Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Intervallum Conference Diary - Part Two

Whilst between sessions at the Intervallum conference, one of our number spotted the latest book by “The Tipping Point” author, Malcolm Gladwell. Entitled “Outliers”, it describes itself as the “Story of Success”, but with a twist (Outlier – something that is situated away from or classed differently from a main related body).

Interestingly, numerous successful geniuses (i.e. Bill Gates) didn’t make it on intellect alone but were benefactors of opportunities by being at the right place at the right time i.e. he went to a private school where his Mother worked on a committee that raised money to buy a computer terminal for programming on a local mainframe in the days where almost all programming had to be done via punch cards (and this advantage led to programming opportunities with companies while he was still a student). Another example cited is with regard to ice hockey players who were born at the start of the year (and the start of the season) and were normally bigger and more powerful than younger boys, performing better and therefore getting the chances to have additional training (thus getting even better) and going on to be picked for the teams and becoming the major league players (while the younger players didn’t get the opportunities and eventually missed the grade).

The theory continues that IQ only matters to a certain level and that additional intelligence won’t make you any more successful. Physical intelligence then takes over, with the powers of persuasion (knowing how to get the best response from other people) becoming as significant as IQ.

Also, where you come from is important, according to Gladwell – not only due to the opportunities afforded you but in the attitude and confidence you will possess coming from a middle class family as opposed to the “constraints” felt by people with a poorer background.

Another factor of success (unsurprisingly) is hard work of a structured and meaningful nature – Gladwell suggests at least 10,000 hours are required to get to the top of your field, be it computer programming, becoming a chess master or playing the piano.

There’s also anecdotal evidence of people with IQs as high as 200 who never amounted to anything due to where they came from (family background), missed opportunities and an inability to communicate persuasively with people they perceive to be of a higher standing.

It’s certainly a thought provoking piece of work, gave the team plenty of interesting discussions, and goes some way to showing that intelligence alone simply isn’t enough to be a success.

As for the remainder of the conference itself, I would like to thank Mike Harvey for his excellent seminar presentations on Memory skills, the workings of the brain, and body language – a very entertaining and passionate presenter. And a special thanks to Perry McCarthy (racing driver and the original “Stig” from Top Gear) who’s hilarious talk ended the proceedings.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Intervallum Conference Diary - Part One

This year, the team has left the UK, turned the mobile phones off, and left all distractions behind.

The theme for this conference is to work"on" the business, not just "in" the business. And this is a point I think that far too many Company leaders fail to focus on. It's very admirable to work long hours at the "coal face", but if your efforts are misplaced then the business isn't going to be any further on. We have focused this week on a "Time to Think" philosophy - what are we wanting to achieve, are our efforts effectively aligned to these goals, are we contacting the right prospects and/or markets for future opportunities, or are there things we could do better (the answer is yes - we must all work on the basis of continuous improvement)?

By taking that step back from the front line and rising up to take a "helicopter" view, it is incredible how much you can see, and how many tweeks and minor changes you can effect to get you back on the course of the Company vision.

It's like a ship sailing the oceans just one or two degrees out of line - it starts off quite close to the original course, but after a period of time it will be a long way from the original target destination. Regular checking on the direction, as well as the day to day operation of the vessel, will give the Captain the information to make the minor tweeks he needs to reach his scheduled port.

This week the team has worked well to these ends in the conference sessions and produced some valuable thoughts that we intend to progress further as a Company.

Note: One highlight of the conference so far has been a seminar presentation by Dragons Den entrepreneur, David Pybus ("Scents of Time"), who lifted the lid on the behind the scenes aspect of the show, and what it has been like working with Peter Jones and Theo Paphitis (who together invested £80k into his business).