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Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Wednesday Night is Apprentice Night



"The Apprentice" is must watch TV.

Column inches have already been written in the press and in other blogs about previous series and the current Series 4 (which we are now halfway through). And I just HAVE to add my thoughts to the mix....

The beauty of "The Apprentice" is that it is entertaining, informative and educational. Above all it is about people - with all their brilliance, stupidity and flaws.

Who can forget candidates from previous series such as Tre Azam, Ruth Badger, Katy Hopkins or Saira Khan who have made their mark on the public imagination?

I would never put myself up for such humiliation but I can definitely learn some lessons about work and business including how to work in a team, how to have conviction, how to focus on the customer, how to influence and negotiate with others and importantly how not to behave in work situations.

It is perhaps not surprising that Learndirect (a leading nationwide UK supplier of learning programmes) quickly launched a DVD-Rom of training programmes based on "The Apprentice" on the themes of leadership and management, negotiating and selling, pitching and presenting. I don't have any statistics but I would presume that this learning solution is very popular.

I am not a trained HR professional and from an HR point of view there are bound to be flaws in "The Apprentice" style of recruiting - for a start it encourages the arrogant and self confident to come forward. What about people with other characteristics and skills which are not so TV friendly but vitally important to business such as loyalty and quietly achieving? Having said that, the programme does provide a window on the whole recruitment process - particularly from how candidates prepare and how they come across in their dealings with others.


So what about Series 4 speicifically?

If the series to date is anything to go by, there will still be surprises. Some candidates have a strong tendency to put the proverbial foot in it. For instance what was Jenny Celerier thinking in the greeting card task by effectively pushing the team to except her idea for an environmental card and then during the pitch, admitting that she bought less cards for green reasons. Or what about, Lindi and Jennifer's poor planning and pitching during the laundry task when they had no idea of costs and off the top of the their heads came up with the idea for a telephone hotline to the laundry!

Who will win Series 4? I am routing for Rafe and Lucinda, because they both seem to be effective leaders. Rafe, despite coming across in a very pompous manner, seems to get on well with most of the other candidates and stood up for Sara last week. Lucinda has been under-estimated in my opinion by the other candidates and I am hoping she makes her mark towards the end.

Clearly "The Apprentice" winner needs to have a strategy for applying, for being on TV, for playing their part in the tasks, being team leader, being in the boardroom and for post-Apprentice 'fame'.

Or as Tim Campbell, the winner of the Series 1 says "Being successful in business is all about the five Ps: Planning, passion, perseverance, partnership and planetary assistance - everyone needs a bit of luck. "

Wise advice!

To keep up to date with the latest on the BBC series "The Apprentice" see http://www.bbc.co.uk/apprentice/

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

What is all the fuss about blogs?

I think it is about time that I address the issue of blogs and blogging itself.

As an information professional, you are taught to carefully review information sources by authority, relevance. You also need skills of analysis and crititcal evaluation.

The trouble with blogging is also the essence of its popularity - it is the equivalent of writing a personal journal with a powerful sense of immediacy.

The question is how do you know who or what to trust in this sphere.

Some context here is useful and Caslon Analytics, who are an Australian research and statistical company examines the blogging phenonomen - http://www.caslon.com.au/weblogprofile1.htm

In particular, the article looks at the ephemerality, the audience and the demographics of blogging.

What is the value of blogging particularly for organisations?

Ingenta's Library Newsletter, "Eye to Eye " (Issue 22@ July 2007 ) - http://eyetoeye.ingenta.com/library/issue22/insight-blogs.htm - discusses the blogging phenomenon. It identifies 10 reasons to blog:
  1. Product-based eg about a specific service or technology
  2. Role-based
  3. Activity-based
  4. Subject-based:
  5. Format-based
  6. CPD-based
  7. Tool-based
  8. Current awareness-based
  9. Observation-based
  10. Marketing and Publicity-based

For businesses, blogging is attractive in terms of reaching to a certain target, but as with method of communication and marketing, it has to be viewed in terms of the "communications mix" and a clear headed assessment of value. In some segments, blogging might be the answer. Blogging is and its value to business is examined in a Business Week article, "Social Media will change your business" - http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/content/feb2008/db20080219_908252.htm - published on 20 February 2008. There is also clearly money to be made from blogging with, for intanse, the website - http://www.betterbusinessblogging.com/ - which is aimed at providing advice to businesses on blogging.

In terms of governments, blogs can be another way to reach to citizens and present a more personal view of what can be seen as bureaucratic organisations.

Currently the FCO has launched into the blogosphere with blogs from new starters, ambassadors, trade officers and the Secretary of State. It is interesting that the FCO is one of the first government departments to use blogging. I think that is partly as a counter-weight to what could be perceived as an elitist, conservative culture. If the FCO is to attract new graduates to join the organisation, then blogging is one way to reach people and present a different image.

Blogs are another way of engaging the audience and encouraging participation and that can't always be a bad thing.

Why am I blogging?


I think until blogging was developed, there was no quick and easy way or space to air your views to the world. So blogging for me is a social release, a theraputic tool and a way to actually think through my ideas.

It is as Business Week says, about power - giving power to the people. As with all other communication means, some people will take to it and others will favour other means, and some will abuse it, but that is not to knock the possibilities it affords if thought through.

I am tempted to say that I don't expect anyone to read this but that is putting down my opinions, thoughts and approach. The Blog Herald recommends Blogging for an Audience - http://www.blogherald.com/2007/08/15/blog-for-an-audience-even-if-you-have-none/ to improve your writing and your blogging ability. I think it is a question of value and authority. My question is does publishing always have to be about reading? Maybe that should be the subject of another blog!

Monday, 5 May 2008

The Killer Instinct


Our little kitten has now graduated into a full blown cat by bringing us a dead mouse into the house.

It is said that cats bring dead prey into our homes because it is their way of bringing us a gift and showing their love and affection for us. According to one website, when giving us gifts of prey, cats see us (humans) as their kittens. In the wild, big cats present prey to others in their den as a social gesture.

I love watching and being with our cats. I think they are beautiful, intelligent creatures who love unconditionally. We can learn a lot about ourselves from our cats and other animals.

Cats are often seen as cruel and unfriendly, but I don't see them in this way. They are the distillations of millions of years of evolution and 'nature' which is all powerful.

Looking at cats and prey they are demonstrating their innate wildness. In the wild, cats are attracted by movement, which attracts the desire to attack. Playing with the prey can apparently be a sign of excitement after the stalking or killing. Simple!

Anyway whatever the explanations, I feel truly honoured!

Sunday, 4 May 2008

The Art of Interviewing - Part 2


I am pleased to say that my 2 days of interviewing went well and I actually got quite a buzz out of it all.

Whether job applicants like it or not, the recruitment interview is probably the most tried and tested way of determining whether to employ someone.

There are many advantages including:

  • Ability to assess person's verbal fluency and communication skills
  • Ability to assess person's fit with the organisation and team
  • Chance to assess job applicant's knowledge
  • Flexible situation with opportunity to ask more questions if required.

As well as some downsides:

  • Can make subjective evaluations
  • Not as reliable as tests
  • Strong likelihood that decisions tend to be taken in first few minutes

Being on the other side of the desk, I could see how much an interview is a two way process. The better candidates make an interviewer's life easier and the interview seems to flow more, compared to weaker candidates where the interviewers have to gather more evidence and probe deeper, taking more time.

Strong candidates can come from any sector, as long as they are able to demonstrate that they are competent by giving thought through evidence and examples from any are of their current or past work or from a social environment. Interviewers want to see the candidates succeed and demonstrate their skills.

There is occassionally debate in the library professional press about changing sectors. Based on my experience of being on an interview panel it can be done, if you can demonstrate and speak with confidence about your skills in your application and in the interview.

On the other side of the desk, you gain a number of valuable skills including those of listening, questionning and assessing as well as gaining a new enthusiasm.

Interviewing is also about teamwork. Everybody on an interview panel is there for a reason and has something to contribute including, for instance, HR who can bring their expertise from other recruitment rounds and knowledge of the job market overall.

All in all I loved it!!