his: “My job was to win the ball, give it to Bobby [Charlton] and let him get on with it”.

Yet it’s remarkable how many brands don’t know what they’re for.  Why they’re there.  The have no defined purpose.

This is a problem.  Brands without purpose lack direction.  More importantly they make less money.

Or to put it another way , brands with a clear purpose are more profitable and return more to shareholders.  Six times more in fact.

Why would this be?

Because purpose keeps focus on who pays the bills. Customers. When you know what your brand is for then there’s a much better chance you’ll sell what your customers want or serve them better. Customers buy into brands that stand for something.

Companies who just focus on metrics lose sight of what their customers think and see them as further metrics to be managed.  They then try and sell stuff no one asked for.

Nearly 20 years ago I worked with a recently privatised water company.  They thought it’d be a good idea to sell washing machines and other white goods.  They thought it would be a nice little money spinner.  Much more profitable than boring old regulated water.

Unfortunately, they were quite a bit more expensive than the well-established competition and customers couldn’t understand why on earth they were doing it.

Sales were, as they say, sub-optimal.

They forgot what they were for.

Work out your purpose and the rest will follow.

From Fat to Finn


In Japanese culture, the martial art of Aikido uses the energy of an attacker to the defender’s advantage.

Try and punch an Aikido master and you effectively throw yourself on the ground.  You do most of work.

Contrary to popular belief, Finland had a massive problem with coronary heart disease.

In fact, Finland had the highest rate of heart disease in the world during the early 1970s.

Finns, especially men, liked to smoke a lot, drink a lot and eat fatty meat. Lots of dairy, salt and bread smeared in butter, washed down with full fat milk.

In Finnish culture, ‘being a man’ was about tough, physical work and that meant eating lots of fatty food to give them energy.

Vegetables were something you gave to rabbits or farm animals. It was laughable that any self-respecting Finn would eat carrots.

So people simply didn’t eat vegetables. At all.

Despite the physical exertion, their unhealthy diet was killing them in droves.

In 1972, Dr Pekka Puska of the National Public Health Institute travelled with his team to Northern Karelia, a very rural, agricultural province in Eastern Finland. It had shown a particularly high incidence of heart disease compared to the average.

In Northern Karelia, people really liked to smoke, drink hard and eat lots of fat.

They reasoned if they could make a change here, they could probably change the whole country.

Most health campaigns just tried to nag people to change by pointing out their mistakes. However, the problem was not one of education.

These people knew they weren’t being very healthy.  They just weren’t bothered about it.

In short, a healthy diet wasn’t relevant so there was little motivation to change.

Dr Puska knew he needed a really bold approach to make a difference.

So he decided to change whole communities in one go and use their culture to his advantage.

He knew that civic pride came before a fall.  Finns – especially the men – were proud and tenacious.

So he pitted communities against each other to reduce their cholesterol levels.

They measured cholesterol in different towns and villages.  Two months later they returned and measured again. The town with the biggest reduction won a collective prize.

There was no need to educate anyone.  They all knew what to do.  Winning was far more important than the embarrassment of eating more veg.

Healthy eating became relevant.

They didn’t stop there.  Farmers were paid to produce high protein meat (not according to fat content as before).  Tobacco advertising was banned nationally. Dairy farmers were given strong incentives to produce low fat milk.  They even managed to get berries grown on a large scale.  Schools started to teach kids about vegetables and why they were amazing.

Gradually, healthier eating became part of the culture.

The effect was extraordinary.

In 30 years, the rate of death from heart disease in men was reduced by at least 65% and deaths from lung cancer were reduced to a similar level. Finnish men can expect to live on average 7 years longer and women 6 years longer compared to before the study began.

So when faced with the overwhelming strength of culture, he used the same cultural strength to his advantage.

The Finnish people did most of the work for him.


The Enemy of Thought


When Joseph Conrad wrote “Action is consolatory. It is the enemy of thought and the friend of flattering illusions” he was really reflecting on how keeping busy prevents the human mind thinking too much.  As a former merchant seaman, he knew all about long periods of being away from home and dwelling on things.

However, for most of us in the modern workplace, quite the opposite is true.  We’re all apparently ‘time poor’.  Too much to do, too many emails, not enough hours in the day.  The irony of all this rushing about doing things is that action really is the enemy of thought. ‘Doing’ pulls rank on ‘Thinking’ in almost every circumstance.  Action is consolatory – doing something feels so much better than doing nothing. This presupposes that thinking is inactivity and somehow means time wasted.  Worse, thinking is seen as passive and weak – a way of postponing decisions which are, ergo, brave and dynamic, regardless of their consequences.

The ‘getting stuff done now’ culture is pervasive – witness the stupidity on a show like the BBC’s “The Apprentice”.  The emphasis is on selling lots and doing it in a very short time.  The candidates are deliberately pressurised for our entertainment and most react badly – daft decisions, absent strategies and the belief that doing something – anything – is going to gain them brownie points with Suralan. The few who do fight the corner of thinking-it-through are often met with macho derision.

The uncomfortable truth is that many real organisations operate on similar lines; too many targets to hit, too little time and very little forethought or vision.  The unfortunate result is corporate headless chickens – numerous initiatives, actions and projects with no clear understanding of why they’re happening and what they’ll achieve.  The famous 1928  play ‘Journey’s End’ centered around exactly this sort of folly during WW1 but with fatal rather than adminstrative consequences.

Of course, there’s a balance to be struck here.  We can’t ignore the need for any action; rather we should always devote some time to thinking ahead and questioning before we make a costly mistake.

“Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.” (Joel. A. Barker)

Don’t just pass the time, try and change the world instead.