Welcome to our first mailing of 2008. We got a great response to our questions to mark the end of the 2007.

And we hope you are getting on well with 2008.

Apple, Bovril or Cadbury’s chocolate: better to be hated than ignored?

How critical is your brand to your success? Every organisation has one, even though they don’t think they do or don’t believe in them. Whether you are a global enterprise, public body, small business or freelancer, your customers, suppliers, partners all have a view about what it is that you offer them, what it’s like to work with you or buy from you and what you stand for.

So, does everyone know who you are and what you offer? Or can you get by with relative anonymity? Would you be more successful if people really loved your brand? Or hated it?

Take Apple. We were struck by a survey on the Internet Evolution website (http://www.internetevolution.com/author.asp?section_id=466&doc_id =144471) that suggested the purveyor of sleek white computing and music ‘must haves’ is now more unpopular than Microsoft. On closer inspection, though, what emerges is that amongst web users, Apple is both amongst the most well-loved of companies and also one that has a large number of those who hate it.

Unilever, the makers of Bovril has gone one step further and specialised in emphasising a “love it or hate it” approach to its product. This has seen the sales of the “original beef tea” resurgent in recent years.

Even the hugely popular Cadbury’s milk chocolate has been attached of late for not being as sophisticated as continental brands with their much higher cocoa content. Yet for many people, there is nothing better than a slab of dairy milk – even if it is eaten with a touch more guilt than 20 years ago.

All of these successful brands have one thing in common: they are able to make people feel strongly about them. They’d rather people were passionate about them – either good or bad – than indifferent. Can this work for every organisation? We think so.

Maybe even for a small new restaurant in Cambridge. Four of us are off for dinner this week to somewhere called The Chop House. Their promise? “To offer classic British food in a light hearted, contemporary environment in a fantastic location.” One of those we’re going with doesn’t like the name or the image it conjures up (only meat?). We guess the proof of the pudding (if you’ll excuse the pun) though will be in the eating. If the setting, service and food live up to their promise, I’m sure we’ll be their next set of loyal and passionate supporters.

In memory of Gerard Fairtlough

For many years now, the work of Gerard Fairtlough has inspired us in our work on organisational design. His book “Three Ways of Getting Things Done” is a powerful antidote to the unquestioned addiction to hierarchical ways of organising: ways that are starting to be challenged in a world where co-production and social networking are powerful features of everyday life for younger citizens; norms that are questioned now more distributed forms of acting are becoming the preferred way for leading businesses to operate (see the Times 100 best places to work).

So, we were saddened to learn of Gerard’s death in December. He was a friend and ally. We still listen to an interview Gerard gave to the BBC world service on his view of organisation and are happy to share this.

In the meantime, you can read more about this extraordinary yet humble man here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4386186.stm

Lexicon for Leaders: 26 lessons for business success

We were never exam nerds. However, we like shorthand to help us remember and convey insight. We are great fans of all alliteration, such as our 4i’of: inspiration, implementation, individual talent, interaction ability. We like acronyms such as RUB points: to highlight the need to prepare for risks, uncertainties and blocks. We like plays with words; many of you will know that denk is Dutch for ‘think’.

We are building up our Lexicon for Leaders – a list of 26 ideas we believe are powerful (and maybe critical) tools, concepts and stories to help people who run and work in teams to get things done. Please let us know what ideas you find helpful. We’d love to know. We promise we won’t try too hard to shoehorn them into an A to Z format!

Letter G is for ‘Getting things done’ from Gerard Fairtlough. You can find a summary of Gerard’s inspirational book from his own publishing company, Triarchy: http://www.triarchypress.co.uk/pages/articles/Gett ing%20Things%20Done%20-%20Executive%20Summary%203bk.pdf

Matrix of the month: your politics?

And now a 2x2. As consultants we are, of course, quite taken by two by two matrices. Simplifying reality is pretty seductive. This risks being naff and irritating but some of these abstractions can be useful. So we will share some that others tell us they find memorable and helpful. For a start, one that is not from us and that we got from a relative studying political science at university: http://www.theadvocates.org/quiz.html Discuss!

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