Learning, communicating and inventing

Getting creative, sending out signals and finding the perfect name

Three unrelated themes this time.

Except they’re not.

They all take something that’s ‘obvious’ and turn it on its head. They’re about coming at something from a different angle, and solving a problem creatively.

1. Brick in the wall

It’s three whole years since I highlighted a funny, compassionate and intelligent presentation by Sir Ken Robinson at TED entitled Do schools kill creativity?

It appealed to my inner rebel – and my outer one too.

And I wasn’t alone. His landmark talk was downloaded over 4 million times, striking a chord with a global audience.

And now he’s back.

His 2010 talk – Bring on the learning revolution! – will make you stop and think about how best to find your niche. His central idea, that ‘education dislocates people from their natural talents’, is a powerful and persuasive one.

He also talks about the ‘tyranny of common sense’, something we hear every day in the business world (‘we’ve always done it that way!’). And why education shouldn’t be linear (because life isn’t).

It’s all there – from Eric Clapton to fast food, from dreaming about being a fireman to why nobody under 25 wears a wristwatch (do you?).


[If you’re reading in email, click here to see the talk on]

2. Tomayto, tomahto

What’s your company’s tone of voice?

And before you say business-like or professional, think about who you like to do business with. Businesses or people? Faceless and anonymous, or personal and friendly?

Would you like to do business with your company?

I thought about tone of voice again this week when I re-read a blog post from the Wise Old Man of Marketing, Seth Godin.

What sort of accent do you have? starts with the obvious (accent) and extends the idea.

Writing, he says, has an accent. And actions have grammar.

He’s right. Everything we say, everything we do, every interaction we have with people sends out a subtle message.

Don’t know the difference between principle and principal? (Find out.) Think you are sounds more professional than you’re? (Think again.) Don’t have an address on your website? (Include one.) Don’t make it obvious what your prospect should do next? (Change that.) Like to include ‘takes up to 28 days’ to make sure you’re covered on delivery lead times? (Nothing takes a month.)

Everything sends out a signal, whether we like it or not.

So what signals are you sending out?

3. It’s all in a name

Can’t think of a name for your business? Tell me about it.

Actually, don’t. Instead, jump on over to And you’ll have a new business name in next to no time.

The idea is simple – you suggest a word to use as the basis (e.g. tech, shop, idea, high, first, micro) and it’ll create a new word for you.

You can choose to put your word at the beginning, middle or end of the new word. And you can choose to make it sound natural, almost natural or (bizarre, but actually kind of funky) hardly natural.

It even checks whether the .com and .net domains are available for the new word. And best of all, it’s free.

Could naming your business get any easier?

Thought not. So what are you waiting for?

Find out more:

Big business makes big mistakes

And the bigger they are…

big business mistakesIt’s that time of year again: Christmas is a distant memory, you can’t shed those extra pounds and the credit card bills are rolling in.

Luckily, there’s always someone else with bigger problems. And Fortune magazine has assembled the 101 Dumbest Moments in Business to cheer you up.

It’s a romp through the lows (some of them very low indeed) of last year.

In case you haven’t got time to check out all 101, here are my personal favourites:

  • (10) Diebold, who put a picture of the key for their electronic voting machines on their website – just enough detail for somebody to cut a real one.
  • (15) Bindeez, an Australian toy made from beads. When sucked, the beads released the date-rape drug GHB.
  • (16) Microsoft, whose PR agency compiled a 13-page dossier on a journalist – then emailed it to him by mistake.
  • (38) The 409 people who clicked on a Google Adwords ad that said ‘Drive-By Download. Is your PC virus-free? Get it infected here.’
  • (48) The European Union, whose campaign to promote European cinema, Let’s come together, raised (at least) an eyebrow.
  • (50) The US Defense Department, and the case of the $969,000 postage stamp.
  • (51) Apple, who slipped up on customer service – with a nine-year-old iPod fan.
  • (67) McDonald’s, who took on the Oxford English Dictionary over the word ‘McJob’.
  • (81) Data-centre operator 365 Main, who set the bar high – then fell at the first hurdle.
  • (93) British Airways, who put the body of dead economy passenger in the seat next to a sleeping first-class oneĀ  – and told him to ‘get over it’ when he woke up and complained.
  • (97) Blogger, whose own company blog was flagged as spam and promptly disabled.

There. You’re feeling better already, aren’t you?

I know I am.