Seedy boarding: why priority status means back of the queue.

Short break. South of France. At Nice airport, heading home to Heathrow. It’s hot.
The airport is busy and as we tango past stray travelers with heads tilted towards distant departure boards we see what no traveler wants to see – a mammoth queue at Gate D. Armed with our Priority boarding passes we stride confidently to the front of the queue to exercise our privilege where the grim realisation sets in: this queue IS the priority boarding queue. We cross-check with another traveler already queueing and in a broad Scots accent the worst is confirmed.
angry-crowd-700x432So with a comfortable two hours until take-off we resign ourselves and stand in line behind Scotty who is now muttering about disgraceful service and the diminishing minutes he has until his flight is due to leave to anyone who can listen or understand.
We watch as fresh arrivals make our mistake. They slow to scan the queue, raised eyebrows, dropped jaws, head to the front, are appraised of the situation then shuffle despondently to the ever-receding back of the growing snake. Their assumed superiority deflating visibly as they do.
More fresh arrivals gather at the head of our queue and start to form their own queue. Priority-priority status is catching on. The new branch grows and the arguments start. Scotty is having none of it. He strides over to the super-privileged, his Crocs squeaking on the marble floor and his baggy cargo shorts swinging generously around his pale legs and he lets them have it.  He explodes, pointing to the back of the queue, waving his gold card and the new queue mostly dissolves.
But the fight is not over for one Well-Heeled Couple and we watch as they enter negotiations with the front of the queue. This couple are not giving in without a fight and against all odds we see them merge and finally disappear into the top of the line.
Scotty is now on the phone to British Airways, his glasses balanced impossibly on his sweating snout which he wrinkles to keep them there, baring a cargo of yellowing teeth. BA, who are a thousand miles away promise unconvincingly to look into the matter.
So, finally, we are ten check-ins from the front and Scotty is looking happier. But the cruelest cut is yet to come. The desk attendant raises an arm and asks the queue for Gatwick passengers who break out from behind us like lottery winners and charge past to the check-in desk pushing us from 10th to 30th in a flash.
When we get through (an hour later) we see Scotty and well-heeled couple standing eagerly among others at the boarding gate. The flight is announced, their tickets torn and they head towards the bus.  Now, arriving first on a bus puts you at a disadvantage. You get a seat, yes but when it comes to disembarking, it’s first on, last off.
Scotty and Well-Heeled Couple only realise this when the bus is full and lurches towards the plane. After what appears to be an eternity, the closed doors hiss open releasing many passengers who checked in way later than them.  They burst from their seats, necks craning towards the now fully-stacked boarding steps as if unwilling to accept their very public relegation.
On board, we all settle in, bags are loaded and we are embalmed with a cocktail of humid air and perfume.  Karma is served in the form of a 90-minute delay on the scorching tarmac. Some read, some chat, some drink and kids scream.  Scotty, meanwhile, is back on the phone to BA.
But we do leave, albeit late, and the waiting becomes history.  Priority boarding queue issues blur into the pleasure of returning home. Tired but on terra firma, we collect our bags from the carousel.
As I leave the baggage collection area I smile at Scotty and Well-Heeled Couple, who, hot, cross and expectant, are still waiting for their bags.

Want to win in business? Love, don’t fight.

I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Paul Skinner this week as he prepares for the launch of his book Collaborative Advantage: How Collaboration Beats Competition as a strategy for success.

Paul tells us how we have we now reached a turning point in history from which creating competitive advantage is no longer in our best interests. He describes how Collaboration Beats Competition as a strategy for success and explores how we can re-think the fundamental assumptions on which business strategy is based, driving a greater level of success that can be better for business, better for customers and better for society.

The book is intended to show how Collaborative Advantage can be applied to grow any business or non-profit and is brought to life with examples of businesses that are putting the principles of Collaborative Advantage into practice around the world.

Rory Sutherland, Vice-Chairman of Ogilvy Group UK and The Spectator’s Wiki Man, said ‘[the book is] a valuable contribution to the vital task of getting people to see the business world as a complex, interconnected ecosystem rather than as a sharp-elbowed race to the bottom’.

The book contains contributions, feedback and relevant examples that illustrate Collaborative Advantage in action.

The book will be published by Little, Brown Book Group on the 22nd of June and is now available for pre-purchase on On the morning of the launch he’ll be celebrating with a breakfast event at the Museum of Brands. If you would like a free ticket to the book launch, let me know. There are limited places, but I’d love to see you there; I’m filming the whole event.

Nostalgia; an investment paid off.

Two things happened to me recently that prompted me to reflect on Nostalgia.

  1. I went to see former Pink Floyd man Dave Gilmour’s Live in Pompeii gig streamed from a Roman Amphitheatre to the Watford Vue cinema
  2. I went back to my old school; after 40 years

Image result for dave gilmour pompeiiGilmour’s guitar playing just gets better and better. He played tracks from Dark Side of the Moon (which I bought in 1973) alongside Comfortably Numb (which I loved as a student in 1979) and newer, fresher pieces like Rattle That Lock (2006) Base notes scoured depths I thought impossible for a guitar and the highest notes found perfect pitch right off the top of the fret-board. His lyrics provoked and his astral solos reared and soared like a big bird on the wing.

smokeAnd School: Your education and your teachers shape you much more than you realise.  I don’t think I was a perfect pupil but I was well taught and well cared for by a fine community of monks.

Forty years on, they greeted us like heroes; the living product of their efforts.  And after a tour and a very good lunch they listened to stories of careers and family details, glowing with pleasure in what they had helped us to achieve.

Both events were, in their own way, nostalgia trips.  Both experiences were more pleasurable today than I remember them being all those years before.  Nostalgia is a powerful aphrodisiac, it teases out emotions that have lain dormant for a long time.  It is the opposite of a bad memory.

The lesson I learned from the emotions these events triggered was that it is what we do today that will or can become nostalgic tomorrow.  Do a thing wrong or badly and we’ll only want to forget it.  Do a thing right and do it well and we’ll reap the reward of a little nostalgia in days to come.

Does good tech make you better?

Does good tech make you better?
This is a really interesting topic actually, so good it’s goaded me into writing another blog – after far too long.
Does enhanced tech make for better or more users?
I’m thinking mainly about videographers, editors and the photographic community but actually it relates to most areas of skill, service and business.
Frinstance: I’m in the market for a new car. I call a car retailer and he sends me a video of a new car he has on the forecourt right now, shot on a smartphone. He’s not a good presenter and he’s certainly not a videographer but I get the film just the same. It’s the sort of stuff I’d expect from a 6 year old who thinks (s)he’ll get squillions from a youtube channel he has yet to create. It’s rubbish, but I do like the car, and I like it more for having seen it. But does that make it a good video? No, it makes it a useful one.
Some time later, I’m browsing a post from a colour-grading software company on Facebook and I got a post from a snapper who says “everyone’s a photographer these days – they use lots of tech but if you’re rubbish you’re always rubbish”
Not exactly.
We humans (photographers and others) and our skills do steadily improve over time but as new tech becomes available the market gets wider, more competitive.
When Michelangelo put down his pencil and picked up a brush, he adopted a tech that took him from a jotter who liked  to draw over-muscled Romans and fancy flying machines to the originator of the Sistine Chapel.
Rubbish photographers and videographers will always remain just that. Really good photographers and videographers and one or two really good techies however are getting smarter at making standout films and images but you bet they all use the software – perhaps they have just become good technicians?  Maybe so, but they are still good at spotting, capturing and processing great stuff.
I measure the quality of this stuff by the output.  I hope the work I do is useful but I also hope it’s good.  With film and photography, when I judge something I think looks great, I don’t usually ask what college they went to or what software they used, I look at the quality.   When I’m done, I ask myself if I could do as well as that.
Usually the answer is no, but I’ll keep on trying.

Why politics should never be a reality show.

Well knock me down and call me Susan; I’ve just heard a sensible thing from a politician.


Yesterday, Radio 4’s Nick Robinson couldn’t resist probing Ed Balls on his efforts to conflate being both a credible politician and a Strictly Come Dancing contestant at the same time. And his reaction shed an excellent light on Mr Trump’s appointment to the world’s most powerful role in politics.

Trump came from Reality TV to Politics and Politician Ed Balls will descend on a rope to dance the Jive on Strictly this Saturday – Nick called this a “reverse Trump”.

Ed’s reply (which I paraphrase) was brilliant: Look, Reality TV is about entertainment, risk and shock.  Granted, Government can sometimes be risky and some may find it entertaining at times but there is no room for shock in politics.  If you allow shock to become your default political style then you become a reality TV president  – a very dangerous thing for America and the world.

(Hear the whole interview at go to 1h 56m in.)

Open letter to Vodafone (part 2)

It doesn’t surprise me a bit to hear about Vodafone’s £4.6m fine for breaking Ofcom rules for handling customer complaints.  My Open Letter to Vodafone last year set out my own painful experiences.

As if prescient of the kicking they have received from Ofcom this week, I have another story for you from only last week…

The S6 Edge that took me three months to obtain last year broke down recently – overheating, freezing, spontaneous re-booting, it was a very broken thing. Samsung in Oxford St quickly diagnosed a hardware fault.  They offered to take it in as it was in warranty but advised me to review what Voda offered by way of a compensation or replacement.

So I called Voda and a cheerful chappy said I should drop by my local store and it would be replaced pronto. “It’s all on your file so they will help you – I’m 95% sure they will replace it” he quipped unconfidently.  My local store is actually 6 miles away but I headed off, parked up and dropped in as advised.  Adrian, the manager at Watford was less cheerful. “We can’t replace your phone and we have no courtesy handsets. We are only allocated ten and four of those have been stolen and the rest are out.”

Disappointed, I pressed for more: “We never just replace phones, Head Office makes promises we can’t fulfill.  I agree with you, the customer service is dreadful!”  That’s a Vodafone store manager slagging off his own company’s customer service, in case you missed the irony.  I should’ve banked on being the 5% who DON’T get a replacement phone.

So I jump on the phone to Voda (music, music, wait, hold etc) and in a fleeting 12 minutes I get through to someone.  There are no notes on my file about a replacement (so that was a lie).  I ask for an escalation to the “Resolutions Team” (Jeez, they must be busy!).  Music, music, holding, holding, I finally get through to the Resolutions Team.  I’m offered an early upgrade as a resolution and put through to the upgrades team. (music, hold etc) who tell me I must pay £170 for early release from my contract.  I’m so unhappy about this it’s back to resolutions (oh, yes, music, hold)…

While I hold, I ask another customer in the store if they feel the Customer Service at Voda is poor and they agree strongly.  Adrian, the store manager, hears this dialogue and tries to throw me out of the shop for upsetting other customers.  I calm him and stay for the duration of the call – 1 hour and 17 minutes.

In fairness to Voda, things improved from here. I’m now 70 minutes into this call and the resolutions team then make make an offer I couldn’t refuse.  Waive the early contract renewal, £20 for my troubles and next day delivery of a new S7 upgrade.

Conclusion: My problem is resolved with no help at all from the retailer and after a massive battle with HQ directly over the phone while sitting in the store that should be solving my problem.  Voda loses out on their reputation, gives me a score, they fail to gather their contract renewal penalty, they send me a new phone and I sell my old (in-warranty) S6 for a couple of hundred quid and they still look like losers.

Multiply this by 444 million customers and you get a feel for why they are fined a few quid by Ofcom.  Frankly, it’s not enough.

Top Gear. A programme in search of a reason for change

For months (years?) I’ve been trying to think of an excuse to renew my blog. The longer I left it the harder a reason to restart and the weaker an excuse for stopping became.

(say this in a Jeremy Clarkson voice) Until now.

I’ve just watched Top Gear and suddenly it all makes sense. The analogy is all too clear. Months off, a change of direction, new content – my blog and the new Top Gear are (almost) one and the same.

Repackaging a media product and relaunching it when it was already a success was going to be a challenge. What do you keep? What do you change? Why did you stop? Why are you bothering to restart?  Who even cares?

Top Gear 2.0 has met with mixed reviews. Chris “I want to punch that ginger ferret” Evans* and Matt “Good looking but a little dull” LeBlanc** are pawns in a much bigger game. Squillions of pounds in distribution rights across 214 territories worldwide and an estimated global audience of 350 million makes TG the most widely watched factual television program in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Who wouldn’t want to try to anchor this programme for all that fun in so many countries not to mention all that dosh.

But you can’t make magic from a recipe. Magic is first the recipe and then a little something extra and although TG2.0’s audience stats are OK for a launch issue as Evans petulantly asserts, it is missing the little something extra. The magic in TG1.0 was that each week Clarkson dished it out and Hammond and May took it.  In TG 2.0 Evans dishes it out and LeBlanc dishes it out too and I can only see a head-to-head sooner or later. Clarkson in a Robin Rialto was funny. Evans and LeBlanc in a Robin Rialtos is, at best, tacky mimicry.  Homage to TG1.0 is fine but adding a short off-road bit (the “dirt section” says Evans – fnar fnar!) to the test lap is going nowhere, programmatically.

TG2.0 is a timid half-change; safe-keeping and re-framing programme assets and not boldly-going anywhere very much at all. Not so much a relaunch as a smudgy transit from A to B.  I have to make my new blogs better than that, so no pressure there then.

*twitter said that

**I said that