Cool hipster place at one|half & awesome canteen in Taman Paramount PJ

Thanks to our hipster 16 year old daughter, we found these stores in Taman Paramount, Petaling Jaya – called “one|half” and “awesome canteen”. Both places were run by the same friends and creates a very hip ambience. 

What I found interesting was more to do with the marketing of low volume, hand made, local products – as you can see in the photos. Given these are low volume and very niche products – the pricing is not what you would call cheap. However, I believe by creating an experience and a social cause association with local producers – such products can be positioned and differentiated from merely low cost products.

What is additionally interesting is this experience can be used to increase appreciation for locally produced, low volume and hand made goods. I have seen these forms of experiences in US, Europe and Japan, places that are not afraid to create fresh experiences (and sometimes promote social causes) with niche products would thus create demand for such local goods. Some chain stores like “Lush” even take an activist approach to enhancing such social benefits to the eco system. No doubt this social activist approach helps draw and create demand from customers who share these ideals.

This should be something we should explore and fund to stimulate demand for local cottage businesses.

one|half and awesome canteen can be found at Jalan 20/13 Taman Paramount PJ. You can probably locate them on google maps.

Don’t limit empowerment. But create accountability by having transparency

Help! I need accountability [image]

I often have discussions around the issue of accountability at work. 

My work deals with establishment of limits of authorities, internal controls, processes and all other stuff meant to ensure that organisational resources are expended wisely towards improving performance but without resulting in leakages or worse.

Frequently, the worry is when people have access to resources like money, they will squander them irresponsibly. When you have audit committees and other oversight and legal consequences, you naturally take safe and conservative positions in aiming to control amounts of authority and empowerment given to the rest of the organisation.

Unfortunately, this is a folly. It gives us a false sense of security that just because authority is restricted to but the very few at the top, then we have better controls and organisational performance.

The problem with concentration of authority at the top means that only the few people at the top of the organisation are authorised in making decisions for the organisation. The reality in today’s world is far from this. Because we live in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world, knowledge and capability to make correct decisions are far more distributed. No single person has all of the information… and most certainly the few people at the top don’t have all of the information, nor the capability, nor the experience on all issues that the organisation is faced with. This is true especially with large and complex organisations. And hence, when these few elites make those decisions – there is therefore higher possibility of those decisions being wrong. The risk to the firm is far higher when power and authority is concentrated at the top.

The best way to address this issue of authority and decision-making powers in a VUCA world, is to empower decision making throughout the organisation to the relevant levels that have the necessary information, knowledge, experience and the performance that needs to be delivered. This seems quite obvious and natural, but in real life – not always applied. The reason for this lack of empowerment and autonomy is because the powers at the top are not confident enough that the rest of the organisation will be accountable for the decisions and resources to which they were given. 

A simple solution to this is to increase transparency within the organisation several fold. Let me explain and contrast two different models of governance: the first is of the traditional concentration of control at the top; the second is an empowerment and technology enabled transparency model.

Let’s say that the board of the company is concerned about the level of travelling and entertainment that the organisation is incurring.

So in the first model of governance, in order to control these expenses (and also the undesirable side effects of these), the board decides to limit authorities to decide and spend. This will work in reducing such decisions and spend, but also at the same time clip the opportunities for the organisation, and at the same time create false sense of security when the board is influenced into a decision without knowing all information and it turns out to be wrong. This happens when the board has to make too many operational and administrative decisions that it has little time to go into each decision in great depth. Of course, to address this the board could decide to take more time and detail to go into great details of everything the firm aims to do – all while applying a mindset of skepticism of the management. This in the long run creates an unhealthy culture within the firm.

In my preferred second model of governance, let’s say the board institutes a governance model of transparency around travel and entertainment decisions and spend. This model of transparency requires all spend on travel and entertainment be published on the firm’s internal website which is accessible to all employees in the firm. This can be achieved with information technology solutions without having human intervention. With such spend being transparent to all parties – decision makers and individuals empowered with these decisions will be more cautious themselves in deciding and incurring such spend. Thus, in this model of governance, we create a culture of self regulation which results in greater level of organisational efficiency by dispensing with surplus internal controls, committees, and supervisory steps and units. In this model of governance, people who are empowered with authority will quickly develop attributes of accountability, simply because the things they do and the results that they achieve are transparent throughout the firm.

Thus, transparency drives accountability. Radical transparency drives radical accountability. The relationship is linear.

Best customer complaint letter ever

This complaint letter has been floating around the ‘Net for a while now, but it still has got to be the best complaint letter ever. You gotta love the British wit.

Dear Cretins,

I have been an NTL customer since 9th July 2001, when I signed up for your 3-in-one deal for cable TV, cable modem, and telephone. During this three-month period I have encountered inadequacy of service which I had not previously considered possible, as well as ignorance and stupidity of monolithic proportions. Please allow me to provide specific details, so that you can either pursue your professional perogative, and seek to rectify these difficulties – or more likely (I suspect) so that you can have some entertaining reading material as you while away the working day smoking B&H and drinking vendor-coffee on the bog in your office: My initial installation was cancelled without warning, resulting in my spending an entire Saturday sitting on my fat arse waiting for your technician to arrive. When he did not arrive, I spent a further 57 minutes listening to your infuriating hold music, and the even more annoying Scottish robot woman telling me to look at your helpful website….HOW?

I alleviated the boredom by playing with my testicles for a few minutes – an activity at which you are no-doubt both familiar and highly adept. The rescheduled installation then took place some two weeks later, although the technician did forget to bring a number of vital tools -such as a drill-bit, and his cerebrum. Two weeks later, my cable modem had still not arrived. After 15 telephone calls over 4 weeks my modem arrived… six weeks after I had requested it, and begun to pay for it. I estimate your internet server’s downtime is roughly 35%… hours between about 6pm -midnight, Mon-Fri, and most of the weekend. I am still waiting for my telephone connection. I have made 9 calls on my mobile to your no-help line, and have been unhelpfully transferred to a variety of disinterested individuals, who are it seems also highly skilled bollock jugglers.

I have been informed that a telephone line is available (and someone will call me back); that no telephone line is available (and someone will call me back); that I will be transferred to someone who knows whether or not a telephone line is available (and then been cut off); that I will be transferred to someone (and then been redirected to an answer machine informing me that your office is closed); that I will be transferred to someone and then been redirected to the irritating Scottish robot woman…and several other variations on this theme. Doubtless you are no longer reading this letter, as you have at least a thousand other dissatisfied customers to ignore, and also another one of those crucially important testicle-moments to attend to. Frankly I don’t care, it’s far more satisfying as a customer to voice my frustration’s in print than to shout them at your unending hold music. Forgive me, therefore, if I continue.

I thought BT were shit, that they had attained the holy piss-pot of godawful customer relations, that no-one, anywhere, ever, could be more disinterested, less helpful or more obstructive to delivering service to their customers. That’s why I chose NTL, and because, well, there isn’t anyone else is there? How surprised I therefore was, when I discovered to my considerable dissatisfaction and disappointment what a useless shower of bastards you truly are. You are sputum-filled pieces of distended rectum incompetents of the highest order.

British Telecom – wankers though they are – shine like brilliant beacons of success, in the filthy puss-filled mire of your seemingly limitless inadequacy. Suffice to say that I have now given up on my futile and foolhardy quest to receive any kind of service from you. I suggest that you cease any potential future attempts to extort payment from me for the services which you have so pointedly and catastrophically failed to deliver – any such activity will be greeted initially with hilarity and disbelief quickly be replaced by derision, and even perhaps bemused rage.

I enclose two small deposits, selected with great care from my cats litter tray, as an expression of my utter and complete contempt for both you and your pointless company. I sincerely hope that they have not become desiccated during transit – they were satisfyingly moist at the time of posting, and I would feel considerable disappointment if you did not experience both their rich aroma and delicate texture. Consider them the very embodiment of my feelings towards NTL, and its worthless employees.

Have a nice day – may it be the last in you miserable short life, you irritatingly incompetent and infuriatingly unhelpful bunch of twats.


Can BMW and Mercedes-Benz Put Rivalry Aside to Take on the VW Group?

source site – Can BMW and Mercedes-Benz Put Rivalry Aside to Take on the VW Group? | Automotive News Blog – Wide Open Throttle

Despite some disagreements over CO2 rules, European companies haven’t abandoned plans to work together. How far those plans will get, though, appears to hinge more on setting aside traditional rivalries than justifying the economic benefits. At the center of the talks is BMW, which is talking to Mercedes-Benz as well as Fiat and already has an R&D partnership with PSA/Peugeot-Citroen. The question is just how far the talks will go.

although not news, this is an incredibly interesting sign of the times today. 10 years ago, you would be laughed at if you suggested that BMW and Merc should collaborate. but the top guys at these two (still) very bitter rivals are accepting that possibility. however, the challenge is whether the culture and history between these two could be overcome to achieve economic sense. time will tell.

i for one would prefer a bmw-psa/peugeot-citroen-fiat partnership / alliance rather than sleeping with the merc enemy. this is more than an emotional rhetoric… but for 2 reasons:

1/ the psa and fiat groups do not provide direct rivalry (yet) to the likes of bmw
2/ the ethos and essense of the psa and fiat brands fit well with the bmw brand essense of driving performance experience

an alliance with merc could result in potential cannibalisation of either the bmw or the merc brand.

Presentation: pitching to VCs

David rose gives a very quick run through on what makes a good presentation to VCs. his talk is also useful as a presentation tip.

Thinking startup? David S. Rose’s rapid-fire TED U talk on pitching to a venture capitalist tells you the 10 things you need to know about yourself — and prove to a VC — before you fire up your slideshow.

“The Pitch Coach” David S. Rose is an expert on the business pitch. As an entrepreneur, he has raised millions for his own companies. As an investor, he has administered millions more.