Chris Croft's Personal Blog

February 23, 2011

People who say “I don’t get Twitter” might be wrong!

I think I’m starting to get the point of Twitter.
My thoughts are as follows: these are the reasons why you might want to get a (free) Twitter account:

1 – You can follow your idols and get a window into their world
2 – You can see which topics are “trending” and see what people are saying about these popular subjects
3 – You can send a message to anyone, so if you can’t get the email address for Eric Clapton or Armando Ianucci you can probably send them a message via Twitter
4 – You can subscribe to sites listing local jobs
5 – You can subscribe to sites which send jokes, for example Viz Top Tips is hilarious
6 – Follow the chain: You can see who is following someone who you like, and see who the people you like are following, thus discovering whole new worlds of discussion
7 – You can find out what’s going on locally to you, and also find out what’s going on internationally, e.g. Libya. Someone told me that he was stuck in a non-moving queue at Heathrow so he searched twitter and found out that the problem was – someone with a mobile was tweeting from the front of the queue! Or if you are in Northampton for the evening, you can search and see who is saying what about what’s going on there.
8 – It’s fun to watch a rugby match or The Apprentice with your twitter feed on, so you can see what everyone is tweeting, like having loads of people in the room with you making witty comments
9 – You can search for conversations on anything, so if you are really into bee-keeping or base-jumping you can just search and see who is saying what about those
10 – Serendipity – sometimes you tweet, or receive a tweet, about something at just the right time – might be a book you are reading, a band playing locally, a job required, etc.

Overall I think it’s interesting, and probably goes much deeper and better than I have so far discovered…. Let me know people, what did I miss?


PS – follow me on Twitter! Management tips at @chriscroft, the real me at @chriscroft2010


February 7, 2011

Problem Solving techniques

Filed under: Lists, Managing People — chriscroft @ 9:45 pm

Here’s the list I sent out as a tip earlier:

The nearest I have got to a system for being creative is the following list of methods to help stimulate whatever creativity we already have within us. It’s a long list, but if just one of the following ideas works for you then it’s been worth it.

1. Daydream – It’s OK to let your mind wander. The best way to tap into your subconscious is to release your mind, either when relaxed, or half asleep, or thinking about something else.

2. Reversal – Think about how to make it worse, then do the opposite. Think about doing the opposite to what you’d planned; are there any ideas to be gained?

3. Dictionary linking – Pick a word at random from a dictionary, and then think about how this word could be used in a possible solution to the problem.

4. 20 Ideas – Force yourself to write down twenty solutions, however ridiculous. Then, later, review them for the beginnings of ideas.

5. Looking back – Visualise the problem already solved, then think about what you did to get there. Imagine yourself saying “It was easy, all I did was…”

6. What-if – Follow some possible sequences of events, based on different starting points. What if the people were different, or if you changed the product, or the timing, or the method, or the promotion. What might happen? List the main features, then think about changing each one in turn.

7. Sleep on it – Just before you go to sleep, consciously and formally ask your sub-conscious for an answer to the question, to be given in its own time, when it is ready.

8. Matrix – Ensure that all combinations have been covered by drawing out a matrix combining the variables, for example, people with places, products with customers, markets with methods of promotion, etc.

9. Mind Map – Draw the problem out as a picture, and make sure you have fully explored all the branches.

10. Other people: one to one – Explain the problem to someone else. If doing this isn’t enough to make you come up with new solutions, go through each of your ideas and describe the pros and cons of it. Describe what the ideal solution would be like.

11. Other people: group – Brainstorm ideas, as many as possible, writing them all on a board without judging any of them.

12. Question the problem – do you really need to solve it? Do you really want to solve it? Is there a different problem you could solve, or a way to live with it?

13. Define the solution in clear detail – visualise it. How does it feel? What does it look like. Get every detail. Live through the sequence of how it feels to have it solved.

14. Sit with your mind absolutely blank. You are not allowed to think about the problem at all!

15. Keep going after the first solution, however good it may seem.

16. What are the rules / the system / the convention? What if you didn’t follow them?

17. What would other people do? How would they approach it? Make a list of people and their different approaches.

18. “Morphological analysis” – list the attributes of your starting point, usually as verb + noun (e.g. travelling on wheels, or powered by petrol). List alternative nouns for each verb. Make new phrases and combinations of these phrases.

19. Innovation transfer: transfer your situation to a different trade or market (e.g. butcher, doctor or teacher wants to cut costs, sell more, etc.). Brainstorm for them, then translate the ideas back into your own context.

20. Consult a fool – they could give you a new angle on the situation. The “fool” could be an untrained person, or perhaps a child / some children.

21. Think of some silly, fun solutions. Fun opens up the creative section of the brain. Do a brain-storm where only silly solutions are allowed.

22. Become more creative by changing yourself as a person. Visualise and self-talk- “I can…” “I am…” “I do…”

23. Cut out newspaper headlines, maybe cutting and mixing them to produce weird mixtures. TV listings can do the same. Use these to give you new ideas on your problem.

24. Take a random CD and pick a random track. Are the lyrics helpful?

25. Scribble / doodle / sketch / make patterns:- what does it bring to mind? Group members look at each others’ drawings and get ideas.

26. What if the problem was a good thing? Where would that lead? e.g. what if it was good to be slow, or heavy?

27. Sacred cows: what are the fixed restrictions that will always be there? Now wheel these into the abattoir. How does that change things?

28. Nature – how do animals and plants cope with this type of problem? Bees swarm and leave to make a new nest, bears hibernate until the spring comes, etc.

29. Write a film script about a person who solves your problem. How do they do it?

30. Cacophony – all mill around and shout your ideas out, loudly, at once, while sort of listening too. Having heard bits of other people’s, everyone pauses, writes down some new combined versions, and then we go back to another round of shouting.

31. Pick two random nouns (from a dictionary or from other teams) and then think about how they combine.

32. When selecting possible ideas or plans from a list – give each person £100 to spend on whichever of the options they like – divided in any proportions. See which ideas get the most money. Or, quicker, give each person 5 coloured stickers to spread around (they could give all 5 to one plan if they want).

33. What is the second best solution? This forces you not to take the obvious or first choice. How can the second best solution be improved to make it the best?

34. Use adjectives from another noun, e.g using cat on ships: cuddly ships, dead mouse ships, ships that stay out at night, ship flaps…

35. Chunking up or down: orange juice goes up to drink, down to beer, up to alcohol, down to Vodka, up to Made in Russia, down to fur coats…

36. How would the Chief Exec approach the problem? What about the lowliest worker? What about a plumber or a brain surgeon or a farmer? This isn’t about them solving it in their job, it’s them solving it in your job, if you asked them for advice.

37. Thesaurus – start with your current plan, however inadequate, and surf the Thesaurus on the key words.

38. Type the key words of your problem into an internet search engine.

39. Aim much higher than normal, e.g. to sell 100 times as much, or charge 10x as much, or employ 100,000 people. Now, how could you do this?

40. If you had an army of 1000 people to help you, how would you do it?

41. State the problem as “How to…” (e.g. not “we’re not selling as much” but “how to sell more”) and then restate it without using any of the same words. Then restate it again.

42. Mud-slinging: pick the best / most successful product and generate a list of ways that it’s rubbish / doesn’t meet the market needs. Use these to improve your other products or services.

43. Get random pictures from a photography book or newspaper, generate associations from the pictures and apply them to your problem.

44. Give out 2 digital cameras and get teams to photograph unusual objects around the place. Each team gives its pictures to the other team who use these as a source of ideas.

Speaking Bristol

Filed under: Lists, Random stuff - uncategorisable — chriscroft @ 9:44 pm

The Bristolians add an L to some words ending in vowels (including Bristow, the original name for their city!) – here are my favourites:




My Auntie Ednal


Did you know that Africal is a very malarial areal?
Opral Winfrey and President Obamal
Ford Fiestal, Cortinal, Sierral, and Granadal
Wearing a burkal
these are my two daughters Eval and Normal
Pizzal (or would this be pizzarr?)
Spaghetti Carbonaral
The Eurol
By the way, not knocking Bristol, it’s a great city, I lived there for 7 years and loved it.
Just never quite got my head around the adding of the L, that’s all….

Once my wife and I were walking on the cliffs and looked down to the beach where someone had written, in stones, “Gert Stonkers”. Hilarious, though I never knew if it was male or female protuberances, to this day I still wonder, but also chuckle anyway…

February 6, 2011

Reviews of recent music releases

Filed under: Music — chriscroft @ 6:27 pm

Who cares what I think! But anyway, in case you do, here we go

· Alan Pownall – Depressing but good folky acoustic guitar songs, a bit like a miserable Jack Johnson
· Aqualung – remind me of Keane (e.g. Easier To Lie). I like them.
· Beans on toast – low budget fun songs with clever words, Billie Bragg when we has a student
· Bombay Bicycle Club – quirky, funky, Haircut 100, Orange Juice, Ivy and Gold is nice, so is Many Ways.
· Bon Iver – classy, atmospheric, moody, beautiful
· Camera Obscura – a bit happy and twee for me, like Everything But The Girl blissed out. Good tunes though.
· Fleet Foxes – recommended by yet another person – I still find them twee and annoying
· Frank Turner – like Billy Bragg, I like him, vocal a bit like other shouty folk people like the men they couldn’t hang, Tansads etc
· Ellie Goulding – Like Bjork’s funky moments, though much more accessible. I’m loving the track Guns and Horses.
· Guillemots – more funky than I expected, I like their album Red
· Imogen Heap – classy songs from fragile female singer – Hide and Seek reminds me of Laurie Anderson’s O Superman
· James Blake – nice melodies annoyingly cut up and edited. You might like it if you’re trendy. At some point he’s going to do something great….
· Joel Plaskett – John Mellenncamp meets Fairport Convention – rousing country, I like him
· Laura Marling – folky singer songwriter – OK, sounds like Joni on Rambling Man, with hints of Bob Dylan, Nick Drak19 etc too. Track I liked :– Blackberry Stone.
· Leddra Chapman – voice and style reminded me of the Corrs or maybe the Cranberries, good songs too, e.g Wine Glass
· Lemon Jelly – quirky warm instrumentals, funky but can be annoying
· The new Linkin Park album, ‘A Thousand Suns’ – mellowing with age, very nice.
· Little Man Tate – shouty northern guitar band, too many glottal stops for me, but some good riffs I guess. Though I do like “Man I hate your band”
· Metric – female singer, rock band, nothing unusual but OK, reminded me of late period Suzanne Vega but not as quirky or sexy as her. Though there’s a track called Gimme Sympathy which I just love!
· The National – like a grungy Bruce Springsteen. But not as rousing as the Boss himself. Fake Empire is like Nick Cave’s Into My Arms, with a hint of Brian Eno (The Big Ship?). It’s good.
· Noah and the Whale – Quirky student folk.. Should make quite a good album when they grow up and clam down. Already some good tunes, and theatrical drummer. Give A Little Love is a great tune.
· Owl City – these people are great! Nice songs, emotion, hard to describe. Check out either of their albums.
· Passion Pit – shrill and funky, like recent Keane meets MGMT but not as good
· Patrick Watson – weird jazzy atmospheres, quite bleak, voice sounds like Anthony and the Johnsons, e.g. on Great Escape. Tends to be clever but a bit boring.
· Slow Club – folky harmony skiffle, nice love songs
· Sin City (did you mean Sin City Chainsaw, fun heavy stuff in a Motorhead vein, or Sin City Six – fun heavy stuff in a Ramones vein?)
· The XX – low key and a bit dreary. Though ‘Intro’ has a nice feel of the Cure about it… I could see it getting hypnotically addictive. Bass led like joy division, but vocals more like, er, yazoo? The Marine Girls? Young Marble Giants? There’s certainly a trend towards the 80s again… Heart skipped a beat also has Cure-like guitar on it.
· We Were Promised Jetpacks – strummy guitar, uplifting, like the proclaimers sing James, with added XTC. good album!

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