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Getting Creative to Get Ahead

Samsung and The Azzurri prove that thinking differently works for both David and Goliath

“Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.” John F. Kennedy

This week I noticed two very different but equally interesting examples of teams or organisations side-stepping accepted practices. The link might seem tenuous – both are approaching things from wildly different places – but both fundamentally embrace JFK’s famous line and it will probably do both the world of good.

On a sporting front, the Italian rugby union side created headlines last weekend with their controversial tactical approach to their Six Nations game with England in London. The two teams had played on 22 previous occasions with England winning every single time.  In short, this was a David vs Goliath match up.

In the business world, the annual Mobile World Congress is taking place again in Barcelona – the platform for major tech companies and emerging start-ups to showcase their new products to the widest possible market. It was interesting therefore to read that Samsung decided against launching their flagship Galaxy S8 phone at MWC.

The definition of madness is…

If you’re not a rugby fan then I won’t bore you with the finer details, but the context here is that Italy are the traditional whipping boys of the annual Six Nations tournament while England are the current champions and on a record breaking winning streak.

Italy employed a little-used tactic which essentially eliminated offside – some feel it is against the spirit of the game, some say it is bending the rules, others argue it is innovative and clever. What is without question is that it baffled the entire England team for the first 40 minutes and Italy amazingly led at half-time.

Now, ‘Goliath’ may have worked things out and won in the end (if a little less comfortably than most expected) but the headlines afterwards were rightly about the innovative approach from ‘David’. Italy’s coach suggested that they can’t just stand up and go toe-to-toe with England as they will lose – they simply have to try a few different things and surprise people. Essentially, ‘what we’ve tried the last 22 times hasn’t worked, and what everyone else has tried against them recently has failed – let’s get creative’.

The entire rugby world is now looking at the wider effect this will have – will it become a more common-place approach?, will it remain an under-used shock tactic?, or will the laws of the game be changed to close the loophole?

Is that the definition of a game-changer?

A brand from another Galaxy…

Samsung’s approach is of course from a position of market strength – much different to Italy’s rugby team.

MWC is the world’s largest and most prestigious conference for mobile gadgets and technology and is traditionally used by the major players to make their big announcements for the year ahead – indeed Nokia, Blackberry, Sony, LG and Huawei are among those using the 2017 edition to officially launch much-anticipated products. Probably barring Apple and one or two others, it is simply what is expected and what makes sense.

Samsung launched the previous iterations of the Galaxy at MWC, but this year they are going against the grain. Against what the others are doing. Indeed, like Apple, they clearly feel that MWC needs Samsung more than Samsung needs MWC. They wish to launch their flagship product at a time that suits them – and they know they will have absolutely no problem getting the entire industry to pay attention for that S8 launch at their own event, on their own terms.

The ability to whisper rather than shout at the world’s largest market event, and still make the most headlines means describing this as ‘market strength’ is to actually seriously down play Samsung’s position.

Samsung – this industry giant, like Italy’s rugby team, decided to ignore common practice, go against what was expected of them and take a new approach which suited their place in their market. I guess thinking differently and getting creative works for both David and Goliath.


Tariq Blog





Setting aside any political perspectives, what is the impact on business when limiting immigration?

The latest developments in the USA and current and proposed policies by other governments to restrict immigration pose that critical question. Whist under pressure from many in their home population to deal with the perceived threat of immigration, governments are considering possible options in response. But even if reasonable in the current application, could they be creating a longer term problem?


How do you enable access to the talent you need and keep out potential terrorists?


The recent events in the USA show that business may see broad and non-focused immigration controls as a threat to their ability to attract, grow and develop talent. The significant number of high tech and other organisations opposed to the initial executive order shows a serious level of concern.

The impact of the controls is likely to apply in two key areas; the immediate issues and the future impact.

Immediate issues

Employees from the targeted countries have been blocked from entry to the USA. This means that any employees from the relevant countries who do not have residency in the USA will be either unable to enter or, if they leave, be unable to return.  For global organisations, academic institutions or others with a global network critical to success, citizens of those counties are potentially blocked from delivering a full contribution.

From the political perspective these measures are unlikely to affect organisations that are US-centric, recruit few from outside the country and so are less likely to feel any impact e.g. mining and steel, which Donald Trump has focused on.

Future impact

Global organisations recognise that to be the best in the world they need to attract and employ the best in the world irrespective of their nationality. Restricting access to the global talent pool could potentially mean that they are unable to access the full market of talent.

But there is a potential additional effect driven from the individuals’ perspective; a change in perception of the “brand” of the country imposing restrictions. Why should you look favourably on a country which takes a negative view of your home country as a whole? This could make those from such countries currently in the USA consider leaving and those in the home country not to wish to go to the USA in the future (if restrictions are lifted).  There is also likely to be a change in Government attitudes to the USA as a result.

Further, if the restrictions are felt to be targeting one group irrespective of stated aims then that may mean that anyone from that group may review their perspective of the USA.


Countries – just as organisations – have a brand and this could have a negative impact on Brand USA.


This may have unseen negative economic consequences for many years to come.

What next…?

Given the massive social migrations due to conflict and economic differentials, some immigration controls have to be put in place to control the potentially vast impact that unfettered migration could cause. That said, any controls need to be seen to comply with international law – eg Geneva Conventions – and be equitable and reasonable. They also need to be business friendly – enabling free movement of talent but maintaining security.

That is a challenge given the unstated demand from some populists of nil immigration, something that has never happened in the past and which is impossible in the current globally connected world. History suggests that terrorists have a habit of using false documentation and travelling via stable 3rd countries which makes country specific restrictions unlikely to be fully effective anyway.

Governments need to be open, honest and factual about the real issues, not pander to the politics of exploitative populist demagogues and keep in mind the needs of business as well as security.




This article originally appeared on


About the Author:

Chris Roebuck is an expert in successful transformation and change through inspirational leadership – I CARE Leadership. He has worked for KPMG, HSBC, London Underground and UBS where he was Global Head of Leadership during a major transformation now a Harvard Case Study.

He is now Visiting Professor of Transformational Leadership at Cass Business School and has worked with organisations as diverse as National Health Service, top law firms, global banks, telecoms, energy, retail and even the Red Cross in Myanmar and the Chinese Space programme.

He is regularly on the annual HR Most Influential Thinkers list and interviewed on television about business and leadership events. For more ideas and information see :




The Blind CV Test…

EY announced a while ago that they are transforming how they judge applicants – fundamentally eliminating the requirement of a degree and judging candidates by other standards. After the policy was introduced last year, the initial results of that experiment are in.

The idea was to create a more diverse workforce and the results suggest success; the number of recruits from state schools jumped by 10 percentage points (49% for graduates and to 59% for school leavers), and the number of recruits who were the first in their family to go to university rose by 7%.

However, while ‘a blind CV policy to remove an unconscious bias’ sounds great – the reality was 37,000 student applications for 1,600 jobs (a big increase). The huge growth in applicant numbers over the last 10-20 years drove the big consultancies to be ever-more focused on degree grade and university as a measuring and sifting tool.  Most observers agree that this policy became too restrictive.  Change was needed, but EY certainly did not see every one of those 37,000 for tests and interviews so should we assume that judging CVs by university, grade and subject has simply been replaced by a different – but perhaps equally prejudicial – judging criteria?

EY should be applauded for trying something new and leading the way for the other multinationals in that respect – but I suspect this approach will need more than one year to truly reveal how effective it is to diversity of workforce, to EY business itself and whether this spreads as a market-wide idea.



The Blind Test

Can the Consulting firms “do” creative ?

The big guns in management consulting have been busy buying creative businesses – at the end of last year Accenture bought advertising agency Karmarama.  Who? – You might not know the name , but you’ll know their work – Honda, Unilever, and Costa Coffee are among its clients. This was Accenture’s  sixth acquisition in 2016 of similar businesses. Not to be left behind, IBM bought five creative companies and Deloitte three , according to Clarity a corporate advisory firm, while KPMG, EY and PwC have also made some acquisitions in the Mad Men territory.

So what’s behind this flurry of activity? The answer may lie in the explosion of digital strategy and transformation consulting opportunities with clients  – whether you’re selling shoes or mortgages, a strong digital presence is key. While technology is leading the way, digital requires innovative and engaging content and communications to attract and retain customers …which is the perfect ground for the advertising and marketing agencies.  Throw in the consulting firms’ capabilities in data analytics to actually measure the outcomes of digital advertising and it looks to be a winner all round.

But what about the people?  While there may be clear business synergies for these acquisitions – will the people “fit”? Perhaps that’s one of the reasons Accenture has set up its digital advertising and marketing division, Accenture Interactive as a separate home for the new creative businesses. Whatever the reasons, there are sure to be many more acquisitions by Accenture and its competitors as the digital space expands further – giving rich pickings to any smaller, independent advertising and marketing agencies looking to sell.



Is flexible working biased against non- parents?

An interesting article on the BBC website today – “Is flexible working biased against non- parents? “.

I suspect many people’s initial reaction to this question is “Yes”. However, perhaps what’s more important is if this is true, what can be done to change it?

There are many reasons why a genuinely flexible working policy makes sense – not just for working parents. Everyone has priorities in life, whether it be children, parents, hobbies and interests, or pets. Flexible working can be a powerful recruitment and retention tool, for all generations in the workplace, (with children or not.)

It’s good for motivation, productivity and mental health and has economic benefits too – Sir Gary Cooper in his report for the government concluded that the benefit to the UK economy associated with offering the right to request flexible working to parents with children is around £165m, and when opened to non-parents of working age the figure rises to £250m. It all makes sense, it just needs to happen!!

Catriona Cookson


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