Archive for March, 2010

Scenes from office life 2

© Jake Goretzki

29 March 2010 at 5:02 pm Leave a comment

The future of payments

Andrew Curry writes:

I was invited earlier this month to speak on the future of payments at the Digital Money Forum in London, now in its thirteenth year and as provocative as ever. Of course, it’s a future that’s increasingly bound up with technology. My version is based on the work that’s been done by the historian of economics and technology, Carlota Perez (which I’ve blogged about elsewhere, at length) on long technology cycles.

We’ve seen five long technology surges, each of around 50-60 years, starting with steam, cotton and canals in 1771. The first half of the cycle, the installation phase, is driven by investment and finance capital. The second half, the deployment phase, is driven by production capital. And in between the two is a financial crash, when investment expectations get ahead of themselves.

In the current information and communications technology surge, we’re a few years into the deployment phase, when people start to do “new things in new ways” with technology. The smart phone and the tablet computer are archetypal deployment products, and digital payments will inevitably get caught up in the rush, as new applications emerge.

One of the likely effects is the fragmentation of devices, rather than convergence (we may use a digitally enabled key to get into our house, or a card or fob s a store of value, but we’re unlikely to leave them lying on a table during a meeting). We should expect fragmentation of currencies as well; local currencies such as the Lewes pound work much better when they don’t have to be printed.  There are already viable currencies within every online multi-player game (and one of the things I learnt at the Forum was that Chinese workers employed to dig virtual gold in online games earn more than Chinese gold miners who dig the physical commodity, and in much better conditions). One of the other speakers talked about the emergence of currencies backed by units of energy consumption. This isn’t hypothetical.

This potentially represents that same sort of democratisation of production that we’ve seen in other sectors, ending the monopoly of the banks (mostly the commercial banks) on credit creation. This thought seemed to cause some nervousness in the audience at the Digital Money Forum, and the questions turned quite quickly to fraud and regulation, although potential fraudsters in an energy-backed currency would be doing very well to steal a fraction of the money that Bernie Madoff took from his investors.

What’s standing in the way? The banks, who aren’t trusted, and the mobile operators, who aren’t particularly interested in payments, at least not in the rich world. It seems likely that the market will need its own ‘iTunes’ moment, when an outsider steps in to create a decisive disruptive change.

The image above is courtesy of Flickr user Bohman, and is used under a Creative Commons licence with thanks.

24 March 2010 at 9:15 am Leave a comment

The appeal of the local

Alex Oliver writes:

I was lucky enough to present some of our current insight about trust and decision-making, especially at a local level, to a group of local government leaders earlier this month.  In short, it suggests that there’s a growing public appetite for more engagement and involvement, as well as greater confidence in decision making at the local level, compared to central government.

But there are also still significant barriers to engagement faced by certain groups, including younger people. These include knowing how to get involved, which often is not obvious. (Other work we’ve done for government about this also identified that if people did get involved, they needed to believe that their actions would make a difference and their opinions would be listened to; councils still forget to tell people about the impact their involvement has had on the outcomes.)

I also looked at the area of digital service delivery. Work done by the IIPS – the Institute for Insight into Public Services, the think tank we jointly run with TNS-BMRB – shows that concerns still exist around the potential inequalities inherent in internet service delivery for older and less affluent groups, along with the need to consider the role of other digital channels including i-TV and mobile.  People continue to prefer personal channels (phone and face to face) where personal information is concerned, and still expect to be offered choice. The mail is still preferred by a significant proportion of the population (around a third) for forms and payments. People who use services continue to expect multi-channel delivery, rather than being funnelled into one channel. And from a service provider’s perspective, getting the mix of user and channel right can represent a big cost saving.

And the research findings on choice and quality of service continue to be worth emphasising; all social groups, and ages, put quality above choice. And those who value choice more – typically in poorer social groups who don’t have as much choice generally – are also most worried about their ability to make the right choices.

16 March 2010 at 9:02 am Leave a comment

Trust plus

Will Galgey writes:

Trust in organisations and brands has been declining steadily as consumers have more information and are more sceptical. There’s also striking evidence that attitudes have shifted, certainly in Europe and North America, as a result of the global financial crisis. But if trust isn’t enough,  how should companies respond? We’ve been collaborating with Millward Brown, the WPP company which runs the WPP brand equity research programme BrandZ, to try to answer this question.

Our joint research produced new insights into consumer behaviour and attitudes which should help shape the behaviour of companies and their brands, and new metrics to help gauge the effectiveness of these actions. In summary:

  • trust is still essential
  • but it needs to be combined with customer recommendation to be effective
  • which generates the ‘equation’, Trust + Recommendation = Success.

And since both levels of trust and willingness to recommend can be measured in research, the quantitative wizards at Millward Brown have produced an index, the TrustR score, based on global consumer research, which indicates how effective different companies and different brands are in different markets.

There are some surprises in the data – Pampers tops the chart globally (and is also number 1 in the UK, France and Germany), while China Mobile is in the top 10. And Nokia, which tends to get written off by American commentators dazzled by Apple and Google, is top in 8 of the 22 countries covered by the study. The research shows a strong correlation between TrustR scores and brand financial performance.

The good news is that the TrustR report is free to our clients, and comes tailored for specific markets and specific categories. If you are a client, the consultants you usually work with can arrange for a copy to be sent to you. If you’re not a client, and are interested, please email us at betterfutures[AT], and we’ll see what we can do.

12 March 2010 at 9:20 am 1 comment

Becoming a ‘best company to work for’

The Futures Company has made it onto the Sunday Times list of ‘100 best small companies to work for’ at the first attempt. We asked our Human Resources manager, Liz Walkling, who steered us through the assessment process, to explain more.

Liz Walkling writes

Why did we decide to do it? Several reasons. We’ve always prided ourselves on ‘unlocking futures’, not just for clients, but for everyone who works here. We felt we’d built up a strong culture of openness, and developed an environment that supports learning and development. We thought we had something different to offer.

So entering the Sunday Times Best 100 Companies to Work For award seemed an ideal opportunity. Every employer should aspire to be seen as an employer of choice, and be recognised for it within their industry. The Best 100 Companies allowed us to test ourselves against some external benchmarks. Assessment categories such as Leadership, My Company, Personal Growth, and Fair Deal resonated within the business.  For the first time, our size (53 staff in the UK) allowed us to enter the Small Company category, which starts at 50 employees; the rigorous assessment process allowed us to challenge our assumptions.

And the assessment process involves quite a lot of learning. The Best Companies team provide plenty of support along the way, with guidance on the categories, criteria, and the outcomes. The process is also thorough; it requires commitment from senior management, and investigates environmental polices, social commitment, as well as an anonymous employee survey (the level of response is one of the assessment criteria).

Six weeks later we got a call to say we’d been awarded Best Company status. Lots of hullabaloo in the office that day! Our exact ‘star rating’ came a few weeks later – 2 stars for Outstanding (against a top 3-star rating for for Extraordinary). Our rating, and our 56th position (along with the comment that it was unusual to achieve a place on the listing at the first application) places us amongst the best of small companies. Whilst we’re proud of the achievement, it’s  a process, not an outcome, and there’s a lot to keep working on to make sure we stay on the list – and more importantly, to carry on delivering a top-class working environment. The real work starts here.

10 March 2010 at 9:01 am Leave a comment

Some good things we’ve seen #6

Compiled by Jo Phillips

  • A sobering New York Times graphic of the 2009 death count (Allied military forces only) in Iraq and Afghanistan
  • An alarming case of public sector innovation in South Africa
  • Some interesting and successful attempts at behaviour change in Schipol Airport,  from Core 77, demonstrating that humour is important even when the subject is serious
  • A talking plate that tells you to eat more slowly, via the iftf
  • Stella’s app for finding the nearest pint of the stuff to your location – and a taxi to take you home!
  • Bruichladdich’s beautiful bottle for the world’s first organic whiskey. It is possible to push the boundaries even in traditionally stuffy categories
  • And a video of an uplifting performance by the singer Bobby McFerrin at the world science festival last year demonstrates the power of the pentatonic scale.

The image at the top is from the Schipol bheaviour change campaign, designed by the Dutch firm Autobahn.

8 March 2010 at 8:36 am Leave a comment

The Futures Company blog

The Futures Company was created through the merger of Henley Centre HeadlightVision and Yankelovich in 2008. This is the blog of the new company - but the former posts from the former Henley Centre Headlightvision blog still can be found here.

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