My Esteemed Fellow Mischief Makers

The 39 Steps - Metro - Man 1 & 2

I paused at the top of the escalator and took a deep breath as I read the poorly illuminated conference sign that would direct me downwards to the basement of this 2 star hotel in the outer suburbs of Melbourne.

I dusted “on” my black suit, with matching black scruffy shirt; at least I didn’t have to worry about my black shoes as they were already quite dirty and had a few prominent scratches that looked most imposing and disrespectful.

There were no issues with my hair being uncombed, mainly because I was fortunate not to have any, so I decided to mess up my long eyebrows, just for added visual effect.

Perfect I thought, I was now ready to head downstairs to the Awards Ceremony, at which I was tipped to receive the most prestigious award, that being for “Disservice to Innovation in the Corporate Office”. I had been working on this achievement for the past twenty years, had successfully infiltrated many global architectural firms in Europe, North America and Australasia, and more importantly, no one had yet realized what I had been doing!

What still surprises me the most was that senior business leaders and managers all applauded my efforts, all happily accepted my designs without fully understanding the consequences, and; they eagerly paid me a massive fortune in the process, to which I am indeed most personally grateful. To top it all off, they unashamedly made my office concepts a blueprint standard of excellence which was adopted, without any intellectual thought, by all organisations that considered themselves leaders in creativity! I still laugh when I think about that last comment!

I glanced at the chipped hands on my tired looking watch and saw that it was now time to make my tardy entrance to the ceremony. As I slowly descended down the escalator, I reached into my suit pocket and had another brief look at my hastily written acceptance speech, just in case it was required.

Written in my messy black inked scribble, I reread the words….”Thank you for this great dishonor! Yes, it’s still hard to believe that my once crazy thought and so fantastically disruptive idea, which I initially developed so many years ago as a joke, is still being used in the corporate office! And to make it even more remarkable, this superbly dysfunctional concept is still cited by experts as being one of the strategic keys to innovation! I smiled, as I imagined the thunderous applause that I would receive from my fellow mischief makers on doing a job so well, for so long, and I was still fooling those that should know better!

I was so looking forward to making the celebratory champagne drinking toast, which would be; “My Esteemed Fellow Mischief Makers, I give you the “Open Planned Office!”

It’s all in Your Ears!

busy Buchanan Street

Hello, yes, I’m here right next to you! If you actually paid attention to those around you, you might actually see me! Yes, I’m still here, so STOP walking into me!

I lost count of the number of times I had to say this as I walked around the Sydney CBD the other day. The culprits were a mix of women, men, children, young and old. The cause I believe was all due to having iPhone earplugs inserted deep into their ear canals so that they were all happily sojourning in their own audibly cocooned world. Now I need to fess-up here, as I am also one of these earplug scoundrels.

Now this got me thinking. How can these iPhone people collisions be avoided? After all, this is not just a problem isolated to those walking in the city, but also to wearers of earplugs in the corporate office, in the car, and on all other forms of transport involving the movement of iPhone accessorised ears.

Now let’s get back to the basics in nature, and let us consider that humble sonar equipped flying bat, also the water immersed dolphin. Simplistically, the origin of their crash avoidance success is in the use of the “ping” which measures distances via sound wave reflection. I’m sure that if an iPhone earplug was customised for bat and/or dolphin use, these poor creatures would become quite distressed and may lose all sense of their directional dignity and quickly succumb to navigational mayhem, just like us inflicted humans.

But that “ping” might just be the answer? Why not incorporate a basic sonar device into the humble iPhone? That way, the iPhone could measure person proximity and sound a warning alert when two iPhones are getting a tad too close for comfort. On thinking further, this proximity measure could also have “personalised settings” which could include distance, or some other more “creative” requirements, such as:

Tailored Ping Tags
Individuals could establish a tailored ping that tags their personality (eg their star sign, food preferences, appearance prowess, marital status, sexuality, religion, etc). When their iPhone identifies a suitable ping tagged person near them, a distinctive ping tone is heard in the ear plug alerting the owner of the potential person interaction?

Crowd Numbers
When there are a large number of people in a specific area, the result would be a high frequency of pings thereby warning the iPhone owner of the looming crowd. This would be a perfect application for those looking for a quiet location for some thinking solitude, or in selecting a restaurant for a romantic gourmet evening with a loved one, or future loved one!

You may be thinking, “What about those people who are walking around without an iPhone earplug shoved in their ears? How will this innovative crash avoidance system work for them?”

Yes, great question! One solution could be for these people to wear a “ping beacon” which could be strapped to their head, hair, clothes or potentially designed into a fashion accessory, or even moulded into a discrete tooth filling. Should that be too intrusive, then why not have a credit card with a “ping chip” that could be placed in their wallet or carried around in a pocket?

The key with this solution is to think just that little bit differently, and to turn what seems like a tricky problem at first reading into something that might just be useful in the future!

The Floor of Discovery

Zero Gravity

I arrived late in the afternoon at my Darling Harbour hotel and walked up to the check-in desk with what was obviously a public look of tiredness on my face. After all, I was rather exhausted after meandering through the endless Sydney traffic congestion for the past one and a half hours in a hire car that promised a five star driving experience, but disappointedly only delivered half a star at best!

At the check-in desk, a stunning young woman, with a smile that instantaneously vaporised any prevailing thought of exhaustion, immediately greeted me. Her name was Renee, and she was dressed impeccably in her modern Finnish designer blue and white hotel business attire from “Marimekko”.

Renee, who must have had a sophisticated and well-trained version of ESP (which would explain her esteemed management position of “Manager of Greet”) said, “Relax Mr Cramer, we know exactly what you need and have the perfect room waiting for you”. Renee then gave a subtle and deliberate “nod” to Vanessa, The Hotel Manager, who was also dressed in a slightly more grand and colourful fashion outfit that just exuded that look of “perfection and wow”, as befitted her seniority. Vanessa responded with a corresponding smile of understanding and then made a surreptitious phone call, which gave me the feeling that a strategic, and well-planned course of action had now been quietly implemented.

Renee then handed me the card-key to room 1026 and said, I have allocated you a special room in our newly built “Discovery Floor”, and you will be our first guest to use and benefit from the experience. I gave Renee a “surprised and inquisitive” look, to which the reply was “trust me, all will be good”. How could I doubt, nor resist the honesty of that smile?

I took the card-key, politely thanked both Renee and Vanessa, and then caught the hotel elevator up to the tenth floor with a strong feeling of anticipation, and might I say, a slight fear of the unknown!

A few minutes later I arrived at a large and most impressive, solid wooden door with the silver embossed numbers 1026 positioned centrally above it. I cautiously opened the door, but momentarily stopped before entering as I listened to what seemed like a quick rushing of air. I entered the room and encountered a small and totally pristine white reception area. Once inside, I heard the main door to my room close and yet again the distinctive sound of air movement prevailed.

Three seconds later (although the time seemed like an eternity), another door from the small white room opened. As I walked in, I sensed my feet starting to feel rather strange and awkward. I tried to stop moving, but couldn’t, as the forward momentum pushed me onwards, but I eventually stopped and noticed that I was about two metres above the floor. In what I could only state as an impression of absolute disbelief, I saw that my bed was floating, as was all the items in the room. Yep, I was in a room with zero gravity! So this was what Renee was talking about!

After about thirty minutes acclimatising to my new sensation of weightlessness, I realised I was indeed most relaxed. All stresses previously experienced in my day had been replaced with this new found “Room of Discovery”, and I was thoroughly enjoying it!

The following morning after having a most amazing and unique nights sleep, I again saw Renee as I checked out of the hotel. She smirked at the shaving cut about my top lip, to which I replied, I didn’t quite master the bathroom “discovery experience”, but everything else was just superb!

And yes, I will be most definitely staying at this hotel again! As I left, I recalled that this hotel had eleven floors, and pondered what other discoveries awaited those who had mastered Floor 10? Next time, I thought!

The Choice is in Your Hand – Left or Right?

Thinking Mode 1

For many years now, men of all ages, have been daunted with one of the most important life choices that needs to be made on a daily basis first thing each morning. This decision is not one that should ever be rushed, nor should it be trivialized, as the resultant selection will linger for the remainder of the day until eventually corrected that evening with a potential, and welcome, sigh of relief.

For most men, symmetry is the most common selection criterion, but some do like to go with a surprise methodology that may invoke that well known law of uncertainty and mystique. Others may match colour, size and complexity to complement their prevailing mood. Some may utilize a delayed surprise and shock strategy that requires a pointed unveiling, at the appropriate time, to reinforce and embellish an important event. For me, I go with an approach that is built entirely around complete randomness, however, having them is a non-negotiable life necessity.

Women and children have also been known to partake in their use as they reinforce diversity and are not bound, nor limited, by any classification of stereotype, nor allocated gender.

The items are ageless and can be passed down between generations to signify belonging, prestige, heredity or just plain and simple usefulness. Some are priceless, others may be worthless, but their value is indeed calculated in the eye of the beholder.

They are typically seen in the corporate office, but no restriction applies to their use as they are not bound by any regulations, statutes, or HR policies, and are free to participate in any public, or private, work, or social environment.

Some say they were first observed in the 16th century. I say their use is timeless, and they shall prevail for many centuries to come bringing a sense of satisfaction and continued personal self-esteem for all generations!

They are a sign of personal innovation, creativity and confirm your undeniable link to shirt fashion.

Yes, they are cuff-links. May you wear them with pride, savor the experience, and enjoy the looks of nodding approval from your colleagues, friends, and even those you don’t know yet (but they will undoubtedly know you)!

The Faceless Collective


There are some companies that effortlessly symbolise the definition of true success. Their business names are iconic and are immediately recognisable by the young, the old, and those selectively aged in between.

There are no descriptive emotional tag-lines, no longwinded corporately clever arrangement of words, they are just “are”, and don’t need “to be”.

And here I was, sitting in the Board Room of one of these globally clever giants of industry, all by myself! It was an eerie and exciting feeling as I sucked in the room’s impressive atmosphere. I carefully crossed my legs under the highly polished large wooden boardroom table and cautiously, and gingerly, leaned back and pressed my back into the well-worn brown leather club chair.

The north side of the room had large floor-to-ceiling glass windows that overlooked the Yarra River from high up on the 39th floor. This view was balanced by an array of large and formidable oil painting portraits of their esteemed leaders that had steered the company successfully over the past 83 years.

As I slowly studied the names under each painting, my eyes suddenly stopped when I read the polished brass name-tag of what appeared to be a most unusual portrait that was strategically, and I assumed deliberately, centred right in the middle of all the other framed canvasses. This painting was definitely larger in size, more brightly illuminated, and presumably highly prized, and worthy of more significant corporate value. The inscription in large black font read “Our Perpetual Innovator”. But the most striking aspect of this painting was the face, or should I say, its absence! Yes, this painting was of a “faceless”, yet distinguished individual. I was intrigued and decided to leave my comfortable leather chair and have a closer inspection. As I got closer, I noticed some additional words at the bottom; “Innovation is not derived from any individual, but from the collective”. I pondered these words and slowly understood their symbolic meaning, as this I suspected was the key fundamental aspect as to why this business was so successful.

This business recognised that many ideas, derived, and continually shared between the employees of this organisation, were the driving force behind their creativity. They had seen that this vast, and rich, source of innovation was not reliant upon a single individual, but the combined force of the collective.

Wow, if only all companies could recognise this fact!

So next time you are sitting in the Board Room of your company and happen to view the historical images of your past illustrious leaders, may I suggest you consider the power of the “Faceless Collective” and not just focus on any one individual?

The “White-Hole” of Innovation


I have been writing copious business articles for the New York Times for the past 39 years. Let me tell you, I have seen it all, but I had never scored that once in a lifetime literary scoop that all serious and well-respected journalists dream about, until now! I was so excited that I could hardly sit still. I was seated, or should I say fidgeted, in the massive private reception area of the most amazing, and phenomenally advanced innovative global electronics company that the modern world has ever known, and I was about to meet their CEO (Chloe Jibs).

I had known Chloe for at least 20 years and considered her a true friend. On many occasions I had tried to gleam from her the source of her unique business prowess and unlimited creativity, but these numerous requests had been turned down with her usual, quiet, yet charming, nonchalant smile, until now. Her unexpected change in mind was most likely due to this being her last day as CEO. Tomorrow, Chloe would begin her long awaited, and very well planned, relaxed non-corporate life living on her private island located in the Great Barrier Reef (half her luck I thought).

At the predetermined meeting time, Chloe emerged from her office dressed in her traditional non-corporate casual attire (blue jeans, shirt, snug fitting boots and those ever present dark Ray-Ban sunglasses that complemented her golden long hair) and beckoned me into her office. With the door shut impeccably tight, the long awaited meeting began. In that room, I was provided with secrets that only an innovative visionary could communicate. My ears burned as I listened. My eyes were dazzled with the brilliance of the sights that I was most honoured and humbled to see.

That night as I sat in my study, I tried to come to terms with what I had seen when I was with Chloe earlier that afternoon. My brain was struggling to comprehend the enormity of it all; my body was still tingling with a sensation of unbelievable elation. In contrast, my heart was despondent, as I knew that I was on the precipice of a potential award in journalism that would be the pinnacle of my newspaper career, but I would never be able to publish my story owing to my promise to Chloe never to share this knowledge.

I needed more understanding and typed the term “black hole” into Google and read the following:

A black hole is a mathematically defined region of spacetime exhibiting such a strong gravitational pull that no particle or electromagnetic radiation can escape from it. The theory of general relativity predicts that a sufficiently compact mass can deform spacetime to form a black hole”. (

In other words, a “black hole” sucks everything into it, never to escape. But, apparently, according to a “reliable and informed academic”, some items do indeed escape! The exit point is a mathematical phenomenon called a “white hole” where all the contents of the “black hole” are expelled with massive energy and light.

Chloe’s “white hole” was an outlet for all the innovative and creative ideas created within other organisations that theoretically ended up going no where, or were forgotten with time. Somehow, Chloe had managed to direct the vast array of “idea black hole” waste sinks of her competition and to accumulate them into the “white hole” located with her office. No wonder she always wore sunglasses owing to the continual “white hole” illumination!

The core aspect in Chloe’s business success was in how she could cobble the discarded ideas gleamed from her competition into highly sought after, and very profitable, commercial electronic products that were now common items (eg phones, computers, tablets, watches) used by people of all ages around the world.

Well, a promise is a promise. I could never let the public know about the “white hole” phenomenon.

But, it’s a good thing that those of you reading this blog now know the “truth” about their existence. But more importantly, don’t let your innovative ideas go to waste, use them, and develop them further so as to avoid that undesirable “black hole” where they may just be useful to some other organisation in the future!

And yes….this is all fiction!
Image: 123RF

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