There’s More Than One Way To Skin A Cat

I’ve lost count of the number of managers or consultants I’ve come across who claim to have a secret “rocket sauce” that’s going to make a big difference to each and every business they touch.  Go in to a selection of consulting websites and more often than not you’ll see a specific methodology, outlined in a series of clunky coloured boxes, that’s supposedly unique and is going to save the world, so to speak.

Tom Peters regards Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” as the best project management manual he’s come across and I’d agree.  Published in 1971 this political science classic outlines what it is to organise in order to attain and wield power successfully.  Given that the really hard work on projects is always the people stuff, Alinsky’s book is probably of more benefit to a project manager in the long run than the Prince 2 manual or any of the trite click bait articles that appear on websites like Fast Company.

Alinsky was a leading community organiser of the poor and powerless in US cities in the ‘40s and ‘50s and his methods are cited as having had a major influence on both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.   It’s a stonker of a read for people involved in getting things done at any level in life and I often return to it for a browse before I start a new project.  How about this for a whopper of a quote:

“I detest and fear dogma.  I know that all revolutions must have ideologies to spur them on.  That in the heat of conflict these ideologies tend to be smelted into rigid dogmas claiming exclusive possession of the truth, and the keys to paradise, is tragic.  Dogma is the enemy of human freedom.  Dogma must be watched for and apprehended at every turn and twist of the revolutionary movement.  The human spirit glows from that small inner light of doubt whether we are right, while those who believe with complete certainty that they possess the right are dark inside and darken the world outside with cruelty, pain, and injustice.”

So, where am I going with this?  Well, there’s always more than one way to skin a cat, and as long as you behave yourself, tell good stories, and deliver great results your clients aren’t going to give two hoots about your methods.


Reclaiming Conversation and Culture

1998 isn’t that long ago; ok it’s 18 years but it was the first time I visited San Francisco.  It was then  the most beautiful, vibrant, engaging and creative city I’d ever clapped eyes on.  When I think of the place I think of great punk rock bands like Rancid, Jawbreaker, Green Day, the fantastic City Lights bookshop, Amoeba records in Haight Ashbury, Sushi Castro, Zeitgeist, Citizen Cake…the list goes on.  I now have family living there so I drop in from time to time but rarely find myself as excited as I was back in ’98.

The gentrification of San Francisco is driving the creative and artistic side of town out to more affordable areas.  The hip areas are now inhabited by the equally creative technology professionals.  In 2010 I visited a café that made a big impression on my fist visit and was horrified to see that the life had been sucked out of it.  The place was full, but the majority of patrons were alone and gazing like Zombies at their MacBook Air’s or iPhones.  I struggled to reconcile the almost morbid atmosphere with the loud, brash and irreverent establishment I’d encountered 12 years earlier.

41ixPNQCjeL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Bit by bit over the last few years I’ve begun to make a connection.  Anybody who visits this site will know that I enjoy Nicholas Carr’s writing on how evolving technology is impacting on us, and not always for the better.  I recently finished reading Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age and reckon it could be one of the most important books published in the last decade.   There is far too much in the book to discuss in this piece but I’ll address a number of areas that resonated with me.

Take this quote from a young man who would rather talk to someone via text message as it gives him the best chance of editing himself.

“Someday, someday soon, but certainly not now, I’d like to learn how to have a conversation.”

Horrifying.  But today there are countless teenagers and young adults who no longer have the ability to sit down, look somebody in the eye and have a good old stoush over something that’s bugging them.  Instead they prefer to sit in different rooms and sort out their issues via sms or Whatsapp.

Turkle conjures up other remarkable quotes from people whose interactions have changed dramatically as a result of technology.  Here’s another clanger:

“What would be the value proposition of disagreeing with each other face-to-face?”

Somehow I don’t think that Sherry Turkle went off and crunched the numbers on the “business case” for that one.

People are no longer comfortable sitting on their own in a quiet moment and digesting various aspects or issues in their lives.  Instead they tend to reach for the phone and go to Facebook, twitter or a news feed.  This has led to “a loss of empathy and a diminished capacity for self-reflection” which seems to inhibit our creativity.  Turkle supports this with a quote from Picasso who said that “Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.”

Having worked in some very high-pressure environments with self-styled creatives I’ve rarely witnessed something genuinely ground-breaking or unique being produced.  More often than not the end-result is stock and no different from the competition, and that’s largely down to the fact that the people have very little time to themselves to think in an “always on” professional environment.

Many people feel that one of the primary benefits of being able to readily access information online is that they are no longer obliged to practice and learn things off by heart.  They no longer look to read passages of text or news articles in depth preferring to scan and get the general gist of the content.  It’s a practice known as “grazing”.  The main problem with grazing, according to Turkle is that “it makes it hard to develop a narrative to frame events.”

Turkle introduces the reader to a graduate student who noted that relying on e-memory meant that she did not retain enough information to contribute to a class discussion when she left her computer and notebook at home.

“Having access to information is always wonderful, but without having at least some information retained in my brain, I am not able to build on those ideas or connect them together to form new ones.”

There are some tasks in life that require embodied learning, and nobody wants to have to Google CPR on their iPhone next time some next to them has a heart attack.

With the advent of blogging and online news many find themselves as equally

Sherry Turkle
Sherry Turkle

drawn to the below-the-line comments as much as the actual article itself.   The comments are more often than not a mix of sagacious comment, encouragement and downright nastiness.   I don’t have any access to research on below-the-line commentary but have noticed that there seems to be a direct relationship between nastiness and anonymity.   The ability to remain anonymous through technology seems to dehumanise and leave people feeling that there is no need to be accountable for anything they say.  For this reason I tend to avoid below-the-line commentary, and whenever I feel the urge to have a peak will only read those where there’s a full name displayed.

In a discussion with a lecturer in MIT about a lecture where students were able to comment electronically about the content presented the lecturer said that “anonymity flattened out the discussion…Real people have real concerns and interests…But once the questions are turned into a flat stream of questions and comments without faces…you end up not caring about them.  You care about a question when you know whose question it is.  A question that doesn’t come from a person – it’s only half a question.”  Food for thought then for online editors in the media.  Is there any real value in enabling below the line commentary, and if you feel there is why not adopt a standard whereby only genuine people with rigorously verified identities are able to comment.

As a management consulting professional I’ve observed how technology has diminished organisational relationships both internally and externally through diminished conversations and co-ordination.  Turkle doesn’t delve as deeply into the world of work as I had hoped but then again she could get another book out of that topic alone.

The author isn’t anti-technology and acknowledges that it’s here to stay but it’s well worth examining how it is affecting how we relate to ourselves, each other, and the world around us.  How we deal with its impact on our creativity and relationships will take time and could be addressed in a fashion similar to how we deal with issues like speeding traffic or alcohol.  Handle with appropriate consideration, respect and care!









Tactics for Change Managers

A couple of years back I was asked to put together a couple of slides that outlined useful tactics for change managers / mobilisers / business coaches when implementing a new process or way of working.  Most “change management” is fairly formulaic and once a new business design, service or system is in place the human side is ignored.  Anyway in no particular order here are some useful tactics for change managers:

  1. Make the business design viable in the eyes of all stakeholders
  2. Don’t be restricted or trapped by conventions used / adopted / subscribed to from previous projects.  What happened in the past doesn’t necessarily mean that it will happen in the future
  3. People need to be mobilised through new experiences – People believe through what they experience, not necessarily through what they see or hear
  4. Give the target constituency a compelling stake in the future of the organisation – there has to be something in it for them
  5. See the situation for what it is and don’t read too much into it either way, i.e. if it doesn’t work accept it and adapt; if it does work, well fine, but don’t get too smug and complacent.  All success is for you client’s benefit not your own self–aggrandisement
  6. Where possible let them design (with guidance / prodding where necessary)
  7. Don’t over-coach as too much coaching will be seen as interference which leads to an unnatural state of affairs
  8. Recognise when you are no longer relevant
  9. Mobilisation without measurement is pointless.  MI should not be work for the client but should be a natural part of the work which helps with its enhancement
  10. Get up to speed with the politics as soon as is practical
  11. Work out who is/isn’t on your side quickly – this is not as hard as it seems and is as obvious as it was your school playground
  12. Don’t be too proud to admit it when part of the business design won’t fly for practical reasons
  13. Recognise when it is necessary to withdraw and live to fight another day
  14. Tell good realistic stories that are not sugar-coated but acknowledge that people have been knocked out of joint and the amount of work required to re-orient them.  That way they’ll accept that you are not a bullshitter but a serious and realistic person
  15. Be flexible and move quickly as the design takes shape.  Ideally a design should be agreed and have the maximum buy-in as is politically possible before mobilisation.  Otherwise you are dead in the water before you start.  Too much change in a design will confuse both the Mobiliser and the client and will lead to a potentially fatal loss of credibility
  16. Don’t shy away from tough conversations.  You are not doing your job if you are having easy conversations all the time. ( You are most likely being taken for a ride)
  17. Welcome negativity and be able to recognise where it is coming from and why
  18. Recognise when you’re being taken for a ride, and don’t stand for it, as they’re wasting your time and your budget
  19. Solutions must be framed in a way that shows new and improved possibilities
  20. Recognise and act on breakdowns immediately – An inability to call a breakdown can have dire consequences further down the line.

Consultants: Shysters or Saviours?

This post comes to you from my former English teacher in Belvedere College, Padraic Gilligan.  Padraic was the man who sparked my interest in the English language and was the first person to introduce me to the works of people like George Orwell, J.D. Sallinger, and Arthur Miller among others.  He’s also a dead ringer for Irish rugby coach, Joe Schmidt.   With his business partner Patrick Delaney, Pádraic is Managing Partner at SoolNua, a boutique consultancy firm working in the Meetings and Events industry. Previously both Delaney and Gilligan worked for MCI, a global association, communications and event management company. Padraic is married to Rita Smyth and together they have 6 grown up children. He is a passionate supporter of Arsenal Football Club, a performing singer-songwriter, a committed cyclist and an enthusiastic user of social media (@padraicino) 

“Those who can, do …”

Padraic Gilligan
Padraic Gilligan

Throughout Delaney Marketing and Ovation Group years it never occurred to @Supergreybeard -aka Patrick Delaney – or me to hire a consultant. I think we saw consultants as confidence tricksters or shysters, failed entrepreneurs, business versions of the teachers in Shaw’s oft quoted dictum “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach”.

During our Ovation Global DMC years in MCI we never brought in consultants either although other MCI leaders sometimes did. With hindsight we now see how we often ended up wandering around in a dense fog of unknowing, reinventing the wheel or enduring unnecessary difficulties for the want of the disinterested perspective brought to business issues by an expert, external viewpoint, aka, a consultant.

Of course, we would say that, you say, as for 2 years now we’ve been earning our crust as consultants. Now we seek to convince business leaders like our former selves to hire us for the value that we’ll bring to them, intoning that the fees they pay us are miniscule by comparison to the return they’ll get from them. Two years into the new role I’m a zealous convert and wish I knew then what I know now about the value of consultants.

Here are 5 reasons you should hire a consultant:


Entrepreneurs and business leaders easily get caught in the gnarly weeds of day-to-

Patrick Delaney
Patrick Delaney

day business conundrums and quickly lose sight of where they’re going. I know that happened regularly enough to @Supergreybeard and me – operational issues would snare us and we’d overlook our sales activity, a HR issue would arise and we’d allow it occupy all of our time etc

In situations like this, external consultants bring perspective and keep you focused on your destination. As they are not involved in the day-to-day operations of the company, they stay more easily on the bridge and avoid getting dragged down to the lower decks. Their perspective helps confirm to you that your true place is at the wheel. You need to steer the ship and send others down to sort out the below-deck shenanigans. A good consultant will point that out to you and help you see what’s patently in front of you!



Related to perspective is the decisiveness that consultants can bring to business challenges. Because they are not intimately involved in the company and, for the most part, not connected with the plethora of human emotions that often complicate the decision making process, consultants can short-circuit the lengthy gestation periods that often bedevil the business decision making.

Because consultants are constantly on the bridge with their gaze firmly fixed on the horizon, they see things more clearly, with context and perspective. Thus the petty nature of the obstacles that sometimes stand in the way of a good decision are seen for what they are and the decision can be made more easily, with conviction and decisiveness.


Consultants need to be recognised experts not only in business processes but in the specifics of the field in which they’re consulting. This is why small boutique consultancies (like SoolNua!) sometimes bring more to the table than large global firms. McKinsey, Bain and Accenture bring extraordinary value to global enterprises around big strategy issues but often lack the expert niche knowledge around the specifics of a particular market segment – like the Meetings Industry, for example.

I’ve read some brilliant strategy documents on global tourism trends produced by the big firms but often there are nuance deficiencies in their knowledge of and expertise in the niches, in business tourism and MICE particularly. Thus when hiring a consultant make sure you get the process and strategy stuff, the brilliant graphs and the clever matrices but be sure, also, to go for expert knowledge of your sector, mindful that this is often more likely to come via a small firm.


Screen-Shot-2015-09-21-at-20.11.26-300x217When we started in business in the early 90s neither @Supergreybeard nor I had even a fleck of grey hair. The fact that we’re almost uniformly grey now is an outward symbol of our experience, earned over decades by errors, mistakes and screw-ups. We think Oscar Wilde was right on the money when he declared: “Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes”.

Consultants bring value because they bring experience, experience often earned the costly way, ie, by making glorious mistakes. When you hire a consultant you’re buying into that experience and saving yourself time and money, not to mention all those blissful, sleepful nights that otherwise might have been spent tossing and turning in anxious misery.


A good consultant will also save you from your own partiality and prejudice. As business leaders we try to be aware of our weaknesses and ensure they are compensated for by the support resources we hire. But besides weaknesses we also have blind spots, ie, weaknesses that we refuse to recognise. Our clarity of vision can easily be marred by prejudicial thinking that’s deep-rooted in us and that’s often presented as entrepreneurial vision and thus no easy to challenge.

A consultant brings impartial gravitas to business debate and dialogue and has the moral authority to challenge the twisted thinking that’s sometimes presented as vision. Because of their experience and wisdom they also have a cultured nose for bullshit and can detect it at 10 paces.

A True Story

A recent client of ours was about to invest significant funds in high quality print collateral targeting the agency community. Our direct and personal experience as recipients of such brochures told us it was wasteful. The money would be better spent on an integrated campaign combining face-to-face, on-line and some innovative social media. It was difficult to convince the Director of Sales that her carefully planned campaign was destined for the trash can, particularly because she was comfortable with the print approach having done it successfully in the past. In the end, after a lot of discussion, dialogue and debate, she went with our viewpoint and, so far, is thrilled with the results.

Pádraic Gilligan (@padraicino) and Patrick Delaney (@Supergreybeard) are Managing Partners at SoolNua, a boutique consultancy offering strategy, marketing and training to venues, hotels and destinations in the MICE sector.

The Silo Effect – Gillian Tett

The Silo Effect is Gillian Tett’s follow up to 2009’s Fool’s Gold which documented 2008’s financial meltdown and its causes better than any other account.  Tett is the US managing editor and columnist at the Financial Times and has won awards galore for her columns over the years.  Her column in Saturday’s FT Weekend supplement has been a favourite of mine for years.   She’s also a dead ringer for Gillian Anderson.

If you work in consulting you’ll recognise the condition that she tackles in this book. How often have you seen initiatives flounder due to either the inability or unwillingness of people to collaborate across functions?  I’m always amazed at how finance people assume the role of merely costing and pricing a new service, product or initiative when they could be more invested in how to come up with the best possible solution that brings a positive and creative tension to the overall initiative.  I’ve met plenty of accountants who are creative in their extra-curricular lives but once they walk through the office door at 9am on a Monday morning they assume the spirit and creativity of the living dead.

Tett taps into her training as an Anthropologist along with the work of Pierre Bourdieu to explain why we structure and classify the environments we live, work and play in the way we do.

“Bourdieu believed that human society creates certain patterns of thought and classification systems which people absorb and use to arrange space, people, and ideas.  Bourdieu liked to call the physical and social environment that people live in the “habitus,” and he believed that the patterns in this habitus both reflect the mental maps or classification systems inside our heads and reinforce them.” 

The first half of the book examines how silos stifle creativity and conceal risks.  She uses the example of how Sony fell from its perch and ceded its position as paragon of all things extraordinary in the field of computing and electronics to Apple to illustrate how a bureaucratic and clogged up organisation can turn inward and seem incapacitated.

She draws on her work from Fool’s Gold to show how the management of UBS lost billions in the financial crisis due to 1. Their inability to have an overall and accurate view of the risk profile across the entire organisation.  2. The classification of Collatoralised Debt Obligations (CDO’s) as client risk – which was supposedly benign and less risky than proprietary risk 3. The ability of the New York desk’s exposure to CDO risk to hide in plain daylight due to this misclassification.  UBS senior management were virtually unaware of their exposure to CDO’s when the financial crisis struck.

The second half of the book deals with the benefits involved in “silo-busting.”  The steps that Facebook have taken to avoid silo-type behaviour over the first decade of its existence have already been well documented and adopted by many other tech companies with varying degrees of success.

I read the account of Toby Cosgrove’s initiative to make the medical professionals at the  Cleveland Clinic work across functions and disciplines with great interest given I’m still waiting for an orthodontist I’ve been referred to for root canal treatment to arrange an appointment over 72 hours after the fact – I’m on painkillers and antibiotics.  Cosgrove’s work has led to the Cleveland Clinic having lower prices than its competitors as well as winning awards for patient experience and satisfaction as well as medical practitioner expertise.

The story that will probably interest finance professionals the most is how the management of BlueMountain capital  took advantage of the silos and classification systems within JP Morgan to make a killing on a CDO trade.  For every winner in a trade there is also a loser and in 2011 BlueMountain quietly took up a position on the other side of a JP Morgan CDO play that enabled it to make a killing while JP Morgan lost billions across a series of “Whale Trades” in its CDO business.  JP Morgan were so impressed with BlueMountain  that they invited them in as consultants to help them dispose of the rest of their losing CDO positions.  In all BlueMountain made $300m from their dealings with JP Morgan.

Tett never trained as a finance professional and her command of the detail, especially in the financial stories, is very impressive.  She puts a lot of her success as a journalist down to having an outside perspective due to her training as an anthropologist.  At the end of this very worthwhile and interesting read she highlights six principles from anthropology that can help us to challenge our silos and classification systems:

  1. Anthropologists tend to take a bottom-up view of life.  They usually get out of their offices and experience life on the ground
  2. They listen and look with an open mind and try to see how all the different pieces of a social group or system interconnect
  3. Because anthropologists try to look at the totality of what they see, they end up examining the parts of life that people do not want to talk about, because they are considered taboo, dull , or boring
  4. They listen carefully to what people say about their life and then compare it to what people actually do…They are obsessed with the gap between rhetoric and reality
  5. Anthropologists often compare different societies and cultures and systems
  6. Anthropology celebrates the idea that there is more than one valid way for humans to live….Anthropologists know that the classification systems we use to organize our worlds and minds are not inevitable; they are usually a function of nature not nurture.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who is interested in organisational or service design as Tett  is far better at identifying and articulating the issues and their root causes than any consultant.

Ryan Paetzold of chaosdesignorder – I Am Designer

Ryan Paetzold is of a rare breed. He’s a South African who isn’t at all

Ryan Paetzold
Ryan Paetzold

interested in rugby. Why? – “It’s just not that exciting man.” Maybe this need for excitement led him to eschew an obvious career path in engineering for the more colourful and creative world of industrial design.
If excitement was on his mind, he certainly picked an “interesting” time to arrive on these shores, with an economy on the verge of tipping into the abyss, along with a level of uncertainty unseen in Ireland for almost a generation. Hailing from Boksburg, Johannesburg, Ryan grew up in a turbulent era in South African history, and as a result was largely inured to the turmoil that engulfed the rest of us in 2008. He took the plunge into Irish life, found that he loved the place, and got on with it.

2008 was hardly a good time to arrive in Ireland. Why come here?
Well I grew up in a South Africa which was crippled with embargos, sanctions, and race riots. It was a very hard time, but one that gives perspective to what has happened here since the crash. I went to a multi-racial Christian Brother’s College. Every year on June 16th – the anniversary of the Soweto riots, which claimed 176 lives in 1976 – the black students would remain on campus overnight, or were hosted by ‘white’ families, in order to avoid being caught up in the inevitable violence in their townships. That’s what I grew up with, and I reckon that when times are hard and there are restrictions, well you just suck it up.
One of the main reasons why I came here was because of love I suppose. My wife is Irish, and I’ve always found the country incredibly beautiful. I could have gone to the UK I suppose, but I fell in love with this place, and the quality of life here is second to none.

Do you miss South Africa?
Johannesburg has quite a reputation, and I don’t miss the madness of the place. I do miss the open spaces, the sunsets, the smell of rain, the thunderstorms. There’s a certain electricity about Johannesburg that’s unique to the place.

Would you ever return there to live?
No, I wouldn’t go back. I made a life choice which has worked out pretty well for me. I wanted to be closer to Europe because of its variety. I also wanted to be closer to the things I studied, and there are a lot more business opportunities for an industrial designer in Europe than there are in South Africa.
When did Ryan the Designer emerge?
Well I come from a very mechanically-able background. My great-Grandfather was a horticulturist, as is my Uncle. My Grandfather ran a bone meal company, and my Dad runs a specialist concrete surfacing company. I essentially grew up with either a spanner or screwdriver in my hand, and I was always digging, fiddling, repairing, building or taking something apart.
It was inevitable that I would do something along the engineering / design spectrum, but I stumbled on my calling as an industrial designer by chance. I was on my way to lodge my application for the four-year engineering degree at the local university when I bumped into Bennet O’Connor, an old friend, who told me all about the industrial design course he was studying. It sounded like it had a mix of everything that interested me; colour, form, ergonomics, model making, and a lot more creativity than what I would get from a career in engineering.

What happened after university?
I initially set up my own design shop which didn’t work out, so I went to work for Genius Loci Architecture. Before moving to Ireland I worked for the Brand Union, who have an office in Johannesburg. This was my introduction to how design fits into the commercial environment. It’s one thing designing something beautiful, but it has to be commercially viable. We would execute a brief according to what the client wanted, but there were many occasions when our work would help the client design a proposition that was new to the marketplace. I found that very rewarding.

How have you evolved as a designer?
My design path has changed quite a bit since I arrived here. In South Africa my focus was very architectural and interior oriented, with a lot of retail, shop fitting, signage design and branding. The Irish economy nose-dived when I originally arrived in 2008, and that type of work disappeared as a lot of architects went out of business. I needed to change my focus. As a 3D designer you have a varied set of skills that can be applied across a number of domains, and I took those skills and began to apply them in the digital fields of new technology and motion graphics.

What’s the Irish design scene like?
It’s varied and vibrant! You have a very strong craft and manufacturing heritage in this country. There is everything from glass to metalwork, and jewellery to printmaking. Whenever I’ve attended design and craft shows in Dublin or Kilkenny I’ve been literally showered with information whenever I’ve enquired about where and how certain things are made. For me, being able to meet and chat with the likes of Saba Jewellery, and Roger Bennett Woodturning is brilliant and inspirational.
I’ve yet to meet a designer or artisan and receive a cold shoulder. Also, there is some extremely impressive animation and film coming out of Ireland. Check out the cool work from the likes of Cartoon Saloon, Brown Bag Films, and Windmill Lane.

Which projects are you most proud of?
I’m proud of all my work, but a few projects stick out. I had a lot of fun designing the medal for last year’s Dublin City Triathlon. In fact, when we were handing the medals out afterwards, I heard one girl say that the medal was the main reason why she did the race. I’m a member of Piranha Triathlon Club, who organise the race. I generated a digital model of the club logo and 3D printed it. I sent the files off to a manufacturer in China who then produced the medals and shipped them back.
The project I’m most proud of though goes back to my university days. In third year I designed a product for a woman who was quadriplegic with very limited movement. Transfer boards help people with disabilities to move from a wheel chair to, say, a car, and back again. They don’t look like much, but they are a very important part of a quadriplegic’s life. All the transfer boards available on the market at the time were made from heavy and cumbersome ply board that was 12mm to 15mm thick, with a sham fit edge. Believe it or not, anything that thick is akin to climbing Mount Everest for someone with little or no motor function. Funnily enough I have a mad fetish for composite and carbon fibre textiles. It’s magic plastic that you can do anything with, and I designed her transfer board using it. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever designed.

DCT Medals. Photograph: James Shelley
DCT Medals. Photograph: James Shelley

Which Designers do you most admire?
Inspiration comes from everywhere – I recently watched a video of Jean Paul Gaultier interviewing Lady Gaga, which gave an awesome insight into fashion, performance, and attitudes. Philippe Starck has always been on the top of the pile for me, as his design is really beautiful and all-encompassing. He’s designed everything from an iconic juicer to hotels.
I like the Australian designer Mark Newson’s clean style. Anything produced by the team at Italian design house, Alessi, is always worth looking at. In the world of moving images I enjoy the work of Paul Clement. He really got the juices flowing with the work he did for the Ministry of Sound. Andrew Kramer’s work on After Effects was excellent. Likewise, the work of Greyscalegorilla, hellolux, and Pariah Studios is very impressive – the list is long

Ryan In Action At Challenge Roth 2014

Outside of design what are your interests?
Bicycles!!! Bicycles!!! Bicycles!!! I’ve had a bike since I was four. I raced mountain bikes in school and I am currently trying to be a triathlete. I completed the 2014 Challenge Roth Ironman event in murderously hot conditions and am currently training for this year’s National Series.

Have you brought your design expertise to bikes yet?
No, but it’s on my list. I’m in the middle of upgrading a new 3D printer. Once I can produce stuff repeatedly, and with the same result, I’ll start realising the designs I have rolling around in my head.

I got the Silversun Pickups latest long player, Neck of the Woods, over Christmas, and it’s really good. They remind me of Siamese Dream-era Smashing Pumpkins. I like my grunge and metal, hence I love bands like Pearl Jam and Black Sabbath. In fact, I caught Black Sabbath in the Odyssey Arena in Belfast last year.

Big Bang Theory

I loved Guardians of the Galaxy and Interstellar. A friend recommended Pacific Heights, Tootsie, and The Sting the other day, and I’m going to try to get my hands on them. My all-time favourites are The Deer Hunter, A Clockwork Orange, Blade Runner, and The Godfather Trilogy. I recently picked up the Godfather Director’s cut edition, with includes a previously omitted intermission.

Thanks for your time Ryan!


So Why Do Most Change Projects Fail?

William Goldman

It’s almost two decades since I completed my primary degree.  During that time  I’ve read countless articles explaining why the majority of change projects fail.  The common wisdom back in the mid-90s was that about a third of them succeeded, and that figure seems to hold firm today.  Of course it’s a complex process and very difficult to sustain- even with the use of Heinkel bombers and Panzer tanks…just ask Adolf, Heinrich and Josef about that one.

The Irrational Side of Change Management which appeared in the McKinsey quarterly in 2009 is one of the better ones I’ve read.  It’s also always worth citing that well-known passage from The Prince where Machiavelli lays out the pitfalls of political and social change – “There is nothing more difficult to plan, more uncertain of success and more difficult to manage” due to those losing out being incandescent in their opposition and those who are proponents of the change being unsure as to how they will benefit.

But for a bit of fun maybe it’s worthwhile having a look at what screenwriter William Goldman said in his classic memoir Adventures in the Screen Trade (1983).  In the section on studio executives and their poor run rates when trying to pick screen plays guaranteed to translate into box office gold he says the following:

NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING.  If there is a Roman numeral I to this book, that’s it…Again for emphasis- NOBODY KNOWS ANTHING.  Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work.  Every time out it’s a guess- and, if you’re lucky, an educated one…Did you know that Raiders of the Lost Ark was offered to every single studio in town- and they all turned it down? All except Paramount.  Why did Paramount say yes? Because nobody know anything.  And why did all the other studios say no?  Because nobody knows anything.  And why did Universal, the mightiest studio of all, pass on Star Wars, a decision that just may cost them, when all the sequels and spinoffs and toy money and book money and video-game money are totaled, over a billion dollars?  Because nobody, nobody – not now, not ever – knows the least goddam thing about what is or isn’t going to work at the box office…David Picker, a fine studio executive for many years, once said something to this effect: ‘If I had said yes to all the projects I turned down, and no to all the ones I took, it would have worked out about the same.'”