Sunday, 11 March 2012

Adrian Wooldridge


Spent a fascinating afternoon with The Economist's Schumpeter, one of my favourite weekly columnists. What a treat! Essentially a business and management column, Schumpeter was launched by The Economist three years ago, designed to offer insights to "help people see business straight". It is named after the famous economist, intellectual and political scientist Joseph Schumpeter, who knew the power of a sound bite: in the first half of last century he coined the term 'creative destruction' - the idea that companies rising and falling would unleash innovation and in the end make economies stronger. He believed vehemently that innovation was at the heart of economic progress and he promoted the idea that business, and capitalism, could be a force for good - at a time when the prevailing sentiment was anti-business.  

"Queen Elizabeth owned silk stockings. The capitalist achievement does not typically consist in providing more silk stockings for queens, but in bringing them within the reach of factory girls, in return for steadily decreasing amounts of effort" was one of his most famous observations.

The man behind Shumpeter is impressive in his own right.  Management Editor Adrian Wooldridge is one of the most thoughtful and though-provoking journalists I know.  Take a look at this week's article "Slaves to the smartphone" on the "evils of constant connectivity" and how we should all get a life.  And this one from earlier in the year on "The dangers of demonology", which argues that hatred of bankers is in fact one of the world's oldest and most dangerous forms of prejudice.  Now that's a challenging idea.  

Adrian is also the author of several intriguingly titled business books: "The Company: A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea", "A Future Perfect: The Challenge and Hidden Promise of Globalisation", "The Right Nation - a study of conservatism in America", and "Masters of Management: How the Business Gurus and their Ideas have Changed the World - for Better and for Worse".  This man is alive with interesting, original, often counter-intuitive ideas. If ever you have an opportunity to engage him in conversation, grab it! Lucky me: I got to spend a lunchtime and a whole afternoon with him as he talked to a number of clients for a piece he's researching on the changing fashions for organisational structures. It was utterly fascinating.  Will reveal more soon...

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"Austerity MIPIM" are two words I never thought I'd see side by side.  But Brecher managing partner Nicky Richmond has been busily blogging from MIPIM this week for both The Lawyer and Estates Gazette and has been talking about just this.  Gone are the days of the property department jolly. This year if you're there, you're definitely there to work. Nicky more than most: on top of a gruelling diary of hardcore business meetings, from dawn to dusk, across breakfast, lunch and dinner, she has been sending me two draft blogs before 9am each morning.  Star client!  You can read her Estates Gazette blog here and The Lawyer one here - although this one comes with a health warning.  She took a particularly dim view as some of the proceedings towards the end of the week seemed to slide back into the lairy excesses of the early noughties, and being Nicky she told it just how it was. And it wasn't pretty.

As I post this, Nicky is on her way back to London - returning with a suitcase full of new clients and deals.  Now that's how it's done!

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Didn't we all miss Steve Jobs this week, with the damp squib that was the launch of iPad 3. The market was seriously underwhelmed.  Now Mr Jobs was a man who might have got on well with our Joseph Schumpeter, had their times on this mortal coil coincided. Jobs' magic gift was his ability to take potentially elite, complex technology and translate it into a mass consumer product, because of his intuitive understanding of the consumer mind, habit and heart. The latest iteration of our beloved iPad seems no more than a bit of tinkering around the edges. A new high definition screen? Faster microchip? Hardly revolutionary.  Let's hope Apple finds new inspiration soon.

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