Monthly Archives: November 2010

Inventing the 21st Century exhibition closes this week

It’s the final week of our free Inventing the 21st Century exhibition so if you want to see it you will have to get a move on.

We invited visitors to the exhibition to submit on slips of paper their ideas for what inventions were needed and  had a big response. Mark Sheahan, our Inventor in Residence, has listed his favourites on the Invent it ! web page.

My colleague Steve van Dulken is the curator of the exhibition and has already covered several of the inventions on show in his excellent Patent Search blog.

Steve has also written a book Inventing the 21st Century to coincide with the exhibition.  In the book he covers the inventions in the exhibition and many more. My favourite is the Magmole invented by Sharon Wright. I love the fact that it is such a simple solution to such an annoying problem (pushing cables through cavity walls).


Global Entrepreneurship Week 2010

We are now coming towards the end of Global Entrepreneurship Week 2010, and for the Business & IP Centre it has been a great success.

Each day we have been running informal half-day networking sessions. The Centre has been full of business experts and successful entrepreneurs advising aspiring entrepreneurs.

Our two special evening events, which I attended were also excellent.

On Tuesday our Creative Networking Evening provided an opportunity to network with other entrepreneurs and advisors.

Last night’s Question Time for Entrepreneurs offered inspiring speakers, including Deborah Meaden (Dragon’s Den), Brent Hoberman ( and and Cath Kidston.

There has been lots of twitter activity about us over the last few days, and Dan Martin’s live blog led to lots of other tweeters getting involved.

We’ve also had some nice comments about our events:

“Just got back from massively inspiring business mentoring workshop at the British Library as part of entrepreneur week. Fully pumped!”

“Enjoyed speed mentoring at Enterprise Week at British Library. Met several amazing creatives at the first steps of their business.”

“It was a great event! Interesting & challenging debate” (from Women Unlimited about Inspiring Entrepreneurs)

“Thanks for a great panel session. An interesting mix of views and media”

“Great line up for Question Time: Deborah Meaden +co-founder of Brent Hoberman +Enterprise UKs CEO Tom Bewick.”

Dealing with the Customer from Hell

Although surrounded by 15 million books here at the British Library, and unlike WoodsieGirl, I don’t get nearly as much time to read as I would like.

However, in the last few weeks I have managed to get through several, thanks to my epically slow train journey, and my speed reading training from Alex Garcez the The Speed Reading Coach.

As part of my aim to constantly strive for better customer service within the Business & IP Centre, I bought a copy of Dealing with the Customer from Hell – A Survival Guide, by Shaun Belding.

It is a great book because he recognises that in most cases customers from hell did not start the day in that mode (or mood), but circumstances have lead to the behaviour we are seeing as service providers. He reminds us that we have all probably been, or come close to acting as customers from hell, when things have gone particularly badly for us. Once we start to see them in that light we can begin to move towards resolving their problem.

Shaun also points out that we are not taught at school, or in most workplaces, to cope with bad behaviour. So when we are confronted with it, we go into shock and react, rather than calmly respond appropriately and with humour.

We also can be badly emotionally scarred (and scared) by these experiences, which can negatively influence our behaviour in future customer interactions.

One of the most important messages, is that you can’t win against customers from hell, but in most cases you can win with them, and so resolve the situation to everyone’s satisfaction.

Shaun introduces the LESTER acronym for the six steps to take to resolve customer problems:

  • Listening to your customer
  • Echoing the issue
  • Sympathizing with your customer’s emotional state
  • Thanking your customer for his or her input
  • Evaluating your options
  • Responding with a win-win solution.


What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis

Perhaps I spent too many years working in the City of London working for unappreciative customers, so I am frequently surprised by how grateful many of our customers are for the help we give them in starting up their business. However, when I heard that Pervin Shaikh wanted to express her appreciation by giving us a copy of What Would Google Do, I was amazed.

Pervin explained that she thought the book would be helpful to aspiring (and existing) entrepreneurs.

Having speed read it this morning, before sending it off to be added to our collection, I agree with her.

The author Jeff Jarvis writes the new media column for the Guardian newspaper, as well as founder of, one of the web’s most popular and respected blogs about the internet and media.

He starts the book by listing some of the new rules that Google used – to become successful, in what he calls the upside-down, inside-out, counter-intuitive and confusing world of the internet age:

1.    Customers are now in charge. They can be heard around the globe and have an impact on huge institutions in an instant.
2.    People can find each other anywhere and coalesce around you-or against you.
3.    The mass market is dead, replaced by the mass of niches.
4.    ‘Markets are conversations,” decreed The Cluetrain Manifesto, the seminal work of the internet age, in 2000. That means the key skill in any organization today is no longer marketing but conversing.
5.    We have shifted from an economy based on scarcity to one based on abundance. The control of products or distribution will no longer guarantee a premium and a profit.
6.    Enabling customers to collaborate with you-in creating, distributing, marketing, and supporting products-is what creates a premium in today’s market.
7.    The most successful enterprises today are networks-which extract as little value as possible so they can grow as big as possible-and the platforms on which those networks are built.
8.    Owning pipelines, people, products, or even intellectual property is no longer the key to success. Openness is.

Google have been generous in sharing their philosophy on their website, so we can look there to see why they are the fastest growing company in the history of the world, according to the Times newspaper.

Our philosophy – Ten things we know to be true:
1. Focus on the user and all else will follow
2. It’s best to do one thing really, really well
3. Fast is better than slow
4. Democracy on the web works
5. You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer
6. You can make money without doing evil
7. There’s always more information out there
8. The need for information crosses all borders
9. You can be serious without a suit
10. Great just isn’t good enough

You can get more details from the Google website.

Jarvis also looks at Facebook, and recounts listening to the 22 year old founder Mark Zuckerberg answer a gathering of media moguls at Davos on how to build their own communities – ‘you can’t’.

What he meant, was that communities already exist, so your role is to bring them ‘elegant organization’, to help them achieve their goals more effectively. Jarvis illustrates Zuckerberg’s approach by retelling the story of how he managed to graduate from Harvard, despite not having attended a single class or finding time to study.

‘The final exam was a week away and he was in a panic. It’s one thing to drop out of Harvard to start a gigantic, world-changing company; it’s another to flunk.

Zuckerberg did what comes naturally to a native of the web. He went to the internet and downloaded images of art he knew would be covered in the exam. He put them on a web page and added blank boxes under each. Then he emailed the address of this page to his class-mates, telling them he’d just put up a study guide. Think Tom Sawyer’s fence. The class dutifully came along and filled in the blanks with the essential knowledge about each piece of art, editing each other as they went, collaborating to get it just right. This being Harvard, they did a good job of it.

You can predict the punch line: Zuckerberg aced the exam. But here’s the real kicker: The professor said the class as a whole got better grades than usual. They captured the wisdom of their crowd and helped each other. Zuckerberg had created the means for the class to collaborate. He brought them elegant organization.’

Some of the other highlights of the book for me were:
•    If you’re not searchable, you won’t be found – make sure you maximise your discovery, especially by Google search.
•    Your customers are your ad agency – in the early days of Google, Facebook and Twitter, all their marketing work was done for free by their fans.
•    The mass market is dead – long live the mass of niches – and the long tail.
•    Middlemen are doomed – unless they can show how they add value.
•    Life is beta – let your customers test and develop your products and services.

In the second part of the book, Jarvis applies the Google rules to a raft of traditional activities, from utilities to hospitals to banks. The results are fascinating and relevant for everyone in business. For example, why don’t supermarkets have forums where customers could ask for and vote on new product lines.

In conclusion, I would say this is a fascinating wide ranging and challenging review of how the Google approach to business can (and most likely will) impact how many business and service operations operate in future. And a ‘must read’ for anyone about to start out on their own business adventure.

And the winners of the 2010 PRECIOUS Awards are…

I blogged recently about my role in Judging the 2010 PRECIOUS Awards. And last week was the big awards ceremony itself, held in the Conference Centre at the British Library.

Rasheed Ogunlaru and Jessica Huie the CEO of Colorblind Cards were excellent hosts, and the evening was great fun.

The Precious Entrepreneur of the Year Geeta Sidhu, founder of Nosh Detox, gave an inspiring speech highlighting her ‘riches – to rags – to award-winning business’, story.

Congratulations to the winners below, and to Foluke Akinlose MBE, the founder of the awards.

The Precious Awards 2010 | The WINNERS!

Start-Up Business of the Year
Janet M Banks – The Art of Cake –

Service Business of the Year
Geeta Sidhu – Nosh Detox –

Creative Business of the Year
Ola Amoako – Urbantopia –

Social Enterprise Business of the Year
Marcia Hutchinson MBE – Primary Colours –

Leadership within the Workplace
Lydia Frempong – Business Development Manager- Media Trust –

Young Entrepreneur of the Year
Bunmi Olaye, Bunmi Koko

Blogger of the Year
Alice Gbelia – Catch a Vibe –

The Precious Entrepreneur of the Year
Geeta Sidhu – Nosh Detox –

Rasheed Ogunlaru and Jessica Huie get a helping hand from Jessica's daughter

Flex and the City

Corinne Blum and Adrian Kowal

“We wanted somewhere away from the ‘Buy this! Sell this!’ mentality”: Corinne Blum and Adrian Kowal, co-founders of Evolve Wellness Centre

The Evening Standard recently printed a fascinating story about increasing numbers of City workers who are abandoning their highly paid jobs to start alternative therapy businesses (Get well on the way to enlightenment).

I worked in the City for many years, and managed a colleague who went on to start his own business Sacred Moves in New Zealand, inspired by yoga and ecstatic dance. So I am intrigued by this seeming contradiction of ‘heartless’ business ethos and Zen like approaches to life.

We already see many clients in the Business & IP Centre who are starting complementary health or life coach related businesses, so it will be interesting to watch for an increase in those from a corporate background.

Extract from Get well on the way to enlightenment by Stephanie Theobald

Kowal, of English, American and Ukrainian descent, is one of a new breed of City types who have found corporate life too stifling and have dared to do something about it.

“I was surrounded by people with lots of money who didn’t have the contentment of knowing where to channel it,” he says, adding that his city pals are now starting to come to Evolve. “They start out sceptical and end up sheepish when they see how our treatments work.”

However, according to Alison Pothier, a former top-level investment banker for JP Morgan and UBS, there is still a stigma attached to appearing too “out there” in a City environment.

“A huge number of City people are into this stuff but they’re not out’ about it. I used to meet with colleagues behind closed doors for sessions.”

Our Management and Business Studies Portal goes live

THE BRITISH LIBRARY HomeThe fruit of many months of labour by my colleague Sally Halper has finally emerged blinking into the bright light of day.

The Management and Business Studies Portal is a joint venture from The British Library and the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).

We have joined forces to develop a new online service for managers, bringing together the latest management research and business information, alongside the British Library’s vast collections of print and digital material.

Jude England, head of social science collections and research at the British Library, says: “Our joint aim is to develop joined-up information services and content. The partnership with CMI expresses our continued commitment to supporting the government’s vision of building Digital Britain and improving UK productivity.

We have created a video explaining the site on our YouTube channel.

Whether you’re a University researcher or a busy manager, this Portal will help you find and use high quality management research publications quickly and easily.

  • Download research reports, summaries, briefings, working papers, conference papers and articles from key publishers.
  • You must register (see button above) to see most of the content.
  • Discover the British Library’s vast print and digital collections – in one powerful search
  • Receive alerts about new content that matches your subject interest(s)
  • Watch author interviews and other videos
  • Disseminate and preserve your work
  • Contact us

The introduction of the portal is the second joint venture with CMI this year. The first was the CMI Management Book of the Year awards, which I blogged about last March (Who will win Management Book of Year?).

Fifteen of the UK’s best management authors are now one step closer to winning the coveted title of Management Book of the Year, having made it on to the competition shortlist.

The CMI Management Book of the Year competition, launched by the CMI (Chartered Management Institute) in association with the British Library, aims to uncover the UK’s best books on management and leadership and raise the profile of the great management writing published or distributed in the UK. The shortlisted books are those that, in the opinion of the panel of expert competition judges, will help transform the working practices of managers and help to raise awareness of how management theories and thinking can be better applied in practice.

With £5,000 at stake for the winning author, the shortlisted books, which include John Adair’s Leadership of Muhammad and Richard Donkin’s The Future of Work, will now undergo an intense review process, where expert judges will whittle down the entries to find the UK’s best management text. One winner will be chosen in each of the three categories – ‘Practical Manager’, ‘Innovation and Entrepreneurship’ and ‘Digital Management Book’ – before the overall winner is picked from the three.

The first competition of its kind, Management Book of the Year was created in response to shocking research that revealed that 85 per cent of employees would rather seek help elsewhere than turn to their managers when they need guidance at work. Despite this, just five per cent of these people are turning to management books when they have work issues, suggesting that managers are struggling to find useful, practical texts.

The research also revealed that surprisingly, when it comes to topic choice, more people would like to read about how to achieve a good work/life balance (40 per cent) than how to get a pay rise (30 per cent). In addition, 31 per cent are interested in advice on how to manage people, while just 19 per cent would like tips on securing a promotion.

The winning book will be announced on 25 January 2011.

The books that have made it onto the shortlist are as follows:

  • Practical Manager category:
  • Leadership of Muhammad by John Adair
  • ReWork: change the way you work forever by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
  • Managing by Henry Mintzberg
  • The Intuitive Mind by Eugene Sadler-Smith
  • The World’s Business Cultures and how to unlock them by Barry Tomalin and Mike Nicks
  • Innovation & Entrepreneurship category:
  • Glimmer: How design can transform your business by Warren Berger
  • Brilliant Business Creativity by Richard Hall
  • Evolution:  How to thrive in crazy times by Bill Lucas
  • Supercorp by Rosabeth Moss Kanter
  • Design-Driven Innovation by Roberto Verganti
  • Digital Management Book category:
  • The Future of Work by Richard Donkin
  • The Leadership Illusion by T. Hall and K. Janman
  • Fast Track to Success:  project management ebook by Patrick Harper-Smith
  • How to lead by Jo Owen
  • Meet the new boss by Philip Whiteley
  • British Library’s main twitter feed has 100,000 followers

    twitter logoThere may be those who think The British Library shouldn’t be engaging with Social Media.

    There’s always something uncomfortable about watching an ancient institution when it comes over all entrepreneurial; there’s usually something dad-at-the-disco about it. The Register

    But, according to recent statistics from one of my web colleagues, the Library’s main twitter feed recently passed the milestone of 100,000 followers.

    This is up from just 6,000 earlier this year. Apparently this makes us the 123rd most followed twitter feed in the UK – a few paces ahead of the Guardian, a few places behind the Mayor of London.

    Not bad for an oldie 😉

    @adrian-arthur: Over the weekend, the Library’s main twitter feed passed the milestone of 100,000 followers – up from just 6,000 earlier this year. We’ve the 123rd most followed twitter feed in the UK – a few paces ahead of the Guardian, a few places behind the Mayor of London. So there you have it!@adrian-arthur: Over the weekend, the Library’s main twitter feed passed the milestone of 100,000 followers – up from just 6,000 earlier this year. We’ve the 123rd most followed twitter feed in the UK – a few paces ahead of the Guardian, a few places behind the Mayor of London. So there you have it!

    My own cooked meal for one from Scratch

    curry-head-onWhilst browsing in  Sourced Market in St Pancras on my way home the other evening, I came across a package promising a meal of Chicken & Chorizo Jamabalaya cooked in one pan… from scratch.

    Scratch is the clever name for a new business selling pre-packaged meals with fresh ingredients and instructions to cook a tasty, wholesome meal.

    You get a box with all the chopped, washed and weighed ingredients as well as the instructions to cook your meal from scratch.  The meals are for one and cook in around 15 minutes with one or two pans.

    As they say, ‘We do the hard bits, you do the fun bits’.

    I have to admit I was rather cynical and mainly tried it out in the interests of research, plus I really wanted see what Chicken & Chorizo Jamabalaya tasted like. I have to say that the product definitely lived up to its promise, being incredibly easy and fun to cook, with a tasty meal, and only one pan to wash up at the end – result!

    Scratch staffFrom a business opportunity aspect, I find it interesting to see how Scratch are addressing the needs of the growing number of single householders. This is a trend identified in the How to become a cutting-edge retailer workshop I attended recently.

    Changing family structure leads to convenience trend
    –          more singles than married in the UK by 2020
    –          more single person households in the UK – impacts how people shop – from weekly shop to convenience shopping.  Growth from 19bn 2000 to 41bn 2015
    –          Asda have bough Netto
    –          Easier payment – Visa PayWave system
    –          Debenhams – mini-wok is most popular item
    –          Dinner for one packages
    –          Waitrose – small stores with fresh food, warm bread, deli

    Evolving English exhibition – One Language, Many Voices

    I just love words. They are one of my favourite things in life, so I am really excited about our new Evolving English exhibition, where we will be exploring our wonderful language, from Anglo-Saxon runes to modern day rap.

    My favourite word for some time has been serendipitous, both for its sound and meaning. As a very poor speller (sp), I am intrigued by what I consider to be ridiculous spellings, which I would never guess how to say. For instance, how about the dance groups The Cholmondeleys and The Featherstonehaughs. Did you get they are pronounced Chumleys and Fanshaws respectively?

    I also noticed last week that David Usborne writing in the new i newspaper from the Independent, is not averse a bit of language creativity. He used the term ‘courtesy-impaired’ passengers in reference to the story about Steven Slater the ‘air rage’ steward. I did a little digging a found an article titled Courtesy-impaired peers frustrate fellow worker by Diane Crowley in the Chicago Sun-Times from 20 September 1990.

    Here are some great language websites I have come across over the years:

    Wordia – the online dictionary, which brings words to life through video.

    Dictionary of English slang and colloquialisms of the UK

    Save the Words is all about trying to stop them from disappearing.

    ToneCheck™ is an e-mail plug-in that flags sentences with words or phrases that may convey unintended emotion or tone, then helps you re-write them. Thousands of common phrases, sayings and idioms that can be browsed, searched, heard, and translated to several language.

    100 Most Often Mispelled Misspelled Words in English Can one man deliberately invent a successful new word? Is it possible to break into the dictionary? What is a pratdigger?

    Evolving English: One Language, Many Voices

    The first exhibition to explore the English language in all its national and international diversity. Iconic books and manuscripts, set alongside engaging everyday texts, show the social, cultural and historical strands from which the language has been woven.

    In the exhibition and on this website you will also be able to take part in a national initiative to record how English is spoken all over the UK. You will be able to submit a recording of yourself reading ‘Mr Tickle’ to form part of the British Library’s collections. Add your email address at the top of the page to join our mailing list.

    ‘Evolving English: One Language, Many Voices’ also looks beneath the tip of the linguistic iceberg at comics, adverts, text messages, posters, newspapers, trading records and dialect recordings that make up the bulk of the English language.