Monthly Archives: May 2008

Terrible at Remembering Names?

On Thursday I took part in a charity ‘community day’. The group of people I was working with were all employees of one of my clients. Our task was to clear a very overgrown garden that would be used by blind people as a place where they can meet, work together and have fun. Anyway, keeping a long story short, at the beginning of the day we were introduced to one another, ‘hello I am Harley, what’s your name?’ kind of thing (a nightmare for anyone with a bad memory for names). During this exercise, I was amazed by the fact that so many people seemed to be able to remember the names of the thirty people they were introduced to. (Sometimes I even forget the name of one person I am introduced to immediately after they have told me)! My wife says it is because I am lazy. I believe that it is because my brain is not programmed sufficiently well for this kind of activity.

Over they years I have noticed that men tend to be worse than women, so it was a great relief when I got speaking with a women (sorry I have forgotten her name) from Germany who also admitted to having exactly the same problem as me. The difference between me and her is that her theory (excuse, as my wife would put it) is much better than mine. She said that her bad memory for names was because that when she is introduced to someone for the first time, she concentrates very much on their appearance; their face, clothes, the way they stand, the timbre of their voice etc. In fact she does this in so much detail that the name she has just been given is not stored at all.

I once worked for a boss who’s memory for names was even worse than mine. I had found him three good candidates for a new position in the company. Unfortunately on the day that his chosen candidate arrived in reception to begin his first day of work, the boss came rushing into my office asking “What’s that guy doing in reception”?
“What do you mean, I asked”?
“I didn’t select that guy, I wanted Michael, you know - the guy with the ginger hair! oh my God this guy won’t do at all, get rid of him”!
My boss had remembered the names of the person he interviewed incorrectly and selected the wrong one! From that day onwards all candidates had their photographs taken on the day of their interview, to be absolutely sure that the right one began with the company! In life there is always someone that has what you have, but worse!

Tip 1: When it is very important to remember someone’s name, take the first observation that you make about them and link it to something negative. For example, if you are introduced to someone called Jane and she is very thin, then try and remember her as ‘fat - Jane’. Or, if the man you meet is obviously nervous, you could try remembering him as ‘cool hand - John’. The next time you meet them you will find you will remember their nick name first and their real name will spring into your mind a split second later (hopefully)!
Tip 2: If you forget someone’s name and it is very important you can always say to them “I am sorry I have forgotten your name”. Nine times out of ten they will reply with their first name, if so, you can simply add: “No, sorry what I meant to say is that I have forgotten your family name”. They will obviously give it to you and then you have them both, all you need then is an excuse to turn your back and to write it down before you forget again. This trick is a little dishonest, but it has worked for me on many occasions!

2016-11-17T08:25:50+00:001 Comment

Lewis Hamilton and the Business simulator

Ron Denis, the boss of the formula 1 McLaren team described Lewis Hamilton, the 22 year old racing driver, as “A strategist with the guts to take risks”. He went on to say “Confidence is often coupled with arrogance, but there isn’t an ounce of arrogance in Lewis”. When you consider these words, the synergy with business acumen becomes crystal clear. But the real story for me is the amazing truth that in his first year of F1 racing, Lewis Hamilton very nearly won the world title. Now, in his second season, he is currently standing in third place with his old team mate Alonso way down at number 9.

I have been told that Lewis is of the first generation drivers brought up with race simulators, and although I can believe that these machines must have helped him, it surely must be his experience in Karting (since a boy of 11) that perfected his craft, or am I wrong?

The question, for me is: can we apply the same techniques in business? Perhaps we could persuade Unilever or Sir Richard Branson, or even Sir Alan Sugar to put together a consortium of investors to finance the building of a business simulator, where young aspiring eleven year olds can sit for hours everyday, perfecting the craft of business plan creation,, market positioning, deal negotiation and sales techniques. In fact all the facets that brilliant CEO’s need but take years of experience to acquire? Such a machine would eliminate the loss of real cash by blistering mistakes. Thinking about it, on a slightly more mundane level, perhaps we could even have a simulator for Project Managers, possibly sponsored by Cap Gemini and Accenture?

The day of the simulator is here, it must only be a matter of time before we see MBA students sitting in them, desperately trying to obtain years of experience within a summer semester.

2016-11-17T08:25:50+00:001 Comment

How Do You Make God Laugh?

I was asked this question by a Jewish Rabbi a very long time ago and still the ramifications of it linger on, nearly thirty years later.

I can attempt to answer the question by asking a second one, ‘What is the difference between the song ‘Born to be Wild’ by Mars Bonfire (made famous by the band Steppenwolf) and the great B Minor Mass from J.S. Bach?’ There are a number of obvious answers, the first being length: Steppenwolf’s song takes only 2 minutes fifty five seconds to perform and the B Minor mass very much longer. The B Minor Mass has a (necessarily) complex structure; Born to be Wild does not. But the real difference is that one represents unbridled adventure and the other duty and sense of purpose. But both portray the very passion of life in their deepest forms.

Our lives are a necessary balance between three key items; pure fun (‘feel good’ actions), work and responsibility. The trouble is that too often we long to try to combine all three. The result being that we become dissatisfied and ineffective in all of them.

Project Managers need structure to be able to plot the tasks that need to be performed in order to achieve the goals that combine together to reach the overall objective of their projects. In most cases, the more understanding of the structure they and their project team have, the better. Like the B Minor Mass, it is the structure that guides and enables their creativity, giving it form and meaning. (Give a child a massive sheet of paper and twenty different colored pens, twenty tubes of paint with differing sized brushes and ask them to draw whatever they like, and then give the same child a small sheet of writing paper and two colored pens and ask them to draw a picture of happiness. Observe which result is the most creative and which gives the child the most pleasure).
For most teenagers the important things in life are all driven by passion and are necessarily short lived; parties, concerts, one night stands, friendships. Therefore, a song that simply bursts life and passion and fires the brain with an incredible desire for something more than what their parents have, need only last a few minutes.

In the spirit of ‘Born to be Wild’ an entrepreneur may start a new business, a new adventure. An adventure is exciting, it is always new and unknown, it nearly always involves risks and that drives the adrenaline. But without structure and planning adventures quickly become dull and too difficult, and more often than not fail. Over time we find the necessary balance between adventure and project management, and we learn to separate the two, keeping just enough controlled energy and passion over to make our work as much fun as it can be.

So what is the answer to the Rabbi’s question; ‘How do you Make God Laugh?’
Answer: ‘You tell him your plans’.

2008-05-17T16:00:00+00:000 Comments