An Aus-some trip around the world

It’s not very often that I find a serendipitous link to describe so cleanly the relationship between my last three trips. So, I could not help but share with you my aus-some last month.

In the space of 4 weeks, I was at South By Southwest in Austin Texas for a manic few days at the Interactive conference.  Then I hit the slopes at St Christoph, near Innsbruck in Austria for a joyful week of family holidays.  Finally, I sparked off down under to do some sales training in Melbourne, Australia (this week).  A veritably aus-some trip.

Here are a couple of visual representations of the journey.

Aus-some: Austin, Austria & Australia, The Myndset Digital marketing


And a different representation, for the fun of it:

Aus-some, Austin, Austria and Australia, The Myndset digital marketing

Could this be part of some higher cosmic sense, or just plain silly?

Australian Open Tennis 2009 winners

Winners & Scores

Australian Open TennisScorching heat accompanied the two weeks of the 2009 Australian Tennis Open in Melbourne and took its toll on a number of the players (notably Djokovic #3). The cast of winners had a very familiar ring to it — the seeders clearly did a good job. In the Doubles, the American siblings were indomitable. One of the things that has become apparent is the online branding of the players. I have added links to each of the player’s sites. The classiest site award goes to Roger. The least classy to Serena (which still to-date oddly hasn’t been updated on her victories). Players without their own sites, I have pasted the wikipedia site.

Men’s final:

Rafael NadalRoger Federer (2) succombed to Rafa Nadal (1) in their 19th professional encounter. It was their first match together in Melbourne and the first time with Nadal as the #1 seed. And Nadal proved his #1 status and resilience, winning 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-2, his second 5 setter in a row. It was a 4h23 match with plenty of momentum swings — Federer actually won one more point than Nadal (174 vs 173). The record between them is now 13-6 in Rafa’s favour – 5-2 to Nadal in grand slam finals. This victory is Nadal’s first Grand Slam on hard court. Meanwhile, even though the final was a great match, the standout match on the men’s side was the semifinal between the 2 Spaniards, where Nadal trumped a resourceful and never-say-die Fernando Verdasco (14) by a score of 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (1), 6-4. Nadal had not dropped a set in this tournament before the record 5-hour 14-minute semi-final marathon.

Women’s Singles final:

Serena WilliamsSerena Williams (2) was in blistering form as she annihilated the, up till then, dominant Dinara Safina (3) by a telling 6-0, 6-3 score. Williams took on the armada of Russian players in the last 3 rounds, defeating sequentially Svetlana Kuznetsova (in 3 sets), Elena Dementieva and then Safina. This year’s victory continues the odd-year cycle that has accompanied Serena in Melbourne. She also won in 2003, 2005 and 2007.

Men’s Doubles Final:

The Bryan twins (bobandmike) won their third Australian Open doubles crown after several close-fought encounters. In the Finals, they beat third seeded Mahesh Bhupathi (IND) and Mark Knowles (BAH) 6-2, 5-7, 6-0. Bhupathi had appeared in the Australian Men’s Double Final exactly ten years ago (and was on the losing end, too). Mike and Bob Bryan (2) beat the fourth-seeded Lukas Dlouhy (CZE) and Leander Paes (IND) 6-3, 6-3 fairly soundly in the semi-finals, after having had two tight and all-American encounters, Mardy Fish and John Isner 7-5, 7-6 (6) and previously Bobby Reynolds and Rajeev Ram 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-3. This is the Bryan’s 7th Grand Slam Title; they won the Australian Open doubles in 2006 and 2007 (with a quarter-final exit in 2008).

Women’s Doubles Final:

The Williams sisters, seeded 10th, powered through the Women’s Doubles — a very international field — to claim their 3rd Australian Open title and their 8th Grand Slam Doubles title together, beating Daniela Hantuchova and Ai Sugiyama (9th seed) 6-3, 6-3. Like the Bryan brothers, Serena and Venus (own site here) dropped just one set along the way to the final. Serena’s prior Women’s Doubles victories also have come only on odd years (2001 and 2003).

Mixed Doubles

Mahesh Bhupathi joined with Sania Mirza (IND) to claim the Mixed Title, beating Dechy (FR) and Ram (ISR) 6-3 6-1. That’s the seventh mixed doubles Grand Slam title for Mahesh.


In the only adult final featuring Australians, John Fitzgerald and Mansour Bahrami were handed the Legends Doubles Final title after the retirment of Henri Leconte (FR) and the other Aussie, Mark Philippoussis.

All in all, despite some ethnic violence that marred one day, the Australian Open 2009 was yet another memorable and exciting tournament…

Salute – A Testament to the Human Race

Salute Film - Mexican Olympics 1968On January 20th, 2009, while flying back from Las Vegas after having watched the Inauguration of President Barack Obama, I watched the film “Salute,” a documentary of the Australian, Peter Norman (1942-2006).  Norma was the “other” man on the podium, a white man who split Tommie Smith and John Carlos in the 200m final at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.  Smith and Carlos received their medals and raised their hands with the famous black gloves, the Black Power salute.  What is less known is that Norman wore a badge on the podium (above his heart) to show his tacit support of their cause, the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR).  While both Smith and Carlos were expelled from the Games, Norman was “severely reprimanded,” explaining himself, “I believe that every man is born equal and should be treated that way.”

One of the most striking things I learned was that the Aussie athletics team had been given three rules for competing in those controversial and violence-plagued Olympic games:

1. Repeat the form you had achieved to get to the Games. (not too much to ask).
2. Never to finish last no matter the race.
3. Never to finish behind a Pom (aka English).

Among the other anecdotes, for the black salute, Smith held up a gloved right hand (
with, momentarily, a white track shoe in the other hand) and Carlos a gloved left hand because they had to share the only pair of black gloves they had on them (the other pair had been left in the lockers).  The black athletes were shoeless on the podium, wearing black socks to represent black poverty.

As a track athlete, it is great to see the film because you see the classic elements of athletic endeavour.  The psychology of the pre-race preparations.  Carlos looking over his left shoulder that cost him the silver medal (reminiscent of the Roger Bannister 4 minute mile in which he overtook the Australian, John Landy, who was caught looking over his left shoulder in the final stretch).  

Having seen the film, Salute, I have new found appreciation for the boldness of those two Americans and, clearly, a surprising new found respect for the evident implication of Peter Norman. 

I had no idea that the man singing the Star Spangled Banner while the men were on the podium stopped singing 4 bars into it. 

And here we are, forty years later after the Mexico City Olympics — basically as predicted by Robert Kennedy, saying that an African-American could be President of the USA in 30 to 40 years — which he said in 1961.  (MLK said in a 1964 interview that it could happen within 25 years). 

Although “…Peter Norman did not race a fist, he did lend a hand.”  And, unbelievably, Norman’s time that day of 20.06 seconds flat still stands as Australia’s 200m record, and would have won the 200m at Sydney Games, 38 years later. 

Not for the first time, Australians and Americans shared a common battle.  I read these holidays “The Ghost Mountain Boys,” by James D. Hornfischer, a gripping [and true] tale about the war (WWII) in Papua New Guinea where Americans fought with Australians to keep their hold on that island.  And a second fascinating story is
Ship of Ghosts,” by James Campbell, about the fate and survivors of the USS Houston and the Australian HMAS Perth, sunk in the early morning hours of Feb 27, 1942, and their 3+ years of imprisonment thereafter (some might say the real story behind the Bridge over the River Kwai).  It is an odd coincidence that I read both these books over the holidays and that both shared the
word Ghost… not to be mixed up with Ghost Soldiers, the story by Hampton Sides, also about the allied POWs of the Japanese.

Peter means rock.  Peter Norman was a silent rock in the protest and the courage that was encapsulated in those black fists. 

Smith says in the film, “I would die for [Peter]”…an “interesting old guy.”  That is a testament to the human race.  Read Norman’s obituary in the GuardianWikipedia’s version of the Black Power Salute here.

Incandescent Light Bulbs banned in Europe by 2012

Stop Wasting Electricity - Light BulbThe European Union voted in October 2008 to ban outright incandescent light bulbs which transform a miserable 5% of the electricity into light. On Monday this week, they published the timing for the suppression of these inefficient incandescent bulbs over the next four years. Starting September 1st 2009, the sale of 100+ watt bulbs will be banned throughout Europe. Over the following two years, the 75W+ and 60W+ will go from European store shelves. And finally, as of September 1st 2012, all classic incandescent bulbs will disappear. Even poor performing halogen bulbs will be targeted (objective to eliminate these by 2016).

A couple of comments: Australia was the first country to vote the end of incandescent bulbs (an outright ban by 2010). The US Congress voted at the end of 2007 the ban of incandescent bulbs by the end of 2014. Europe has voted one year after the US to end these polluting bulbs two years before the US.

With regard to the European decision, they estimate that a household will save 50 euros per year by moving to the low consumption options. Taken in another light, so to speak, this could sound like a stimulus package for the economy? Le Figaro suggested that the savings for all Europe would amount to between 5 and 10 billion euros annually. Admittedly I don’t know the efficiency in the production of the compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) or other low consumption bulbs, but I am going to hope that the life cycle analysis shows that the halogen or the LED (Light Emitting Diode) is indeed a winner for the environment. Advocates argue that the CFL lasts five years longer and uses about 75 percent less energy than the incandescent bulb. From one article (Red, Green & Blue blog), I note that the 60% reduction in energy consumption would translate into a reduction of 30 million tonnes of CO2 for Europe. The LED option, whose sales have been increasing 40-60% per year, costs a lot more than the incandescent polluter, but the almost infinite durability and tremendous efficiency make a winning proposition as long as you don’t drop it along route from the store.

It is worth noting that, as detractors of this decision state, CFLs contain mercury. CFL’s are still a little bulkier and don’t fit all fixtures. For others, the European decision does not go far enough (e.g. Ban-the-Bulb). So, it may yet be hard to always look on the bright side of light. Nonetheless, I believe that such a decision will, among other things, continue to bring home the need to take action. Like “quota” systems (e.g. Norway’s women on corporate boards…), this law is perhaps anti-free market and will have its detractors. It will obviously change the landscape of the light bulb market (affecting electricians, lamp manufacturers and more). Nonetheless, there are justifiable impositions and, in this case (as in the case of the Norwegian quota) I cast my vote in favour. What about you?

INSEAD – Celebrating the 15 Year Reunion (2008)


I have just completed my 15-year reunion at INSEAD in Fontainebleau. There were some 59 fellow classmates (out of about 205) who came in from 16 countries (3 came from Australia). It was a lovely way to reconnect – among other things to remind us of the importance of facetime and networking. As big a fan as I may be for virtual worlds and social media networks, the prescient words of John Naisbitt in High Tech/High Touch ring as ever true today.

There were three themes that seemed to keep coming up, no matter the topic at hand:

– The financial crisis
– The work-life balance
– Sustainable development

On the heels of the record-setting one-day stock market swings (the DJIA gyrated from a low of 7773 to a high of 8989 only to finish down 1.5% on October 10th), a devastating eight days of doom and gloom and a drop of -22% on the DJIA, the financial crisis had a bearing on absolutely every activity discussed. How is the financial crisis going to impact sustainable development? Will the financial crisis hurt social media and “metaverses” (with Professor Miklos Sarvary)? There were no contrarians to be heard. The concept of a worldwide recession was widely used. Clearly, we have not seen the end of the bad news as it will now roll out into other fields, including a predictable credit card crunch and down swing in sales of large ticket consumer goods. And, of course, it certainly will have an impact on executive MBAs coming to INSEAD and current MBAs looking for jobs.

The question of work-life balance was systematically raised, and not just by Gen Y MBA students. I think my wife summed it up rather accurately: work-life balance is a myth. There may be moments when when you are able to achieve more family life, but you are inevitably compromising work and vice-versa.

And on sustainable development, much of the conversation seemed to be focused on reinforcing the existence of global warming, and less about the [clear cut] solutions. We heard from Mohan Munasinghe, Vice president of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, 2007 along with Al Gore), who exposed the framework of “sustainomics.” The notion of sustainomics “draws on three basic principles: (1) making development itself more sustainable through immediate actions, (2) balancing the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, and (3) transcending traditional boundaries of academic discipline, space, time, and stakeholder actions, to produce the most effective solutions.” Of course, I am not sure of the application in my immediate world. Anyway, good to listen to. {Read more on the subject here}.

Bottom line, attending the reunion was grand. Reunions are about seeing old friends, but I also got a lot out of listening to some good lectures and panels on contemporary topics. One of the recurrent conclusions of reunions, though, it is clearly NOT a French thing. Of the 34 French classmates, a total of 7 came (un grand merci à vous d’être venus), of which 3 live overseas — and only a couple of the French came for the whole weekend–too many other priorities elsewhere! Without talking about their lack of participation in alumni giving, it is a shame that the French culture does not seem to enjoy these types of reunions. I am, nonetheless, hoping that for the 20th year reunion (2013) we will get a fuller turnout — and with a bit of luck will be talking about rosier economic times. Thanks to all of you who did come. We certainly have our work cut out for us to bring some order to the world. In the meantime, all 1993 INSEAD alum are welcome to join the Facebook INSEAD ’93 group (assuming the company Facebook survives the current management exodus).

See you next time.

Videocast direct from L’Oreal Business Forum 2008


Coming back from the 7th edition of the L’Oréal Business Forum, held September 29 through October 1, 2008, in Villasimius, Sardinia (Italy), I wanted to share with you the day-by-day videocast which was put up on line as soon as each segment was ended. There were 2,000 L’Oréal Professionnel hairdresser clients coming from 27 countries–largely from Eastern Europe–including nearly 1,000 from Russia and groups ranging from Australia, Canada, South Africa and Iran. A veritable coup to film, edit and post all within an hour so many sessions.

LBF 2008

The Forum included business presentations from Bertram K, Gary Rom, Tanya Chernova and Fred Aunis. Prestige shows from Carlo Bay, Berni Ottjes and Laetitia Guenaou. There were also Master Classes from Petra Mechurova, Bertram, Berni and Laetitia.

Right after each segment, participants were able to see the videocasts directly at an internet café set up outside the main tent. will see the 3 days on the left hand tabs, with a morning and/or afternoon session per day. Click on this and tell me what you think!

Beijing Olympics 2008 Medals Recap with Per Population Analysis

Beijing 2008 OlympicsThe Beijing 2008 Olympics have come to an end today Sunday, August 24th. It is hard to imagine that 303 events are crammed into the past 15 days. The kick-off and finale were works of art (if well ‘orchestrated’ in the most generous of terms). And, true to form, China hauled in the largest number of gold medals (51), followed by the USA (36), unaccustomed to playing second fiddle. Aside from chronicling the winning countries in this post, I have chosen to analyse the results according to population. There are many striking facts to these results — the best of which I will attempt to highlight.

Herewith the Top 20 winners, ranked by number of golds. The standout performance after the Chinese clearly belongs to Great Britain with 19 golds.

Olympics 2008 Beijing Medals Table
I choose a second table below to demonstrate the number of medals won per population member (a medal per pop measurement). In the below chart, I have taken the Top 30 (this time), ranked by the most medals from the smallest pool of people. The chart shows the total number of medals won (2nd column), the ranking according to the total number of medals G/S/B (3rd col), followed by the percentage of golds won out of the country’s total medals. Finally, I cite the country’s 2008 population (according to the US Census Bureau). In the last column, you have the population divided by the number of medals, showing — by some way of voodoo statistics — the pool of people that ‘created’ the winners. The Bahamas (2 medals) take the honours here with 1 medal per 153,000 citizens, followed by the miraculous Usain Bolt’s Jamaica (11 medals) and then Iceland (1 medal) taking the bronze place (considering its tiny population). Slovenia, Australia (6th place overall in the total medals haul as well) and New Zealand round out the top 6. Of the top medal scorers in the table above, GB scrapes in at 26th with 1 medal per 1.3 million citizens.

2008 Olympics Medals per Pop
For the record, under this calculation, China landed 68th (13.3mm/pop), the US came in 45th (2.8mm/pop), Russia was 37th (2.0mm/pop). India was plum last of the medal winners with 383 million per pop.

And, for another viewpoint, the non-medalling countries with the largest population (a sort of hall of shame, if it weren’t for the political and social strife):

Pakistan 172 million (6th largest)
Bangladesh 153 million (7th)
Philippines 96 million (12th)
Congo Kinshasa 66 million (18th)
Burma 48 million (26th)

And among the major upsets that I observed from a US standpoint anyway, the US getting only a bronze in baseball and having both the US men and women failing to qualify for the 4x100m. There were many others certainly. However, aside from having a war begin and end within the timeframe of the Olympics (with Russia’s invading Georgia’s [30 medals] South Ossetia and Abkhazia) and China’s internal silencing and manipulated PR campaign, the largest other surprise that I can come up with is the low level of doping scandals. Lo siento Rafa, but Nadal escaped again… along with surely many hundred’s of others.

All in all, a fairly vivid affair. And, for the foreign companies that invested in advertising to the Chinese, presumably a winning gamble. Your thoughts?

The New Age of Travel – Life after changes in the USA Visa Waiver Programme

The US has announced recently that citizens of the 27 visa waiver programme countries (most of Western Europe, Australia, Brunei, Japan, Singapore and New Zealand) will need to register (online) 72 hours in advance of their visit to the US. See here on the official VWP site. The new plan goes fully into effect at the beginning of 2009 (Jan 12 to be exact, after the last of the yea-end holidays are over). This is quite a new dimension to the US’ “security strengthening” policies. It means that any last minute travel to the US is ruled out entirely. Aside from giving a new meaning to (more like, this could have a serious impact on last minute deal-making. It will also put a crimp of rushed surgeries, funerals and marriages.

The New Age of Travel (and the new Visa Waiver Programme)
Along with the new surcharges for higher fuel prices and, now, for luggage, the nature of flying is shifting rather brutally. Is it possible that our children will travel much less frequently because of ticket pricing reminiscent of when airline travel was a novelty, security controls that make it necessary to arrive at the airport the day before and service that reminds one of the labor relations at the outset of the industrial revolution?

Overrun airports and flight paths, high fuel prices, global warming and carbon footprints are all rather dissuasive issues for airplane travel. For example, British Airways has announced a £60 fuel surcharge for long-haul flights. As the Daily Telegraph reports, “[t]hat will mean a family of four that is already paying £672 in surcharges on long-haul holiday flights must now find £872.” That equals 1,100 euros or US$1,700 at today’s exchange rate. Apparently, there are more surcharges ahead. Take a look at ClimateChangeConnection’s discussion on air travel (from whence cometh the picture above).

Surely, the new age of travel has dawned on us. Anyone care for a stroll?

Roland Garros French Open Winners 2008

The French Open 2008 came to a close with yet another resounding victory for Rafael Nadal as the Men’s Champion and the win of Ana Ivanovic on the Women’s side coinciding with her ascension to the #1 world ranking.

For Nadal (at right with his bionic muscles), on the men’s side, it was hisRafael Nadal - Bionic muscles fourth title in a row, with the last three coming at the cost of Roger Federer. The score in this year’s final was particularly punishing: 6-1,6-3,6-0. Nadal has now won 28 matches in a row (he has never lost at Roland Garros), tying Bjorn Borg’s record of four French titles in a row. And, along the way this year, Nadal didn’t drop a set, including in the more hotly contested match with Novak Djokovic 6-4,6-2,7-6(3). For Federer, it’s back to the drawing board. He may need a steroid-induced injury to Nadal to allow him to conquer the elusive French Open.

The men’s doubles were taken by the South American duo, Pablo Cuevas (Uruguay) and Luis Horna (Peru), pacing to a 6-2,6-3 score against Canadian Daniel Nestor and Serbian Nenad Zimonjic. The 2008 winners probably deserved their title, having knocked off the Byran brothers (USA) in the quarterfinals in a thrilling three set match 6-3,5-7,7-6(1).

On the women’s side, Ana Ivanovic took the singles honours and along with it the women’s world number 1 ranking, displacing Maria Sharapova in what seems to be a field dominated merely by Russian and Serbian players. Having lost in the final last year, this was a strong performance and just reward for Ivanovic, trouncing the surprise finalist Dinara Safina 6-4,6-3.

The women’s doubles were won by the 10th seeded Spanish duo, Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual, 2-6,7-5,6-4 come from behind victory over Dellacqua (Australia) and Schiavone (Italy).

All in all, an Open with little by way of scandals or major surprises. Nadal will surely break Borg’s record at the start of 2009 in terms of consecutive wins.

Robert Fahey takes 9th Real (Court) Tennis World Championship

Real or Court Tennis RacquetsRobert Fahey is a name that many of you will not know. Rob Fahey - Real Tennis Champion 9 times in a rowBut in the annals of sports, he will surely have to feature prominently for his latest exploit. He has accomplished the outstanding feat of 9 consecutive world Real (or Court for the Americans) Tennis championship titles, dating back to 1994. Fahey (IRT profile), 40, from Tasmania, Australia, beat 21-year-old American, Camden Riviere, from Aiken, South Carolina, at the marvellous Chateau of Fontainebleau in a most hotly contested final this past weekend. The match was played over THREE days with Fahey pulling it out 7/5 in the 12th set (you can read up on the match here). The tournament has been played every other year since 1996, meaning that with 9 titles, Fahey has been ruling the world of real tennis for 15 years. By taking the 9th title, he has also by-passed the French legend of the jeu de paume, Pierre Eschebaster who dominated for 26 years the court tennis world. Of course, Eschebaster would probably have won more titles had the Chateau Fontainebleau Real Tennis Courtwar not interrupted his string of victories. Fahey, whose nickname is “Bag” (perhaps as in ‘he has it in the bag’), has also won the the consecutive doubles World Championships played on the off years.

I am, myself, the proud owner of a real tennis racquet and have participated in two tournaments in my life (the second, in doubles, afforded me to progress to the second round thanks to my willing and able partner, Forman Wickes). I very much enjoy the spirit of the game and there is no doubt that the sporting challenge is up there. Clearly, this is not the most hotly contested of sports in the world, and you have to be super dedicated to find one of the few courts around (there are just three in France for example). But, it is a wonderful game replete with nostalgic quirks, scoring and humour.

Well done to Fahey. I dare say 2010 should be a great tournament as well… Will the “new generation” make it?

If you want to read a fun writeup on the sport, see Edward Reeves’ article “The New Racketeers”.