Dublin is booming at the moment. Over the last 2o years or so that I’ve lived in Ireland, I’ve noticed a genuine boom-bust flow to the economy here, which makes it very difficult to plan for the long term, as any government will tell you.

In the mid-to-late 90’s the tech industry in Ireland exploded. By the end of 2001, and the introduction of the Euro at the beginning of 2o02, the dot com bubble had burst and the country was in recession. By the mid-noughties, it was flying again. Then came the tumultuous global meltdown of September 2008 and we were all sent to the brink, our pension funds destroyed. Construction, which had formed 25% of GDP, stopped overnight.

Dublin rebounded more quickly than the provinces, and now it’s booming again. I was waiting for a meeting to start on the 3rd floor of an office on the north quays recently, overlooking the river Liffey and the south side. Out of this narrow window I could see 9 cranes. 9 cranes within my view is a sure indication of a booming city economy.

I wish some of this productivity and boomingness was a bit more equally divided across the country, which is not doing anywhere near as well as the capital. Dublin is full. It’s roads are full, its hotels are full, it’s hard to get around. Not so in the provinces. The prosperity, tech hubs and inward investments are starting to flow to the regions, slowly but surely.

But, for now, Dublin is top dog. It’s booming, at least until the next bust…

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Just when you thought Ryanair were getting better and becoming a little more customer intimate – not too much mind you, because that would cost money, ask the pilots – Ryanair pulls what it probably considers to be a master stroke, and what passengers will feel is a low blow they can’t do much about.

We booked a family holiday a few months ago, towards the end of last year, paying for 2 check-in bags and planning to carry a cabin bag each, and a small bag to fit under the seat in front of us. There was no mention that I saw that the regulations were about to change.

A couple of weeks ago we started to get emails about a change in cabin bags, effective shortly and before we actually take our holiday. From this date, unless you have priority booking you can only bring on one bag that fits under the seat in front; you can’t use the overhead storage at all.

WTF! I went back and checked my original confirmation email and there’s no mention of a new cabin bag restriction. Ryanair has gone back to its policy of only one cabin bag, except that now it has to be smaller than before. Clearly pesky customers have been using all the overhead storage and that will not do.

As always, what’s at stake here is the principle. I’ve written before about how Ryanair competes primarily on operational excellence – and this is about operationally squeezing the last cent out of passengers, making them pack even lighter and still avoiding baggage check-in, thereby guaranteeing Ryanair comfortable flight turnarounds – rather than product leadership or customer intimacy. Presumably they’re allowed to hide behind small print that says ‘we can change the terms any time we like’, but to enforce it from the date of travel, rather than the date of booking, when they’ve got pre-booked passengers over the proverbial barrel, is petty, inconsiderate and will probably net them an extra few hundred grand.

Why do they do it? Because they can. For now.

With advances in technology, the cost to produce sensors has come down and so they have proliferated. There are so many devices that have sensors: machinery like our cars, appliances like our dishwashers, security systems and so on. This is only set to continue with the Internet of Things, with billions of connected sensors.

The thing with sensors, though, is that they’re very good at sensing. They’re sensitive souls.

Let me give you three examples. Firstly, 20-odd years ago I had a company car and it was a German make, complete with loads of sensors and a computer diagnostic panel under the bonnet. One of the sensors kept picking up a signal that a tyre needed replacing, when it didn’t, and flagged a warning light in the dashboard. What did the engineer do? The path of least resistance; he disconnected the sensor so that I would need to check manually for tyre tread, which defeats the purpose of investing in a better car with more technology. Incidentally, the panel was also prone to letting in rainwater, which also made for occasional trips to the car doctor.

Secondly, about 15 years ago I took delivery of another shiny company car, compete with an alarm system that would sound if someone tried to move the car. It would even sound if someone tried the driver’s door-handle. On my first day with the new car, I parked in the company car park, which was separated from a busy road by a low wall and, above it, a robust hedge. Every time a truck went past on the main road at speed, the displaced air would travel through the hedge, rock the car slightly, and activate the alarm. The car went back to the garage to be desensitised.

Thirdly, as I write this post, our brand new shiny integrated dishwasher – it was installed a couple of days ago and completed its first run yesterday – is currently out of action and awaiting an engineer. Of course, as a snugly integrated appliance it’s a bit of a bugger to get in and out so you want to minimise these kinds of events if you can. A sensor has tripped a warning light, and an error message. Sensitive thing…

By how much will this kind of event be multiplied when we’re well and truly in the IoT era?

I finally got back to exercising ways the other day. I’d been injured after a run and this seemed to set off a chain reaction of twinges and aches in related parts of my body, so it was slightly over 2 weeks since I had last exercised.

I go the gym first thing in the morning, before I start the normal family or working day. If it’s regular exercise like the gym, the only time I will go is the morning. After about lunch time I can’t be bothered, so the only exercise I’ll contemplate in the afternoon or evening is proper sport.

Anyway, I bounded back to the house an hour later, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, all chirpy, full of the joys of spring and whatever other cliche you can conjure up. It got me thinking about the paradox that is the least-most principle of exercise. The less you feel like doing something, the more you need it and the more it will benefit you. The longer you don’t exercise, the more you don’t want to do it, the longer you put it off and the harder is to get back in the saddle.

I didn’t want to get up and dressed for exercise in the cold. It took some effort but finally I was up and ready to head out. Once I’d got to the gym, I was fine. When I finished I felt great and I was set up for the day.

For me the least-most principle of exercise always holds true. The least I feel inclined to do it, the most I need it, and the most I get out of it.

I’m sitting on a train which is theoretically on its way from Galway to Dublin. I have a 2 o’clock meeting in Dublin, and then I’m back home on the train. I’m coming in just for this meeting, but my train is due in 2 and 1/2 hours before my meeting, so I’ve arranged to meet a couple ex-work pals for lunch. I’d decided on the train because my back is a bit sore and I could also get some work done.

The lunch appointment time is just passing now. We’ve been stationery for about 50 minutes. Ever since we rolled over something hard and metallic about 25 KMs outside Dublin, trundling to a stop about a kilometre further on. The on-board wifi is taking a terrible beating.

There are emergency response teams on the scene, presumably for both the incident and our train. I’m not sure if I’ll make my meeting, or whether we’ll eventually roll into Dublin and I’ll hop on the next train back to Galway, which will probably be delayed.

On Twitter Irish Rail has announced the suspension of all services in both directions due to a ‘tragic incident’. It is what it is. You can’t legislate for this kind of thing. You can’t manage away all of these possibilities and percentages. But when you have any single point of failure you run the risk of running into problems which inconvenience thousands of people.

I’ve written about the unreliability of public transportation for work-related meetings on numerous occasions. This is, of course, extremely traumatic for anyone directly affected by the incident. But for those of us indirectly affected, what it all boils down to is the usual: the loss of two important and related factors, namely time and productivity. This meeting I’m supposed to be attending is a dry-run for the real thing I’m running in 2 days time, for which I was also going to take the train. Decisions…

Ah, email, the scourge of modern lives, both work-based and social-based. It’s no wonder that the young are not embracing it as a communications vehicle in anything like the numbers that the older generations have.

Emails can represent both a time-suck and an intrusion into our daily lives. If you’re like me and you subscribe to suppliers’ mailings, or have simply bought something from a company which has your email address, you’ll know what a chore it is to wade through email subject lines from organisations you don’t want to unsubscribe from, in case the occasional email provides something of use to you.

Email has its problems. A large percentage of knowledge and intellectual property is buried in email, often not archived or indexed properly, and it can be difficult to find and retrieve. That’s not particularly efficient. Email intrudes on a regular basis, with a ping here and a ping there, and business gurus are lining up to tell us to ignore 80% of our email and do our necessary email work in batches so that we stay productive.  Businesses are soon to be subject to the EU General Data Protection Regulation, which places more stringent requirements on those companies that collect and use data on us, like our email address. Here’s a nice summary by a marketing automation provider on GDPR implications for companies that email their customers.

Email marketing has been trending down for some time, as search engine optimisation / marketing and social media have been trending up. By 2020, according to Forrester and CMO, email will account for only 2,5% of our digital marketing spend.

It’s not all bad for email though. For example, a couple of years ago I called a couple dozen customers of a client of mine and asked them what their communications preferences were, both as prospective customers, and as active, ongoing customers. The overriding preference? ‘Email. Yes, I get loads of them, but if you send me one that I know I need to read, from looking at the subject line, I can leave it in my inbox and get to it when I’m ready.’

So it seems that, at least for non-millennials and business folk, the hugely prevalent mechanism that is email is still the best of a pretty bad lot when it comes to written communications.

In this post I want to talk about the other IoT. Not the Internet of Things, but the Interconnectedness of Things. Almost the same thing, but actually quite different as well.

Recently I participated in a 10K run. It was the latest version of the run I serialised 12 months ago. I warmed up the week before with a 10K run, and did something to my right Achilles tendon which made it very sore. No harm, I’d got the distance ‘in the bank’ so I focused for the next week on stretches to fix the pesky tendon in time for the race.

3K into the actual race, after a very careful and studious warm-up on the big day, my historically troublesome right calf muscle started aching. After 4K it was properly pulled and I had to stop and hobble back to the car. I limped around for about 4 days and then felt my back go, a muscular groan between my shoulder blades. Two days later, my lower back twanged, and so I had to put up with more periods of extreme soreness where I was in too much discomfort to start rehab. Bending down to pick something up off the floor was agony, and soon my right knee started complaining.

This for me illustrates the interconnectedness of the body’s moving parts, all stemming from the spine and the core. The Achilles, affecting the calf, impacting the spine (which is probably the root cause), which then refers pain down the legs. A good strong core and spine, and all the stuff that hangs off them tends to be pretty good too.

This is what I mean by the interconnectedness of things.It’s also a handy parallel for business, work and life. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, as Mr Newton said. Everything’s connected…

We use the word pain a lot in sales and marketing. We don’t mean physical pain of course, we mean business-related pain, and use the word to signify a problem, deficiency or other kind of challenge that our prospective customer needs to overcome. We home in on that pain, highlight it, illustrate the downside of not fixing it, and demonstrate how we’re uniquely positioned to remove that pain.

We also hope that our customer is not experiencing that pain constantly. You’d think we might be, but actually if they’re so preoccupied with that pain then it makes it very difficult for them to focus properly and absorb the reasoning about how we can help alleviate the pain.

There’s an exact corollary in constant pain of a physical nature too. When we’re in constant pain, a pain that medicine or treatment won’t lessen, it consumes every waking moment and makes it almost impossible to do anything productive. That’s why we’re generally in hospital, at the Doctor’s or laid up in bed. Nothing else for it.

I pity those unfortunate people who have to live with constant pain. It must be so hard. I have to imagine you’re preoccupied with managing that pain every waking moment.

Same for the business in constant pain as well. We must work super hard as marketers and sales people to provide a glimmer of quality respite for them to buy into a better future, a future that’s tied to us.

If you’re reading this post pretty much as soon as it’s been published, then I send you a heartfelt and well timed Happy New Year. If you’ve come to it later, by a different route, don’t click away just yet.

I have an observation to make. In England we tend to wish people Happy Christmas slightly before Christmas, and on Christmas Day, and not usually after. We also say Happy New Year on the stroke of midnight going into the first of January, and for a week or two afterwards. Never before.

In Ireland, you can be wished a Happy New Year before the new year starts.

In some quarters this would be thought of as slightly odd, unlucky even. ‘I haven’t got there yet, but thanks, I think.’

The Irish for December is Nollaig, which also means Christmas, so you’ll receive Christmas greetings from the first of the month, which is nice. Furthermore, in the Emerald Isle it’s not considered out of the ordinary to wish folk Happy Christmas slightly after the big day, or Happy New Year slightly before the other big day.

I consider it all part of the Irish way of friendliness, chattiness and welcomingness.

I have found, perhaps more by luck than judgement, hence my anecdotal phrasing of this sentence, that when you do the prep, things tend to go fine. When you don’t, they don’t.

When you wing a call or a meeting, choosing not to think about the questions you might get, or the outcomes you want from an encounter, it can often unravel and put you behind where you started. When you think about your call or meeting, plan for it, do the work required, try and anticipate the questions, have answers for them, and have an outcome in mind, it tends to go well.

Things are rarely as bad or difficult as you thought they’d be before you started the prep.

I think this has to do with the self-fulfilling prophecy, and peace of mind. The self-fulfilling prophecy, as I’ve talked about here, here and here, dictates that something will probably turn out the way you expected it to, and that by extension you should go into any situation with a positive outcome in mind. When you’ve done the prep, you’re comfortable with the impending call or meeting. You have peace of mind, which relaxes you and sets you up much better to shape the meeting to how you want it to go.

In a situation that’s much more complex than a call or meeting, like war, or business, our strike rate is nothing like as high. There are too many more variables, with too many more possible outcomes. All plans turn to dust in the heat of battle, inevitably. The prep, though, and the act of prepping, is still a very important and worthwhile exercise.