Tuesday, December 22, 2015

1997 ►

Here’s a note I just sent to the Saatchi & Saatchi network…

As the end of 2015 approaches, my Executive role in leading this great network comes to an end.

On January 1st I will be honoured to serve as Non-Exec Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi, continuing my commitment to help build the brand globally and to help coach and inspire its talent.

The last 17 years have provided me with real happiness and joy and I have loved being part of Saatchi & Saatchi’s journey. I could not be leaving you, your clients and this great brand in better hands. For the past 12 months, Robert has taken the reins and has built a leadership team that is ready to move Saatchi & Saatchi to the next phase of its colourful life. Robert and Pablo will continue to demonstrate that Nothing Is Impossible and more great work is just around the corner.

When I joined Saatchi & Saatchi in 1997, Bob Seelert told me “Saatchi & Saatchi may not be the biggest company in the world, it may not be the best company in the world, but it is certainly the most interesting”. He was right.

I wish all of you continued interesting times and in my new role as Head Coach for the Groupe, I’ll do what I can to help you develop and grow.

All the best – and thank you.


At Saatchi & Saatchi Sydney 2008. AFR picture by Nic Walker

Monday, December 21, 2015

Teaching How to Give

Despite a pretty tough economic climate more people are giving their money away, according to recent reports on philanthropy. This must surely be a cause for celebration. Those who are doing well are now more likely to give something back and open up new opportunities for others.

People are motivated to give for all sorts of different reasons. For some, it might be to support a cause close to their heart; for others it might be directly to help those in need. Even when philanthropists are motivated in part by a desire to enhance their own reputation, the ultimate goal of making a positive difference to society remains.

Harnessing the power of people’s social media networks is the next step forward in personal philanthropy. I have been advising GoodWorld, a Web-based fundraising tool founded in 2014. I was drawn to the start-up because GoodWorld has ingeniously unlocked the power of the Internet as it relates to giving and is changing the way people connect with the causes they care about. GoodWorld is social giving made simple. The organization’s #donate function allows users to give instantly to the causes they care about without leaving Facebook or Twitter. By sharing one’s #donations on social media, users show their support for the causes they care about and inspire others to give, paying forward awareness and generosity. President Obama has called the organization “a big opportunity for philanthropy.”

2012 saw the launch of the Giving Pledge, a campaign started by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet that encourages the world’s wealthiest to make a commitment to give most of their wealth to charitable causes. It’s a movement that has already had a profound impact. As of August 2015, 137 billionaire or former billionaires have committed to the pledge. And The New Yorker’s James Surowiecki recently reported that the Gates Foundation now spends more on health issues than the W.H.O. On December 1 of this year, in an open letter to their newborn daughter, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg pledged that he and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, would “during [their] lives give 99 percent of their Facebook shares to charitable purposes. Those holdings are currently worth more than $45 billion.

As philanthropy has grown, so too has the number of people looking at the space to try to understand what motivates people to give, and how donors can be confident their hard-earned cash will be used effectively. The London School of Economics has even opened the Marshall Institute for Philanthropy and Social Entrepreneurship, a new academic center that commissions research and plans to teach an MBA-style course in philanthropy.

With so many more people giving (in the UK the number of million pound donations apparently increased by almost 50% in 2013, totaling more than U.S. $2 billion), it’s probably a good idea to look at whether it’s making a difference.

Napster co-founder Sean Parker has been quite critical of traditional philanthropy, calling it “a strange alien world” where “the primary currency is recognition and reputation, not effectiveness.” It comes back to what the focus of philanthropy should ultimately be—not how much is given, but rather the impact it will have.

Corporate philanthropy isn’t just about donating money. It can also involve giving time and sharing expertise. Many organizations now give their staff volunteering days in addition to annual leave. Others, like Gap Inc, have opened up their in-house training programs to not-for-profit organizations. This sharing of skills and knowledge can make a lasting difference.

Hopefully this new wave of research and education will help to ensure a focus on maximum impact, as opposed to maximum dollars. After all, the impact is what really touches people’s lives, and what might inspire others to be charitable.

Image source: fmjlaw.com

Thursday, December 17, 2015

How Fast Is NOW?

American writer and philosopher Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) once said, “The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can't be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it.” At the time I have no doubt he was right, but if only he could have experienced the world now!

chart that’s been doing the rounds on Twitter illustrates just how fast our world is moving, comparing the time to reach 50 million users between different types of mediums. In a nutshell:
  • 38 years for radio
  • 13 years for television
  • 4 years for internet
  • 3.5 years for Facebook
  • 9 months for Twitter
  •  6 months for Instagram
  • 35 days for Angry Birds
‘Things’ are reaching people faster than they ever have. The mobile phone is largely responsible, given that many people and their mobile phones tend to be joined at the hip. The world is literally an arms-length away.

According to the Pew Research Center, 90% of American adults own a cell phone, and 64% own a smartphone. Being connected through these handy little devices is somewhat of an understatement: 67% of cellphone owners check their phone for messages and other notifications even when they haven’t noticed it ringing or vibrating, and 44% of cellphone owners have slept with their phone next to their bed because they’re afraid to miss something during the night.

That something might be the newest thing they just have to get their hands on, or a piece of breaking news. It means that for new things, people snap them up faster than they ever have. Like Adele’s new album, which broke records when it was released on 20 November, selling 2.433 million copies in the first four days. Or the Kylie Jenner lip kit, which sold out in under a minute.

People expect speed, too, and will respond to it. Order a car on Uber and the app will tell you how far away your driver is, providing reassurance that you won’t have to wait too long. And then you have shoppers preparing for the frenzy that is Black Friday and now, Cyber Monday, snapping up bargains from retailers pre-Christmas and setting internet retail records. These one-day-only sales tap into our desire for speed.

Get it before it’s gone. Or to echo Hubbard’s point, before someone else does.

Image source: yimg.com

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Acts of Mindfulness

New York City is often referred to as The City That Never Sleeps, but what does that mean for the people who live there? As it turns out, New Yorkers snooze for almost seven hours a night on average, faring better than people living in other urban areas across the US.

But comparisons and bragging rights aside, I think most people will agree that modern life isn’t particularly amenable to sleep. Everyone wants more of it. It’s no surprise, then, that there’s a plethora of techniques on the sleep easy menu. Mindfulness is one, and lately, it’s everywhere. Perhaps because it’s not just sleep that it seems to help, it carries a host of other therapeutic benefits, such as stress reduction, exercise, eating and weight management.

On top of all of this, one study has found that practicing mindfulness – the state of active, open attention on the present – boosts performance, by physically altering your brain. Researchers at the University of British Columbia found that practicing mindfulness increases brain activity and brain tissue density in two key regions: the part of the brain that is responsible for self-control, and the hippocampus, which is responsible for grit (or “resilience in the face of setbacks and challenges,” to be precise) among other things.

An article on TIME uncovered similarly interesting findings in relation to the effect that mindfulness has on the brain. The research found that practicing mindfulness reduced both pain intensity and emotional pain (in comparison to a placebo group), and that people who practiced mindfulness seemed to use different brain regions to reduce pain than other groups.

Mindfulness is sounding pretty good to me, so where to begin? There’s no set time limit, and you can do it pretty much anywhere, although you might try to find a quiet spot if you’re prone to distractions. It’s about focusing on the present, and observing yourself in that present moment (your breathing, the sensations of your environment), whatever you’re doing. Travis Bradberry likens it to a workout for your brain, which given what some research is beginning to show, is a spot-on analogy.

Image source: squarespace.com

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Never Eat Alone

“Everyone has the capacity to be a connector,” says Keith Ferrazzi. In his book Never Eat Alone Ferrazzi talks about how to use the power of relationships to succeed. Far from the “crude, desperate glad-handling usually associated with ‘networking’,” Ferrazzi operates on another level - one that’s based on mutually beneficial relationships, and generosity. It comes down to the fact that success, particularly in a business sense, is about working with people.

Ferrazzi operates by three principles:
  1. Don’t keep score – tit for tat; it’s not just about you. Making connections can be mutually beneficial.
  2. ‘Ping’ constantly – reach out to people at every chance you get. It’s not just about using your contacts when it best suits you, or when you need something.
  3. Never eat alone – invisibility is a fate worse than failure.
A new app, ‘Never eat alone’, champions this approach, by allowing employees to meet each other over lunch. It helps break down silos between departments, and encourages connections and the generation of knowledge beyond just one patch of a business. Companies are using it to improve their overall culture, and to make things more interesting for their employees.

People are often talking about the health benefits of eating with other people, and this just takes it a logical step further, into the workplace. In the home environment, family dinners help build relationships, and kids do better in school. But sadly, in the US, it’s a dying habit. The majority of American families report eating a meal together less than five days a week. Instead, people are eating in their cars (one in five meals) and eating fast food (one in four eat it every day).

What they’re missing is time together. “The dinner table can act as a unifier, a place of community. Sharing a meal is an excuse to catch up and talk, one of the few times where people are happy to put aside their work and take time out of their day,” says Cody C. Delistraty on The Atlantic. The same applies in the workplace. Sharing a meal provides an opportunity to make a connection, where creativity can thrive.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Revealing Your Sole

Paul Simon sang about shoes that had diamonds on the soles. “Well that’s one way to lose / These walking blues / Diamonds on the soles of your shoes.” Paul might have been figuratively speaking, but even so, people often talk about the significance of shoes: what one chooses to wear on one’s feet is thought to be rather revealing of character.

“Even today, you can still tell a gentleman by his shoes,” says Jemima Lewis on The Telegraph. This is despite the fact that pretty much everyone these days “regardless of class or creed” wears dirty trainers, says Lewis. She provides a few interesting examples to illustrate the point: Silvio Berlusconi posing in his office in 1977 in shiny, high-heeled boots (I repeat, the 70s), and Michael Bloomberg in loafers. Berlusconi on the one hand, judged according to his heeled boots (“Everything you need to know about the future Italian PM…is right there on his feet,” says Lewis) and Bloomberg, the eighth richest man in America at the time the article was written, noted to be wearing ‘unassuming’ black slip-ons.

Shoes might not mean a thing to some people, but to others they mean a lot, both in terms of style and comfort. Depending on the shoe in question, they might even hazard a chance at getting rid of any walking blues, perhaps even more so if we look to the future of shoes.

Nike has announced that it will be releasing ‘Back to the Future’ shoes in 2016, “turning fiction into fact” by recreating the self-lacing high-top trainers that Marty McFly wore in the 1989 movie Back to the Future Part II. These shoes of the future seem, well, futuristic, and for that reason, slightly implausible in terms of replacing our current foot attire. There’s room in the wardrobe, but I don’t think the classics are going anywhere anytime soon. Brogues, oxfords, loafers…even classic Converse Chuck Taylors are practically primary colors in any shoe lovers collection. They’ve achieved this status through their craftsmanship and the brands that stand behind them; they understand that shoes mean a lot more than simply what people choose to wear on their feet.

And I wear hand made (by Vogal Boots in NYC….who’ve been handcrafting boots since 1879), black leather retro Chelsea boots (aka Beatle’s boots) from the 60s…every day.

Image source: ledschoenen.nl

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Behind the Mic

I expect great commentators are those who are really doing something they love. They don’t just love sport, but they love the art of communication too.

Contrary to what you may think however, leading practitioners don’t always make the best analysts (late Australian cricket captain and commentator Richie Benaud and John McEnroe being notable exceptions). To excel in a particular field you need to have a conviction mindset and a heavy dose of self-belief. Analysts need to be more open to new ideas and less interested in directly influencing what’s happening before them. Yet it’s common for top sportspeople to make the leap from player to commentator. Some succeed, while others struggle.

In a recent podcast for Intelligent Life, professional cricketer-turned-broadcaster Ed Smith discusses why the psychology behind excellence in sport is the opposite of what’s needed to be a good analyst of the game. It’s a difficult balance to strike. Of course, viewers and listeners want to hear from great sportspeople. They’ve been there and done that, so they have the authority and experience to explain how a player might be feeling, or why a team is behaving in a particular way. However, as Smith explains, sports stars don’t always succeed as commentators because they’re generally uncomfortable with uncertainty.

Commentators and analysts need to be able to adjust their thinking as the facts change. A large part of success in sport, however, is about conviction and a belief that you’re better than your opponent. Commentators need skepticism and rationality, which are traits that can hinder performance in sport.

Commentary is a skill quite different from anything delivered on the track or field. Radio commentators in particular need to be able to observe and describe not just what they can see, but also communicate a feeling, or the ambience in a stadium. Great commentators excel in uncertainty, relaxed about being unable to influence the outcome of what is happening on the pitch.

Great sports commentary is an art, underpinned by expertise and an encyclopedic knowledge of the game, all delivered with perfect timing and tone. The best commentators resist the urge to say too much and are comfortable, on television, to let the images speak for themselves. They make it seem effortless, but there are hours of work that go into preparing to commentate for a hundred-meter final which lasts a mere matter of seconds.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Lists: The Origin of Culture

Can you imagine a world without lists? Complete and utter chaos, I would suspect. But lists do so much more than bring order to the world. I’ve said before that nothing inspires action faster than a list. Write a to-do list and it sets you up for the doing. Lists can also provide insights, extract and engage experiences, and evoke memories and emotions.

In 2009 Italian novelist Umberto Eco opened an exhibition at the Louvre in Paris that was entirely dedicated to lists. He spoke about the essential nature of lists and why he chose lists as the subject of his exhibition in an interview with Spiegel.

“The list is the origin of culture,” says Eco. “What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible… And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists, through catalogs, through collections in museums and through encyclopedias and dictionaries.”

Eco goes on to say that in cultural history, the list prevails. He’s right of course. Which brings me to Shaun Usher’s book Lists of Note (a good one to put under the tree this season). He provides a snapshot of the world’s most intriguing lists on The Telegraph. Some offer alternatives, some offer advice, some offer a piece of history. All provide an intriguing insight into a mind, a moment, a time in the life of someone else. Here are some of my favorites:
  • Alternatives to arguably one of the most famous line in cinema, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” (fromGone with the Wind), following US Censors deeming the word ‘damn’ to be offensive and asking for it to be removed. The film’s producers listed other options such as “I don’t give a whoop!” Thankfully the US Censors’ decision was reversed as ‘whoop’ doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
  • Johnny Cash’s ‘Things to do today!’ list, revealing some basic personal instructions (not smoke; not eat too much) alongside instructions of a more revealing nature, showing his sensitive side (kiss June; not kiss anyone else; go see Mama).
  • Harry Houdini’s scene and prop list. It was very particular, right down to measurements which were likely crucial given the death-defying acts that he performed on stage.
  • John Lennon’s list of words for words, which he penned to a young man who had written him (New York: great; Ringo: friend; Yoko: love; Bootlegs: good; Paul: extraordinary).
  • Charles Dickens’ list of fake book titles, which he had invented to have printed to fill the bare bookshelves in his new home in Tavistock House, London.
A great list is a constant work in progress so I look forward to seeing the list of Lists of Note grow. It’s like Eco says, “I was fascinated with Stendhal at 13 and with Thomas Mann at 15 and, at 16, I loved Chopin. Then I spent my life getting to know the rest. Right now, Chopin is at the very top once again. If you interact with things in your life, everything is constantly changing. And if nothing changes, you're an idiot.”

Image source: plannabe.com

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A VUCA World – Part Two

While the North-West of England was being battered by natural causes, innocent Americans were again being battered by human extremism.  14 people killed in San Bernadino was just another example of pathetically weak political leadership.  Coming on top of gun crimes in Colorado, Oregon, Virginia and many other places in the US, it is time for the clown circus (aka the current US presidential candidates race) to gather round one issue, one common cause.

The US has to bite the bullet (pardon the pun) and amend the infamous Second Amendment.  Even my radical optimism does not allow me to believe that they should ban guns altogether, but they need to regulate them much more and immediately.  All America’s politicians should gather round and ban these guns and ammunition that are designed for no other purpose but to kill people in times of war and strife.

The US needs to act now and ban these slightly modified combat rifles for civilian ownership.  This is not the total answer and loopholes will always exist, but in a VUCA world this would be one huge step for mankind.

Image attribute/source: Moms Demand Action / socialbrandvalue.com

Monday, December 7, 2015

Living in a VUCA world

For a year or so now we have been working on the principle that the world we live in is crazy.  The American military has a more rational term for it.  VUCA – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.

Last weekend this VUCA world descended upon my home town of Lancaster and my home in the beautiful Lakeland village of Grasmere.  Storm Desmond deposited almost a foot of water, four weeks rainfall, in two days on the North-West of England.  60,000 homes were without power for five days.  Grasmere village was two feet under water.  Fast flowing rivers burst their banks and the one road through the Lakes was closed.  Kendal and Keswick were closed off completely.  The road to my Grasmere home was battered and impassable.  Many residents were isolated as bridges were destroyed and many others were evacuated to community-run care centres.  The damage to homes, local businesses, the environment and to peoples’ morale is enormous.  Christmas will have to be postponed until 2016 for many.

Weather patterns are becoming more extreme every day.  Whilst the world’s top brass meet in Paris to discuss climate change, Rome may not be burning, but the Lake District is flooding.

An appeal has been launched to raise funds to support those throughout Cumbria devastated by the flooding and storms. Please help by donating here.

Image source: telegraph.co.uk

The Fab Five

If you could choose just five favorite things in life, what would they be? That was the challenge put to me by the very talented designer and typography artist, Paul McNally, who’s currently earning a Master’s degree in Multidisciplinary Designs at the University of Ulster, Belfast.

Paul’s MFA project is Five Things, a website and book that form “an archive of information and stories about humans and the things that we love.” Among the very cool, interesting, and diverse people Paul has tapped for Five Things are: author and musician JB Morrison; Deisgnmilk.com founder Jaime Derringer; photographer Dan Rubin; iconic British New Wave band Madness bass player Mark Bedford; branding specialist and designer Debbie Millman; Game of Thrones actor Kristian Nairn, and many other talented people. My five things?
  1. Grand-kids: God’s Reward!
  2. Castiglion del Bosco: Ferragamo luxury, a down-to-earth, authentic Tuscan masterpiece for all five senses.
  3. Booths Supermarkets: The Taste of the North.  For foodies, me and you.
  4. Watching the All Blacks: No opposition is more intimidating than the legacy.
  5. Friends from Childhood: Benny, Brian, Eric, Barry – you can’t make Old Friends.
Everyone is invited to submit their Five Things to the project by using this form. A Kickstarter campaign, launched in mid-November and closing on December 12, will help fund the publication of limited-edition Five Things books and a range of high-end typographically-led products inspired by the website that will be shared with contributors. With Thanksgiving upon us, think hard about those things that make our terrestrial turn worth taking, and consider sending some dollars or pounds to Kickstarter to support this lovely and worthy project.

Image source: imgix.net

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Time for Meaningful Rest

Many of us have some of our best ideas when we’re away from work and supposedly resting. The brain wave that sweeps across us in the shower. The solution to a problem that pops into our head when we’re dozing off to sleep.

Rest is an important time for our minds and bodies. As Antonia Hoyle explains in an article for The Telegraph, “rest provides vital moments of introspection; a chance to digest information so that life makes sense and new ideas surface.”

For different people, rest means different things. It may include a vigorous workout at the gym, for others it might be an hour spent reading a novel. A major new survey, the global Rest Test, launched by Hubbub, an international collective of social scientists, humanities researchers, public engagement professionals and mental health experts, aims to find out what rest means to us and why we need it.

In her article, Hoyle notes a new understanding around the importance of rest. While it may once have had associations with laziness, scientists now have a greater understanding of its full health benefits. Perhaps that’s why there seems to be a greater focus on taking and getting rest. Various apps have been created to support resting, mindfulness is becoming increasingly trendy, and companies such as Virgin are rethinking their annual leave policies to make them more generous.

Yet, for many, finding time for meaningful rest is a challenge. According to The Economist, this is despite people having, on average, more free time than they used to. It’s often suggested that this is because while we might be spending less time in the office, many of us are spending more time connected to it via smartphones and the internet. It’s hard to switch-off completely when you feel the buzz of an email entering the inbox on your mobile phone.

Perhaps the real challenge is about knowing how to rest properly. Societal pressure can make this difficult – particularly in competitive work places. Few people want to admit to being quiet. Instead many workers like to highlight how busy they are when it might not even be the case. Too often we feel guilty for taking time out so we reach for our email to reassure ourselves we’re working hard. Unless they feel confident about resting, people risk becoming anxious, worrying about what others might think and feel they should be doing something considered more productive, rather than switching off.

Of course, hard work is important and can be very satisfying. But given meaningful rest can make us more productive, it needs to be taken seriously. A better understanding of how to rest successfully may pave the way for more creative ideas when we least expect them.

Image source: radiantchurch.ca

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Online Poet

In my era, Patti Smith, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen were just some of the artists who transcended traditional artistic borders of genre and mixed poetic literature with music. It was the message and music rolled in one.

Poetry has had the steepest decline in participation in any literary genre. According to The Washington Post, only 6.7% percent of American adults read poetry (which is still an unbelievably positive number considering the Khardashians have embedded themselves in living rooms all across the nation. Malcolm Gladwell’s point that it takes only 5% of a community/city/country to influence the greater good). Only opera has a smaller audience.

Numbers alone do not tell the full story. In an article in The Millions, Kate Angus argues that lots of people are still reading poetry today; they simply read poetry online. Just like e-books, e-poetry is on the rise.

The emergence of different forms of poetry, a modern, digital poetry so to speak, does not surprise me. People today read books on their iPads, phones and Kindles. Why wouldn’t they read poetry in the same way - especially when the digital world we live in has made it so easy for us to access the written and spoken word?

Tyler Knott Gregson is one of those new generation digital poets. He is what The New York Times labels “the literary equivalent of a unicorn”. Rather than waiting to be published, he posted his work on Instagram and Tumblr. His 560,000 followers are proof of the fact that people do still enjoy poetry.

Poetry feels much alive. It is one of the most personal art forms there is - even more so for the new digital poets. Their appeal “lies in the unpolished flavor of their verses, which often read as if they were ripped from the pages of a diary”. I agree. We all relate to emotion. We might even have experienced something similar. Choosing social media as a medium to share such emotional art just makes sense.

Image source: static.pexels.com

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Seat Beside the Master

Imagine having had the chance to sit at a desk next to Shakespeare as he wrote Hamlet? Or Nabokov while he dreamt up his nymphet? Or Agatha Christie while she composed stories starring Mrs. Marple or Hercule Poirot? That is precisely the privilege Cambridge lecturer Andy Martin was treated to over the course of a year during which internationally bestselling author Lee Child wrote Make Me, the 20th book in his Jack Reacher series. The result of their Johnson-Boswell-style partnership is Reacher Said Nothing: Lee Child and the Making of Make Me, subject of a recent QA between Child and Martin in The New York Times.

I’ve been writing about Child’s Reacher series since 2007, and believe that the six-foot-five-inch former military major is one of fiction’s heroic figures. A brooding nomad blessed with both principle and pragmatism. For these reasons, this behind-the-scenes look into the largely invisible creative process of writing a book represents priceless value.

Why would so successful an author as Child lift the curtain? “I sort of thought: Maybe I can explain it, I’ve been doing it long enough,” he says. “Lots of readers ask me how I do this or that. I thought this was an opportunity to tell them. Or at least to figure it out for myself. Which is the main thing, to be honest. Normally, I operate in a fog of instinct.”

A fan of the Reacher novels, Martin explains that he chose Child for this world-first experiment of literary criticism conducted in real time because the academic “liked [Child’s] economy of style—very degree zero.” What you learn in the piece is what a considerate, conspicuous craftsman Child is. The opposite of a potboiler writer, Child—whom Martin describes as “clearly a frustrated academic” who has seen Waiting for Godot 39 times—is an author very much invested in the technical aspects of literature, the weight of words, the calibration of punctuation. (Martin marvels at Child’s “almost Flaubertian” care with commas.)

“Here is the fundamental reality about the writing business,” Child explains in the piece. “It’s lonely. You spend all your time writing and then wondering whether what you just wrote is any good. [Martin] gave me instant feedback. If I write a nicely balanced four-word sentence with good rhythm and cadence, most critics will skip right over it.” Not Professor Martin! Looking together at the first sentence of Lee’s in-progress Reacher novel, Night School, Martin marvels: “Hold on. Eleven syllables, each side of the caesura. Diminished alexandrine. Nicely symmetrical. And that rhythm. Like a limerick. Did you know you were doing that?” Answers the master: “See, I’ll miss all that.”

The Times piece also includes a brilliant interactive feature: the opening page of Make Me, with an annotated dialogue between the author and academic discussing each of Child’s choices. Across their exchange comes to life the notion that good prose is the result of a series of questions and answers, a kind of ongoing interrogation the author conducts with his material. Over the course of this footnoted page the reader learns why it’s good to start sentences with transitive verbs; why “wrestling a king-size mattress off a waterbed” is a killer metaphor; the vital difference between “nothing” and “nothingness”; why an absence of dialogue is a bold choice for an opening scene; and the importance of the folding toothbrush.

“It’s a funny old job, mine,” Child tells the professor perched on his shoulder. “I actually get paid to sit around and daydream. Everything else is just typing.”Reacher Said Nothing belongs on the short shelf of great texts about literary craft that includes Stephen King’s On Writing, William Zinsser’s On Writing Well, and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird.

Image source: amazon.com

Monday, November 30, 2015

Twitter Gets Emotional

A tempest in a teapot has been brewing over at Twitter since the online social networking service replaced its ★ with a ♥. But what at first seems a simple switch in symbols—from indicating the “favoriting” of tweets to “liking” them—might actually point to an identity crisis for the 140-character company.

As reported by Katherine Rosman in The New York Times, Twitter’s core function tweak has enraged tweeters, who see it as a boneheaded move and responded with hastags like #hatetheheart, #bringbackthestar, and #heartgate. “Twitter was made for retweeting and FAVORITING tweets. NOT liking them. This isn’t Instagram or Facebook,” chirped one tweeter. “I DO NOT GO ON TWITTER TO BE REMINDED THAT I AM CAPABLE OF HAVING FEELINGS,” all-capped National Review reporter and Fox News contributor Katherine Timpf. “I understand why they did this,” said Zack Smith, who runs the website GamingRebellion. “Their growth has been flat and they’re trying to be like Facebook. But the heart makes me feel dirty.”

Why so emotional? I’ve been following the brouhaha closely, because nearly a dozen years ago I dropped a love bomb into the boardroom with Lovemarks, reinventing brands not around what people say or do but how they feel. The problem with the new Twitter symbol is it’s off-brand. Smith noted in the article that he feels “genuinely weirded out” seeing a heart next to someone’s avatar when they like one of his tweets, writing: “OK@twitter, if you wanted to make me feel like I’m using a dating app you have succeeded. As Rosman writes, Twitter is “a place of professional connection and conversation. Though I obviously love absolutely everything my boss tweets, for example, I don’t want to send him hearts.

Even though some users have voiced their concerns over the choice of a heart as a symbol, people seem to embrace the change. In just one week since the heart symbol was released, ‘likes’ increased by 6% and total numbers of users have increased by 9% according to Twitter’s head of product, Kevin Weil.

Meanwhile, a new app is getting the balance right between Like and Love. Russian supermodel and philanthropist Natalia Vodianova recently launched Elbi, a micro-charity app aimed at millennials that hopes to “add meaning” to their online existence. Super-Nova’s app makes it possible to make micro donations of £1 or $1 to charitable organizations all over the world, including Save the Children, Walkabout Foundation, and dozens of others.

As explained in Russia Beyond the Headlines“Drawings posted by Elbi can be tagged by pressing the Love button, similar to the Like button on social networks. Unlike the latter, which has more to do with massaging users’ vanity, the Love button on Elbi generates micro donations. The better the created content—whether a photograph, a drawing or a get-well message—the more Loves it gets in the form of more money raised for charity.”

Favoriting is not the same as liking, and liking is many steps removed from feeling love. (As American author Jonathan Franzen reminds us, “liking is for cowards.”) Twitter recognizes it needs to move into a more emotional space to stay competitive, but love is nothing to be toyed with.

But it seems that Twitter has a solution for that, too. Some tweets require a different response than a heart – nobody wants to heart comments about disasters. That is why the platform is already working on introducing different ways to react to Tweets. These could include hands clapping or a thumbs down symbol.

Image source: tpucdn.com

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Good TV

Television has evolved into a rather sophisticated creature. Not only can you watch what you want, when you want, as much as you want, but there’s a veritable feast of programming at your fingertips. In the past, you might have commented on a particular program that was ‘good TV’ but these days television has kicked things up a notch. TV has moved from, as Jim Collins would say, from good to great.

The news for those who have the time and inclination is that watching high-quality television dramas (such as ‘Mad Men’ and ‘The West Wing’) can increase your emotional intelligence. Well, according to a new study, and depending how you look at it.

Melissa Dahl presents the findings, with a grain of salt, on New York magazine. Study participants were asked to watch either a television drama or a non-fiction program before taking a test to measure their emotional intelligence, which involved judging the emotions displayed in images of human eyes. The empathy scores of people who watched the television drama were higher than those who watched the non-fiction program (who happened to score higher than people who didn’t watch anything at all).

As Dahl points out, these findings mirror the results of a similar study in relation to reading that claimed that reading can increase empathy. The explanation provided by one study was that people who were ‘emotionally transported’ by something they were reading (putting themselves in someone else’s shoes) became more empathetic, while non-transported readers became less empathetic.

But hold on a minute – does that just mean that reading fiction makes you more empathetic, or if people with empathy simply read more? And in the case of television – isn’t it obvious that we might feel a little more connected, and therefore empathetic, as a result of siding with or against characters in a good-quality drama, than we might feel if we were watching the National Geographic channel? “Do what you will with this new research,” says Dahl. I will.

Image source: fresher.ru

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Game of Consequences

Norman Ellis turned my life around when I was 15 years old.

We stayed friends until he died of dementia last year.

His daughter Gill Belchetz has written a wonderful book – her first.  “A Game of Consequences’ - Every action has a consequence.

The stories range from Leeds to Lahore, from Mombasa to Paris and yet, somehow, are interlinked.

The proceeds from this great book will go to charities leading the fight against dementia.

Buy the book, give copies to your friends and family.  Help make a difference to the 850,000 dementia sufferers in the UK and elsewhere.

‘A Game of Consequences' is available on Amazon.

Thank you for helping.


Image source: Adrian Forrest

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Jonah Lomu (1975-2015)

New Zealand and the sports world is mourning the death at age 40 of rugby superstar Jonah Lomu, from complications associated with the kidney disease he had long been afflicted with. Jonah was a great man, on the field and in life. I was at the Rugby World Cup semi-final in South Africa in 1995 for the All Blacks’ game against England. Jonah touched the ball seven times in the game and scored four tries, including arguably the most famous try in rugby history when Jonah ran over Mike Catt on the way to the try line. It’s said that this was the moment that prompted Rupert Murdoch to buy the television rights for southern hemisphere rugby. (See all of Jonah’s 15 World Rugby Cup tries here).

Jonah was a frequent visitor to my Auckland home, and a friend to my daughter Bex. I’ll never forget one get-together we had in San Francisco in 1998. In August last year I wrote a tribute to Robin Williams who had just died, recounting a memorable photo shoot with the actor and the rugby player. The postscript to this story happened that night at the end-of-event party for the State of the World Conference in the penthouse of the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill. The room was stacked with political leaders, US Senators, Nobel Prize winners, captains of industry, change agents…and the person they all wanted to meet was Jonah. He stood in a corner of this famous hotel suite, the last person in the room to elevate their own importance, and received people with the grace and humility that characterized his life.

It has been written that Jonah was the most famous New Zealander, perhaps more so than Ed Hillary, or aviator Jean Batten who was the most famous woman in the world at her time of epic flights over lonely oceans. It’s a sort of academic exercise, a fame counter, but it does in one way serve to place Jonah Lomu in a pantheon of supernovas who have inspired our purpose. If New Zealand’s purpose is to “win the world from the edge,” then Jonah Lomu is on the team, forever wearing the #11 jersey.

Vale, Jonah Lomu.

Photo credit: Kevin Stent, Sunday Star Times, 1998

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Heart Informs the Brain

The heart and brain are our two most vital organs. We need them to function physically, but also mentally and emotionally. While scientists have developed a good understanding of how the two organs communicate with each other, there is now emerging research on how this interaction affects our consciousness.

Arjun Walia summarizes some of the fascinating research recently undertaken by the HeartMath Institute. We often think of the brain as the command center, responsible for how our whole body functions, but scientists now know that the heart in fact sends more signals to the brain than the brain does to the heart. The heart therefore affects how we think and function emotionally; conscious awareness comes from the brain and heart working together.

Perhaps this shouldn’t really come as a surprise. From everyday experience we know that when we are calm and the heart beats steadily, we are more able to think clearly. When we are in a stressful situation or panicking, our heart tends to race and our clarity of thought is hindered making it more difficult to think, remember or learn. So different emotional states send different signals to the brain and affect our cognitive functions.

But what isn’t well understood is where these emotional states come from in the first place. Research in this area poses really interesting questions about consciousness and how it interplays with the material world. Is consciousness a product of the brain or a receiver of it?

The science out there is complicated and relates to quantum mechanics. But essentially, how we think about the world around us affects the way we see and interact with it. This can also create a collective consciousness which is stubbornly difficult to challenge even when many individuals may have a different view of the world. Given the idea of consciousness is rather abstract (and even spiritual) it seems a little strange to see it analyzed scientifically as a state of matter. But understanding how we interact with the world around us will help us to better comprehend one another and perhaps develop a more empathetic, emotionally aware society.

Image source: wearechange.org

Thursday, November 19, 2015


Rocking Rod is back. Last year’s Time was the hors d’oeuvre. This month’s Another Country is the main course. 15 original songs… rock, tender ballads, reggae, blues, upbeat and nostalgic at the same time…Batman, Superman, Spiderman is for Cameron and grandsons/young sons everywhere.

Youngest son turned me on to HBO’s The Jinx. An amazing documentary series about Robert Durst. A classic. Compulsive viewing.


The Lion in Winter

“I did it at one time…you can’t do something forever. I did it once, and I can do other things now. But I can’t do that.”

Bob Dylan said that (see Wednesday’s blog).

A poignant but positive take on growing older.

Yesterday was fun.

Tomorrow will be too.

Image source: aarp.net

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Dylan In Flow

I speak and write often about flow, the state people and organizations are in when they’re focusing passionate energy, together, every day, on purpose-driven activities. The architect of flow is Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a top researcher in positive psychology. In his book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Csikszentmihalyi writes: “. . . the best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times. . . The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we can make happen.”

Most people have experienced “being in the Zone,” or having a “hot hand”, or being on a winning streak. That’s flow. You feel unbeatable. In control of your actions. Extraordinarily talented and certain. As Csikszentnihalyi describes it, flow is mastering your own destiny—the feeling we have when we are fully alive.

This week on CD, vinyl, and MP3 we can hear what flow sounds like. I’m talking about Columbia Records’ release of Bob Dylan’s “The Cutting Edge 1965-1966: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 12,” which comes in three formats to fit every Dylan fanatic. There’s a two-CD highlights set; a 6-CD set deluxe edition, which includes all 16 studio takes of “Like A Rolling Stone”; and a 5,000-pressed, limited edition, 379-track Collector’s Edition that features every single note Dylan recorded in the studio in 1965/66. (Diehard Dylanists only need apply for the last one, investment of $599.99 needed).

“The Cutting Edge” covers the singer-songwriter’s “most intense period of wild inspiration and creativity,” writes New Yorker editor-in-chief David Remnick. During that fifteen-month period from the beginning of 1965 through the summer of 1966, “when the songs came two and three a day, as if from heaven, and he seemed as filled with wonder as the rest of us,” Dylan graced us with three records—“Bringing It All Back Home,” “Highway 61 Revisited,” and “Blonde On Blonde”—that redefined popular music.

I’m a firm believer that great business organizations trying lots of ideas, constantly, and that failing fast, learning fast, and fixing fast is a key recipe for success. That’s what we see the singer-songwriter doing during this explosive period. Dylan was famous for working fast in the studio and recording “live” (that is, with few if any pre-recorded overdubs). What one is witness to on the bootleg collection of unreleased tracks, outtakes, rehearsals, and alternate versions of canonized songs is a great artist figuring things out. “He’s inventing all the time in the studio, improvising lyrics, dropping lyrics, making up bogus titles,” Remnick writes. “You hear him discarding his Okie folk voice and working out the right timbre of his rock-and-roll voice.” You hear “Like A Rolling Stone” arranged as a waltz; “Visions of Johanna” played like a hard rock number.

Listening to this historic archive, you feel Dylan’s genius, his intuitiveness, his leadership abilities as bandleader, and his impatience to fulfill popular music’s deeper ambitions. You learn, reading the album’s liner notes, that in a single astonishing day—January 15, 1965—Dylan recorded the final versions of “Maggie’s Farm,” “On the Road Again,” “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” “Gates of Eden,” “Mr. Tambourine Man,” and “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.” (Hold close that example of just another average day at the office the next time you have an uninspired, lackluster day at work.)

“Those early songs were almost magically written,” Dylan told 60 Minutes’ Ed Bradley decades later. “Try to sit down and write something like that. There’s a magic to that, and it’s not Siegfried and Roy kind of magic, you know? It’s a different kind of a penetrating magic. And, you know, I did it. I did it at one time. . . You can’t do something forever. I did it once, and I can do other things now. But I can’t do that.”

Flow can happen in all kinds of environments: in homes and offices; stages and screens; fields and arenas; a Woodstock, NY basement or Tin Pan Alley and Nashville recording studios. This newest bootleg is a glorious testament to Dylan’s hottest ever musical streak and America’s greatest and most abundant living artist working at peak flow.

Image source: cloudfront.net

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

True Traveller

I’m a traveller starting at an early age by running away from home as an 8 year old and getting 50 miles away too - not bad in those days… And now I’m on the road constantly.

I read a quote recently – unattributed – that describes a true traveller.  “He who has seen one cathedral 10 times has seen something; he who has seen 10 cathedrals once has seen but little; and he who has spent an hour in each of 100 cathedrals has seen nothing at all”.

It also struck me that, if you’ve got money, one of the best ways to spend it is on things that will save you time; the most valuable thing of all.


Image source: staticflickr.com

Monday, November 16, 2015

Pat Fallon 1945-2015

Pat Fallon died last Friday, he was a legendary and beloved adman from the Midwest, and his influence was felt throughout America, the UK and other parts of the world. Fearless, tough, direct, difficult, funny, the ad world needed Pat Fallon’s storming of the ramparts of Madison Avenue and the Miracle Mile, from Minneapolis of all places. In 1981 he and four partners disrupted the cozy equilibrium of the advertising world by founding an agency “for clients who would rather outsmart the competition than outspend them.”

Within two years they were Ad Age’s agency of the year, winning large national accounts with the promise of “courage and integrity.” A Fortune magazine profile in 1997 described “a rogue band of contentious, kick-ass ad guys in Minneapolis” led by a “ferocious, extraordinary man who has Madison Avenue buzzing. He is single-minded. Strategic. Hands-on. Iconoclastic. Fallon is building a cutting-edge agency a thousand miles from Madison Avenue.”

The trajectory was meteoric along with some spectacular blow-ups, but the vicissitudes of the ad business only left him with the determination to keep standing rock solid. The Fallon family became part of the Publicis Groupe in 2000 and its roots became intertwined with Saatchi & Saatchi, especially in London where the Saatchi-Fallon connection is inseparable. Part mainstream agency, part creative outlier, Fallon has a legacy that will burn strongly into the future. The advertising world is populated with creatives, planners and suits for whom the grit, guts and genius of Pat Fallon was a defining moment in their careers.

Vale Pat Fallon.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Just One Minute

This year I was honoured to join the Filminute festival jury for its 10th anniversary edition, eight years on since I first judged the festival in 2007.

Filminute is the international one-minute film festival that challenges creatives of all disciplines and persuasions to develop the best one-minute films.

As jurors, we were asked to evaluate the one-minute films with the same discipline and criteria by which we might evaluate a full-length feature film, animation or documentary. Keeping in mind, of course, that the best films resonate and affect audiences beyond and irrespective of when the closing credits appear.

The challenge for those who entered was to achieve this in 60 seconds. No more, no less. As someone who appreciates a well-polished elevator pitch, the highlight for me was the knock-out content. For those who don’t believe it’s possible to pack a punch in just 60 seconds, I suggest you check out the Best Filminute winner, ‘A minute of silence.’

The short length of these films also means they’re extremely accessible. A lot can happen in one minute, and I’m not just talking about a plot. In one minute, you can engage, inspire, trigger a thought, spark an emotion.

Check out the Filminute 2015 shortlist here. My winners were:
  1. 1-0 (Iran): I love a good football story wherever in the world it comes from, especially when it’s about a young boy in love with the game.
  2. Wojtek (Poland): Inspirational story about make-do materials in the service of human delight.
  3. A Minute of Silence (France): Bergmanesque family psychodrama, performed in sign language, led by two wonderful child actors. Packs a wallop!
  4. Nanny (Martinique): Beautifully acted and filmed folkloric tale, packs an almost unbearable level of intensity into its brief running time.
  5. Force (UK): Great use of location and special effects with a superb payoff. Whiteman and Gomez should be directing Marvel comic movies.
  6. The Whale (Germany): Not seeing but looking. Beautifully illustrated and animated. A fable for contemporary times.
  7. The Lunch (Chile): The ultimate in mock death scenes. Choking on arugula!

Image source: Youtube.com

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Taxi Stand Tune

Pick one megacity in the world where Uber might hesitate to invest in, and it would be Tokyo, and not just because of any regulatory hurdles. Kenji Hall reports from Tokyo in a Monocle video about the elite Nihon Kotsu fleet. We’re talking elegant, old-school charm in the form of a very professional black cab business. Sleek, streamlined and there to serve you in every way you’d want a taxicab service to.

Well, you, and the rest of the population of Tokyo, all 13 million of them. Not only is Nihon Kotsu a taxicab company that seems to do a heck of a good job when it comes to giving top-notch service on a personal level, it plays a vital role in making sure the city’s day-to-day business runs smoothly.

Every day, seven times a day, 365 days a year, Nihon Kotsu drivers clock-in, take a breathalyzer test, pick up their licenses and stand in line for their pep-talk, before all 452 vehicles are ushered out of the garage. Thanks to them, and the rest of the city’s 48,101 taxicabs (owned by 476 companies and more than 16,700 self-employed drivers), 730,000 people get around Tokyo each day, according to the Tokyo Taxi Association.

But as soon of each of these drivers hits the road they’re on their own, contending with the crowded city’s ebbs and flows. “They have to pace themselves and learn how to ‘read the flow’,” says Hall, explaining the logic of morning shifts (rush hour, hospital and hotel clientele, lunchtime surge), mid-afternoon slowdowns (time for lunch, a nap, or lounging in their cars on the waterfront), and the evening rush (steady until past-midnight, when the trains stop running and the bars close).

The predictability of it almost feels like hearing a familiar tune, with different parts (the beat, rhythm and melody) working in unison to make something quite significant happen. In Tokyo’s case, that something is that within one of the most densely populated metropolitan areas in the world (the Greater Tokyo Area is estimated to have more people than Canada).

Nihon Kotsu is a standout in Tokyo’s crowded taxicab market. But beyond Nihon Kotsu’s good looks and surface charm, it has a lot to teach us about how to mobilize and organize not only an industry and a large workforce, but people within a city. One way it does this is through technology, with on-board computers and hi-tech dispatch system alerts. Another way is through its attention to detail – nothing, from car cleanliness to customer interactions, is left to chance.

I’m interested in how things happen seamlessly at scale and speed, repeatedly, day after day. I wrote last month about Mumbai’s dabbawalas who keep office workers well-fed each day with home-cooked lunches. They should send their folk to meet with Tokyo’s Nihon Kotsu to swap notes.

Image source: monocle.com

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Never, Never Give In

In 1941 Winston Churchill delivered a speech to the students of Harrow School.

“…never give in, never give in, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”

This sentiment has been described as one of Churchill’s best. It epitomizes an attitude that many aspire to, with some stand-outs on the world stage who have found success in business or in life, through sheer hard work, grit and determination. Here’s a good list from The Huffington Post, including:
  • Vincent van Gogh – he may have only sold one painting in his lifetime, yet he painted over 900 works of art. He’s now considered one of the greatest artists of our time.
  • Thomas Edison – the lightbulb didn’t happen like a lightbulb moment; he made numerous attempts before succeeding in creating the lightbulb. “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work,” he said.
  • Albert Einstein – as a young boy, his teachers thought he was lazy and wrote him off as a dreamer, “…conjuring up abstract questions people couldn't understand.” He kept on doing his thing and went on to develop the theory of relativity.
  • Bill Gates – his first company failed, but that didn’t stop him; it helped him develop Microsoft years later.
There’s one thing these people all have in common: they never gave up. They’ve all experienced failure, which didn’t set them back, but helped inform their success and fuelled their drive to succeed. It’s this resilient attitude that demonstrates personal character. Some people aspire to developing it, while others just have it. You know who they are, and if you had the choice, you want them on your team. Because not only will they do whatever it takes to achieve a result, they’ll inspire others to do the same.

Image attribute/source: Winston Churchill / savvystories.com

Monday, November 9, 2015

The World On Our Fingertips

Joseph Carini is a carpet design who has just launched a ‘Thumbprint’ collection, which consists of organic rugs digitally designed using clients’ fingerprints. Besides the personalization aspect, it is the connection of purity of the materials used with digital technology that make these creations so fascinating.

The patterns on our fingertips are so unique that the odds of finding two fingerprints that are exactly the same are 1 in 64 billion. Many say that winning the lottery is more likely than that. Even identical twins have different fingerprints.

With this in mind it makes sense that we use our unique thumbprint for identification in other areas than forensics as well. We unlock our phones with fingerprint scanners; undergo biometric procedures at some airports and in many countries our fingerprint is stores on our passport. And we are not the first to do so. People in ancient Babylon already used fingerprints as signatures on clay tablets for business transactions.

In the 1930s the notorious American gangster John Dillinger famously tried to erase his fingerprints with acid to so he wouldn’t reveal his identity in his crimes. It still happens, but today’s forensic technology makes identification possible – even with mutilated fingertips.

The reason why we all have different thumbprints is not entirely known. Scientists have speculated that the patterns on our fingertips would improve our sense of touch and studies at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris have confirmed that hypothesis.

Image source: nyt.com. A rug from Carini Lang's "Thumbprint" line

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Riveted by Mr Robot

“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”

30 hours from Vienna to Auckland over the weekend. Riveted by Mr Robot, Season One. Rami Malek is sensational. The writing is superb and the imagination extraordinary.

Season Two just starting.

Image source: kinokadr.ru

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The 60’s

The decade I grew up in. The decade that changed everything. Have been binging on CNN’s original 10-part series “The Sixties”.  Produced by Tom Hanks. Where it all started for Baby Boomers. Modern History for Millennials.  Irresistible.


Image source: squarespace.com

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Charisma and Confidence Take the Cake

When it comes to desirable traits in 20th century prime ministers, charisma and decisiveness “trump leadership that is willing to view the world in various shades of gray,” says Sam Rohrer on Democratic Audit UK.

This is the main finding of a recent study which looked at British prime ministers spanning the 20th century, with a view to understanding whether they have specific psychological traits that affect people’s perceptions of their effectiveness as leaders. Rohrer studied transcripts of parliamentary debates, with three traits coming out on top in terms of perceived effectiveness: self-confidence, decisiveness, and charisma.

People know effective leadership not when they see or hear it, but when they feel it, which is perhaps why confidence and charisma are an important part of the mix. As pointed out by R. Mark Bell of Regent University, charisma is a trait that is ‘felt’ and then attributed to a leader by followers. You could say the same about confidence – great leaders just seem to have it.

People are drawn to leaders who carry these traits through the way they communicate. It’s not just about the dissemination of relevant information, it’s about the way they deliver the message, by drawing on emotions, telling stories and being open, and therefore credible and trustworthy.

Bell refers to Ronald Reagan who is remembered historically as a great communicator, with a style that was perceived as particularly charismatic (one study ranked him in the top three charismatic American presidents in the 20th century). Reagan encouraged understanding and sentiment through using symbolism, metaphors and imagery in his speeches.

Decisiveness is important because leaders are often put in situations where they have to make difficult decisions in times of great haste. Churchill: “The nation will find it very hard to look up to the leaders who are keeping their ears to the ground.” The best leaders assess the information they have in front of them, weigh the options and decide on what’s best, confidently.

John F Kennedy showed decisiveness. Despite advice from his advisors to pursue a full military invasion of Cuba following reports of nuclear missiles, Kennedy opted for a naval blockade and negotiations with Soviet leaders. The blockade worked, and the US was able to avoid nuclear war.

Great leaders throughout history reveal many desirable traits, and while much has changed about the world in which we currently live, human nature hasn’t really changed. Shane Snow summed it up nicely in an article on Fast Company: “Think of the best leaders in history – Mandela, Churchill, King, etc. – and you’ll see a pattern: they tell great stories, with boldness, absolutely convinced they are right. They both inspire and grab attention.”

Image attribute/source: Ronald Reagan / diva-diary.com

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

William Webb Ellis Trophy postscript

Two items after Saturday’s tour de force.

First, there’s been tons of analysis/discussion/chatter about the All Blacks’ Rugby World Cup win… after months of Northern Hemisphere jibes of choking and cheating – all now conveniently forgotten.

But coaching legend Brian Ashton, in The Independent, strips it down to basics – less is more – and says this is what the All Blacks do:
  • Win the ball.
  • Win the space in front of them (i.e., go forward).
  • Win the battle for continuity.
  • Win the fight to set the tempo.
  • Score tries.
Second, a generous gesture from the staff of Ritz Carlton-owned Bulgari Hotel in London where I have been during the finals, a full size rugby ball made of chocolate saying “Congratulations to New Zealand!”