Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Winding Up Wellbeing

I recently wrote about the importance of personal wellbeing in sustainable peak performance. We need to take care of ourselves first before we can fully succeed and take care of other areas of our lives. When it comes to happiness and wellbeing the notion exists that we are happy if negative emotions are absent from our lives. And the other way round. If you’re stressed or anxious, you won’t be feeling happy.

This is where many of us go wrong according to Martin Seligman, professor of psychology at University of Pennsylvania. In our pursuit of happiness, he says, we should stop focusing so much on negative emotions and spending time to eliminate those. Instead it’s more important to actively cultivate wellbeing. I like it.

Seligman suggests four exercises that can help us to readjust our focus when it comes to happiness.

1) Identify your Strengths: When were you at your best? Write it down and think about the strengths you showed in that situation.

2) Find the Good: Each night write down three things that went well that day.

3) Make a Gratitude Visit: Have you thanked people who showed kindness towards you in the past? Think of someone you haven’t thanked, write a letter. If you’re feeling brave, meet that person and tell them.

4) Respond Constructively: That’s a good one. Instead of saying ‘that’s great’ next time somebody shares good news with you, show more enthusiasm. Celebrate others accomplishments. There’s nothing better than sharing a celebration with somebody and some red wine.

I’m a radical optimist – shifting focus towards the positive rather than dwelling on the bad just makes sense. Being an optimist might mean slightly different things to everybody. To me it means to continuously put oneself into a good space, avoiding negative actions, and making happy choices.

Image: Roxana Barnett Pinterest

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

One for Wellington

I’m in Wellington New Zealand this week for two monster rugby games, the British and Irish Lions versus the Wellington Hurricanes and the All Blacks. Both games are at the stadium affectionately known as the ‘Cake Tin’ – a circular stadium not unlike a colosseum. When full with about 40,000 people, the atmosphere is electric, the energy kinetic. And so it was last night for the Lions-Hurricanes game, the result was a pulsating 31-all draw – and yes, you can call a draw pulsating, especially as the Hurricanes came back from a 23-7 halftime deficit. Saturday night brings on the decisive Lions-All Blacks test.

I’m an Aucklander through and through. It’s a big international city with a magnificent harbour where we’ll be sailing the next America’s Cup thanks to the grit, guts and genius of Team New Zealand. But as the citizens of the windy capital remark, “You can’t beat Wellington on a good day.”

Looks like the world agrees. In May this year New Zealand’s ‘coolest’ little capital was named the most liveable city of the world in a report by Deutsche Bank in Germany – beating Edinburgh, Vienna and Melbourne. Cities were ranked based on indicators like their crime rate, pollution, healthcare options, cost of living, house prices, commuting time and climate. It’s a big win for Wellington. It’s a vibrant place full of innovation. It’s the Hollywood of New Zealand with Peter Jackson and Richard Taylor and their band of merry pranksters making Wellington a movie making center of global significance. And not to forget there are few better places for café life.

Wellington generated a lot of positive global press earlier this year when the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency and Workhere New Zealand launched LookSee Wellington - a global recruitment campaign for tech talent. That campaign attracted more than 48,000 applications from all over the globe. The world loves Wellington.

Wellington wasn’t the only NZ city included in the ranking. Auckland came in 13th. Personally I would rank Auckland much higher. Wellington might be New Zealand’s capital, but Auckland is the capital of the world’s edge. With Lorde sitting on top of the Billboard charts and the America’s Cup heading back to Auckland, it feels that wherever you are in New Zealand, the idea of “winning the world from the edge” is pretty darn good this week.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Banana Rescue? Shoes That Grow? Why Didn’t I Think Of That!

Some ideas are staring us in the face, but it takes a sideways glance to remove their camouflage. These lateral leaps spring a lock. Having a surprisingly obvious idea is one of the talents of a creative leader.

As someone with a business stake in healthy food, I like what UK supermarkets are up to with fruit and veg that don’t look the part.

The BBC reports that waste of good food is a serious problem. The Government's food waste awareness service, Wrap, found that 1.4 million bananas are thrown out every day for having minor bruises or black marks on their skin, which it says add up to £80m in waste a year.

Better labeling, promotions and creative approaches can crack the perception lock. UK supermarkets are making more space for increasing amounts of less-than-perfect produce. Sainsbury is promoting blemished bananas ("banana rescue" stations in about 500 stores to encourage consumers to use fruit that is overripe or past its best; their suggestions include using them to make banana bread or muffins). Morrisons has a “wonky” range. Tesco, which has a Perfectly Imperfect range, has a strategy that no food safe for human consumption will go to waste from its UK outlets by the end of 2017.

Here another ‘surprise with the obvious’ innovation. Foot injuries and infections are a risk for hundreds of millions of children around the world. Who would have thought of expandable shoes, shoes that grow with your feet, that aren’t costly, and that last long enough to pass on to other children? Kenton Lee dreamed up and didn’t let go the idea, and now it's a reality. 100,000 pairs of the adjustable shoes have been distributed across approximately 85 countries. Ideas right in front of us have extraordinary power. What is your surprisingly obvious idea? How will you make it happen?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I’ve Been Asked to Make This Thanks Rhyme

This week I spoke at a lunch for Newmarket Rotary, a service organization in an established Auckland suburb adjacent to where I live. It was fun, it felt like family. Four years ago when I spoke the then president of the club Alastair Macfarlane prepared a poem of thanks. This week Alastair was on song again...

I’ve been asked to make this thanks rhyme
So I’ve given this some of my time
For this special guest
Who’s faced every test
Is still very much in his prime

When we heard from our speaker before
He told stories of Lovemarks and more
This time a new theme
With fresh thoughts to extreme
And a book of ideas to the fore

This new book with chapter and verse
With multiple shots to disperse
Has three score and four
Which means 64
Of ways into which to immerse

And again we’ve heard a new line
From this man who has passion and time
To share unique views
That gives us all clues
In these crazy & demanding times

Your knowledge of business is sound
And with practice and time you have found
That the old status quo
Is no longer a Go
And requires new hunting ground

The new winning equation is Q
Being IQ and TQ for you
Let’s not forget B
Which is also for thee
And the big one of course is EQ

And to beat the odds you need Heart
With Head and Speed to jumpstart
Add Tech as a glue
To make the break through
Your ideas will have power and be smart

Innovation is still to the fore
Inspiration full on to the core
With creative thinking
And marketing linking
It’s the key to winning once more

Team building from singing with friends
Is delivering huge dividends
To those companies who share
And embrace everywhere
Choir Nation that KR recommends

The new future is philosophy
Stretching Google’s capacity
Soft skills we will need
To perform with full speed
With empathy and dexterity

In this high speed era of time
Each idea can bring riches sublime
And today we have heard
Sound thought and wise word
How to scale the steep mountain to climb

So to Kevin we say thanks a lot
Again you have hit the right spot
So please give your applause
To this man of great cause
For his speech you’ve enjoyed and just got

Alastair Macfarlane

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Full Speed Ahead

The impact of technology on modern living is mind-blowing. Tom Trezise, an expert in accelerating innovation in healthcare and in socially responsible leadership, is on the Dean’s Council of Lancaster University where I'm Honorary Professor of Creative Leadership. He sent a note last week addressing technological disruption and preparing people and organizations to succeed. He tracks 25 technologies that will change the way we live. Here they are:

1. Semantic Web

2. Virtual Reality

3. Augmented Reality

4. Immersion Technology

5. Processing Capability and Speed

6. Mobility

7. Battery size

8. Chip Implants

9. Collaboration

10. Data Analytics, Attribution and Value Vectors

11. Robotics

12. Nanotechnology

13. Genetic Technology

14. Social Media

15. Quantum Physics

16. 3D Printing

17. Digital/Smart Manufacturing

18. Materials Innovation

19. Internet of Things

20. Machine Learning

21. Artificial Intelligence

22. Cost Curve Reduction i.e. big data storage

23. Rare Earth Minerals Substitutes

24. Brain/Body Implants

25. Delivery Systems i.e. treatment and prevention of disease

If this mind-bending list is not enough, Tom posed the challenge: Determine what is the evolutionary timeline for integrating the readiness of individuals (early adopters to last adopters), culture (what percentage of people and processes are needed to sustain changes), and new technology that will potentially impact your organization.

As the resident radical optimist, I’d say it’s a 90/10 equation between opportunities and issues. The potential technology has for bettering our lives is breath-taking.

According to Stanford adjunct professor and former Baidu scientist Andrew Ng, a rule of thumb is that anything that a human can do in less than one second of mental thinking will be automated. For those in panic mode on employment, a smart observation comes from Dr Michael Naylor, a finance and insurance academic at Massey University: “Jobs are not replaced, activities are. Some activities will be replaced but the impact on any job will depend on the mix of activities in that job. Some activities within most jobs will be untouched, and demand for the remaining activities may even expand.”

Image: Flaticon

Friday, June 16, 2017

Leadership by Lombardi

Leadership is a mix of qualities, and a building of character. One thing I advise students of leadership is to find leaders you can relate to. Study them. Learn from them. If you’re up for turning the other cheek, then study Ghandi. If you like stinging like a bee, study Ali. I like leaders who are winners, and the winner of creating winners is ESPN coach of the century Vince Lombardi, a force of nature who used football to teach life.

Pro Football Hall of Fame Archivist Jon Kendle has just written a piece on Lombardi’s legacy for the Ohio Times Reporter. Anyone coaching a team would do well to study Lombardi. Here are a few selections.

"During practice sessions, Lombardi could be seen teaching football fundamentals, while simultaneously preaching to his players the importance of dedication, love, passion and pride. Lombardi built his teams on the premise of selflessness and unity. He wanted high-spirited, disciplined, talented people willing to pay the price to succeed. His teams were fueled by heart power. He loved his players, and in return, his players loved him."

"Through raw human emotion Lombardi communicated to his players. Good or bad, he never held back. He learned to use emotion to create the desired effect. He motivated, he led, and he taught through his passion, never concerning himself with what others thought about him. He built character through action, teaching his players by example, and instilling confidence in everyone he met. Lombardi’s leadership did not rest on ability, his leadership was a combination of intangibles, it was a culmination of commitment, loyalty, pride, and discipline held together with relentless emotions."

Lombardi himself wrote: “After the cheers have died down and the stadium is empty, after the headlines have been written, and after you are back in the quiet of your room and the championship ring has been placed on the dresser and all the pomp and fanfare have faded, the enduring thing that is left is the dedication to doing with our lives the very best we can to make the world a better place in which to live.”

My kind of coach.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Breakfast Interview with Mike Hosking

Yesterday I had the pleasure of talking with NewstalkZB's Mike Hosking, New Zealand's #1 broadcaster, for a rapid-fire 10 minute radio interview about the delights of being in Auckland and travelling around New Zealand for the Lions tour; Lovemarks and Saatchi & Saatchi; MyFoodBag; Simon Gault's new all day waterfront restaurant Giraffe; optimism, talent and attitude. Perfect way to start the day. .

"The Best Way to Prepare for a Battle Is to Have a Battle”

Ian Foster, assistant coach of the All Blacks, said something today which caught my eye ahead of this Saturday night's All Blacks versus Samoa game at Eden Park, Auckland.

"The best way to prepare for a battle is to have a battle.”

Hello Samoa.


Monday, June 12, 2017

Tipping Talking Point

Artificial intelligence is many things: logical, useful, scary, efficient, marginalising, shocking, exciting, wonderful. An area where I think AI will break wonder-ground before long is in communication. More particularly, in instant translation.

Poor communication, miscommunication and confusion have plenty to answer for down through time. When we can instantly cross the language barrier, advances through intelligibility, collaboration and productivity are self-evident. From travel encounters to customer support, research depth to idea generation, security to… dating, it is through connecting with and understanding each other fast that good stuff can really roll.

Google Translate arrived in 2006, and has grown to over 500 million users worldwide, translating more than 100 billion words daily. Voice speed is the name of the next game changer, and the next communication boundary-crossing frontier presents in the form of speaking, not in writing.

Talk to anyone, anytime, anywhere? It’s a head-turner and, despite the perennial promise of a Star Trek universal translator being right around the corner, some workable applications appear to be at least in sight:
  • An ear device from Waverly Labs that translates foreign languages in real time 
  • A pocket widget called Travis that lets you speak 80 languages in your travels
  • A gadget  called ili that translates English, Japanese and Chinese instantly 
  • Pure Neural Machine Translation by Systran for advanced multilingual communications
We’ll see how fast this moves, but it is clearly moving. Next stop, talking to aliens.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Value of Face Time

About 25% of all US employees work remotely and according to a Gallup study the most engaged employees work remotely 60 to 80% of the time. That doesn’t surprise me. I’m all for working remotely. Some people work better in teams, others work better on their own. Whichever gets the job done. Technology companies today dream up all kinds of ways to set humanity free from the office constantly.

What’s interesting is they don’t practice what they preach. A recent Financial Times article cautions to pay attention to what companies do rather than what they say. Think of the tech hotspots of the world – from the Silicon Valley in the US to the Silicon Roundabout in London. It seems that tech giants still value the power of physical agglomeration.

IBM, who are known for their remote working policies, have called workers back to physical locations. They argue that while remote work increases productivity, face-to-face work is better for innovation and generating ideas. Agreed. Often we are most creative when we bounce ideas off each other and can feed of each other’s energies. Studies confirm that physical proximity benefits effective communication and fosters better understanding between co-workers and improves collaboration. In addition employees spark ideas through chance encounters and unplanned interaction. Steve Jobs once famously proposed building all of the bathrooms in Pixar’s offices in only one part of the building to encourage unplanned meetings. And tech companies all around the world embrace this so called “water cooler effect” and many offer perks for employees living close to hubs. In London one employer is taking it further and offers millennials financial assistance so that they can rent homes in the capital (and close to the office).

All up, I believe that people should be free to choose what works best for them, but face time needs to be part of the equation. In my experience, people who work remotely often work harder and are more productive than those sitting in offices. It’s an important conversation managers should have with their staff – what works best for both sides?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A Short History of Paper

True innovation is irreplaceable. Innovation makes our life easier – it changes our worlds. Here are five refreshers about a well-known world changer, paper:

1. China was the first country to make paper.

2. People started writing on paper because it was lighter than bamboo and cheaper than silk.

3. Paper was initially made from pulped cotton.

4. Today, paper is increasingly made out of paper itself.

5. People believed that computers would usher in paperless offices in the late 19th century.

It’s interesting that people thought the days of paper were numbered in the 19th century already. Today we are hearing the same discussion again and again. Now it’s e-readers and other digital devices that might replace paper and what’s made of paper – namely books.

Those who know me know where I stand in the print vs. digital/tech debate. I love books – always have. I love looking at them, reading them, and treasuring them; can’t resist them (my new hero is Craig Russell's Lennox - in 1950s Glasgow). This is not an experience I can recreate with an e-reader. For me it’s not just books. I prefer writing things down. Communicating with pen and paper is so much more personal than sending an email. It tickles people’s ribs that I reply to emails with a scanned pdf with handwritten notes on it. And apart from my core iPhone utilities, my most sophisticated use of tech is my trusty Montblanc pen, mighty and deadly as it is!

As this BBC article points out, old technologies have a habit of enduring. After all we still use pencils and candles and the world still produces more bicycles than cars. I am confident the same will be the case for paper and for books. There’s nothing like the textual, sensual experience of smelling, holding and feeling a book. Try it.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Sergeant Pepper at 50

The Summer of Love, June 1967. 50 years ago. My daughter Nikki was born on June 24. A Lovechild of the 60s. I was 18 and the music from England’s North West was etched into my persona. The Beatles specifically. The Manchester Beat more broadly. The greatest album of all time – my view and that of many others – Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – came out on June 1. The Beatles’ eight’s album, it logged 27 weeks at No. 1 in 1967 and 1968 and racked up 15 consecutive weeks at the top of the Billboard 200. Sergeant Pepper is recognized as the best-selling studio album in U.K. history, with more than 5 million sales. And 50 years later the 50th anniversary remastered album is running back to the #1 position on the UK charts. A Lovemark blends past, present and future. Sergeant Pepper is a Lovemark.

Why? For me, it was the liberating emotions of freedom and joy, woven with a studio richness (thanks George Martin) crowded with imagination. The North West was a tough place to grow up, and music was a mindful escape route. Sergeant Pepper was the right album at the right time for us to leave both grim and grime.

The anniversary has stimulated a swathe of erudite examinations by music writers everywhere. On The Daily Beast, in his article ‘Sgt. Pepper at 50: The Flaws and Misunderstood Genius of The Beatles’ Most Iconic Album,” Colin Fleming writes “there’s a funny thing about Sgt. Pepper and that’s its strange, strange alchemy: the record works in large part because of its songwriting inconsistencies. It’s not the concept that gets nudged forward, it’s this idea of something suite-like, a feeling, a vibe, an essence, a self-contained zeitgeist that is more about totality and enveloping you rather than focusing attention on individual points, which is to say individual songs.” Yep, my sentiments exactly.

At The New York Times, Jon Pareles concludes his opus with the statement: “Yet while “Sgt. Pepper” has been both praised and blamed for raising the technical and conceptual ante on rock, its best aspect was much harder to propagate. That was its impulsiveness, its lighthearted daring, its willingness to try the odd sound and the unexpected idea. Listening to “Sgt. Pepper” now, what comes through most immediately is not the pressure the Beatles put on themselves or the musicianly challenges they surmounted. It’s the sheer improbability of the whole enterprise, still guaranteed to raise a smile 50 years on.”

Best of all, buy Hunter Davies' book The Beatles Lyrics...every song researched, chatted about with John and Paul, and shared in Hunter's classic Carlisle (!) style. Priceless.

ps I just bought a 6x6 feet limited edition photo of the sessions by Jean-Marie Perier from Snap Gallery's Happy 50th Birthday exhibition. Thank you lads.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Wakatika Ora and the Tribe of Nga Mokai

Putting the brakes on substance addiction is a hard, constant and worthy battle. Drug addiction rips the heart out of individuals, families and societies, and fighting back needs to happen at every level. Two of my long-time mates, John Wareham and Denis O’Reilly, are part of a group of social warriors in New Zealand working with and for hard-to-reach and difficult-to-deal-with communities, notably gangs.

Wellington charity Consultancy, Advocacy and Research Trust (CART) travels the outlands of New Zealand society bringing hope and change to the long-term unemployed, prisoners and former prisoners, the mentally ill, alienated, disaffected, ostracized, impoverished, homeless and disenfranchised.

Fighting substance abuse demands courage, conviction and cash. I’m stoked to see CART have won an $800,000 grant from the government for an innovative two-year pilot initiative—Wakatika Ora (the canoe of the correct path to health) – to push back on substance addiction. Creativity and innovation have unreasonable power, and CART has built a reputation for thinking different through enlightened policies and strategies.

John Wareham (above right) is a global leadership guru, author of business books and novels, former New Yorker, prison educator. Denis O’Reilly is a social activist, business consultant, patched Black Power life member, community resilience developer, chronicler of life on the edge. Both men are philosophers working at the gritty end of society. Both tough nuts with hearts full of love. They met at a function I hosted in Auckland years ago to launch John’s book “How to Break Out of Prison” based on his experiences teaching communication skills to felons at New York’s Rikers Island Prison.

Under the programme, CART is starting at the community level. The approach is holistic, it levers leadership and it brings new personal development modules. They say “we see drug use as a symptom of deeper underlying causes, many of which are social, so we’re intending to innovate with our new personal development modules. If people make personal change then collectively they can change a community. It has been clearly demonstrated that we can’t stop supply but we believe we can reduce demand and thus reduce harm.”

Great change starts at the edge, the edge of reason, of hope, of dreams in flight. And as J.R.R Tolkien wrote in his popular battle of good and evil: “All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost.”