A drone camera that fits on your wrist

Drone and wearable technologies are both truly transformational technologies … but what happens if you bring these together?

Called Nixie, this brilliant device is a personal photographer that combines a quadcopter with a hi-def camera that can be worn on your wrist.

The project is one of 10 awaiting a decision from Intel for funding. Given the interest in this, I don’t think that further funding will be an issue.

Real innovation comes from rethinking problems. This is just the start of things to come.




It’s all about the talent, but then it always was

Walking into a leading university library yesterday there were two stacks of books ready by the doors all ready for the incoming ‘freshers’. They weren’t text books or details on where to find the best parties. The books were titled, ‘The top 100 employers’ and ‘The top 300 employers’ or something very similar.

The purpose of the guides is to establish the names and brands of the companies into the minds of ambitious students at the start of their course. This has one purpose – to help ensure that the best talent applies to you and not to your competitor.

It couldn’t be further from the harsh reality facing job seekers a few miles away at the Job Centre, or the millions scanning online job adverts (some of which may actually be genuine) in the hope of finding fulfilling employment at something other than the minimum wage. [Good luck with securing pay above the minimum wage if you are looking in the Job Centre by the way, but  you are looking in the wrong place for that.]

If there was ever a lesson to the new students that hard work matters, then it was facing them as they walked into the building that will consume many hours of their life over the coming years as they struggle to meet deadlines, avoid charges of plagiarism and push the boundaries of how long caffeine can keep you awake in the hope of securing the grades that will unlock  interviews to those advertised careers.

It all makes sense. Pay well, offer good working conditions and know that you have the best talent that there is.

But as I walked back to my car I wondered why other companies set their sights intentionally low. Flicking through the books and looking at starting salaries there is clearly a relationship between pay, prestige and success.  It is logical that the best companies pay the best salaries, but why do second tier companies pay less (up to 30-50% less) thereby removing any realistic potential of attracting the best people. Surely it would make sense to pay more – or at least equal the best and recruit the very people that you would be competing against. You would pay more, but is the person not able to generate additional revenue or profit to cover that differential?  It could start a price war, but surely that is already there – with the second tier companies having conceded before they start.

When Google find that the difference in performance between an average employee and a exceptional employee can be as much as 300x, then why is the pay so close?

Is the issue that the second tier players have resigned themselves to that position? They pay an acceptable level, and get acceptable people?

Or that the the ‘politics of envy’ limits starting salaries as they are higher than existing employees and this would create problems?

Or that it is simply unaffordable? This could mean that the company is unable to realise the cost differential from the additional pay.

Regardless of what the reasons are, the lessons for students are clear, go for the best paying company. This is no guarantee of a happy union, but you know that your employer wants you more than the competition, and that is not a bad reason for joining. That is not the only factor in picking an employer, but joining a company that pays less than you could get would be settling for second best?

I’m searching for some companies that have intentionally disrupted the market, by hiring A list calibre from the start – you can list most technology successes here, but have any established second tier companies done this by switching to a ‘hire A list strategy’ and been successful?

Updated: 24Sept14 to correct minor typos.

Virgin let staff take as much holiday as they want

At last a large company starts to inject common sense into its HR policies by allowing staff to take as much holiday as they want*.

They aren’t the first. Netflix has offered this for a while, but fast growing internet companies are always going to be seen as ‘special cases’ and therefore ignored by CEOs in many ‘traditional’ companies. Virgin is not only an established company, but has a diverse set of businesses, so this matters a lot more. It is much harder for business leaders to argue that they are different when they are competing against Virgin companies.

The big picture shift here is not the holiday policy itself, but the evolution of work and employment practices. It is a welcome shift towards a higher trust knowledge based relationship that recognises that people are not resources to be managed, but are each valuable assets that are a key part of the business.

In a world where many knowledge workers still have to complete time-sheets, but are expected to answer phone calls out of hours and complete work in their own time then it is a welcome step forward.

A quick tip for HR managers and directors who are reading this. If you don’t understand why your department name is an anachronism and needs to change, then you won’t understand why the best candidates are not applying to your company.

Time to change.

* Of course there are caveats, but the statement and commitment is still important.

How Labour can learn from Bangladeshi poverty

In this interview Muhammad Yunus, Nobel winning founding founder of “microcredit” talks about banks, poverty and governments.

What struck me as I read the interview was how much of the problems from Bangladesh were applicable to the UK. It is good to see the Grameen Bank opening in the US, but I couldn’t help think that the principles underpinning this model were something that would help many people in the UK who continue to suffer at the hands of banks and loan sharks.

One area that I do need to correct Muhammad is where he talks about rates of 1000 and 2000 percent. In the UK of course, many people are paying rates much higher than that.

This isn’t a political rant. It is actually about strategy. Successful organisations, whether commercial, not for profit or governments seek to continually improve and to learn. They don’t argue against ideas that don’t work, but instead seek to learn from them and improve them, adapting them as required. A lesson sadly lost on political parties.


Understand digitization in 4 seconds

This 4 second video shows how digitization is changing our workplaces.

The video called “Evolution of the Desk” apparently comes from the Harvard Innovation Labs. [although if you scroll up, it looks like linkbait for a review company/desk supplier]. The site has a longer video showing how common products have been replaced by applications, until in the end we are left with a PC, a smartphone and the sunglasses. The classic aviator sunglasses being the only things that remain unchanged.

Whilst the video is interesting, the really big shift is not shown. It is not the elimination of objects from the desk that is the biggest change, but the shift from owned single purpose individual objects to shared spaces and constantly evolving platforms.

The review company clearly wants to sell the future of desks, which it believes will be electric rising multi-screened and perched on top of treadmills, but to me this just seems as outdated as the original picture.

It would be more logical to see the next evolution of the picture to be an updated phone, but are we missing the point here too? With everything digitized and access to it ubiquitous, including from ‘things’ without human interaction then perhaps the real evolution will be an empty space.

Once everything becomes digitized, the more fundamental questions need to

Perhaps the next evolution of the picture would an empty space. With digitization making everything invisible,

How to be successful as a guest speaker

Your job as a guest speaker is simple …

To make people think.

You are there to fire up people’s minds to think, to reflect, to care, to challenge, to be angry, to be impatient … but never be comfortable.

The audience don’t need to like you, agree with your or your conclusions, but you should engage them in a way that forces them to think about their views of the world.

The one mark of failure is to leave the mind of the listener unchallenged.

You job is to rattle comfortable mindsets until what you are left with is a brain and body fizzing to change the world – or seething to respond to challenge what you are saying.

A way to be more successful is always to find the human connection in what you are talking about. Not just the human connection to your subject, but your audience.

Why does this matter to them? Why should they care?

Of course, this connection can sometimes be clearer in some subjects than in others, but education is its best when the student themselves understands and can articulate, “why does this matter in the real world?”. Whether this is geometry to design a bridge, computational fluid dynamics to design a more fuel efficient car, or composite plastics to make a longer lasting replacement heart value.  The connection to reality, to people, to lives is always paramount in the best speakers.

If you are good, you will spark discussion in the Q&A.

If you are great, you will inspire reflection in the days and weeks after.

If you are exceptional, you may, just once or twice inspire someone to do something positive with their lives …

And it is this last possibility that means that an opportunity to speak should always be accepted.

And also why you should always attend guest lectures when you can, even if you know you disagree with what they may be saying. Expand your intelligence by allowing it to be challenged.