McLaren MP4-12C

What an awesome car!
How soon can I buy one?

I'd previously blogged about this car whilst it was known as the Baby McLaren and it's popped out better than expected.

Checkout the images from AutoExpress and the images + videos from eGMCarTech including Jay Leno's tour of the factory where it's being built:


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:14 AM, ,

Making business alliances work

I promised back in a May blog to write about "the pitfalls of alliances".

First of all, there is always a lot of debate over terminology in this area, but to be clear I think these factors apply to both joint ventures, business alliances and strategic alliances.

I thought a cool definition of an alliance was by Rosabeth Moss Kanter in an HBR article: Alliances are the corporate equivalent of "friends with benefits." The partners combine forces to achieve strategic goals of their own without getting married, being engaged, or dating exclusively.

Secondly, I'm pretty sure there are entire semesters devoted to this and related topics at business schools around the world, so this blog is by no means exhaustive - just my two cents on the topic. :-)

My personal views as to why alliances fail are as follows:
  1. The business model wasn't clear;
  2. There wasn't a shared plan & measurement;
  3. There wasn't a clear enough value proposition for customers;
  4. Senior Management didn't make a commitment to making the partnership work; and
  5. The people factor.
Trying to get a square peg in a round hole is simply a lesson in futility, so setting out with a partnership or alliance without clarity on the business model is going to end in a world of hurt.

A good article on the "why are we doing this and what is the best structure for us to achieve our objective" is the Booz Allen Hamilton article here. In The Art of Profitability the issue of business model design is simplified into easy to understand models. And of course, there are tonnes of assets online including at McKinsey's wesbite and HBR.

With any business endeavour - if you want to get from A, to B, to C - you've got to have a plan. And for a plan to work, you've got to ensure everyone with something at stake is involved.

Sounds obvious, right?

What's amazing is how hard it is to get 'busy people' to commit to joint planning to put on paper "here's what I want, here's what you want, and here's how we're going to win together".

Planning by itself, however, isn't going far enough. As an Open Texter said in his blog "if you don't keep score then you are only practicing" - a statement Lou Gerstner echoed with "people respect what you inspect".

There are some really good tools out there to make both the planning & measurement easy. Checkout and Channel Dynamics for ideas.

To point #2 - a good example of 1+ 1 = 3 is how Open Text has selected it's strategic partners, Microsoft and SAP. In both cases, the partner is a leader in a segment (Knowledge Worker vs Enterprise Processes), lacks the value that Open Text provides (Enterprise Content Management) and customers are clear on why they need the combined solution.

With any endeavour, if senior management isn't committed to the deal, no one is going to get behind the partnership. Jack Welch makes this point in Winning where he advises managers have to become cheerleaders for the new project.

Finally, the people factor. Like all relationships, you've got to work at it. Advice given to me a long time ago by a great boss & mentor was that "people deal with people". I think all too often people come to the party with their point of view and their agenda forgetting that the other party could be doing that as well.

Image by Mateusz Stachowski

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posted by Lee Gale @ 1:04 AM, ,

Mercedes SLS feature site

Well, it's finally been unveiled - the Mercedes SLS that I'd blogged in:

Worth checking out are the pictures at AutoExpress and the AMG mini-site >


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:04 AM, ,


A handy concept to understand in sales is yours and the other parties BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement).

BATNA is the course of action that will be taken by a party if the current negotiations fail and an agreement cannot be reached - a party should generally not accept a worse resolution than its BATNA.

I'm always amused when I enter a negotiation with someone who hasn't looked at the situation from a position other than theirs. Equally amusing is someone who hasn't fully explored their options to understand which ones are actually available and/or suitable.

BATNA is the key focus and the driving force behind a successful negotiator and it has interesting parallels with the battle strategy of Helmuth von Moltke.

Moltke's main thesis was that military strategy had to be understood as a system of options since only the beginning of a military operation was plannable.

As a result, he considered the main task of military leaders to plan for all possible outcomes. His thesis can be summed up by two statements, one famous one that I often repeat: No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.

Worth noting with any negotiation, people's positions and what they value will change over time (timing is everything).

The important thing is to ask for what you want - don't make people guess!

Image by Sanja Gjenero

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posted by Lee Gale @ 1:29 AM, ,

GranTurismo Spyder aka GranCabrio

It seems like a lifetime ago, but it was only back in Sept '08 that the news of the Maserati GranTurismo Spyder broke cover.

Since then, it looks like they've ditched the metal roof in order to make it a proper four-seater. I suspect either we'll see a smaller car unveiled as well, or they learned from Ferrari's launch of the California and decided against the metal roof.

As per AutoExpress, the GranCabrio will debut at next month’s Frankfurt Motor Show, and become the trident brand’s first ever four-seat convertible.

I could totally handle this as my everyday car. Drew has been at me over ditching the two-seater and getting a four-seater... so we can get another dog. I feel this would be a happy compromise :-)


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:46 AM, ,

Hayman Island

Recently we headed off to Hayman Island for a break.

Hayman is a bit of a favourite for us and we've been a number of times: by ourselves, with work and this time with friends.

One small gripe was the price of airfares to Hamilton Island (try $1300 for two people!) and Hamilton Island airport (60 minute queue to check in to the Sydney flight!) but the rest of the experience was awesome as usual.

One of my biggest challenges is that I don't 'relax' particularly well by other people's standards, but what most people don't appreciate is that I relax by doing something that is going through my mind and having completed it.

This time I spent most of the time with a book and a Sun Paradise cocktail... probably largely due to the fact that Vodafone subscribers have no coverage on the island - only Telstra and Optus provide partial coverage.

We are big fans of the Pool Access rooms as your balcony has direct access to the pool, but if your budget stretches a bit further, the Beach Villa looks pretty cool!

If relaxation is your plan, I highly recommend the hot stone massage, hopping on a speedboat to nearby Langford Island/Reef and taking in the sun, or heading up to the Great Barrier Reef for some snorkeling or a helicopter tour over heart reef.

I can't say I'm a fan of the restaurants. You are on an island so when it comes for charging for anything, you are a captive consumer so the price reflect that. We tried something new this time and it was definitely something I'd recommend to anyone: book a private cabana - it was far more enjoyable.

If you haven't been to Hayman, do yourself a favour and go chill out there for a few days.


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:10 AM, ,

BMW Vision Efficient Dynamics hybrid concept


That's something I didn't expect to say about a BMW.

Checkout on and Auto Express, the futuristic BMW Vision Efficient Dynamics two-door concept hybrid car can get to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds yet uses less fuel than a Toyota Prius.

I'm not sure how intact your pub bragging rights will be as you tell your mates about the 1.5-litre diesel engine... perhaps it's something best left to showing, rather than telling.


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:08 AM, ,

Rice Paddies and Math Tests

I recently wrote about Malcolm Gladwell's latest book, Outliers.

One of the chapters of the book is titled Rice Paddies and Math Tests which Malcolm uses to illustrate his point about heritage and it's impact on your abilities which you can leverage in order to succeed in life.

There are two aspects to this chapter that I found fascinating:
  1. That you can tell a lot about a culture's values by their proverbs; and
  2. The theory as to why people of Asian backgrounds do so well in maths tests.
I'll start with the maths theory first.

He takes the TIMSS data which shows kids from Asian countries scoring significantly higher than their Western counterparts in maths. As Malcolm went on to explain in his blog:
"A more modest gap between Asian and the rest of the world could, I think, be safely explained with conventional arguments about differences in pedagogy, or school funding or some such. But 40 percent versus 5 percent? Differences of this magnitude require more fundamental explanations, which is why I felt it necessary to make such a strong cultural/historical claim in my book."
Malcolm presents the theory that the key reason is that Asian languages have a logical counting system and as a result, students find it easier to approach and learn than Western counterparts.

The research presented was quite logical and rational including:So if you accept that theory, the second becomes a KO: the cultural legacy of the rice paddy is one of hard work.

Through supporting evidence (Graham Robb: The Discovery of France), Malcolm proposes that rice paddy farmers work some 3,000 hours per year - some 10 to 20 times harder than wheat or corn farmers.

To illustrate that, Malcolm leverages historian David Arkush's comparisons of Russian and Chinese peasant proverbs:
"If God does not bring it, the earth will not give it" is a typical Russian proverb.


"No one who can rise before dawn three hundred sixty days a year fails to make his family rich."
As Malcolm goes on to say: "Working really hard is what successful people do", and, "it's not so much ability as attitude".

I have to say, this is a point I TOTALLY subscribe to. At work, I've often discussed with managers that we can teach people skills but you can't teach people attitude.

Image by Diana Myrndorff

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posted by Lee Gale @ 1:42 AM, ,

Driving the Stelvio Pass - at night, with no headlights!

More than a little crazy, takes a Mercedes-Benz E-Class up Italy's world famous stretch of twisting bitumen, the Stelvio Pass, using Night Vision technology only!


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:33 AM, ,

Outliers: The Story of Success

My first book review that I blogged was The Tipping Point. This was my first introduction to Malcolm Gladwell and I have to say: I was a fan and hanging out for his next book.

That next book was Blink which looked at the phenomenon of how we make snap judgements and the light and dark sides of that process.

In his latest book, Outliers, Malcolm takes a look at the story of success. "Outlier" is a scientific term to describe things that lie outside normal.

What Malcolm attempts to do is show us is that our sense for what constitutes success is incorrect: "People don't rise from nothing... It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn't".

From Malcolm's Q&A on his website:
" order to understand the outlier I think you have to look around them—at their culture and community and family and generation. We've been looking at tall trees, and I think we should have been looking at the forest."
As a fantastic illustration, the book opens with an analysis of the Canadian Ice Hockey teams, their selection process based on birth cut-off dates and how that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I found the idea of the disadvantage of being born in December versus someone in your year at school born in January fascinating and quite personal (my birthday is in December) - a twelve month gap in age represents an enormous difference in physical maturity for two ten year-olds. It really does add a new spin to the idea that timing is everything.

The point being made is that "if you separate the 'talented' from the 'untalented' and you provide the 'talented' with superior experience, then you're going to end up giving a huge advantage to that small group of people". If 'talent' if based on age rather than true apples-for-apples skill, your logic is flawed.

Malcolm then introduces us to the "10,000-Hour Rule", claiming that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practising a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.

The rest of the book then provides supporting evidence for his thesis.

Most engaging of all though in Outliers is how Malcolm looks at his own family history and personalises the story to conclude the book.

As always, the criticism around Malcolm's books persists: he over simplifies complex social trends. I content that this simplification of macro-trends is what makes Malcolm's books so engaging and easy to comprehend.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 1:35 AM, ,

Updated Porsche 911 Turbo

Porsche have updated the 911 Turbo and as AutoExpress comments "and in true Porsche style the updated version is virtually indecipherable from its predecessor".

What is most interesting is that Porsche must have really felt the criticism with the gear-shift levers. Apparently "the excellent PDK twin-clutch gearbox can now be specified with standard wheel-mounted levers – pull the left to change down and the right to shift up – rather than the confusing push button setup on earlier versions".

I've mentioned this once or twice (or thrice) before so it is good to see Porsche came to their senses!


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:19 AM, ,

The Evil Empire?

Cue Star Wars Evil Empire theme music (or listen to it here).

Reading the news in July that Apple Rejects Google Voice App, I can't help but smile at the battle of wills between these two tech titans. Apple's resurgence as a player in the tech industry is nothing short of inspiring. Google's ascendancy humbled the previously dominant Microsoft - so much so that Microsoft is having to reinvent itself in a way Apple never did, in order to continue to be a leader in the new world order.

Apple's woes prior to Steve Job's return, in my opinion, were more about execution and having a product portfolio that people covet. Microsoft's woes are more fundamental - the business model that served them so well for so long, has been been challenged by Google's beta-software-as-a-service-paid-for-with-advertising model.

According to Apple's website, they haven't rejected GoogleVoice, but continue to study it. Apple also explain their reasoning quite thoroughly and reasonably: the app alters their interface and bypasses the voice networks of the carriers that sell it.

So which one is the Evil Empire?

My partner makes a good point: to be the Evil Empire, you'd have to make products that don't work well and use your market dominance to force feed them to the masses... like Microsoft does/did. Apple and Google currently make products that work.

What will be interesting is whether consumer groups will be able to force carriers to obey broadband rules that force ISPs to let users run whatever applications they want.

Image by 1%


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:03 AM, ,

Aston Martin V12 Vantage vs Audi R8 V10 vs Corvette ZR1

I'm a huge Audi R8 and Aston Martin V12 Vantage fan so was keen to see who would come out on top in AutoExpress' shoot-out between the Aston Martin V12 Vantage vs Audi R8 5.2 V10 FSI vs Corvette ZR1.

I'm in two minds about the Audi. As per the quote "The R8 succeeds where other supercar wannabes have failed because of the way it drives. Despite ferocious firepower, the V10 is as docile and easy to get on with as an A3" - I'm in one mind thinking "that's great, I'm not going to kill myself". In another mind I'm thinking "a supercar is supposed to try to kill you".


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:08 AM, ,