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"An insightful and refreshing look at the way consumers and retailers interact in this modern age.”

Sir Stuart Rose,
Chairman of Marks & Spencer plc

All royalties to The Princes' Trust

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Parallel Meddler

At a village “get to know you” recently I was humorously introduced to some people I didn’t know as a “Serial Meddler”.  After a moment or two when we debated whether this meant I had an odd way of eating my breakfast we moved on to talk about the things I get up to these days. It was only in that discussion that I realised that the description of me was inadequate. The fact that I’m a meddler is unquestionable. I looked up a dictionary definition of “to meddle” which produced the following:-

 

"to involve oneself in a matter without right or invitation; interfere officiously and unwantedly"

 

Harsh perhaps, but largely fair, I tend to express my opinions on a range of subjects and attempt to influence the future actions of others through the sharing of my experience and ideas. Much earlier in my career I was similarly influenced by someone whose guidance was to monitor the efficacy of your gut feel – if you find that your instinct was right 80% of the time then trust it, it’s much faster than trying to determine all of the facts and will allow you to move more quickly.

 

I consider it the duty of all Non- Execs to meddle shamelessly and to their hearts content. Meddling implies that we are engaging with those around us and stimulating debate. Sometimes it’s useful to express a highly controversial opinion in order to be challenged and get people thinking. Out of such debate sound action plans can result that move businesses tangibly forward led by executives who have really thought through the basis of their strategy.

 

But serial meddler doesn’t cut it. It implies only interfering with one business at a time. That’s inefficient. What happened to Simultaneous Engineering, that great paradigm of the nineties where we learned that we don’t have to wait for one stage to conclude before we get cracking on the next?

 

I’m good, I can meddle in parallel and by so doing I can transfer learning between non competing businesses! For example, “Insight selling”, the idea that rather than rocking up with a brochure and asking customers how many they want to buy, you enter the debate with a prospective customer “High and Early” at a senior, decision making level of an organisation and before they have given consideration to the subject on your agenda.   Sure, it makes for a longer sales cycle but when you get there, the margins are better and you will keep your customer loyal for longer.

 

So, without shame, I admit to you, dear Reader and to the world that I am a Parallel Meddler. There, I feel cleansed. :-)