Geek Speak will not rescue Blackberry’s future

January 30, 2013

Blackberry 10RIM re-launches its Blackberry 10 product today. It is not helped if its executives can only use Geek Speak in press interviews

In the UK, RIM’s press agency has done its job and an interview arranged for a senior Blackberry executive to explain the new product to BBC’s Five Live radio audience [8am, Jan 30th 2012]. After a few minutes, the interviewer realised he was dealing with someone speaking a difficult executive dialect of Geek Speak.

When asked to simplify what was new about the new product the executive, naturally, continued in Geek Speak without a translator to hand.

I may have missed something

I may have missed something, as my grasp of Geek Speak is also limited. I thought he said something that sounded like the new product ‘enabled transition to a unique and exciting end-user proposition.’

Blackberry Jam

I have this scary image of discussions around RIM, owners of Blackberry, the messages communicated in geekspeak so that salespersons are able to gain optimal buy-in to the uniqueness of the offering and its platforms.

Anticipation is high

Anticipation is high on a launch believed to be make or break for blackberry. [See also here] Let’s wait a little longer to see if the Geekery justifies the GeekSpeakery


First reviews [31st Jan 2013] suggest that the Z10 is chock fulla design elements . A cunning aspect is (if I understand it) a sort of firewall between stuff for and from its Corporate use and stuff for and from its personal use. Which says to me a neat way of attracting individuals to embrace the Z10 for personal use in a way that can be sold to he Corporate paymasters dishing out the product.

Murray v Djokovic: Momentum swings are mostly in the emotions of onlookers

January 27, 2013

Australian Open Tennis Final 2013. The commentators talk frequently about momentum swings. Closer inspection suggests this is mostly revealing only of the emotional swings of the observers

Tudor Rickards

One thing trumps even watching the start of the Australian Open Tennis Final. That is an indoor court booked for an hour’s hitting just as the final starts. We trudge though snow. [Yes, this is the UK not Oz]. Others crowd around the TVs in the clubhouse.

Return to clubhouse to learn the match is well-balanced at one set all.

Set three

I learn that Murray has just lost the second set after appearing to be in charge. Calls for medical help on a gory foot blister. Much talk of momentum shift. Monumental effort needed by Murray, says Andrew Castle and John Lloyd on BBC TV. As far as I can see, nothing has ‘swung’. Both players are still serving and returning nervelessly. They seem to be deliberately conserving energies on opponent’s serve, in order to make winning their own service games easier.

At 3-3, the commentators still talking about Murray having to overcome ‘monumental’ disappointment of losing the previous set and having to cope with his blister. Their emotional state builds up as each Murray serve is seen as potential set-loser. Of course, the same applies to Djokovic. Who goes 5-3 up, and then wins third set.

Set four

Murray slightly weary. Drops serve. Djokovic now clearly is stronger physically. Murray loses the close points. Seems to be much more physical decline than evidence of effect of a metaphysical concept such as momentum. The fitter guy prevails. Now the commentators agree that Djokovic won because he played the better tennis, particularly at key points.

Momentum v Momentum Denying

In looking closely at this, I realize that momentum is a difficult to refute concept. As it relies on momentum swings, it is not disproved by a player coming back after losing momentum.

It seems to me that the concept could do with some closer attention. Me, I’ m still a momentum denier.

Why I’m not a tennis commentator: Murray v Federer

January 26, 2013

Australian Open Tennis Semi-Final 2013. After five games of the match, two commentators declared that Federer could not win unless something significant changed. What had they ‘read’ that was not obvious to a non- professional observer?

Tudor Rickards

As a tennis addict I watch a lot of matches. I even offer opinions on a game I have never played at competitive level. Why not? There are plenty examples of less gifted players who make impressive commentators. With the notable exception of John McInroe, former top players do not seem particularly insightful. [I hesitate to comment on female commentators, as I don’t watch or listen enough to have a view on them or the game.]

Australian Open Tennis Semi-Final 2013 [25th January]. Views were expressed by former grand slam winners Pat Cash and Goran Ivanisowitch, after only five games. Both though Murray was completely in charge. Why?

I roused myself from beneath the warm morning blankets [UK time] and switch on TV. The first set went as the pundits predicted. To me, Murray seemed more comfortable on serve, although scattering enough errors to need a few big winners on big points. Federer seemed a shade more nervous than usual. The pattern or strategy of Murray was clearer. Strong hitting to the Federer backhand with powerful forehands to win points. Federer more being forced to respond.

Second set

A more even set. The TV commentators are more cautious than Pat and Goran, saying that Federer is never out of a close match. Now fully floodlit on the court. Are conditions changing? Is Federer giving up on points needing a big chase? My mind thinks tiebreak with edge to Murray. Tiebreak it is. Weak start by Murray. Murray misses a chance to win, misses, loses. One set all.

Third set

Murray seems in discomfort. Notice, Federer is hard to read. Physical and emotional state concealed. Federer has a weak service game, loses it, Murray holds. Wins set. 39 to 19 points won. Federer takes comfort break.

Fourth set

Murray’s concentration lapses and he drops serve. Fights back. At 4-4 no predictions. Murray stronger and breaks again to serve for match. Federer brilliance Wins to reach another tie break. And wins tie break.

Fifth set

The commentators have to make predictions. I’m glad I’m not one of those. BBC pundit just favors Murray. Who moves to 5-2. Then 6-2 to win match.


For me, realization that commentators are forced to resolve all anxieties for the rest of us. Maybe they “read” situations through better experience and tacit knowledge. Or maybe utter confidence in a belief is one of the charcateristics of a champion?

Unsung Melodies: This week’s events I didn’t write about

January 24, 2013

Apps for apesThis week I would have liked to have blogged about Barack Obama’s second inauguration; David Cameron’s long-awaited speech on Europe; blacklisting of employees; Lance Armstrong’s interview with Oprah Winfrey; and iPads for Apes

President Obama’s inauguration

The UK, like the rest of the world, followed the inauguration. An estimated 40 million people watched [see the figures for Armstrong and Whitney, below]. A video of the 18 minute speech is available.

Initial reactions seem to be that the president will take steps to counter what he sees as obstruction to his policies by political opponents in the Senate. The speech signals this intention specifically on actions to preserve the environment, supporting human rights, and strengthening gun controls.

Prime Minster David Cameron’s European Speech

Meanwhile, over in Europe, Prime Minister Cameron makes what is considered his most committing political speech of his term in office. [23rd January 2012] His party’s stance on Europe will be built around a pre-election pledge for a post-election “in or out” referendum on membership of the European Community. The strategy appears to be a move to counter the rise of the anti-Europe UKIP party in the polls, and as a means of reducing trouble with his own anti-Europe MPs. He plans to renegotiate before the next general election [in 2015] to obtain changes in the EC and its arrangements with the UK. If successful. these will permit him to support a “stay in” vote in the subsequent referendum. A video of this speech is also available [via the BBC website]

Blacklisting of employees in the UK

This story is one which I believe will recur over the next few months, as a matter of corporate social responsibilities. Attention has been drawn to bullying and possibly illegal means through which organizations prevent employees from speaking out concerning their working conditions. The sanctions include the blacklisting of uncooperative employees from future employment. The examples suggest the practice has been widespread in some industries such as construction where part-time and supply work is common.

Lance and Oprah

The hero to zero story of Lance Armstrong played out as a full-blown televised confessional between Armstrong and Oprah Winfrey. It was watched by 28 million people worldwide. The charismatic figure considered the greatest cyclist of his generation once acquired cult status. Eventually he was revealed as a drug cheat who dragged his sport into disrepute. I like to describe leadership in terms of dilemmas. In chess terms, Armstrong moved not because he could or because he wanted to, but because he was forced to by a build up of stories against him.

Apps for Apes

Here’s a story which is fun and with animal rights implications. Apes like iPads. (Don’t we all?). The story was widely reported

The ‘Apps for Apes’ project came into being [in a Milwaukee zoo] because orangutans need constant stimulation – otherwise they become bored or depressed. Previous experiments have proved that the animals have an innate ability to use touchscreens.

‘The original idea came literally when Steve Jobs gave his opening presentation introducing the iPad,’ said conservationist Richard Zimmerman.

MBA student note

You may find a story for a leadership blog within these five items. Try to focus on a specific theme, and bring out its leadership implications around a critical incident.

“Going Clear”.  Why you can’t buy this book about Scientology in the UK

January 23, 2013

Ron HubbardGoing Clear is the title of a recently published book on Scientology, written by the distinguished journalist Lawrence Wright.  You can buy it in bookshops around the world, except in the UK

Why isn’t the book on sale in the UK? The publishers appear to have decided against facing an anticipated lengthy legal battle with the forces of Scientology. 

I tried unsuccessfully to obtain a copy in the days after its publication date during a visit to the US. I was unsuccessful, but did find a brilliant review by Michael Kinsley of The New Republic, which appeared in this Sunday’s New York Times [Jan 20 2013]

The book, according to Kinsley, attempts to be a balanced account of Scientology and yet which succeeds in making a powerful indictment of the movement’s methods of control which are considered by Kinsley similar to those found in totalitarian regimes. He describes Wright as accumulating convincing evidence of

“something close to prison camps where dissenters, would-be defectors and power-struggle rivals were incarcerated in deplorable conditions for years…a shadow totalitarian empire …financed by huge contributions from …[celebrity backers].”

Conspiracy theories

This is the stuff of conspiracy theory. Granted I am working at second remove from Wright’s book, but it is not difficult to see how a publisher might get worried that skilled lawyers on behalf of scientology could make a lot of trouble in the courts.

Beyond rationality

The conceptions of Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard [image above] have been widely considered as beyond rational belief. That is the argument levelled at all religions by rationalists. I leave it others to examine the theology that between life on earth, death and an afterlife, is a period during which our spirits are transported to Venus to have their memories erased. This follows from Hubbard’s notion that life on earth originated with visits from Thetans from the planet Venus.

The charismatic leader

Accounts of charismatic leaders such as Ron Hubbard often describe how their unshakeable beliefs are instilled in their followers.   Mr Hubbard’s influence has extended long after his death [in 1986]. Current believers such as Tom Cruise contribute considerable sums of money to financing the scientology movement.

The dark side of leadership

Increasingly, the dark side of charismatic leadership is being recognised by researchers. L Ron Hubbard may be added to the group of charismatics deserving further attention in this respect.

Beyond Wikipedia

The book may add more authenticated research to the account on the life of Hubbard to be found in Wikipedia, which is particularly critical and lengthy. However, a feature of a belief system is its capacity to deny the validity of attempts which threaten its core.  It will take more than another book to budge the thinking of those committed to the beliefs of Scientology.

“These programs on change management. How come they aren’t called change leadership programs?”

January 18, 2013

Tudor Rickards

This great question was asked at a recent leadership programme. What would your reply have been?

The course had been asked to study chapter one of Dilemmas of Leadership. The introductory session had been a discussion on its messages for leaders and leadership development. 

“Think of the basis of our beliefs as maps” I said “and in making decisions, try to test those beliefs.”

“what’s the difference between leaders and managers?” one student then asked.

“You can use the mapping metaphor” I said. “the way we think about leaders is our leadership map. The way we think of managers is our management map.”

“Arndt they the same” asked another student?”

“Depends on your maps” I replied.  “For some people it is just one map.  Other folk see them as completely different.  This puts leaders as quite different from managers. For me, the maps overlap.  Mostly, a manager is a role allocated to a person, while a leader is not commonly considered as an allocated role.”. 

I could have added that this treatment of mapping also avoids any search for an absolute definition of a term like leadership.  Each individual can assert a personal definition of a term for the purposes of discussion and based on a personal map.  The map helps us explain “What I mean by leadership when I am talking about it.”

Returning to our earlier question, and applying the mapping vocabulary, we now can see where it takes us.

“These programs on change management. How come they aren’t called change leadership programs?”

Here’s my take on it.  Change programs (or programmes) are often found within a map I sometimes call the Dominant Rational Model.  These focus on the formal and managerial.  Leadership resists efforts to be completely subsumed in the managerial map( see above).

This perspective suggests that change programmes may be heavily influenced by a managerial perspective.   This too often is reinforced by maps for project management which emphasize the rational and quantifiable.  ( ‘six  sigma’ , one student suggested , might be an example).

Leadership development programmes increasingly point to other dimensions or maps to consider.  Dilemmas of ethics and ways of creating visions abound.

In other words, change programs may be too attached to rational models of management, and therefore miss the contribution that could come from ideas found though examination of the contents of leadership maps.

Political Mannequin Helena Torry in Prison Exchange Scheme

January 14, 2013

Helena TorryA bizarre story from Aberdeen in Scotland tells of a life-size dummy “arrested” and its creator released in what has been called a prisoner exchange scheme

In a recent Aberdeen City Council election, [April 2012] a creative protest saw a mannequin entered as a candidate with the name Helena Torry. Its purported election agent was Renee Slater, in real-life a political activist.

The authorities were not pleased, and began legal procedures against Renee for election fraud. At some stage Renee was incarcerated in a police cell briefly. When the dummy was recovered by the police, it was “held in custody” and Rene released.

Prisoner exchange

The “facts” of the case were taken and turned into the story of a political exchange between a dummy and its creator. Fact: the name of Helena Torry was entered on the electoral role. Fact: its purported agent Rene Slater was charged under the Representation of the People Act 1983. Fact: Slater claimed to have spent some time in a police cell and was released after the dummy was held by the police [Habeas Corpus act, 1649 to apply]

Renee Slater, who put the name Helena Torry forward to stand in the elections in protest against the candidates and their parties, won the case which had been brought by a council returning officer under the Representation of the People Act 1983. From these facts a story was constructed which is told with relish on the BBC politics show, where you can also find a U-tube of the interview, in which Renee tells the interviewer Andrew Neil [Jan 2013] that she had been in a police cell and was initially exchanged for the dummy.

It had been suggested that the dummy had shown more charisma than any of the other candidates.

You say Torrey I say Torry

The BBC is favouring the spelling Torrey. Other earlier stories and election posters have the spelling Torry.

Scotland the brave

There is a wit and vibrancy in this gesture which auger well for the forthcoming referendum on the possibility of an independent future for Scotland outside the United Kingdom.

Note to MBA students

You may find it instructive to apply the map reading and map testing approach to examine this blog post.