So are we finally going to live like the Jetson’s??

Human’s have been buzzing around in flying cars since before we landed on the moon, in cartoon form at least. However, if the hype is to believed then maybe 60 years after the first Jetsons episode, we in the real world are finally catching up…

Jetsons

Although I’m not old enough to have witnessed the first showing of the Jetsons, which aired in September 1962, I do fondly remember their 80’s shows. The life and times of the Jetson family was given to us as a futuristic alternative to the Flintstones, and the notion of flying cars as well as other futuristic inventions left a lasting impression upon me.

However, despite the optimism that us pre-millennials carried with us through the 80’s, it didn’t seem to translate into reality. Our wide eyed vision of the future was most likely fueled by our parents witnessing the moon landings when they were a similar age to us, together with the emergence of the computing age; which would seemingly make anything possible. I remember reading children’s books that were telling me by the year 2000 we would no longer be using petroleum fueled cars. I also remember watching Back to the Future II in 1988, which told me that by the time I was 35 I would be whizzing around on a flying hover-board.

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You can’t deny that the impact that the likes of Mark Zuckerburg has had on our lives is both significant and unpredicted. But in terms of tangible inventions, when compared to what was being predicted, it’s certainly a case of must try harder. Sure, I love the fact that I can make my face look older than it really is just by using a special app, but how come it still takes me 24 hours to get to Australia? and while I’m at it, how come my journey out of London for a weekend retreat now takes longer than it did for my parents at my age??

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Well documented studies have shown that social media isn’t actually that social, and with climate change becoming ever more of an issue, the challenge of physically connecting people seems to be becoming much more difficult than the now solved challenge of virtually connecting people.

I mean, if you have a vacuum cleaner manufacturer has decided that they can make better electric vehicles than incumbent vehicle manufacturers, then surely the industry is in need of a shakeup?

Dyson

Well, finally we might be getting there… following on from Elon Musk’s foray into the electric vehicle market with Tesla, companies are starting to take this one step further and combine electric propulsion with air travel.

lilium jetThis year has seen a marked increase in media exposure for where we hope the next generation of aircraft will take us. The 2019 Paris Airshow displayed several electrical powered concepts, including an offering from both Airbus and Boeing. Roland Berger, an aerospace thought leader, have stated there are now 170 different ‘e’planes globally Roland Berger Study. Of these 170, there are two German based start ups, one who is aiming to serve London with air taxis by 2025 Lilium Jet’s 2025 target, and another who is aiming to go one further and provided automated flying taxis. I challenge you to watch the video clip below and not get excited…

Having been rather blown away by these claims, my imagination was quickly kicked into overdrive with what possibilities and opportunities such developments will bring; from transformational commuting experiences to exciting employment opportunities. However, as the saying goes, once bitten twice shy. With the broken promises of Marty McFly and Doc Brown still fresh in my memory, I thought it only right to investigate further into this fresh and exciting sector. Just how real are these claims?

I will be sharing my findings upon this blog, so you will be the first to know. Starting with an interview with a business owner who is developing a manned eVTOL (electrically powered vertical take-off and landing) vehicle, which I will post tomorrow…

 

Driving Digital Strategy: The future shape of the supermarket industry

This entry has been born out of reading the book; Driving Digital Strategy, by Sunil Gupta. It has made me realise just how under-served we are by the supermarket industry. Most of us would agree that we spend much too much time buying groceries, it’s tedious, and with today’s technology, it’s not necessary…

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First off, some notes on the book itself. I found it quite effective at making me see things from different angles, notably from the eyes of the customer. It touches a lot on ‘marketing myopia’, something everyone should be aware of; the nature of your business is not what you supply (e.g. groceries), it is what customer needs that you solve (e.g feeding a family) It also inspired me to write the previous blog article below. So it really is the book that keeps on giving:

Digital transformation in the aerospace industry… Really??

What has also inspired this article is a case study and strategy assignment that our class completed for M&S Simply Food. This got me onto the train of thought described below. Hopefully, from me writing this down, it will actually happen; and grocery shoppers will live happily ever after.

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If you consider the average supermarket, and the average grocery shopper, you could be forgiven to think that the consumer has it quite easy. The supermarket advertising slogans would certainly have you believe that this is the case: ‘Every little helps’, ‘Live well for less’, ‘save money, live better’. In truth however, I am yet to meet someone who looks forward to their local shopping trip, or wrestling their shopping all the way home from the supermarket. Of course, there is online shopping, this is a step in the right direction, but not enough.

Online-Grocery

Most shopping trips, or online shopping sprees, start with an inventory check, then a mental note of the household’s upcoming schedule, followed by some sort of meal planning, before any shopping can start. All of this is unnecessary. It is certainly not beyond today’s technology that a supermarket can offer you a service whereby purchases are recorded in a personalized inventory profile. Then, as you use items for cooking, a quick scan of you phone onto the bar-code could allow you to update your stock levels. If you add to this a facility where you can store your favourite recipes, rather than shopping per item, you can update your shopping list automatically from what you intend to cook. Going another step further, what is stopping recipe books from having bar codes against their recipes, so that you can scan these and add these to your shopping list?

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Once we have this level of service, the supermarket chains can really start living up to their promises. A family on a budget? A simple algorithm can take your current home food stocks, and suggest meals that will require the minimum spend in order to make up meals. Alternatively the same algorithm can take your shopping list made from the meals you have selected, and offer savings from suggesting similar but cheaper alternatives. Have children? Special diet needs? Perhaps you are training for a marathon, or need a high protein diet? Once again why can’t you tell your online shopping platform these requirements so that it can offer you improvements to your manual shopping list. Netflix and Amazon have been suggesting films considering our viewing patterns for years, so supermarkets should be able to offer alternative meals similar to those that we regularly cook, but cheaper and / or more healthy.

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The above covers the bare necessities, now how about living up to the promise of helping us to ‘live better’? Having a sales channel online is all very well, but considering that food makes up such a big part of our everyday lives, the supermarkets really are missing a trick by not offering us much more than this.

For instance, cookery programs are one of the most popular genres on television, following in Amazon’s footsteps, supermarkets could quite easily offer cookery programs that are matched with shopping list options on line. These could be viewed live in the evenings, offering interactive content where viewers can send in pictures and feedback of their experiences while following the celebrity chef. Or they can be streamed at your convenience at a later date. Do you have children? Why not tune in to a special children’s show that encourages children to help you cook the evening meal? Thus getting them used to cooking and embracing a healthy lifestyle. Also, why not let shoppers suggest meals to be cooked by celebrity chefs, offering an interactive relationship between the customer and the supermarket.

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Alternatively, why not have a quiet night in with your partner where you both get stuck in to a live cookery show? Supermarkets could go even further here, offering live Master Chef style competitions, where customers can apply and compete in live cookery competitions. Us at home can try and emanate their recipes while we watch the shows, and perhaps the competition winners can get a regular slot on one of the cooking channels? Customers could also write in to suggest meals that they would like to see cooked by celebrity chefs.

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With Amazon having a JV with Morrison’s and purchasing both Whole Foods and Deliveroo, and Ocado soon to offer delivery times of one hour, it looks like one trend will be to offer grocery shopping at late notice. This will certainly help add a little variety and flexibility to our lives, if we can receive a healthy and quick to cook food option, as an alternative to a sloppy takeaway, then I for one will be happy. However, these delivery facilities should also be utilised to deliver parcels and other online shopping to your door. Online shopping does offer you delivery time flexibility that you can’t get else where, you are often able to fix the delivery to a one hour time slot. If you could get all of your parcels delivered at the same time as your shopping, meaning you avoid the frustrating ‘we couldn’t deliver your parcel because your were out’ note pushed through your letterbox. Wouldn’t this be great?

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These are just some of the many improvements that supermarkets can offer to their customers. However, I’m sure you get the idea. As for supermarkets themselves, there must be a first mover advantage for implementing stuff like this. Will it come from Amazon; the customer obsessed behemoth? Or will the incumbents come to their senses and get there first? Only time will tell, but I know who I would place my bets on…

 

How to create positive environmental impact through consumer demand..

As consumers become ever more environmentally conscientious, giving them access to the data to help make informed spending decisions would force businesses to tackle sustainability.  The emergence of block chain and the Internet of Things is making this concept a real possibility.

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Today there is much concern for our Earth’s environment, and climate change appears high on many peoples’ agendas. The media shows us that high profile protests are increasing, such as those from Extinction Rebellion this year in London, and the rousing words from Greta Thunberg in late 2018.

Sir David

Sir David Attenborough has also helped increase the world’s awareness of what impact  our consumption habits are having upon the planet and nature around us. The Google Trends chart below shows the dramatic increase in searches for the term “Plastic Recycle” immediately after Sir David’s Blue Planet episode showing how single use plastics are hurting our planet. Approximately one year on from the first broadcast of this episode GlobalCitizen.org reported that it has changed the lifestyle of 88% of viewers. Fast forward to Spring 2019, and Attenborough’s hard hitting new documentary episode on the effects of climate change is set to have a similar impact.

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Despite all of this attention that the subject is attracting, it dawned on me some time ago that currently there is scant information available to enable environmentally conscious consumers to make informed decisions. What products have high carbon footprints? By making some small changes to consumption habits, how can a person’s carbon footprint be reduced? Food packages have nutrition information on them, why don’t we have something similar for climate impact? While considering these questions, I came across the excellent website and app gikibadges.com which allows you to scan bar codes of supermarket items to find out how they impact the environment and your personal health. I would strongly encourage all readers to download and use this app.

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Giki is an exceptional tool and a step in the right direction, however I feel that the business world could do a lot more to help us and them. For me, an optimal solution would combine the world’s obsession of social media, the internet of things and block chain. This solution would give people a user profile that updated their carbon footprint with their spending patterns. These profiles could be kept private, or for advocates who are proud of how they have reduced their footprint, made public. This would create some friendly competition between consumers, which in turn would lead to further carbon footprint reductions.

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How would such a tool create revenue? Each user would be a strong climate change protection advocate. For each of these users there would be data available showing all of their spending patterns. The environmentally conscientious business could access this data and propose alternative purchases to users to further reduce their carbon footprint. This creates a virtuous cycle, where environmentally friendly suppliers are selected ahead of others, causing more suppliers to follow suit. It also creates a system whereby those businesses that place sustainability high on their priorities have the chance to be rewarded for it. On the other side of the scale, suppliers who were unwilling to participate would eventually be overlooked by consumers, forcing them to adapt or lose market share.

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With block chain now becoming widely used, it will soon be possible to track transactions throughout a product’s entire supply chain, and thus claimed carbon footprint values can be verified. While the Internet of Things will allow us to upload all purchases onto our profiles immediately. Meanwhile there are also some forward thinking businesses that are now providing ‘extra-smart’ electricity meters that show you usage of each individual appliance. It doesn’t take too much imagination to see a world where our carbon footprints are measured and recorded real time, and businesses are able to see where they can help us make improvements.

The question I have is: Who will move first to take advantage of this? A supermarket and social media partnership? Amazon perhaps? I will be watching this space..

A problem shared is a problem solved when utilising the adjacent possible

Want to solve a problem? Well you had better talk to someone about it!: My insights taken from the book: Where Good Ideas Come From, written by Steven Johnson…

Where Good Ideas Come From

I was strongly recommended this book by a successful entrepreneur, and I’m glad I took the time to read it as it has had a profound impact upon how I approach problem solving. It certainly isn’t a self help book, and it might not give you the magic formula needed invent the next big thing, but it does give a good blend of historical and behavioral analysis on what things tend to help cultivate ideas.

There are several good summaries of this book online, one of which that I particularly like, written by Phil Gyford, is linked here.

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The Adjacent Possible: The idea creation aspect that really struck me, and for me feels like the most useful tool to engineer yourself a solution, is the idea of utilising the adjacent possible. This explains the rationale that inventions and innovation can only happen one step at a time, and on reflection it is very true. Google couldn’t have been created until the internet was created. Facebook’s success depended not only on the internet, but also on the creation of the digital camera, and it really started its rapid rise to prominence with the invention of the smart phone.

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For me, making use of the adjacent possible is exploring the use of current new innovative ideas in alternative domains to what they were created for. An example given in the book is the use of old car tyres to create soles for sandals. This concept can be used for applications in all walks of life. For instance, Deliveroo is a very successful start up that has disrupted the fast food industry, could this delivery service model be used for other purposes? Some ideas that spring to mind are delivery of parcels and special delivery mail from logistics companies. Riders could collect from the delivery depot, and deliver on demand when you are at home, within 30 minutes. Will people pay the extra delivery fee to have their parcels delivered out of hours (something many logistics companies can’t do)? Not everyone will, but depending upon the urgency of a parcel, I’m pretty sure some people will.M&S

Keeping on this train of thought, M&S are in the process of entering into a Joint Venture with Ocado. A deal that will be very intriguing to see how it plays out. Ocado are fantastic at delivering people’s weekly shopping, and they are looking at offering a ‘delivery within the hour’ service. However, no matter how brilliant new service, it will once again be focused on weekly shopping. Shopping that involves pre-planning from looking at the full week ahead.

M&S over the last couple of years have had a focused drive to open many convenience sized stores, and these stores very much focus on very fine quality, pre-prepared meals. Meals that are cooked at home with the little time or fuss, made from fresh ingredients, that everyone trusts. Could M&S successfully collaborate with Deliveroo, offering a ‘heat at home’ food delivery service? I wouldn’t bet against it..

The adjacent possible is like shuffling cards, until eventually you get two cards that pair up to offer an innovative idea that hasn’t yet been implemented. Simple!

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A problem shared is a problem solved: The other key insight the book gave me was the environment in which most ideas are created, and most problems are solved. A profound discovery was made in the early 20th Century when a stop-motion study was performed in a research laboratory.  The discovery was; that most ideas did not come from Eureka moments by individuals, but when one researcher spent time discussing their problems with another. Their fresh perspective often resulted in fruitful discussions and even more fruitful idea creations.

The effect of collaboration is all the more visible when you look at the history of innovation. In shear quantities, there have been many more key inventions to come from organisations that are not driven by financial incentives. Why is this? Surely inventors will be more keen to see their ideas realised if it will result in life changing financial fortunes? Of course it will, but where there are financial incentives, there are often patents, intellectual property, and closely guarded secrets. This process is not wrong, inventors need to be able to gain from their ideas and hard work. But it does show that collaboration is (far) more effective in creating ideas than financial incentives for individuals.

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This was a bit of a revelation for me, previously if I had a problem that I was working on, I had a tendency to hatch down and go into individual problem solving mode. What I should be doing more of is talking to as many people about my problem as possible. This will give me new perspectives, and might introduce me to people who have similar problems (or even better; solutions).

This new mantra has led to the creation of a new blog category: ‘innovative problems‘, in which I will share a perspective upon my own and other peoples’ problems. As the reader, you may be able to empathise with these problems from an adjacent domain. Even better, they may inspire a brand new solution to a problem that you were previously unaware of. My first post of this type was created a few weeks ago: Digital transformation in the aerospace industry… Really?? and has resulted in several follow on discussions with people of how this concept can be developed. Without this post, these discussions would never have happened.

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So in summary, shuffle the cards of possibility, and share your findings with all and sundry. Who knows, there might be an Einstein or Newton inside you somewhere…

 

 

 

 

Digital transformation in the aerospace industry… Really??

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A brief post to offer some musings to my comrades in the Aerospace industry. Hopefully you’ll find this helpful, and if not immediately helpful, then at least it will offer some food for thought…

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One of my first subjects on the LBS Sloan programme has been ‘Leading the Market Driven Organisation’. I won’t shy away from the fact that I didn’t get much exposure to the principles of marketing while in the aerospace industry; most clients are either government or large multi-national organisations. You don’t often find people wanting to buy an aeroplane, or an aeroplane  component, because they have just seen an advert on SkySports, or because someone dropped a leaflet through their letterbox.

Considering the above, you can forgive my initial response to the recommendation to “transform my industry through digitisation”, as stated in my course text book. I’m sure many of you currently in the industry would agree; this sort of thing doesn’t apply to aerospace… Or does it…

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…It was only a little later in the day when I started to think about pain points and problem areas when I had a Eureka! moment. For my last client, on my last project, by far the biggest pain point was managing suppliers and late delivery of purchase orders. Unfortunately there are suppliers out there who seem very intent on winning orders and making promises, but not so good at delivering parts. One particular supplier we used had promised some components within 10 weeks, but we were still pulling our hair out due to non-delivery way beyond this time.

In the business to consumer world there are simple tools available to prevent poor supplier performance. For individual consumers, consider the ratings systems put in place by organisations such as Amazon and Ebay. For suppliers offering loans and mortgages, consider credit rating platforms such as Experian and Noddle.

This is when the penny dropped. Why isn’t there a business to business rating system? Even better, a transparent tracking system that links to each business’ MRP system and shows what orders are overdue. If banks and financial institutions can do it with individuals’ bill payments for credit ratings, then it must be possible for other industries. This application would have a profound affect; as businesses that were unable to fulfill their orders as promised would not likely win future work. This would reward productive and well run organisations and encourage other businesses to follow suit. I predict that over time this system would improve productivity of the entire industry value chain…

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…After all, we can put man made objects into space, and fly objects around the globe heavier than  double-decker buses, with an unparalleled safety record. So  surely we can  create a simple system that protects buyers, and drives all suppliers to improve productivity?

This problem is crying out for a solution that could completely transform the aerospace industry; and through the simple use of tech that has been readily available in everyday life for over a decade. Maybe this is a business venture that I will explore once I am finished with my studies…

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So thinking a little smaller and immediate, how can the ‘individual’ take advantage of this ‘problem’ right now? Well while the industry waits for an encompassing platform to arrive, there will be demand for small consultancy services that organisations can use to provide supplier due diligence prior to placing critical purchase orders. This process happens already, but it usually happens in-house and is focused on how solvent a supplier is – will they go bust before they produce my parts? We should also concentrate on how many of a supplier’s current orders with other clients are overdue – if they can’t fulfill current orders, then they will not likely fulfill ours either. The key to this challenge is where do you gain access to such information? The fact that sourcing this information is not easy means that organisations will be willing to pay for it.

Finally, a low hanging fruit to consider when you are writing proposals and responding to client’s request for quotes: If you are a well run productive business; why not place some data at the back of your next proposal that shows your historic delivery performance? I have never seen this in a bid for work from a supplier, yet when I am mid project with muck and bullets flying all around me, time is the most important consideration. Why not try this approach? If you win more work, feel free to buy me a beer!

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The above is all a brief brain dump of my thoughts. I would be really happy to talk further on the topic, or discuss any similar ideas that you readers may have in relation to this. Do you think you could help make any of the above a reality? Then please drop me a message.