Two Contrarian Thinkers who went Unheeded

Lord Lansdowne Henry Charles Keith Petty-Fitzmaurice (1845 – 1927), the 5th Marquess of Lansdowne, was a distinguished British statesman who held senior positions in both Liberal Party and Conservative Party governments. He had served as the fifth Governor General of Canada, Viceroy of India, Secretary of State for War, and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. He was a pillar of the British aristocracy,... Read More--

An American Innovator in London – Harry Selfridge

Harry Selfridge Harry Gordon Selfridge was born in Wisconsin in 1858.  He was one of three sons.  His father, Robert Selfridge, served as a major with the Union Army in the American Civil War but abandoned his family at the end of the war.  Soon after the war Harry’s two brothers died.   Harry helped his mother, Lois, a teacher, by delivering papers. He left school at 14 to work in a bank and... Read More--

Be Unpredictable – Surprise your Customers and Competitors

Boy Browning Frederick Arthur Montague Browning (1896 – 1965) was known as ‘Boy’ Browning. He served in the British Army with distinction in the First World War.  He was promoted to Adjutant at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst.  During the Sovereign’s Parade of 1926, he did something unexpected by the large audience who came to see the closely choreographed and well-rehearsed parade... Read More--

Lessons in Innovation from Rome’s Arch Enemy

Hannibal (247 – 182 BC) was an illustrious general of the North African state of Carthage, Rome’s enemy and rival for control of the Mediterranean.  His father was a Carthaginian general, Hamilcar, who made his 9 year old son swear undying enmity for Rome.  As a boy Hannibal went to Spain, which was under Carthaginian control, and trained to be a soldier.  At the age of 26 he was put in command... Read More--

Literally a Leap of the Imagination

The fans packed into the Olympic Stadium in Mexico City in 1968 saw something they had never seen before.  An athlete competing in the men’s high jump went over with his back to the bar.  The man was a 21 year old American, Dick Fosbury.  He won the gold medal with a leap of 2.24 metres, a new Olympic record. The conventional way to undertake a high jump until then was the straddle method (or... Read More--

Can you take Criticism? And was the Reformation really necessary?

‘Someone told me that I am poor at taking on board criticism so I quickly pointed out they were wrong.’ This little witticism is at the core of many a corporate disaster. Martin Luther The Catholic magazine, The Tablet, recently ran an editorial with the intriguing headline ‘Was the Reformation really necessary?’  It points out that Martin Luther and the early Protestants wanted to reform... Read More--

Who were the Greatest Britons?

In 2002 the BBC ran a poll to determine who the public considered to the the greatest British people of all time.  It was broadcast as a TV programme and you can see the full list of 100 names at 100 Greatest Britons. It includes some odd nominations including the engineer Brunel at #2 (voted for by the students at Brunel University), Diana, Princess of Wales at #3 and the actor Michael Crawford... Read More--

Leadership Lessons from the Battlefield

Business is not war. But if you are operating in a fierce marketplace then it can feel like it. Many of the methods we use in our sales campaigns, marketing strategies and competitive tactics are based on military analogies. So what lessons can business leaders today learn from the history of warfare? Here are some that seem particularly relevant. 1. David vs Goliath – 1000 BC? Goliath was a... Read More--

Why You Should Encourage Dissent

The innovative organization has an atmosphere of constructive dissent. Anyone can challenge anything. The more sacred the cow, the more likely it is to be sacrificed. The conventional leader of years gone by who ruled by command and control is unsuited to a fast moving entrepreneurial environment. They may be decisive and dynamic but ultimately their reluctance to let go and to allow challenge... Read More--

Innovation can Destroy as well as Create

Socrates Apparently Socrates in ancient Greece was strongly opposed to the new practice of writing. He thought that it would kill the long-established skill of memorizing and reciting epic stories. Furthermore he thought that writing would replace or discourage conversation. It seems ludicrous that any intellectual could oppose writing. However, every innovation involves an element of destruction.... Read More--