Monthly Archives: November 2009


Not everything needs to be useful

While I was reading ‘The Black Swan’ I commented to a colleague that it was very interesting but I was not sure how useful it was, how (or if) I could apply it to my daily life or work?  It was marketed as a ‘management’ book so, for me,  it needed to be useful.  My colleague politely reminded me “Harley, not everything in life needs to be useful”.  And so it is that I have been contemplating ‘usefulness’ recently.  One of the key obstacles that I face when managing change is peoples need to feel ‘useful’ and the web they tangle themselves up in to keep feeling it.

Surely one of the darkest feelings a human can ever experience is that of low esteem, the feeling of self uselessness?  While we are in work, no matter how pointless our job might be, we kid ourselves into believing that this (along with our family) is our purpose, our reason for being. No wonder why so many people suffer so much during the early days of retirement?

Because the fear of not being needed is at the root of nearly all resistance, ‘vision’ and ‘belief’ need to become the change managers’ two biggest allies. 

It is not surprising that negotiations become so ineffective when trade unions enter the debate because their fundamental stand point is that a job is a job and it is their task to save every single one of them, no matter how unwanted or useless they might be.  And yet, if a persons’ job is no longer needed, if the employee knows that they are no longer wanted, what long term effect does it have upon them (and those around them) when their trade union has temporarily ‘saved’ their seemingly useless and unneeded job?

Generally change managers (for good reason) are not permitted to negotiate with trade unions, but I for one would like to spend time with union leaders talking about their approach to vision and belief and the dignity of the human soul, and not their usual outdated Marxist notion of ‘rights’ towards a job, any job. 

In the 18th. century Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher, introduced us into the world of Enlightenment.  At a time when the church and/or monarch ruled everything, he proposed “Always recognize that human individuals are ends, and do not use them as means to your end”.   Kant knew that in essence there are more important things to life than work, family and politics. “All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason.   There is nothing higher than reason”.   It is therefore important that we should start with things that please the senses and spend time studying seamlessly ‘useless things’, so that we can move on to understanding and eventually end up with reason.

I think my future lies with setting out to invent a new language for trade union negotiation.  One that allows trade unions to become more effective.  Not by imposing fear in the hearts and minds of those they ‘defend’ but vision and belief, based upon the new possibilities offered by receiving a large cash hand out and a chance for personal liberation. 

Trade unions have proven themselves to be essential in their daily work of protecting employees from the worst elements of poor and exploitative management but I sometimes fear that in Western Europe they focus too much on trying to save every job that will disappear anyway, rather than negotiating honest and fair settlements and then using their power and influence to help their customers get through the fear barrier of life after their current work. 

Have a good week,


2016-11-17T08:25:26+00:000 Comments

How open are you for change really?

One of the key points on understanding how change management works is to grasp the fact that in order for someone to change they have to be able visualize what the change might be like.  Because new behaviors threaten the status quo (something that no one over thirty finds easy) I have decided this week to offer my readers a small challenge… How open are you for change?
It is a fact that many of us that are getting used to eating ‘instant meals’ on a fairly regular basis.  What is also a fact is that those of us that eat them are beginning to resent the fifteen minutes it takes to cook, eat, wash and tidy up after the meal.  This may be down to the fact that the level of enjoyment does not match the effort we have to invest.  But if we are prepared to accept this lack of pleasure in eating our meals, then why not take it a stage further?
Most of us get stuck in traffic on the way to (or from) work, so why don’t we simply eat our meat and two vegetables in the car? (those of you open to change are beginning to visualize it now).
The principle is easy, ‘Dinner in a Bottle’.  This is a full flavored meal that you simply drink.  It has all the ingredients, minerals, aroma and flavor of a real meal but without all the hassle.
Dinner in bottle    
There are a wide variety of flavors on offer from Beef Stroganoff (pictured here) to Peking Duck, English Breakfast and even Pizza Prosciutto.
However, the second rule of change management (as referred to by Leandro Herrero, in his book ‘Viral Change’) is the ‘Tipping point’.  Basically the tipping point is the moment in time when the scales of the norm begin to tip in the new direction.  This is when more and more people become followers, based upon visualizing others behaving in a different way.  So in our case this week, it means when we see teenagers drinking ‘Meat Water’ (that’s the generic term for the new drinks) at bus stops and fellow executives in BMW’s with a bottle or two in their drink holders.
If you are like most people over thirty then you will probably wait to see one of your peers try it first, after having said to many people what an outrage it is and statements like “what is the world coming to?” 
However, if you immediately said ‘wow great idea, must try it’ then you are extremely open for change. Have I convinced you? Are you going to try Meat Water, or are you not yet ready?

Have a good week 

2016-11-17T08:25:26+00:002 Comments

Innovation just a buzz word or something more?

Is it just me but it seems as if every public speaker and corporation seems to be giving seminars on Innovation these days? I have been invited to give three in the last four weeks!  It’s almost as if innovation has just been invented.

At the age of 40, I was privileged to be the COO of a small but very innovative software company, right here in the heart of Belgium. 

If you were to ask the design team of that company how come they always managed to beat the giant Texas instruments (with its teams of literally hundreds of engineers) to the market with better, more innovative, more performant software, I guess they would put it down to their super innovative and brilliant software development skills.

If you were to ask the same question to the sales and marketing teams, they would put it down to the fact that they were out there right in the middle of the market place listening to what was required right here, right now and not what was on some 10 year road map development program.

If you were to ask the finance department they would clearly say that it was largely down to the way that they could consolidate the financial book keeping of six legal entities in six countries in three continents in less than 30 days, simply using some spreadsheets and a simple database, with only two employees!

If you were to ask the CEO he would have put it down to his supernatural talent for reading the future and delivering what was required tomorrow today.

If you were to ask me, I would tell you it was the environment that I helped create, an environment that allowed the cross fertilization of ideas from each of the companies key disciplines.

As the company grew, the sales and marketing people no longer sat around the same dinner table with the development team and finance.  And the CEO was always away on an important mission visiting someone, somewhere around the globe.  At that point I could see things change and although I managed to ensure that each department still had the structure and space to remain innovative, something died.  And this is the challenge for large companies with their departmental fortresses. 

Innovation is the ability to do something new with something that already exists.  Innovation is the new application of a tool, product, idea, action or concept based upon something that we already have.  So why is it so hard for us to be so good at innovation?

I must dash because today I have been appointed Chairman at the ‘IT Enabled Business Innovation’ day for CIOnet Belgium’s annual top event!

Have a good week,


2016-11-17T08:25:27+00:000 Comments

Build your own reputation

How would you like people to regard you?  I imagine you would want it to vary according to your target group?  i.e. Family, lover, friends, colleagues, boss, employees, customers, suppliers etc? 

It has occurred to me that to a large extent we are responsible for building our own reputations.  It is true that sometimes our reputations are demolished by acts of chance or jealousy but mostly our reputations are built or destroyed by our own making.

Here’s a list of key words to choose from (select one from the two lists and see to which target group it applies for you):

Group One:

Honest, clever, sexy, funny, courageous, strong, creative, passionate, balanced, dependable, helpful, caring, considerate, open minded

Group two:

Focused, judgmental, unforgiving, tough, stubborn, narrow minded, arrogant, self centered, egotistical, driven, sly, dishonest, unreliable

Many successful people pay attention to their perceived weaknesses and then create mini publicity campaigns to compensate for them.  The better they get at creating a new image, the more rounded and generally better received they become.

But why should anyone do this?  Some people tell me that we should just be ourselves and act naturally.  But I find this to be a cheap copout.  Who are you? Who am I?  What makes me me and what is natural?  And what would I be if I was left to my own devices?  I am told (and believe) that most of us would be thoroughly dishonest, if we knew that we would never get caught.

We can only judge ourselves by comparing with others and this becomes irrelevant as the very act of comparing changes the way we see ourselves.  When we see a rich person, we see ourselves as poor.  When we see a poor person, we see ourselves as rich.   Thus when we ask our peers to describe us, we tend to try and ignore the stuff we disagree with and to latch onto the flattering comments, comparing with the person that gave them.

And so it is, those that build their own reputations are those that are making choices of who and what they want to be.  They are the people that, more often than not, have a vision and objective to their life, loves or career.  

So this week if I look somewhat distant, ignore me, its just that I am busy planning how to build my new reputation!

Have a good week,


2016-11-17T08:25:27+00:000 Comments