Leading Innovation: Harvard’s Prof Linda Hill

Smart leaders are no longer casting themselves as solo visionaries, but are rather rewriting the rules of innovation, so claims Harvard Business Professor Linda Hall.

Together with a few other CEO-types, I was privileged to spend a half day with her recently in Perth courtesy of the RAC. She writes on leadership of innovation, and her central case was the recently departed Director for Technology and Innovation in Obama’s White House, Tom Kalil. Tom had the difficult job of trying to build innovation throughout the various realms of government (and of course, he was then summarily dismissed by You Know Who who then put his son in law in charge of the same project.)

Tom had to build coalitions, get funding and convince the most conservative types that change was necessary. Innovation was not an option, it was an imperative. He did this by talking to people, being open, listening. It was all on the tight time frame, as his appointment was political. But huge amounts of progress was made, and he left with a very high reputation. He spoke of creating “policy entrepreneurs” and made it acceptable (and, indeed, the norm) to have innovation in government.

Knowing that most conversations in organisations happen horizontally, he knew he had to break down silos to get communication going up and down the organisational levels.

Leading innovation requires an organisation to do two things at once:

  1. One group looks at the present (exploit) and does the best they can with the current state
  2. Another group looks at what might be, the future state (explore)

The difficulty comes, argues Professor Hill, in integrating the future with the present.

Leadership is about dealing with change, whereas management is about dealing with complexity. Leading change is the not the same as leading innovation.

Value Creators can close a ‘performance gap‘ (between where we should be and where we are), and Game Changers can close the ‘opportunity gap‘ (the different between where we could be and where we are), the moon shots. Leaders need to be game changers.

Leadership is a multi-levelled skill:

  • manage yourself ~ make yourself an instrument, have intent and impact, make an emotional connection
  • manage your network ~ build relationships, with those that can help you reach your goals
  • manage your team ~ develop those you have control over

Leadership run amok is a state where high achievement, high affiliation and power balanced people work hard, have high maintenance, but can balance all the main drivers. Great leaders unleash the powers within their teams, from where innovation comes.

Let your brain declutter – and clarity ensues

I’ve not posted for a while. In fact, last month was the first time I’d not posted anything since I started this blog over five years ago.

There are extenuating circumstances.

As some of you will know, I left my CEO job last month, and June was spent finishing off some important tasks as well as handing over to my successor. Along the way I have learned a few important lessons.

In the process of writing up hand over notes, I discovered that some of what I did I did not really need to do myself (directly), and that my delegation skills (which I thought were OK) needed some work.

It’s a bit like moving house. You find all this stuff you’ve kept over the ensuing years, and you really don’t know why you’ve kept it.

Whole drawers of drop files were thrown out. Why was I hoarding all this stuff? I rarely, if ever, opened those drop files, so what were they doing there? An important lesson learned. I also found that I did way too many tasks that really could have been palmed off to someone else. They weren’t all that time consuming, but as I’d initiated them, I’d carried on doing them, and could have hand-balled them way earlier.

I then had a week of catching up with about 18 different people (drank a lot of coffee), that I had been putting off til I had the time to do so. Then we had a family holiday in the sun.

Two weeks on, and I return to my blog, loaded with ideas. It’s amazing how the brain can get creative when you remove all the clutter from your life. All the stuff you do, and take on, because you can, but when you step back, should you really be doing it at all? It makes for a busy life, but is it as productive as it could be?

A week in the sun also helps put things into perspective. After a few days trampling through a national park, lolling on the beach or watching the sun set over a cool beer, your brain tends to do what it does so well – ideas come, and you see things with clarity. Things that annoyed you recede.

Cramming your brain with too much meaningless minutiae reduces its capacity to operate. Ever wonder why you get your best ideas in the car, or on a plane, or even on the toilet? It’s because, without the constant distraction of the bustling office, or emails or social media, the brain can breathe and function. (Life tip – don’t take the smartphone with you into the toilet.)

Paul McCartney kept a notepad by his bed, and often would wake up with a great tune, or the start of a classic song as he nodded off. He’d scribble it down, so he’d capture the thought. These days I use the virtual equivalent Evernote, which is an online app and website where I can capture all my thoughts, notes, drafts and to do lists. I can open it up anytime I think of something, and can access it from anywhere – on the plane, in the departure hall, on the platform. I’ve been making Evernote work overtime these past 2 weeks. It’s my external brain. A hard drive of information I can upload to, and download from, whenever I want.

So, to those of you in full time management and leadership roles, I would urge you to organise your day with some time for emptiness. It’s not wasted time. It will be productive, because only when you declutter your life and brain, does clarity ensue.

Photo: Sunset over Mindil Beach, Darwin ~ 

How to win those important moments

There’s a moment, a fleeting split-second, when you’re tested and everything suddenly seems on the line. It sharpens your focus. It’s now or never. Pressure on!

Some people attempt sheer off the cuff bravado, roll the dice and get away with it (or not). Others stumble, nervously panic and whimper a little. Some seem to know what to do, what to say, and do it with aplomb as if shelling pees.

Whether it’s at a crucial point of a negotiation, a tough question put to you live on TV or a fast cricket ball hurtling towards your stumps, how you handle the next split second can make or break your month, your career or your team’s chances of winning the grand final.

Justin Langer, current coach of WA cricket team, and former Australian test batting legend, likes to remind his players that if they don’t put themselves under pressure in practice, how can they handle the pressure of a real game? Because being put under pressure in a game is exactly the situation they will be put under, and how they handle that moment, is important.

This reminds me of my last game of cricket, played about 10 years ago, coincidentally one in which the same Justin Langer played …

OK, a wicket has fallen, and my heart jumps as I realise I have to bat now. I’ve been padded up for a while, watching the bowling and now it’s going to be my turn. I start to walk out, practice a few off drives, blink up at the sun, skip to get my feet moving. I pass the outgoing batsman. Bad/Good luck we murmur to each other. Arriving at the middle, I look up at the umpire and ask for middle and leg. Marking my guard, I glance around the field, to see faces staring looking back at me disdainfully. 11 of them. Plus 2 umpires. I acknowledge my team mate at the other end. I twizzle the bat in my hands, look up at the bowler, who then starts his run up. The pitch looks lighter than I remember, and broader, and far away from the boundary edge from where I was just a minute ago. All eyes are on me. Concentrate! watch the ball, watch the ball.

There’s a split moment after he delivers the ball when I have to decide what to do. As the ball is in the air, I try to pick up it’s trajectory. Can I leave it alone? Please for my first ball, I just want to either leave it alone, confidently, or play a resolute defensive shot. Feel bat on ball. Get to the end of the over unscathed, or even better, tickle a single somewhere and get up the other end and off the dreaded nought.

The young strapping fast bowler delivers a thunderbolt, yorker length and I can’t react in time. I hear the clatter as my leg peg is knocked over. Golden duck!

I barely saw anything, and barely moved. I froze. I’d been playing cricket for 30 or more years, had scored a good share of runs in that time, but nothing saved me that day. Castled. First up. Good nut. Cue trudge back to the pavilion. As I walked off, I think I knew that my eyes had gone, my reflexes has gone, and golf was going to be the pastime from now on!

I now coach my son’s Under 13 team, and yesterday they lost to a very powerful, all conquering team of older lads. They tried as hard as they could, but for the team as a whole, the gulf was too wide. They’d not been close to being bowled out all year, but yesterday they were knocked over collectively for less than one of the players had scored individually in a recent game. They will be stronger for it the next time.

My last ignominious innings was preceded by 10+ years of no practice at all, so blaming my 40+ year old eyes and reflexes is a cop out. I play golf most weekends, but apart from the occasional 5 minute blast on the driving range and swinging of a few clubs a few minutes before my first drive, I don’t practice. No wonder it can take my game a few holes to warm up. And in any case, the driving range in no way resembles the pressures and situations you encounter on the golf course, among thick bushes in a bad sandy lie with swirling gusts of wind when you’ve already had 3 shots.

If you can going to win these micro moments of importance, in a negotiation, a sales call, a board room, live on TV or on stage or in sports, you need to practice, and put yourself under pressure during practice.

In my U-13 cricket team I know exactly who has practised well all season, and who has not. Those that have come on this year, have practised the most. Those that have not, have stood still.

People say to me (which is very nice of them) that I ‘own the stage’ or am a ‘natural speaker’ when I am doing a presentation or moderating a panel discussion. Believe me, at school, I would go bright red if the teacher so much as looked in my direction. I was a geeky, awkward and slightly overweight 12 and 13 year old, not very confident, a bit shy and hated any attention in class.

This other cricketing memory from that time, 40 years ago one English summer, pretty much sums it up…

My year’s cricket team was playing the nearby rival school across town, and we were in trouble. We had no chance of winning the game, so had to try and last out the day, batting for a noble draw. I was last man in, and in the last over, had to face a few balls to deliver us that result. I don’t remember the ball being delivered, but I do remember closing my eyes and lunging forward to try and play the most immaculate forward defensive shot ever played. By the time I’d opened my eyes (I swear this is a true memory) the opposition team was walking off in celebration. I looked back, and my stumps were intact. I remember the ball hitting my bat, quite well… but then it must have popped up for a catch, which was taken. I had not seen my calamitous shot or the catch being made. Eyes were closed in defiance. Game over, we had lost.  

And yet, within a few years, I had grown in confidence, become a useful batsman and played some serious club cricket in the UK and Singapore. I even made 7 appearances for the Singapore national team and have a page on the CricInfo website that proves it so.

In between there was lots of practice, lots of mistakes and lots of games. Even though I was not particularly gifted, I loved the game and worked at it.

As I grew in confidence as a teenager, I learned how to speak in public too. I practised. I still do. Every time I am going to speak on stage, I have spend hours honing the slide deck, the talking points, the words and stories I am about to say. If the event is video’d, I watch it back and criticise my performance.

It’s boring, but it’s also 100% true that performance is borne from practice. The right type of practice. Those that try to wing it on the night may fluke a few wins here and there, but more often that not they will be caught short and won’t reach their potential. Same for final year exams. Those that put in the effort, and importantly, practice like the real thing, putting themselves under pressure during practice (such as doing timed exam questions), will be more able to handle the slings and arrows and random things that are thrown at you when the chips are down and the thing is on, for real.

I am amazed at sales people who baulk at practising their craft, honing their phone technique or role playing their sales meetings. It’s critical. So much learning results. Similarly, startup founders who cannot articulate their obvious passion into a clear, sensible business case for potential investors. Or business leaders with hopeless presentation skills, droning on through boring bullet point laded powerpoint pages.

So, take it from Alfie. Put yourself in a game situation, under pressure as you practice. And when the actual moment comes, and when the next move you make, or words that come out of your mouth, determine whether you will win or lose, you’ll be much more likely to win.

10 military strategies that work for business

I attended the graduation of the first cohort of WA Leaders the other night, and former military man and successful business owner Johnathan Huston (Croissant Express, Tint-a-Car) presented on the 10 most important principals of war.

He claimed that these 10 principles were the same for business, and in order of importance are…

1. What is the purpose?

An organisation must have a clear singularity of purpose. Keep it simple. Don’t spend lots of time with plans, they’re not read. Make the purpose clear to everyone. Allow people to make the decisions according to the purpose. People can make mistakes. As long as they were trying to get the purpose, celebrate!

2. Maintenance of morale

Make sure everyone is focussed on the job. This is far more important than having the best materials or equipment.

3. Offensive action

You cannot sit back and be defensive. Keep moving forward.

4. Concentration of effect

Make a big impact in a targeted manner. Don’t spread your marketing spend all over the year, have some strong attacking moments at key times of the year.

5. Economy of effort

There’s never enough resources, so efficiency and effectiveness  is key. Look how a few people hi-jacking planes made a huge impact on 9/11. The US ended up spending trillions of dollars over the next decade, and allowed the enemy to fight them on their own field, which was the aim.

6. Maintain momentum

Keep it up. Make sure you are pushing forward with sustainable, repeatable, cash flow positive projects.

7. Security and surprise

Ensure you have IP protection. Make your opponent box at shadows.

8. Flexibility and cooperation

Seek alliances and partnerships for mutual benefit.

9. Admin

Have great systems and processes. Make sure you can scale. Don’t be overly dependent on too few people. Have redundancy built in.

10. Maintain and reconstitute a reserve

Keep an ace in your pocket. Have a secure line of credit that you don’t use. So you can pounce when you need to. Be agile.

Looking at these, I probably have to agree. The purpose is the single most important factor. As Simon Sinek argues, find your ‘Why’. People buy your why. Everyone in the business has to know what the clear purpose is, and it should not have to be written on the wall to remind people. It should be built in.

Certainly,  motivation of staff, or rather, selected switched on self-motivated people, who will keep pushing and not give up, is also key, so this slides in at number 2, after the clear purpose.

I don’t think the 10 are necessarily always correct, nor in the right order definitively, depending on the type of business and industry. Business is not about conflict, it’s more about competition, and also cooperation. There are clear differences.

Military action is usually judged as either a win or a loss, with the ultimate goal being a win with the least effort (or casualties/cost). Judging a success, or a win, is sometimes harder in business. For some businesses, being around as an organisation may be reason to cheer, but in the military being around next year is not really the goal (because, if that was the case, don’t go to war at all).

The 10 do serve up some interesting points however, so are worthy of a look.

 ~~
Photo Credit: http://www.politico.com/news/women-in-the-military 

Perth: 2 degrees of separation

If you’ve ever bumped into someone you’ve not met in ages, out of the blue, you may have got to thinking how many you may have just missed. The law of averages would seem to suggest that for everyone you suddenly run into, you must miss many more.

Last week, I skipped through our foyer not really noticing anyone in particular, when I heard a voice saying ‘Charlie Gunningham!’ I looked up and there was someone I’d not seen in 16 or 17 years (we figured it was the year 2000 or 2001). ‘Are you here now?‘ he asked. ‘Yes, I’m the CEO! Where are you now?‘. And so on. He hardly looked any different, and he said the same of me (obviously, our eyes were worse for wear).

This seems to happen to me all the time, almost everywhere I walk around this fair city. While it could be that everyone is linked by 6 degrees of separation, in Perth I reckon it could be 2.

Try this at your next business networking event. Go up to someone you do not know, and introduce yourself, asking them why they’re there. Once you start chatting, you will probably find that, unless they are totally new to Perth, you have a common acquaintance. It’s something I like about this place. While the population may have ticked over 2 million, it still has a ‘smallness’ about it. Almost everyone seems close.

Another important element to this is you simply cannot afford to burn any bridges. Ever. There’s no point (even if you never see them again) getting in a strop, or being rude, or getting flustered, with anyone, at anytime, no matter how unreasonable they are.

I’ve had people be extremely rude to me over the years, and have been subject to things in business that I would not wish on anyone, but it’s always better to raise your chin, let it run off you like water off a duck’s back. In the main, people are good, not greedy. People want to do the right thing. But there are exceptions. And I find it odd that they do not have the emotional intelligence or self awareness to understand what they are doing, and what others think of them.

Someone I’ve known for years thinks he’s God’s gift to business, and he’s had some success (to which he should be justifiably proud), yet the way he acts puts people off, even those who know him well. His reputation is poor, and people tend to steer clear, or do that eye roll thing when his name is mentioned. People who do not know I know him, tell me things about him. He has no idea people think of him this way.

Reputations are made very slowly, and can be ruined quickly.

Those that seek to take short cuts to grab a goal themselves will never get the long term prize. In Perth, or anywhere, it’s simply not worth behaving badly. Everyone knows someone who knows you. It’s 2 degrees. Tred carefully, do the right thing and more good things will be returned to you.

That guy I bumped into in the foyer? As it happens he was there to listen to a proposal from our sales team. How I behaved 16 or 17 years ago with him may just help get a deal over the line this month. What goes around, comes around.

Photo Credit: http://www.azquotes.com/quote/1096820 

Outlook for WA business in 2017: better!

sunny times in WA

In a talk I delivered to the Western Suburbs Business Association last week, I struck a cautiously optimistic tone in regards to the prospects for business in WA in 2017. Most of those attending seemed to agree that things had been picking up of late, and perhaps in 2017 we would all just get on with business, and not worry about post mining-construction doom and gloom.

Here are the slides from the talk.

As always, start with a story, so I began with one of my favourites about the motorcylist in June 1944, having to turn around a convoy of armoured vehicles and trucks on a rainy country road just north of Portsmouth, UK. To find out out he did it, read this post.

The 3 main lessons from this story are:

  1. If you’re going in the wrong direction, admit it! (most managers can’t)
  2. Think about what direction you should be heading in (hint: the trend is your friend)
  3. Make sure you stick to the new direction (no returning to old ways)

While Nokia and Kodak famously did not find a better path, Samsung and Apple most notably did.

There’s no doubt that 2016 was a difficult year (for most, but not all, in businesses in WA). Apart from all the celeb deaths (no more than usual, statistically), we had the Brexit and Trump election shocks, more senate issues for PM Malcolm, a sluggish local economy  and the media got smashed (SCOOP went under, and The Sunday Times was bought by The West with barely a whimper).

In fact, 2016 was a relatively good year for WA stocks, as shown by the ‘BN30’ index of 30 representative WA ASX-listed companies. Starting the year at a base of 100, the BN30 ended it 20% higher at 120.

There was some good news around in 2016:

  • the US economy grew, and markets hit new records
  • US CO2 emissions were the lowest since 1991
  • The Giant Panda is off the endangered wildlife list, as are Tigers
  • Poverty levels fell, to their lowest levels
  • The Colombian government signed a peace deal with FARC

But there’s no doubt, some sectors in WA did it tough in WA:

  • Mining services
  • Retail
  • Property
  • Recruitment
  • Business Services

Mainly because:

  • WA population growth has stalled
  • Mining construction boom ended
  • Digital disruption
  • Uncertainty about the future

…. all fed in to lower business confidence, lower investment, less new jobs created.

Despite all this, unemployment peaked at 6.1%, and GDP grew (for the 25th successive year.)

There were some bright spots in the local economy:

  • ICT, tech and digital businesses did well
  • Professional services did OK as activity continued
  • Annuity (SaaS) businesses were fine
  • Agribusiness
  • Some miners, especially iron ore, gold and lithium were hot

On that last point, it should be noted that the mining boom is not over, even though the construction boom may have over. Mining, as an industry, is three times the size it was 10 years ago. It’s just that they are not building as many mines as they were during 2004-2012.

FMG’s share price rose 250% in 2016. Atlas Iron, once the darling of the stock market, and then pronounced dead, saw its shares rise from a penny to 4.5c. Long way off its prime, but still alive. For many, this signalled all is not lost. Atlas started paying down debt. FMG could be debt free soon.

What has great potential in WA business?

  • Tourism
  • Education
  • Aqua/agriculture
  • Mining/bio/tech startups and software
  • Many other industries

So looking to 2017 and beyond, there is much to be thankful for, and positive about in business in WA.

Much of what happens is in the mind anyway. If we think it, it may very well happen. We can create our own future, and we can certainly determine the success of our businesses by the attitude we take.

Plus, we live in paradise, lest we not forget. The sun is shining. The beaches are gorgeous. As is the wine.

Public Speaking? Start with a story

tell a story

There are 2 really bad ways to start a speech, and most of the time when I hear someone speak in public, one or other of them is used.

The most common way, and one that I have fallen into the trap of doing myself a few times, is to throw up a slide with the title of your speech on it, your name, position, perhaps your twitter handle. You say ‘hello’, or something like that, thank the person who introduced you, then repeat the title slide with your name, and flick to a second slide with the agenda for your talk on it: maybe 4 or 5 bullet points sunken into a nice visual background, repeating that also.

I suppose we do this because it is the natural order of things. We had to do a cover sheet for our assignments at school, and we did a contents page. When we got to talk about our assignments in class, we were encouraged to do a power point slide with the title of our talk on it, and then the agenda for our talk. This was how we began our public speaking career.

Part of the reason this is so bad is that the human brain can read your slides very fast. Very, very fast. By the time you have taken your first breath on stage, and the slide has been up there for 0.5 seconds, the audience has already read it.

SO WHY ARE YOU READING IT OUT TO THEM?!!!!!

OK, now this is not the very worst way of starting a speech, but it is the second worst. The worst is to shamble up to the podium, look around the room, glance at your watch, adjust your notes, cough a few times, drink some water, murmur ‘Ermmm… ummmm … good morning/afternoon/evening..’ and then follow this with an apology of sorts (as if to curry favour with your audience)…”Errr, sorry, I’m not very used to public speaking… errr, how long have I got? OK, well, here we are, ummmm, today I’d like to…”

Cue slumping of audience, flicking open of social media from the audience’s smartphones, and you’re off to the worse possible start. You’ve lost your audience, and you’re only 15 seconds in.

There is ONLY ONE good way of starting a speech.

Well, possibly two. The second best method is to start with a quirky, surprising statement that takes people by surprise and makes them think.

“More photos will be taken this year than in the entire history of the planet to this date.” That’s it, your first sentence. ‘OK’, think the audience, ‘we’re off to the races here’ and they sit up.

If I was speaking about digital disruption/transformation (my favourite subjects) then this might get me off and cracking.

But it’s not the best start. The best start is to start with a story. The adult equivalent of ‘Once upon a time’.

The best orators do it, every time. JFK, Martin Luther King, Obama.

Steve Job’s wonderful Stanford commencement address in 2005 is 15 minutes long and has 3 stories from his life. Wonderfully, simply told, with points made powerfully. (If you’ve not heard it, please do yourself a favour and watch it.)

It’s such an easy technique, I am amazed not everyone does it. We are all wired to listen to stories. It’s how our ancestors and their ancestors before them passed down their learnings, around the camp fire, from generation to generation over millennia. It’s how we as children learned our vocabulary, and bonded with our parents by our bed at night.

It does not matter if you have a 20 minute keynote at a business sundowner or an hour long keynote at a conference. Launch into a story. Straight away.

Have a visual on the slide (no words) if you like. But no bullet points. No elaborate diagram.

Choose a story that will transform your audience, take them with you and fire their imagination. You’ll have them (immediately) eating out of your hands. Take 5 minutes or so telling your story, in all its detail, using lots of layered description: the colour of the sky, the ebb and flow of the waves, the scream of the seagulls. Transport your audience. If you do this well enough, at a good pace, they will come with you. Practice it. Many times, until it is fantastic.

Once the story is over, make the point(s) count. The story is a device to grab your audience, and make the analogous links to what you want to get across. Your (few) bullet points or visuals can help ram it home.

I have a hand full of favourite stories I like to wield in public speeches: one is about the germination of the idea for my startup, which actually happened (true story) the same night my wife and I were dragged on stage to perform with Dame Edna.

Or I might talk about the ‘cup drop moment‘. Another relates to a young motorcyclist in June 1994 doing a U-turn, just before D-Day, of the convoy of trucks down a narrow country road, using a field and a gate. Yet another involves my Dad, who, unbeknownst to us had a growing tumour on his brain (thankfully benign) which, over 5 years,  grew to the size of a golf ball before anyone knew it was there.

I use these to grab the audience’s attention, draw them in, and make my points. They remember the story, and they remember the points. And perhaps, they remember me.

Next time you are delivering a speech, start with a good story, told well. Next time, and every time after that. Your audience will thank you for it, and as a means of communication, nothing beats it.

You can complain, wait or do something

leader adjusts the sails

As the seasonal period of goodwill recedes, and people trudge back to work (only to grab another week off before the end of January while the kids are still on holidays), some of us are prone to ponder the state of the world, and how 2017 might run its course.

This time last year I was optimistic about the coming year, despite the slew of celebrity deaths that kicked it off. In some ways, this may have been the harbinger of things to come, a portent of the gloom that was 2016. I did not predict Brexit nor the Trump presidency. But neither did I predict that the Aussie stock market would rise 20%  …well, a selected group of WA ASX listed stocks anyway, as shown by the BN30 index, something my business posted daily from Jan 4th 2016. It started at 100 (index) and today sits above 120.

Like many, I knew there was disquiet in areas of the western populace, but did not think there was enough to herald the UK to leave the EU, or for the orange bullying buffoon to actually get elected to the most powerful position on the planet (is it though?)… even though he garnered nearly 3 million LESS votes than his opponent. Malcolm Turnbull’s (nail bitingly close) reelection seems amazing in hindsight, compared to the crazy results elsewhere.

Meanwhile the Aussie economy ticked along, with some high points in iron ore miners and gold, and varied other places. The global economy also improved, helped by a resurgent US (now raising its interest rates, not once, but twice) and an OK China, expanded global trade. The Indian, East Asian, Brazilian and other economies are now part of the global picture, and contribute to its future much more than its past. The European economy has less sway than before. The Aussie economy is now entering its 26th year without a recession, and there does not seem to be one on the horizon either.

However, back on the ground, things are tough for many in business in WA. Real estate sales are slow, as is advertising, print, retail, media and the whole raft of mining and professional services. IT & technology is a growth area, as is aged care services. There are deals being done, IPOs and reverse take overs being planned and executed, money being raised. Not on the grand scale of the mining expansion from 2004-2012 no, but it is there nonetheless. And it’s patchy.

So here we go 2017. Things could bump along for a while before lifting, but most people now think the worst is behind us. Whereas I got the Brexit and US election totally wrong, I am not going to predict elections in WA, Germany or France, but a change in government in all 3 is not out of the question. Plus sa change… as the French like to say…

We can complain about the wind, or just expect it to change. The leader, as John Maxwell once noted, is the one that adjusts the sails, tweaks the business, sees opportunities, and sails off in a new direction, plotting their own course. That is what we should do in 2017. Happy sailing!

Clinton won 2 million more votes

Clinton

For those you left numb and disbelieving over the recent election of a President Trump, consider that Hillary Clinton won the 2nd most number of votes ever in a Presidential election and 2 million more than her opponent.

Of course that did not get her elected, due to the quirks of the electoral college system. It’s actually a system I admire in that it forces nominees to travel around the country (or at least the dozen or so swing States) rather than just rack up votes in their most populous areas.

Unfortunately for Clinton, she racked up some amazing votes in States she was always going to win, and others she was bound to lose, mainly around the coast. She won California by 3 million votes, which would not have meant any difference to the electoral college outcome compared to winning it by just solitary vote. She lost Texas and Arizona, but scored far better there than Obama did 4 or 8 years earlier. It did not matter, she still did not get one solitary electoral college vote from these places. Nor did Obama.

A week on, we can see a clearer picture. Trump’s narrow path to victory lay in flipping Clinton’s so called ‘blue wall’ of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, where he collectively won the combined 3 States by only 107,000 (less than 0.1% of the total votes case). They are worth 46 electoral college votes. Add that 46 to Clinton’s likely 232 votes and she sails over the 270 winning post, and is President.

She lost Michigan by less than 12,000 votes. The fact that Clinton won 2 million more overall does not matter one jot. Trump threaded the needle by the slimmest of margins where it mattered.  He was very fortunate, a few tens of thousands of votes the other way and we’d be analysing things very differently.

I say ‘fortunate’ because the electoral college map was always stacked against him, and he was pandering to a diminishing number of the electorate – whites. They represent 72% of the population, and falling. The majority of babies born in the US today are non white. In the 1980s, whites made up 84% of the population. Trump had to win a huge proportion of this vote to win, and he had to win them in the right places, which is what he (just) did. You might call it a brilliant strategy, maybe it was. It did not make for a pretty campaign, but it worked. It all had to come off for him, and it did.

Consider the maths for Obama in 2012. He lost the white vote 39% to 59% to Mitt Romney, but he won the non white vote by a whopping 60 points. That adds up to 50.2% of the total vote, and 47.8% for Romney. Plus Obama won them in the right places – Iowa, Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin,  … the blue wall. Clinton already knew (weeks out) she was well behind in the first two and Florida was on a knife edge, but she did not realise she was behind in the other 3, until it was too late. She never even visited Wisconsin. Trump won all 6 and shot to more than 300 electoral college votes.

So it was wafer thin. Yet Trump won fair and square, that’s the system.

So, we are left with two very large amorphous groups of the electorate – one, so annoyed at their lot, GFC, their changing country (they don’t like change, hence ‘Make America Great Again’ appealed)  and everything else that they would cast a vote for someone they may not like, but who was telling them he would blow up the system (#draintheswamp), throw the whole lot out and only he could fix it because he was the ultimate outsider. They were more likely to be white, non college educated and rural. And then there’s another large group, which is larger, who did not vote this way, a coalition of college educated, city dwelling whites and non-whites who appreciated Obamacare and wanted more affordable college education. Both these two policies only appealed to a minority on Clinton’s side, and did not interest the others.

After 8 years of Obama, they wanted change, and Clinton could not run on change. Trump could, and did. Boy, did he. After 8 years of W Bush, the country wanted change, and Obama personified it. Brilliantly. After 8 years of Bill Clinton, and the scandals that ended it, the country wanted change, and Bush was change. 8 years earlier Bill had represented a cool, younger change to the old and crusty Bush senior. Reagan was change from the washed up Jimmy Carter, who in turn had been change from the Watergate-plagued 1970s Republicans…

So the wheel has turned. It has not resolved the issues, nor the divisions. But the other side will have their turn for now. I wish Hillary all the best in her retirement. As Donald himself says, she deserves a vote of thanks for her 30 years of service. I hope Trump ends up being better than we fear, because the world could do with a little less fear and uncertainty right now.

We’ll see. I reckon it will be fascinating watching, no matter what. Get the popcorn ready.

UPDATE (Dec 23rd 2016) – Clinton won 2.9 million more votes than Trump)

If Trump wins New Hampshire, he’ll be President

It's all about new Hampshire

I’ve been watching this crazy, relentless US Presidential campaign over many months, open-mouthed at how low it has sunk. A reality TV celebrity kingpin real estate billionnaire (who, I learned this morning, is an anagram of ‘Tan Dump Lord‘) is extremely close to winning the Presidency against probably one of the most qualified, deserving and divisive of candidates, and its first woman (not before time).

How close? It all comes down to the little north eastern state of New Hampshire, the ‘granite State’.

The state that almost started the whole dang voting process back in January (Iowa snuck in first with its caucus), with only 4 electoral college votes and 1.3 million population, would provide the GOP nominee with sufficient to get him to 269.

By my calculation, at this moment, he is more likely than not to get to 265 electoral college votes, 5 short of an overall win. New Hampshire can push him up to 269 and a tie with Clinton. Now, wouldn’t that be entertaining?

According to the combined polls-only model at FiveThirtyEight.com States where he is more than 60% chance to winning gets him to 215 votes. Add in the 3 toss up states of Florida, Nevada and North Carolina (worth 50 votes combined) where he is currently more than 50-50 in favour of winning each gets him to 265. (See calculation below.)

If he wins New Hampshire’s 4 electoral votes, where he currently is favoured 38% of a chance (so not impossible by any means), he gets to 269, and a tie. Clinton would also be a 269.

If that happens, the House of Reps votes on the President, and the Republican leaning House would vote their man in. In a wonderful twist, the Senate would vote for VP, and if that goes Democrat, we might have Tim Paine as Donald’s VP. Or would the current Senate (which is Republican) get to vote?

It would be poetic beauty in many ways, and was predicted by the storyline in the wonderful comedy Veep, where the erstwhile Julia Louis-Dreyfus character is forever VP and never, quite, makes it to the top job.

FiveThirtyEight has Donald at 35% chance of becoming President, about the same as his chances of winning New Hampshire. It’s more than a 1 in 3 chance, and a far better chance than the Chicago Cubs had in winning last week’s world series (especially after coming from 3-1 down and not having won in 108 years). Yet that happened.

In the polarised world, most of the other States will vote as they will, with a certainty factor of 75% or more. Tuesday’s election will come down to 4 States, and Trump has to win them all to fall over the line by the slimmest of margins. Clinton needs just one of these to block his route.

So, if you want him in (or, like me, don’t) watch Florida, Nevada, North Carolina and New Hampshire. 3 of them are east coast states so will be called earlier than others, probably around 10am here in Western Australia.

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Here’s how I got to a 269-269 tie:

States that Clinton has a lock on give her 201 votes
– she’ll probably (more than 68% chance) also win Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia & Wisconsin, which add 68, bringing her to 269

States Trump has a lock on gives him 164 votes
– he’ll probably also win (>68% chance) Arizona, Georgia, Iowa & Ohio, which add 51, bringing him to 215.
– add the toss up states (where is just ahead, between 50-53% chance) of Florida, Nevada and North Carolina, which give him another 50, and he’s at 265.
– New Hampshire is currently 61% (and falling) chance of going to Clinton. If Trump flips that, he gets their 4 votes, and he’s at 269.

Trump’s case is much more solid if he can win any of Clinton’s states (Colorado, Penn., Michigan, etc) but he has to hold all his. If he fails to do this and Clinton wins just one of the States (or new Hampshire), she’s won.