Tuesday, January 31, 2017

2016 Rocked, 2017 Will Be Even Better

Some Reasons 2016 Rocked (from a cool list of attributed news story facts published by political economist Angus Hervey on ‘99 Reasons 2016 Was a Good Year’ gathered by the intrepid team at Future Crunch.)
  • Since the year 2000, global malaria deaths have declined by 60%.
  • In 2016, some of the world’s biggest diseases, like colon cancer, dementia and heart disease, started declining in wealthy countries.
  • The number of women dying from pregnancy and childbirth has almost halved since 1990.
  • Life expectancy in Africa has increased by 9.4 years since 2000, thanks to improvements in child survival, progress in malaria control and expanded access to ARVs.
  • Mobile phones made significant inroads in the fight against rabies, a disease which kills more people annually than all terrorists combined.
  • Harvard scientists created a new platform for antibiotic discovery that may help solve the crisis of antibiotic resistance.
  • The proportion of older US adults with dementia, including Alzheimer’s declined from 11.6% in 2000 to 8.8% in 2012, a decrease of about a million people.
  • 93% of kids around the world learned to read and write this year. That’s the highest proportion in human history. And the gender gap between girls and boys in school narrowed in 2016 too.
  • In 2016, for the first time ever, the amount of money it would take to end poverty dropped below the amount of money spent on foreign aid.
  • World hunger reached its lowest point in 25 years.
  • Homelessness in the United States declined by 35% since 2007, and Los Angeles committed to $1.2 billion to help get more people off the street.
  • 2016 marked the 24th year in a row that teenage pregnancy rates declined in the United Kingdom and the United States.
  • The Paris Agreement became the fastest (and largest) United Nations treaty to go from agreement to international law in modern history.
  • Global carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels did not grow at all in 2016. It’s the third year in a row emissions have flat lined.
  • In April, the UK’s Chatham House released a report saying “Big Oil is screwed”. In the same month, 25% of European countries announced that they had quit coal.
  • In July, the USA, Mexico and Canada committed to getting 50% of their electricity from renewables by 2025.
  • In October, the International Energy Agency reported that half a million solar panels were installed each day around the world in 2015. It also drastically increased its five year growth forecast for renewables.
  • Following the end of conflict in Colombia in 2016, all of the war in the world is now limited to an arc that contains less than a sixth of the world’s population.
  • In December, four of the world’s biggest cities, Paris, Madrid, Athens and Mexico City, agreed to ban diesel cars from their centres.
  • Sea World agreed to stop breeding captive killer whales.
  • In September, giant pandas became the latest species to be taken off the endangered list.
  • And in 2016, for the first time, we heard that the number of tigers in the wild rose for the first time in 100 years.
The Good News for 2017

This (with a few adjusts) from Nicholas Kristof writing recently and buoyantly in The New York Times on ‘Why 2017 May Be the Best Year Ever’:
  • By some important metrics, 2016 was the best year in the history of humanity. And 2017 will be better still.
  • 250,000 people came out of extreme poverty every day – 91m people p.a. (World Bank). This is a Vietnam-size country every year. And yet polls show that about 9 out of 10 Americans believe that global poverty has worsened or stayed the same.
  • In the early 1980s, more than 40% of all humans were living in extreme poverty. Now fewer than 10% are. By 2030 it looks as if just 3% or 4% will be. We are wiping poverty out.
  • Since 1990, more than 100 million children’s lives have been saved through vaccinations, breast-feeding promotion, diarrhoea treatment and more. A parent is only half as likely today to lose a child, as in 1990.
  • Until the 1960s, a majority of humans had always been illiterate; now, 85% of adults are literate.
  • Today some 18,000 children who in the past would have died of simple diseases will survive, about 300,000 people will gain electricity and a cool 250,000 will graduate from extreme poverty.
That’s better! Radical Optimism Rocks.

Image source: Allegro Music

The Bad News

According to the World Economic Forum, the greatest threats to humanity in 2017 are:
  • Donald Trump (oops – just kidding)
  1. Extreme weather – flash floods, heatwaves and drought. Global warming is real.
  2. Large scale migration.
  3. Deadly terrorist activity.
  4. A devastating natural disaster such as an earthquake or hurricane.
  5. Massive data theft.
To this I believe you can add:
  • The growing rage of the forgotten middle class and the flight to populism and protectionism (the natural precursor to fascism).
  • A deadly pandemic / virus travelling globally at lightning speed.
  • A lack of moral, purpose-driven leadership at the political level in a growing number of key economies, both developed and developing.
  • The rise and rise of Putin’s single-minded determination to destabilise the West and “recreate the Soviet Empire”.
  • The de-unification of the US as President Trump fails to bring harmony (or at least tolerance) to the Greatest Nation on Earth.
But – there’s a bunch of Good News too – read tomorrow’s blog.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

New York Stand Up

New Yorkers are a tough crowd, right? Straight talkers, business builders, deal makers, fast movers. I had the pleasure of holding the floor for 90 minutes during a dinner speech and Q&A to over 200 members of the Metro New York Young Presidents Organization in the glittering new Onyx Room at the Park Hyatt. The YPO is a global organization comprising some 24,000 business leaders whose firms have a combined turnover of US$6t and 15m employees. I've spoken to YPO chapters before in Tennessee and London; I like their gutsy pragmatism, love of learning, and commitment to peer networking. My topic, no surprise, was 'Leadership in a Crazy World.' My thanks to Peter Markham of TMT Capital for instigating such a lively evening, and YPO Metro New York executive director Meredith Egyes for everything being perfect.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

With Tom Keene on POTUS

My favorite morning hour is with Tom Keene, the rambunctious host of Bloomberg Surveillance. This morning, no surprise, was about the 45th President of the USA. We talked leadership style, conflict as an operating mode, and the potency of language. TV clip here and radio interview here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


Mastering this equation leads to a productive business – and life. TQ is your Technology Quotient. Do you use Technology to make your life better and help you perform at peak, or have you been enslaved and imprisoned by your mobile – without knowing it?

The very smart Eddie Jones, England Rugby coach, has enlisted the help of Dr Sherylle Calder to improve the visual awareness and decision making of his squad. Dr Calder has worked with elite athletes across many sports in many countries. She maintains that sports skills are in decline as a direct result of today’s fixation with phones and tablet screens. Over the past three years, studies have shown that we are losing awareness when looking at our phones. (How many times have people texting or staring at their mobiles bumped into you on a busy street?). There are no eye movements; everything is static.

We are aware that kids’ reading skills are deteriorating as they fixate visually on their screens, and now we’re beginning to see adults’ motor skills declining too. We need more tree climbing, more walking on walls, falling off – learning, and less texting.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

5 VUCA Books

Here's a guest KR Connect post from Michael Davies, a Lancaster Royal Grammar School history teacher and winner of the 2015 Mary Soames History Prize by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust for his work on competing historical narratives of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Michael is currently on leave from the school working in New York with a software developer on new web/video resources for schools that address the difficulty of teaching the history of the conflict. "People are so afraid of saying the wrong thing that often they say nothing at all. My objective isn't to bring both sides together to create a unified history, but to encourage people to take a peek over the wall and see what the other side is saying." He has secured funding and endorsements from a range of Jewish and Muslim supporters in the UK and the USA to undertake the project. Here's Michael...

Kevin and I were talking about what business leaders could learn from history and he asked me to come up with my five best books as preparation for a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous world.

#1: The Fall of Constantinople by Steven Runciman. The punchline here is that Constantinople (or Byzantium) was besieged and captured by the Ottomans in 1453, but the really interesting story is how did this eastern half of the old Roman Empire last 1000 years. Part of the answer is the rather unfashionable truth that it had a complex bureaucracy and very sophisticated diplomatic service at a time when its enemies were successful warlords, here today and gone tomorrow.

#2: 1929 A Year of Conflict by Hillel Cohen examines the causes of the rioting that broke out in Palestine in 1929, which might seem a rather narrow incident but Cohen's bigger idea is that "all history is constructed" - which is why there's a Jewish version and an Arab version of what happened. What he brilliantly shows us is how those two parallel but competing narratives have been created - useful for anyone who has to weigh up competing arguments and make a decision.

#3: Russian Voices by Tony Parker. In 1990 Parker visited the USSR as it crumbled and interviewed a wide range of ordinary people about their uncertain future. Well, thirty years on we know. Uncertainty created opportunities of enormous wealth to a few who grabbed the chance, but for the great majority they exchanged too much certainty for too little certainty. There are lessons here about managing change.

#4: The Past is Myself by Christabel Bielenberg is her account of her life as an English woman married to a German bringing up three children in Berlin in WWII, and what happens when her husband is arrested by the Gestapo after the July bomb plot. It's about surviving and playing the cards that are dealt you, even if it looks like a losing hand.

#5: Ill Fares the Land by the late great Tony Judt. Published in 2010, this a historically-based argument that the economy should be run for society, not society run for the economy. This truth that resonated this year in the former industrial towns of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

2017 Predictions #4: Sporting Victories

  • The Six Nations will be the most hotly contested and unpredictable series of games for years. Four teams can all beat each other (sorry Wales and Italy), England are not quite yet the finished article, Scotland are resurgent, Ireland could go all the way and France, well they’re France.
  • The British and Irish Lions Tour to New Zealand will be the best tour since 1971 when Carwyn James’ heroes won the series vs the All Blacks 2.1. The squad will be strong, the coaches are a formidable experienced crew, and they’ll play for an Inspirational Captain (Rory Best). Against the best team in the world. Mouth watering.
  • 3 Manchester/Liverpool teams will finish in the top 4 of the Premier League… only 1 London team will.
  • Manchester City will win the Premier League and the Champions League (Manchester United certainly won’t).

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

2017 Predictions #3: Siriously Alexa

Of all the AI, VR, TMT and HOT innovation acronyms, STI will make the biggest impact. For decades computer scientists have wrestled with perfecting Speech to Instruction (my term) technology – the ability to speak to your device and give it instructions that it understands. Perfection is required. “Now” and No” could be mistaken and the results disastrous. Apple’s Siri and Amazon Alexa - the star of 2017 CES - are the first in a wave of voice-instructed helping aids that tech is bringing us. More than ever, people will spend more time talking to their devices than to other people.

Monday, January 9, 2017

2017 Predictions #2: Trump Will Triumph

He won. The transition appointments show his intention for a muscular America, bristling with generals and billionaires: make things happen people. It’s said that politicians campaign in poetry and govern in prose. The Donald’s poetry – three word slogans ‘Lock Her Up,’ ‘Build the Wall’ and ‘Drain the Swamp’ got through to three year olds. A commentator noted there are no professors and intellectuals in the cabinet. Precisely. Trump will be unpredictable, surprising, perplexing, dangerous, brutish, but I believe he will initiate a thing or two that will have a lasting and positive impact on America and the world. Henry Kissinger believes Trump will shake things up by asking a lot of unfamiliar questions. Holding office – not campaigning for it –will bring great accountability. He will be judged not on bluster but on performance. And we must give him the opportunity to deliver. Ride ‘em cowboy.

Friday, January 6, 2017

2017 Predictions #1

If you thought last year was crazy, put on your seat belts for 2017. Here are three predictions for the year ahead… and a few sporting hopes.

2016 was about the 3 P’s – Protectionism, Prejudice and Patriotism. It was also the Year of the 4th P… The Populist… and a 5th… Putin. Enough with the P words!

2017 will be a year of fairness, reason and generosity. A year where moderates and optimists regroup. (This is frankly more a wish than a prediction but we live in Hope).

4 predictions: #1 - Britain Won’t Brexit

Not for a while, at least. A CNN poll in mid-December affirmed the original Brexit vote – more Britons want the UK to leave the EU than want to remain. That a simple YES/NO question can result in the cacophony of chaos that is going to ensue in the Cabinet, Parliament, and Whitehall in 2017 and for years hence, is unbelievable. Reducing the future of the UK, Europe and possibly the world to a binary choice seems to have been a ludicrous strategy on the part of David Cameron. More responsibility should have been put on voters to make a more complex decision than YES/NO allowed.

Extricating the UK from the EU is mind-bogglingly complex, and there is collateral damage coming from both uncertainty and seismic financial and logistical events. I look at the EU as a tired bloated institution and understand why people voted to leave, but as a radical optimist – and a globalist – my instinct is to fix things first. I have written before that the only option for Britons to progress during the political and bureaucratic quagmire, is to double-down on personal purpose, business purpose, and national purpose. “Winning the world from the edge” is my New Zealand mantra. And now my British one.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

PT Prophet Podcast

Hayden Wilson is an Aussie, based in Melbourne, who has created an influential network of personal trainers and business owners dedicated to fitness. He says that “because the world needs more nice” he created the “be nice” movement – and fittingly, he sent me a nice note inviting me to be on his podcast PTProphet. We had a great hour long talk yesterday and his podcast is posted here. We talked about dreams, purpose, execution, making happy choices, no regrets, making an impact, living in a VUCA world, visualization, being creative. And the machine gun story. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Loading Mercury With a Pitchfork

January 4 3

I’ve started off with a mistake
but I’ll try to get better
and put the day in good order.

Great advice from one of literary heroes Richard Brautigan, poet, novelist and hitchhiker. I read everything he wrote as I was growing up in the 60’s – weird, crazy, provocative, and wise.

I started the New Year reading one of his lesser known anthologies – ‘Loading Mercury with a Pitchfork’ – a great title for our 2017 VUCA world. I hope your New Year’s Eve felt like this:

They are really having fun
They are really having fun
drinking glasses of wine
and talking about things
that they like

Some other Pitchfork gems

I talked a good hello
but she talked an even
better goodbye

Right Beside The Morning Coffee
If I write this down now,
I will have it in the morning.
The question is: Do I want
to start the day off with this?

and finally

For fear you will be alone
For fear you will be alone
you do so many things
That aren’t you at all.

Here’s to being with friends and family – and making happy choices.

Hello 2017.