Management Guru Charles Handy to meet with Irish President on Vita trip to Ethiopia

As President Michael Higgins highlights the plight of the Ethiopian people, another Irish leader in his field is also visiting this country.  The world renowned organizational behaviour and management philosopher Charles Handy is visiting one of the poorest regions in a trip where he will meet with the Irish President.

Charles Handy will spend a week in the Horn of Africa with Vita CEO John Weakliam, visiting and assessing the development agencies innovative  projects which, in conjunction with other development aid organisations, could radically change the hunger problem for substantial amounts of East and Southern Africa. On his return Handy, will write a booklet describing and giving his analysis of his experience of these projects in this truly unique part of the world.

Born in 1932, Charles Handy was originally from Clane in County Kildare from where he rose to become one of the most recognised and influential management thinkers in the world. Since his first books “Understanding Organisations” and  “Gods of Management” were published in the 1970’s Handy has shaped the thinking of business students and management executives worldwide.

Vita, whose programmes in Eritrea and Ethiopia enable rural households to build sustainable livelihoods through innovative food and energy security work, invited the esteemed author to visit and experience for himself the life changing projects that Vita is leading.  These include the provision of fuel efficient stoves which will, amongst other things, reduce significantly the amount of time spent collecting firewood, eye and respiratory diseases and forest degradation.

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Meet beside McDonalds, Millfield, Balbriggan, Thursday 31st July 7.30pm

€5 per person, €10 per family

All money collected will be donated to Irish Medical Aid for Palestine

Organised by concerned citizens of Balbriggan

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Eurovision Innovation

Whether you are a Eurovisionphile or phobe, or somewhere in between like myself, you probably could not have helped noticing the level of innovation not just by the various acts on Saturday nights show from Copenhagen, but by the production of the show itself which never ceases to impress, always outdoing the previous years extravaganza. From the Ukraine lady singing “Tick Tock” with her partner like a hamster running in a wheel, the whacky Icelandic boys with their version of Ming in  their sharp  teletubby coloured suits, to the bold and ultimately successful bearded Drag Queen from Austria, rising “like a phoenix” to claim the prize, it is clear that those that take an innovative approach have a far greater chance of winning the worlds most popular song contest. By comparison the Irish entry was lame and lacked any attempt to impress with something novel. Again and again the Irish keep making the same mistake. The act itself looked like a quickly fired together jumped up marketing mans answer to our Eurovision woes. I can imagine their pitch “Sure we will get ourselves a fine Irish Colleen called Casey, put a dress on her that makes her look like Cleopatra, and sure the Europeans will be dazzled by her beauty and of course they wont be able bate our two Michael Flatleys leaping around behind her. Now off ye go lads, may the road rise before ye, diddley dee, diddle dee, die dae…..”. While the song was good, though a bit of more of the same, Casey looking good sang it well, it lacked the wow factor. The innovating Europeans expect a show (albeit a two minute one), not just a song, something the Irish still have not copped onto. We have plenty of innovators in Ireland and some of the best artists in the world so it should not be beyond us to come up with something that makes Europe sit up and take notice. Ireland, having won the competition seven times,is the most successful country in the competition. However to be successful, organisations such as RTE, who are responsible for Irelands entry, and to quote Peter Skarzynski (CEO Strategos) “to innovate they need to stop doing the things that made them successful in the first place”. Peter Drucker offered similar advice by advising “every organisation needs to be prepared to abandon everything it does in order to survive”. I am not advocating that we have some bearded Kerry woman representing us next year (though I would be tempted to send Paul Galvin over) maybe the likes of Macnas who have an incredible mix and distinct creative and innovative artistic talents could be employed to turn our next entry into a real showcase and send out an impressive modern cultural message about Ireland to Europe and the world. In fairness to RTE and whatever about their Eurovision entry, have been innovating on the digital news side of their business with some impressive work on  their RTE News Now app which recently stated sending me out news alerts. So I am first to know about breaking news! Pity they would not widen their innovativeness to the dinosaur that is “The Late Late Show”. Innovative organisations champion change and tolerate risk, indeed encourage it as failures are a necessary part of the journey to success (Bettina Von Stamm). In contrast look at the Graham Norton Show and its very innovative and risky format which has been a resounding success. Think again of Father Ted and Brendan O Carroll, other Irish artists that had to go to the Britain to have their ideas achieve the success that awaited them but were not necessarily accepted with open arms at home. So come on RTE and Irish Eurovision hopefuls, dont be shy, dont be risk averse, dont be afraid to make fools of yourselves (The Dustin entry does not count as being innovative). Be bold and come up with something truely creative and entertaining for next year. “Make no little plans. they have no magic to stir mens blood” (Daniel Burnham, Architect and Designer, Director of Works for the Columbian Exposition in Chicago 1893)


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Avoca and the Digital Strategy

Our New Product Development project proposed two new ideas for Avoca one of which was an integrated print, e-zine magalogue which would at a later stage in its development incorporate an app making it easier again for customers and prospective customers to enhance their experience and interaction with Avoca and indeed drive the online sales opportunity. 

However it will be interesting to measure up Avoca Handweavers and put it through the SOSTAC Model

SITUATION: Where was and is Avoca in terms of its digital strategy and before we concluded on our “magalogue” idea? Certainly Avoca have an impressive website with an ecommerce capability. You can also find Avoca on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Google+ and Pinterest. So someone in Avoca is certainly au fait with whats happening in the digital world and is engaging knowledgeably with this online scene. However while Avoca have a newsletter it is a one pager or effectively an online equivalent of a leaflet that might be dropped in your front door and which more often than not we all in turn drop straight in the bin. So the effectiveness of its newsletter or e-leaflet is so limited and certainly not going anywhere near exploring and tapping into all the opportunity that exists out there for Avoca. 

OBJECTIVE: All or most of the typical marketing boxes are on the surface being ticked but the salesman in me immediately identifies an opportunity that is being missed to have a far more concerted sales strategy as well as a marketing communications one online. While the website is impressive and the e-shop is there more can be done in terms of a proactive sales strategy to prolong the customer experience and drive them to the e-commerce facility. There is an opportunity that must be explored to generate new business amongst potential customers outside the traditional catchment areas of the Avoca stores and these customers can engage and shop given the right marketing and sales strategy.

STRATEGY: Developing the e-leaflet, as I condescendingly call it, into a fully fledged e-zine in the form of a 50 page “magalogue” (hybrid magazine/catalogue) will not only give Avoca the most impressive print/online experience to offer its customers in comparison to the drab e-leaflets being circulated by Kilkenny, Blarney Woollen Mills and other competitors, but it will potentially drive Avoca online sales to a new and prosperous level. An app being developed at a later stage would provide a more fully integrated marketing sales and communications solution encompassing print, online magalogue and the app making it more convenient again for customers who are becoming increasingly mobile to access and interact with the Avoca digital space, wherever they are.

TACTICS: The magalogue, as it is a hybrid magazine./catalogue, will carry sufficient and appealing editorial to appeal to t he Avoca customer. The e-zine version will be free to those that sign up for it while the print version can be picked up in the different shops or posted out on request. It could also be distributed to key locations like waiting rooms in different establishments frequented by target customers in the ABC1 range nationwide. As the budget may be limited and the costs of producing a magazine may be prohibitive its thought that pushing the online version, the ezine, which has lower ongoing costs  than the printed version is the route to persue. The printed version will be limited to the shops and kept in availibility so long as there is a reasonable demand for it after which it will be replaced by the digital version.

ACTION: This is a project that falls within the domain of the marketing department but  they will have have to think with a sales hat on going forward. A more concerted and proactive strategy needs to be implemented that will drive new sales in new territory and this will be done with a new sales energy and drive. 

CONTROL: How the resulting performance will be measured will be key to its successful delivery and daily auditing of online impressions, click through rates, sales and from what regions will be key point indicators on the success of the magalogue concept.Image


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Vincent Browne, My Blog and Harry Cragoe

As I sit here on the couch with my laptop, with the telly and Vincent Browne competing for my attention, I struggle to agree with myself what my weekly blog should be composed of.  I finally decide to take a lead from Vincent whom I don’t quite fanatically follow but do watch on a regular basis, sometimes nightly (my wife would say that is fanatical). If you went into a TV board room and suggested on the back of your innovative thinking that a contrary old narky so and so with that mad scientist look who insults 90% of his guests should be their main anchorman you might probably end up on your rear end on the promenade outside the front door. All the research in the world would never have come up with Vincent or anything like him as the main draw for a TV channel. However he is great entertainment, has a massive following and is TV3’s main personality. Sometimes you just got to go with your gut even if that means ignoring all the research. Which brings me to a quote from Harry Cragoe the founder of P&J Smoothie the first entrant and leading smoothie company in the UK before Innocent entered and took over the market . He stated that he “never spent a penny on market research because you end up looking at it too religiously. The growth we have experienced is purely word of mouth”(Paul Trot, Innovation Management and New Product Development, 4th Edition 2008). 

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Jogging and Blogging

With all this DCU Ryan Academy stuff including lectures, projects, exams and the pressure to embrace all social media i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Blogging et al wrecking my poor little head I decided to escape to the great outdoors and head up to Ardgillan Castle and demesne with Messi. No not the footballer and the greatest since Diego Maradona but my dog, a collie/retriever/Labrador or whatever but definitely one hell of a mongrel.  Like his master Messi loves the open plains and the peace and tranquillity of the countryside. Messi does not have a Facebook account, does not tweet, blog or bother himself with emerging social media trends. So off we jogged around the parameter of Ardgillan, one of the finest public amenities and open spaces in Ireland.  As we ran through the open fields, the woods, up and down the hills sneaking the odd view of the vast open sea through the trees I was truly relaxed, away from it all, free as a bird. No social media invasion or blogging requirements out here! But then, suddenly, half way around my run I found my mind wandering back to the blogging business. Don’t fret fellow bloggers! A stroll, cycle or jog through the countryside is a great way to de-stress, allowing the mind to refocus and often to come up with a solution to a problem, however personal, corporate or academic in the calmest and maybe even strangest way. Folks, I was Jogging and Blogging!! Okay I was not hooked and typing away to my iPad or tablet as I proceeded up the steep hill towards the castle but in my mind I was typing. Hey, maybe blogging and George are compatible after all! After almost four months of enlightenment  and direction from the very talented lecturers Ger Lavin, Frank Munnelly and last but not least Niamh O’Reilly I think mission one has been accomplished in that I have improved my knowledge and possibly even embraced digital and social media. Secondly I have renewed my marketing knowledge and skills, acquainted myself with New Product Development thinking and become vastly more informed of business innovation concepts and techniques. Let me enlighten you if I may with some social media facts! At 52% Facebook is the most popular social media network in Ireland followed by YouTube (35%) and twitter (23%). 70% of Irish businesses use Facebook, 61% use twitter and LinkedIn while 44% use YouTube. Tired yet?! 51% of Irish consumers talk about brands on social media. Why? 74% for offers and promotions, 44% for seeking advice, 19% for group buying, 15% to post praise and also 15% for complaining. Still interested? In terms of demographics the 25-34 age group are the biggest users of Facebook at 29% followed by the 18-24 group at 23%. No surprises there! Of mobile users at 85% the 13-17 age group are the heaviest users followed by the 18-24 group (81%). How do Irish people use Facebook? 70% use it daily and have an average of 268 friends.  Shall I keep going?…No!…Okay I will keep going….Only Joking! Until next week my fellow bloggers ….happy Blogging ….Oh and Jogging



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Cant Get You Out Of My Head

I am not referring to the Kylie Minogue song but, and I never thought I would stoop this low, am referring to the Kylemore Restaurant chain and for that matter every other bleeding restaurant I now enter. Indeed this story is a note of caution for anyone about to enter into a secondary research project. Folks help me, but I am taken over, diseased, by all this secondary research conducted into the Kylemore cafes and latterly The Avova which has me sizing up, grading and pigeon holing every restaurant I now enter. . Only today at lunch time did I find that even weeks after learning about all the different restaurant categories i.e. White Table Cloth, Casual, On The Go, Fast Food, I was still overpowered by the research monster. Yes the Research Monster, it lives! Having only stepped in the door for the first time to a sizeable hot food restaurant, that I wont name, only a stones throw from the DCU Ryan Academy,  I found myself launching into a sudden, insatiable and uncontrollable urge to emit all the restaurant research I had learned and articulate where this particular establishment fits into the various categories. And I am afraid it did not impress. The research made it sound all so simple and I thought we had every possible cafe and restaurant type comfortably slotted into their natural home. Alas I then decided to pay a visit to this joint. It has notions about itself being white table cloth but only on the basis of the table attire which incidentally was very grubby (no pun intended) but actually has more of the characteristics of the Kylemore,and a casual restaurant yet makes the Kylemore look good, in fact very good. No doubt this was the place to go when times were good and I am sure that the decor was kept up to standard then. My imagination wandered to Miss Havisham of Great Expectations, the gilted bride who never removed her wedding dress decades after being jilted at the altar, and drew comparison with this place also clearly living in the past. I stuck to the cold food menu as I do when intending to make a quick exit and gently reminded myself, and in doing so placating any guilty feeling, that this place could also be categorised as On The Go. Absolutely it could but for all the wrong reasons. Get out quick before they make us eat from the hot food menu! Which incidentally they were giving huge extra large portions of. Not necessarily a good sign. Yes I’d be delighted if I liked what I saw but in this case I was almost getting stomach pains for the customer as she walked away with her plate. Memories from over twenty years ago at the Kylemore in O’Connell Street came flooding back when I ordered vegatable soup and got “Wegetable” soup or so a lone eastern european servant insisted on calling it. Unsuspectingly I downed my “wegetable” soup which was forgetable and yes you guessed it I was like Danny Glover in Leather Weapon II and not going to get off the toilet for twenty four hours! So things appear as if they will never be the same again as I am destined to turn inside out every eatery I enter henceforth. Shall I ever rid myself of this mortal coil?! 

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