Peter Bromhead: Demand for my nonexistent business acumen

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Cartoon / Peter Bromhead
Cartoon / Peter Bromhead

This week the Prime Minister opened my flash new design studio in Parnell.

Architecturally designed, the space reflects the sort of tosser zeitgeist expected from someone who's been around in the design business for 50 years, with lots of heavy-duty concrete, white painted brick and the sort of monastic environment favoured by avant-garde restaurants at the expense of decent acoustics.

When my stern-faced accountants asked me, "What is your business plan for relocating when the economy is turning to custard?" I could only weakly respond, "Well, I can get decent coffee in the cafe next door."

Such statements only mystify the beancounters. Nice people, but not exactly known for understanding the subtleties of running a business on gut instinct.

Of course, the modus operandi of a consultancy doesn't really matter - providing one's creative work satisfies the clients and the bills get paid.

Ironically, because I'm ancient and appear soberly astute, I'm continually being asked to address corporations eager to learn about my nonexistent business acumen.

I think they're confusing me with Owen Glenn.

Skimming his book recently, the only thing I noted us having in common is that he doesn't favour boards of directors, echoing my philosophy: "If you want to get something done, form a committee of one."

It must've been fun working for Glenn. I understand from past employees that his idea of social interaction was to take his staff off on rip-roaring trips to Las Vegas to "unwind". By contrast, this makes my idea of offering staff an afternoon outing to Waiheke seem slightly feeble.

So, what's changed in 50 years? Well, in my areas of speciality - corporate offices - the big shrink is on. Thanks to computers, nobody needs desks or space the size of an aircraft carrier anymore.

Oddly, we're now in the era of long-bench desking again, similar to the typing pools of the 1920s.

What's around the corner? Reviewing the latest ergonomic research suggests we'll all be returning to bar-height desks, complete with high stools allowing employees - especially those slaving in call centres - the opportunity to stand or sit while working.

This is to counter the fast-growing risk of thrombosis, apparently aggravated through spending long periods sitting at a standard-height desk staring at computer screens.

So, if you want to be on the leading edge of tomorrow's design thinking, go and buy yourself one of those antique Dickensian desks favoured by Ebenezer Scrooge.

- NZ Herald

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