About minterdial

President and founder of The Myndset Company, Minter Dial is an international professional speaker & consultant on Branding and Digital Strategy, working with top brands such as Samsung, Orange, Kering (Gucci, Alexander McQueen, Puma...), L'Oreal and Remy Cointreau around the globe. He is also International Media Director of Netexplo, an observatory of global new technology trends. Prior to the Myndset, Minter led a 16-year international career with the L'Oréal Group – including 9 different assignments in France, England, USA and Canada. Among his assignments at L'Oreal, Minter was MD worldwide of Redken. He ran the Professional Division for the Canadian subsidiary and in his final position at L'Oreal was a member of the Executive Committee worldwide, in charge of Business Development, eBusiness and Education. Minter received his BA in Trilingual Literature from Yale University (1987) and gained his MBA at INSEAD, Fontainebleau (1993).

Uber beautiful – is Uber creating value? I tend to believe so

Uber logo squareLast night, my Uber driver, Mohammed (from Somalia), was an absolute delight. As much as one can argue about some of the less salacious tactics of Uber, the underlying principle of Uber creates an environment for truly different experiences. I wrote about the same type of feeling when transacting on Craigslist. Wherever I bought or sold using Craigslist, the community experience was delightful.

Mohammed referred to us (Uber passengers) as beautiful people. While we’ll take the compliment, it was more interesting to hear how Mohammed, who has been an Uber driver for 8 months, described the relationship he has with Uber and his passengers. And he described the gulf between the way he felt treated by other limousine services for which he’d driven for 5 years prior and with Uber.

Since Uber takes care of us, we take care of the passengers. Uber gets that!”

It’s a case in point where employee engagement is critical in terms of customer experience.

Driver – passenger

As for the relationship with the passengers, Mohammed went on:

Perhaps, it’s because of the rating system, but I keep on meeting beautiful people.

uber beautiful two arrowsI suspect that there is also an element an early-adopter community of people who are on and using Uber. Having used Uber in five countries (out of the 58 where Uber now operates) and in over ten cities, I can say that I have had a consistently good experience. In some cities, where the taxi service is rather poor (e.g. Paris), Uber provides a radically superior service. In a city like London, where the Black Cab is exceptionally good, the premium service comes with premium conditions: in the street pickup, inside space (bigger), taxi lanes (faster) and the Knowledge (less reliance on a map).

The driver experience

As Mohammed noted above, he feels Uber treats him well. This is surely not true all around the world for Uber drivers. However, in most cities, Uber drivers talk about short waiting times and a generally good revenue. Another driver I had recently was a convert from being a bus driver. He spoke about his journey from bus driver to Uber driver and, to his great satisfaction, he is earning 3x more and working 1/2 less. Plus he knows London rather well. Another element I hear regularly cited is the benefit for drivers in not having to chase down payment… The automatic payment system avoids those times when a passenger will jump without paying or finagle on price. From a passenger standpoint, we are winners too (unless you’re among those who prefer not to pay!).

Overall, it is my belief that Uber is extending and expanding the market for personal transportation. As such it is, in all likelihood, helping de-emphasize the need for car ownership. In the big scheme of things, this is a bonus for the environment. Thanks to the suave Uber app, the user experience is superb (although the initial pin accuracy could still be improved). The communication fluidity between driver and passenger is easy and effective, doing much to create a favorably charged relationship. On top of the payment facilities, the option of identifying and rewarding great driver experiences (6th Star) reinforces the desire to go beyond the call of duty. If there remain legal questions, some questionable business tactics (against Lyft, etc) and issues with driver selection and insurance, overall, I believe Uber is creating value.

What’s been your experience with Uber (and Lyft etc)? Are you a fan or do you believe Uber is not for you?

British Airways First Class is more like Last in Class

This may seem like a First World problem, but my experience with British Airways is a great point in case about how visceral and personal a relationship can be with a brand.

Two months ago, I had a miserable experience, having been downgraded involuntarily on a 10 1/2 hour flight from London to Austin (Texas). You can read about the British Airways saga part 1 and part 2, here. You will literally be shocked by the treatment. It makes for a scary way of running a business.

First Class… really?

BA First_Class1On my most recent trans-Atlantic flight to San Francisco, travelling on British Airways in First Class, I was emphatically non-plussed by the service. Having had a disastrous experience with BA recently, I was hoping that the BA team might have put 2 and 2 together to make a little special effort. Nothing of the sort. It was a most standard experience. Their tagline is damningly wrong: Designed with you in mind. The only issue is that they didn’t know who you is!

Customer experience – the technology

Outside of one of the flight attendants (Kristie) who was absolutely charming and dedicated (and who had informed the purser about my plight), it was a strictly plain experience. Unlike a business class seat I had sat in recently, the BA 1st class seat does not come with any place to store papers, books, computer, etc. The audio-visual entertainment set didn’t work at least for the first hour and then broke down en route.

Customer experience – the service

to try to serve British Airways

To “try” to serve – British Airways

For the main meal, I foolishly chose Aberdeen Beef. I should have guessed when I was not asked how I would like it; but, it was drastically overcooked. When I went to sleep, to take advantage of the 180º bed, I was peeved to discover that there was was no pillow or cover. No one came to make my bed (unlike some other passengers). Talk about not feeling pampered. At the end of the flight, the well-meaning Purser came over apologetically to say how he had been occupied with the AV issues. Thus, he had not been able to “individually welcome” the passengers.

What is Luxury?

In a fast-paced world, where the experience is the brand, British Airways is an example of how NOT to deliver. BA’s executive team seems more interested in drumming up ideas, writing reports and managing budgets. To wit, BA was the first airline to have an app for the Apple Watch. Meanwhile, basic attention to details, pampering of customers and paleolithic style of communication are a testament to a company that has not morphed into the 21st century.

The galling part of the whole experience with BA is that each flight seems to operate in total isolation with anything that happened before or after. In today’s world, building brand affinity and loyalty is all about engaging in a lasting experience, where there is a before, during and after. Brands that learn to craft a seamless, customer-centric experience that is augmented with technology and imparted by an engaged staff will find ways to win. British Airways is definitively not among those that have bought in to that vision.

“Rather draw than withdraw” IamCharlie

#jesuisCharlie

“Rather draw than withdraw”

 

My second contribution to the Charlie Hebdo Massacre. #iamcharlie Iamcharlie

To all the cartoonists who bring to life the issues and challenge of our daily existence.

Here is my first one: “It’s a pen I want, not Le pen”

“It’s a pen I want, not Le pen” #JesuisCharlie

#jesuisCharlie

My artistic contribution following the Charlie Hebdo massacre. #JeSuisCharlie
BTW The image of the boy on the right was derived from Calvin & Hobbes. See the Gawker story of its origin. The fountain pen is a gorgeous Classic Pens LB2 Kimono Daichi (from Collectors Weekly). These Maki-e pens are hand-painted in Japan with a gold and lacquer process.

black_ribbon #jesuisCharlie

 

Here is a second cartoon: “Rather Draw than Withdraw

Unbroken film review – Angelina Jolie’s tribute to a great spirit

The film, Unbroken, the epic story of Louis “Louie” Zamperini, was released this Christmas Day. Based on Unbroken Film Trailerthe eponymous and gripping book by Laura Hillenbrand, Angelina Jolie’s inaugural film as a director is a worthy film to see. As stated at the beginning of the film, this is a true story … that is very hard to believe, it is so gruelling and impressive. This 136-minute film was clearly shot with the Oscars in mind, in that there are a number of “big moments” that are portrayed with intentional big screen drama. On the positive side, though, for a wartime film, Jolie did not overplay the violence. It’s a war film, written by a woman, directed by a woman, that shows a man’s war with pathos and intensity. As such, my wife and daughter, as well as my son and myself, enjoyed the film. Neither my wife nor daughter had read the book, so they had no attachment to the book version. And that’s okay, as far as I am concerned, because the purpose of the film is both entertainment and educational. The film does a good job of portraying the emotional journey of Zamperini, played by the English actor, Jack O’Connell. Zamperini’s stout resistance in the face of sadistic treatment is credible and inspiring.

“If you can take it, you can make it”

The POW experience in Japanese prison camps

Unbroken film review defianceFor someone who has read some 300 books on this part of WWII and has interviewed over 100 ex-POWs, the film, Unbroken, does a standup job of portraying just enough of the inhumane treatment. It glosses over some of the daily miseries, such as the ever-present insects, the menace of tropical disease and the paucity of food and clean water. However, between the missing finger nails, the wretched forced labor, the harrowing punishments imposed on Zamperini and the scene of the hundred punches, the execrable POW treatment is evident. The 30% to 40% death rate in certain Japanese prison camps is understated, since none of the prisoners around Zamperini ever die during their internment.

Telling history

The film, Unbroken, does not portray the Japanese captors in a favorable light. As mentioned above, there is enough grim treatment in the film to capture the essence of the cruelty. That said, there is no gratuitous violence portrayed, whereas it is well known that there were miscellaneous bayonettings, beheadings and beatings bestowed by the Japanese captors, whose Bushido code designated prisoners as less than worthy. Unfortunately, the Japanese have never truly recognized their responsibility nor officially apologized. There is a current movement in Japan to re-write history and whitewash this chapter of the war. In point of fact, there is a movement underway to ban the film in Japan. Read this article in The Telegraph (UK). This is deeply unsatisfying. According to historian Rudolph J Rummel, in his research, “Statistics of democide: Genocide and Mass Murder since 1900 Transaction,” about 10,700 US POWs were killed by the Japanese in captivity, including my grandfather (see the Smithsonian article by Gilbert King). An appalling total of 570,000 POWs were killed in Japanese captivity — Chinese 400,000, French Indochina 30,000, Philippines 27,300, Netherlands 25,000, France 14,000, UK 13,000, UK colonies 11,000 & Australia 8,000. (Source: Wikipedia).

If you so agree, please do sign this petition to encourage the film Unbroken not to be banned in Japan. (Via Change.org)

SIGN THE PETITION: STOP THE BAN

And read the book

Unbroken Film reviewIf you have not read the book, Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, I most strongly recommend it. The hardcover version has been 180 consecutive weeks on the NYT best-seller list. The paperback version is now available for $9.60. It has been translated into 29 languages.

What did you think of this Unbroken film review? What did you think of the film? Please do let us know your thoughts!

Intelligence and Time – why do we exist?

Lucy IMDB - myndset I watched the film LUCY last night. The premise of the film is delightful: what if we were able to use our full intellectual capacity? What if we be able to activate 100% of our brain’s computing power? While I was lured into the idea that this was another view on the debate and merits of artificial intelligence, one of the most fascinating elements of the film, for me, was the discussion around time.

In a script written by the talented director, Luc Besson, Professor Norman (played by Morgan Freeman) suggests that the living organism (cell) has two options: to become immortal or to reproduce.

You sell it? -This is the purpose of our business.
For us to be like the only purpose seems to be to save time.
It seems that the cell also want to save time.
All the cells that make up the worm or human has only two options …
Immortality …
Or reproduction.
If its habitat is not quite favorable …
The cell chooses immortality …
That is to say, self-sufficiency, self …
But if the habitat is favorable …
This is the reproduction is selected.
And when they die the essential data is passed to the following cells …
Who in turn pass on these cells …
The knowledge, knowledge is devised through time.”

Time is thus an infinite concept or one that must operate in cycles. In Professor Norman’s lecture, he also talks about the transmission of data, of knowledge as part of the cycle of reproduction. But, as we get more intelligent, are we able to transmit, much less capture that intelligence? Is intelligence something we are destined to improve, as a part of a Darwinian evolution?

100% Intelligence versus Artificial Intelligence

As seductive as the concept of all prescient intelligence might be, it also comes with certain risks — as evidenced by the film. In whose hands (or heads) that intelligence falls is of particular concern. Whether that intelligence is “natural” or “artificial,” the issue of governance remains. Professor Stephen Hawking warned us recently of the limits and dangers of artificial intelligence, leading to the notion of singularity, when computers are able to learn and develop for themselves.

The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race. It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever-increasing rate” (BBC)

The main character, Lucy (played convincingly by Scarlett Johansson), talks toward the end of this apocalyptic orgy of intelligence, about the importance of time as means of defining who we are. She says:

Time is the reason for its own existence, the ultimate measure.
It attributes its existence to matter …
Without time, it does not exist.
Time is unity.
{Film Script}

I wonder, though, to what extent time is unity? Can it be or is it viewed in the same way across cultures? Time and time management is certainly conceived differently by different cultures. Is Lucy’s vision, then, a predominantly western view of the world and of time, or is it a universal truth?

Your thoughts?

The incredible USS Trout story …lives on through Tim McCoy

Over the last 20 years, I have had the chance to meet a number of members of the CHARLES TIM MCCOY USNGreatest Generation. It’s been a mission (if not an obsession) of mine. My purpose for the large part has been to find and meet people who knew or were somewhere near my grandfather, Lt Cdr Minter Dial, after whom I was named. So, it was only natural that, since I was headed to Austin Texas for SXSW 2014, I connected with a USN veteran of World War II. His name is Charles “Tim” McCoy, who served in the US Navy, aboard a number of submarines, before becoming a prisoner after the USS Grenadier was sunk (April 1943).

I came across Tim thanks for an article published in the Lubbock Avalanche Journal, written by Ray Westbrook.

Charles Tim McCoy

Tim and Jean McCoy (via Lubbock Journal)

Tim and Jean McCoy (via Lubbock Journal)

Tim McCoy, who is 90 years old (born in 1924), showed that he is in great mental and physical health. For two hours, I listened to him talk about his experience in the Pacific, including his captivity as a prisoner of Japanese for over two years. Anybody who has come across the book Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrad (soon to be a film, directed by Angelina Jolie), or any other book about the Japanese POW treatment will know just how horrible that experience was. During our chat, I was lucky enough to hear directly from Tim, about his participation in a truly epic and well-documented mission aboard the USS Trout.  Continue reading

Long-term vision with bold actions – is it your mantra?

Bringing sense to business

At the Freedom & Solidarity Forum, taking inspiration from Operation Overlord and the D-Day Landings, Brian Gallagher, President and CEO at United Way, said:

“We need a long-term vision with bold actions. Our endeavors must be values (or purpose-) based”

This phrase resonates with me, even more so as an entrepreneur. However, I think it’s an issue for most people in many companies, where the purpose is either non-existant or it may be published but not lived. Companies suffer from an oversized need to cater to short-term pressures. Finally, without the entrepreneur/founder at the helm, too often businesses lack boldness. And, I might add that actions speak louder than words…

In search of purpose

Mr Gallagher said that Operation Overlord was a success in large part because it embodied that phrase. As an NGO, United Way is inhabited by purpose. It is normal. In business, however, purpose is too often reduced to creating shareholder value. Interestingly, Mr Georges Plassat, CEO and Chairman of Carrefour, the second biggest retailer in the world, said the same thing about bringing “meaning” to his business and resisting the short-term ratrace (my term, not his). I wonder to what extent his comments resonated with the Carrefour employees? Mr Philippe Wahl, CEO of LaPoste France, echoed Mr Plassat, talking about the need to create products (and service) that are “useful” for society. Mr Wahl talked about the need to have “meaning” in business, which he translated as the need to contribute to society in each country in which one is operating, invoking the need to pay taxes in each country (a lightly veiled attack on Google and Amazon, etc.).

The big question I have is: how much does “purpose” fulfill shareholder value over time?

What do you think?

EasyJet Customer Experience – A failure waiting to happen

As companies continue to inch (literally) ever closer toward greater and greater productivity, I can say that I was only mildly amused when the EasyJet flight attendant on a recent flight cajoled us into listening to the pre-flight safety announcements. As with most of us who travel a lot, we consider these announcements over the loud-speaker as an obligatory nuisance. On this particular EasyJet flight, I decided to put down what I was reading to listen. One specific part of the instructions caught my attention. Not that I am against productivity gains; nor am I against an airline wishing my safety. However, someone needs to revisit and update what must be a rather old script.

In case of emergency landing, take the customary “brace” position, by bending over, placing your head between your legs and tucking your arms around your thighs.

Not being of the circus contortionist variety, I can say that I am just about able to put my chest on my thighs, nothing more. Getting the head to tuck down neatly is a bit of a stretch. And, I am fortunate not to have a pot belly.

Brace for it

Here are the instructions as printed on the plastified sheet in front of each seat (in this case for an Airbus A319/320). Continue reading

Arlington Cemetery – Tomb of the Unknowns Jeopardy Question with some Surprising Answers

Arlington Cemetery Jeopardy Question:

There has been an email circulating for well over 13 years (I found a 2001 reference to this email in a brief Google search).  The email starts:

“On Jeopardy the other night (MD: !), the final question was: “How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the tomb of the Unknowns?” All three contestants missed it! This is really an awesome sight to watch if you’ve never had the chance.”

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier - Arlington CemeteryThe email goes on to give a prolonged and largely true answer. However, thanks to the good work at Snopes, I wanted to put out a cleaner and more accurate version out there.

Working through the Jeopardy archives, the only specific question and date I could find was in episode #4751 on April 11, 2005, which makes the initial email confusing since it would seem to ante-date the Jeopardy question:

“ARLINGTON’S TOMB OF UNKNOWNS: Sentinels at the tomb walk exactly this many steps at a time before they stop & turn”

In terms of my own discoveries, I wasn’t sure if the Tomb is called the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier or the Tomb of the Unknowns. It turns out that it is commonly known by both, but there is no official name.

Continue reading