thenextwave

The Tesco problem

Posted in business, retail by Andrew Curry on 25 July, 2014

Tesco,_BatleyOver at The Futures Company blog I have a short post on Tesco’s problems, prompted by the abrupt dismissal of its Chief Executive Philip Clarke in the face of the continuing pressure on the company’s market share and profitability.

For non-British readers,Tesco is (still) Britain’s largest supermarket, but having been utterly dominant in the 1990s,  has been struggling for much of the past decade.

The first thing I said in the post was that the food market had become more complex since the financial crisis, and Tesco hadn’t been able to follow. This normally translates into a story about being “assailed by discounters”, but the discount proposition isn’t just about price. People who advise Tesco to turn its attention to fighting with discounters on price show they don’t really understand how the market has changed.

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Managing a crisis

Posted in organisational, sport by Andrew Curry on 7 July, 2014
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Photo by Graham Watson: grahamwatson.com

The start of the Tour de France seems a good moment to write a post on management technique from one of the influential moments in last year’s Tour. It’s been in my mind since I read David Walsh’s book Inside Team Sky. The moment is during the rest day, after the Sky team had disintegrated on the Stage 9 to Bagneres de Bigorre. The passage in the book, about the Team Sky manager David Brailsford, says a lot about his management style. (more…)

In search of European democracy

Posted in economics, politics by Andrew Curry on 28 May, 2014

UKIP-leader-Nigel-Farage-speaks-in-the-debate-following-Commission-President-Barrosos-State-of-the-Union-Address-on-September-28-2011-Photo-credit-©European-Union-2011-PE-EP_Pietro-Naj-Oleari-creative-commons-628x356The European election results were another shockwave rolling out from the 2008 financial crisis. They suggest the crisis has some way to go.

“The most annoying thing about most of the commentary on the European elections is that it is dominated (as usual) by people who are only interested in elections, and entirely uninterested in what is actually going on”, John Naughton observed in an excellent post this week. Actually, that splits into two, reinforcing problems. Politicians are too interested in people who vote, and not those who don’t, and the media is too interested in events, and not sufficiently interested in causes. As a result, you get lots of heat and precious little light.

And it’s pretty clear that what we saw last week was one of the continuing shock waves rolling out from the financial crisis, a crisis that almost certainly has another decade or so to go.

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Anticipating the next wave of technology

Posted in innovation, technology by Andrew Curry on 24 May, 2014

PerezMainPhotoRegular readers of the next wave will know that I am a fan of the work of the economic and technology historian Carlota Perez, who developed a model that explains the processes by which new technology platforms first emerge, then become dominant, and then become superseded. There have been five of these “technology surges” since 1771; the present ICT surge is the fifth.

Her model is a historical one. This isn’t a complaint: she is a historian, and she did the analysis of the historical data to propose the pattern she describes in her book. But when I was asked to contribute to an Association of Professional Futurists workshop that used the Three Horizons method to explore candidates for the Sixth surge, I wondered if it was possible to identify future-facing characteristics in her model.

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Loosening the grip of oligarchy

Posted in economics, emerging issues, politics by Andrew Curry on 20 April, 2014

There’s a moment in this interview with Paul Krugman about Thomas Piketty’s book Capital In The 21st Century where Bill Moyers asks Krugman this question:

Moyers: Do you agree with [Piketty] that we’re drifting towards oligarchy?

And Krugman gives him this reply:

Krugman: Oh yes. There’s no question of that.

And watching it I realised that the next political phase of the campaign started by Occupy is now starting to emerge.

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Postcards as a workshop tool

Posted in articles, future, methods by Andrew Curry on 17 April, 2014

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As is often the case, I have a whole lot of half-finished posts waiting for some writing time to finish them.

So this short post is just to note that I have an essay [opens pdf] in the latest edition of the Journal of Futures Studies, co-written with Victoria Ward, on using postcards in workshops as a facilitation technique. One of the inspirations for the paper was Alex Pang’s essay on ‘paper spaces‘, which made complete sense to me but was, he once told me, surprisingly controversial.

Here’s an extract:

There is no precise workshop method: in practice it adapted to the specific requirements of the workshop. The approach has also shown itself to be fairly robust. Typically in the context of a futures workshop one would lay out 150 or so cards on a table, invite participants to form themselves into pairs or threes, then ask each group to select two, sometimes three, cards that express a story or a view about the particular future under scrutiny, and be willing, shortly afterwards, to tell that story to the other participants.

There are variations, but essentially this is it: a dialogue process that uses visual cues to open up different ways of seeing, of witnessing and conveying our own experience, and perhaps different types of insights, about the present and future. And more: a way of sharing fragments in such a way that small moments sometimes build to a larger and sometimes surprising narrative. In doing so, in our experience, they also create different types of narratives, different types of conversations, and a vivid body of language, image and material that can be incorporated directly into the next stages.

Some lessons from the Co-op

Posted in business, organisational by Andrew Curry on 22 March, 2014

The_Co-operative,_Balloon_Street,_Manchester

I’m reading Geoff Mulgan’s book The Locust and the Bee, a bit belatedly, and it provides a valuable lens through which to look at the Co-op affair. So, some quick notes on the affair, below the fold.

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Breaking the bank

Posted in banks, finance, politics by Andrew Curry on 17 February, 2014

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Anthony Jenkins, the retail banker who succeeded Bob Diamond as the Chief Executive of Barclays Bank, has rightly been criticised this week after the bank announced that it had increased its bonus pool when profits were falling and the bank is pushing through large cuts – 7,000 people – in retail banking. You judge a system by what it does, not what it says it does, and this decision spoke volumes – yelled it from the rooftops, really – about who benefits from the Barclays’ banking system.

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A bill of digital rights

Posted in digital, politics, technology by Andrew Curry on 15 February, 2014

gchq-bude-sianberry-cc-byIt’s taken some time – a surprisingly long time – but at last we’re seeing a political reaction from Britain’s civil society organisation’s to Edward Snowden’s revelations. Six organisations have launched a campaign that our security laws should be governed by six principles that are closely linked to the principles that underpin our notions of democratic government.

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China’s prospects

Posted in China, economics by Andrew Curry on 31 January, 2014

China 5576_5243a75446169-386x289Over at The Futures Company’s blog I have a post up about the challenges facing businesses – a look back at a Future Perspective we published on China a couple of years ago.

Here’s an extract about the country’s economic prospects:

“While the last three decades tell us that it’s unwise to bet against China fixing its problems, there are some big questions.

“One is about the effectiveness of the transition to a consumer economy, which needs significant institutional change if it is to work. This leads to a second question, of whether China’s market institutions are robust enough and trusted enough to support such a transition; this is almost certainly one factor behind the country’s anti-corruption drive. An important issue in this is openness: despite its huge internal market there will be doubts about how effectively China can modernize or innovate while it shuts off its internet from the world. The cost of managing its “Golden Shield” is said to be $1.6 billion to date.

“A third question is about the cost of unwinding or writing off stranded assets, whether they are ghost cities or the government’s cotton mountain, bought at prices well about the world market. There are also questions about the overall levels of Chinese debt, and whether a combination of asset bubbles, shadow finance, and bad debts throughout the country’s banking system could prompt a financial crisis. Finally, there are signs that the “Chimerica” system, under which Chinese savings bought American debt, and Americans then bought Chinese goods, is coming to an end.

“As Robert Gottliebsen argued recently in Australia’s Business Spectator:

China does not want to fund further US deficits and the US wants to reduce its deficits. And so the US-China model that has dominated the world is changing and Chinese consumers must be stimulated to replace the Americans. … The Chinese leadership understands this but changing the model will not be easy, particularly as the population is ageing. Japan tried a similar switch and failed.”

The image at the top of this post is from Wikimedia, and is used here, with thanks, under a Creative Commons licence.

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