No Leave No Life November 15, 2010

No Leave No Life – Issue 55

My mother used to give us the line about the
starving children in India when we didn’t finish our
food, suggesting how delighted they would be with
the corned beef hash she was trying to slip us for
dinner. Years later an Indian colleague told us to
pass unwanted cookies and chips his way at our team
lunches, claiming he was that starving Indian kid your
mother told you about.


This guy had been educated in British boarding
schools and then sent to the US for university. I
once joked that the closest he ever got to India’s
downtrodden was when he rolled down the tinted
window of the limo to buy a chai!

The point is, our perceptions of life are relative to
our conditions. In the last issue of Futures Ramblings
I said that I was so busy I didn’t have time to scratch
myself. That was a bit insensitive because I send
this to people I went to university with and past
colleagues I worked with in the US. One put me in my
place by writing “It might be seen as a little off colour,
but I’d scratch youself for the right money, or pick up
some of your workload so you can scratch yourself
on your own”.

It was this comment that made me realise how
good we have it here compared to other places,
particularly the US where unemployment and debt
continue to grow. They may not call it the second
great depression, but for those not working it would
sure feel that way.

People are so disgruntled in America they are
resorting to insane measures like voting for that Tea
Party nut job Christine O’Donnell; she makes Sarah
Palin look like a Rhodes Scholar.

It is human nature to evaluate the state of the world
based on your own perspective. Knowing others have
it much worse is cold comfort when your day-to-day
reality is a challenge.

Sure you could be one of those guys whose surfing
holiday to the Mentawai Islands got interrupted with a
7.5 magnitude undersea quake and then a tsunami,
or be a Chilean coal miner, but you aren’t. You’re just
one of the overworked Aussies who are feeling a little
worse for wear these days.
Everyone I have spoken to feels overworked, over
tired and overwhelmed. Maybe we’re a bunch of cry
baby whiners, but the anticipation for the Christmas
holiday is palpable. It feels as if a collective bubble is
ready to burst.

The big surprise is that
even though everyone is
tired as an old boot, many
Australians will not take time
off, even if their employers
tell them they have to.

And believe me, employers do want their people to
take time off, particularly those that have accrued a
large amount of leave.

This isn’t driven by a focus on being an ‘employer of
choice’ or by the wellbeing of their employees, it’s
because the bank doesn’t want them carrying the
debt of long service leave on their books. It appears
that the banks have plenty to worry about if you
believe the findings of the No Leave No Life research.
Australia has 123 million days of accrued annual
leave by full time employees. This equates to $33.3
billion in wages sitting on company books.

The research sponsored by Tourism Australia was
intended to study annual leave accrual. They have
been tracking leave accrual since 2005 and found
that 1 in 4 Australians are ‘leave stockpilers’. How do
you know if you’re one?

The following are a few of the tell tale signs:
_you have more than 25 days of leave accrued
_you consider work/life balance to be important, but
clearly don’t practice what you preach
_you believe that annual leave positively impacts
work/life balance
_you’re not to sure your employer supports you going
on leave
_you are most likely a male older than 35
_you manage others
_you are parents of school aged or older children
_you are long serving at your place of employment
_you are a high income earner

The research applies to people employed full-time and
excludes owner operated businesses. It also identifies
leave as going away from home and spending time
and money.

This proves once and for all something I have been
telling my husband and kids; doing seven loads
of laundry, cleaning and cooking should not be
considered relaxing down time from my other full-time

According to the research, people stockpile for a
number of reasons. First off only 56% believe their
employer supports them taking leave, which in itself
is quite shocking. Other explanations for stockpiling
have nothing to do with the company.

The most common reasons
for stockpiling are fitting in
a holiday around a partner’s
schedule, finding money
to pay for that holiday, or
feeling the need to save for a
rainy day.

Beyond that it’s our own fault we don’t take leave. The
reasons for this go back to weird beliefs and attitudes
many of us have.

The research identifies four active stockpiler
personality categories, which if you’re not careful, you
may find yourself in:
01. The ‘dreamers’ and ‘planners’ who are holding out
for the big trip, or saving for something really great
02. The martyrs who think no one could possibly do
their job as well as they do; their job is their identity
03. The workacholics who have so much going on
they can’t prioritise taking leave
04. The victims who feel if they do go away things will
just pile up in their absence and blame management
for not supporting them

Unfortunately today there is also an insecurity factor
at play.

Many employees are understandably fearful of losing
their jobs and see built up leave as protection against

Others have taken on depression like behaviour, like
your Nan who folded up used tin foil for reuse. They
don’t speak up, they arrive for work on time, they
don’t ask for a raise and they sure don’t ask for time
off work. Staying quiet ensures you’re under the

In fact the research indicates annual leave accrued
by Australian workers grew by 11% in the past 18
months, which flies in the face of what we have heard
about companies asking employees to take leave
rather than face redundancy.

The amount of time we get off work is not excessive
by any means. Australian workers in the private
sector generally get 20 days of paid holiday a year.
Being from America I think that is a lot. We only got
15, which is only marginally better than the 10 days
a year you would get if you lived in China. In other
places like Finland, Brazil and France employees are
entitled to 30 days of holiday a year.

In some countries like Denmark and Switzerland they
deter stockpiling by insisting leave entitlements are
taken annually.

Still, there are more factors at play than our odd
idiosyncratic behaviours and the recession.

Social and world trends have
influenced the amount of
time we are able to spend
away from work; our current
lifestyles make it practically
impossible to take a family

With the cost of living here in Australia, it is common
for both partners in a household to work, creating
scheduling nightmares. Anyone who has tried to plan
a simple family meal around work, school, sports and
social activities would understand this dilemma.

I used to think my kids made excuses for not having
time to go on holiday with us, hard to believe I know.
Now that they have discovered that Mom and Dad
can’t stay up past 7:30pm after a day of sightseeing,
leaving them unfettered access to the minibar, they
always want to come along.

Work itself has also intensified. We live in a 24/7
work culture where instantaneous responses are
expected, you’re considered a slacker for not
returning calls minutes after they’re received and
being home in the shower is no excuse.

lives has made it impossible for any aspect of our
lives to be off limits.

We have relinquished the importance of down time by
providing our mobile numbers to business partners
and clients. This has been exacerbated during the
GFC with overly eager employees demonstrating a
gun ho attitude and desire to work.

In addition, flexible working hours have been
misconstrued as an invitation to call anytime the
caller chooses. Clearly they believe the flexibility part
is for them, not you.

On the other hand, there are those who have their
mobile phone with them every second and it’s
always on. They must think it is a moniker of their

It is hard to believe that people who switch their
mobiles on as soon as the plane touches down or
the ones who don’t have the decency to turn off
their phone in a meeting are so critical to the earth
continuing to turn.

I know people that aren’t doing anything that
important, and still do this. I must admit I have great
difficulty with the message this sends – you and this
meeting are not as important as my Facebook page.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe some of them are
moonlighting as brain surgeons and are waiting on
lifesaving test results.

Jokes aside, stockpiling is a social issue that must
be addressed and there is no better time than the
present. We would all benefit from a little R&R – it
makes us healthier and allows you to reconnect with
family and friends.

So guys get a life already and put in your Christmas
leave form.

It goes without saying that not taking leave is bad
for you and it is bad for companies. The impact of
stockpiling goes beyond the trouble it causes with the

People who are burnt out
can make mistakes, have
accidents, be in poor health
and get down right grumpy.

There is also the negative effect of ‘presenteeism’ or
not having your mind in the game – the ‘lights are on
nobody home’ syndrome. If you’re specifying carpet
there could be an issue, if your job is landing planes it
could be a real problem!

Markus Groth a professor at the Australian School
of Business believes that companies should address
stockpiling with better communication. Citing
problematic policies and poor management as a
cause, he suggests organisations seek out deterrents
and take action. They must send the message that
taking leave is allowed so employees will feel safe in
doing so.

Tourism Australia recommends employers start to
analyse the issues and understand the seriousness of
the problem as a first step and as a second step they
recommend listing out all of the stockpilers.
I’m not sure about that one. If we were to list out
stockpilers in addition to those who have not done
their timesheets, we would need to extend our
Monday morning meetings by at least half an hour.


The Australian School of Business Knowledge website; “Leave up
Your Sleeve: Productive or Destructive?”, July 13, 2010

Kapit, Ellen; “Somewhere on a Faraway Beach, a Cellphone Rings,
a BlackBerry Buzzes, a Laptop Beeps”, The New York Times

No Leave No Life Research Findings – Tourism Australia, Jones
Donald Strategy Partners and Roy Morgan Research,
Tugend, Alina; “The Best Time to Ask for a Sabbatical Could Be
Now” The New York Times, April 10, 2009

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Internet Privacy September 28, 2010

Internet Privacy Issue 54

Currently I am in our Wellington studio and what I like
about coming to New Zealand is the arrangement
Australia has with the Kiwis regarding entry into the
country. If you haven’t had the opportunity yet, let
me enlighten you, it can be as simple as getting on
the bus in the morning if you possess one of the new
Australian passports with a microchip in it.

The chip technology allows the passport holder to
skip the queues and questions and proceed to the
‘passport ATM’. Your passport is inserted into the
machine that produces a ticket, which is then inserted
into a slot at a turnstile. After staring at a camera for
60 seconds, assuming you are not a drug trafficker
or fruit smuggler, you’re through and in the land of
the long white cloud drinking Pinot Noir and dining on
fush en chups.

Welcome to the new world where
governments and commercial
organisations recognise that
making it easy for business
people to commute between
countries leads to econonomic growth.

It’s a wise choice; after all, we do make choices on
where we do business and have fun based on ease
and safety.

Since I am neither a fruit smuggler, or drug
trafficker; in fact not very interesting in any remote
way at all, this is excellent news for me because it
makes a schlep across the Tasman a snap. In fact
since the buses in Sydney have gone to a prepaid
system, going to New Zealand has about the same
complication level and this is why you will hear me
singing the praises of the new technologies that
make life easier.

This experience led me to think we were very clever
down here in the Antipodes, making travel between
countries so simple, but then I discovered that some
very unexpected places are far more advanced when
it comes to using new technologies. Leon is one of

Leon, one of the largest cities in Mexico with a
population of more than a million, has recently
installed iris scanners for the whole city.
If you are lucky enough to live there you could
forget about keys for the house, work or your car,
you would also not be required to produce ID to fill
prescriptions or have a medical record pulled. All of
this would be done using your eyeballs.
That’s right, your eyes.

Iris scanning technology is
far more accurate that other
biometrics, such as finger
prints or voice and can capture
thousands of points of data with
a single scan.

Past iterations of the technology required the scanee
to stand still until the information was captured, but
now new scanners are able to scan up to 50 people
per minute from several feet away. In fact, the
scanner can read the information from your iris when
you are running!

Jeff Carter the CDO of the biometric R&D firm Global
Rainmakers Inc., the company rolling out the iris
scanning technology, believes that within 10 years
every person, place and thing on this planet will be
connected to the iris system.

That’s good news for most of us; it will eliminate
some of life’s annoying aspects like trying to find your
swipe card every morning. Unfortunately, for those who have something to hidelike my son Charles, it may not be so promising.
Don’t get the wrong idea; he’s done nothing wrong
beyond a few unfortunate incidents a few years back
with cans of spray paint.

It’s just in a year’s time he will be applying for
universities and after that for jobs and the people in
the position of reviewing his many fine achievements
may not consider semi naked photos on Facebook
to be one of them.

For the Chuckster and his cohort,
having your iris scanned would make it impossible to
disassociate with your past and turn over a new leaf.
They will be forever connected to who they are, and
that may not be who they hope to be. Some believe
this generation will be the first to make legal name
changes commonplace.

In Leon they don’t care about this loss of privacy,
scanning devices are currently shipping to the city
and will be positioned in law enforcement facilities,
security check-points, police stations, and detention
areas, making it the most secure city in the world.
The next phase of installations will place scanners
in mass transit, medical centres and banks, among
other public and private locations.

The database of irises being created will
automatically contain known criminals, but the other
good citizens of Leon will have the option to opt-in to
the scheme. If you do choose to participate you can
catch a bus or train without a travel pass, or take
money out of the ATM without hiding your secret pin
with your hand.
Best of all for the city of Leon, where fraud is a $50
billion dollar problem, they might finally be able to get
a handle on crime.

With the introduction of any new technology comes
fear and distrust. One fear that pops into most
people’s minds when discussing iris scanning is
whether the scanners can read dead peoples eyeballs
and NO they cannot, so forget all of that Minority
Report rubbish.

Fortunately most of us take a healthy approach to the
adoption of technology and don’t bother ourselves
with such concerns; however, as we learned in our
Deep Dive Research Forum #04 there is a theory
about the adoption of technology developed by Ryan
& Gross.

The theory states that at the end of the day,
even when we have all of the pieces in place and
understand the apparent pros and cons of a new
technology, we still adopt it at our own personal

It goes on to describe that for technology to be
adopted there first needs to be a specific invention,
obviously something new like an iris scanner.
Next there needs to be a process of interpersonal
communication that makes people aware of the
invention, such as me telling you about iris scanning
in a newsletter. Finally, there needs to be a specific
kind of social system that makes it attractive, for
example a fear of Mexicans sneaking into the US,
which is why iris scanning has been introduced at
border patrol stations in Texas.

One would think the typical Texan would be more
concerned that without their friends from down South
they would need to do their own housework and learn
to operate their lawn mower, but then again this is
Texas the state that wanted to succeed from the
nation. Let ‘em go I say.

It might surprise you to know
that most of our habits are
already being tracked thanks to
the friendly internet sites we visit

Perhaps like me you feel there is safety by staying
clear of those bastions of fanciful youth: Facebook,
YouTube or MySpace. Unfortunately, one of the
biggest culprit sites for installing tracking devices on
your computer is You can’t get more
mainstream and boring than that.

Spying on internet users is one of the fastest growing
businesses today.

New companies pop up daily
whose sole purpose is to track
your movements on the internet
and then sell that information to

A whole ecosystem has developed of internet spies
and online advertising companies, who want to know
what you are doing online. In the last 18 months
‘data markets’ have developed where this information
is sold at auction, like the stock exchange.

Some of these businesses
sell up to 50 million pieces of
information a day for a fraction
of a penny.

While it may seem somewhat mundane, knowing that
you are in the market to buy something big like a
car, house or boat is useful information to an online
ad company trying to flog cars, boats and houses.
Most computer geeks know how this is done, but for
the rest of us the simple explanation is that these
companies install tracking devices on our computers
when we visit a website like

The most common tracking device is a Cookie; this
is a text file stored on your computer that assigns a
unique ID number allowing advertisers to know who
you are.

Other tracking devices like Flash Cookies are stored
by your flash video player when you watch flash
animations. Finally there are Beacons, these are
invisible bits of software code that track your online
behaviour that are installed and run live when you are
on a web page.

All of these spying vehicles transmit information about
you back to online advertisers.They do not know your
name, but know plenty of other useful information:
your age, home town, favourite movies or that you
like quizzes.

By simply browsing the top 50 websites on the
internet you may have up to 3000 of these tracking
devices installed on your computer; some are quite
benign, in fact useful to you as a web browser, others
are not.

Consequently, the concept of privacy, at least online,
is an illusion. People are beginning to figure this out
which is why companies like Facebook are in the
dog house for being sneaky and making their privacy
settings too confusing for normal folk to comprehend

In the dog house next to them is Google for
identifying open WiFi networks in the various locations
they were mapping. This is great for back packers
wanting to keep in touch and really bad for the private
individuals whose open networks were publicised.
Most unsecured networks are in cafes and are that
way by intention, others are that way because their
users don’t know any better and have no idea their
data is at risk. Unfortunately a lot of us fall into the
‘others’ category, we haven’t a clue about setting up
our WiFi let alone our Facebook privacy settings.

More frightening breeches of
security come from search engines
like Spokeo, who make your
photo, salary and home address

For the tech savvy it is possible to protect yourself
by being careful about what you publish online and
understanding the settings area of the tools and
services you use. For the rest of us, we wouldn’t have
a clue and would have to call Mike or some teenager
to properly set up our privacy settings. Therefore,
the safest way to ensure you are not caught with
your digital pants down is to assume everything you
put online will come out and most likely that will not
happen when, or to whom, you want it to.

All of this talk reminds me of what Eric Schmidt the
CEO of Google once said:

“If you don’t want someone to know
what you are doing, you probably
shouldn’t be doing it”.

I would have to say I am with Eric on this one.
In addition I find it hard to comprehend any
government or private business, having the time or
patience to monitor what people do on the internet
everyday. Heck it’s challenging enough to get rich
people to pay their taxes and P platers to stick to the
speed limit. Surely there are bigger fish to fry and
this is why I am all for bringing on the iris scanners,
get me an RFID tag, tattoo a bar code on my head;
do whatever you have to do to make my life easier
because like most of you, I barely have time to
scratch myself.

We recently completed a property strategy for an
organisation who was concerned with security and
safety, but they also had a key business objective of
needing to break down the barriers between them
and their customers and advocates. We advised that
to achieve this, physical and virtual barriers had to be
removed and that would require the adoption of new
attitudes toward security in both the environment and
support IT systems.

I wish I knew about the iris scanners in Leon when I
made that recommendation, because for them it was
difficult to imagine a workplace without turnstiles,
security cameras and ID tags.

It might be a tough pill to swallow, but for those
that can choke it down, the opportunities to create
workspaces that really are open, transparent and
engage with the broader community are more
possible now than ever and it is pretty exciting.
Not every company wants this, but in this time of
greater accountability, honesty and connection to
customers and community the ones that aspire to
this and are prepared to be courageous, could leap
frog over their competition and make a statement
that would set them well and truly apart.

It’s pretty exciting to think about the possibilities and
I suppose that if that means that there are a few
George Orwell flashbacks that is the price we would
have to pay.

There is a bit of irony in the fact that we need new
technology to simplify our lives that were simple, but
have become overcomplicated by technology.

Angwin, Julia, Stealing, MySpace – The Battle to Control the Most
Popular Websites in America, Random House, 2009

Carr, Austin, Homeland Security Department Begins Using Iris
Scanners to Track Illegal Immigrants, Fast Company, September
13, 2010.

Carr, Austin, Iris Scanners Create the Most Secure City in the
World, Welcome, Big Brother, Fast Company, August 2010

Chapman, Glenn, Hackers Pick Up Where Facebook Privacy
Leaves Off, The Age, August 1, 2010

Kravets, David, Google Wi-Fi Spy Lawsuits Heads to Silicon Valley,
Wired, August 20, 2010

Nosowitz, Dan, Facebook Adds Login Protection Security
Features, Fast Company, May 13, 2010

Trapani, Gina, Online Privacy: Check Yourself (Before You Wreck
Yourself), Fast Company, May 16, 2010

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Influence August 18, 2010

Influence – Issue 53

Some of you know my son Harry, he used to help us with video editing back when we did that kind of thing. Harry has always been a smart kid, who had quite an advanced vocabulary even as a young child. His first words were somewhat typical of early speakers: Mom, Dad, No, Mine and then the little snark started saying dammit when he dropped his bottle. We immediately blamed our rogue rouge nanny for this; certainly we were not at fault, we were doting model parents who had read every baby and early childhood book published!

Our nanny denied every swearing around Harry, the solution to this mystery came to me one day as I was driving in Chicago where we lived. Another driver cut me off, naturally I delivered a colourful diatribe on his driving skills and overall level of intelligence. You most certainly would have done the same, after all, if we common people don’t stand up and educate others our society will be reduced to the lowest common denominator! Basking in the sense of release and community pride, my gaze fell to the rear view mirror; there he was, my adorable little sponge brain son absorbing it all. That was the moment I realised the power we have to influence other human beings. It was also the moment I was thankful that small children have a harder time pronouncing words with S or F in them.

Every day we influence people and other people influence us; for parents, governments and companies being able to harness that influence is critical to achieving goals. Understanding how to do this is particularly challenging today when pulling out the old chestnut ‘do this because I am the boss’ has little sway. Heck this line rarely works with children once they reach ten, so why would we believe that in this time of building self esteem and confidence we could use it on a young adult co-worker? This my friends, is why having the ability to motivate, direct, persuade and influence people is more necessary today than ever before.

So what do we know about influencing others?

Researchers have done studies on persuasion; one experiment done in 1968 and reported in the Journal of Personality found that people physically stood closer to one another once they learned that they had something in common. In another, researcher F. B. Evans found that people buying insurance were more willing to purchase a policy from a salesperson who was the same age, religion, or even had similar habits – such as smoking. What these studies show is being able to persuade others is reliant on deeply rooted human drives and needs. People want others to like them; therefore, they are influenced by people they like and who are like them.

When it comes to influencing decision making another key factor is reciprocity. If someone has done us a favour, we feel the need to return it. This is precisely why furniture manufacturers bring us food and hang around chewing the fat with designers in the office. We sometimes fool ourselves into believing that these gestures of good will do not influence our decision making, but that would be more than somewhat naïve. In fact, many organisations recognise the sense of obligation is human nature and therefore prohibit their people from accepting gifts, lunches or expensive conferences. My husband works for the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust and as an employee of the federal government he can’t accept a candycane from a supplier at Christmas without fear of losing his job.

In his book Influence author Robert Cialdini writes of the ‘awesome strength’ of our nature to reciprocate when someone does us a favour. “So typical is it for indebtedness to accompany the receipt of such things, that a term like ‘much obliged’ has become a synonym for ‘thank you’ not only in the English language but in others as well”. According to Cialdini there is no human society that does not subscribe to the rule of reciprocation and sense of obligation, it is pervasive in human culture. So I guess you could say resistance is futile and rather than fight this, understand and use it.

Within the office the situation is similar, we gravitate toward people we like and those who think, dress and act the same as we do. The term ‘yes men’ came from this type of behaviour and for obvious reasons it has its downfalls. Particularly if you are an organisation that cares anything about connecting with clients, pushing innovation or basic business evolution. These tendencies can be especially limiting when it goes beyond simple reciprocity of favours, to influential people in the office making it clear that rewards will come to those that help them and retribution will come to those that don’t.

We are all people with complicated emotions and while we should, we do not always base our decisions on logic. The fact is we frequently are not aware of how much we rely on emotions to make decisions. Once this is recognised, you can use it to your advantage and become a more powerful influencer by appealing to a person’s values, self image and sense of belonging. I for instance have commented over the years on how nice Peter Geyer’s hair looked and you can see the personal rewards that has brought.

It often helps to couch requests in a larger purpose vision and express confidence in a person’s ability to do the job. By listening for clues you can determine what motivates another person and appeal to that. For an excellent tutorial on this technique I recommend watching Leave it to Beaver a 1960s American television show, note the behaviour of Eddie Haskel. I watched this show faithfully in my formative years, again you can see the personal rewards it has brought.

Some would not label the behaviour I have described as influence, but might call it office politics. This term is often labelled with negative perceptions, as it is believed to lead to a decrease in job satisfaction, low morale and commitment; and can become a catalyst for employees leaving the organisation. However this is only if you’re on the wrong side of the equation. Empirical research shows that being politically savvy and seeking power actually pays off, this is because there is a correlation between managers’ primary motivations and their success. Some managers need to be liked, others like to achieve targets or goals, others are interested in power. I am motivated by money, so the few people in the organisation that report to me would find that making a small cash contribution towards my son’s school tuition would serve them well.

Power, like office politics gets a bad rap, this is something we should all get over because the experts claim that to be successful and influence other people, you must develop personal power. According to Colin Gautrey, this need not be Machiavellian, nor does it need to be a violation of personal integrity. Gautrey maintains Influence is the outcome of people doing something they would not otherwise do, Power is something about you which motiviates people to be influenced by you and Politics are the behaviours which people use to influence others in a positive or negative way. He believes that by focusing on developing personal power, people will become less dependent on the use of politics to create influence. In other words those that have power don’t need to be political, even though they sometimes are.

Some of the things that can make an individual powerful are:
Position on a particular project
Ability to veto or sign-off proposals
A friendly and fun personality
Qualifications, skills and experience
Good relationships with key people around the organisation
Being very tall and/or attractive (fortunately for me – sometimes ugly and menacing works)
Positive public profile
In a position to provide help and support.

Of course if that is all too hard you could just hire someone to build your influence, I recommend Mekanism in New York. Mekanism, they bill themselves as a production company, but they are really an advertising agency that has been focusing on the Web. The company is known for being quite unconventional, never the less have created spots for a number of established companies like Microsoft, Frito-Lays, and Unilever. Jayson Harris from Mekanism makes the bold guarantee that they can create an online campaign go viral. Their confidence isn’t all cocky luck, for each campaign they leverage social-media tools like Quantcast, Visible Technologies, and Visible Measures. They also tap into a list of influencers to pair the right tone and content to get the proper balance of reach and credibility.

Fast Company magazine is so interested in this they have challenged Mekanism to create a viral marketing experiement whose outcomes will be documented in the magazine’s November issue. This experiment called The Influence Project, is attempting to measure influence on the Web and explore how influence and influencers spread and kill ideas on the Internet. Mekanism has suggested a number of possible site ideas that could be used for the experiment, one a Twittering Business Jesus who responds to companies in distress, another titled f&*k China were passed over. Fast Company settled on something more mainstream, individuals who participate will measure their influence based on how many people click the link to their personal profile. If you participate you will get your photo on the cover of Fast Company so if you’re interested there is still time. While the project hasn’t taken off as quickly as David After Dentist, or Dog Poo girl it has been quite popular in the US with people resorting to bribes and other underhanded means to get others to open their link.

While you may not believe an individual’s personal online influence is any measure of real influence, it is interesting to note the people who made Time Magazine’s list of most influential people. According to the list Lady Gaga, Bill Clinton and Brazil’s leader Luiz Inacia Lula da Silva top the annual list. How does the leader of Brazil, whose behind the drive to end social injustice and inequality, and someone who wears no pants (Lady Gaga – not Bill, although one could argue he has on occasion dropped his) get on the same list? Time says it is because these are the people whose ideas and actions are revolutionising their fields and transforming lives.

This brings me back to the beginning of this piece, you never know who you are going to influence, or how you might do it. I for instance, might influence you with this article and while I may intend it to be taken one way, you may take it another. Just as when twenty years ago while doing my civic duty I influenced my young son. Perhaps it was me who influenced a whole generation of young people to use swear words– as nouns, verbs, adjectives or adverbs, a trait that appears to cross cultural, educational and economic lines.

The moral to the story is quite simple, as with so many things the more you practice your influencing skills the better you become at it. By noticing what floats another’s boat: logic, emotion or relationships you can give yourself a leg up, but be careful relying too much on one of these may blind you to opportunities with another. You need more that one tool on your tool belt. If you practice extending your range in different situations and take note of the responses you get, you can develop your own style of influence and build personal power.
I don’t know about you, but I am going to start right now – If I were to own a dog, the only dog worth owning would be one of those Monopoly dogs – Scottish Terriers I think and of course it would have to have a regal name. People who own those dogs are really smart.

Borden Mark; Gary Vaynerchuk on Influence, Emotion and Being a “Douche Bag”, Fast Company; July 6, 2010

Borden, Mark; Popularity, Ego and Influence – What is the Influence Project?, Fast Company, July 7, 2010

Cialdini, Robert B, Harnessing the Science of Persuasion, The Harvard Business Review, July 1, 2010

Gautrey, Colin, Personal Power and Influence, The Sydney Morning Herald

Hoffman, Greg, The Art of Corporate Influence, The Age, July 12, 2010

Hurley, Robert F, The Decision to Trust, Harvard Business Review,

Nicholson, Nigel, How Hardwired is Human Behaviour, The Harvard Business Review, August 1, 1998

Pfeffer, Jeffrey, Power Play, The Harvard Business Review, August 1, 2010

Lady Gaga, Bill Clinton, Lula Top Time’s Influence List, The Age, April 30, 2010

Entrepreneurs July 8, 2010

Entrepreneurs – Issue 52

And then one day the risk to
remain tight in a bud was more
painful than the risk it took to

I love this line by Anais Nin, a French author famous
for her published journals and erotica, because it
speaks to an aspect of human spirit I admire. People
who posses this quality are those you might meet, or
work with, who are too big for one place.

One immediately gets the sense when near them that
they will not stay long; they can’t, one place is too
confining for their ideas, spirit and inclination.
While others are quite content to leave well enough
alone, these are the people searching for the next
opportunity or adventure and wondering how they
might raise the bar even higher. One type of person is
not better or worse, it is just a difference in the way
people are wired.

There is a name for these people – entrepreneurs.
I happen to know a few entrepreneurs, as I am
sure do you, so thought it might be amusing to
explore what these people have in common and
more importantly discover what makes them
tick and what if anything, might we do to create
the right environment and atmosphere to spawn
entrepreneurship, both at Geyer and in the
workplaces we create. The reality is that whether
you call it entrepreneurialism, innovation, creativity or
verve it is what we all want in the companies we work

Recently the blog Grasshopper conducted a survey,
“The Entrepreneur State of Mind,” which provided a
number of interesting statistics about entrepreneurs.
The first is that they are young, broke and hungry and
very optimistic. 52% use iPhones, 48% have been to
college and 54% prefer Macs to PCs. Oddly 70% are
male, they give no reasonable explanation for this,
but when you think about who has started companies
it is generally the dudes. Although, living with three
dudes I would suggest a woman gave them the idea
in the first place and then had to remind them 12
times to do it.

When questioned about the famous entrepreneur
‘the Donald’ – as in Trump. 33% of the entrepreneurs
surveyed thought he was a great marketer, 10%
thought he was a genius, 5% thought he had
incredible hair, 19% thought he was something that
mail marshal wont let me say and 33% really couldn’t
give a stuff.

It is not too much of a surprise to learn the age
bracket for the typical entrepreneurs is 26 – 35, this
aligns with another trait of the entrepreneur, they are
generally in good health.

It’s a bit obviously when you consider they must be
physically resilient to work for extended periods of
time on a new ideas, or business ventures. I have
often heard one of my more entrepreneurial friends
say they don’t have time to be sick – “I just don’t do
that s#$t” she says, overcoming her physical self
with the mental stamina. Don’t forget that when you
and I go home, get in our undies with a cuppa and
watch Man vs. Wild they are still working, developing
new business ideas.

The typical entrepreneur
believes they can do their job
better than anyone else, so
are quite open to being laden
with greater responsibility and
accountability; however, since
they think they are smarter than
their peers and superiors there
is a preference to do things their
own way.

They choose and act according to their own
intuition and thrive on achieving goals. Clearly
they are self confident people and as a result like
the control of working alone and will tackle tasks
with immediacy and confidence.

Of course the flip side of this is their need for control
makes it difficult for them to delegate authority in the
way that a structured organization demands. This is
why entrepreneurs don’t stick around for very long,
they are just bursting to go out and do something
different. It is why 44% of the entrepreneurs surveyed
began their companies because they saw an
opportunity to do something great, which must have
meant they were not doing something great at their
current job.

This takes me back to the earlier
question, what can we do as
designers, or an employer, to
create an environment that is
stimulating enough to keep the
entrepreneurial spirit in?

It is a question many of our clients are asking, in
fact it is this question many cities and countries are
asking and precisely why governments around the
globe are looking to places like Israel, Chile, Iceland
and Rwanda for clues.

Yes that’s right Rwanda, who now supplies Costco
(not a small or insignificant retailer) with coffee grown
by farmer – entrepreneurs; GDP there has quadrupled
since 1995 as a result. Entrepreneurship is linked
to growth, job creation and an increase in long term
productivity so why the heck wouldn’t you want it?
This is what leads many to ask, what are these
places doing that support the development of an
entrepreneurial ecosystem and can we copy it?
The experts advise not to try to copy, it is nearly
impossible to duplicate the complex combination
of leadership, culture, capital markets and the
types of open minded customers that make an
entrepreneurship ecosystem tick.

Don’t bother trying to be the next Silicon Valley,
a place created as the result of a unique set of
circumstances: a strong aerospace industry, Stanford
University and their relationship with industry, a liberal
immigration policy and lots of brilliant weirdoes.
This is like trying to recreate the early days of Geyer
Sydney when the studio was up the road, Friday night
drinks went til Saturday and Peter Mc smoked.
The advice is to stick to your knitting when attempting
to encourage entrepreneurialism.

It is better to create new ideas and business ventures
within the framework of your existing resources
and strengths. For example at I might consider
selling shoes or delivering fashion advice, but any
involvement in running Footy Tipping might be too big
of a departure. It is better to do as they did in Chile
and place emphasis on industries that took advantage
of the natural resources they had, such as fishing. On
top of that there was plenty of help from government
in the way of supporting the markets to make it
easier for people to obtain financing and licenses for
fishing operations.

The role that governments play in supporting
entrepreneurialism is significant. However, it is
important to get input from local industry groups
before deciding on new directions, otherwise you run
the risk of making decisions that might not have a
true appreciation for the bigger picture and will chap
the arses of local industry, the unions and your so
called allies. This could put you in a world of hurt, just
ask KRudd.

Building a good entrepreneurship ecosystem often
creates success and that stimulates others to
copy or come up with their own great ideas. This is
why it is also critical to celebrate success and fan
the flames of inspiration in the region. It becomes
addictive and soon there is fertile ground for new
ideas and thinking people inspiring one another, ala
Silicon or Medicon Valley

A rather large obstacle for entrepreneurship is
cultural. In some places striking out on your own is
not considered to be the right thing to do. I listened
to a podcast about a guy in the Middle East who
wouldn’t tell anyone he had left his job, especially his
parents, because it was frowned upon to start your
own business and it made prospects for marriage
poor. I am reminded of telling my parents that I was
going to study architecture and my fathers response
unfortunately was not ‘You go girl’, it was why don’t
you study sewing.

Whenever the topic of start ups emerges, the
concept of incubators and venture capital to provide
financial help and mentoring to new businesses is not
far behind. Apparently there is little evidence that this
contributes to entrepreneurship. In places like Israel
where incubator programs have launched multiple
new ventures, few have been great successes. This
is perhaps why experts say it is a mistake to flood
entrepreneurs with easy money and more beneficial
to expose them to the rigors of the market.

As with most things in life,
creating an entrepreneual
ecosystem cannot be forced,
this has been proven in the
many countries that have tried,
including Singapore who spent

One of the reasons I think that some people are
more entrepreneurial than others is that they have
a different concept of what danger is. Some people
believe it is too dangerous to go on their own, or do
something a different way, but others have changed
their notion of security and think the opposite. This
makes sense, if you’re not creating your idea of the
future then someone else, who could be a real bucket
head, is. Also some say the greatest danger in life
is arriving at the end of it and feeling like you haven’t
lived. Risk is the currency of life, without risk there is
no life.

You may think that none of this
has anything to do with us; I
would argue it has everything to
do with us.

Although these concepts are in the context of
countries creating entrepreneurial ecosystems
on a macro scale has parallels to building an
entrepreneurial ecosystem here at Geyer. Also our
clients most definitely want to understand how to
make this happen, so any insight we can provide will
be good for us and them.

This is somewhat obvious, but governments
can support entrepreneurial growth by removing
administrative and legal barriers, this is apparently
more effective than creating incentives to overcome
barriers. They did this in France in 2008 when
they implemented the Auto-entrepreneur Program
that simplified the legal process for creating small
businesses. 300,000 new businesses have started
under this program.

It is not realistic or practical to attempt to change
too much all at once. The advice to governments is
to put together a clear map of what the ecosystem
looks like and be prepared to learn and experiment
along the way. Of course once you achieve
something it is never good enough to rest on
your laurels, the world is always changing and
many countries realise that if they don’t promote
entrepreneurial growth they will lose their edge and
when it comes to companies if they are not innovating
they are vulnerable to future changes.

What we have learned: don’t copy, stick to your
knitting, engage the trenches, celebrate success,
consider cultural obstacles, don’t pamper, don’t force
unions and remove the bureaucracy can all be applied
within the 24 walls of the Geyer studios.
And while none of us is Pollyanna enough to believe
that cleverly designed fit outs will transform Joe
Blow into the next Mark Zuckerberg (the guy who
developed Facebook in his Harvard dorm room),
surely there is a role the environment plays, even if it
is marginal.

I am not going to disguise my inspiration for
writing this is the sad fact that two of our very
entrepreneurial colleagues are leaving us to start up
a business of their own. I say it is sad, but I am not
convinced of that, for us or them, because I have a
feeling they will continue to influence us and may in
fact have a greater impact on Geyer from the outside.
A bit like Al Gore, the guy born, bred and groomed
for the role or president, but in losing discovered a
way to make a substantial impact and create a lasting
legacy for himself as an environmentalist.

Ditto – Jimmy Carter who left office and became a
world peace keeper, eventually winning the Nobel

I am excited and happy for our pals and can’t wait
to see what they do. Make no mistake, I expect
big things and something tells me I won’t be

So goodbye Tamara and Sean, best of luck. I thank
you for all you have done for me professionally,
personally and for this company we have shared as
an employer for the past years. It has been a unique
time in our journey as an organisation and you have
both played an important role in making us what we
are and what we will be.

I know filling those stilettos and beige pants will be
quite the challenge, but the flip side to this is that you
have paved the way for others in the studio who will
see this as an opportunity to make a difference. The
are also others on the outside, whose interactions
with you might lead them to Geyer, because who
wouldn’t want to work for a place that allowed them
to think and grow and develop? Even if it did become
the springboard that drove them apart from us, it
means it isn’t all that bad.

Alicia Morga, “20 Things I’ve Learned as an Entrepreneur” Fast
Company Expert Blog, July 30, 2010

Anthony, Scott; “ Three Questions for Entrepreneurs”, Harvard
Business Review, April 21, 2010

Gallo, Amy; “How to Keep Your Star Performers in Trying Times”;
Harvard Business Review, December 9, 2009

Isenberg, Daniel J, “The Big Idea: How to Start an Entrepreneurial
Revolution” Harvard Business Review; July 6, 2010

Kuang, Cliff; “Infographic of the Day: The Entrepreneur’s State of
Mind in 2010” – A survey of self – described entrepreneurs, and
their outlook for 2010; Fast Company, April 14, 2010

Pallotta, Dan; “Discover Your Inner Entrepreneur” Harvard
Business Review; April 20, 2010

Rich, Laura; “Why You Should Start a Company in …. Chicago”;
Fast Company; February 19, 2010

Silverman, David; “5 Career Development Lessons From… A
Baby?” Harvard Business Review; January 27, 2009
Tjan, Anthony; “Must-See Movies for Entrepreneurs” Harvard
Business Review, March 12, 2010

Geyer Robots June 3, 2010

Robots – Issue 52

Why is it that whenever we get busy, we seek to solve
our problems in the same way? I would have thought
we were clever enough to come up with a new plan,
besides one of our dopey ideas really isn’t a solution
at all; because in this day and age and in this country
we cannot clone human beings. End of story.

let’s just put an end to wasting our time and energy
thinking about how wonderful life would be if only we
could clone Allan. Face it, cloning a sheep is a far cry
from whipping up a test tube guy with good technical
and documentation skills, or a hot designer, or great
all rounder. From what I have read about the lengthy
and impassioned ethical debates on the topic, it is
going to be a long time til we clone much of anything.

I suggest starting now, we become more realistic and
instead of wasting our brain cells considering which
we would clone, a more useful endeavour might be
to seriously consider employing a few good robots.
Before you pooh pooh the idea, you should know that
there are some very nice models on the market, their
looks have evolved significantly since we all spent the
better part of our youth watching ‘Lost in Space’ and
the ‘Jetsons’.

Robot technology has not only advanced in terms of
their capability, some are not too bad looking either.
Take Keanu Reeves, he’s a looker – oh wait he is real
guy and only acts like a robot.

Anyway the point is with the right black designer outfit
and accessories a robot could fit in just fine in any
of our Geyer studios and the benefit of employing a
few would be we could get a model to pick up the
slack and do the rotten jobs none of us want to do.
For instance, the robot could take care of that project
register I should be opening right now, they could fix
the jams on the copier and if properly programmed
they could complete our timesheets.

I probably don’t need to point out the obvious
advantages there would be gained from using robots
instead of people: no sick days, personal leave or
toilet breaks and they don’t sing at their desk like
Darryl or Hoa. Robots are also more in tune with our
expectations of productivity than real people. In his
book The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, author
Tony Schwartz explains that our busy lives and
access to technology pose an unrealistic demand on
our ability to be productive at all times.

In other words human beings are not robots.
The typical person needs to have renewal breaks
to be productive. Human beings are not meant
to operate: at high speed, running continuously
engaging in multiple programs; but this is the way we
expect our businesses to run. The basic design and
physiology of a human is prone to waves of activity.
This rhythmic wave between expending energy and
resting is evident in the beating of our hearts, brains
waves and the flexing and relaxing of muscles. Even
our sleep cycles follow the circadian rhythm, but
what most of us don’t know is this rhythm occurs
even during the day and is referred to as the ultradian

When we are awake we flow from a state of high
arousal to one of quiet / fatigue every 90 minutes.
For this reason real productivity will only occur when
we align our work lives with the natural rhythms of
our bodies by taking a ‘renewal break’ every 90
minutes. The length of the break is less important
than the quality. The best ways to renew are
personal, subjective decisions that one learns through

However, Schwartz offers activities
like reading e-mails (a continued
left hemisphere cognitive task) is
not as effective as taking a walk,
experience sunlight, listening to
music, or speaking to your kids
on the phone when they get home
from school.

Clearly this guy’s kids are less demanding than mine,
who can be equally, if not more challenging than

If we were of the mind to get into robots at Geyer
we are in the right spot. In his address at the CeBIT
conference last week Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte,
Research Director at the Australian Centre for Field
Robotics told us that Australia has one of the largest
robotics groups in the world. He says isolated places
are great for robots and when it comes to isolation,
we’ve got plenty of it downunder.

In fact the Australian mining industry is the most
automated in the world, even more so than
in defence. The mining companies in WA and
Queensland rely heavily on robots to drive trucks,
operate drilling rigs and locate people. Unlike the real
employees, the robots don’t care how much K-Rudd
wants to raise resource taxes, nor do they care that
the government is spending 38.5 million dollars on a
pro – mining ad campaign. They don’t even care that
the government has waved its own guidelines aimed
at restricting political advertising. The good thing
about robots is they don’t give a stuff.

Japan leads the world in robotics design; the
government there is pushing to develop the industry
as a road to growth. One of the latest Japanese
robots created by the Intelligent Robotics lab at
Osaka University and robot builders Kokoro Co.
Ltd. looks just like a person. In fact Gemonoid was
modelled after a real person.

Using a sophisticated scanning system they have
copied the features of a twenty something year old
model, the robot features silicone skin, realistic hair,
and teeth. Not only does she look real, the ‘gynoid’
(a female robot) has the ability to mimic tiny facial
movements that make her appear much more human
like. For instance she can smiles, raise an eyebrow,
or flick her nose and say preeminent at the same
time (okay I made up that last bit).

Looking at the photos it is a little creepy, but no
creepier than some of the real people I have worked
with over the years. In fact the robot might have more
personality than some of my past co workers.

According to robot makers, the purpose of copying
people so closely is that we apparently cannot
develop trusting relationships with things that look like
vacuum cleaners, it is the same reason we like cats
and dogs more than spiders – they have faces. This
is why Tom Hanks drew a face on Wilson in the movie

The people that have designed Gemonoid F think she
might be perfect in roles like a receptionist; clearly
they have never tried to answer the phones here at
Geyer when we were doing the rotation system or
they would know better. But let’s say all they had to
do was sell admission tickets in a museum, it could
be well worth the $110,000 the Gemonoid F costs
and as I pointed out earlier, you don’t have to pay
super, give them lunch breaks or concern yourself
with the ergonomics of their workstation. I’m sure
there is basic maintenance, change the batteries,
their hairdo, adjust their make-up for the season, but
all in all it sounds promising.

Before we get overly excited and put in an order for
five, lets shop around, after all robots might be like
Apple products – you are better off waiting for the
next gen release when all the creases are ironed
out and the price drops.

If we were prepared to
wait a bit we could get ourselves a HUMAVIP that
is a ‘Humanoid with Auditory and Visual Abilities in
Populated Spaces’. This technology makes the robot
more human by building in algorithms that will enable
him or her to focus their attention on one person
when others are talking. Consequently, providing the
simple social skills required to deal with small groups
of people.

The technology that enables this is quite unique
due to its ability to combine both auditory and
visual information to identify human speakers
among background noise. Radu Horaud, Director of
Research at INRIA who has been developing this uses
algorithms to allow the robot to recognise gestures,
which further its capability to focus on a specific
person. He believes that when he is able to have a
robot be in a room of four or five people and enable it
to keep track of how many people are speaking and
how many are not, he will really be on to something.
I’ll say, if he can accomplish this, we can get one of
these to go to the marketing meetings for me.

Robots are used in many professions. Here in
Australia we use robots to unload containers at the
terminal in Brisbane, man drilling rigs in WA and milk
cows in Victoria. There are currently four robotic
dairies in Victoria and the little buggers can milk the
cows three times a day getting the maximum amount
of milk from a herd.

We also have robots monitoring our seas, tracking
the warming ocean temperatures and ocean salinity,
monitoring terrestrial ecosystems and fighting bush
fires. Of course everyone knows robots build cars
and can detect bombs, but did you know they can
also mow your lawn or sweep your floor? Face it they
are good at doing the really dirty or boring jobs no
one else wants to have anything to do with such as
cleaning up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Sadly,
even the robots are having little success there.

Near and dear to my heart, the Japanese have
designed a robot that can play baseball. The robot
can throw 90 percent of its pitches in the strike zone
and when batting it can determine if pitches are
strikes or balls, it won’t swing at pitches outside the
strike zone! Having watched lots and lots and lots of
baseball this would be quite a good thing for parents
who have had to sit through the painful T-Ball years.
Wrong again, the ‘wearable’ augmented reality robot,
which is of course another wacky Japanese invention,
is designed to introduce sensation into internet
communications. Called the ‘iFeel_IM!’ this robot is
really a suit with sensors that will deliver sensations
to remote users who also wear a suit. So instead of
using emoticons :-), >< they could feel your warm
embrace, or the other.

So as we finalise our budgets for the year to come I
suggest we consider one or two bots, while they may
be expensive to start with, it is always best to take a
long term view. The good news is that if we don’t like
them, we can just pull the plug which is more than I
can say for real people.

The next generation of robot exploration is focusing
on human to robot interactions. In Japan there are
already robots that dispense drugs and sort out
injections to patients. Panasonic makes these bots
and will be marketing them to hospitals in the US
and Europe, they expect an annual revenue from this
robot and others to reach 30 billion yen in the next
financial year to 2016. No wonder the Japanese
government believes this is a good investment.

Despite all of this, I can understand that you still
may not be warm to the idea of a robot, you might
find them cold and insensitive, but actually they do
have models that deal with the most sensitive of
issues. Last month the 1.5 metre tall I-Fairy robot
with flashing eyes and plastic pigtails conducted a
marriage ceremony between Satoko Inoue and her
new husband Tomohiro Shibata. He is a professor
at Nara Institute of Science and Technology and she
works for Kokoro the maker of Gemoinide F. I think
the pigtail part is really romantic and the groom
said the robot was very good at expressing herself.

I suppose we should consider where the guy works
and who he was marrying, expectations might have
been different to yours or mine.
You still think you could never really get warm and
cosy with a robot? After all a robot can’t give you a
hug when you have had a bad day

Cole, Emmet; Humanoid Robots to Gain Advanced Social Skills; Wired
Magazine; February 12, 2010
Barras, Colin; Learning To Love To Hate Robots; Fast Company;
December 14, 2009
Eaton, Kit; LifeLike Geminoid F Robot Creepily Blurs Boundaries of Reality;
Fast Company; April 5, 2010
Eaton, Kit; Today’s Vision of Tomorrow: Tiny Robots Doing Your House
Chores; Fast Company; February 12, 2010
Measuring the Productivity Paradox, BLOGPOST HBR Ideacast featuring
Tony Schwartz author of The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working.
AusInnovate Conference at CeBIT – May 24, 2010 Sydney Convention
and Exhibition Centre; Case Study Presentation: Mining and Agriculture
– Automation and Remote Operations in the Primary Sector; Prof Hugh
Durrant-Whyte, Research Director, Australian Centre for Field Robotics.

Prohibition Culture April 27, 2012

Prohibition Culture – Issue 50

You have probably heard that the United States has
recently passed a new health care bill designed
to give many more Americans health insurance.
To quote the Vice President, Joe Biden, “it is a big
f&*king deal”. He made the mistake of saying that to
Barack Obama during a press conference when the
microphone was still on.

Many people here have asked me about the new bill,
the typical Aussie is understandably confused as to
why Americans would have their knickers in a knot
over an issue which would mean more people are
healthy. The reasons for this are deep historic and
cultural legacies, far too complicated for me to go
into here. The quick overly, simplistic explanation
is money, control and 308 million people with very
different world views.

One reason many Americans don’t want to contribute
to health care is that it means they will have to pitch
in for other people, who in their opinion, do not
deserve to be taken care of. Those fortunate enough
to have jobs don’t want to pay for those who are
unemployed. They believe they should just go get
a job and then they would have health insurance,
because in America you don’t buy your own private
health insurance like we do here, it is provided by
your employers unless they are crafty enough to
figure out a way to get around it, like hiring you as a
contractor, or part time employee.Oh yes and, gosh darn, no one has jobs these days, which puts a spanner into the whole system.

There is another reason.
People don’t like the idea of
having to pay for health care
for those who spend their day
eating Chicken McNuggets
and watching Oprah, smoking
cigarettes, drinking beer – or
any of those other lifestyle
choices people make that are
not good for them.

The amount of money spent per year on over
indulgence is staggering, it is no wonder that the US
and many governments around the globe are trying to
encourage better behaviour to try reduce the amount
of money they spend on ‘lifestyle cancers’, obesity,
damage from smoking and alcohol. In the UK obesity
could cost 6.3 billion pounds by 2015, in the US
obesity cost US taxpayers $147 billion a year in extra
medical expenses and in Australia we spend $21
billion a year on obesity.

Hospitals here are going to be hit with a deluge of
patients who suffer consequences and complications
typical of the obese and unfortunately the 25 to
35 age bracket are the ones putting on weight the
fastest – and men – so we will be taking care of them
for a very long time. Why men you ask? The majority
of Australian men are fat, 60% of Aussie blokes
have a body mass index over 30 which makes them
clinically overweight. That being said the typical
Australian male does not believe he is overweight,
they believe beer bellies are normal.

Professor Ian Caterson from the University of Sydney
says these misperceptions are deeply entrenched in
the Aussie culture. It is a similar cultural block that
Americans are now facing.

Those on the losing side of the US healthcare
debate are not taking it well. The ones that didn’t
want the Health Care bill to pass are spoil sports
and have decided to send those congress men and
women who voted for the bill a powerful message by
sending death threats and throwing bricks through
their windows. You see, Americans don’t like the
government or anyone else telling them what to do.

Particularly the dudes that live in remote wooded
areas and stockpile food, fatigues and firearms and
think blowing up child care centres in federal buildings
in Oklahoma City shows the government who’s boss.

There are plenty of those sorts around these days.
In fact since 2006 there has been an increase in new
extremist groups and activism across the USA, you
may have heard of the ‘Tea Party’? A special report
by the Center of Southern Poverty Law Centre titled
‘Rage on the Right the Year in Hate and Extremism’
reports an 80 % increase in hate crimes and 363 new
militia groups.

When asked why, the authors of the
report suggest it is due to the fact that for the first
time in the history of America the face of the federal
government is the face of a black man.

Also the demographic evolution of America means
the country will not be run by whites and that does
not go over well, particularly with those who still have
confederate flags hanging in their front yard.

What is interesting about these groups is despite data
or facts; they believe what they believe and therefore
are examples of what we have been talking about
in our discussions this past month on knowledge

People’s ability to receive information
is filtered through their experiences, context and
beliefs and that is why, despite obvious proof, 2/3
of Republicans in America think Barack Obama is
a socialist, 57% think he is a Muslim, 40% think he
was born in another country and not eligible to be
president, 38% believe he is doing the same things
Hitler did and 24% believe he may be the anti Christ.

If these people believe that Obama is the anti Christ,
you can see how difficult it would be to convince
them that it is in society’s best interest to have better
health care. Still it is a bit unnerving to encounter
people who choose to believe something even though
everything points to a different outcome.

Before you get too righteous, recognise that you probably do
things you shouldn’t even though there is research
that suggest it is not in your best interest. Do you
ever go a little over the speed limit? Do you have
more than two standard drinks a day?
Do you smoke even though we plaster the sides
of city busses with those nasty pictures of the

We believe what we want to believe, or we don’t care,
or we simply object to someone else telling us how to
live our life. After all who are they to tell us we can’t
drink and smoke, why should they be able to tell us
what to eat – if we want to turn into lard arses who
are they to stop us? Why should they care if we stay
up late, get pissed and yell F$*kyeah at 2:00 am?
Why can’t we use plastic bags at the grocery store?
We should be able to say what we want, water our
garden when we please, have guns and we should be
able to take pictures of naked little children and sell
them on the internet. It’s a free country for crying out

I am hoping I crossed the line for
most of you.

Living in society we are all familiar with and
accepting of the need to exchange some degree of
personal freedom for the good of others. Most of
us acknowledge that there are laws that protect us
from hurting, killing, or annoying one another. It is
when laws, or even popular belief, begin to overstep
perceived boundaries that we become uncomfortable.

The challenge this poses is we don’t all agree on
where the boundaries are and to be honest we all
have different boundaries. This is why the health care
debate is interesting, once you are picking up the tab
for someone else, you feel you should have a say in
how they live. Parents have been doing this to their
children for generations.

Chris Sanderson, the co-Founder of The Future
Laboratory, one of Europe’s leading trend, brand
and futures consultancies believes the boundaries
are shifting. He says “We have just had a decade of
consensus culture, in which excess was encouraged
at all levels, from spending to binge drinking to
luxury at its most vulgar.” As a result we are now
sick and tired of people misbehaving and plan to say
something about it, we are developing a Prohibition
Culture, where behaviour is being curbed, controlled
and monitored.

We see examples of this every day: the green bags
at the grocery, a shift towards smaller more fuel
efficient cars, disapproving glances for parents
who feed their tubby children pop and junk food. In
some places government has gone right to their
constituent’s pocketbook, in the UK people are paying
higher council rates if their homes are not energy
efficient and may soon pay higher road taxes if they
drive gas-guzzling cars.

In the US cities raise money by taxing junk food and
soft drinks at a higher rate and have banned smoking
in public places. Heck at East Village Community
School in Manhattan the weekly popcorn school
fund raisers have been attacked for violating the
new obesity focused regulations. Apparently they
are going to have them anyway as an act of culinary
disobedience – they will probably be arrested for
child abuse.

History has proven that using
laws to prohibit behaviour does
not always guarantee results.
In the 1920’s the US put restrictions on drinking
alcohol, Prohibition. Unforeseen consequences of that
idea include Al Capone, a rise in crime and drinking
moonshine, something much worse for your liver than
beer or wine. If you think Australia would never be so
foolish, think again.

We used to turn our noses to excess and that kept
everything in check, but our complacency has gotten
us into trouble so the tide is now turning.
We no longer feel sorry for people who bring bad
things on themselves, no compassion for poor Tiger
who got dropped by Accenture? The shareholders
of UBS and Royal Dutch Shell sure didn’t feel sorry
for the executives when they rejected their bonus
payments. And I don’t think that any of us will be
suggesting trophies be given to John Varley and
Robert E. Diamond, the chief executive and president
of Barclays who opted to give up their bonuses
in recognition of broad public anger over bank
executives taking large payouts while the country is
barely out of recession. Varley’s base salary was £1.1
million in 2008. Mr. Diamond’s salary was £250,000.

Forget about childless couples who smoke and want
fertility treatments, they don’t deserve to be parents.
No way are we paying for Claire Murray’s second liver
transplant when she is a heroin addict – don’t care
that she is 25 and has two small children. (Actually,
we did pay, she was given an interest free loan from
the state government in WA, but they wouldn’t do
the surgery here. She went to Singapore for the
transplant, but died in hospital due to complications.)

Prohibition culture has been creeping into the
workplace for a long time, we accept that we
can’t drink, smoke, gamble or make inappropriate
We had a temporary restriction bill that forced pubs
to close at 6pm, which resulted in something known
as the ‘six o’clock swill’ for obvious reasons. This
was a response to fears that Australia’s fighting men
would be too pissed to defeat Germany in the Great

Prohibiting drugs has had the same poor results.
Recently Barack Obama finally admitted that the 40
year ‘war on drugs’ initiated by Richard Nixon was
an “utter failure”. In Portugal all drugs have become
decriminalised, resulting in a fall in overall drug use
and in several Latin American countries and mainland
Europe similar drug reforms are in the works. In
Switzerland giving out free heroin has proven to be
successful, resulting in less begging, prostitution,
homelessness and burglary.

So why are we moving toward a prohibition culture?
American economics writer Paul Krugman believes
there is too little fear and outrage in society today,
as an example he cites us not being completely
outraged by disparity in income levels. Research
conducted by Australian National University in the
early 1990’s found a CEO in a top company earned
27 times more than the national average, ten years
later it was 98 times more! That is a pretty big gap
between have and have nots. We are starting to
become outraged now though, and this is a catalyst
for shifting social norms.

Now some companies want to
limit the type of food allowed in the microwave in the
workplace, but who gets to decide what smells good
and what doesn’t?

Then there are those that put in surveillance
cameras in the workplace, a client I took a brief from
recently claimed this was to create a safer working
environment for employees. They also monitor
emails. One area of workplace prohibition that makes
good sense is rigid safety rules and standards that
apply not only to those who work in dangerous
conditions, but also for executives and office workers
in the same company. It is smart, because it works
to create a culture and that is far more effective than
applying rules.

As companies try to grapple with the “new normal”
a term coined by Ian Davis McKinsey Worldwide
Managing Director, there will continue to be a greater
push toward accountability. For most organisations
today, there is very little that goes on without
scrutiny, especially if it has to do with spending. It is
not surprising given the hard times we have had in the
past 18 months; companies need to run efficiently
and productively to keep their head above water.
This could also be a rebound from the loose, casual
working styles we have seen in the past few years.

There is bound to be some backlash given the
outcomes of the past year. Some would argue that
when there are no rules, someone will take advantage
of situation. Still, you do have to question whether
rules and punitive actions have any impact on
evolving culture. Changing our collective culture is
the goal of ‘Prohibition Culture’. The intent is to slowly
change our beliefs so that undesirable behavours and
activities become less tolerable, even repulsive.

We are not immune, it happens at Geyer too.
We spend plenty of time talking about how to make
people do their timesheets, mark up WIPs and pick up
their printing from the photocopier to name a few.
We have had some success, but still have a way to
go and as you all know, those things cost us money.
Money that is coming out of yours and my pocket.

Enough already, I say; we need to turbo charge the
culture by applying punitive actions to those who
offend. My suggestion is that timesheet offenders
should be made to clean out the refrigerator and
microwave once a month, those that don’t do their
WIP mark ups are assigned to plan the Christmas
party and for those who waste our money by not
gathering their copies – maybe we make them host
the Christmas party at their house.

That’ll teach em.

Associated Press, A Look at the Healthcare Overhall; The Age
March 21, 2010
Corderoy, Amy; Deluge of Obese Patients Puts Hospitals on Alert;
The Age March 21, 2010
The Future Laboratory – 2010 Australia Trend Briefing Dossier
Harden, Michael; Let’s Drink to Sobriety. Or Not; The Brisbane
Times December 1, 2009
McCamish Thornton; Whatever Happened to the Classless
Society?; The Age August 16 2009
McClean, Tamara; Men Overweight and Oblivious: Study: The
Brisbane Times April 10, 2008
Middendorp, Chris; Drug Prohibition Doesn’t Work – So What Do
We Do Next? The Age January 7, 2010
NPR Fresh Air Podcast – WHYY; When Right-wing Extremism
Moves Mainstream; March 25, 2010
Otterman, Sharon; Popcorn Fridays? Meet Trayless Tuesdays; The
New York Times, March 9, 2010
Overweight and Obesity – Australian Social Trends 2007
Australian Bureau of Statistics
Rose, Danny; Deny IVF Aid to Smokers, Obese; The Age
October 26, 2009
Stark, Jill; Huge Risk in Obese Mums to Be; The Age
November 16, 2008
Werdigier, Julia; Top Two Barclays Executives Forgo Bonuses for
a Second Year in a Row The New York Times; Fevruary 16, 2010

Almost 30 Years in the Design Industry – March 29, 2010

Thirty Years – issue 49

My son spent his Uni Christmas break in America.
After living in Australia for the past six and a half
years he felt the need to reconnect with family and
friends, no doubt hoping to discover a long lost
relative with money looking for some kid to will it to.
He returned penniless, but did spend quality time
with my brothers who, bless their hearts, gave him a
fetching picture of me in my youth that has provided
hours of family entertainment.

In the photo, I wore a blousy red top, pleated teal
coloured pants cinched at the waist and tapered at
the ankles. Topping off the look my hair had been cut
in a Ziggie Stardust genre mullet that I would suggest
was quite cool and should not be confused with the
business up front party in the back mullets popular
with suburban bogans.

I told this story to some of the young lads in
Singapore and demonstrating the sensitive emotional
intelligence so popular with young people these days
they pointed out that they were one year old when
the photo was taken. There is nothing like a cold
slap in the face to make one realise that time has
indeed passed and as much as I would like to avoid
the reality, the fact is I have been around for a while
and consequently have been in the design industry
since smart arsed guys like Ray and Stirling were in

At the time this all happened I was conversing with a
PHD candidate in Sydney, he has been investigating
changes in the design industry. These two events,
PHD guy and young smart arsed guys, have led me
to the topic of this months Rambling, a retrospective
of what is painfully close to three decades in the
design industry.

The 80’s
In the early 80’s the world was not a happy place.
There was a recession, conservative politicians like
Reagan and Thatcher were dominating, people were
starving in Ethiopia, and the Soviets were at war
with Afghanistan, the US was invading Grenada and
bombing Libya, Saddam Hussien was gassing the
Kurds, Argentina invaded the Falklands and the Arab
Israeli conflict was beginning.
The good news was that the Cold
War ended providing the impetus
for the fall of the Berlin Wall.
I received my degree in architecture and moved back
to my home town of Chicago with the expectation
of working for a famous architectural practice
designing big buildings. The week I arrived firms like
SOM, Perkins & Will and Holabird and Root had laid
off hundreds of architects leaving my chances of
employment in the slim to none category.
I did what many of my fellow architects did and got a
job doing corporate interior design.

Back then we didn’t have computers, everyone had a
drafting board and men wore ties to work. You could
spot the designers going home on the train by their
ties stuck into the space between the buttons of their
shirt, something they did to avoid catching them in
their mayline. Not only were there drawing boards,
many had ashtrays on them because in the good old
days you could not only smoke at work, but could
also make politically incorrect comments to your
hearts content.

The interior design work of the decade could best
be described as excessive. Clients thought of us as
trophies and were boastful of our extravagances.
The objectification had the benefit of eliminating the
need to justify our choices, clients did what we told
them to do, which in some instances was tantamount
to a 2 year old dummy spit – “I want that Jack Lenor
Larsen fabric on that Donghia chair and you said I
could have it”.

Workspaces were extremely customised to their
users and space allocation was definitely an indication
of ones rank in the organisation, to the extent that
some clients (mostly legal) would measure the size
of their office and insist on a wall being moved if they
discovered the area of their office was smaller than
that of a colleague.

Open office environments mimicked the enclosed
environment; this is why systems like Knoll’s
Ethospace with its chunky architectural proportions
were so popular, for they resembled built walls rather
than flimsy cubicles. The work environment’s menu
consisted of office space, conference rooms and
reception, and while there were places where one
could go to get a cup of coffee, they were secondary,
with their design relegated to the office junior as an
after thought.

Sensitivity to environmentalism did not exist; in fact
using exotic veneers from endangered species was
testament to ones exclusivity. It was not uncommon
for designers to travel the globe to select stone or
wood for a project, I spent a whole week in Germany
hand selecting flitches of Karelian Birch Burl for a law
firm we designed! It is now embarrassing to say we
were proud of the fact that our Leo Burnett project
depleted the Australian Lace Wood resources.

By the end of decade everyone became more aware
of the frailty of our world, due in part to a toxic gas
leak at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal India and the
nuclear meltdown in Chernobyl.

The 80’s were a time for working hard and playing
hard, designers would work long hours, party hard
and dance all night to The Clash, Billy Idol and Prince
before he became the artist formally known as
Prince. We were not the only ones, drugs in particular
cocaine, were en vogue and it was such a concern
that the War on Drugs began in the US, even the
presidents wife got into it by delivering the sage
advice of “just say no”.

My Mom used to tell us when we were kids “you
damm kids are going to keep fooling around and
fooling around and fooling around and then someone
is going to get hurt”. She was right, by the end of
the 80’s our fooling around got the better of us when
the AIDS epidemic hit. There is nothing like attending
funerals for guys under 30 to sober you up and sadly
working in the design industry meant there were
almost as many funerals at work as there have been
Geyer babies.

The 90’s

The last decade of the 20th century brought a better
standard of living for many. Personal income doubled
and the NYSE hit 10,000. Since many of us had
settled down with 2.4 children, a station wagon and
house in the suburbs that was a good thing. We could
enjoy our evenings watching Baywatch on TV and
listened to Oasis or the Counting Crows, unless you
were in Seattle and into grunge then you would listen
to Nirvana, or if you lived in the hood you would be
listening to The Prodigy sing ‘Smack My Bitches Up”.

Despite the good times it wasn’t all sunshine and
rainbows, there were still wars in the Gulf, Congo,
Kosovo, Chechnya and Yugoslavia, the latter giving us
the term ethnic cleansing.

There were events that eroded
our foundations of safety and
freedom: the Oklahoma City
bombings, Columbine High
School and barely stopping the
first major terrorist attack in the
US when Al-Qaeda attempted to
bomb LAX.

Great design was prevalent, Aldo Rossi, Tadao Ando
and Renzo Piano were a few to get Pritzkers in the
90s and Phillip Stark was designing spatulas and
toilet brushes for Target that we could afford. The
mullet was gone, Jennifer Aniston hair was in and
what I believe to be one of the defining inventions
of our lifetime, the Wonderbra, made its first

The world of office design matured resulting in an
explosion of thinking. Michael Brill, BOSTI’s founder
wrote about how the workplace affects work
behaviours and outcomes. Franklin Becker from
Cornell began the International Workplace Studies
Program that explores how innovative workplace
strategies and the ecology of new ways of working
can enhance the triple bottom line and finally Francis
Duffy (the D in DEGW) wrote “The New Office”

Our focus began to shift from making something
pretty to something that impacted the bottom line.
As designers we learned the word ‘churn’ and began
to create solutions that would enable space to be
quickly reconfigured, we channelled fundamental
mathematics and applied the rules of common
denominators to workplace design e.g. junior guy
gets one square, supervisor gets one and a half, and
senior guy gets two squares.

I never smoked at work so losing the privilege of
smoking in the office had little impact, what was
sad to see go was being politically incorrect. At
Gensler everyone in the office had to take a half day
course designed to wean us off of the inappropriate
statements that had provided us all with years of
workplace entertainment.

Suddenly we learned that everything we talked about
was inappropriate, no more comment on clothing
and appearance or who was stuping who. Imagine
that – designers not commenting on shoes, hair and

Two events that occurred in the 90’s would impact
us as designers more than we realised. The first
was The World Health Organisation removing
homosexuality from its list of diseases. This meant
gay people could settle down with dogs, kids and
station wagons and be as boring as the rest of us.

The second was a little thing that happened at CERN,
the pan European organisation for particle research,
they published a report on their World Wide Web

Systems furniture manufacturers got into the game
too, Haworth designed the Race system that enabled
off module mounting. This meant the configuration
of worksettings on one side of a spine could change
without those on the other side changing.
concept of ‘universal plan’ came to the fore, we
recommended everyone get the same size office
or work setting to allow people to move rather than
work settings.

From an environmental standpoint we were better,
but nowhere near enlightened. The concept of
sustainable timbers came into play, which threw
the rainforests a bone; but we still used noxious
adhesives and chemicals to assemble joinery and
furniture. Pioneering companies like Interface began
thinking about how they would recycle their products,
which forged a path for others to follow.

In the late 90’s I lived in San Francisco and Seattle,
the industries we worked with in those geographies
set a tone for what was to be adopted by others
in the decade to follow. This was to be a slob at
work. Bikes, dogs and executives wearing jeans and
tee shirts were common; designers were always
overdressed because none of us would have been
caught dead mowing our lawn in what some of those
guys wore to work. By the end of the decade even
the lawyers were casual.

The 00’s
We didn’t get bit by the Y2K bug, but the changes in
the past decade have been massive for our personal
and work lives. The world continues to be a violent
place with the War on Terror being played out in
Afghanistan and Iraq, Somali Civil Wars, Mexican Drug
Wars and the never ending Arab – Israeli conflict. As
horrible as these are, they have not had the unsettling
impact on our collective psych as of terrorist attacks
in New York, Bali, Madrid, London and Mumbai.

Our sense of security was rocked and the result for
us as designers has been a greater appreciation for
security in workplace design.
Personally, the heightened
security meant less privacy; you
could forget hijinks in the office,
heck we now even have to be
careful about adjusting outfits
and picking our lunch out of our
teeth in the lift for fear of being

Without a doubt technology has made the biggest
impact. The iPod, wireless connectivity, social
networking, virtual worlds and on-line media have
changed the way we live, work and experience the
Most importantly, we encourage movement and want
to empower our people rather than strong arm them
into submission.

We now have a workplaces with users that represent
all generations, coming from a wide range of ethnic
backgrounds. They bring new customs, expectations
and culture to our workplace. This has resulted in
people with ear buds in their ears and others with
hearing aids.

Offices feature break out areas that
resemble trendy night clubs with the best technology
money can buy; they are definitely not designed
by the office junior! Within the environment we now
provide quiet rooms that can be used for focus, rest,
or prayer. Heck, in the 80s if you had said we would
be putting prayer rooms into work environments we
would have laughed so hard we would have blown the
coke off the mirror and spilled our scotch.

Architects like Rem Koolhaas, Herzon & DeMeuron
and Zaha Hadid were all Pritzker prize winners in
the 00s, they have done work that reflects greater
community awareness and demonstrates the impact
of new technologies on design.

In a decade ripe
with man made and natural disasters like hurricane
Katrina and The Boxing Day Tsunami, architects and
designers are far more generous with their time and
money and projects are often considered in a broader
social context.

This explosion has delivered a new language that
permeates society with words like: dotcom, web 2.0,
Second Life, YouTube, iTunes and Wikipedia.
Our ability to connect with anyone in the world has
opened doors and given us the ability to go to new
sources for inspiration without leaving our desk.

Designers now have the ability to connect with 67
friends through Facebook when they are meant to be
working; if that is not inspiring enough there is the
option to watch YouTube videos like Where The Hell
is Matt or Dancing Baby. Designers on Twitter can be
continuously connected with colleagues to exchange
valuable information such as: Going to lunch now,
can I borrow five dollars? With so much inspiration
one wonders how anything gets done.

The landscape of the 00s offices look very different
to those of previous decades. There are low, or no
screen dividers on work settings and desks are on
wheels. We have recognised the value of providing
variety within our work environment and have given up
the notion of designing a desk or office that supports
the wide range of tasks any worker engages in during
the day. The concept of the ‘third place’ crept in
to our workplace lexicon as we realised that work
happened at home, at work and at Starbucks.

We can credit Al Gore with bringing environmentalism
to the front burner for the everyman with his film An
Inconvenient Truth. Now there is not a designer who
is not aware of Greenstar, NABERs and GECA. At
home we have water tanks and solar panels, we put
our groceries in green bags and some flush the loo
with leftover shower water.

We are much more critical
of what others do these days, we are sick and tired
of a small part of the population ruining it for the rest
of us.

Collaboration was a watchword for the past decade
for our clients and ourselves. We often partnered
with other designers, where in the past we would
have more likely clawed them to death if we were in
the same room.

In the office we were positive and
pleasant to one another, generation Y and a talent
shortage taught us to hold our tongues for fear of
offending others. In the noughts you would never talk
to your colleagues like my old boss Mel used to talk
to us “What is this s%^t, this is butt ugly, I could get
monkeys in here who could do a better design than

Was the last decade as fun as the previous ones?
Well it’s different that’s for sure. Those of us who have
been in the game for a while can’t see, we can’t hear,
we can’t use our computers and our feet hurt.
We would like to go out but we can’t because we
have to take care of our parents and our kids.

Our gay friends are not any frisker, they too are married
with kids and dogs and mortgages and would love to
go out and whoop it up, but its too damm loud and
too damm crowded and do you know what a martini
costs these days? It’s better to just stay home and
watch So You Think You Can Dance, Biggest Loser or
Masterchef and get a dose of the real world without
leaving home.

Macken, Deirdre; The Noughties: How We Have Changed;
The Australian Financial Review, December 5 & 6, 2009

Good Karma – March 22, 2010

Good Karma – Issue 48

Many of you know that I recently spent a week in
Port Macquarie at a yoga teacher training session,
during the week we practiced yoga, learned about
yoga, chanted, meditated, had our palm read and
ate vegan food. Although don’t tell anyone, I couldn’t
stomach the millet balls and spit them into my napkin.
When I returned to Sydney I got sick and had to
take two days off work, obviously the sacred vessel
that is my body craves preservatives to maintain
the fine balance I have become accustom to.

Since I don’t have aspirations to become a yoga teacher,
people wondered why I decided to do this and some
concluded it was the latent hippy in me coming
to the surface. Really I just wanted to have a new
experience, meet new people and learn more about
something I love. I thought I was unique, but later
learned I am one of a growing population following
the Potentialist movement.

According to Mark McCrindle
from the Future Laboratory
and McCrindle Research,
“Potentialists are the one in five
Australians who demonstrate a
clear ambition to live a rounder
life – one that mixes traditional
career success with a refreshing
appetite for new experiences.

They are looking to make more of what they have,
rather than always wanting more and display an
optimistic attitude that has previously been most
associated with Generation Y.” Having gotten even
older I never pass up a chance for vicarious youth, so
associating me with Gen Y is right up my alley.

Of course one of the reasons being a Potentialist is
so popular today is that we all learned to live a little
differently during the GFC, we worked fewer hours,
had less pay. Some poor sods had no pay at all.

We saw opportunities in having more time to do the
things we really enjoy and this has brought many to
an interesting fork in the road. Now that the economy
is picking up, there are a lot of people out there who
have no desire to go back to work, or at least not the
way they were working before the GFC came to town.

They are now used to eating baked bean sandwiches,
shopping at Kmart and not waxing and see no reason
to return to the excesses of the past.
The conundrum for employers, who have been
anxiously awaiting the full up -swing of the economy
to erase the nasty red marks they have on their
books, is they want to return to business as usual
ASAP, but their employees are not really interested.
Such is the cycle of boom and bust.

There is a recession, people find other things to do,
times get busy again and there is no one left to do
the work, those left behind get overworked so when
the next recession hits they figure there has got to be
a better way.

In the 1992 recession architecture and design
companies didn’t give a squat about losing people
because they figured there would be a healthy supply
of workers when the economy returned to normal.
What they were shocked to discover was mid level
architects and designers got sick of being laid off and
left the profession to find more suitable, predictable
work like driving taxi’s and selling bricks.

When the economy picked up the profession was left with very
senior people and newbies to deliver projects. This is
partly why companies today have approached their
recession resourcing with a bit more intelligence and
forethought; exploring reduced salaries and shorter
workweeks rather than lose the people they have not
only nurtured, but know they will need.

Thinking about these cycles of boom and bust
brings me back to the topic of yoga, you may think
this tangent is a bit far removed, but hang with
me. Specifically I would like to bring the concept of
karma into this discussion. Karma in Sanskrit means
act or deed, in the ancient Indian philosophies of
the Buddhist, Hindu, Jain and Sikhs, Karma is more
broadly defined as the universal principle of cause
and effect, action and reaction that governs all life.
According to Paramhans Swami Maheshwarananda,
we produce Karma in four ways:
_through thoughts
_through words
_through actions that we perform ourselves
_through actions others do under our instructions

Karma is not fate, for humans act with free will
creating their own destiny. According to the Vedas,
the oldest scripture of Hinduism, if we sow goodness,
we will reap goodness; if we sow evil, we will reap
evil. To believers, all living things, from whales, to
humans, to the sweet cockroaches we have here in
Sydney, have souls and all souls are equal.

If you go stomping your way through the average day, you’re
bound to end up injuring something. And if you injure
something, you injure everything, including yourself.This is how karma works. So it pays to move with care.

So I see the way we have approached this recession
as one that will produce better results, because
we did better deeds, had greater compassion and
thought ahead to what was going to happen next. Of
course to get back on our feet again we will not be
able to rely solely on good corporate karma, we will
need luck as well and according to Richard Wiseman
it is possible to make your own luck.

Wiseman heads the psychology research department
at the University of Hertfordshire in England.
Wiseman has been studying luck for the past eight
years and has done thousands of interviews and
experiments to determine what makes some people
lucky and others not. He believes it isn’t due to
karma, or coincidence. Instead, lucky folks, without
even knowing it, think and behave in ways that create
good fortune in their lives. If you’re interested you can
attend Wisemans Luck School to learn techniques to
improve your luck.

Some of the techniques you might learn. First
be open to possibilities and willing to take risks,
change your perspective so you can identify those
possibilities that are right in front of you. Lucky
people see things differently and listen to their gut
feelings and intuition, also a lucky person will work
on having the headspace to interpret those feelings.
One of the ways a person can get this headspace
is through meditation and yoga! A lucky person
expects luck to happen, so it becomes a self fulfilling
prophecy. Finally, a lucky person will change bad luck
to good by focusing on what is good rather than what
is bad and identifying clever ways to turn the tables
to be more favorable for them.

Over the years I have thought a lot about business
karma and have a philosophy that what goes around
comes around. I believe if we do right by others someone will do
right by us. Throughout my career I have observed
that people who are jerks eventually fall on their
own sword, there is no need to make a voodoo doll
or wish bad ju ju on them, it just happens. It’s the
circle of life. Of course sometimes it takes a while,
but eventually people who are jerks get it in the end
and when that happens I feel a sense of satisfaction
knowing there is an order to the world.

Of course bad
things do happen to good people, never the less,
when I see evidence of the cause and effect of bad
karma it makes me happy. For example in the past year we worked with
someone who was dismissive, inconsiderate and in
my mind lacked professional integrity. Guess what,
they got fired and I say yahoo – its karma.

Last year I wrote a Rambling called Mean People Suck, even
though it took a while, the person who inspired that
article also lost their job, again I say yahoo – its
karma. Then there are the plethora of people who
find it is necessary to scare or intimidate the pants
off others to get results, or make themselves feel
important by diminishing someone else worth. For all
of them I live in hope that they too will get theirs and I
will shout to the heavens YAHOO IT’S KARMA.

As luck would have it, you can change your luck and
since you are all persons with free will, you can also
change your karma by doing the right things at the
right time. Through positive actions, pure thoughts,
prayer, mantra and meditation, we can resolve the
influence of the karma in present life and change
our destiny for the better. As humans, we have the
opportunity to speed up our spiritual progress with
practice of good Karma, we only produce bad karma
because we lack knowledge and clarity e.g. we are

Since we are ending one year and will begin another soon, I thought the timing was right to consider what we might do right now to make the next year even better. We can change our luck and karma too. A good start would be basic human consideration: a thank you to someone who has
helped even if it is their job, a nod of credit where it is due and
respectfulness to everyone not just those more senior.

There is no reason to be a jerk particularly those we
work with. I know it is very easy to unintentionally hurt
someone’s feelings with no malice or ill will intended,
but having an awareness of others can at the very
least give us a better understanding of the impact we
have when we do transgress into jerkdom.

Albert Einstein said “Our task must be to free
ourselves from this prison of selfishness by widening
our circle of compassion to embrace all living
creatures and the whole nature of its beauty.
Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the
motivation for such achievements is in itself part of
the liberation”

Cotter, Holland; Compassionate Masters of the
Universe; The New York Times, November 13, 2009
Des Jardins, Jory; Strong Business Growth Indicators:
Revenue, Retention, and Karma; Fast Company
Magazine, January 2, 2007
Lee, David; Lucky Charms Might Be the Reason Why
Some People Have All the Luck , Fast Company
Magazine, August 3, 2009
Pink, Daniel H; How to Make Your Own Luck, Fast
Company Magazine, December 19, 2007
Smith, Fiona, One Job or Two and Have Time for
Both, The Australian Financial Review, November 24,

Losing My Religion – February 8, 2010

Losing My Religion – Issue 47

That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion

Some of you may be old enough to recognise this as a part of the second verse of the song; ‘Losing my religion’ by the American alternative rock band REM, it was quite popular back when I was a girl in 1991, you may have heard your parents listening to it while you were sitting in front of the telly eating Weet-Bix and watching Bananas in Pyjamas.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about losing religion, not participation in organised religion, gad zooks do you think I am dumb enough to get into that topic! No, I am talking about losing touch with the system of human thought, beliefs and practices that we personally buy into which give our lives meaning. These beliefs and rituals connect us and serve as a reminder that we are part of something else,
they provide meaning and purpose and help us to stay motivated.

Whether it is a steadfast belief ina doctrine, or faithfully watching every episode of Masterchef, we become a part of a group of followers
and this provides a necessary sense of belonging. If you close your eyes and allow yourself to think laterally, you can draw the same analogies for work.

We join a company, drink the Kool-Aid and from there on in believe
what we are doing is the right thing, the most noble thing and in
our minds we are convinced that the goods and services we deliver
are better than anyone else’s. We love what we do, think our boss and clients are the best and every day when we go to work we are
filled with a satisfying sense of purpose.

You might not subscribe to this, but some believe that each
individual is born with a reason for being and that life is a journey of discovering your unique purpose.These days it seems there are a lot of people who have lost their sense of purpose or motivation – they
have lost their religion. You hear the not so subtle phrase “I’m over it” quite often now; good indications that for a lot of people the honeymoon with theirprofessional lives may have come to an end. Of
course it could be the opposite and be a good sign, particularly if their focus has moved to something else that brings them joy: partners, health, children or community.

Unfortunately, for many this shift is not positive, but an indication that they no longer have faith in their employer or profession.
Recently I was exposed to a person who was new to their job. I observed first hand a negative shift from seeing them over the top enthused: believing in the company, what it stood for, the vision of its leaders,
to being utterly disillusioned at the gap they saw between what their employers said they would do and what they were actually doing. You can read the disappointment on their face; it’s similar to a kid who
has just discovered that Santa Claus is not real.

The feelings go deeper than simple disappointment, this person is angry as hell. They think they have been lied to, they think the CEO lacks integrity and they believe the direction the company is headed is different to the one they signed on for. It isn’t surprising that people feel disillusioned today; there are many companies and entire countries
for that matter that are cutting back.

As a result of practicing a sink or swim method of survival,they find themselves in the position of needing to behave contrary to their values just to survive. As an example, a year and a half ago companies we
worked with were concerned about the environment, corporate social responsibility and value for money.

Now many live in a perpetual dog eat dog state of existence, they have abandoned the warm fuzzy feelings for the environment, reputation and people and are simply focusing on getting what they can as
cheap and as fast as possible. For the design profession it has been particularly challenging time, trying to sell high value design at a
reasonable and fair price today is like selling ice to

I can’t say this surprises me; companies are not in business to make people feel good, unless those people happen to be their shareholders. It is only natural that organisations will readjust their sites
in times like these, but what does that mean to the people who work for the company, those who have bought into the company doctrine?

There are a lot of people who will blindly follow the new order laid down by leadership, they will adjust their stories and an expectation to believe what they are doing is necessary for today’s conditions. Some
people find it easy to go with the flow. For others, the new stories will be unacceptable and will represent too large a departure between what they thought they were getting and what they actually got. For them,
the new story will be an enormous let down and may leave them searching for clues as to how they fit into the company they work for.

In extreme cases it may leave them searching for a new job. If the results of the most recent Edelman Trust Barometer are any indication, Australian businesses are not fooling anyone, especially their employees.
The Trust Barometer surveys 4500 high-income, tertiary-educated people in 20 countries. This year the Barometer found three quarters of Australians surveyed trust companies less today than they did a
year ago and only 43% trust companies to do what is right. Interestingly, we trust the government more –56%. This gap between trust in government and trust in business was the highest in the developed world!

When it comes to faith in CEOs Australians have even less of it. Only 19% of those surveyed had faith in CEO’s of our major companies and 81% want the government to intervene to regulate industry or nationalise companies to restore public trust. In some industries the numbers are even higher; not surprising, 84% favor stricter regulations and limits
on the finance and banking sector.

So what is a person or business to do when they have lost their religion, how can trust be rebuilt and for business, how do you
manage a future where there will be increased scrutiny from the government, stakeholders and the public?

According to the Edelman data, at the company level a shift in operations and communication will need to occur. This shift must be toward greater public engagement and they suggest public engagement
comes in four ways:
_Business taking responsibility for developing
solutions to global problems
_Companies integrating products and services into
societal problems such as climate change
_Sharing sacrifice such as voluntary executive pay
_Delivering fast accountable communication

It is interesting to note that 60% of respondents said they need to hear information about a company three to five times before they will believe it, and fewer than one in ten Australians trust corporate advertising.
What they do believe is company information that comes from someone who works for the company, which is all the more reason it is so damaging to an organisation when people become disengaged.

Going back to the person I know, I can guarantee you she is not sending positive messages about the company she works for, or their product!
So if greater engagement helps a company regain trust, how do individuals do the same? What can we do to get our mojo back?

Richard Leider from The Inventure Group, a Minneapolis based training firm who does coaching and executive programs, suggests you ask yourself
these questions: What do you want? And how will you know when you get it?
He believes that we all have our own solutions; we just don’t know how to discover them or are avoiding that discovery. He goes on to say that to rediscover our power of purpose we must feed our three hungers.

Those hungers are first to connect deeply with the creative spirit of life, second is to know and express your gifts and talents and the third is to know that our lives matter. We can be successful, make money, reach a particular status, but until we feed our three hungers it will be success without fulfillment.

So let’s say you ask yourself those questions and honestly discover your hungers are not being fed? How do you know when it is time to pull the plug? Leider suggest we use the following formula T + P + E x V.
They suggested they would have done something that really gave them purpose or fulfillment, something that contributed to life and adding value to life beyond themselves. They felt that purpose is outside of you, beyond ego or financial self interest.

This is pretty heady advice, for those of us looking more for a quick fix you could try doing what author Beth Lisogorsky does when she loses her motivation. First she looks for assistance from chemical stimuli
like caffeine or Skittles, if that doesn’t work she walks around naked. Unless you are very young and cute this is probably something you should not try in the office, even then it is a risk probably not worth taking.

Perhaps Leider’s formula is a better option. Having personally lost and gained my mojo many times the advice I can offer is that it is really easy to expect others to motivate you, it is equally easy to blame others for a lack of motivation. You can be certain that at any given time, I have blamed each and every one of you for my lack of motivation, even you guys in Singapore who just started at Geyer last
week – it’s your fault.

Unfortunately, I have learned this gets me nowhere, looking outside of oneself isn’t the answer. T stands for talent, know your strengths and
weaknesses. Most people don’t use their talents, they didn’t choose their careers they just happened on them and for this reason they may not be tapping into their real calling. P stands for purpose or passion, talents develop where there is interest. E stands for environment, what suits your style and temperament, can you express who you really are in
your work environment? Last is V, representing vision – how do you see therest of your life and how does your work fit into it?

Finally, Leider also interviewed senior citizens about their working careers; what he learned was that without exception, if they had it all to do over again, they would be more reflective so as not to lose sight
of the meaning of what they were doing. Looking back, they wished they had been able to focus on the big picture and also wished they
had taken more risks, been more courageous. Unfortunately, at the end of their careers they felt they still had something to give that was never called upon.

Sometimes we just need to give ourselves a good swift kick in
the arse to gain perspective and realise that we are very fortunate.
You could be a Tamil, now that the war is over they still can’t get back on track. The Tamil people feel insecure, mistreated and alienated. They are under constant suspicion and harassed and that is why guys
like Vilvarajah, a 48 year old Sri Lankan Tamil is going to get on a boat with his wife and three kids and risk all of their lives to try to make it to Christmas Island.

When he gets there here he is really hoping K Rudd will let him in.

So for those of us who are over it, wondering what our purpose is, think about Vilvarajah and feel happy for all of the great things we have, let that be your motivation to get your groove back. Remember that
as human beings we have tremendous resolve, we lick our wounds, pick ourselves up and keep going and whether it is going across an ocean for a betterlife or simply tapping back into what gives us joy, it
can be done.

Going back to REM, I think the song is about – trying again, doing a little bit more even though you think it might not be enough.You give it one more go.

“Losing My Religion”
Life is bigger
It’s bigger than you
And you are not me
The lengths that I will go to
The distance in your eyes
Oh no I’ve said too much
I set it up
That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough
I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try
Every whisper
Of every waking hour I’m
Choosing my confessions
Trying to keep an eye on you
Like a hurt lost and blinded fool
Oh no I’ve said too much
I set it up
Consider this
The hint of the century
Consider this
The slip that brought me
To my knees failed
What if all these fantasies
Come flailing around
Now I’ve said too much
I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try
But that was just a dream
That was just a dream

Berglas, Steven; How to Keep A Players Productive; The Harvard
Business Journal

Ellick, Adam B. A Family’s Journey and a Girl’s Dream, The New
York Times, October 11, 2009

Author unknown; Risky Boat Beats Hell on Earth; The Sydney
Morning Herald, October 24, 2009

Lisogorsky, Beth; Keeping Motivated, Fast Company, July 11,

Little, Amanda; Restoring the Faith; The Age, February 24, 2009
Webber, Alan M; Are You Deciding on Purpose, Fast Company

I had an experience with a client the other day that brought back memories of my kids when they were very young. I was reminded of the sad, forlorn look they would get on their face when they counted up the money they had in their pocket and realized it wasn’t enough to buy what they wanted. It’s quite heartbreaking, because as a parent you know it is not always appropriate to make up the difference, it is our job to teach our children that they can’t always get what they want and to help them make choices and weigh the consequences of those choices.

I am not drawing the analogy between children and said client to imply they are simple, on the contrary they are quite sophisticated. It is just for them, the nuances of pricing a fitout can seem as challenging as counting change is to a kid. The only similarity between the two really, is in the disappointment. What brought our client to a feeling of despair was their IT budget. They came to the sad realization that a sizeable portion of the budge would be allocated to equipment and wires in the walls and above the ceiling, leaving a paultry smidgen left to purchase all of the groovy things they had been dreaming about. The sad part is, these guys are tech savvy, but still they were confused.

You could argue that technology companies should have a better grasp of what these things cost, but in reality technology is such a moving target that it can even stump the gurus. Take NASA, if anyone is at the forefront of technology it’s the rocket men, but even they are in a world of hurt around their budget. They are in so much trouble that they have been called into the ‘big mans’ office, to explain how they are going to accomplish the task they were given by the Bush administration of returning to the moon by 2020.

It’s a tricky situation, the space shuttle is being decommissioned in September 2010 and the new Ares l rocket that will replace it is not only over budget, but not scheduled for completion till 2015. That leaves NASA five years of catching rides on Russian Soyuz space ships, at a cost of $50 million a seat, to transport vital supplies of toilet paper and vodka to the astronauts on the International Space Station. By 2016 the plan is to trash the ISS and the Ares V rocket, a heavy lift – lunar landing version of the Ares l, will take men to the moon and create settlements. If we keep on our current trajectory the timing should just about coincide with us destroying the better parts of Earth.

Wanting to get the full picture of the budget blowout, President Obama assembled a special panel to review just how bad the situation really was. They found it will most likely cost an extra $3 billion per year for NASA to achieve an expansion in human spaceflight. The Ares rocket’s cost has spiralled from $28 billion in 2006 to over $40 billion. The conclusion is that at present financing levels, about $100 billion for human spaceflight in the decade from 2010 to 2020, the current program was, in the panel’s words, “not executable.” And we are whining about not being able to afford a few plasma screens in the break out area!

As a competent team should, they have developed a number of options for Obama to consider. The first is to increase the money for the human space program to at least $130 billion over the next decade, that one went over like a turd in a punchbowl. A second option is to bypass landing on the Moon and focus on long-duration space flights to Mars or an asteroid, maybe just go cruising around the solar system. They have also considered cancelling the Constellation program all together – Constellation is the name for NASA’s plan to develop spacecraft and booster vehicles that will replace the shuttle including the Ares rocket. A final option being considered is to outsource to a private companies like Virgin Galactic or SpaceX, who already have contracts with the US government to transport cargo.

As designers we can surely sympathysise with the guys at NASA, which one of us could claim we have never exceeded our budget, particularly when it wasn’t set high enough in the first place? There have no doubt been cost overruns, but let us not forget it was GW Bush who set the budget in the first place and we all know his english skills were lacking, one can only assume his abilities in maths were the same. Also, as is the case with many of our clients, priorities have changed along the way.

As an indicaiton, during the 1960s, NASA commanded an army of 400,000 people who were in charge of designing and building Apollo– three times the number of Americans deployed in Iraq in 2007. Today, at Lockheed Martin, there are 1,600 people working on Constellation supported by another 600 at NASA. Overall, Constellation uses fewer than 5% of the number of people Apollo did. While Obama is said to support the desire to go back to the moon by 2020, he doesn’t have the space passion that JFK had and who can blame him with the economy, Afganastan, the environment and the American health care system to worry about.
Whether it’s space ships or giving up offices in your fitout, if the leader’s not engaged you might as well forget it.

The new passenger spaceship that is part of Constellation, called Orion, is no Ferrari either. Skip Hatfield the project manager at NASA describes it as more like a minivan, a vehicle to go to the shops in. They hope Orion will be reliable, functional and thoughtfully designed – more about utility than glamour. They are going to splurge on an onboard computer thank God. This is to house the FDFs, those are paper files, yes you read that right paper files, that script ever procedure. The FDFs must go into space with the astronauts so for easy access during launch they velcroed the files to their leg. I don’t know about you but I would say the online computer is not an extravagance.

One extravagance designers at NASA are debating is whether to include a hot water tank on Orion which will give the astronauts the capability to make coffee, they are also debating whether to have windows. That seems like a no brainer who wouldn’t want windows in a space ship, but quartz glass weighs more than metal hull and weight is what matters when you’re designing rockets. When consulted on the design Astronaut Edward Lu told the designers “I’ll trade food for larger windows.” Another, Lee Morin says the windows they purposed were, “like looking through a mail slot”–with no view of the horizon and unsatisfactory views for docking. I would say go for the windows, do you know what the insurance companies charge to repair a small ding?

Any time something is designed, a chair, a fitout or a new space ship there are trade offs between what is functional and what works technologically, what we can afford and what we want, what the designer wants versus the end user. When it comes to designing rockets, space can be a very unforgiving place, if something goes wrong in our thinking, our design or human error the consequences can be fatal. Space is also a political minefield and for the Americans a symbol of their will and desire for exploration, determining the right amount of money to spend in an economy like ours in not for the faint of heart.

Like all of our clients, the rocket men at NASA need to strategically consider their design options and ask themselves what will deliver the greatest outcomes to the country and the world and like our clients, they need to do this in a context of not really knowing what the future will hold. This can be particularly tough when relying on other countries that may be your friend today, but perhaps not tomorrow.

They need to consider their designs strategically design things and at the same time need to protect what they are designing – According to recent congressional reports China has stepped up computer espionage attacks against the US, in 2005 cyber – burglars got into NASA’s computer system and were able to send large amounts of information to a computer systems in Taiwan. The threat from China is so great there.

Of course they also need the flexibility to deal with new circumstances e.g. wars, environmental disasters, threats to life as we know it, and if
necessary deviate from the agreed path.Also like every business today they need to maintain their course and not get distracted by other things.

The other things in NASA’s case are computer espionage attacks from China, bringing their 80 data centres together into a single location and staying hip and with the times by engaging the public in their own
version of Facebook, called Spacebook.

For a deeper perspective on the topic listen to
this months podcast interview with:

Brett Stanewich
Active Thermal Control Systems
International Space Station
The Boeing Company
Houston, TX

They also provide mission updates on twitter, when the Phoenix Lander got to Mars its first message was “Gee it’s cold up here”. I would have said some other words, but that might have exceeded the 148
character threshold.

At the end of the day, whether you’re NASA, Geyer, or any of the company, it is helpful if not critical to not only know your vision and values, but to understand what they might mean. If your behaviours and actions don’t align, then perhaps it is necessary made adjustments.
You can’t be an environmental leader and be in a 3 star building
and you can’t be courageous if you really want to maintain the status

We are coming to a time of greater honesty and accountability where hypocritical behaviours will be as acceptable as single sided copies and plastic grocery bags, one of the best things we can do as individuals,
an organisation and as a consultant to our clients is to help navigate the course by asking ourselves who we really are.


Executive Breakfast Forum – An Interview with Narelle Hooper, editor of AFR BOSS magazine, with David Smith, CEO of HBOS Australia and Virginia Mansell, Managing Director of SMG, August 6, 2009

Becker, Bo, Why Competition May Not Improve Credit Rating Agencies, HBR Working Knowledge, August 31, 2009

Condon, Turi; Construction Job Losses Mount as Funds Dry Up, The Australian, July 16, 2009

Kahler, Alison, High Anxiety , AFR Boss, July 2009

Mansell, Virginia, Staff Under Siege. Business Week, December 15, 2003

Smith, Fiona, Message Wins Workers Hearts, Australian Financial Review, March 3, 2009