Models and Paradigms

by James La Trobe-Bateman on June 23, 2020
Models and Paradigms Blog

‘Models and Paradigms’ means this to us:

Models are explicit.  Things are connected logically.  You can scrutinize the logic and challenge the assumptions. You can change them without emotional upset.

Paradigms are rooted in the human subconscious.  They are implicit. You can only tell they are there, because they show themselves through your behaviors.  The paradigm causes those behaviors.  For example, the way you walk is driven by a paradigm.  Can you describe its precise logic? Can you say why different people walk in different ways?

Or believe different things?

Or make decisions?

So What Do You Do About It?

If you want a different outcome, we have 2 approaches:

  1. Play with the variables of an explicit model for its logic to produce the results you want.
  2. Modify the paradigm so that you dream up a completely new model that produces a better result (this is harder to do)

1 is about Optimizing what you have.  It also serves to open up your thinking ready for 2.

2 is about taking a quantum leap to Create completely new model.

It’s 2 that corporations and modern society really needs, but it gets stuck on those subconscious paradigms.

Remodel International’s approach is to first create explicit models and then work on 2 to invent a new model and make that quantum leap.

Creating models is an intellectual, conscious exercise and lays the groundwork to tackle the subconscious paradigms and unleash your creativity.

Impact is Hot, Productivity is Not

by James La Trobe-Bateman on April 10, 2019
Impact is not what you do, rather the effect it has on others and what they do
Impact ripples

Let’s face it: ‘productivity’ is a boring word.

I’m also wondering if it is even the ‘right’ word today.

You mostly hear about it as ‘personal productivity’, which tends to be about time management. You might also see in government reports about ‘Productivity Trends’, where one thing, e.g. output, is divided by another ‘input’.  Or perhaps expressed as ‘Revenue per Employee’ in a corporate context.

There seems to be a declining interest in the word.

Isn’t this odd?

My experience in the Productivity Improvement business led me to believe that it is the central measure for increasing the wealth of the world.

So where am I wrong?

Here’s one observation. Productivity is output over input: something DIVIDED. 

What if we looked for an idea that expresses MULTIPLICATION?  We live in an abundant world, where things get better and better all the time (and they do – if you don’t believe it, take a look at some of Hans Rosling’s analysis of world data).  Things multiply, they do not have to be divided.  Shared, probably, but not divided.  If I invent software that works for the whole world, I can share it all, not carve it up into pieces..

So, how about ‘Impact’?

It’s not so much the efficiency with which you do something.  It’s more about the ripples that your actions have. For example, if you cook a meal for your family, it will immediately benefit them…and nobody else.  If you cook a meal, record the recipe and publish a book of recipes, then you will have impacted many more people.  Not just once, but over and over.  That task of cooking is the same, but its impact is different depending on what you do with it. You can even be inefficient at cooking, not very ‘productive’, but still create a larger impact.

So this is not about one complicated thing divided by another complicated thing.  It’s to do with how much our efforts are multiplied…not divided.

Feels much better to me. 

So what impact are you having?

James La Trobe-Bateman

15 Seconds of Silence = $15 Million Y.o.Y.

by James La Trobe-Bateman on August 19, 2016

Stopwatch and money

ILLOGICAL Improvement – Made Real & Logical Overnight

Here’s a true story from few years ago.   Names and places have been changed to protect the innocent…

A growing diagnostic reagent manufacturing business had a bottleneck in its key manufacturing process.  The line was running ‘flat out’ and the production team leader was under pressure to make more to supply a growing market. That´s when his boss called me in. Equipped with stop watch and notebook…went straight to work.  This may sound very ‘60s thinking but it is still worth doing today.   By the end of the day there was enough data to come to a conclusion. A quick analysis showed there was at least 25% spare capacity.  So, why the impression that the line was running flat out?

Coffee was needed with the team leader…

What’s going on? Who are the characters?  There’s Gareth reporting to the team leader, who has responsibilities beyond just this line.  He is experienced and not very opinionated.  He is a solid team member and good follower. On the line itself is Martin and some young and eager people, all willing to do what is needed. It’s Martin who really runs this show.  I had already been told to “watch him”, he holds the key, it seems.   First thing Martin said was, “I’ll eat my hat, if you can come up with ‘anything’ to make this line run faster.”

Hmmm… little did Martin’s know… I already had come up with something, though it was very important not to say just yet. …And we don’t want Martin to eat his hat; we want him to come up with the ‘something’ himself.   For Martin, who lived and breathed running this line, it was totally illogical there was any improvement possible and it was the machine not running fast enough causing the issue.

Having learned about the Socratic Approach from a training course, you know it is far better to ask people questions so they come up with answers themselves.  When ‘they’ think of the solution, it’s theirs…not yours ‘imposed’ on them.

It’s now time to arrange a little meeting with Martin and a couple of his colleagues, no need for the hierarchy to influence things.

First, we do a conceptual warm up exercise and show a picture of a highway with a traffic snarl up on it to get them thinking from different perspectives of the same issue.   Then start asking the ‘illogical improvement’ questions: “Where is the bottleneck?” and “How can you tell?”

They get the answers right without prompting.  So there is no problem with their fundamental understanding. Now let’s relate it to the problem in hand.  “So, where is the bottleneck, exactly?” Answered correctly.

Now the ‘illogical improvement buster’ question for them to realize the solution…“What do you have to do to maximize throughput?”

At that point I shut up and waited.  It took about 15 seconds for the team to figure it out.

Eventually Martin replies. “You have to keep it working all the time.”

“Excellent! Exactly correct!”

Together we examine the data recorded in the notebook and in more detail explain the findings.  “See here: the critical piece of equipment is idle, and then here again and here and here.” In fact, it was idle more than 25% of the time through the day.

“Oh!?” Martin replied surprised and happy hear, more importantly, he was now open to the how-to’s.

Instead of ‘telling’ them… again I asked a ‘results thinking’ question, so they were able to come up with the solution themselves, even though I already had the solution… “So what do you have to do to get 25% more output in the day?”

Martin replied without delay: “Keep it working”.

Which lead me to the next question for them to ‘results think’ about: “How are you going to do that?”

Martin thought for a minute: “Well, the reason your notes show a temporary stoppage is that I have to stop sometimes to do these other things.”

Again asking the next ‘results thinking’ question: “So, how could you rearrange the work to avoid this?”

“We need an extra person.  Is it really that easy?”


“Let’s try it then!”

Then I explained and asked: “The extra person does not need to be recruited: she is already there.  We just need to redistribute the work a bit. Agreed? Can you do it now?”


Very pleased they came to the conclusions themselves asking the right questions for them to ‘results think’ I wrapped it up for them to get on with it:  “Let’s try it then. I’ll leave now and you will do an extra-large batch tomorrow – ‘30% larger’, in fact.  I’ll call you on Monday to find out how you did.”

Monday came and with it the news that Martin has surprised himself and his team.  He is ecstatic to admit that he got 30% more output overnight.

That crew went on to sustain the performance.  That meant sustaining an extra $15 million of business year on year, without capital or extra revenue expense.

Martin didn’t eat his hat, because through the ‘results thinking process’ he came up with the solution and made the change himself.   Martin did admit, few years later, “I really take my hat off to you!”

To make a logical improvements from what appear to be totally illogical or impossible at first sight, leave us a comment or a question below or send us an email at We read every comment and email.

Also we really want to hear from you… let us know you were here.. give us a thumbs up, thumbs down, a share on your own page.  And please let us know what other topics you would like to hear more about.

If you are reading this anywhere other than on, then head on over there where all the goodies are.

Thank you again and as Jeff Walker says… ‘Let’s Go Get ‘Em This Week!’

James La Trobe-Bateman, Co-Founder & C.E.O. …Since 1997

ILLOGICAL Improvements…Personal, Professional, Business


Trying To Improve Too Far

by James La Trobe-Bateman on June 15, 2020

Suppose you work in a factory which is part of a larger group of companies.

What happens when the operations boss comes to visit you from head office?

He or she will congratulate you on your good work, meet and greet your staff…smile. However, you will always be left with an instruction to ‘keep it up’. This usually means ‘make your products cheaper next year…and the next’.

If you have been that good up to now, you know it is going to get harder and harder to reduce cost.  You will feel that you are being driven against a steep mountain slope and being whipped into going up it.

Here’s what the operations boss knows. His marketing people are telling him that the gross margin of your products is being eroded and that to maintain profitability, unit manufacturing cost must keep coming down.

If there are alternative business approaches that you could take in the market, then you don’t have enough information to say and anyway it’s outside your authority.

If you are truly reaching the limit of cost reductions set by the inherent product design, then it is difficult to say so without the operations boss feeling that you lack determination.  It would put your own future in jeopardy.  .

The upshot is that you continue to work harder and harder to achieve less and less, until the time comes when the last cost reduction that makes any sense is to move the improvement people out and save their salaries.  Your accountants will very quickly be able to tell you how much you will save in this scenario.

In the meantime, a number of increasingly (they have been getting better and better at improving) talented improvement people get more and more frustrated because they know they are achieving little in measurable results.  Plus you will have to pay them.

To avoid this lose-lose situation, you need to know when to stop improving.

At that moment, you will also have to clearly decide: do we stay where we are, do we undertake a significant product redesign or do we explore different business improvement ideas that exploit the ability of manufacturing to be more flexible or responsive for the same cost?

No Go Areas

by James La Trobe-Bateman on May 29, 2020

I’m curious about ideas that are “off limits”.

Stanley area minefield map
Sheep in a Falklands minefield

We see life as something of a ‘minefield’.  We carry a picture in our minds that is like a map.  Ideas that are safe to hold [green], ideas that are a bit controversial [blue]  and some definite no-go areas [red].

But what if we did not have any preconceived ideas?  We would be more like the sheep that can’t read the signs. They are oblivious and happy.

Are we better or worse off than the sheep?

Neither option feels right.

If there really ARE mines in there, then we really don’t want to go there.  But what about the places where we are not sure?  Are we just frightened because we don’t know?

Or are we wary because someone else is frightened?

In business, I would say that is more often than not this last.  We don’t take risks because we are making our bosses frightened. Of being seen as irresponsible, overseeing mistakes being made and ultimately losing their jobs.

How do we get past this?  How do you test an area to see if it is safe? What is the equivalent of ‘sending the sheep in first’?

Our answer is to build models.

Models can be exploration devices. A way of going somewhere in your mind before you set foot there.  It’s completely safe. It’s all about ‘What If?’  We have called models a ‘Bridge of Faith’, because you can simulate crossing a chasm without actually stepping into the void.  Visions are what makes leaders stand out.  Some follow naturally, most need to be coaxed.  A model is a coax…and a coach.  It teaches while it explores.

Plus, we have found that models do much more than exploring the unknown. You can defuse fights with them. I once was called in to arbitrate in a dispute between a subcontractor and a major medical diagnostics manufacturer.  The subcontractor was a sole source and had put their prices up by 40%.  What could the customer do here? Accepting the price rise would make their products unprofitable and rejecting the price rise meant losing their own business.  They clearly needed to reach a compromise.  So I built an operations model.  It had a number of scenarios to see what would happen if sales dropped or rose, product mix changed, raw material and labor rates changed and whether manufacturing improvements were made. Each of these scenarios tackled a different risk for the supplier.  They wanted a guaranteed profit margin, but were not in control of demand.  They had demanded the 40% price rise to cover themselves.  But they didn’t need to.  In the end the model became part of the new contract between the companies with a pre-agreed formula for pricing.

They went on this way for more than 5 years, happily.

Models Need Scenarios

by James La Trobe-Bateman on May 8, 2020

I was reading about a Covid-19 model being ‘rejected’ because it didn’t ‘give the right answer’.

First thought: no models ‘give the right answer’.  But they DO give some clues as to possible futures and tend to rule out impossible ones.

Then, I read that this model had been set up with a number of possible Scenarios.  Each of them showing what would happen if you did different things.  The model was there to guide the best decisions.

Models do not just predict one future.  They allow you to make choices, change assumptions and so predict different futures.  The different scenarios that you imagine are as important as the models themselves.

So, scenarios are as important as the Model.  Choosing a Scenario sets your course. The Model shows where you end up.

When should you reject a model?  When you have a better one!  In general, your ‘gut feeling’ is not a better one, although it is a natural human tendency to believe so.  That ‘gut feeling’ is really nothing more than an unconscious belief.  The model also represents beliefs.  But they are made visible.  You can challenge something visible in a way that you cannot challenge something unconscious. To reject a model, you must say what assumptions are wrong.  Just to say you ‘don’t believe it’ is irrational and gets you nowhere.

You might also say that you have not suggested the best Scenarios.  That’s valid.  But only if you can suggest others that make sense.  Then you can use the model to see where it goes. Or maybe force you to modify the model.  But not to reject it.

When The Tourists Are Gone

by James La Trobe-Bateman on April 15, 2020
in News
Morro Jable in Fuerteventura

Morro Jable with no tourists

Translated from the article by CATALINA GARCÍA for Canarias7

In silence, with the sea a witness to the east and the white dunes of Jandía pushing to the west, the nearly 7,000 residents of Morro Jable await the return of tourists. This town in the municipality of Pájara grew supported by twenty hotels and apartment complexes in nearby Solana-Matorral, today deserted by customers.

As a coastal area, the feeling of confinement is almost double due to the presence of the timeless beach, now out of bounds.The inactivity is so great that even the sand that gives its name to the town threatens to invade the maritime avenue where the only human presence this afternoon is the boys, dressed in orange jumpsuits, who disinfect the promenade and its surroundings. In the distance, someone walks with two grocery bags on each side, a stark outline against the backdrop of 14 kilometers of white sand beach in Jandía.

Morro Jable’s silence is broken by the home water distributors and the sound of televisions through windows and balconies. Behind a protective visor and with gloves, Esidia Cuenta (Barranquilla, Colombia, 1962) works at the Adela minimarket in one of those streets that go to the sea. “I tried to put on a mask to protect myself from infection, but I was sweating, my glasses were fogging up and I only managed to touch my face once and another time while attending to clients. Clients are many fewer in these times of coronavirus. Only half are coming now and they do it for bread, soft drinks, some food and little else.”
It is not the first store that she has run. When she arrived in the island, she started working at the Daisy, on the same street. This is what she did in her native Barranquilla and what he continued to do when she settled in Fuerteventura nine years ago. “In all these years, I have not seen a slump like the one now because of the state of alarm: nobody on the streets, nobody in the shops. Her clients are sure that, when the confinement is lifted, they will leave Morro Jable. Everyone sees the return of tourists to be a long time away. So it will be a long time before the town recovers its economic pulse. “This is a very big drop.”

At the top of the street, suddenly people accumulate forming a kind of line. “Ah, it’s nothing,” explains Esidia, “it’s the queue at the only pharmacy in Morro Jable, that’s why you can see so many people. In the tourist area of Solana-Matorral, we have another one, but we don’t live there”. The rest of the tourist town remains silent, including the port area, where the only daily ferry boat has long departed for Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. On a rooftop, someone is moving: it is a married couple who exercise within their few square meters.

“First? Yes, I am the first taxi in line”. Todor Dragiev Ihiev does not understand Spanish very well, but he figures out his euros and fares like no one else. This Bulgarian taxi driver updates the figures: “There are 77 taxi licenses, but each day we can only work fifteen taxis. Once, two days; and again, three days. With this scenario, revenues have dropped from almost 200 euros a day before Covid-19 to 30 euros now. With this income, life is not sustained. Half of the profits: for the boss. The rest go to pay for the house, the license for the car, the money that I have to send to my daughter who is in Bulgaria and to eat. You have to pay and I don’t know where to get the money for everything.” Todor ends with a smile and the message of hope that is repeated in every citizen. “We only have ourselves and we are healthy, we have not become sick.” The expected afternoon miracle occurs and someone takes a taxi, his own.

At a bus stop in the ravine of El Siervo, something finally moves: it’s the goats.

Solar Panels for Senegal Schoolchildren

by James La Trobe-Bateman on January 1, 2020
Solar panels for Senegal schools

A story about a small act that has a big impact on Senegal school learning.

In our events, emails and social media posts, we encourage you to increase your Impact on the world. 2020 – a new year and a new decade is starting. Lorrie & I have resolved to increase our positive IMPACT and Ripples in the world as well as encouragement to you and your IMPACT-ology journey.


We do this because… when you help others… you help yourself.


If you were at our October 2019 IMPACT-ology event in Port Huron-Michigan USA, you might remember we collectively agreed that $1 spent in the community has more impact on well-being than $1 spent anywhere else.


Here is an Amazing local IMPACT-ology story of how that is working: Tiny Solar Panels for Senegal Schoolchildren Immediately Improve Their Learning.


There is an organization on our Spanish island in the Atlantic ocean 60 miles off the coast of Sahara Desert and Africa that provides a summer school here for young people from Senegal to learn life skills to take back to their villages and improve their daily lives. Senegal is a small sub-saharan west African country not far (as the crow flies) from us. In their villages, they don’t have electricity in their homes or schools. That means no light after dark. This limits how much homework the children can do.


So the organization on our island donated 500 solar panel kits and are teaching the teachers and students how to assemble and install them in their homes (and schools). These solar kits are very small, enough to light up 4 LED bulbs. Though small, it is enough to provide light for students to complete their homework at home.

Guess what happened?!


Their teachers now report an immediate measurable jump in the rate of learning! 


If I gave YOU those little solar panel kits, I doubt it would have much impact on your life. Giving them to these Senegal children, and teaching them how to assemble and install themselves, has made a massive, immediate, positive IMPACT on their lives now and into their future.


QUESTION: What will your ripples be into the new year and decade of 2020… and beyond?


P.S.. Lorrie also wants to know.. With so many incredible things to do every day in this amazing world (many with very simple solutions just waiting for your help to make them happen)… What is Your Age Goal now..?

Credit To The People On The Spot After a Hurricane

by James La Trobe-Bateman on August 1, 2019
Hurricane damage

In September 2017 hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico. Homes lost roofs.  A US newspaper report said:

“…Four days after a major hurricane battered Puerto Rico, leaving the entire island in a communications and power blackout, regions outside San Juan remained disconnected from the rest of the island – and the world. […] a mountainous region southeast of the capital that was slammed with Maria’s most powerful winds, remains isolated, alone, afraid.

For many residents, the challenge of accessing the essentials of modern life – gasoline, cash, food, water – began to sink in. And government officials had no answers for them. Estimates for the return of electricity and basic services will be measured not in days but in weeks and months. For those most vulnerable, far too long…”

A couple of weeks later I had a call from a client.  They had a factory for some of their medical devices in Puerto Rico.  The factory itself was fine: it had been built to withstand hurricanes, it had hurricane shutters, it had backup generators.

The call was to ask for help with their supply chain.   This factory supplies all regions of the world.  They had factories in other parts of the world that could do some if not all of the work. It was vital for the Puerto Rico factory to be seen to be productive as soon as possible.  Or there would have been a threat of permanent closure.

Of course, that was not the first thing on the minds of the staff.  They lived in the community around the factory.  Many of them suffered severe damage to their homes, not to mention those of their families and friends.  They all had life or death things on their minds that did not include making medical devices or keeping their jobs.

So what was the best I could do?  Work out where everything in the world was, who needed what where and setting priorities for the PR plant.  So that became my job. Meanwhile, the company could send its corporate jet down from New Jersey with essential supplies.  Despite this, the Puerto Ricans who worked at that factory were more or less on their own to get themselves into a state where they could think about work again.

From a distance it is very hard to imagine the many actions and interactions going on in that community to get themselves to focus on work again.  There must have been a powerful sense of co-operation, because it was only 2 months before the factory was turning out product again. Everyone could breathe a sigh of relief.  And I admired the people of the island even more.

Who needed who most in this situation?

I say that the corporation really had to rely on the community around their factory to get their act together.  The corporation was pretty powerless otherwise. Compare this with another factory that we knew about in the Dominican Republic. Also put out of action by the hurricane.  It took them more than a year to restore production.

Is the US the Best Pinball Machine?

by James La Trobe-Bateman on July 21, 2019

I’ve got an idea crashing around in my head like a pinball machine. Lighting up unconscious thoughts, increasing awareness and developing a life of its own.

There’s really two parts to a pinball game.

There’s the ball with the way the player interacts.

Then, there’s the set up of bumpers and lights and scoring that is built into it. Much of what happens is automatic, out of your control. How is this designed? Did the designers have a masterplan to make it all more fun and potentially score higher scores?

If life is like this, how would you design it?

Suppose you have a great idea that you want to launch into the world. How do you launch it? Where do you launch it?  You want a network or a society or a system that will respond the way a pinball machine does.  Can you just find one?  Or do you have to create one? If so, how do you create one that will have create the largest ‘score’.

I mean ‘Impact’.  It’s impact that you want.

Well, there are some answers.  For example, if you want to make a success of publishing a book, you need to build a ‘platform’ of followers who can seed its appeal.  Similarly if you want to launch a business online, you need to cultivate a list of followers.  You cultivate both the ‘platform’ and the list separately from selling something.

Beyond that, I am curious about some naturally occurring pinball machines.  Take active communities.  Or should I say, interactive communities.  Communities where there are a lot of interactions fed by multiple ideas for improvements and likely funded by the wealthier of the people in it.  The communities that are better organized this way and going to produce a greater impact from ideas sprung into them (like a pinball).

USA Flag as a Map

I’m going one step further with this argument. It has long puzzled me that the ‘USA is #1 in the world’.  And yet it does not have the best roads, it does not have the best education, it does not have the highest purchasing power per person, it does not have the longest life expectancy and it does not have happiest people.  And yet I find myself better able to ‘do well’ in the US than anywhere else. 

How come?

Our business has a greater ‘Impact’ in the US than anywhere else. There’s something about the set up that means ideas ping around and make a higher score.  It’s a better pinball machine.