Saturday, 12 December 2009

An Exciting New Book for Owner Managers

The Small and Medium Sized Enterprise (SME) is arguably the Cinderella of the UK economy. They receive no glamour, they are driven by hardworking entrepreneurs and family owners and currently are paying a heavy price for the banking industry’s mistakes. In this climate it is imperative that they manage the performance of their business.

Here are some stats from the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (DBERR):

SMEs make up 99% of the economy.
There are under 4.8 million enterprises with a workforce of just under 30 million people
Nearly 3.5 million are one man [person] band
1.3 million are employers employing 14.23 million individuals
858,245 have up to 4 employees
221,600 have between 5-9 employees

Yet most management texts relating to performance improvement are geared towards larger organisations. Even the few books aimed at SMEs are directed at a student and academic audience rather than the practitioner.

This compelled me to write a book on this topic with my colleague Amanda Beech. The book is written in a humorous and light hearted way but does not compromise on substance. It has deliberately been written as a commuter book that the reader can dip in and out of with takeaway tasks at the end of each chapter to be applied to the owner's business.

The book entitled "When Sam met Angie: Balanced Scorecard for SMEs" has been endorsed by leading thinkers in both practice and academia.

Professor Andy Neely is one of the world leading academics in Performance Management and holds dual Chairs in the University of Cambridge and Cranfield University. In addition, he is the Deputy Director of the Applied Institute of Management (AIM), the UK’s leading think tank for Management.

Brett Knowles is the founder of PM2, an international consultancy specialising in Performance Management. Three of his clients appear in the Kaplan and Norton (the authors of the balanced scorecard) hall of fame and he is regarded as an international thought leader on the Balanced Scorecard.

Here is the link to the book. If you would like to find out more, please feel free to email me.

Friday, 21 August 2009

2nd Life? ….Get a 1st Life!!

This nascent trend is both a technological and a socio-cultural issue. Second life has become an instant phenomenon among children and techno savvy and “trend setting” adults.

The jury is out as to whether 2nd life will take off in the adult world. Many adults have partners, children and lots of real world stuff to worry about and do not have the time to spend on this format. A colleague of mine jokingly said that “second life is for people who don’t have a first life”. On the other hand Business leaders such as Sir Paul Judge believe that online collaboration could yield significantly large productivity benefits.

Technological innovation does fascinate the human race. We have seen the explosion of Twitter which witnessed its tipping point when an aeroplane made that incredible landing on the Hudson River. A passer by captured the moment and “twittered” it around the world before the media were on the scene. The blue touch paper of mass adoption was ignited and adult users began to sky rocket. However there has been a bit of a backlash as “tweeny” (teens and twenties) users have dropped. Why is this you may ask? Well if you have teenage children you should know better than to ask that.

In terms of education, research by Gartner Group published in the Times Higher Education (THES) has shown that 2nd life has reached its peak and is about to plunge into a “trough of disillusionment”.

Many leading educators do see virtual worlds as a great tool for facilitating distance learning or online teaching but it can never be an effective substitute for face to face teaching. The danger is the tail could wag the dog and that cash strapped universities begin to adopt web 2.0 technologies as a means of offering lower cost education by compromising their offering. Credit crunched students may find this offering appealing so I am not dismissing it. This could potentially accelerate the outcome of stratified tuition fees as face to face education in smaller class sizes becomes a luxury that some universities can no longer afford.

I am not a techno phobe and I was involved in writing the UKs first on line degree programme and have ran an online unit since 2003. I am passionate about blended learning which enhances the student experience.

Have a look at these two impressive examples of blended learning. The first video features Mike Wesch, an award winning educator from Kansas.

The second is the late Randy Pausch, a truly inspiring lecture. If you can't watch the full lecture you will find a cut down version on youtube.

Second life and other web 2.0 technologies could have a huge cultural impact on all walks of life including home life, business life and student life. Do you lead a 2nd life?

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Inflation or Deflation - You Decide

This blog is a nascent trend relating to the economy. With unprescedented bank bail outs and quantitative easing (effectively printing money) we are in uncharted waters. There is anxiety from many leading financial journalists, practitioners and academics alike who are unsure of our destiny.

Let us start with some financial experts who foretold the crisis. Dr Nassim Taleb, author of Black Swan forecast a crash, Professor Nouriel Roubini also forecasted economic collapse. However one of the most accurate forecasters was Peter Schiff who argued his case when all around him were arguing otherwise. Have a look at these clips dating back to mid 2006. Many leading experts including Professor Arthur Laffer, the father of modern supply side economics and former advisor to Ronald Reagan ignored his warnings. Have a look and make your own mind up.

Peter Schiff although prophetic is now arguing vehemently that high inflation is around the corner. UK economic expert Liam Halligan also agrees with him and higher rate fixed rate mortgages deals support this. A critical mass is building of worries about hyper inflation, public sector cuts and higher interest rates.

But hold your horses! Watch this heated debate between Liam Halligan and Hugh Hendry the CIO of Eclectica Asset Management

Halligan warns that QE has resulted in the creation of Zombie Banks in the US and Zombie Banks in the UK. For more information on Zombie Banks check out the academic paper by Edward Kane. For casual surfers look at the wikipedia link. Hendry agrees with Halligan on the key issues but they differ on inflation/deflation.

Hugh Hendry sits in the deflation camp and on first impressions he seems to be on the wrong side of the argument. However, Mr. Hendry a noted contrarian has been right on the key issues. His hedge fund made superior gains whilst others lost their shirts. Watch his interview with award winning journalist Dr Gillian Tett from

Hopefully this will give you a better understanding and you can draw your own conclusions.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Too Big To Fail Yet too Big to Bail: Can we get our ACT together?

The theme of this blog is a legal nascent trend. The last eighteen months have witnessed a financial Tsunami of plummeting asset prices, share prices, property prices, currency values, etc. According to many pundits, economists and academics, we are in the eye of the storm of the biggest recession since the 1930’s. Unemployment is a lagging factor and the worst is yet to come in that regard.

Everyone has been finger pointing at all and sundry; politicians, central bankers, banks regulators, media, feckless consumers and over leveraged companies. In addition, as banks have evloved into global entitites, legislation has also been blamed. One piece of legislation which has been getting the blame for the crisis is the unmemorable Gramm Leach Bliley Act (GBLA).

Wikipedia can be unreliable but use the references at the bottom of the page or google scholar to find out more.

It is also known as the vehicle for repealing the Glass Steagall Act. Glass Steagall was enacted following the last depression of the 1930’s and prevented conventional deposit banks from engaging in riskier casino style investment banking.

Have a look at the video of Senator Byron Dorgan’s prophecy back in 1999. It is chilling viewing.

This gave rise to mega banks which were paradoxically too big to fail, yet in the long run will be too big to bail.

The GBLA act ironically saved Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley from collapse as it facilitated their conversion to bank holding companies.

Many leading pundits in the media, the BoE and some politicians are now calling for a British Glass Steagall style act.

Rather than conclude with my opinion I will leave you to formulate your own.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009


Welcome to my blog on nascent trends. I have chosen this title because it can mean emerging directions/fashions/tendancies, etc. These trends may eventually reach a tipping point and become conventional wisdom.

The book by Malcolm Gladwell "The Tipping Point" identified 3 essential propagators of knowledge: mavens, connectors and salesmen (salespeople).

Mavens are avid collectors of knowledge and are described by Gladwell as "almost pathologically helpful" they are information brokers.

Connectors as the name suggests are people who are very well connected. It is much more than simply having 500+ friends on your Facebook profile. Connectors can be viewed as conduits for knowledge dissemination.

Salesmen are highly charasmatic people and are excellent at securing buy in. They are effectively closers - they seal the deal.

As an educator I am a firm believer that we should not fashion ourselves as the font of all knowledge but as life long learners. How are we going to improve our research and education if we don't strive to know more. As teachers and researchers we must guard against epistemic arrogance. To put it simply as my old gran would say "pride comes before a fall".

This blog is not related to my research but topics that are of interest to me.

One of my MBA students put it in words that say it all "The more I learn the less I know". If I can encourage some people to find out more and separate fact from opinion then this blog is worthwhile. Who knows you may see things in a different way which will question your deeply held beliefs and you may experience a paradigm shift.

Lets start with this simple optical illusion. Watch the twirling dancer and see which direction it is travelling. Is it clockwise, counter clockwise or both!!

From time to time I will post web links which will hopefully encourage you to find out more about the subject. I will endeavour to ensure that posts are neutral and they will look at political, economic, socio-cultural, technological, environment and legal.

If you find other sites that may be of interest I would welcome you sharing them with fellow surfers.