Media. What will determine the outcome of the Greek Tragedy will be the influence media will be able to exercise over the people of Greece. Be it through print, TV or even more importantly, social media, how the various agencies are able to instill a sense of fear or responsibility into the minds of those who will vote on Sunday will ultimately determine the outcome.
The small miracles that happen, a moment’s laughter shared;
A thought understood, a knowing eye brought to bare.
To hold another’s hand, and to be there for a while;
With a peaceful silence lived, telling more that you care.
It won’t last forever, this fleeting chance we call life;
If that slender string be cut, or left a smouldering wick.
And a sum of moments cherished, will be all that we retain;
As the elders will tell us, it’s all over too quick.
So carpe diem my friend, make the most of your fate
Live your life to the full, before its too late.
“Four things come back not: The spoken word; the sped arrow; time past and the neglected opportunity.” – Omar I Ibn al-Khattab, Caliph (AD 581-644)
The dawning of the New Year is traditionally an occasion of cause for reflection in most Western cultures. A so called beacon in the calendar to reappraise what came to pass and what one did during the past year and how one can improve things going forward into the New Year.
During the past year, one can reasonably assume that most of us in all possibility were faced with a number of choices and decisions to make. Essentially though, if one made the conscious decision to exercise a choice, one ran the risk of never getting the chance to repeat that choice again, should the outcome of the original choice be unsatisfactory.
This is cause for concern for anyone placed in the position of being able to exercise a choice. Perhaps the real problem been not the outcome of the choices that we make, but the fact that we do have a choice; a so called option to exercise in the first place. The difficulty with the exercising of choice, as one can begin to appreciate, is that the decision cuts both ways – With freedom of choice, comes the responsibility to accept the consequences of the choices one makes.
Furthermore, if one chooses to wait for the next best alternative instead of opting for the option currently in front of one, one runs the risk that the next option (should it be forthcoming of course), might not be to the same standard of the one given up!
Argued from that perspective, one is almost penned into a rather unappealing catch-22 situation.
This is all very well however one should also bear in mind the need to keep one’s choices in perspective. Essentially one’s existence in this life can be analysed in terms of the so called “Hierarchy of Needs,” as described by Maslow. 
The Primary Needs that must be fulfilled for existence as a human are first the Physiological Needs of food, water, sleep, etc. The second most important Needs, once the Primary Needs have been met, are the so called Safety Needs of security, health, a roof over one’s head etc.
If one is able to exercise reasonable choices to meet those two levels of needs (Primary and Safety), one can rest assured. Everything else above that, the Belonging, Esteem and Self-Actuation Needs are nothing more than superfluous and nice-to-haves.
In the light of this, perhaps the great King Solomon was right when he said that all is vanity and striving after wind and the same fate awaits us all. In a way, who can deny what he says as we try to hide from our mortality in the temporary pleasures of the flesh, in the endless cycle of eating, drinking, pursuing the opposite sex, grasping for vicarious glory in sport, and working for the legal tender? 
It almost puts things nicely in perspective. If your primary needs are met, count your blessings, hold your head up high and move on. Life might not be that bad after all. Happy New Year and all the best for 2014!
“The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon”, Edward Poynter, 1890 
1 – Maslow, A Motivation and personality. New York, NY: Harper, 1954
2 – Ron Wheeldon, Hunter’s Heaven, African Pilot, April 2004
Pope Francis’ nomination as the Time Person of the Year has underlined the attention to a man frequently in the news as of late. However it was not a result of an explosive act, as the runner up Edward Snowden did, that put him there. But rather, more as a result of his very modesty. As Nancy Gibbs of Time magazine so aptly put it, “Once there was a boy so meek and modest, he was awarded a Most Humble Badge. The next day, it was taken away because he wore it.”  Pope Francis is not that boy, and at the same time, exhibits that rare quality of being able to exercise humility from the most exalted throne on earth.
His first exhortation, the Evangelii Gaudium has been ground breaking in many ways. I would like to take this opportunity to share with the readers of this blog what a good friend of mine, Michael Moore, had to write on the topic.
“You could argue that he is Teddy Roosevelt protecting capitalism from its own excesses or he is simply saying what Popes before him have said, that Jesus calls us to care for the least among us – only he is saying it in a way that people seem to be hearing differently.”  Be that as it may, whatever your opinion of him is though, there can be no doubting that “at a time when the limits of leadership are being tested in so many places, along comes a man with no army or weapons, no kingdom beyond a tight fist of land in the middle of Rome but with the immense wealth and weight of history behind him, to throw down a challenge.” 
The question is, are you willing to respond? Enjoy the read:
POPE FRANCIS – WHY OUR ECONOMIC SYSTEM MATTERS (By Michael Moore)
Through Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis shows clarity of thought and practical leadership. Two themes of the Exhortation stand out. They are the de-emphasis of issues that divide us and the questioning of unrestricted free markets or trickle-down economics as our economic system is also known.
Issues like gay marriage and abortion are not ignored by the Pope. He describes how a throwaway culture has led many to act as though certain other people don’t exist. In doing so the Pope does not propose changing the teachings of the church. Rather he suggests that the church should be open to all. You can’t minister to people if you won’t let them into the church. And who follows an accuser instead of a giver of grace?
“Frequently we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators,” Pope Francis writes. “But the church is not a tollhouse; it is . . . a place for everyone, with all their problems.”
The Pope’s message is simple Christianity. Its clarity comes from its original content. Process reforms cannot be the centerpiece of any papacy. If one focusses only on process reforms one enters a blind alley. This can be seen in many contexts. Our daily experience shows how governments and companies are mired in a never ending loop of process reform. Many within such entities know what the problems are, yet they mistakenly think that some adjustment to ‘process’, or the addition of a new process, will solve the problems. Inevitably these measures fail and the problems continue. A fixation with process reform leads to decay and collapse.
Only a return to original human content moves civilization forward.
In questioning the wisdom of unrestricted free markets, Pope Francis gets to the core of the many problems we face in the world. He goes on to highlight the most important problem, the lack of work and jobs inherent in a trickle-down system:
Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, #53:
“Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless.”
Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, #54:
“In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralised workings of the prevailing economic system.”
Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, #56:
“While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control… In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which becomes the only rule.”
Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, #204:
“We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market.”
Simply put, when a person doesn’t have a job, their human capacity is restricted. They cannot express themselves because their ability to go beyond their own needs has been taken away.
The potential for good is always present in everyone but such potential has to be put to use or it will fade. Pope Francis sees how unrestricted financial speculation cuts off our potential Humanity by denying us the basic need of life; a decent job which brings food, shelter and the possibility of health and family.
To understand why Pope Francis has placed work and jobs at the center of the church, we need to know how damaging unrestricted free markets have become. Allow me to explain:
In 2008, the world’s financial system had a heart attack. To fix it many banks, companies, politicians and economists insist that only process reform is necessary. Around the world and for many years prior to 2008, the world and its markets have been deregulated. This “reform” meant taking away many of the controls and rules that prevented banks and other financial companies from betting on financial instruments called derivatives. These same banks and companies became extremely rich and powerful. It seemed that the more markets were left to themselves, the more money was made. Economists and politicians congratulated themselves and each other for they claimed that this benefited everyone across national boundaries. Yet the financial crash of 2008 proved that unrestricted markets make a terrible mess at a great cost. The approach taken since 2008 by most banks, companies, politicians and economists was to give trillions of dollars to the financial sector at zero percent interest. These ‘bailouts’ came from tax payer money. Tax payers, people, we, didn’t get bailouts. Instead we were told that it was our “reckless borrowing” and not the betting of the financial system that caused the crisis. We’re given zero percent interest when we borrow money from the banks.
As the financial crisis continues, more and more money is demanded from tax payers. This money is being used to fund the bailouts of the financial system. Our taxes are being increased as our nations bow to corporate interests. Our interests are being ignored. Politicians do not question trickle-down economics. Why would they? They sit in the bird bath as it trickles. Will we be satisfied with GDP ‘numbers’ that increase while real rates of employment and standards of living continue to decrease?
No, we cannot be satisfied with this situation.
Instead we must listen more closely to Pope Francis. If we begin to act on his views we embrace the original Catholic social content of the church. This content has been present in the church. Popes Leo XII, Pius XI, Pius XXI and John Paul II had called attention to it in the past. Yet their calls were muted as the time of their papacies drew focus elsewhere.
It is only through fighting injustice that we achieve and express our complete humanity. The most practical thing we can do to fight injustice is to give and to demand fair employment for our fellow human beings and for ourselves. If we can create employment through our actions we have done well for humanity. If we can reverse the unrestricted betting of the financial system then we have returned to original content.
 N Gibbs, The Choice, Time Magazine, 23 December 2013
 K Parker, The conscience of a Pope. Washington Post, 7 December 2013. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/kathleen-parker-the-conscience-of-a-pope/2013/12/06/f39f9d66-5ea7-11e3-95c2-13623eb2b0e1_story.html
“A recession is when you have to tighten your belt; depression is when you have no belt to tighten. When you’ve lost your trousers – you’re in the airline business.” – Sir Adam Thomson, Founder British Caledonian Airways
A dash of wit or an instance of profound foresight, make of it as you wish but although the late Sir Thomson uttered those words back in 1984, their relevance remains true today. Historically the airline business is one that has seen more than its fair share of bankruptcies, bailouts and buyouts over the years. The market environment is unpredictable, the competition cut throat and cost structures ridiculously burdensome. However despite all of this, commercial air travel has been around for around 100 years and it seems that in all probability, the airline industry will be here to stay, in one form or another, far into to the foreseeable future. The question is though; in what form will commercial air travel continue to exist? Below follows an extract from a recent dissertation I wrote on the matter:
“I think historically, the airline business has not been run as a real business. That is, a business designed to achieve a return on capital that is then passed on to shareholders. It has historically been run as an extremely elaborate version of a model railroad, that is, one in which you try to make enough money to buy more equipment.” — Michael Levine, Executive VP Northwest Airlines, 1996.
According to a June 2013 press release by IATA, the International Air Transport Association, the return on capital in the airline industry for the 2004 – 2011 period is around 4.1%. Although an improvement over the previous period assessed from 1996 – 2004 of 3.8%, this is a rather poor return when compared to investing assets of similar risk in other industries. 7.5% being the average return on capital that investors would expect. (IATA 2013) Thus from a shareholder’s perspective, Mr Levine is quite correct in his assessment.
However, despite the industry’s poor return on capital, one area where the industry has created enormous value is in lowering the cost of air travel for passengers. Over the past 40 years, IATA reports that the cost of air transportation has more than halved. (IATA 2013) This was obtained as a direct result of better fuel efficiency on the part of aircraft and engine manufacturers as well as more streamlined utilisation of assets and infrastructure on the part of airlines. This is thanks no doubt in recent years to the emergence of LCCs.
Up until the early 1990s, Western Europe was the sole domain of the state-owned full service network carrier. A moderately growing market with an established status quo governing which airlines served which markets was the order of the day. The fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of protectionism and the opening up of the Western European market heralded an era of uncertainty for the originally dominant market players.
The appearance of Ryanair and then easyJet were a shock to the establishment with their cut-price policies, rapid expansion rates and unique value propositions. While their flamboyant CEOs snapped up the public lime-light with at times rather controversial proposals, to the average man in the street, it was now possible to book ridiculously low priced tickets for previously unheard of weekends away to exciting destinations such as Barcelona, Dublin or the Greek island of Pathos. Businesses started to send their managers on low cost airlines too for their meetings all over Europe, horrified by the fact that the Full Service Network Carriers might be over-charging them. Air travel in Western Europe had changed forever.
The Full Service Network Carriers, in response to this maddening competition shed jobs, dropped routes and went to great length to lower costs in general. In this cut throat environment some airlines were bailed out by their government shareholders while others listed on stock exchanges to get access to much needed capital. Many airlines merged or joined alliances while the rest, unable to compete any longer, simply closed down never to fly again.
Essentially two questions need to be asked:
- Low cost airlines, is their approach set to become the dominant business model of the aviation industry?
- Do Full Service Network Carriers need to adapt themselves more along the lines of Low Cost Carriers in order to remain competitive?
Addressing the first question, low cost airlines have a place in the future of aviation in Western Europe. They offer a service that adds value to certain passenger segments and, as long as they are able to keep growing, deliver reasonable value to shareholders too.
The key question for LCCs is growth. The onset of legacy costs and the general saturation of the Western European market at present will mean that the current dominant LCCs will be forced to look beyond their traditional airspace and start considering offering more flights to North Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. The possibility of long haul flights should not be ruled out either. What could also be of use in capturing more passengers from the traditional long haul Full Service Network Carriers is for LCCs to consider providing through-baggage-check-in to enable passengers booked on a regional LCC flight to then plug into a full service carrier long haul flight. This move however, might be opposed by Full Service Network Carriers, unless the LCC forms part of that airline’s group of companies. (As is the case of Germanwings with Lufthansa and Vueling with Iberia and British Airways)
Regarding the second question, Full Service Network Carriers on the other hand have already changed their business models substantially to meet the LCC threat. In flight services in economy class are progressively more threadbare. Seating is tighter in an effort to squeeze in more passengers and the check-in process is starting to resemble that of the LCC online check-in systems.
It is only on long haul flights that the traditional Full Service Network Carriers are able to make money. This represents a defendable niche for their operations as the LCCs, at least in Western Europe, have deliberately avoided taking the Full Service Network Carriers on in this game.
Clearly both business models have changed over the years and unsurprisingly, in some aspects of the product offering, both models appear to be moving towards each other. The diagrams in Annexure 4 provide a nice illustration of this trend. The interesting thing is LCCs are becoming more like Full Service Network Carriers. As stated in a report by Sabre Airline Solutions, “This is mainly because price, although it is still a key competitive factor, it is no longer the only driver of their business strategy. LCCS are now starting to explore other areas such as multi-channel strategies” as a way of increasing revenues. (Sabre Report, 2013)
The logical end of the trend is the emergence of more hybrid-type carriers taking place. This will occur from both ends of the operating model spectrum – the LCCs by increasing their product offerings and the Full Service Network Carriers starting to provide more LCC services on short and medium haul routes.
This is the situation in Western Europe in general. There is one country though that stubbornly seems to be marching to a different beat in the face of the onslaught of the LCCs in recent years. That country is France. No more is the historical “French Exception” more apparent than in the aviation industry. France has the lowest number of LCC departures than any other country in Western Europe. The reason for this is twofold.
Firstly the stranglehold that Air France holds over the French market and secondly, more than ever, because of the prevalence of an extremely effective high speed train network within the country.
Regina Clewlow, an expert on Engineering Systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in her paper, The Impact of High-speed Rail and Low-Cost Carriers on European Air Passenger Traffic, “the improvement of rail travel times was found to be a significant factor in reducing short-haul air traffic in Europe. Furthermore, analysis of demand at the airport level revealed that the presence of high-speed rail contributed to lower domestic air passenger traffic.” (Clewlow, 2013)
She then goes on to say, “While the introduction of high-speed rail has played a significant role reducing domestic air travel in Europe, over the same time period low-cost carriers have had a more significant influence increasing air travel, through primarily medium-haul, intra-EU rights. Considering both trends, the result has been a significant net gain in the total passenger-kilometres travelled in Western Europe.” (Clewlow, 2013) As new high speed rail networks continue to be built around Europe, domestic short-haul air travel traffic in the continent will come under more pressure.
Passengers will continue to benefit while the airline companies themselves will continue to suffer. As Warren Buffet in his 2008, annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders said, “The worst sort of business is one that grows rapidly, requires significant capital to engender the growth, and then earns little or no money. Think airlines. Here a durable competitive advantage has proven elusive ever since the days of the Wright Brothers. Indeed, if a farsighted capitalist had been present at Kitty Hawk, he would have done his successors a huge favour by shooting Orville down.”
Otto von Bismarck once said that “an appeal to fear never finds an echo in German hearts.” No more is this true than the economic powerhouse that Germany has developed into today. Having courageously risen phoenix-like out of the ashes of destruction from Second World War, the German industrial engine at the heart of Europe now plays a pivotal role in the EU and is a reference point for all those seeking an example of design, manufacturing and administrative excellence.
A few weeks ago I was privileged enough to attend a study tour with the MIB School of Management to the southern heartland of Germany – the mighty province of Bavaria. Never having been to Germany before, I was quite literally, bowled over. Allow me to cite two incredible examples of the trip that help illustrate my opinion:
Of those passengers who have ever travelled through Munich Airport recently, many an eye-brow has been raised as to how quickly they are able to transfer from one flight to the next, while having a most pleasurable experience, and almost every time, their luggage follows them on to their final destination too! It may sound banal, but Munich Airport has worked this down to a fine and extremely efficient art.
As explained by Mr Wolfgan Martini, Deputy Head of Customer Services at Munich Airport, it is all about managing the airport as more than just a simple airport. It is about the seamless integration of international best practice – by being constantly aware of the latest developments in the industry, innovation, sustainability and attractiveness. Coupled with a determination to constantly strive to be the best airport in Europe, substantial support from all stakeholders and you have a winning formula for success.
The story of Munich Airport has been the constant evolution of the airport from a basic city-airport into a fully-fledged airport-city. In other words, more than just offering aviation related services such as flight handling facilities and passenger transfer terminals, an added emphasis has been placed on transforming the airport into a multi-function office and communication service centre so as to provide real value on multiple levels to a wide variety of potential users. Supporting this are extensive retail, dining, beauty and wellness services and last but not least is the use of the extensive airport facilities as a venue for events such as indoor surfing, polo tournaments, concerts and public viewing. All this creates not only value for the airport traveller but also provides an attraction for people living in Munich and its surrounding areas to visit the airport more often and to view the establishment as an integral part of social fabric of Bavaria.
One should bear in mind though that a fundamental pillar to any organisation which is determined to make a positive impact on society is growth. Without growth, all well wishes to sustainability, efficiency and being the number one airport in Europe is all pie-in-the-sky. Munich Airport plans to maintain its current passenger growth rate at a constant 6% while its cargo facility it will ramp up to 8% year on year till 2025. All of this is possible as a result of two major expansion projects – the construction of a new passenger island-terminal which will provide capacity for another 11 million passengers per annum and the addition of a third runway which will enable the airport to handle 120 aircraft movements per hour. A significant increase by any standard!
Last but not least is the special relationship that Munich Airport enjoys with Lufthansa, the German National Airline. As mentioned by Christoph Titze, Lufthansa Director of Passenger Services at Munich Airport, key to the success of the Munich Hub was Lufthansa’s decision to permanently base a significant portion of their fleet there and operate this detachment as an independent-like sub airline.
The majority of the Lufthansa fleet based in Munich is standardised around the Airbus model-range. This enables the use of only one type of aircraft-rated pilots and simplifies training and maintenance procedures, all resulting in significant cost savings. Furthermore, the use of code-sharing arrangements with the many Star Alliance partners who have been enticed to fly to Munich too, enable the airlines to more efficiently benefit from each other’s unique route offerings.
As a compliment to the efficient and pleasing Munich Airport environment, Lufthansa has also gone to great lengths to improve their own service offering. This is evident through the Lufthansa Service Excellence program which focuses on the following 5 points:
- We take care of you personally
- We respect your status and culture
- We ensure safety you can feel
- We show professionalism in appearance and performance
- We have an eye for details
This and special services for First and Business Class passengers such as curb-side check in services and limousine services, for regular passengers a self-check in facility and an internet notification system updating all passengers on the status of their flight (if it is delays or on schedule) all help guarantee a high level of customer satisfaction and all while leveraging off the benefits Munich Airport has to offer passengers too.
It is not just about the joining of synergies of two companies at the end of the day that has ensured the operations taking place at Munich Airport are a model for all to follow in the aviation industry. It is also about the Germanic desire for efficiency, order and the unrelenting quest to develop the German economy, in all respects.
Munich Airport and Lufthansa have helped to a significant extent in reinforcing the idea of a Germany at the heart of Europe. Or is it though a Germany that is in intent on controlling Europe by being the central pivot of the European continent? The latter is perhaps a topic of another essay but from whichever perspective you look at it, the German economic miracle, and the lessons one can learn from it, in today’s globalised world simply cannot be ignored.
(Picture source: http://www.airportsinternational.com)
Can lessons learned in one industry can assist another industry? It seems so. Keeping with the theme of Open Innovation started in my previous post, I will now explore an example of perhaps one of the most fascinating examples of recombinant innovation. That is the application of Formula One pit stop disciplines to the hand over procedures of intensive care hospital patients during critical and complex surgery. Hard to believe? Well then read on to find out more!
It all started when surgeons at a childrens hospital in London became aware of the similarities between the handover disciplines from the operation theater after a complex heart surgery to the intensive care ward and what they noticed in the pit-stop of a Formula One team during race day. 
During the surgical hand over procedure, a bewildering array of technology and support equipment (ventilation, 2-4 monitoring lines, multiple inotropes and vasodilators) is transferred twice, all above the young patient’s head. First from the theater systems to portable equipment, and then from the portable equipment to the intensive care systems and it must all be accomplished within 15 minutes. In addition to this a further difficulty arises from the fact that the theater team during the course of the operation have acquired intimate knowledge of the patient while the intensive care team knows nothing about the patient at the time of transfer. All this information needs to be passed over seamlessly to ensure proper care can be provided to the vulnerable patient. It is this combination of complex, time critical tasks that make this process extremely susceptible to error at a time when the patient is at their most vulnerable. 
A Formula 1 pit-stop has been viewed by many experts as an ideal example of how a multi-professional team cooperates as a single unit to effectively and efficiently perform a complex task under extreme time pressure. During the approximately 7 second pit-stop, the crew have to change four tyres, refuel the car and if required, make a number of small adjustments to the set-up of the vehicle.
The similarities between the stresses and objectives of the two scenarios are evident. Not only are there requirements for teamwork and safety but also for split second coordination under decisive leadership and direction for all team members should something go wrong.
By working together with the pit crew of the Ferrari Formula One team and their Race Technical Director Nigel Stepney and applying the established procedures from Formula One, the hospital surgeons were able to significantly improve the hand-over procedure and dramatically reduce the number of information omissions and technical errors.
Below is a diagrammatic comparison between a Formula One pit stop and Open Heart Surgery team member positions. As can be appreciated, the implementation of the Formula One Approach was a resounding success resulting in many young lives being saved.
Who knows in how many other industries there are examples to learned from and applied in many completely different situations? One thing is for certain though, we are just beginning to scratch the surface of the potential that Recombinant Innovation has to offer.
2 – Patient handover from surgery to intensive care: using Formula 1 pit-stop and aviation models to improve safety and quality – KEN R. CATCHPOLE PhD, MARC R. DE LEVAL MD, ANGUS MCEWAN FRCA, NICK PIGOTT FRCPCH§, MARTIN J. ELLIOTT MD, FRCS–, ANNETTE MCQUILLAN BSC, CAROL MACDONALD BSC AND ALLAN J . GOLDMAN – Paediatric Anaesthesia 2007 17: 470–478