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The Best Place in the World

Something stinks, and it ain't Becks' socks

Occasionally, something happens that knocks you slightly off your axis. There you are, spinning nicely in your own little world, if not untroubled by life and its challenges then at least cognizant of them. It's a lovely feeling: projects on time, budget sorted, the natives in enterprise architecture quiet, supply chain humming, CEO distracted, CFO holidaying up an Alaskan glacial sheet where his BlackBerry can't work. Ah, the serenity.

It never lasts. There's always some idiot who wrecks it. And it is only a fool who believes otherwise. This lesson was taught to me in a slightly psychologically-damaging first day as a sub-editor on the notorious London tabloid, The Sun. Its equally notorious editor of the time, Kelvin MacKenzie, said to me before I had even found my desk on my first day: "Listen to me very carefully, son. When you think you're in, you're out."

True words, indeed. And not only at The Sun, where people could be marched mid-shift, or after beating the night editor at darts in the pub between editions, but also if you are a CIO riding your fortune on the two-year, cyclical circuit of being hired and then fired through no real fault of your own.

While The Sun's HR policy left an indelible mark on me, I can still slip into a comfort zone before something quite bizarre zaps my senses. It can come from the oddest directions, and I have learned to treat it as fun rather than with my usual journalistic mode of disdain. A recent example was when my high-flying-editor wife - an empress of fashion freebies - came home brandishing a present. This one, for me!

Perfume. Intimately Beckham.

If that was not bad enough, it was a kinda pink. Now, the last time I looked up this bloke Beckham played right midfield for Real Madrid, was still hooked up with a Spice Girl and was rubbish in the World Cup, as were most of his mates. The idea I'd wear a perfume by Becks gave me a laugh and nudged me off my own private axis. How crazy has the world become when a footballer and his smelly socks gets his own perfume?

What has this to do with you? Nothing, really. Except that having now confessed to what knocked me of my axis recently, I'm going to try to tip you off yours. Just ever so slightly. And funnily enough, we might start by using perfume as a parallel in our IT life.

Faces That Launch a Thousand Scents

It has become best practice is the cosmetics world to have actresses - the Blanchetts and Kidmans of this world - as the "face" of perfumes. Walk through DJ's or Myer's cosmetics departments and you'll see them everywhere. As I said, it's best practice. Perfume companies have been doing this for years, copying a concept promoted by Pepsi with the likes of Michael Jackson and Britney Spears, to name just two role models for our children.

Using celebs for endorsements has become such best practice that everyone does it. So what is best practice about it? Nothing. The phrase is simply a demonstration of how cliched business language dresses up the concept of copying something someone else has done. And when lots of companies copy the copier, it becomes dull, intellectually stagnant and offers no competitive advantage. It's just a me-too strategy executed by the cynical, the lazy, or the lazy cynics.

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