Board and how not to choose a logo

We have our New NCC Board meeting today – talking about organisational design in outline (starting with the senior team) and branding (first pass at possible names). Thanks to Roger, and the Daily Telegraph, we know how NOT to choose a logo!

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Big idea breakfast

The most wow person I have met recently is Kohei Nichiyama from Tokyo. Over breakfast, he described his system of ‘design to order’ that he has invented, where online consumers suggest products that are not on the market, and when enough others show interest, companies like Muji commit to bringing them to market.

The difference between what he does and a lot of other Web 2.0 by companies (see this Guardian article for an interesting sample) is that the consumers then get paid royalties for the intellectual property…

We will keep the connection and talk about what could be done in the UK…

Alive online

We hare alive online with an extranet for the new organisation, for use by energywatch, postwatch, NCC, SCC and WCC staff. I think it is brilliant – it will help by offering a systematic point of information. Another small piece of the jigsaw and vision …

Names and numbers

I have got all kinds of suggestions in from staff and people that I have talked to about the new organisation on one issue in particular – what our name should be!

We are going to have a first discussion on this at the Board meeting next week, with some of the ideas that have come forward. I personally do like ‘consumer’ being in there, because this is the heart of who we are and what we do – other terms like ‘user’ are not public parlance yet, ‘shopper’ and ‘customer’ don’t have enough stretch and ‘citizen’ is good for some but probably misleading on the whole. What is probably true though is that we don’t wake up in the morning thinking “I am a consumer”, even if we do buy in to other designations in particular circumstances, like “I am a patient” (and you indeed have to come with a book and be patient in the NHS) or “passenger”. But we do see fighting for ‘consumers’ as a reasonable and fair cause, and see it as on the side of people like us. The moral cause is important. But then we need another word to flavour what it is we do for consumers…

For my sins, I talked to a wonderful brand guru at News International who works with James Murdoch who said that you can either have a name that says what you do precisely – North Japan Railways – or one that you fill with meaning and aspiration over time – like Orange or O2. We won’t have an advertising budget I guess, but we will be brilliant at PR.

I guess the people that chose the name “Amnesty International” worried it was an odd and obscure name when they first came up with it. Sleep on the discomfort, go out boldly and a few years on, it is wonderful. Perhaps that could be our story too!

If anyone thinks that consumer issues have gone away, then look at the shocking numbers on consumer detriment from the Office of Fair Trading… £6.6 billion

Open and close

My Harvard course on policy and leadership has now finished, and I have sixty wonderful new friends and colleagues from around the world- including Japan, Peru, China, Chile, South Korea, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Nigeria and the US…

Brian here is one of those, and is a 35 year old open source pioneer, having helped to start Apache, which is leading web software, and the browser Firefox (thanks Nimah, for the photo). His passion is keeping competition open on the web for consumers.

I have been getting summary reports from the team at home, so I know that there is progress across the merger work – next stage organisational design in train after the feedback we have, design consultants appointed for naming and branding etc. We appear now to be on target on plans, but, without all the detail to hand, I am off on holiday for a week with my family, on the coast of Norfolk, and will report on where we are in a good deal more depth when I return. 

Seeing the internet

I have seen the internet for the first time and it feels a little like seeing the first pictures of the Earth from space. I visited Paul Sagan from Akamai, here in Boston, who manage the flow of 20% of the internet’s traffic worldwide – and their command centre there with giant screens of data routes on a turning world, with arrays of statistics on the millions of people shopping at retail sites or picking up news.

Paul Sagan himself turns out to be a wonderful consumer advocate, in what he describes as the new ‘demand economy’ – where power has changed hands from companies to customers. If webpages do not download on a site within four seconds, he tells me, we now go elsewhere. Eighteen months ago, it was seven… our expectations are rising and we will ditch companies that won’t keep up.   

Harvard Talk

A week at Harvard’s Kennedy School has been uplifting – the first time back in the classroom for me for a long time… We work from 8am breakfast through until 10 in the evening, doing a mix of policy issues and personal competences. Highlights have included a run through climate change policy and cap & trade systems, how to use randomised trials in social policy and a session on negotiation.

The others are also nominated “young global leaders” from around the world. We have around 65 from around 40 countries, a wonderful variety and quality, from business CEOs, social entrepreneurs, NGO leaders, poets and scientists.

Josef, for example is a genetics scientist based in Austria, Canada and China who is … afraid of mice! But talking to him, and meeting Eric Landers, here at Harvard who led the public project to decode the human genome, opens up this astonishing world of discovery that is emerging around us and will change the landscape for us. The genetic variation across different ethnic groups is no more than 0.1% of our overall genetic sequence – the rest is all shared!

Knowing I love books, Josef has just given me a book on how the world can be understood through soccer. There are a few football fans across the three organisations I know (QPR, Ispwich, Liverpool, you know who you are…!), so I will have to report back.