‘Birmingham – A digital opportunity’

The Digital Revolution

I was recently at a Birmingham Business Breakfast Club event and the guest speaker – Simon Jenner, a technology entrepreneur – gave an inspiring and motivating talk regarding the position of Birmingham as a digital hub.

As we are all becoming increasingly aware, the digital landscape is changing and technology appears to be influencing everything we do.

A great example of this is Uber. Simon explained that within a 4 year period, the company has gone from nowhere to being a $50bn business and the biggest taxi firm in the world. Yet they own no taxis and no taxi drivers – they are a truly digital business.

Brummies Overlooked?

So, where does our great city and the surrounding area fit into the global digital arena? Simon told us that in terms of numbers in employment, digital technology accounts for the 4th largest sector, equalling 40,000 people. The public sector is still by far the biggest employer in Birmingham, with 450,000 people.

However, despite most sectors now being affected by technological advancements and despite 20% of the UK gaming industry being based in nearby Leamington Spa – why is ‘digital’ is still being overlooked?

An Opportunity

Simon is clearly very passionate about his city and technology. The issue from his perspective is that the two have not become aligned as yet, but there’s absolutely no reason why Birmingham cannot become a ‘digital hub’ on a grand scale, rivalling London, Manchester, Edinburgh…

It’s easy to think of this scenario as classic Birmingham – living up to a reputation of a city behind the times. However, it’s thanks to Simon and other visionaries that we should see this as a great opportunity for the city to build a reputation, like any brand, by offering a clear vision and standing out from the crowd.

 

It’s true that without a ‘champion’ business, such as a Google, it has been difficult to be seen as an industry player, but with lots of smaller individual companies – who knows which one of them could be the next overnight phenomenon?

Success breeds success, and the time is now for Birmingham to join the digital revolution.

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BP and Chile: building belief in a brand – by Aimee Postle

Aimee Postle

Aimee Postle

So, back in April, an oil rig blew up off the coast of Louisiana.  More than six months later and BP is still feeling the full force of the damage to its reputation, its share price and its ability to move forward with new projects.

In August, 33 miners were trapped deep underground in Chile and were not rescued until two months later.  A month after the rescue and Chile is still basking in the reflected glory of success and world attention.

Two crises, two very different outcomes.  What lessons are there to learn for business?

  • Get out of your BED (blame, excuses, denial) and pick up your OAR (ownership, accountability, responsibility) – where BP tried to blame everyone but themselves, the Chilean government took responsibility for staging a mammoth rescue attempt with the eyes of the world watching.
  • Personality matters – while Tony Haywood at BP was vilified for taking a sailing trip in the middle of the disaster, Chilean billionaire President Sebastian Pinera was available for comment and acted as a charismatic spokesperson for the country as a whole.  US President Obama’s approval rating sank after a slow reaction to the BP disaster while Pinera’s grew.
  • It all comes back to basic identity – while BP workers the world over conveniently forgot who they worked for when it came to socialising with friends, the Chilean people rediscovered their heritage and national identity.  While BP tried to disassociate itself from the crisis, Chile used their situation as a textbook example of turning a crisis into a reputation triumph.  The rescue of these 33 miners has sparked nationalist parties throughout the country with people celebrating and reconnecting to their national identity.

So, next time you get a call in the middle of the night to react to a business crisis… stop and think.  Instead of thinking about how to pass the buck, consider instead how you can own the crisis and influence your reputation positively.

Q: What do Sir Ranulph Fiennes and a bucket of Flash™ have in common? – by Angela Podmore

A:  They’re both compelling and authentic brands.

Angela Podmore, Kinetic Communications

Angela Podmore, Kinetic Communications

Nothing is more uplifting than spending an hour in the company of a person who’s living with all their mind, body, heart and soul all beautifully aligned in courageous pursuit.

Speaking on leadership, challenge and perseverance in the face of adversity, explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes captivated a packed hall 5 (28 October 2010) at Birmingham’s ICC.

Truly the man of our time, he spoke – in a curiously laconic yet bullet-hitting and modest fashion – of his various feats of derring-do:  his package holidays with a 52-strong team from 9 different countries.  His training ground and recruitment consultant of choice – the SAS (where they called him a donkey walloper harking back to his cavalry past).

He’s circumnavigated the globe through the poles without outside support.  He offered us all a simulated arctic experience – put three of your 6ft friends in a bath tub and drag them over dunes for 2,000 miles!

He feels the same fears we’d all feel before setting off on such a feat.  Difference is, he feels the fear and does it anyway (great book by Susan Jeffers).  The author of 18 books, he was signed Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know (what his father-in-law said to ward his daughter from marrying him!).

Compelling leadership

There’s no payroll for the Ranulph’s express.  So his team selection process focuses on motivation.  Motivation is his answer to everything – if it’s ever so slightly dodgy, you’re out.  “You can sack someone  in Antarctica but you can’t get rid of them.  So selection is key.”

I asked him to what he attributes his self-belief.

His answer was surprising, “when I’m near giving up, I hope and pray one of the team will give up first but they never do.  I live in the now and you have to know your own resources.  But I’d say my self-belief stems from what my father and grandfather did.  I think of them watching me and I don’t want to let them down.”

And that links nicely to how another compelling brand – my bucket of flash which also didn’t let me down while scrubbing our 10 year old kitchen floor.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s been mopped every week but we’re talking deep clean here.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes impresses because he’s the real deal in stratospheric motivation, ambition and attainment.  But great brands share that so take heart with Flash.  Used  neat, Flash has made our ceramic tiled floor, shine like a new pin.  A compelling performance from another great brand you can trust to do the job.

Note of thanks to all the organisations who made this inspiring Sir Ranulph Fiennes lecture happen:  Birmingham City Business School in partnership with Institute of Business Consulting and Chartered Management Institute and CiPD.