Archive for September, 2009

17 Are you a betting man now?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on SeptemberThu, 24 Sep 2009 19:04:23 +01000424pm09 24 PMpThu, 24 Sep 2009 19:04:23 +010004Thursday 09 by nielsendinwoodie

I wonder if you saw that mentalist Derren Brown on the box a couple of weeks ago, fooling the population into thinking he’d predicted the winning numbers on the National Lottery, using a system called – enjoy the barbed irony – the Wisdom of Crowds.

Apparently all you need is 24 delusional people with TV cameras on them doing some cranky “automatic writing” followed by some “deep maths”, ie working out an average on a calculator. And then you’ve suddenly got an £85m bulge in your pocket. Couldn’t be simpler. How did he do it? The trick is exploded at

I’m something of an illusionist myself, and my prediction is that you won’t click that link if you prefer mysteries and uncertainties. And you will if you prefer debunkery. Dead easy this Derren Brown lark.

Oh yes, you could do it, could you?
In my email on 14 Sept to readers of this blog, knowing already that the subject of my next post – this one – would be punctuation, I inserted a deliberate punctuation error into the final paragraph of the email to see how many people would notice. Only one out of 136 recipients hauled me up. And gloatingly by return was I berated for the error of my ways. Quite right too.

If it was an error. Was it intentional? Or is the above just a long-winded way of covering up an embarrassing mistake? This mentalism is a doddle! Honestly, Derren, go home, mate.

Oh, very clever, trying to make me look dumb for not noticing it?
Not in the least. What this raises is a real question of just how punctuation is perceived these days. As not worth mentioning? Not for everyone. Not for warrior apostrophist Stefan Gatward, 62, who, as reported in The Daily Telegraph, recently took a small tin of black paint and a No 6 sable brush into his hands and went out and edited the road signs where he lives, in St Johns Close, now correctly apostrophised as St John’s Close. And where is that exactly? Royal Tunbridge Wells, of course. Where else?
Mr Gatward’s work was not uniformly well received. He told reporters: “A neighbour called me a vandal and a graffiti artist.” I love that. A 62-year-old Banksy obsessed by punctuation. That is well wicked, riaght? “He tried to tell me that the post office would not deliver to the street if you put an apostrophe on the address.” Well, we all know that’s rubbish. The Post Office is contracted to deliver everywhere without compromise, eight days late as standard.

I wish I had been in Mr Gatward’s kitchen when he read the Telegraph article describing him as having formerly “served with the Gordon Highlands” as opposed to the Gordon Highlanders.

And how this relates to business is…?
A previous post here (07 Punctuation: what’s the point?) suggested a connection between detail on the page and detail on the job. Yes, but the wisdom of crowds seems not to include knowledge of apostrophes, and the speed at which we’re expected to communicate these days makes a slip of the finger forgivable anyway.

Not so. Be rigorous. The recession has given us all cause for thought. Darwinian survival of the fittest has taken hold, and the crocodiles are inching up the mud-flats.

A company’s reputation depends not just on its specialist expertise but also on the quality of its frontline communication. How genuinely helpful and welcoming are your receptionists? On the phone? Face to face? How credible is the correspondence you send out? Are the countless emails written in the company name every day as grammatically accurate as the Board Reports that cost thousands to produce and sit on shelves?

Finally, just to reassure you that there has been no sleight of hand in the writing of this blog, I will unconditionally offer £85m to the first person who finds a punctuation error in any of the above, following modern conventions.

Nielsen Dinwoodie
07767 20 20 22


16 Scrumpy as strategic business model

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on SeptemberMon, 14 Sep 2009 14:12:32 +01001214pm09 24 PMpMon, 14 Sep 2009 14:12:32 +010012Monday 09 by nielsendinwoodie


Welcome back! So that was summer? Season of mists more like, and utter fruitlessness if you thought a bit of sun was going to grace this island nation. Is it really all about global warming? Is the grey, listless weather we’ve endured these past three summers in the UK really some kind of planetary retribution for the fact that occasionally we’ve all used a few trillion plastic bags? For having travelled the twelve miles to Granny’s every Sunday in the 1970s in a car instead of walking in shoes made of hemp?

Regular readers of this blog have one advantage over newcomers. They’re not confused by the nonsense that appears here. Like disappointing weather, it’s something they’ve come to expect.

They know that what generally begins as a rant against chavism or Olde English typefaces or mission statements or whistling in public… somehow resolves itself each week into an analysis of the problems that beset our attempts at communicating more effectively in business. Sorry, did I just say beset? Please kill me later.

That would be a pleasure.
Oh hello again, you’re back are you? Voice of the man in the street. Well, here’s a puzzle for you. Imagine that you are for once in a street, walking down a street in a small Devon town. Those hemp shoes look ridiculous on you, by the way. Not a thatched chocolate box dream town, but rather one where every second inhabitant confirms that you have arrived at a Regional Centre for Inbreeding and Obesity. Imagine further that you are passing a pub so notorious for the hallucinogenic power of its scrumpy that the three Environmental Health Officers who closed it down last year are still asleep in the hanging baskets in the square.

So how likely is it that you will find a useful business lesson here? Here on a mucky street outside a closed public trough-house for the rural poor. Against the odds, the banner on the pub wall said simply: “Under New Attitude”. Genius.

And how this relates to business is…?
This is a brilliant example of how it’s inspiration not information that stops you in your tracks. Whoever wrote that sign is someone who understands the power of going beyond the literal and pushing through to the better idea.

Perhaps you’re lucky, perhaps you work for an organisation with a newsletter that isn’t called Newsletter. Perhaps your colleagues deliver PowerPoint presentations that don’t fill the screen with bullet points. Perhaps your manager isn’t a process-driven donkey but someone others talk about, who delivers efficiency yet sees things at an angle and somehow makes people feel a bit of a buzz about work.

Challenging the status quo in business is a commercial imperative. Progress is predicated on the idea of better. Inside businesses, routines get followed, paperwork gets filed, people get the job done. But it’s innovation and imagination that stops customers in their tracks. And gets them banging on your door.

No one queues up to buy an old idea. Take your ipod. Five years ago revolutionary, today not touch-screen? They’re history, man. The crowds are clamouring for newness, and if we don’t jump with them into the wind tunnel of change then our competitors will.

Most companies talk a lot about innovation and do very little about it. One firm I work with has a glass meeting room in the middle of the floor, with the phrase “The Future” etched into the door. It’s not literal, they don’t conduct meetings in spacesuits. But it projects an attitude that says better is different, be motivated, let’s try…

Perhaps we could all benefit from being under new attitude. Perhaps we could think about how to invigorate our team more, reinvent a weak procedure, create more persuasive PR… whatever it takes to push through to the better idea. As always, the revolution can start with you.

Over and out for this week. Remember to stay off the scrumpy. Next blog in a fortnight and fortnightly thereafter. Sorry, did I just say thereafter? Ok, you can kill me now.

Nielsen Dinwoodie
07767 20 20 22

Also online at