Patagonia ad shows a company taking a stand…

There’s lots of debates about corporate social responsibility, mission statements, and building a business around beliefs etc.

But this advert by Patagonia is pretty clear.

It’s increasingly clear that a company either has an obvious purpose beyond simply existing, or it will forever have to compete on attributes (price, convenience etc) that will be increasingly harder and less profitable due to competition.

The first supermarket had it relatively easy and profitable for a while. Now the margins are slim and there are rivals everywhere, from the low-end to the high.  But it’s much harder to compete with a company that has a clear and evident purpose. Is your outdoor clothing company going to go further in protecting the environment that Patagonia, for example? It’s possible, but it’ll be harder than cloning a jacket and charging 10% less.


Xbox Marketing Fail…

My son recently received an Xbox 360 for Christmas. So as ‘gamer dad’, it was my job to go through the process of setting him up on Xbox Live, including making sure he was on a restricted profile. Even after owning an Xbox 360 since around launch, it was a bit of a faff, including the fact I’d restricted it so much that he couldn’t actually join in games with me. Which was kind of the point…

The main thing was to make sure he wasn’t seeing age-restricted content. As much as I believe in parental oversight, I’m still in trouble over the time I discovered he was able to use the Xbox navigation at the age of 3. Mainly because I left the room for a minute and by the time I came back, he’d given himself nightmares by managing to open up a game based around killing zombies.

So having used one of my email addresses for his new Xbox Live profile, I was a bit surprised to see this proudly displayed as the top recommendation.


Personally I’m quite keen on the look of Battlefield Hardline. But my son is going to have to wait around a decade before he’s a suitable age for it.

I’d be the first to admit that possibly in adjusting the profile settings to enable him to actually play games over the internet with his own father, I might have made a mistake somewhere. But I’d certainly locked everything down to the best of my abilities. And if I can’t work an Xbox 360 reasonably competently by now, I’d say there was a distinct usability problem with the system settings area – I’ve not only signed up for EULAs etc, but had a hand in writing a few.

In any case, given even a single indication that it’s an age-restricted profile, surely the default should be to play it safe, rather than risk yet another Netmums outcry over violence in videogames?

I’m already approaching the time when my son is a better gamer than I am. The longer I can keep him away from adult games and retain some kind of mystique, the better…


Awesome books in the Amazon Spring Sale

I’ve loved reading for as long as I can remember. When I was young, my parents and some of my teachers did a lot to encourage me, and part of my routine as a child was to spend an hour or more engrossed in a book before I went to sleep.

It’s been vitally important in becoming a better writer, marketer and communicator. And I’m constantly being tempted and encouraged by the combination of a Kindle and Amazon’s one-click purchase and delivery over wifi. I still enjoy browsing bookstores and comic book shops when I get the chance, but having almost instant access to such a wide variety of niche topics and authors still amazes me.

Looking at my purchases over the years since I was given a Kindle, I’ve noticed the price point for impulse purchases tends to be around the £3 mark. I’ll sometimes pay more for an eBook if it’s something particularly useful for work, or accept the short wait for a secondhand print edition, but I usually can’t justify paying much larger amounts for something which I know costs almost nothing to store and transmit.

So I’m always interested in Kindle deals and sales – and the current Spring Sale which runs until April 4th has some brilliant books in in which I thought were worth highlighting as they cover business, marketing, motivation and also inspirational fiction. I’ve marked the ones I bought earlier this week to read, the ones I’ve already consumed, and the ones I’ve owned for a while and recommend.


Already Owned: Pattern Recognition by William Gibson – £1.99

I’m a big fan of science fiction, especially as it often informs the approach technologists take to the future. And William Gibson is the legendary author of a number of cyberpunk classics which have certainly had an influence on hackers, techies and innovation.

But Pattern Recognition is based in the current day, which makes it far more accessible to anyone turned away by the idea of science fiction. It still integrates the use of present and imminent tech in a fairly fast-moving tale which contains the usual Gibson level of detail when describing objects and surroundings. It’s the Otaku level of descriptions which I love, whether it’s street in London, an item of clothing or a piece of antique technology. And it’s just £1.99 for the Kindle Edition in the sale.

Pattern Recognition by William Gibson – £1.99


Already Owned: Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson – £0.99

I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of this when it was published by Seth Godin’s The Domino Project. It was particularly appreciated as I studied American Literature for my degree, and Emerson was obviously a notable part of that.

All of the Domino Project books were designed to be relatively short, to allow you to read them quickly. But also to have long-lasting effects on how you think and act, especially with regards to motivation and business. The fact that Self-Reliance was written almost 200 years ago hasn’t changed the insight and inspiration contained in it, and this edition includes relevant quotes about the effect of the book by various industrial and influential people since. And it’s less than £1.

Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson – £0.99


Just Finished: The Liberation of Loch Fyne Oysters by David Erdal – £0.99

I picked this up for three reasons. The first is that I’ve dined in one of the first Loch Fyne Restaurants, as it’s in Oundle near Peterborough, so I recognised the name. Secondly, it covers the history of the firm from founding and particularly when it became an employee owned company. And thirdly, it was less than a quid.

The author is head of a partnership that was set up to assist employee owned companies, and is able to provide a wealth of context around the Loch Fyne example, including other employee-owned businesses throughout the years, the benefits, and the pitfalls. It may seem easy to become employee owned, go open source, or latch onto other similar concepts, but it’s certainly no guarantee of success without a  lot of hard work and most importantly, a change in mindset. Well worth reading as a very human introduction to the concept for any business owner.

The Liberation of Loch Fyne Oysters by David Erdal – £0.99


Currently Reading: Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do by Euan Semple – £2.19

I was quite surprised to see this available for such a cheap price as it was released fairly recently by Euan, who I’m pleased to say I’ve met and chatted with a lot online. I recommend keeping an eye on his blog, The Obvious? in addition to picking up this book. Having worked in a senior role at the BBC, he’s since consulted with a range of large businesses on the introduction and integration of social media tools.

I’ve only just started reading the book itself, but it follows the same style as Euan expresses in person and on his site – it’s about the people and approach you take, rather than the choice of specific social media tool. Thinking about your business needs and objectives in the right way, and the right approaches means you can cope with the constant changes in technology in a calm and positive way.

Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do by Euan Semple – £2.19


To Read:

How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed by Ray Kurzeil – £2.09
The future involves a far greater integration between computer AI and human endeavour. And as an author, inventor, futurist and current Director of Engineering at Google, Kurzweil has been long recognised as one of the most insightful and influential people in this area. I honestly can’t wait to read this one!

Digital Disruption: Unleashing the Next Wave of Innovation by James McQuivey – £0.99

James McQuivey is a VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester. And picking up this book for less than a pound is definitely cheaper than buying a Forrester report! Plus the blurb on the Amazon page picks out some interesting examples of disruption from the book covering some wildly different industries, which is always a great way to become inspired.

Finance for Non-Financial Managers: In a Week: Teach Yourself by Roger Mason – £1.99

There’s definitely a balance in running a business between awareness of every important aspect, and bringing in the right resources to take care of areas which aren’t your strength, or become time sinks. I’m well aware that I’ll probably never become an accountant, and the finest detail of our finances require specialist help – my time is better spent elsewhere.

At the same time, as a business owner, I need to understand and be comfortable with all the financial requirements, and know what’s going on at any point in the process – and be able to dig into the finer detail as needed. So I’m always looking for resources which can help me to overcome any gaps in my knowledge, and reluctance to step away from the creative side to ensure that my business is stable and able to grow effectively.


There are hundreds of other books in the sale, and I’d love to know your thoughts on any that you pick up and read, or anything I’ve missed from the list above.