Month: March 2018

The Fastest Coffin In Mexico City

Mexico City taxiThe picture reminds me of some good times had in Mexico City and a couple of key lessons regarding competition and simplicity. The famous old VW Beetle taxis are being phased out now but will remain in peoples thoughts forever.

Most were never in very good condition but somehow the drivers always seemed to be able to ply their trade. Many were modified by the removal of the front passenger seat. They were ideal vehicles for two people and a mountain of shopping.

The drivers were ingenious and found ways to keep the cars cool in hot weather and devised some very clever hacks to stop them being stolen. The cleverest (and most weird) thing I saw was during a ride around Mexico City late at night.

It was hot and we had the windows wound down whilst driving briskly (some might say VERY) across the city. We looked to our right and we were being overtaken by a green and white taxi with a huge coffin strapped to the top. This was not a small object but one of the enormous coffins favoured by the Roman Catholic church in Central and South America.

There was no roof rack or carrying device. The driver had wound down both side windows, laid a length of thick carpet over the roof, put the coffin on top (with some help I guess) and then used some stout rope to bind the coffin to the car by passing it through the car itself.

I assume that the driver then jumped in through the open window. I also made the assumption that the coffin was empty, but knowing Mexicans, it might not have been.

A nice story, I hear you ask, but what has this got to do with me? There are two real lessons to learn here.

The first is that ingenuity is not confined to the western or developed world. There are some very clever people everywhere and not just inventors. Not many years ago Aston Martin had some prototype cars made for the Geneva Motor Show – in India. The quality was superb and the cost was a fraction of what a UK or German company would have charged. Competition is everywhere.

The second lesson is that simplicity is key. How can you achieve the results you want in the most straightforward way? When we are out walking we try to find the shortest way home when we are tired, not try and be clever and find the most complicated.

Another example related to motor cars here! Cuba has for a long time been the subject of trade embargoes. Ingenious mechanics who desperately wanted brake fluid found that they did not need to try and work out the formula and then produce it in a manufacturing plant. They mixed a well known brand of shampoo with sugar – simple! This would not work for a car manufacturer of course but enabled some Cuban mechanics and car enthusiasts to remain on the road.

So remember, competition is everywhere and simplicity is key.

 

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Newsletter – Do you have a sock missing?

Dear Reader ,

Many of you subscribed to this newsletter after electing to receive a free copy of my Innovation Handbook. I recently discovered that the autoresponder on my website has not been working as it should so if you signed up at the tail end of 2017 you may not have been able to get their download. If this happened to you then please let me know.


I took a journey from Macclesfield to Stockport by train this week. When I boarded the train, the announcer said ‘this train is formed of 9 carriages’. When I left the train, the announcer said ‘this train is formed of 11 carriages’. How did we acquire 2 extra carriages without travelling faster than the speed of light? It just shows that in many cases we do not notice consistency, but lack of consistency is immediately obvious. How do you do in your business?


Would Accelereat be a good name for a new fast food business? Just a thought!


Where is the missing sockYou may very well be thinking about the slightly odd subject for this email. Well, it is linked to a new keynote that I am developing, although it is not quite there yet. The title may involve socks or washing machines but nothing is set in concrete. However, the sock/washing machine combo is a metaphor for what we tend to do in both our business and personal lives.

When we decide that something will not work, or that something is missing, we go looking for it. Most of us will look in exactly the same place as usual. For socks, we look hopefully inside the washing machine, or down the back of our sock drawer. At work, we often do more of what we normally, do or try a little of what our work colleagues (or competitors) do. Having done pretty much the same as usual we wonder why we have not got a different result!

As Albert Einstein is reported to have said ‘We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them’. Now he was a chap who knew a thing or two so why not take a leaf out of his book and try looking at your issues (business or otherwise) in a different way and see what happens?

Please do get in touch or provide feedback by replying to this newsletter, or using any of the contact methods listed on the website derekcheshire.com.

Happy reading,

Derek Cheshire

Can I help you to find the difference that makes the difference?

Derek is a Fellow of the RSA, a speaker, facilitator, award-winning radio presenter and Adjunct Professor at VIT University, Chennai. He has been working in the field of Business Creativity and Innovation since 2002.

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Can The Public Sector Leopard Change Its Spots?

Can the public sector changeI went to an event very recently where a number of public sector and not for profit organisations were shouting very loudly about the joined up way in which they were working together and the great benefits that were being delivered to their customers.

On the face of it, this was exciting news but was everything as it seems? I can hear readers now thinking ‘he is going to have a go at the NHS’. Well in a way you would be right and in a way wrong. It is brilliant that service deliverers can improve and extend the range of services and observe genuine results.

So where is the problem? Well, the biggest one comes when someone reminds us that ultimately these organisations are spending our money. One of the people present who commissions services provided compelling evidence that these services were being effective. Commissioners have predictions for future service demand. This helps to ensure the amount and type of services required are actually there. The commissioner stated that demand was increasing much less than predicted which implies that prevention is working.

Well, that’s that then? Not quite. A gentleman asks politely but in a very ‘civil servant’ type of manner, what evidence he can put on the table at a meeting he is going to attend the next day. He wants facts (and lots of them) as do his colleagues (anyone with the word ‘Manager’ in their job title). We have a whole raft of people whose job it is to justify and account for spending.

The organisations are delivering new or altered services (great) but underneath they are fundamentally the same. This is a little like saying that a supermarket chain is changing and supporting the environment whilst all it is doing is stocking some local potatoes and getting rid of some plastic packaging.

We should remove whole swathes of middle management. We could then fund many more services if we could only change the way in which these organisations work. The public only turn their attention to accountability when the services they seek are not there. When GP visits are easy to make, when libraries are still there and functioning well, when refuse collections do not result in piles of waste on the street, we are all happy.

For a small example of how this can work see my article Ban The Boss – see the BBC’s Business Doctor at work. Its an hour long programme but well worth it.

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Does It Have To Be Like This?

Alternative thinkingDoes It Have To Be Like This?

Let’s face it. There is a lot going on right now both here in the UK and in the wider world. It would be very easy to be dissatisfied with everything and say that the Government, Rescue Services etc could be doing better. Why is our internet not faster, why is there not a bus when I want one?

There might be things wrong with these aspects of life but why are things as they are, and could things be improved? The snow got me thinking this morning. How do people drive long distances to get medical help in very snowy places? The answer is, they often don’t. The key word here is drive.

The issue is getting medical attention. If we focus on driving then we come up with suggestions like 4 wheel drive ambulances which would be very expensive when you have a system such as we do in the UK.

If you are setting up a system from scratch then why drive long distances to a patient and then a long distance to a hospital. We could have some 4 wheel drive vehicles together with emergency/trauma doctors that are based nearer to patients and could get there quicker to stabilise a seriously ill patient. What if they need to get to a hospital? Well, let’s have more air ambulances and less road based ones.

You can see where this is going! Focus on the problem and find a good solution, don’t simply take what is there and fudge it. This might work for a while but is not likely to work for the remainder of our lifetime.

As well as applying this type of thinking to social issues we can also use a different approach to many business issues. A good example of this is the use of telephones in Africa. Many countries did not have a large number of telephones because of the cost and the need for wires and telegraph poles.

But much of Africa is flat and the signal from a mobile phone mast can travel a long way. If the cost structure is right then mobile phones become affordable even in the most remote of communities. Charging is also simple due to solar power.

Imagine if this had been a business. Your helpful business adviser could have suggested that you wait for the cost of installing telephone lines to fall and then install a system at that point. But your competitors have gone mobile (high speed, data, the whole shebang), they have leapfrogged you, left you behind.

So have a think about what your issues really are and if there are better ways to solve them. Look for the difference that makes the difference.

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