Quality Through Collaboration

Quality Through Collaboration

In the Strategy Day earlier in the year, everyone from the Kadence Singapore team met to discuss about the direction and strategies for the office in 2018.

The Luxury 'Iceberg'

The Luxury 'Iceberg'

What we define as ‘luxury’ can differ so much from person to person, let alone across markets and cultures.

GDPR – Fear, Follow or Flourish

GDPR – Fear, Follow or Flourish

2018 is going to see big changes to how Europe (and the world as a whole) will have to deal with peoples Personal Information with the replacement of multiple Data Protection Acts with a single encompassing General Data Protection Regulation that comes into effect on 25th May 2018.

How to manage the overflow of news!

How to manage the overflow of news!

Having recently had Chinese New Year, a celebration of clearing out the old to make way for the new – and as we approach Spring in the Western world, with the concept of a spring clean – I was reviewing my various news sources and taking stock. There is an enormous amount of content available. Every few minutes someone I follow is posting new content to their blogs, articles or in LinkedIn groups. I have 3 international and 2 local news apps on my phones. Facebook and Twitter also pop up constantly with news stories. Then there is the business press where I have a magazine subscription as well as articles sent to me by clients and colleagues. There is so so so much, it is hard to know how to focus attention. Much in the same way as my spring clean at home. I seem to accumulated some much stuff – but do I use it all? Its time to take action! 

An article in Forbes a few years ago looked at how much content you need to read to ‘be successful’. https://www.forbes.com/sites/brettnelson/2012/06/04/do-you-read-fast-enough-to-be-successful. Assuming to be ‘good’ at business, you need to read a few news stories, a few business articles and perhaps a good book once a month. But there is also Newsletters, breaking news, LinkedIn pages etc. 

At the average rate of 300 words per minute, to stay ‘up to date’ you would need to “set aside at least 2 hours of reading every day just to keep up.

This does not even include your work emails…or indeed actual work! The article does go on to say you can look to increase your average words per minute (and so be able to consume the content in less time) but where to start? 

Probably not with the news.

It turns out the news itself could actually be damaging our health. A recent article in Time magazine - http://time.com/5125894/is-reading-news-bad-for-you/ shows that more than half of Americans report that the news causes stress. “Many report feeling anxiety, fatigue or sleep loss as a result of the news” In the article Loretta Breuning, a former professor of management at the University of California, East Bay explains that “the human brain is attracted to troubling information because it’s programmed to detect threats, not to overlook them. This can make it hard for us to ignore the negatives and seek out the positives around us,” 

As such, a plan of attack is required. There is never enough time in the day – so how do we stay up to date with what matters, whilst not overloading and making ourselves ill? 

Here are my tips for successfully managing content around you. 

1. The most important aspect is to recognise what types of content there is and to come to terms with when you should read it. For me, these are the content types I look out for

  • Headlines & general news
  • Industry news
  • Specific client news
  • Wider business interest
  • Sport
  • Interesting articles
  • Leisure reading

2. For each of the types of content, I try to engage with them at different times of the day. And for a set period of time. I do this by dividing the content up by how ‘useful’ it is to me at a given time. 
- Time sensitive. Headlines, specific client news, sport are all only relevant in the moment. 
- Occasion dependent. Industry news, wider business interest. Interesting articles. Will all increase my overall knowledge – but are all far less time sensitive. Meaning I can fit them into a suitable occasion. 

For me the Time sensitive catch ups happen early morning, before work. I have 2 dogs so walking the dogs and catching up on the time sensitive news is my way of kick starting my day. Any follow ups etc I can set a reminder on my phone as I go. Around 30-45min is enough to get set for the day. 

Throughout the day I then have 3 potential periods to fit content in. 

  1. Mid-morning. I often try and complete some priority tasks when I first get into the office. However, around 11ish, it is time for a coffee and 10min to catch up on any industry news. 
  2. Lunchtime. I save interesting articles or more in-depth industry summaries to lunch time when I have more time.
  3. Evening – This is a time ear marked for leisure reading. Switching off and reading something that has nothing to do with work is a far better way of unwinding than anything that might spark an action point for work! 

Then when on long trips, holidays or weekends – this is the time to catch up on wider business interest books, articles or blogs.

There is so much content available – but only at certain times can I get around to the ones that are genuinely interesting. But what I need to get around to right now – is spring cleaning my house that I have been putting off!

Experiences from the Insight Show

Experiences from the Insight Show

Taking part in a panel discussion at the Insight Show was a great opportunity to talk about current trends in our industry, and discuss what the future holds.

Getting To Know My New Home

Getting To Know My New Home

When I arrived in Hong Kong last September to lead the Kadence office I had a pretty good sense of the city I was about to call home.

Our new home in Hong Kong

Our new home in Hong Kong

At the beginning of February we moved into new offices in Wan Chai, two blocks from Wan Chai station.

Travel Trends

Travel Trends

In today’s world, we are bombarded with inspiration for the next great ‘getaway’. Our Facebook and Instagram feeds are full of friends and family posting images (#nofilter!) of exotic trips, we see constant adverts on TV and Youtube from holiday companies trying to get our $$$ and showbiz news is full of the latest must visit location of the rich and famous.

One of the great pleasures in our lives is the ‘Inspiration’ stage of holidays. Kadence have conducted a number of research studies into travel and tourism over the last 12 months and regardless of the age, demographic or country of origin – the part that brings the greatest pleasure is often searching for inspiration. The actual planning part comes next – working out which cities, which itineraries and which sites we want to tick off our bucket list. This can be time consuming, and sucks some of the pleasure out of the process, but is still full of the potential and also a good chance for brands to influence spend.

However, we then move into the ‘booking stage’. A phase that causes great frustrations – pretty much whenever we have researched it. People struggle to organize themselves. They have to set aside time to actually book. The realization of exactly how much it will cost sets is. Balancing the special deals, public holidays. Airport locations and transfers. But above all, the actual process of the websites, apps and travel agents causes genuine frustration.

Across Asia, the same global brands of booking sites appear as the most used. Agoda, Expedia, Trivago, Booking.com, Hotels.com are all used frequently. Tripadvisor is also consulted regularly as a way to book the best deals. Despite Air BnB and Homeaway becoming more popular – there is still a tendency for people to book through their ‘trusted’ site. Regardless of the accommodation chosen, people feel that this provides an element of trust.

The notable exception is Japan. Where Japan-specific travel agencies take precedence. Rakuten, JTB, HIS are all geared up to the Japanese (often domestically focused) traveler.

Indeed some people book direct with hotels rather than using an aggregated site believing that they get better loyalty bonus and cost savings.

Regardless of the method used – the frustrations are the same. Conflicting information, slow process, inability to tie all the trip details under one site. The implications for businesses is that a poor booking experience actually turns people to change their plans. You can spend millions of dollars on promoting your resort, town or country, but if people get frustrated with the booking – they will stop and rethink their plans. Integration, time saving and the use of ‘value add ons’ will help make the process smoother.

As more and more people take their inspirations from their mobile orientated social media – the booking process needs to mimic this journey. 

Travel businesses need to ensure that they are not only mobile ready, but mobile first.

Innovative research methods - what does that mean in Asia?

Innovative research methods - what does that mean in Asia?

As the year is coming to a close, and as I take stock of projects I’ve worked on and proposals that we should have won, this is a question that I’m increasingly thinking about, and am seeking a perspective on.

This is certainly not a new subject, and as an industry, we have peers who have already proven themselves to be ‘innovative’, at least according to the survey results of this particular report from Green Book (GRIT 2017).

I’m not here to dispute the findings or question the rankings, but as an experienced qualitative researcher, it is second nature to me to want to understand the meaning of such labels as ‘innovative’ and to contextualize it within the specific region that I work in

The greater importance cannot be stressed enough: as an organization, Kadence seeks to raise the status of market research within the region, by delivering insights that inspire and impact businesses. With that as the key focus, 

it is then important to ask whether ‘Innovation’, however it is defined, is truly necessary in the first place.

In the spirit of ‘knowing what you know, and not knowing what you don’t’, it is thus time to fully explore the question, so we can consider how it then fits into the overall narrative of ‘insights that inspire and impact’, rather than for its own sake

To be precise, these are the questions that I’m seeking to answer, in order to truly make sense of the subject:

  1. Can we apply conventional definitions of ‘innovation’ (e.g. disruption, novel/new, creativity, etc.) common to other industries to our own, given that its narrative may/may not be directly applicable?
  2. Even if we can define ‘innovative research’, how does it need to be implemented?
  3. What kinds of ‘research innovation’ does Asia need that is the most relevant and pertinent to how the region is developing?
  4. Ultimately, who benefits more from ‘innovative research’, clients or agencies, and why?

This will be the first of a series of articles on the topic, as I explore its multifaceted nature. I’m hoping that through interacting with my colleagues, peers and clients, I’ll be that much closer to an answer.

Stay tuned for the next article, as I share my immediate findings on the explorations.

Recruitment - Using the Fantasy Football Method

Recruitment - Using the Fantasy Football Method

The 2017 / 2018 Premier League is well under way and is providing much competition amongst some keen football fans across the Kadence offices. We have a Kadence league and whilst not everyone is as competitive as me, keeping an eye out each week on how my fantasy football team is performing is a guilty pleasure of mine (at the time of writing I am sitting second in our work league – annoyingly the person who is leading sits just opposite me!).

Whilst trying to decide who to make Captain this week, I realized that there are many similarities between getting a strong fantasy football team and developing an HR / recruitment plan. As such I thought I would share some of my fantasy football tips – and how they relate to building our own teams in Singapore!

  •  Pick from a good mix of teams. Diversity is key. You don’t want too many people that play for the same team and so face the same challenges. Having a diverse mix of backgrounds means that you are able to see problems from different perspectives.
  • Mix of skill sets. In FF, I like to spread my focus on both defenders and forwards – and it’s the same for our team. People with different skills allows you to have solid expertise across the team. It does not matter if someone is not yet client facing, if they are good at what they do, they are an asset.
  • Flexibility. I regularly change my formation in FF – and having a flexible team is a great HR policy too. It means you can flex resources up and down and move people to help with different tasks. Needs of clients change weekly, so having a team that is able to change with them is a great asset.
  • Forward planning. One feature of the FF game is ‘boosts’ that allow you to get extra points (e.g. triple points for your captain for 1 week). Forward planning is key in hiring too – knowing when you need an extra resource in the future or when to focus on a certain skill set is vital to stay ahead of client requirements.
  • Getting your spend right. Much like FF, you can only spend so much on your team. You need superstars, but you cant afford a whole team full of perfect experience. A good HR policy gets the right mix of youth and new ideas into a core of superstars.
  • Transfers at the right time. I like to keep an eye on my FF team and make substituions when they are no longer contributing. An HR policy should be the same. Allowing people to leave the company when you (or they) do not feel as though they are contributing effectively any more is an important part of building the best team.
Perhaps most importantly of all I have learned that much like my FF team, the HR policy needs weekly attention. If you ignore it for a few weeks – you realise too late that you have missed opportunities.

Despite a slightly flippant link to FF, getting the right team in place is vital for any company. However, being aware that your teams will need to change over time is key. Planning for what happens next and what ‘games’ we will be playing in the future is a hugely important task, that is always relevant. All I need to do know is hope I captain the right player this weekend so I can claim top spot of our fantasy league!


Three benefits of Post-Its to harness non-linear thinking

Three benefits of Post-Its to harness non-linear thinking

There’s a great book by Columbia Business School associate professor, William Duggan, called Strategic Intuition. The book posits that intuition is ‘the selective recombination of previous elements into a new whole.’

One of Duggan’s examples of intuitive thinkers is one of Napoleon’s early campaigns. When ordered to re-take the port of Toulon from the British invaders via frontal assault ‘with the sword and bayonet’, Napoleon suggests an alternative strategy; to take the smaller fort of L’Agiuilelette, which overlooks the port of Toulon. Against the received wisdom of his peers and commanders, Napoleon goes ahead with his plan, takes the fort, and in doing so terrifies the British into leaving Toulon and sets his path for Emperor of Europe.

What’s interesting here – and why Duggan raises this example from history – is how Napoleon came to his plan, by bringing together abstract parts of his memory and experience: his reading of the contour maps on the area of Toulon; his knowledge of how best to deploy light cannon and his understanding of past British defeats. The contour maps showed him that the fort of L’Aiguilette occupied high ground over Toulon; from his light cannon experience he knew he could take the cannon up to the fort and deploy them overlooking Toulon and the British fleet; and his understanding of past British defeats at Yorktown and the Siege of Boston taught him that the British would never again risk being cut off from their navy.

None of those thoughts – contour maps; light cannon; British defeats – were taught to Napoleon together. Instead, as Duggan argues, it is the ‘selective recombination of previous elements into a whole.’

Have you ever had an idea flash into your mind? A random thought disconnected from what you’re trying to concentrate on – that’s strategic intuition. And its proof that our brains are non-linear. Try as we might, we struggle to focus on a single thought for a long period of time. Rather our brains are adept at working in our subconscious and delivering fresh ideas and insights at a moment’s notice.

You can’t help but think of multiple things at once, or just as likely thinking multiple things about one idea at once. In contrast, however, Word, PowerPoint and Excel, by their very nature, are linear. Word splits information over different pages, PowerPoint chunks information in slides and Excel breaks then across tabs. And all are subject to the limitations of screen size. This linear function is in direct odds to the brain’s non-linear thinking, forcing you to work to their restrictions.

By chunking information into different pages, slides or tabs it also forces the brain to change its functioning.  When all the information is displayed at once, the brain can focus on analysis and connecting information. We can tap into the very strength of our brain – making random, subconscious associations. However, when chunked over different pages, slides and tabs the brain must first remember all the information it has been exposed to before it can then begin to analyse and connect it. This exerts increased cognitive load on the brain and causes a significant break down in your brain’s ability to create those connections.

So, what if we moved away from linear formats and embraced our brain’s capacity for non-linear thinking, for sparks of insight. This is where the power of Post-It notes – or record cards, or just scraps of paper – come in. 

When first planning or thinking of an idea or concept, a good idea is to plot your thoughts on Post-It notes. Each one holding one thought. And filling your table, or wall, or desk with them. The beauty of this is that it embraces our non-linear brain. A random thought or idea can be jotted down and placed to the side, not distracting your attention by needling your mind but also addressed and captured quickly during it’s fleeting appearance. Overall, Post-It planning seems to help in three main ways:

Making connections

Post-It notes and record cards allow for the creation of non-linear narratives. With the use of Post-It notes, or record cards and a box of pins, you can map out an entire concept visually, highlighting interconnecting thoughts and relationships - celebrating the very non-linear thinking our brains champion and computers cannot copy. As an individual activity working with Post-Its allows us to re-arrange ideas as we go. Once we have captured all our thinking on multiple Post-Its we can then begin to rearrange them over and over again, in different orders and ways until we are happy with our outcome.

A free-form structure

By filling a wall with Post-It notes we are avoiding a linear path through the information, rather we are creating a free-form structure. Every time you look at the wall, or return to the room, you can look at the Post-It notes in a different order. And perhaps draw out new meaning or sense from it. It also means you’re not enforcing a structure on others, they too can create their own path through the information – a very effective element when developing ideas and concepts with others.

Fostering collaboration

When working together, cards and post-it notes invite displayed thinking. By committing our thoughts to paper and then arranging them on a wall we can easily invite others to see our thinking; but just as easily others can begin to add to, edit or rationalize our thoughts, so that together we can create a shared cognition about an idea and together create a common understanding. This shared activity fosters creativity, especially as any person can re-arrange cards.

So, before you next fire up your laptop ask yourself, would I be more creative if I used Post-Its and embraced my brain’s non-linear thinking?



 Counter curbed enthusiasm at work

Counter curbed enthusiasm at work

According to a survey conducted by staffing firm OfficeTeam, US office workers are bored at work about 10.5 hours every week. And while some are more likely to experience boredom during specific times in the year, 45% experience this all year long. 

The top reported reasons for boredom are:

  • They don’t feel challenged by the assignments
  • There isn’t enough work to do
  • The nature of the work isn’t interesting

Though we don’t have the magic formula to completely eliminate workplace boredom, at Kadence we have implemented a program with the aim to curb monotony as much as possible. We call them Project Points. 

Project Points is a list of extracurricular tasks and projects that individuals can get involved in if they have time or would like to get exposure to another area of the business. So, what’s so great about Project Points?

1. They are aimed at helping us to achieve our business goals. Project Points are tasks that are specifically aimed at helping Kadence to achieve financial or strategic goals. They include tasks like: creating thought leadership pieces to use for sales & marketing collateral, updating supplier database information, or creating essential templates that can be used to make everyone’s job faster. While some are certainly more glamorous than others, all are worth spending time on, and so the business benefits no matter what people choose.

2. They touch on every aspect of the business. Every division from Sales to Marketing to Operations to HR are covered in Project Points. This means that individuals have the opportunity to try out areas of the business that they had never experienced before, without requiring a formal role change or redesign. 

3. They are rewarding. Each completed task earns the entire team points, which in turn qualifies everyone to receive a reward. This year, we set an ambitious goal, which when reached earned the entire office an additional day off. Needless to say, many Project Points had to be completed to achieve that!

Not every Project Point will be challenging, interesting or life-changing, but hopefully they give everyone opportunities for personal development and variety, and greater exposure to the needs of the business. And one thing is for sure: with Project Points available, no one can say that there isn’t enough work to do. :)

Blending analogue in a digital world

Blending analogue in a digital world

This seemed a good combination of digital and analogue. The paper and boards to organize our thoughts and rationale, the digital to provide more detail on the specifics when necessary.

You are reading this on a laptop, a smartphone and if you are super fancy maybe even via VR goggles (although I doubt it as I can’t imagine many people actually do that!). You have a digital tv subscription, your door lock could be digital, you use cashless payments and maybe are even tempted with the new cellular Apple Watch. In business, we use video conferences and share screens and send emails. 

We live in a digital world. 

And yet, for some things the analogue – or at least non-digital – is still best; it is well known that face to face meetings are the best way to collaborate with each other. Yet sometimes it can be difficult to marry the two – digital and analogue together. But after a recent trip to London for a workshop – I came away with a renewed appreciation of how analogue techniques can be blended in a digital world. 

To set the scene, the workshop had the purpose to review a number of investment opportunities, (around 80) each had a number of cost options and a detailed list of activities that each investment required. As a group we had to identify which ones would be prioritized, which ones needed more work and which ones should be postponed for the future. This type of collaboration has no ‘right answers’ only points of view. 

Whilst the investments details were on PowerPoint if we had been flicking between multiple presentations we would never have been able to keep track. The simple solution? Print a 1-line summary of each option, and it’s cost onto a small playing card size printout. Cut this out and use these to help organize a priority list. 

Additional notes were made by hand on whiteboards, allowing us to wipe out and include additional requests. 

Most importantly of all, the people who were tasked with making the decisions were all in the room. Every stakeholder could pick up, move and re-order the print outs as a group – ensuring that everyone had the buy in and the visibility of the decisions. 

This seemed a good combination of digital and analogue. The paper and boards to organize our thoughts and rationale, the digital to provide more detail on the specifics when necessary. 
Another good marriage of analogue and digital I have come across is a fantastic new gadget, the Moleskin livescribe notepad and pen, I got as a present. This allows me to still create hand written notes and scribbles which is my default, but the pen simultaneously records them, allowing me to view them on your smartphone or edit on your computer. Genius. It’s a digital upgrade to my analogue preference. 

What both of these experiences have taught me is we shouldn’t accept inferior substitutes for the simple brilliance of face to face meetings, pen, paper and printouts. But exciting new technology – like my Moleskin pen – and embracing dual working – means we’re increasingly able to bring the benefits of our analogue world into the digital.

Who works in market research?

Who works in market research?

Who grows up thinking “When I get older I’m going to be a market researcher”? Not me – I was going to be a baker!