Friday, 20 April 2012

Hello Tomorrow - Say What?

A lot of you would've seen that Emirates Airline has dropped their "Keep Discovering" campaign that ran for over a decade and recently adopted a new slogan called "Hello Tomorrow."

I went through the adverts that Emirates has been running on TV.  Tried to pay attention to the message they've been trying to convey in newspapers and magazines.  I am however confused.  I've missed something here because I don't understand what "Hello Tomorrow" is exactly supposed to mean.

Maybe it is just me getting old, but I preferred the "Keep Discovering" tagline that Emirates had and if it ain't broke, why fix it?

Well done Alexander!

A few months ago, I downloaded a book on my Kindle called Olives which was written by Sharjah-based Alexander McNabb.  It was McNabb's first published book and after jumping through a lot of hoops over the years to get himself published, McNabb succeeded in long last in releasing the book.

Knowing Alexander, I downloaded the book on my Kindle the day it was up for sale as a show of support.  I did however have another four books in the queue to read at that time and unfortunately didn't get around to starting Olives until a few days ago.  Six days later, I finished it.  I should have started reading the book I downloaded it.

If I'm being totally honest, I bought the book more because I knew the author than for any other reason.  I figured it would be half decent and was more than pleasantly surprised when I finished the book this week.  It was a real page turner and it got to the point that  midway through the book, I forgot the book was written by someone I knew.

Alexander McNabb pondering away. Image: gulf

There aren't too many of us who can say we know successful authors in our region but I'm glad to see people like Alexander McNabb create a legacy not only for themselves but for the region in general.

I'm now waiting for Alexander to sell the movie rights because I'm keen to know who gets cast in the role of the sultry Aisha Dajani.

Well done Alexander and hold your head up high in knowing that you've made at least one more fan in me.

To follow Alexander and his works, find him on the following links:

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Please Accept My Money

There was an interesting story in today's Gulf News about the fact that many ATM's in the country aren't in a position yet to collect the new Dhs. 500 bank notes (click here for the link).  The story talks about how banks are being implored to accept the new currency and that they're greatly inconveniencing the public at large.  

Now knowing banks,  I'm sure no bank wants to stop accepting cash and the problem is a lot deeper than is apparent to most.  From what I know, many banks received very little notice or time to adapt their systems to accept the new notes when they were introduced.  For a financial institution to accept any sort of cash, they have various systems and security layers that need to be adapted to accept any new currency else it defeats the purpose of having sort of fraud detection service.

I know for a fact that in many cases banks have to rely on suppliers to modify equipment for them as many manufacturers ensure that the control over note recognition and detection stays with them.  The reason for this is that the fewer the number of people who have access to a currency detection system's firmware, the easier it is to control.  

It would be interesting to see if Gulf News manages to speak to the Central Bank as well as some of the commercial banks in the UAE and ask them how much notice and time they gave banks before introducing the new currency.  Six months is a long time to wait but from what I know, the blame doesn't fall squarely on shoulders of the banks.  

Monday, 16 April 2012

My thoughts on Jobs, Steve Jobs.

I prepared this post several months ago when I finished the Steve Jobs biography that was written by Walter Isaacson.  It may be a bit late to publish it but better late than never.

Notable Quotes from the Steve Jobs Biography
He came, he saw, he conquered.
This was in short his life.  However, if you take the time to read his biography, you’re left in awe of the legend that was Steve Jobs written by his official biographer, Walter Isaacson.
Despite it’s 42 chapters, the book is in essence divided into two parts.  The first part is about the basic principles and characteristics that moulded Steve Jobs.  The second part is essentially how he spun us with his magic.
Jobs was a complicated man.  Reading through his tale, you’re left mystified at how he actually ended up as successful as he did.  There were a few aspects though that defined what he did.  Instead of writing a conventional review on the book, I’ve decided to copy a few passages that I thought that stood out for me.
“The people in the Indian countryside don’t use their intellect like we do, they use their intuition instead, and their intuition is far more developed than in the rest of the wold.  Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect.  That’s had a big impact on my work.” 
Spirituality & Mentorship
“I learned the trust of the Zen saying that if you are willing to travel around the world to meet a teacher, one will appear next door.”
It’s Good to be Different if you want to Make a Difference
“The people who invented the twenty-first century were pot-smoking, sandal wearing hippies from the West Coast like Steve, because they differently.  The hierarchical systems of the East Japan do not encourage this different thinking.  The sixties produced an anarchic mind-set that is great for imagining a world not yet in existence.”
Imitation is the Greatest Form of Flattery
“Picasso had a saying - ‘good artists copy, great artists steal’ - and we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”
Early Inspiration
“Sony was famous for its signature style and memorable product designs, so Jobs would drop by to study the marketing material. ‘He would come in looking scruffy and fondle the product brochures and point out design features,’ said Dan’l Lewin, who worked there.  ‘Every now and then, he would ask “Can I take this brochure?”’”
Design Philosophy
“He predicted the passing of the Sony style in favor of Bauhaus simplicity.  ‘The current wave of industrial design is Sony’s high-tech look, which is gunmetal gray, maybe paint it black, do weird stuff to it.  It’s easy to do that. But it’s not great.’ He proposed an alternative, born of the Bauhaus, that was more true to the function and nature of the products. ‘What we’re going to do is make the products high-tech, and we’re going to package them cleanly so that you know they’re high-tech.  We will fit them in a small package, and then we can make them beautiful and white, just like Braun does with its electronics.’”

Make the Present Count
“Jobs confided in Sculley that he believed he would die young, and therefore he needed to accomplish things quickly so that he would make his mark on Silicon Valley history.  ‘We all have a short period of time on this earth,’ he told the Sculleys as they sat around the table that morning. ‘We probably only have the opportunity to do a few things really great and do them well. None of us has any ideas how long we’re going to be here, nor do I, but my feelings is I’ve got to accomplish a lot of these things while I’m young.’”
Bill Gates wasn’t cut out for Technology
“But Jobs never reciprocated by fully appreciates Gates’s real strengths.  ‘Bill is basically unimaginative and has never invented anything, which is why I think he’s more comfortable now in philanthropy than technology,’ Jobs said, unfairly. ‘He’s just shamelessly ripped off other people’s ideas.’”
Don’t Compromise, Demand Excellence Everywhere
“I’d go out to the factory, and I’d put on a white glove to check for dust.  I’d find it everywhere - on machines, on the tops of the racks, on the floor.  And I’d ask Debit to get it cleaned.  I told her I thought we should be able to eat off the floor of the factory.  Well this drove Debi up the wall.  She didn’t understand why.  And I couldn’t articulate it back then.  See, I’d been very influenced by what I’d seen in Japan.  Part of what I greatly admired there - and part oft what we were lacking in our factory - was a sense of teamwork and discipline.  If we didn’t have the discipline to keep that place spotless, then we weren’t going to have the discipline to keep all these machines running.”
Inspiration on Laundry Day - Lather, Rinse, Repeat
“It turns out that the Americans make washers and dryers all wrong.  The Europeans make them much better - but they take twice as long to do clothes! It turns out that they wash them with about a quarter as much water and your clothes end up with a lot less detergent on them.  More important, they don’t trash your clothes.  They use a lot less soap, a lot less water, but they come out much cleaner, much softer and they last a lot longer.  We spent some time in our family talking about what’s the trade-off we want to make.  We ended up talking a lot about design, but also about the values to our family.  Did we care most about getting our wash done in an hour versus an hour and a half?  Or did we care most about our clothes feeling really soft and lasting longer?  Did we care about using a quarter of the water?  We spent about two weeks talking about this every night at the dinner table.  They ended up getting a  Miele washer and dryer, made in Germany.  ‘I got more thrill out of them than I have out of any piece of high tech in years,’ Jobs said.
Have Fun Doing What you Do
“‘It’s kind of fun to do the impossible,’ Walt Disney once said.”
Life beyond PC’s 
“‘Apple has been sidelined by Microsoft in the PC business,’ Markkula said.  ‘You’ve got to reinvent the company to do some other thing, like other consumer products or devices.  You’ve got to be like a butterfly and have a metamorphosis.’”

Cook’s Secret Recipe: Operational Excellence
“Cook reduced the number of Apple’s key suppliers from a hundred to twenty-four, forced them to cut better deals to keep the business, convinced many to locate next to Apple’s plants, and closed ten of the company’s nineteen warehouses. By reducing the places where inventory could pile up, he reduced inventory.  Jobs had cut inventory from two months worth of product down to one by early 1998.  By September of that year, Cook had gotten it down to six days.  By the following September, it was down to an amazing two days worth.  In addition, he cut the production process for making an Apple computer from four months to two.  All of this not only saved money, it also allowed each new computer to have the very latest components available.
Modesty Spurs Teamwork
“On a trip to Japan in the early 1980s, Jobs asked Sony’s chairman, Akio Morita, why everyone in his company’s factories wore uniforms.  ‘He looked very ashamed and told me that after the war, no one had any clothes, and companies like Sony had to give their workers something wear each day,’ Jobs recalled.  Over the years the uniforms developed their own signature style, especially at companies such as Sony, and it became a way of bonding workers of the company. ‘I decided that I wanted that type of bonding for Apple,’ Jobs recalled.”
Location, Location, Location
“There were no tech stores in the mall, and Johnson explained why: The conventional wisdom was that a consumer, when making a major and infrequent purchase such as a computer, would be willing to drive to a less convenient location, where the rent would be cheaper.  Jobs disagreed.  Apple stores should be in malls and on Main Streets- in areas where a lot of foot traffic, no matter how expensive. ‘We may not be able to get them to drive ten miles to check out our products, but we can get them to walk ten feet,’ he said.  The Windows users, in particular, had to be ambushed: ‘If they’re passing by, they will drop in out of curiosity, if we make it inviting enough, and once we get a chance to show them what we have, we will win.’ Johnson said that the size of a store signaled said that the size of a store signaled the importance of the brand.  ‘Is Apple as big of a brand as the Gap?’ he asked.  Jobs said it was much bigger.  Johnson replied that its stores should be therefore be bigger. ‘Otherwise you won’t be relevant.’”
Make a Mark - Leave a Lasting Impression
“Jobs described Mike Markkula’s maxim that a good company must ‘impute’ - it must convey its values and importance in everything it does, from packaging to marketing.  Johnson loved it.  It definitely applied to a company’s stores.  ‘The store will become the most powerful physical expression of the brand,’ he predicted.  He said that when he was young he had gone to the wood-paneled, art-filled mansion-like store that Ralph Lauren had created at Seventy-second and Madison in  Manhattan.  ‘Whenever I buy a polo shirt, I think of that mansion, which was a physical expression of Ralph’s ideals,’ Johnson said.  ‘Mickey Drexler did that with the Gap.  You couldn’t think of a Gap product without thinking of the great Gap store with the clean space and wood floors and white walls and folded merchandise.’”
If you can’t beat the Pirates, Innovate 
“He knew, however, that the best way to stop piracy - in fact the only only way - was to offer an alternative that was more attractive than the brain-dead services that music companies were concocting.  ‘We believe that 80% of the people stealing stuff don’t want to be, there’s just no legal alternative,’ he told Andy Langer of Esquire.  ‘So we said, ‘Let’s create a legal alternative to this.’’  Everybody wins.  Music companies win. The artists win. Apple wins. And the user wins, because he gets a better service and doesn’t have to be a thief.’”
Succeed where Sony failed
“Jobs did not organize Apple into semiautonomous divisions; he closely controlled all of his teams and pushed them to work as one cohesive and flexible company, with one profit-and-loss bottom line.  ‘We don’t have “divisions” with their own P&L,’ said Tim Cook.  ‘We run one P&L for the company.’”
Make your Next Set of Crown Jewels before your Current Set of Crown Jewels lose value
“One of Jobs’s business rules was to never be afraid of cannibalizing yourself.  ‘If you don’t cannibalize yourself, someone else will,’ he said.  So even though an iPhone might cannibalize sales of an iPod, or an iPad might cannibalize sales of a laptop, that did not deter him.’”
Be a Story Teller - The Stamford Commencement Speech
“Alex Haley once said that the best way to begin a speech is ‘Let me tell you a story.‘   Nobody is eager for a lecture, but everybody loves a story.  And that was the approach Jobs chose.  ‘Today, I want to tell you three stories from my life,’ he began.  ‘That’s it.  No big deal. Just three stories.’”

It’s About the Products
“When the sales guys run the company, the product guys dont’ matter so much, and a lot of them just turn off.  It happened at Apple when Sculley came in, which was my fault, and it happened when Ballmer took over at Microsoft.  Apple was lucky and it rebounded, but I don’t think anything will change at Microsoft as long as Ballmer is running it.’”
Think Ahead
“Otherwise, as Dylan says, if you’re not busy being born, you’re busy dying.”