Do three, and then change…

This week saw the third VivaTech and for the first time I didn’t go. Things are busy at the moment and I couldn’t see what I’d learn that was new this time. The organisers have spent three years working on the model “if it ain’t broke, do the same but bigger”.

They now have a massive international success on their hands but they’ve salso started to bang up against the events rule of three.

  • Do something once and it’s new, original, interesting and feels like a breath of fresh air.
  • Second time is comfortable, it’s less awkward and you get a ton of value from it. You are less surprised by the rules and you know what you’re doing.
  • You get to the third event and you realise that people are bending the rules and gaming the system. It’s time to do something radically different.

I’ve seen this many times professionally and privately. VivaTech needs a second act and to move away from it’s corporate roots.

Where did I spend Saturday? At Startup for Kids, it was the first year; it’s tiny and they’ve a load to learn but were did get the pirate robot to work in the end!



I’ve been a road warrior most of my career, in 30 years I’ve had an office with a door for less than two years (during the last millenium!) and a fixed desk for only short periods of time.

This has always given me a strange opinon about what are good and bad places to be working. A pair of Bose headphones on a plane and I can get a massive amount done! I found working on the Champs Elysee difficult because of the constant distractions.

Why am I thinking of this? Well, were looking at a place for us to work with clients on new business models. It seems that everyone has a different idea about what we need and what would be the most productive type of space.

And then I read this, from Adrian Newey’s book on the subject of working in a Norman Foster designed office.

“To me the new building was oppressive in its ordered greyness. Reminiscent of something from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, it featured rows and rows of desks with nothing out of line. Built by the Empire. Not an environment in which I, among others, found it easy to be creative.

When we first moved in, we weren’t even allowed glasses of water at our desk, and absolutely no tea or coffee or personal effects. Somebody pointed out that it was probably illegal to deny workers water at their desk, so he had to relent on that, but not on the tea or coffee, and as far as personal effects went, you were allowed one family picture on your desk but it had to be stored in a drawer overnight.

Meanwhile, if you were part of the workforce, you had to enter the building walking down a circular staircase into an underground corridor with a grey floor and white walls; it felt like you were entering some Orwellian film. You’d then walk back up another circular staircase into the middle of the building, to your workstation. I hated walking through the corridor, so instead I would walk along the grass verge, then cross the inner road and enter through the race bay where the trucks were parked.

I was spotted doing this by the constantly watched bank of CCTV monitors in the basement and sent an email warning me that if I did not revert to using the prescribed route into the office I would face ‘an internal examination’. Crikey.”

(from “How to Build a Car: The Autobiography of the World’s Greatest Formula 1 Designer” by Adrian Newey)

He’s referring to one of the most expensive and carefully designed buildings in Europe!


I had the chance in the last couple of weeks to lead our Partner Day in Paris where DXC spent a day with the teams of our largest partners in Europe. It was a great day where we were able to explain, in a very transparent way, how we work and learn from our Partners how they operate.

Inside-Out is increasingly important to all companies but especially Technology companies. In the 1980s a single company could supply almost all your computing needs. Trying to do that today is pointless.
So, what’s the difference between a Partner and a supplier?

When it works, it’s when you stop counting what you’re getting out of a relationship and just know that it’s mutually beneficial over the longer term.

Sounds like a marriage and it’s probably why we call the other half of a marriage a Partner!

Like a marriage the same basic rules seem to apply; be clear about what each partner wants, don’t assume that you know everything that your Partner is thinking and constant communication.

Of course, all this makes sense and easy to list. However, like a marriage do we remember to do this every week of the year? No but we should at least try.


Wifi and walled gardens…

First a couple of facts:

  • I have an ADSL router at home that contains a hard disk, TV tuner, and that can act as a UNIX server; we use none of these services. It’s been in “bridge mode” for at least the last six years.

    Wifi in our house has always been the job of a specialist router, first from Apple, then Netgear and now Eero. It’s quick but unreliable and needs an upgrade.

  • The Eero app currently says that there are 32 devices alive on our local network. And currently at least iPhones are not at home! I can only see this number increasing over time and yet…

Apple has officially announced that it’s withdrawing from making Airports. Why do I care? Simply, because I want to spend less of my time making things work and more time using them.

M.G. Siegler has written a brilliant article on the subject, ErrorPort,  and he makes a great case for the home hub, which I’d buy in a second. However, I think that there is a bigger point here.

Xerox died when they gave up the small stuff, airlines stop being a service when they give up the short haul, supermarkets lose when you can’t get all your shopping in the one location.

Apple has slowly given up around the edges and the results are clear,  in the last couple of years, Amazon Alexas, Sonos, Eeros and Chromebooks have arrived in our house. Slowly the house has moved from end to end Apple to a far more cosmopolitan place.

In this environment, the walled garden from Apple has no value (no HomeKit for example) because the walled garden is incomplete. The added value appears when something is open and adaptable, everything that Apple is not. Brick by brick we slowly forced to find a new brick road!

The Phoenix Project…


The Phoenix Project is now a cliché it’s been recommended so much but I’ll recommend it anyway. Even for all it’s faults; the story is obvious and too linear, the characters one dimensional, and (like all fiction) it’s over simplified but…

It’s the only book that I know that describes what a day at the office feels like in IT departments across the world. It’s a strange fact that fiction contains a constant stream of titles about detectives, policemen, poets, TV presenters, CIA operatives but little that looks like the day to day work of millions of people.

As an industry, how are we to attract, train and develop the people that will make a difference when we’re unable to tell a coherent story about what we do, or even what it looks like?

I believe that The Phoenix Project is an important first step but just as importantly I’m looking for the awful follow up, the buggy video game and tedious movie while we work out how to tell the story.