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Japan Day 4: Adrenaline sensitizes

December 14th, 2015 · Articles, Japan 2015 Trip

Itinerary (day 4 in Japan)

Train from Tokyo to Nikko

At Nikko, saw the following:

  • Togushu Shrine (
    • Final resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate that ruled Japan for over 250 years from 1603 CE to 1868 CE. “Shogun” is translated literally as “military commander”, who operated as the de facto ruler of Japan although these were nominally appointed by the emperor.  The Tokugawa Shogunate, also known as the Edo period as the Tokugawas ruled from Edo castle, was a period of sustained economic growth and stability in contrast to the proceeding “Sengoku” or “warring states” period – (1467 CE – 1603 CE).
  • Taiyuinbo (
    • Final resting place of grandson of Ieysuu.
  • Walked by Rinnoji Temple, but didn’t go in due to ongoing reconstruction.
    • While this is the most important Buddhist temple in Nikko, I knew I would be seeing many more in my stay

Bus to Okunikko

  • Kegon Waterfall
  • Lake Chuznenji

Bus back to Nikko, then the train to Tokyo

Had amazing dinner in Asakusa


While the monuments we went and saw were certainly impressive, the biggest highlight of this day were the friendly Japanese men we met on the train to Nikko. One of the group of about six or so struck up a conversation with us, and we did our best in extremely basic Japanese (assisted by Google translate) to talk to them about where we were from and some details about our trip. They helped break the ice by sharing some sake and nuts with us.  In return we shared some chocolate cake which they seemed to enjoy. There really is something special about the act of giving food to someone.

The Togushu shrine included the famous “Three Wise Monkeys”, a carving depicting three monkeys, which popularized the proverb “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”. Interestingly, there are differing explanations of of this saying; while in in the west it refers to a lack of moral responsibility (“I didn’t see anything bad, I didn’t hear anything bad, and I’m not going to talk about anything bad”), in Buddhist tradition, the message behind this proverb is said to be about not dwelling on evil thoughts. The Buddhist interpretation of “speak no evil” seems to have equivalents in the Torah with”hotzaat shem ra” (unsubstantiated defamation), and “leshon hara” (gossiping about things which may be true but with a nonconstructive purpose).  Random trivia fact: Mahatma Gandhi used to carry around a small statue of the three monkeys – the exception to his lifestyle of non-possession.

Kegon waterfall was beautiful, but “over accessible”. The path to the viewing platform (which included an elevator ride) made the whole experience feel a little artificial – a little like watching something on television.  We chatted about this for a while, including how different the experience was from the likes of Gulfoss in Iceland – where there was and element of danger and struggle that seemed to make everything more vivid. I found an interesting background article on motivation ( which seems to validate this idea – if you want a dopamine hit, it helps to feel like you have achieved something – which it is difficult to do if no struggle was necessary.

While wondering around Lake Chuznenji we had an interesting conversation around the importance of intention – and how to have positive experiences with people it helps so much to really feel positive. I remember the marked difference it made when I was practicing compassion meditation ( – a habit I need to resume.


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Travelling with purpose

December 6th, 2015 · Japan 2015 Trip

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” Henry Miller

After an intense year and a half of being consumed with my career, I have become aware of a creeping apathy which has begun to draw the colour and spice out of my comfortable life in Edinburgh. This is beginning to to weigh me down, making it more difficult to summon the energy to do much outside of my normal routine.

This is the herald of burnout – and I know myself well enough to recognize that it has to be taken seriously.

The culprit here is a sense of a lack of alignment between the things I really care about, and what I am actually spending my time doing. This is complicated by the fact that I have largely fallen out of the practice of self examination which helps to reveal what those things which are very important to me really are.

I know I have a lot of thinking to do, and that my over-familiar regular haunts are too associated with my everyday grind.

I need a change in context. Somewhere stimulating that will force me to think a little differently.

Luckily, a good friend of mine, Bjorn Bakker, is travelling the world at the moment (follow him at and has pretty much made the decision for me. As of the 3rd of December Bjorn will be in Japan, a country I have always found interesting largely because it is such a unique culture, alien certainly to British life. After some wrangling with my employers I have managed to secure three weeks submerge myself as much as possible in the country.


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Why NPS is great even though it doesn’t work

February 24th, 2011 · Articles

Last month I was lucky enough to hear a talk given by Simon Lyons, the director of Marketing & Communications at Aggreko plc. at the Prince’s Scottish Youth Business Trust (PSYBT) Elevator networking event.

Simon had one piece of advice for the roomful of young entrepreneurs eager to grow their businesses: listen to your current customers. It may not be a new idea, but his method for tracking customers’ opinions was novel to many of the people in the room. Simon recommends using something called “NPS” or Net Promoter Score.

What is it?
The Net Promotor Score is an indicator of how loyal your customers are, and can be worked out easily from one simple question.

Ask your customers “Would you recommend [my company] to a friend or colleague?”, giving them a scale from 0 (definitely not) to 10 (very definitely).

Then you can categorise respondents as follows:

0-6: Detractors – unhappy customers
7-8: Passives – satisfied but unenthusiastic customers
9-10: Promoters – evangelists for your company

Subtract the percentage of “Detractors” you have from the percentage of “Promoters”, and you have your NPS. This score can thus range from -100 (meaning all your customers would actively dissuade others from using your company) to +100 (meaning all your customers would strongly recommend using your company).

What is it supposed to do?
Enthusiasts see the NPS as a reliable indicator of future growth.

As the Net Promoter website points out, there are problems with using current sales to indicate future performance. Conventional accounting doesn’t take into account the difference between “Good profits” and “Bad profits”.

The idea behind this distinction is that “Good profits” (those generated by making the customer happy) lead to future growth because customers will continue to buy from them, and promote the company to their associates, leading to referral sales. “Bad profits” (those generated by cutting back services or the abuse of market power) will ultimately lead to a reduction in future sales, as the customers who are being exploited will change suppliers as soon as they can, and actively recommend against using the company to the people they know.

By measuring their Net Promoter Score, managers theoretically gain insight into customers’ reactions to changes they are making. This can help them decide whether to backtrack or push forward. For more information about the way NPS can be incorporated into the way a business is run, see Net Promoter Operating Model.

Since Fred Reichheld unveiled the Net Promoter Score in “The One Number You Need to Grow”, the idea has been a magnet for controversy.

Perhaps the most heavyweight opponent is Tim Keiningham, Global Chief Strategy Officer and EVP at IPSOS Loyalty, one of the world’s largest market research firms.

Keiningham says the primary reason why NPS has become so popular is that it was backed up by extensive scientific research suggesting that NPS was always the best indicator of future firm growth.

However, Keiningham et al’s own research found otherwise. It showed that the “recommend intention” was not universally the best single predictor of future growth, and more sophisticated indicators which take multiple variables into account out-performed NPS without exception.

For more detail about these criticisms, see Keiningham’s interview with Admap

Why these criticisms don’t matter
Fair enough, some of the claims for NPS verge on the bombastic. NPS may well not be the best indicator of future loyalty. However, getting into the habit of asking customers what they think and responding to that feedback is extremely important. The complications of setting up traditional surveys puts some businesses off the whole process, and certainly makes it more difficult to rally employees to improve service.  NPS is not the “The Only Number You Need to Grow”, and “Would you recommend [my company] to a friend or colleague?” might not even be the best single question you can ask your customers, but it seems like a good start.

What do you think?
Is this a fair assessment of the Net Promoter Score?

Do you think your business should use Net Promoter Score?

If not NPS, what customer satisfaction metrics does your business use (if any), and how is that data  incorporated into the decision making process?

Net Promoter, Net Promoter Score and NPS are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Satmetrix Systems, Inc., and Fred Reichheld.

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Stop reading Mashable

November 24th, 2010 · Articles

Sign of deafness

Be deaf to Mashable

Just because you are being followed by some massive celebrity, does not mean that they are paying any attention to what you say.

It’s not physically possible for the likes of Christopher Penn to read even a small amount of the content produced by the 22,197 people he follows on twitter.

So who does he pay attention to?

Well, according to Klout, @cc_chapman (K:76), @chelpixie (K:52) @chrisbrogan (K:77), @ambercadabra (K:70), @scottmonty (K:76)

K here refers to Klout score – an automatically calculated measure of influence. I have some major concerns about the way these scores are used to rank people, as opposed to help group tweeters into fairly broad buckets, but that’s another post. @cspenn himself has a Klout score of 71.

The answer is: other people with a high degree of influence like himself. While he might reply if a low-influencer sends him a message or mentioned him, the chances are low that he will pay much attention to that person’s normal stream. Why? Even people as well known as @cspenn and @chrisbrogan are aiming to extend their own reach. @cspenn can market who he is to the large/important communities around @chrisbrogan because he can reciprocate. That’s why you’ll see @cspenn mentioned in @chrisbrogan’s blog posts and vice-versa.

If you produce really great content you’ll have more chance of getting their attention, sure, but a lot of people are producing good content out there, so the reach dimension still comes into play. You might be better off generating heat from up-and-comers, at least as a prelude to trying to get the bigger guys interested.

How do you do that?

Stop paying attention to so many big producers like Mashable. Turn off some RSS subscriptions.  Do some removals from your must-read twitter list(s). Interact more with smaller content producers! Could be you’ll get the sort of outcome you’re after.

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Information layer cake

November 22nd, 2010 · Articles

I recently found Glen Cathey’s blog post on LinkedIn search rankings and something struck me instantly.

This is a long article.

At about five pages, it’s still manageable, but I came to the site wanting answers quickly, and I’m sure the length of the article turns a good percentage of readers off. Don’t get me wrong – it’s great that Glen produces such in-depth articles in a space dominated by “Top 5 Tips”, and even better that he shared it with us all, but I think he missed a trick. Knowing that there a lot of people out there with low attention spans should mean that you have different versions of the text to keep that traffic around.

One site that is occasionally good at this is Wikipedia with the English/Simple English explanations.

Compare the simple Wikipedia explanation of probability

Probability is a part of mathematics. It has to do with chance, the study of things that might happen or might not happen.

with the normal English explanation:

Probability is a way of expressing knowledge or belief that an event will occur or has occurred.

I find the simple English explanation easier to understand, and reading it actually makes it more likely I’ll check the more detailed version.

The fact that I know I can find useful information about a subject, regardless of my literacy in that particular field, makes Wikipedia a more valuable resource for me. I think for us to communicate as effectively as possible, we have to apply that lesson ourselves.

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Basics of a social media campaign

November 20th, 2010 · Articles

A social media campaign can be summarised in the following flowchart:

This graphic could be pretty much used to illustrate quite a few processes, but it’s important to make sure that when we are trying to use social media for marketing, we have to be able to learn from and improve the efficacy of the work that we do.

Some further detail about what is involved in each stage:

An audit is the essential first step of any marketing campaign, and can also be a useful way for you to dip your toe in the water without any risk or commitment. Creating an audit involves investigating a client’s current online presence / products / competition and carrying out industrial research.

The plan converts the opportunities outlined in the Audit to a sequence of actions – tied to specific milestones.

Actually carrying out the steps that have been laid out.

Using an array of analytics tools, you can measure the magnitude of a variety of different effects that your social media efforts might have. Based on how the results relate to the expectations set, you may want to alter the original plan.

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A tip on how to organise your Twitter presence

November 19th, 2010 · Articles

I recently had the opportunity to ask Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan) about something which I’d be thinking about for a while – how to represent yourself/your company on Twitter. There are a quite a few different ways to do this – here’s what Chris had to say.

.@– I much prefer single user accounts, plus 1 brand account to oversee conversations. Depends on branding principals. #b2beu
Chris Brogan

(apologies for the typo:)

@ Could you expand in “oversee conversations”? #b2beu
Douglas Holmes

.@ – someone has to have a governing role, to say what’s good or not for a company’s “voice.” #b2beu
Chris Brogan

So what does Chris mean by a ‘governing role’?

I think it’s to do with focus. People expect that when they are interacting with a person, not everything is going to be about their job, whereas from an official company mouthpiece (such as a corporate twitter account), the content is going to be much more focussed. However there should be a link between the two different channels, so even if someone is interacting with a corporate account, they know who is behind the logo.

A canonical example of this is the @ScottMonty / @Ford relationship. You get a real sense of who Scott is through his personal account which makes interactions with the guy on @Ford much deeper.

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LinkedIn for the minimalist

November 18th, 2010 · Articles

With LinkedIn, there are only two things you need to be doing right now:

i) Adding connections, and

ii) Getting recommendations

You need to be doing these things on an ongoing basis because people’s willingness to connect/recommend you decreases the longer they haven’t spoken to you.

You need these things in the first place because recommendations/connections are a great way for people to find you, the more of them you have the more important you seem, and connecting with people enables you to better understand your own network, and thus tap it for whatever reason you need.

So if you’re not a big LinkedIn user, here’s what I recommend:

1) Try importing from your address book/faceboook etc… there might be people who are on LinkedIn whom you know, but have not connected yet.

2) Make sure when you meet someone who might be useful, you try to connect with them on LinkedIn. If you manage to make the connection, you are giving yourself a platform to deepen that relationship at a later date, if you so desire. This is made easier by having a smartphone with LinkedIn installed, and adding them in “deadtime” when you might be travelling or waiting for something.

3) Try asking for recommendations from former/current employers/colleagues. If you offer to reciprocate, the likelihood that they’ll accept will be greater.

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Social Media motivation

November 17th, 2010 · Articles

I thought I’d kick off this version of the blog with some videos that can’t help but get you motivated about social media.

Here’s one from @equalman, which I warn you in advance is a little sensationalist:

For a complete breakdown of statistics and their sources, check out this socialnomics blog post.

A more instructional video comes courtesy of commoncraft:

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How to become a morning person

September 15th, 2010 · Articles

“Get up early, work late – and strike oil.” – John D. Rockefeller

Getting up early gives you more control over the day. It’s an opportunity to decide what you want to do rather than react to the pressures that can so easily overwhelm your plans. Without getting up early it’s tricky to put “First Things First“.

How will you know you’ve achieved this goal?

While the time it takes to form a particular habit varies from person to person, a good initial target is to get up at the desired wakeup time for two weeks in an unbroken chain (including weekends) – though truly cementing this habit will likely take closer to 66 days.

To track performance, try keeping a record of the times you go to bed, when you get to sleep and when you wake up. You can do this manually, but I prefer using, which enables you to log how well you are doing via email.

General Approach

  • Set a target for when you would like to get up
  • Work out how much sleep you need to feel adequately rested.
  • Set a “go to sleep target” based on the amount of sleep you need.
  • Set another target for when you should be getting to bed – at least 30 mins before your “go to sleep” target.
  • Gradually improve your go to bed/sleep/get up earlier times by increments of 15 mins each day.
  • If you were unable to hit your targets, review the reasons why and adapt.


1. Going to bed

Problem: Losing track of time when out with friends

Set a curfew when you know you need to go back home – e.g. an hour before you should be getting to bed. Set an alarm!

Problem: Losing track of time when watching TV/playing video games

TV & video games aren’t great hobbies – if possible replace these with reading. Failing this, set a curfew for when you turn off the TV – e.g. an hour before getting to bed. Set an alarm!

2. Going to sleep

Problem: Not being able to sleep due to stress

Exercising throughout the day is extremely important for managing stress. Adjust your calendar to include some physical activity every day. Try incorporating meditation/mindfulness exercises, they can be a real boon to “letting go”.

Problem:Not being able to sleep – just not tired

Not being tired at the end of the day can be a result of over-consumption of caffeine, so make sure to limit this especially after 2pm. For example, if you are a habitual coffee drinker try switching to green tea.

Bright screens can disrupt sleep if played too close to bedtime. Create a buffer (at least 3o mins) between laptop/tablet/TV usage and going to bed.

3. Getting up

Problem: Feeling groggy in the mornings

If you can get up but feel more bleary than you think you should be, try using an alarm clock which wakes you up in the right stage of your sleep cycle – e.g.

Also, this could be a sign that you have been eating too much, too close to going to bed – create a buffer of at least an hour, and reduce intake.

Problem: Not getting out of bed

Get a new (louder) alarm or get one which moves.

Drink water before you go to bed, and when you wake up in the morning.

Prepare clothes for next day & place alarm underneath – preferably in a place which requires getting out of bed. Placing the alarm clock underneath your clothes is a cue to actually put them on, making it less likely that you will crawl underneath the sheets again..

If you are really having trouble getting up, you can practice your wakeup routine – as strange as this may sound, it definitely works. This means lying down in your bed as if you were asleep (dress in your bedclothes), then  getting out of bed as soon as you hear your alarm. You should then to put your clothes on and leaving the room. Optimize where you leave your clothes & alarm to make this process as efficient as possible. This should be repeated until it is completely automatic – try doing two sets of 6 repetitions at different times during the day to make this happen.

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