Innovation is a concept too narrowly applied in the world of technology and commerce, when it really means a fierce passion for whatever is new or 'nova'. Few people have followed the star of curiosity as relentlessly and as successfully as David Bowie, who surprised us right up until the end – his last album, Dark Star, was released to an unsuspecting planet two days before he passed away.

“We are all Digital Citizens now - disrupt or die!”

 The final Orwellian message booms out to a room of earnest - sorry, digital - delegates at the technology conference. It’s been a super-slick presentation with all kinds of visual fireworks flickering on a screen eight metres wide; a folksy duet between two techno-mavens, with a little call and response banter thrown in to humanise proceedings. The speakers are fluid and fluent, working without notes and making much use of the relaxed body language and hand gestures they’ve clearly been coached in.

'High tech, high touch' was a popular phrase a decade ago. Today the pendulum has swung very strongly in the direction of tech as the solution for all ills, and the main driver behind business transformation.

Forget complexity. A vital part of the leader's new agenda is to bring simplicity to complicated systems. My favourite champion of simplicity is Belgian politician Vincent Van Quickenborne. His message is 'Simplicity Is Power', enshrined in his peculiar job title: Secretary of State for Regulatory Simplification.

Your company's brand is a story told to the marketplace. It may be a positive tale - made up of thousands of small stories - like those spun about the few who have become service 'legends': First Direct, Nordstrom, Disney or Virgin Atlantic. More likely, it's a mundane and unmemorable story. And if what you do for your customers is unremarkable and undifferentiated, it's no story at all.

Rock star Morrissey, former lead singer of The Smiths, has often been hailed as England's leading "miserabilist", but his crown may have been snatched from him by the British press in the lead up to the London Olympics.

'All has to do with loving and not loving,' observed the mystic Rumi several centuries ago. More recently, it's been said that relationships are the yoga of the West. Our obsession with them certainly seems to bear this out.

So you've noticed it's on? Love it or hate it, but there's no hiding place. My son, currently on his Gap Year project teaching English (and football) to refugee Tibetan Monks in northern India, has been able to follow all football scores closely thanks to the passion of the monks. His joining instructions for the project were clearly stated, "Please bring shin pads"(!). The doctrine of ahimsa, or non-violence, receives an exemption from the field of football it seems.

There's a large graffiti 'installation' by a canal near my Oxford house. It reads: ETHNIC CLEANING - BEWARE!

In our daily life most of us are both customers and suppliers of a service. And let's face it, we are more critical as customers than as service deliverers. When you walk into someone else's business - a hotel, restaurant, or bank - how quickly do you make judgements as to how it could be run better? Most groups I have posed this question to respond, "straight away" or "almost immediately!"


Copyright © 2015 Nigel Barlow. All Rights Reserved.