Tag Archives: divine discontent

The one with two candles

So this blog turns 2 years old today…

I am minded of Ronnie Barker who used to end most episodes of ‘Open All Hours’ with the line “…it’s been a funny day” and I would agree it’s been a funny two years. From a hotel room room in Hong Kong in a state of panic about my Masters project to here in no state of panic whatsoever!

This is the 150th post (almost like I planned it) and all told it’s been read just shy of 25,000 times with over 500 comments. Thank you all.

I was thinking about how to mark the occasion and was going to post links to the posts that have been read most over the past 2 years. Then thought what a dopey idea that was as the chances are you could have already read them. Instead I’ve found 5 posts from the past two years that I enjoyed writing but for reasons either of a) poor writing b) poor titles c) poor timing or d) just being poor got a little overlooked so here goes:

1. The one with the divine discontent – my thoughts on that feeling of something never really being good enough

2. The one with Billy Connolly & Recruitment – my thoughts on the shock absorber that is the corporate recruitment process and how it impacts candidates

3. The one with 2IC – my thoughts on that all important Second in Command role

4. The one with influencing chess – a shared experience about how someone helped me improve my ability to influence people and agendas

5. The one with some perspectives – how a different point of view can make a huge difference (worth it just for the video clips!)

Thank you for your continued support




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The one with the wild rabbit

On occasion I loath the power of advertising. Not the pernicious, influential, sub-conscious messaging and influencing – that’s just the game. The bit I loath is the fact that on occasion something just lodges in my brain and lays dormant just waiting to pop out. Today I will inflict such an instance on you. It concerns Hennessy brandy and it’s Wild Rabbit campaign…

It was a Saturday afternoon in May 2012 (yes it’s been lodged that long) and I was lucky enough to be sat in the back of a taxi in New York heading towards Greenwich Village and I noticed a billboard that looked something like this (but without the palm tree – it was New York!!)…

 hennessey wild rabbit billboard

And it intrigued me enough to find the website and follow the thread of the campaign. The central tenant of which is this:

“In Cognac, France, where Hennessy is made, rabbits run wild. But the intriguing animals are rarely seen. Over time, people invented tales about them; Tales about a creature that lives in people’s minds.

This elusive Wild Rabbit, is thought to drive people from one success to another. For nearly 250 years Hennessy’s Wild Rabbit has been to build on our expertise and push our world class cognac ever closer to perfection. Constantly chasing. Never stopping. Never settling.


I had forgotten all about the advertising campaign (and apologies to Hennessy I’ve still not bought any brandy) but fast forward to February 2013 and I was reading a report on some research carried out by the talent consultancy Korn Ferry. It was based on the survey results of speaking to 109 business executives and getting them to rank which of Korn Ferry’s competencies they believed were their prorities in the post-financial crisis world (I must have missed the memo that it’s over). They were comparing it with data collected in 2007 and the pre-crisis post-crisis comparison looks like this.

Rank Pre-crisis Post-crisis
1 Customer Focus Dealing with Ambiguity
2 Drive for results Customer Focus
3 Motivating Others Manage Vision and Purpose
4 Priority Setting Strategic Agility
5 Problem Solving Managerial Courage
6 Timely Decision Making Perspective
7 Strategic Agility Priority Setting
8 Organising Motivating Others
9 Command Skills Drive for Results
10 Business Acumen Listening


On initial reading I was interested to see the absence of command skills post-crisis and to see that courage had appeared in the list. It was no surprise that dealing with ambiguity went straight in at number 1 and I suppose I was a little encouraged with the climb that strategic agility had made and the importance placed on managing vision and purpose.

However, the more I thought about it the more I thought the list was lacking anything truly inspirational – I mean, a lot of what these 109 executives are rating are to a certain extent the key skills of managers but what of leadership? I am not intending to have the leadership vs. management debate here but for me both lists were missing any kind of magic – where were the game changers?

This list and the blog post it was going to provoke have been bouncing around in my head for a few weeks and somewhere in the bouncing I came back to being sat in that taxi on that Saturday afternoon and being intrigued by the concept of the wild rabbit.

Maybe it’s just my divine discontent gene twitching again but I can’t help thinking that an organisation lead by those list of 10 will hardly be blowing the doors off anything. Where’s innovation? Where’s inspiring people? Where’s the global edge?

One could argue that courage+customer focus+strategic agility may blow the doors of something but I struggle with the notion that an organisation recruiting to that shopping list will have find themselves with a group of very competent senior managers but no magic.

In sitting and thinking about it you could play with the idea of the wild rabbit and think of IBM transforming itself from a business machines company to the knowledge and service offering they have now, probably most people would quote Apple’s disruption of the music market and the e-commerce examples are numerous (altogether after 3 – Jeff Bezos). But think about stuff that’s happening now – Random House and Penguin merging to ‘suit up’ in the battle of content vs. distribution… Think of the Co-op changing from an also ran to the ethical food retailer. There are probably loads of great examples but the example that both lists make me come back to is Kodak

Chapter 11 or Wild Rabbit?

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The one with the divine discontent

So we’ve almost made it through January and the first (and maybe only) #snowgate2013 has been and thawed. Reading Twitter, talking to friends and colleagues and observing the marketing drives of brands various makes it insanely obvious that the new year brings a rash of resolutions, goals and aspirations for the new calender year.

Whilst catching up with my timeline yesterday morning and reveling in the milder temperatures,  I read a tweet from the Exec Editor at Retail Week, George MacDonald, who reminded me of some lovely prose courtesy of Kenneth Grahame from his “Wind in the Willows”. Mole has been hard at it with some spring cleaning and Grahame observes,

“Spring was in the air… Penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing”

I think it’s easy to long for better weather and longer days in doing so sometimes I realise I am wishing my life away but the words that made me stop and re-read them were ‘divine discontent’. It’s a phrase I first heard from a previous boss and it’s one I often think of in realising that actually I never quite reach the point of being delighted with what I/We deliver and always wanting to take it ‘out of the window’ and tinker with it a bit more before the business gets to play with it. Whether I do or not is usually influenced by pragmatism, availability of time and a decision on the value of a 1 or 2% improvement in something.

Like a lot of businesses we are reaching the end of our business planning cycle for 2013/14 and that usually surfaces a lot of ‘divine discontent’ thinking as you sit down and ascribe £s to particular pieces of work and question the value to the organisation and what impact a given effort is ACTUALLY having.

With the challenges, often rightly made, to the value of the human resources function and the continual drive to any business to do everything better and cheaper in the future than it has in the past I have often realised how well I’ve been served (without realising it) by the observation Moley makes in his lowly home because even if it isn’t broken maybe an improvement now will stop it every reaching broken. Improve before there’s a requirement to fix maybe?


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