BUNHILL : Even gurus can lose their way

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The Independent Online
I HAVE been talking to Colin Coulson-Thomas, a "management guru" who has just written a book called The Future of the Organisation (which I haven't read, but I'm sure it's very good).

I use the word guru carefully. On a recent trip to India he was first described as "one of the world's most wonderful people"; then he was told he should be knighted. Finally he got the big one: "At the Rotary Club in Bombay I was told that in India I would be regarded as a Brahmin and a guru," he says.

His next book should be about his Indian visit. One morning he and his colleagues left in two taxis for a meeting just round the corner. At the bottom of the street one turned left and the other right. Ten minutes later, after a breakdown, the taxis met up again, drove down the street together - and again turned off in different directions. They eventually arrived after a circuitous 25-minute ride.

Then there was the one about the dog in Bangalore airport. A three-hour flight delay was officially put down to "operational difficulties", but it was clear from all the activity that there was a bomb scare. A clue was a man walking through the terminal surrounded by security men and with a labrador on a lead. The dog was sniffing all the luggage, and eventually went on to the tarmac to stick its nose into unloaded suitcases. What were they doing? the passengers asked. "Oh, that man's just taking his dog for a walk," the airport official said comfortingly.

I WOULD like to congratulate the Royal Bank of Scotland for turning that curse of the modern age, voicemail, into an art form. I rang it and got this message: "This is the Royal Bank of Scotland press office .... bleep, bleep, bleep."

Surreal, soothing but vaguely musical noises followed, continuing for an age. It quite cheered me up - and I didn't have to talk to a press officer.

I called Rank Xerox. "Document Company Rank Xerox," the operator said. Poor old Rank Xerox has been trying for as long as I can remember to pretend it isn't Rank Xerox.

The problem seems to be the Xerox bit, which makes people think it makes photocopiers. Well, it still does, but it doesn't want to be reminded of that fact. I suppose it was inevitable that it would eventually try to drop its name entirely and attempt to turn itself into a corporate euphemism.

Heavy metal

ON THE same subject, I have been advised by those who follow these things that RTZ has become Rio Tinto, while Olivetti UK has become olsy uk, with the strapline "olivetti solutions".

Companies accepting that they made an appalling error when they became acronyms should be wildly applauded - but why has RTZ dropped the Zinc in its new guise? It would undoubtedly argue that it digs up more than zinc, but this is surely outweighed by the satisfying euphony of the old name.

I have a solution. Sir Terence Conran is setting up a chain of restaurants called Zinc. He must now buy Rio Tinto. I'm sure his merchant bank could come up with some excuse for getting into mining (the motto's ready to go: "Digging in all over the world").

As for olsy uk, what can you say? Only perhaps that it is better than olivetti solutions. Ugh.

THE reverberations from my "old advertisement" competition rumble on majestically. First Magy Higgs has brought this elderly French commercial to my attention: "Buvez Surf!". If the Surf in question is a washing powder, it does much to reinforce the impression that the French are indeed obsessed with inner cleanliness.

Then I got a nice letter from Sharron Trisk, following last week's piece about Sunny Jim and Force.

She says that in the 1950s her dad, who had worked his way up from being tea boy at a toy company, took it over and won the contract to make Sunny Jim dolls.

She remembers them being cut, filled and stitched. Her parents always said that Sunny Jim was a great help in making the company work, which shows that breakfast cereal really can be good for you after all.

Sniffing out debt

DEBT collection has reached new heights. Apparently some companies employ a man known as Mr Smelly to visit debtors and extract the dosh. Mr Smelly is well named, and the victims pay up to get rid of him. I have no idea if this is true, but it probably is because it comes third hand from a taxi driver.

HERE is a quote that will set you peeling the potatoes with vigour. It comes from Ken Burenga of Dow Jones: "We have a vision - a vision that blows away the limits of proprietary delivery systems, closed boxes and limited information. Where there aren't 'products', just capabilities packaged around your needs ... Full service from a single source. In an open environment. Your way ... We share a mind-set, a resolute confidence and a sleeves-rolled-up attitude that you can count on." What is Mr Burenga announcing? That Dow Jones Telerate is now called Dow Jones Markets. What would he say if he had something important to tell us?