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Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

Peter Cook (of the Academy of Rock) on Creativity

Posted by Mark Harrison on June 14, 2008

One of the most fun books on management I’ve read in the last few months is Peter Cook’s “Sex Leadership and Rock n Roll“.

Given that I once released a video called “What the Spice Girls taught us about Property Investment, I couldn’t resist Peter’s Video (below), which talks about business creativity in the context of the Spice Girls and Deep Purple.


Posted in Creativity | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Invite a Freak to Lunch – you know it makes sense

Posted by Mark Harrison on February 19, 2007

Last night, I re-read “The Brand You 50” by Tom Peters. It’s a short little book, full of hard-hitting messages, but primarily aimed at those who are working in organisations rather than solo Entrepreneurs.

Well, since December,  this applies to me again – I’m working as CTO and Marketing Director for an Internet startup. I’ve discovered that retirement is all very well, but taking massive action towards a worthwhile goal is what makes like really fun.

Which  brings me back to Tom Peters. The central message of “The Brand You 50” is that no-one has a job for life anymore (well, I guess we knew that by now, but the book was written in 1999 when some people hadn’t yet got the message.)

Instead,  what we have is a collection of “Cool Projects” in which we’ve been involved… and a Rolodex full of interesting and useful contacts. I know I’ve got the stuffed contact list, but until this book, I’d never really thought about my career in terms of cool projects. But, you know, Tom is right. Rolling out the IT for a new organisation across 17 countries (1997-2000) was, well, a cool project, particularly when you consider that it was a joint-venture between two FTSE-100 companies, so full of massive “political” issues. (Don’t be scared of Politics in your job – politics is the art of getting things done [another Tom-ism]).

So, what did I learn from the re-read?

Interesting things happen when you meet (and learn from) interesting people. I look back at the four years since I retired, and discover that, again, this is true.

– Parmdeep Vadesha taught me a lot about scientific marketing

– Vanish Patel and Tamkin Riaz taught me about the power of face-to-face networking

–  Ranjan Bhattacharya taught me about the power of focus

– Darryl Mattocks taught me (incredible amounts) about running startups, and getting investment funding

As I look back, the MORE OUTRAGEOUS I thought I was at the time, the better the results have been – my sins have been sins of conservatism, not in trying to do too much…

… So, March is “invite a freak to lunch” month for me – I’ve set a goal to, each week, meet someone utterly, radically, different from me (but someone who has accomplished huge things in their own field) and take them to lunch.

I have some targets to call, but if you get a call from me, I don’t think of YOU as a freak, honest ( 🙂 ), but other fun freaks are also welcome to send me an email suggesting a lunch date.

Posted in Building Businesses, Creativity | 8 Comments »

Intellectual Property and the BBCs “Video on Demand” proposals

Posted by Mark Harrison on February 2, 2007

On some forums I belong to, there has been quite a lot of discussion recently about the BBC’s intention to provide “catch-up TV on demand”, but restrict this catch-up to a limited time-frame, and Microsoft Windows only (because only it has the required Digital Rights Management) systems.

A common criticism of this BBC proposal has been that “we, the licence-payer, have already paid for this material”. Why should we not have unlimited access? I thought that I’d summarise the argument.

Before you read this, please take a moment to think of your favourite film…

The BBC is not in a position to change the way that law works, or opt-out of international treaties on Intellectual Property.

It is certainly the case that IP law is flawed, and inconsistent, and hard to see how in its present form best meets its objectives of serving the common interest, and allowing creators of material to profit therefrom.

However, that is a separate discussion from “What is the best thing for the BBC to do”, which is where I’ll now concentrate. Let’s just consider the material that the BBC itself produces, not that which it licences from elsewhere:

Which is most “in the public interest”?

  • A: For the BBC to allow ALL its material to be distributed freely over the Internet, accept a loss in revenue of approximately £625m per year (representing material that previously it sold on VHS and DVD), and balance the budget by making about 16% fewer programmes.
  • B: For the BBC to all ALL its material to be distributed freely over the Internet, accept a loss in revenue of approximately £625m per year (representing material that previously it sold on VHS and DVD), keep programming output at the current level, and seek a 20% increase in the licence fee to compensate.
  • C: For the BBC to put in place mechanisms that allow limited download, thus preserving the revenue it gets from VHS and DVD.

I wish that wordpress had a “vote now” mechanism 🙂

Free distribution of software under, say, the GPL [other licences are available] works very well, BECAUSE the nature of software makes it easy to extend, and putting in place a mechanism that makes it incumbent (under certain circumstances) to release those extensions back to the community has led to some great collaborative pieces of code – not least of which is “Linux” itself.

It is harder to see how the economic benefits of redistribution for extension meaningfully apply to, say, movies. YouTube seems full of “mashed” examples of where generally the resultant extended version is significantly inferior to the original product, and vanishingly few where the extended product improves upon the original.

I am aware of video works like “Star Wars Revolutions” that have been released under a non-commercial licence. However, I note that these were released by volunteers who had other sources of income to support themselves and provide the capital equipment used in film production. I am very supportive of this (I’ve been involved in volunteer “Arts Project” movies myself.)

However, this doesn’t provide a mechanism for creative people to devote all their time to creative production… and that favourite film I asked you to think of? Was it a commercial, copyright-restricted production, or have you thought of something open-source?

Posted in Creativity, Economics | 5 Comments »

Mini Book Review – A Perfect Mess (Abrahamson and Freedman)

Posted by Mark Harrison on January 30, 2007

I picked up this book on a whim on Thursday, because the title grabbed me – “A Perfect Mess – the hidden benefits of disorder”

It’s another of these US Management books that are written by a pair of authors – one an academic and one a journalist – and once again, the formula works for me.

The central premise of the book is that, in the second half of the 20th Century, the assumption that “Better Organised Means More Effective”  grew and grew, to the extent that many companies have official clear desk policies, and no senior business figure would ever dream of having anything other than a perfectly tidy desk in the official photo, and that this assumption is wrong.

The authors instead present a different view – that there is a continuum from “100% organised” to “100% disorganised” and that, for any given individual, the point of greatest productivity will lie somewhere along that continuum, not at the “100% organised” end.

Intuitively, it’s appealing, not least because it panders to my  own untidy desk.

My pet gripe amongst business books at the moment is the “interesting subject for a short article fleshed out to about 200 pages”-type book. The good news is that, while A Perfect Mess runs to over 300 pages, the information keeps flowing in a way that engages and expands the argument, rather than just re-stating it.

Obviously, as an Entrepreneur, I’m naturally pre-disposed to like the kinds of books that criticise some of the extremes of corporate-behaviour, though as my own company is growing, I’m mellowing a little, and allowing processes to come in. This book has helped bring me back round to the view that processes should be there to help people, not to straight-jacket creativity.

There have been a few books in the last year that have tempted me to go out and do a bulk buy, so that I can give them out to my friends. This certainly falls into that category. (Though, if you consider yourself a friend, and are wondering when yours will be arriving, realise that I was only TEMPTED to do this, I didn’t actually do it!)

Buy A Perfect Mess from

Posted in Book Review, Building Businesses, Creativity | 2 Comments »

Who’s got a tidier office, Tom Peters, me, or you?

Posted by Mark Harrison on September 3, 2006

Like many things in my life, I can firmly blame Tom Peters for this.
There I was, innocently reading his Blog, when what did I discover? A picture of his office – with the caption “So I’m Messy. What of it…”

Well, my office maybe a lot smaller than Tom’s, but it’s clear that we share a few characteristics. So here you are – a picture of my office (or at least my desk which was the best I could do.)Mark's office

Do you believe in the “clear office policy”, or do you find that a bit of disorganisation is a small price to pay for creativity?
And in case you’re wondering about the “paint smear” – that’s because I’m thinking of re-flooring and re-painting, and like to live with a new colour for a few weeks before stripping the room back out.

Posted in Creativity | 1 Comment »