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Archive - Strategic Thinking


Have you ever been caught in front of your computer doing nothing in particular?

The other day I thought up the 10 minute challenge.

  • Identify something important in your business that needs addressing and write it in the centre of a mind map. E.g.
    • need more sales meetings
    • need more web traffic
  • For 10 minutes mind map the stream of thought about all the things you can do to achieve your chosen outcome. Write things down really quickly. Put yourself under the pump.
  • Then do all the activities that arise.

Narrabeen reflections

A little bit of reflection every now and then can greatly improve your business.


I set up our business virtually because working in an office is just not productive.

If you have to work in an office, try these things:

  • No talk Thursday. Don’t talk to other people in the office for a day!
  • Switch from active (face-to-face) communications to passive communications. We’ve just started using Yammer.
  • Cancel your meetings.

Thanks Jason, we love Basecamp.


Consultants! Are you making your customers’ experience of you:

  • Satisfactory,
  • Just nice, or
  • Are you *Wowing* them at every opportunity?

Remember most of your competitors keep their clients satisfied. Do you Wow them?


Last night I had a brain explosion! I couldn’t sleep and stayed awake most of the night drawing mind maps.

When I awoke this morning my head was still spinning, I started to write down a few more things. But that didn’t last long! My boy, Ben was hankering for some Daddy time and when that was done I had a well deserved surf.

Tonight, when Ben was in bed, I sat down to review my awesome insights from last night.  They felt like seemingly new discoveries about how to run Objective and how to keep our clients very happy!

But you know what?  I started looking at all my maps of the last 3 years and guess what? My enlightening discoveries from last night were already documented in many many of my old maps!

Why hadn’t I noticed them?


All the answers to the questions that trouble me every day are in my head already. Ground breaking discoveries arise from a subtle shift in perspective from what I think about every single day. My objective is to work out a way to have these insights more regularly and use them to take our lives to the next level.

I need to seek out experiences and use techniques that get me to view my musings from different perspectives. When the insight hits it is subtle, alarmingly simple and well worth years of rumination.

I have a geeky little mind mapping trick that I will show you soon ;)


I just finished reading Three Cups of Tea. It gave me many insights into Pakistani and Afghani culture. The impact of America, Al-Qaeda, Islam, Altitude, Isolation and one person, the author,  Greg Mortenson.

This book was truly amazing, the insights I gained could fill this blog, however, I want to share this one.

After the death of his sister Mortenson decided to climb K2.  On the way down he got sidetracked, nearly died and was saved by the Villagers of Korphe in remote Northeastern Pakistan. He promised to build them a school and, after realising that they needed a bridge to get the building materials into the village, work started. He became very stressed, trying to control the villagers, worried that they would not do what was required in time.  The village Chief  Haji Ali then told Mortenson,

‘If you want to thrive in Baltistan, you must respect our ways. The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family, and for our family, we are prepared to do anything, even die. Doctor Greg, you must take time to share three cups of tea. We may be uneducated but we are not stupid. We have lived and survived here for a long time.’

Greg Mortenson (Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time)

He then relaxed, knowing that he had had many cups of tea with them! Instead trying to control the villagers, he got to know them better and gave them his trust. The work was, of course, finished on time.

From my perspective as a B2B consultancy owner, this lesson goes so deep. Conversations, the proverbial cups of tea, are the glue that holds a successful business together. Every person who touches a client must get to know them so well. This includes the B2B owner, the sales guy, the person who delivers the service and the one who chases up your invoice.  With limited marketing budgets and limited time, this what makes great small businesses flourish.

What are you doing to get to know your clients?


As a UX consultant, I get frustrated by clients and designers who think that user-centred research, particularly senior executive stakeholder interviews, is done simply to tick the box of, “I did some research”.

What really pains me is the comment, “Don’t worry, we’ve already done interviews with stakeholders and you don’t need to do it again”.

I always retort:

  • why did you do it?
  • what were you looking for?
  • what did you learn?
  • is it documented?

People miss the point of doing research with senior staff members of the organisation.

Of course, it’s about getting stakeholder buy in, but any one can do that.  However, any new consulting project should have some forum where the team members hear the strategic issues, for themselves. Not just the biased version from the internal project team. Consultants need to build  a picture of the organisation and identify opportunities; so that every design decision that flows from there on in meets the strategic business and personal needs of the client and, more importantly, their customers.

Also, don’t forget, doing this research also allows the stakeholders need to voice their opinion, without biasing their view because their fellow staff member is in the room.

User centred design is not about hearding cats for the sake of it. There’s a reason for every step and if you don’t know why your doing something, ask.


What do you think of when I say viral?

The is kinda cool

To me, “Viral” mostly conjures up bad feelings right? Computer virus, swine flu, bird flu, epidemic, pandemic.

So what is So good about a ‘viral’ social media marketing campaign? Are you trying to infect healthy people?  or just sell them crap?

Let’s look at some campaigns that worked:

Target Bullseye Gives

Choose your own charity.

Ford fiesta

Ford gave 100 people a car for a while and let them tell everyone about their experience!

Dunkin Doughnuts

Free stuff - sustenance, prizes and notoriety!


You have to think ‘What is the intention of you marketing campaign?’ Is it just to sell stuff or is there some ‘good’ in it?  Your campaigns will actually be successful if you’re:

  • Helping out
    • Target’s campaign is for charity
    • Dunkin donuts’ campaign worked as they have away stuff.
  • Providing a voice
    • Ford certainly gave their customers a voice by letting them sprout off about their cars!
  • Connecting people
  • Improving businesses

I was interested to see that Laurel Papworth’s Jan 09 list of cool social media campaigns from Australian organisations. They all ticked the boxes from my list above. It includes The Power House Museum, Aussie Defence Force, non-profits and retailers, plus they also

  • provided stimulation for people’s minds
  • raised people’s level of consciousness by making them think - educating them

If you are not aware of any useful things in your campaign, then it is probably wasting people’s time and not particularly successful or indeed sustainable. In fact under viral marketing on Wikipedia is actually states that ‘The basic form of viral marketing is not infinitely sustainable!’

What a waste!

When I was at the recent iMedia Brand Summit in the Hunter Valley (loved it!) much of the conference covered social media and the ability to access huge numbers of people relatively easily BUT

The reality is that if you are doing it purely for sales or personal gain then you have missed the point. In essence a good campaign needs to add value to people’s lives by offering them something they need, or didn’t know they need, online. In this context it is about helping your customers. Make sure you are honest, well actually authentic is a better word.

Think about the ‘core’ message for your customers. What will give them an ah ha moment. Make them realise something that they had never thought of before, never knew.

Truth is, we all know that if we help someone the rewards come back in many many ways. It’s called Karma.


Imagine if all the technology that was ever built was made with users in mind? What would it be like?

More usable I hope?

Would we:
- all be richer?
- not waste time, daily?
- spend more time doing what we like?
- be happier at work?
- be more technically advanced than we are now?
- be more social?
- more connected?
- more controlled by Big Brother?

I know there is a certain amount of experimentation that needs to occur. But not experimentation on things that exist already elsewhere; that we have been doing for years.


Earlier this year, I wrote on thinking strategically then filling in the boxes.  Successful innovations start this way.

Mark McGuinness reminded me of this as I played one of his his mind games for thinking inside the box tonight here on my holiday in NZ.

He uses creative constraints like time,  money and understanding market realities to generate better and faster innovations.  But he reminds us to forget about the restrictions of red tape and any fears you may have. Most of all he points out that understanding your customers and what they do is key! Erm… I agree!

I always remember when I was in a meeting with a big bank and the creatives were being drilled on the benefits of accessibility with the website they had just built. I heard cries of "you’re stemming our creativity" and "that’s so boring" but if they had been given their creative constraints up front, or better still, created them themselves, then there would have been no argument.


I just read this inspiring interview by Tim Baker, of Surfing Life fame, with award winning author Tim Winton

There’s times I go out at Long Reef, across the road from my place, after a busy work day and for ages can’t seem to catch any waves that are worth writing home about.  Mainly, this is because I don’t let go. Let go of the day, the past, tomorrow or what other people think. I don’t live in the moment. 

Then, I’ll catch a screamer, and everything changes, I spend the rest of my surf totally ripping, totally absorbed. 

Tim, the writer, describes this perfectly,

[Surfing is] a way of slowing down and processing stuff without consciously addressing it. A lot of the time we’re forced to live in the future or the past. Surfing is something that keeps you in the present tense. Some of that is just the immediacy of the problems it sets you, physical adjustments you make every half second to stay on your feet or avoid physical injury (or discomfort, at least). Some of it is just the energy required that dulls much of your other problems.

I don’t meditate much anymore, but I surf. Once again, Tim captures this,

For me surfing is about beauty and connectedness. Riding a wave to shore is a lovely, meditative thing to be able to do. You’re walking on water, tapping the sea’s energy without extracting anything from it. You’re meeting the sea, not ripping anything out of it.

Breaking wave

And I’m being environmentally friendly at the same time,

Few other water pursuits have this non-exploitative element. As a boater, fisherman, shell-collector or whatever, I’m always taking something away from the sea, having an impact on it… But as a surfer I’m riding energy that the sea is expending of its own accord, the way a dolphin or seal or sea-lion does. The actual physical sensation of sliding down a wall of water, feeling really awake and alive and in the moment, is hard to describe to the non-surfer. It looks beautiful and it feels beautiful. Knowing that you’re not doing any damage just makes the feeling better. For some men in particular, whose lives require a kind of utilitarian mindset that can be pretty unfulfilling, this is one of the few activities they undertake in which they can do something pointlessly beautiful. There’s no material result, nothing they can show themselves or the boss. There’s just a bit of a rush, an elevated heart rate, a buzz that lasts all the rest of the day.

I am most certainly taking a copy of ‘Breath‘ on holiday with me!