Books, learning & JSB

I finished the last entry recommending some books. Books are good. Books give you ideas. Books tell you what other do. Books contain analysis.

Books reading a book isn’t learning. Only if you act on the information in the book have you learnt anything, otherwise, well, you may have memorised a fact or two, or maybe it was just a hypothesis, or someone’s opinion. So, all those books I recommended last time on change, well, unless you internalise what they say and change yourself there is no real difference.

And the problem with books is, its too easy to read and read and read and not do. I’m guilty of this too… if I just read one more book I’ll know the answer…. if I just read that book everything will be explained…. and so on, yes I’ve done it. I’ve read when I should have been acting. Conversely, I’ve also acted when I should have read first.

(That is one of the things to remember if you ever think about doing an MBA. There is no “secret information” that an MBA will teach you. Of course, lots of people like to tell you that if you have a Harvard MBA, or a Kellogg MBA, or even a Nottingham MBA, then you will have the “secret information” which automatically entitles you to membership of the McKinsey club, or the CFO club – or what ever club it is you want to join.)

The book I’m reading at the moment is co-authored by one of my favourite business writers: John Seely Brown (or JSB for short). I mentioned this book the other week after I read the FT review of it, it is: “The Only Sustainable Advantage” by JSB and John Hagel.

Yes, I took a diversion between the review and this book to read another JSB book but that was my accident, I found it while I was trying to buy this one. The two books demonstrate something I’ve noticed with JSB’s work, he’s a bit inconsistent. Most of his stuff is really good and well worth reading, but then, once in a while, he produces something that is just not up to the same standard.

“Only Sustainable Advantage” is one of his lesser works. It has some good ideas, and some good research, and I couldn’t agree more with his main argument but in other places I find inconsistency or faulty assumptions.

If you want the good news, hang on, I’ll tell you in the next blog entry. For now I want to talk about something I think he’s got wrong. In chapter 3vthey argue that firms must choose to specialise, they must choose to be either: an Infrastructure management business, or Product innovation and commercialization company, or a customer relationship business.

OK, I can see some logic here, this sounds reasonable. And it you remember that other parts of the book talk about outsourcing and offshoring (more on that another day) then it fits in with the argument.

But hang on: what business ever survived without customers? Surely every business needs to specialise in customer relationships? Yes, some might be better at selling than other, some may even specialise in things like market research, but every (good) business needs to have a strong customer relationship function.

Later in the same chapter they site the example of American OEM (original equipment manufacturers) computer manufactures. These are the guys who badge equipment made by others. They got to be “badge engineers” because the outsourced their manufacturing to EMS (electronic manufacturing services) companies.

Over time OEMs also decided to outsource their equipment design – this time to ODMs (original design manufacturers.) Now at this point we have the 3-way split they described: OEMs look at customers, while ODMs focus on product and EMS manufacture them. But…

The authors go on to tell how ODMs flourished because they combined design with manufacture. So some of them are now doing product and manufacturing?

One of the examples cited in BenQ a Taiwanese firm that until a few weeks ago wasn’t very well know. It was an ODM, and later an EMS too. The reason you may have heard of them recently is that they bought Siemens mobile handset division. They’ve added OEM to their range. Surely, if we believe JSB & Hagel they are doing the opposite of what they should be doing.

So, why did BenQ buy Siemens? I don’t know, I’d have to ask BenQ executives but I can make some guesses: they want to get closer to customers, they wanted to own the brand, they wanted to take more of the total profit.

The brand owner is in a position to squeeze their suppliers and steal their profits because they own the customer relationship. And because they are close to the customer they know (or at least should know) what it is the customer wants.

Where does this leave the 3-way split described by JSB and Hagel? Well, I think it could work, for some companies, at some times it may make sense. But business is dynamic so while this formula may work for a while it won’t work forever.

The other use of the 3-way split is as a model to compare yourself to. What if your organization was to concentrate on one of these three? What would it look like? What would you change? How would it improve profitability?

Next time I promise to write on what JSB has got right in this book, and I may even fill you in on their thoughts on offshoring – they raise some interesting points.

Anyway, it must be a good book, it made me think!

More change

I’ve had my first comment on my Blog – bit of a thrill, it means someone is reading me! (Actually, this is not my first comment, my old friend Dave made a comment earlier-on of the “here you are kind” but this is my first serious comment.)

Over the years I’ve had comments from time about my writing in Overload and before that I used to get actual letters about my contributions to BBC Telesoftware, each time it says “your doing something right – somebody noticed it.”

And here in lies another important lesson for anyone involved in change. Tell people! Give them feedback, let them know there on the right road. When you try and do something new for the first time – or even the second – your not sure what your doing. You have doubts – “am I doing it right?” you think, “is it good enough?” and other such similar comments. How do you know unless someone tells you?

So, when your introducing new ideas and change remember to tell people when they are getting it right, and when they are not… that’s more difficult, you need to let them know without activating their defences.

Now I should point out that I’m not an expert in change. Sure I’ve introduced some change into organizations, and I’ve even helped one or two people change, and I may have read a lot about it but that doesn’t make me an expert.

In fact, I’m not sure who is an expert.

An academic might consider himself or herself an expert in the theory of change but what about the practice?

A management consultant may think of himself or herself as an expert, they go from company to company introducing change. But true change is change that sticks, how often do consultants leave and things go back to the way they where? Or even worse, the consultants go and things fall apart. Consultants don’t live with their changes so they don’t know the full story.

I don’t know who the experts are but I know that anyone with some responsibility needs to know a bit about change. So, I thought I’d recommend some reading.

First is the book always recommend when this subject comes up; “Fearless Change” (Manns and Rising, 2004). This is a book of short pattern for introducing change.

Second is a favourite of mine, “The Fifth Discipline: the art and practice of a learning organization” (Senge, 1990). OK, so there is no change in the title but it is about learning and as I’ve said before true learning requires change and vice versa.

Third, well this is a cheat, I keep running across the Satir change model – type that into Google and take your pick of the references. Its a cheat because I’ve not actually read a book dedicated to this subject but I should.

Finally, “Making Sense of Change Management” (Cameron and Green, 2005). This book is a bit dry, a bit an academic textbook but it will get you familiar with several of the “change models” and alert you to some of the issues involved.

But in a way, all these books are theoretical. Unless you live the change, unless you are there acting with it you don’t understand it. Models are just that, a model, an abstraction, they don’t tell you what to do. At the end of the day you have to find your own solution.

Sure these books might give you a few new options but you have to be able to act on them. That is a very human thing and what works for someone else may not work for you.

As for me, well, I’ll keep writing my blog and living my changes so I’ll keep commenting on them. And in so doing I’ll be telling you stories, I hope you find them interesting and maybe even useful.

Cameron, E. and Green, M. 2005 Making Sense of Change Management, Kogan Page, London.

Manns, M. K. and Rising, L. 2004 Fear Less – And Other Patterns for Introducing New Ideas into Organizations, Addison-Wesley,,

Senge, P. 1990 The Fifth Discipline, Random House Books.

Patterns and story telling

As I said last time I’ve been flying a lot, and that’s given me time to read. The book that I’ve been reading most is “Story Telling in Organizations: Why Storytelling is transforming 21st century organizations and management” by Larry Prusak, John Seely Brown, Stephen Denning and Katalina Groh.

Prusak is best know for his work on Knowledge Management and this is how he came to story telling. I’ve been reading John Seely Brown for a few years now and I highly recommend any of his writing. Stephen Denning I came across a couple of years ago in his “The Springboard” which is also about story telling in organizations. Katalina Groh is a film market who is new to me.

So, picking up from where I left off last time, according to Larry Prusak, story telling is what Louis Gerstner did when he took over IBM, Prusak goes on to suggests that this is what many leader actually do. They tells stories: how the company has failed, how they are going to fix it, what the new company will look like.

Go back to what I said last time about moving house and the need to take uncertainty out of the future. We don’t really want to move house, we like it where we are, only when we can see the story of our new lives, in our new house does the future look less scary. Only then can we start to think about letting go of our past.

Groh makes this point, how we need to let go of our past, let go of control so we can experience the future. Its something I’ve written about before (see the Need to Unlearn) but Groh weaves it in with story telling.

Now to pick up one of my regular themes: Patterns.

I think there is a link between Patterns (Alexander, Coplien, Vlissides, PLoPs, etc.) and stories. I’ve been pointing this out to anyone who will listen for a while now, and I’ve been basing this on what Denning wrote in “The Springboard” but having read “Storytelling in Organizations” I’m more convinced than every.

I intend to write more about his in future – probably in the prelude to some pattern paper, most likely for EuroPLoP 2006 but I’ll preview my reasoning here.

Patterns are really stories. If you look at the work of Alexander, Rising and even my own recent stuff you find that the patterns start with a short example – actually a story. This serves to set the scene. Prepares the reader. Then the pattern goes on to explore this subject more completely, analysing it, extracting the forces and context, describing the problem and how it was solved. Then they describe what happened afterward, maybe by revisiting the story or by telling some more.

My patterns still have an explicit formalism. As much as I’d like you to be able to read them without the section signposts I’m not a good enough writer. Also, I like the way the section heading tell you what the pattern is doing. Alexander, Rising and others are more experienced writers who write in a more prose like style.
If you read the work of Dick Gabriel he talks of patterns and poetry – poetry is just special form of story telling.

Both Patterns and Stories are about communicating knowledge. They communicate not just information but the context in which it was used and the action that took place around it. Anyone familiar with my writings and presentations knows I think knowledge must involve action. In the case of stories and patterns there is action embedded. Neither of them is happy to say “75% of successful companies segment their market” but both of them would say “By segmenting their market SuperShopper was able to better serve their cost conscious customers and quality conscious customers” – and both add that research shows this is common for 75% of all firms as an after thought.

Both Patterns and Stories are about change. Patterns show how forces are resolved and brought into balance, stories show how a problem was overcome

In both mediums less is more, there is a value to brevity. This allows the message to be communicated quickly and for the reader to see themselves in the story. OK, for patterns I’m going out on a limb a bit by saying this. Many people want patterns to include all the relevant information but I increasingly think brevity is an asset.
Good patterns and good stories pull the reader in, the reader can imagine themselves there. That’s why good patterns aren’t news, they name and explore something you already know.

Both are rooted in practice. John Seely-Brown and Stephen Denning make this point and it is critical to pattern writing where the “rule of three examples” is used a test. As such both are less concerned with original ideas and more concerned with what people do.

Good stories should stimulate your own thought processes and stories. In this way the story and the pattern are part of a gift culture. This is obvious to anyone who has ever taken part in a PLoP conference.

Something else which is less obvious. Patterns are of the greatest benefit to the writer. I’ve only come to realise this recently but my friend Klaus Marquardt tells me he’s been arguing this for a while so I’ve probably picked it up from him.

How does this fit with stories? Several of the writers in this book make the point that the most effective stories are the ones which connect with the listener. The listener can associate with the story and see themselves there; perhaps the story connects with something that happened to them or their family, perhaps the story tells them about something they would like to happy, perhaphs it describes their house, their software or their company.

This is why less is more. Too much detail in a story – or a pattern – makes it too specific. It ceases to be a story or a pattern and instead becomes a description of something that happened. Put it another way: it becomes just information “We went there, took a left, went there, drove a few miles” and in so doing looses the capacity to communicate actions.

Now one place where maybe the story and the pattern parallel fails is the element of story telling. Stephen Denning makes the point that it is the telling of the story that makes it powerful, not the content. I’ve yet to work out where this fits in with patterns but one explanation is that patterns are too focused on the story not the telling. And that might be why so few people actually read and use patterns.

As I say, don’t take that as truth, I’m still thinking that one through.

Bottom line: I’m increasingly conviced patterns are a form of story telling, the authors of this new books would learn a lot from getting to know the patterns community.

Travelling, houses and Change

In this weeks blog: business travel, selling and buying houses and insights into change. So on with the show…

No blog entry for a little while because I’ve been travelling – business travelling, not in business class you understand (although thank you British Airways for the upgrades to Economy+) but travelling for business. Now I don’t want to turn into one of those people who is always talking about frequent flyer miles, and comparing airports – heaven forbid I start to sound like Tyler Brule (FT columnist and Wallpaper editor) but I thought I would explain the absence of a blog.

Actually, one of the nice things about flying (or other travelling) is that you do get some time to catch up on reading and even writing – albeit at the expense of sleep. So, this is the first blog entry I’ve ever written while sitting in the back of an Airbus.

Unfortunately this travelling has all happened at a bad time. I’ve been saying for years that I would like to do a little bit more business travel but I expected the fun would ware off very quickly. Well, I’ve been proved right, this is my fourth flight in 8 days (including two across the Atlantic) and there are another three in the next two days. The fun has gone very quickly.

Its come at a bad time for another reason too. We’re in the process of trying to move house. Suddenly, the time I should be spending looking at houses and discussing financial options has gone. Which all adds to the stress of selling my flat and finding a house.

Selling my flat is a pretty sad emotional process. I’ve had it over 8 years now and my girlfriend has been living there with me for nearly 2 years. I don’t want to leave. I love the place, I’ve made it my own, made it my home. She’s pretty attached to the place too.

Knowing we needed somewhere bigger was part of the story. Knowing our future life together demanded somewhere else was part too. But trying to just give up something we both love was hard.

Then we started to look at other places. And as it happened we liked the first place we saw. I think we’ll buy it but don’t count your chickens yet. Now we’ve seen a few places, and we’ve talked about how we would make them our attitude has changed.

Selling my place is still sad, and its still a wrench, but now we have a future. We have something to look forward to. Something to pull us.

So here is the insight into change – whether it be personal or corporate…

Change mean giving things up. This is hard, if you like something, if you are familiar with something it is hard to imagine life without it, it is hard to imagine a new life. And of course, there is a whole load of uncertainty – what does the future hold? You know what is what before the change, what will it be like afterward? Is this as good as it gets? Is everything else inferior?

But, when you have a future to look forward to, when some of the uncertainty is removed, when you can start to imagine a better life, well, everything becomes easier.

Its not enough to ask people to give something up, you need to offer them a better future. That is my insight for the week.

How do you offer someone a better future? Well, you can start by telling stories. More on that next time.

So, I became a product manager.

It happened in an unexpected way – I won’t go into the details but about 6-8 weeks ago I had an opportunity to move from the development side of things to the product side of things.

Has taken me a while to get my head around it all – I still am in fact. I spoke to a couple of the product managers here to get a better idea of what I should be doing but it wasn’t until I spoke to my long time friend Richard Hall that I really made progress on understanding what I was doing.

Richard’s been a Product Manager for many years, when I decided to do an MBA a couple of years he said:
“You’ll become a Product Manager, all MBAs become Product Manager!”
And I said:
“No I won’t! I’ll still be a developer.”

Well, I got my MBA and I stayed a developer. Now he’s been proved right, for a while I didn’t want to admit it to him – silly of me I know. I spoke to him at the weekend and yes he laughed when I reminded him what he said – note, I had to remind him, he’d forgotten.

I picked his brains a bit and I got some good information. In particular he pointed me at the Silicon Valley Product Group ( They have some really good papers on their website, I recommend them to any new (or existing) PMs.

And this reminded me of something else. When I went to Silicon Valley I discovered all these Product Managers. Not marketing people, but people concerned with what should be in the product.

In the UK you never meet a Product Manager. You meet lots of “Business Analysts” but they aren’t the same. Over time I came to appreciate their role and I saw that the existence of this role, and good people to fill it, was one of the differentiating factors in the Valley.

Now I’m working for a company in London which is doing well, and guess what? Unlike most British companies they actually have Product Managers. Actually, Richard is back in the UK too and is a Product Manager for another successful British technology company. So maybe the idea is spreading.

I think I’m going to like being a Product Manager.

Blog at 2 months, the National Theatre and food

I’ve been writing this blog now for nearly 2 months. It doesn’t feel like it but I have. It still feels new. I guess that’s because I haven’t written very many entries. I suppose I started with a feeling that a blog should be updated every few days and well, it just doesn’t work like that!

I have lots of ideas for blog entries but just finding the 30 minutes or so to write them up can be difficult. It hasn’t helped that during these last two months I’ve had to do final preparation for EuroPLoP (preparing my paper, shepherding), being shepherded for VikingPLoP, finalising my chapter in the PLoPD5 book (due at the end of 2005 or start of 2006 I’m told), co-ordinating work on the ACCU website and holding down a full time job!

Luckily my girlfriend likes me being active like this but I’m sure she’d like me to spend a little more time with her 🙂

Personally I like being busy, I can’t imagine it any other way but it does tax you, and its is stressful keeping all the commitments you make to people. The only way is to constantly try to reduce them – still the list grows.

The other thing I always want to do more of is culture: theatre, opera, ballet, art galleries, music and so on.

For some reason the Proms programme has been difficult to get hold of this year so the season has started and I’ve hardly got any booked.

With all this in mind it was especially nice to go to the National Theatre last night for “The UN Inspector” – a “free” interpretation of Gogol’s “The Government Inspector” by David Farr.

It was a good play, it had some not so good reviews when it opened a few months ago and I can see what some of the critics where saying but like most plays the first few nights are not the best, I guess it has changed a little and tightened up a bit. If you get the chance go and see it, it is very enjoyable.

Its a while since I’ve been to the National and in that time the Royal Festival Hall has closed for refurbishment. Which means one of my favourite restaurants in London is no more. I hope People’s Palace will return in time but until then I need to find somewhere else.

Now, it might be that my memory is faulty but I don’t recall the National Theatre being a place for restaurants but it now has three. Or rather, one cafeteria and two restaurants.

We went to the Terrace Cafe last night. The weather was OK but not great so we where inside not on the Terrace. What is obvious is that this Cafe has been squeezed into a bit of surplus space. This could mean something pretty awful but it isn’t, it was actually very enjoyable and hit the spot.

The secret is that the designers of this Cafe have integrated the food, service and space. The product offering (to use a marketing term) is tailored to the space and confines. So, there is no starter menu but a salad bar is included. The main courses are stock items (beef, duck, salmon fish cakes) but are prepared well, simple but tasty. The price doesn’t break the bank and the service is great – they know everyone there is going to the theatre so you don’t have to wait long for a waiter and the bill arrives ASAP.

If you want a lesson on how to integrate your service offering with your operational constraint go and have a meal at this restaurant and look at how it works.

And if your going to the National Theatre and want a not-too fancy pre-theatre meal you could do a lot worse than try here.

By now you can see my problem. Even when I’m not working my mind is racing.

The opposite effect

Sometime you do something and it has the opposite effect of what you intended. This is a problem at the best of times, and its a problem when your dealing with change.

Maybe you want someone to do something. But actually asking them to do it can bring about a defensive reaction. For example, someone changes to a new role in your organisation. They start working with different people, it makes sense for them to move desks, they may even know it. But when someone suggests they move desks they ask “why should I?”

This happened to a friend of mine recently. He’s not really been seeing eye-to-eye with his manager for a while. He’s got a new role in the company, a role he’s actually quiet glad to have taken on – and a new manager too. Yet he had a feeling he’d been shunted out of his old role, that the old manager didn’t want him there.

And this kind of manifested itself with his desk. He knew he should move desks but it wasn’t clear where he should sit, nor was it ever the right time, and in truth moving desks signalled an identity change, a move away from one team. Yet every time his former manager mentioned moving desks he felt less included to. Every time it was mentioned he was reminded of this feeling of being pushed out of his old department.

So, actually by mentioning the change it became less likely because he became defensive. This was minor for my friend and his desk but think about an organisation undergoing radical change. People can feel unwanted, threatened and scared.

To finish the story, my friend recognised this within himself and realised the managers requests where the reason he was not doing what he himself thought was the right thing. Finally he moved desks because he knew it was right and was just not moving because of the requests to move desks.

Return from EuroPLoP 2005

I’ve just returned from the EuroPLoP conference in Germany. For those who’ve never been to a PLoP conference you don’t know what your missing – get along now!

Anyone will do – except for the fact that I hear the original PLoP (outside of Chicago) has changed its atmosphere in the last couple of years so maybe that is not a first choice. VikingPLoP is a great little conference but it is small. Still EuroPLoP isn’t that big, about 45 people this year, much less than the 65 when I first went in 2003.

I return from EuroPLoP as usual, exhausted physically (too much beer, too many late nights) and mentally (so much to think about, so much to read, so many good conversations) but also inspired and ready to move on to the next year.

(Unfortunately while I was at EuroPLoP some bombs exploded in London – you’ve probably heard about this already. London is my home town, I was born close to Liverpool but I now consider London home. It feels like someone has attacked a member of my family. Still, I didn’t let it ruin my conference too.)

A few things deserve mention here.

First, much to my surprise, I was award the 2005 Neil Harrison Shepherding Award. This is a great honour for me, although I feel “I’m not worthy”. I look at the names on the Staff and they include great people: Norm Kerth, Joe Bergin, James Noble and Frank Buschmann. Thank you to the programme committee, I am honoured.

Second: I ran a long focus group (5 hours over 2 days) with Lise Hvatum on the subject of Conway’s Law. This was a fascinating exercise that opened up all kinds of ideas and insights. We learned too much to write it all here. We will be writing a report for the conference proceedings in the near future. For now lets just say Conway’s Law isn’t necessarily a Law.

Next: there where several analysis patterns at the conference, including a couple in my workshop. Didi Schutz asked me: “Are Analysis Patterns really Patterns?” I think we all tend to accept Analysis Patterns as Patterns but I’m no longer sure they are Patterns.

A pattern should tell me what to build, it should tell me how to go about building it, the pattern is named after what you build. The activity of Analysis is not about building, it is about understanding, decomposing and deconstructing. Therefore, how can you have a pattern about this?

Because patterns are about building they are about synthesis. Obviously, analysis is not synthesis. In fact, I’m in very close to revisiting Henry Mintzberg’s argument about strategic planning. (I recommend The Rise and Fall of Strategy Planning for more detail.)

Finally: I’m conscious that there is much pattern lore that is handed down by word-of-mouth, and in a somewhat random fashion. If you have the right conversation you will learn about “the but form of forces” but if your unlucky nobody will tell you about the “noun phrase” rule for pattern naming. At a time when individual patterns are becoming less important and pattern sequences more so I feel there is a need to get this information to new pattern writers.

Writing a pattern should not be hard. You should not require years of learning. Patterns are usually written by domain experts, if you need to be an expert pattern writer too then we are going to loose a lot of opportunities for patterns.

I could write more but I’m going to draw the line there for today.

Getting ready for EuroPLoP

Well it is time of year again. On Wednesday I’m off on my annual pilgrimage to Munich – or rather a town about 80km West of Munich, all I’ll see of Munich is the airport.

It is the annual European Patterns Language Conference – otherwise known as EuroPLoP. The original PLoP conference still happens outside Chicago in September every year, and yes the name is deliberate – Pattern Languages of Programming but they chose something that sounded a little funny, thus “Plop.”

This is the third year I’ve been to EuroPLoP and it is going to be my busiest. As well as having my own paper work shopped I’ll be the work shop leader for my group, plus I’m co-leading a focus group on “Conways Law” with Lise Hvatum, and if that weren’t enough I’m shepherding a paper face-to-face.

Although EuroPLoP takes place in a conference retreat (formally a monestry, they kept the brewery and all drink is free) the energy levels are outstanding. Mentally I’m going to be challenged, emotionally I’ll learn to trust a whole bunch of people – most of whom I’ve never met before and physically I’ll be exhausted.

The focus group might be the most exciting bit of the conference. I’m expecting to learn a lot. However, as I’m the facilitator I’ll have to keep on my toes – a great challenge. Already this session has created a lot of interest.

I’m looking forward to shepherding a paper face-to-face. As a shepherd it is my job to help the authors make their paper better. Its a kind of coaching role, it is still their paper I just give them advice and help them improve it. The real trick is to help them make the discoveries themselves. The authors know the patterns best, my job is to help them with the “pattern” bit in such a way that they tease out a better pattern.

As to my own patterns, well, they have nothing to do with programming any more. My early pattern(s) did but the ones I’ve written for the last couple of years are focused on business issues. I’m trying to establish the pattern form as a useful tool in the business domain.

I really think patterns have a place in business education. So much of what I learn on my MBA could (should?) be expressed would patterns. That should make things a little easier to understand.

Anyway, enough for now, I have to pack…


No entries for a week – a bit of a gap by my own standards. I’ve been on holiday (vacation to US-English speakers). Went down to Switzerland for a week. We relaxed, we saw Zurich, met some friends, visited Lucerne for a few days (where I would recommend the Hotel Hofgarten), did some lake swimming, walked up (half a mountain) and generally had an enjoyable time.

Of course, Switzerland is expensive – I probably don’t need to tell you this – but its worth thinking about in more depth. What makes Switzerland expensive? Taxes are low, employment is high, salaries are high (so people can afford the prices) but you might expect these things to cancel out. At the moment I can’t answer my question.

(Another question I can’t answer: how can the subsidise the train system so much when taxes are so low? I suspect, the answer is limited public spending on health care, similar to the US where health care money is spent by the private not the public sector. This is the ultimate stealth-tax.)

What was clear is that Switzerland is a service based economy. Yes there is some farming, and some manufacturing – particularly precision engineering like watches and things but the driving forces in the Swiss economy are Banking and Tourism, both service industries – and both industries that don’t like change.

(OK, maybe I didn’t see another side of Switzerland since I only visited the home of Banking and Tourism, please correct me if I’m wrong.)

What is interesting is that Switzerland potentially offers a view into the future. We know that much manufacturing and even some services are migrating to low-wage economies, so what advanced economies like the UK is betting on is keeping the high-value services. There will always be some low-value services (e.g. bar tender) but the high-value ones are the ones really worth having and they are knowledge based. Bankers require knowledge of banking, IT people require knowledge of IT, Teachers require knowledge of their domain, and so on.

I’d like to learn more about Switzerland’s economic model and what it can teach us for the future.

I’d also like to know how Switzerland got to be where it is today. How did it create such an economy?

And, the malevolent curious side of me, would like to know more about the ghosts in Switzerland’s cupboard. The place is too clean, too wealthy – I was actually relieved to see homeless people, it told me the place was real!

%d bloggers like this: