Will globalisation actually happen?

The age of globalisation began on the day the Berlin Wall came down. From that moment in 1989, the trends evident in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s accelerated: the free movement of capital, people and goods; trickle-down economics; a much diminished role for nation states; and a belief that market forces, now unleashed, were unstoppable.

There has been pushback against globalisation over the years. The violent protests seen in Seattle during the World Trade Organisation meeting in December 1999 were the first sign that not everyone saw the move towards untrammelled freedom in a positive light. One conclusion from the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001 was that it was not only trade and financial markets that had gone global. The collapse of the investment bank Lehmann Brothers seven years later paid to the idea that the best thing governments could do when confronted with the power of global capital was to get out of the way and let the banks supervise themselves.

Now we have Britain’s rejection of the EU. This was more than a protest against the career opportunities that never knock and the affordable homes that never get built. It was a protest against the economic model that has been in place for the past three decades.

Extraordinary times are leading to extraordinary challenges. Linda Yueh, Fellow in Economics, Oxford University addresses these geopolitical challenges and demographic changes and how it will affect global economics and the asset management industry.

Modern humans have created many thousands of distinct cultures. So what will it mean if globalisation turns us into one giant, homogenous world culture?

The importance of the tribe in our evolutionary history has meant that natural selection has favoured in us a suite of psychological dispositions for making our cultures work and for defending them against competitors. These traits include cooperation, seeking affiliations, a predilection to coordinating our activities, and tendencies to trade and exchange goods and services. Thus, we have taken cooperation and sociality beyond the good relations among family members that dominate the rest of the animal kingdom, to making cooperation work among wider groups of people.

And so in a surprising turn, the very psychology that allows us to form and cooperate in small tribal groups, makes it possible for us to form into the larger social groupings of the modern world. Thus, early in our history most of us lived in small bands of maybe 50 to 200 people. At some point tribes formed that were essentially coalitions or bands of bands. Collections of tribes later formed into chiefdoms in which for the first time in our history a single ruler emerged.

But two factors looming on the horizon are likely to slow the rate at which cultural unification will happen.

One is resources, the other is demography. Cooperation has worked throughout history because large collections of people have been able to use resources more effectively and provide greater prosperity and protection than smaller groups. But that could change as resources become scarce.

This must be one of the most pressing social questions we can ask because if people begin to think they have reached what we might call ‘peak standard of living’ then they will naturally become more self-interested as the returns from cooperation begin to leak away. After all, why cooperate when there are no spoils to divide?

If we try to draw some conclusions from the ‘why’ we can see high levels of global employment and any form of prosperity will elude us and big reductions of poverty in the emerging world will not happen quickly enough.

Obviously, it is important to base these conclusions on where people are located and their individual views about the economies in which they live: how they see the problem, how they see their future, and whether the ambitions of different countries’ citizens can be advanced by stronger, more coordinated action around the world.

If you were to ask Americans what America has to do now to sort out its economy, some would say ‘cut deficits’; many would say ‘cut taxes’; but most would say ‘cut the foreign imports that are stealing our jobs’.

If you were to ask Europeans what their answer is, they would probably say ‘cut the debt’; and some might even complain about the very viability of the Euro and Brexit.

If you asked the Chinese what their solution was for their best future, they would probably answer that they are a developing country so other countries should stop threatening them with protectionism and complaining about their currency.

If you asked the developing world, they would call for an end to unfair trading practices that ruin their basic ability to export and say that aid is unfairly being cut or withheld.

If I asked the question a different way, asking the citizens ‘what do you really want to achieve as a country? I am sure that the answer would be very different.

In America people would say the main issue for them is jobs and rising living standards for the working middle class.

In the countries of the European Union people would say that Europe needs to get its young people into work and cut its high levels of unemployment.

In China people would say they want to see more personal prosperity and that means cutting the numbers of poor people and giving the rising middle class the opportunity to buy homes and access opportunities.

In many developing countries, people would tell you the problem was poverty.

Yet in the absence of a bigger vision of what can be achieved, the politics of each country inevitably pulls towards the narrow tasks and not the broad objectives.

So how can this wider debate contribute to global growth and collaboration?

Bradford DeLong once wrote: ‘History teaches us that when none of the three clear and present dangers that justify retrenchment and austerity – interest rate crowding-out, rising inflationary pressures on consumer prices, national overleverage via borrowing in foreign currencies – are present, you should not retrench’.

Yet in the absence of seeing a different and global route to greater prosperity, each country is trying, post-crisis, to return to its old ways. However, the security people crave will come not from countries clinging to an old world, but from reinventing themselves for our new interdependent world: Asia reducing poverty and building their new middle class; America and Europe exporting high-value-added goods by building a more skilled middle class; all undertaking structural reforms but in a growing economy.

This is the answer to those who travel today not with optimism but in fear. But there is no old world to return to: it has gone. The transition between epochs is always the moment of maximum danger. It is also the moment of maximum opportunity.

Final thought: against this backdrop the seemingly unstoppable and ever accelerating cultural homogenization around the world brought about by travel, the internet and social networking, although often decried, is probably a good thing even if it means the loss of cultural diversity: it increases our sense of togetherness via the sense of a shared culture. In fact, breaking down of cultural barriers – unfashionable as this can sound – is probably one of the few things that societies can do to increase harmony among ever more heterogeneous peoples.

So, to my mind, there is little doubt that the next century is going to be a time of great uncertainty and upheaval as resources, money and space become ever more scarce. It is going to be a bumpy road with many setbacks and conflicts. But if there was ever a species that could tackle these challenges it is our own.

It might be surprising, but our genes, in the form of our capacity for culture, have created in us a machine capable of greater cooperation, inventiveness and common good than any other on Earth.

And, of course it means you can always find a cappuccino just the way you like it no matter where we wake up.

As Herbie Hancock once said:

“Globalization means we have to re-examine some of our ideas, and look at ideas from other countries, from other cultures, and open ourselves to them. And that’s not comfortable for the average person.”

Purpose Must Have Relevance – Author Interview

Geoff Hudson-Searle is interviewed by RTL Europe Television across his professional career and authorisms. Each of us is, to some extent or other, are a reflection of the real-life experiences of our lives. However, whether and how we succeed is determined at least in part by how we cope with those experiences and what we learn from them. Meaningful leadership , whether this be in business, life or family will conquer, the most profound truth of your individual journey’s. Courage, drive, determination, resilience, imagination, energy, you will find success. We are all human, not machines, we should not deny ourselves fulfilment or Meaningful Conversations.

FREEDOM AFTER THE SHARKS
In his first book, “Freedom after the sharks”, Geoff Hudson-Searle tells the story of a man who, despite a difficult family life and professional setbacks, developed the determination, drive and skills to create a successful business and happy life.
“Freedom after the sharks” shows how, even in a declining economy, a business can survive and even succeed. It covers some real-life experiences and offers some suggestions for dealing with problems and issues. It provides a guide to finding your way in the business world.

The book is suitable for entrepreneurs who might not be sure of the path to take or who want to benefit from other people’s mistakes and failures. Other audiences include middle management or junior executives who are looking for a fascinating life story of courage, drive and inspiration, as well as graduates and college students, who will find information that will help prepare them for their careers.

Buy on Amazon

MEANINGFUL CONVERSATIONS
This book has been written about some very passionate subjects in business today: Communications, Strategy and Business Development and Growth.

In February 2014 I set out as an author to write a weekly blog across a variety of subjects and foremost about people in business, opinions, research and tips, advise on some revelations, past and present.

This book demonstrates the relationship between communications (human 2 human), strategy and business development and growth. It is important to understand that a number of the ideas, developments and techniques employed at the beginning as well as the top of business can be successfully made flexible to apply.

Communications, Strategy and Business Development and Growth are essential for success and profitability in the business process.

This book provides a holistic overview of the essential leading methods of techniques. It will provide you with a hands on guide for business professionals and those in higher education.

Readers will gain insights into topical subjects, components of Communications, Strategy and Business Development and Growth, including a wide range of tips, models and techniques that will help to build strong and effective solutions in today’s business world.

The terms ‘Communications’, Strategy’ and Business Development and Growth’ have become overused during the last decade and have become devalued as a result. In this book I aim to simplify these terms and to re-value management and leadership by addressing topics and subjects in each distinctive chapter.

As Anthony Robbins once said:

“The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.”

The book therefore covers all the essential components of Communications, Strategy and Business Development and Growth, but ensures that they are described in an engaging, enjoyable way with clarity.

The book is divided into three key areas to make it easy to find the material you need. Each component is easy to locate by the titles of the short story at the top of the pages. Each chapter within the three components relates strongly to each other but is also interrelated to all the other chapters. Those with interest on certain topics may wish to start at their area of interest first, while those who prefer to read the book from the first page to the end will proceed as they started, there really is a topic for everyone in the book.

Business professionals and individuals in the great challenges of today’s business world have renewed responsibility for what business does best; innovate, invest and grow. Many people wait until circumstances force change and transformation, that can be radical and painful, this book will arm you with the tips, advise and techniques to provide fresh thinking to your everyday environment and to innovate your circumstances for a better environment, we are all extraordinary people and have the ability to share and provide wealth creation and richness to our surroundings, the question is how much do we want to be extraordinary.

This book has been written not just for people in a company or organisation, it is about helping and supporting understanding across a wide variety of subjects to anyone in life; students, budding entrepreneurs, business people and aspiring individuals.

Buy on Amazon

JOURNEYS TO SUCCESS VOLUME 9
In the best-selling “Journeys to Success” series, men and women share their personal stories of transforming life-shattering events into triumphant success. The stories inside this book contain powerful seeds for resilience, spiritual awakening and plain determination in the face of powerful events. ‘Volume 9’ (2018) is a dedication to the late Tom Cunnigham, who recently passed away.

If you love stories of overcoming life’s challenges, this book is for you!

The “Journeys to Success”-series has become an international sensation, international author and I’m incredibly proud to have contributed this chapter: ‘Striving for an Ultimate Goal’.

The series has sold over 100 million copies in various formats including ebooks, hardback, and paperback, apps and audiobooks.

Written from the work, experience and wisdom of Geoff Hudson-Searle – an international director and business thought leader – ‘Journeys to Success Volume 9’ is rapidly poised to become the next bestselling “must have” for busy executives, business professionals and those in higher education. Simplifying and comprehensively deconstructing the over-used terms used in life, business and ‘growth’, Hudson-Searle’s compelling volume provides refreshing new advice on thriving in today’s cutthroat and often confusing business world. One critic recently wrote, “Well done Geoff, I’m a buyer #BigTime congratulations for your further literary success, more power to you.

Buy on Amazon

Do we need AI, if humans can grow in development?

It seems like every day there is a new article or story about artificial intelligence (AI). AI is going to take over all of the jobs. AI is going to do all of the repetitive, menial tasks carried out by admins on a daily basis. AI is going to rise up and take over. AI is not going to take over but instead be natively baked into all systems to produce more human interactions.

For all the things AI is allegedly going to do, it can already do a lot right now, such as automation, custom searches, security interventions, analysis and prediction on data, serve as a digital assistant, perform algorithm-based machine learning and more.

It will be a good number of years before we get AI doing everything for us, the real question is can humans survive without AI?

Does anyone recall the Trachtenberg speed system of basic mathematics?

The Trachtenberg Speed System of Basic Mathematics is a system of mental mathematics which in part did not require the use of multiplication tables to be able to multiply. The method was created over seventy years ago. The main idea behind the Trachtenberg Speed System of Basic Mathematics is that there must be an easier way to do multiplication, division, squaring numbers and finding square roots, especially if you want to do it mentally.

Jakow Trachtenberg spent years in a Nazi concentration camp and to escape the horrors he found refuge in his mind developing these methods. Some of the methods are not new and have been used for thousands of years. This is why there is some similarity between the Trachtenberg System and Vedic math for instance. However, Jackow felt that even these methods could be simplified further. Unlike Vedic math and other systems like Bill Handley’s excellent Speed Math where the method you choose to calculate the answer depends on the numbers you are using, the Trachtenberg System scales up from single digit multiplication to multiplying with massive numbers with no change in the method.

Multiplication is done without multiplication tables “Can you multiply 5132437201 times 4522736502785 in seventy seconds? One young boy (grammar school-no calculator) did successfully by using the Trachtenberg Speed System of Basic Mathematics.

So, with human intelligence why do we need AI, AGI, deep learning or machine learning?

Faster than a calculator, Arthur Benjamin discusses the speed of mathematics TEDxOxford

Albert Einstein is widely regarded as a genius, but how did he get that way? Many researchers have assumed that it took a very special brain to come up with the theory of relativity and other stunning insights that form the foundation of modern physics. A study of 14 newly discovered photographs of Einstein’s brain, which was preserved for study after his death, concludes that the brain was indeed highly unusual in many ways. But researchers still don’t know exactly how the brain’s extra folds and convolutions translated into Einstein’s amazing abilities.

Experts say Einstein programmed his own brain, that he had a special brain when the field of physics was ripe for new insights, that he had the right brain in the right place at the right time.

Can we all program our brains for advancement, does our civilisation really need our brains rely on AI/AGI?

Artificial intelligence is incredibly advanced, at least, at certain tasks. AI has defeated world champions in chess, Go, and now poker. But can artificial intelligence actually think?

The answer is complicated, largely because intelligence is complicated. One can be book-smart, street-smart, emotionally gifted, wise, rational, or experienced; it’s rare and difficult to be intelligent in all of these ways. Intelligence has many sources and our brains don’t respond to them all the same way. Thus, the quest to develop artificial intelligence begets numerous challenges, not the least of which is what we don’t understand about human intelligence.

Still, the human brain is our best lead when it comes to creating AI. Human brains consist of billions of connected neurons that transmit information to one another and areas designated to functions such as memory, language, and thought. The human brain is dynamic, and just as we build muscle, we can enhance our cognitive abilities we can learn. So can AI, thanks to the development of artificial neural networks (ANN), a type of machine learning algorithm in which nodes simulate neurons that compute and distribute information. AI such as AlphaGo, the program that beat the world champion at Go last year, uses ANNs not only to compute statistical probabilities and outcomes of various moves, but to adjust strategy based on what the other player does.

Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Microsoft, and Google all employ deep learning, which expands on traditional ANNs by adding layers to the information input/output. More layers allow for more representations of and links between data. This resembles human thinking when we process input, we do so in something akin to layers. For example, when we watch a football game on television, we take in the basic information about what’s happening in a given moment, but we also take in a lot more: who’s on the field (and who’s not), what plays are being run and why, individual match-ups, how the game fits into existing data or history (does one team frequently beat the other? Is the centre forward passing the ball or scoring?), how the refs are calling the game, and other details. In processing this information we employ memory, pattern recognition, statistical and strategic analysis, comparison, prediction, and other cognitive capabilities. Deep learning attempts to capture those layers.

You’re probably already familiar with deep learning algorithms. Have you ever wondered how Facebook knows to place on your page an ad for rain boots after you got caught in a downpour? Or how it manages to recommend a page immediately after you’ve liked a related page? Facebook’s DeepText algorithm can process thousands of posts, in dozens of different languages, each second. It can also distinguish between Purple Rain and the reason you need galoshes.

Deep learning can be used with faces, identifying family members who attended an anniversary or employees who thought they attended that rave on the down-low. These algorithms can also recognise objects in context such a program that could identify the alphabet blocks on the living room floor, as well as the pile of kids’ books and the bouncy seat. Think about the conclusions that could be drawn from that snapshot, and then used for targeted advertising, among other things.
Google uses Recurrent Neural Networks (RNNs) to facilitate image recognition and language translation. This enables Google Translate to go beyond a typical one-to-one conversion by allowing the program to make connections between languages it wasn’t specifically programmed to understand. Even if Google Translate isn’t specifically coded for translating Icelandic into Vietnamese, it can do so by finding commonalities in the two tongues and then developing its own language which functions as an interlingua, enabling the translation.

Machine thinking has been tied to language ever since Alan Turing’s seminal 1950 publication “Computing Machinery and Intelligence.” This paper described the Turing Test—a measure of whether a machine can think. In the Turing Test, a human engages in a text-based chat with an entity it can’t see. If that entity is a computer program and it can make the human believe he’s talking to another human, it has passed the test.

But what about IBM’s Watson, which thrashed the top two human contestants in Jeopardy?

Watson’s dominance relies on access to massive and instantly accessible amounts of information, as well as its computation of answers’ probable correctness.

Why humans will always be smarter than AI…..

This concept of context is one that is central to Hofstadter’s lifetime of work to figure out AI. In a seminal 1995 essay he examines an earlier treatise on pattern recognition by Russian researcher Mikhail Bongard, a Russian researcher, and comes to the conclusion that perception goes beyond simply matching known patterns:

… in strong contrast to the usual tacit assumption that the quintessence of visual perception is the activity of dividing a complex scene into its separate constituent objects followed by the activity of attaching standard labels to the now-separated objects (ie, the identification of the component objects as members of various pre-established categories, such as ‘car’, ‘dog’, ‘house’, ‘hammer’, ‘airplane’, etc)

… perception is far more than the recognition of members of already-established categories — it involves the spontaneous manufacture of new categories at arbitrary levels of abstraction.
For Booking.com, those new categories could be defined in advance, but a more general-purpose AI would have to be capable of defining its own categories. That’s a goal Hofstadter has spent six decades working towards, and is still not even close.

In her BuzzFeed article, Katie Notopoulos goes on to explain that this is not the first time that Facebook’s recallbration of the algorithms driving its newsfeeds has resulted in anomalous behavior. Today, it’s commenting on posts that leads to content being overpromoted. Back in the summer of 2016 it was people posting simple text posts. What’s interesting is that the solution was not a new tweak to the algorithm. It was Facebook users who adjusted — people learned to post text posts and that made them less rare.

And that’s always going to be the case. People will always be faster to adjust than computers, because that’s what humans are optimized to do. Maybe sometime many years in the future, computers will catch up with humanity’s ability to define new categories — but in the meantime, humans will have learned how to harness computing to augment their own native capabilities. That’s why we will always stay smarter than AI.

Final thought, perhaps the major limitation of AI can be captured by a single letter: G. While we have AI, we don’t have AGI—artificial general intelligence (sometimes referred to as “strong” or “full” AI). The difference is that AI can excel at a single task or game, but it can’t extrapolate strategies or techniques and apply them to other scenarios or domains you could probably beat AlphaGo at Tic Tac Toe. This limitation parallels human skills of critical thinking or synthesis—we can apply knowledge about a specific historical movement to a new fashion trend or use effective marketing techniques in a conversation with a boss about a raise because we can see the overlaps. AI has restrictions, for now.

Some believe we’ll never truly have AGI; others believe it’s simply a matter of time (and money). Last year, Kimera unveiled Nigel, a program it bills as the first AGI. Since the beta hasn’t been released to the public, it’s impossible to assess those claims, but we’ll be watching closely. In the meantime, AI will keep learning just as we do: by watching YouTube videos and by reading books. Whether that’s comforting or frightening is another question.

Stephen Hawking on AI replacing humans:

‘The genie is out of the bottle. We need to move forward on artificial intelligence development but we also need to be mindful of its very real dangers. I fear that AI may replace humans altogether. If people design computer viruses, someone will design AI that replicates itself. This will be a new form of life that will outperform humans.’

From an interview with Wired, November 2017

Disruptive change is inevitable – Change is constant

Change is inevitable.

More and more organisations today face a dynamic and changing environment. The oft-heard rallying cry in today’s organisations is “Change or die.” Survival in today’s global economy requires organisations to be flexible and adapt readily to the ever-changing marketplace. Change has become the norm. It is as necessary for organisations to pay as much attention to the psychological and social aspects of change as they do to the technological aspects.

We live in an era of risk and instability. Globalisation, new technologies, and greater transparency have combined to upend the business environment and give many CEOs a deep sense of unease. Just look at the numbers. Since 1980 the volatility of business operating margins, largely static since the 1950s, has more than doubled, as has the size of the gap between winners (companies with high operating margins) and losers (those with low ones).

Change is the one true constant in business, especially when it comes to operating a business. Having defined processes in place to effectively manage change can help companies sustain success.

In today’s business environment, knowing how to successfully navigate these changes and develop appropriate and effective processes to properly manage such change is a must. It’s virtually impossible for organisations to make sound strategic decisions and completely accomplish objectives when deprived of strong change management strategies. This is especially true in the world of project, program and portfolio management, where obstacles and ambiguity are inevitable at every juncture.

Companies all over the world find that they have to continually make changes to the way they work in order to stay ahead of the game, be profitable, and be relevant. Oftentimes, the changes could be externally mandated, internally conceived, or both, but the reality is that companies do have to evolve, change, or die. The global landscape is changing: businesses are moving to take advantage of new markets; organisations are restructuring to operate better, given the current market dynamic; competition is causing companies to radically change the way they do business.

The old business is not coming back – this is not just a statistic, it is a fact.

Companies operate in an increasingly complex world: Business environments are more diverse, dynamic, and interconnected than ever – and far less predictable. A study I read recently suggests that 75% of the S&P 500 will turn over in the next 15 years.

Many businesses that “have done things the same way for years” are affected by disruptive change: the economy changes, the competition changes, products change, technology changes, customers change, employees change, vendors change, buying methods change, delivery methods change.

Disruptive change is coming, and the only question is whether companies are going to cause it or fall victim to it. Disruption is not easy, to create or to confront it.

Businesses need to grow continuously in one way or another to achieve and maintain success. Growth comes by making positive changes that promote growth and by responding correctly to external changes.

Organisations throughout the world and across the global markets also recognise the need to embrace ‘nimbleness’ and ‘agility’ if they are to survive in the long run. The ever-changing landscape, globalisation, global dynamics, make it inevitable that companies have to evolve fast, repeatedly, and in a continuously improving manner in order to comply with regulations, collaborate with customers, and stay ahead of competition.

Whilst awareness of the challenges associated with change is prevalent, there is also compelling evidence of the long-term benefit of being great at driving organisational change. Therefore, it is expedient to look at some of the reasons why change is difficult, so that we can deliberately tackle the reasons for change complexity.

Sustaining success depends on an organisation’s ability to adapt

Why can some companies take advantage of any change the market brings, while others struggle with market-necessitated modification? The reasons why will differ for each organisation, but the question is definitely worth asking especially in light of the fact that the pace of change is accelerating at the fastest rate in recorded history.

Most companies find it hard to transform themselves in difficult circumstances. Corporate transformation under pressure.

Leadership needs to have a mindset that although change ability (agility, resilience) is essential for the survival and growth of many companies, there needs to be a concerted effort to build capacity to lead change effectively, and to purposefully build a change friendly culture in a systemic manner. This means that change leadership or sponsorship becomes a leadership competency that is recruited for and developed in leaders in the same way that it is done for other competencies such as decision-making.
Companies most likely to be successful in making change work to their advantage are the ones that no longer view change as a discrete event to be managed, but as a constant opportunity to evolve the business.

Change readiness is the new change management: change readiness is the ability to continuously initiate and respond to change in ways that create advantage, minimise risk, and sustain performance.

Organisations, and the people within them, must constantly re-invent themselves to remain competitive. Sustaining success depends on an organization’s ability to adapt to a changing environment.

Senior executives recognise that in order to compete optimally in the current and future landscapes, their companies will be expected to do more for less in a more dynamic landscape with issues of globalisation, new market opportunities, and new ways of doing business. There is a recognition that the changes are going to increase and the demands for business benefits realisation will also increase. It is therefore no longer optional for leaders to increase their ability to successfully implement strategies by increasing their ability to manage change and in fact leveraging this change management skill to become a competitive advantage.

If you’re struggling or your market is down, change management is especially critical because growing companies are not afforded the time to weather the storm of down markets or decreased demand. Offensive change when the company is doing well is a whole lot easier to manage than defensive change.
With this sentiment, I am not suggesting that you overhaul your business entirely change your mission, vision, and values or abandon your product strategy with every minor bump in the road. I am suggesting, however, that the best companies the ones that experience exceptional long-term success are able to quickly recognise the need to change and make the tweaks necessary to help their business continue its growth trajectory.

Here are three tips that can help the journey of change easier:

  • Top down support from the CEO level down to the senior executives below the CEO is what ultimately drives successful change. When the changes are major, you need to create a burning platform scenario that will encourage a sense of urgency.
  • Clear, consistent, and transparent communication by all executives is critical to explain why the change is necessary. Throughout the change process, it’s important to regularly and clearly communicate the reasons for change and reinforce that message to your team so they understand why you’re taking the hill in front of you.
  • Quickly identify the senior team members who don’t buy in and encourage and support them to leave the company if they refuse to embrace change. This means you may lose some very good people who helped you get to where you are, but those people won’t be as valuable going forward if they aren’t willing to help you get to where you need to be.

Final thought on the subject – business is a little like the growth rings on a tree. Every year, something changes it could be your product, your top competitors, your customers’ preferences, or any number of things. The best companies adapt to those changes, reinvent themselves when change requires it, and find a way to grow – in good times and bad.

Successful organisations foster a positive attitude toward change by anticipating it and purposefully planning for change. Change must be addressed in an intentional, goal-oriented manner. Change is something that people should do, not something that is done to them. People are more comfortable with change when they participate in planning for or implementing it because they gain some sense of control which reduces their fears.

As George Soros once said:

‘Market fundamentalists recognize that the role of the state in the economy is always disruptive, inefficient, and generally has negative connotations. This leads them to believe that the market mechanism can take care of all the problems.’

Why Leadership Matters

As all leaders experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, you will know you have been tested in ways that you never expected. And yet, somehow, we all prevail. Despite the frustrations, anger and fear, you will have learned a lot about yourself. You will be be forced to recognise your own weaknesses and eccentricities, and discover reserves of strength that you had not known existed. In the process, you will become less judgmental and more accepting of yourself and of others.

Leadership forces you to stay true to yourself and to recognise when you are at your best and when you are at your worst; the important thing is to stay focused and keep moving forward. You will learn that overcoming adversity is what brings the most satisfaction, and that achievements are made more meaningful by the struggle it took to achieve them.
Leadership will conquer, the most profound truth of your individual journey’s. Courage, drive, determination, resilience, imagination, energy and the right team, you will find success.
Winston Churchill once said:

“This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

A single brain sometimes cannot take decisions alone. One needs the assistance and guidance of others as well to accomplish the tasks within the desired time frame. In a team, every member contributes to his level best to achieve the assigned targets. The team members must be compatible with each other to avoid unnecessary conflicts and misunderstandings.

Every team should have a team leader who can hold their team together and extract the best out of the team members. The team leader should be such that every individual draw inspiration from them and seek their advice and guidance whenever required. A leader should be a role model for his team members and a great mentor.

I had the pleasure of meeting Brendan Hall for lunch recently – he led the Spirit of Australia crew to overall victory in the Clipper 2009-10 Race, when aged 28. It was the second of three times the trophy has gone to an Australian team.

Recruiter 360 TV – Brendan Hall, Author of “Team Spirit” and winning Clipper round the world captain

Following the win, Brendan wrote the book “Team Spirit”, based on his race insights into the teamwork, leadership, skill, courage and focus required for performance.

Talking to Brendan he discussed how his team had just faced the ultimate challenge and one that they could never have been prepared for but circumstances dictated that they sail across the world’s largest ocean at a particularly fearsome time of year, on their own.

‘They had pulled together in the true sense of teamwork, and kept each other safe.’ ‘I feel it was their greatest achievement, and it was mine by association as I had got them to the point where they could take on that challenge. Ultimately that experience and those qualities led to our overall result.’

His crew were the same raw materials that every other boat had. They had characters and influential people and its leaders, together they made a great leadership team. The approach Brendan took was to empower everybody throughout the race and the goal was to get to a point where Brendan was redundant on deck and he could concentrate on everything else, the weather routing and the navigation.

A true team leader plays an important role in guiding the team members and motivating them to stay focused. One who sets a goal and objective for the team. Every team is formed for a purpose.
The leader alone should not set the goal, suggestions should be invited from one and all and issues must be discussed on an open forum. He must make his team members well aware of their roles and responsibilities. He must understand his team members well. The duties and responsibilities must be assigned as per their interest and specialization for them to accept the challenge willingly.

Never impose things on them.
Encourage the team members to help each other. Create a positive ambience at the workplace. Avoid playing politics or provoking individuals to fight. Make sure that the team members do not fight among themselves. In case of a conflict, don’t add fuel to the fire, rather try to resolve the fight immediately. Listen to both the parties before coming to any conclusion. Try to come to an alternative feasible for all.

The following 5 reasons summarise the importance of teamwork and why it matters:

Teamwork motivates unity in the workplace
A teamwork environment promotes an atmosphere that fosters friendship and loyalty. These close-knit relationships motivate employees in parallel and align them to work harder, cooperate and be supportive of one another.

Individuals possess diverse talents, weaknesses, communication skills, strengths, and habits. Therefore, when a teamwork environment is not encouraged this can pose many challenges towards achieving the overall goals and objectives. This creates an environment where employees become focused on promoting their own achievements and competing against their fellow colleagues. Ultimately, this can lead to an unhealthy and inefficient working environment.
When teamwork is working the whole team would be motivated and working toward the same goal in harmony.

Teamwork offers differing perspectives and feedback
Good teamwork structures provide your organization with a diversity of thought, creativity, perspectives, opportunities, and problem-solving approaches. A proper team environment allows individuals to brainstorm collectively, which in turn increases their success to problem solve and arrive at solutions more efficiently and effectively.

Effective teams also allow the initiative to innovate, in turn creating a competitive edge to accomplish goals and objectives. Sharing differing opinions and experiences strengthens accountability and can help make effective decisions faster, than when done alone.

Team effort increases output by having quick feedback and multiple sets of skills come into play to support your work. You can do the stages of designing, planning, and implementation much more efficiently when a team is functioning well.

Teamwork provides improved efficiency and productivity
When incorporating teamwork strategies, you become more efficient and productive. This is because it allows the workload to be shared, reducing the pressure on individuals, and ensure tasks are completed within a set time frame. It also allows goals to be more attainable, enhances the optimization of performance, improves job satisfaction and increases work pace.

Ultimately, when a group of individuals works together, compared to one person working alone, they promote a more efficient work output and are able to complete tasks faster due to many minds intertwined on the same goals and objectives of the business.

Teamwork provides great learning opportunities
Working in a team enables us to learn from one another’s mistakes. You are able to avoid future errors, gain insight from differing perspectives, and learn new concepts from more experienced colleagues.

In addition, individuals can expand their skill sets, discover fresh ideas from newer colleagues and therefore ascertain more effective approaches and solutions towards the tasks at hand. This active engagement generates the future articulation, encouragement and innovative capacity to problem solve and generate ideas more effectively and efficiently.

Teamwork promotes workplace synergy
Mutual support shared goals, cooperation and encouragement provide workplace synergy. With this, team members are able to feel a greater sense of accomplishment, are collectively responsible for outcomes achieved and feed individuals with the incentive to perform at higher levels.

When team members are aware of their own responsibilities and roles, as well as the significance of their output being relied upon by the rest of their team, team members will be driven to share the same vision, values, and goals. The result creates a workplace environment based on fellowship, trust, support, respect, and cooperation.

Final thoughts
Leadership is a necessary element to promoting teamwork in an organisation. When leaders are great, there is a lot of positive teamwork and many benefits. However, when leaders are poor there can be negative consequences that are completely opposite to the benefits of teamwork.

In business, leaders have the responsibility to do what they reasonably can to promote a good team environment. Practicing team-oriented leadership strategies can do a lot to usher in a sense of teamwork among professional team members. It is up to the leaders to make sure teams are functioning to their highest capacity. Although it sounds like a large responsibility, the benefits of promoting teamwork are incredible!

Henry Ford once said:

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success. Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right. Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.”

Sri Lanka and its gems of beauty!

“I want you to understand that the island of Ceylon is for its size the finest island in the world, and from its streams comes Rubies, Sapphires, Topazes, and Amethyst and Garnet.”

Marco Polo – 1292 AD

I recently had a business trip to S.E Asia and the fortune to visit the beautiful island of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, an island country in South Asia, located in the Indian Ocean to the southwest of the Bay of Bengal and to the southeast of the Arabian Sea. The island is historically and culturally intertwined with the Indian subcontinent, but is geographically separated from the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait. The legislative capital, Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, is a suburb of the commercial capital and largest city, Colombo.

Sri Lanka’s documented history spans 3,000 years, with evidence of pre-historic human settlements dating back to at least 125,000 years. It has a rich cultural heritage and the first known Buddhist writings of Sri Lanka, the Pāli Canon, date back to the Fourth Buddhist council in 29 BC.

Endless sunrises, sunsets, beaches, timeless ruins, welcoming people, oodles of elephants, rolling surf, cheap prices, fun trains, famous tea and flavourful food make Sri Lanka irresistible.

But these are only some of the characteristics, as I was fortunate to find out when I met Rauf Abdul and Ishan Rox from The Jewel Court in Bentota.

With a huge smile and a welcome warmth Rauf greeted me with ‘Ayubowan Geoff’, I was inquisitive to learn more about what Rauf and Ishan had to tell me about the beautiful island of Sri Lanka and one of the largest precious stone collections in the world.

So, Rauf and Ishan, what can you tell me about Sri Lanka and the precious stones that has made this beautiful island a world leader in gemstones?

‘Bohoma Istuti Geoff’ (Thank you very much Geoff), historically from the Ancient times Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) has gained a very good popularity and good name for the world famous and rare and precious and semi-precious naturally formed supernatural gems. The great chronicle of Ceylon Mahavamsa too mentioned about the valuable gem and jewelleries of Ceylon. Of course, from the time immemorial a separate group of people especially skilled craftsmen have had well trained in the creation of enchanting mater pieces and beautifully hand-made gem studded jewelleries and ornaments specially for Queens and Kings of the Sinhala and of the different kingdoms of Lanka.

King Solomon was also reported to have had brought valuable gems from the island of gems at that time (Ceylon) (Ratna-Deepa) literally means island of gems to win the heart of the beautiful queens. Ratnapura located at 103km from the metropolis capital city of Columbo is the famous traditional gem mining town of Ceylon. Ratnapura is also literally means the city of gems. Sri Lanka has the greatest concentration of gems on the Earth and Sri Lanka has been ranked among rh five gem bearing nations. One can find different varieties of precious and semi-precious and some of the rarest and expensive gems in Ratnapura, are found in abundance in blessed city. Gem mining is also one of the natural resources.

Ratnapura is very popular and famous for gems and specially well known for magnificent sapphires of different colours natural corundum’s in white, yellow, pink, orange, purple, alexandrite and padmaraga, king of the gemstones star-sapphire and star ruby are actually different colours of the same mineral (corundum). But while rubies are always red, sapphires come in varieties of colours. Sapphire is a cold gem with the same hardness and specified gravity as those rubies. The best blue-sapphire does not change its colour when held upfront of an electric light.

Diamond is the hardest and most dazzling jewel in the world. The hardness of diamond is (10 density) and the hardness of sapphires and rubies are (09 density). The blue sapphire stone has the power to enhance the status of an individual who is in possession of a blue sapphire gem. There is a common belief that the sapphires are beneficiaries to kings, queens, princes, princesses, administrators’, political leaders and the hearts of the government for the protection and safety. Unlike other stones, sapphires prized for their clarity, carat weight and masterfully cut shaped, lustre and beauty. As for carats the natural royal blue colour magnificent blue sapphire can easily cost more than twice as much as one carat.

Blue sapphire is the stone of the kings, queens, princes, princesses, head of the government, intellectuals, dignitaries-business magnates, wealthy and respectable people. Blue sapphires make the way for luxurious joyful royal life and happiness. Blue sapphire is a valuable gem net to the hardest gem in the world you can cut glass with a point of diamond but of course you can scratch glass with a point of blue sapphire gem. Blue sapphires are naturally formed super natural gem always seen in the island of gems. It is obvious among the different colours of sapphire available in the gem trade. Indeed, royal blue, corn-flower blue, medium blue, lighter blue is generally the best colour and has been accepted and recommended by the international gem and jewellery trade.

Historically many coloured gemstones are born natural, means the stones are genuine and natural have been enhanced to improve their appearance. Thermal enhancement of rubies and sapphires is considered stable and permanent under the normal wear and handling conditions and it is generally accepted and recommended by the international gem and jewellery trade.

White Sapphire
White sapphire resembles same as the diamond, the most dazzling jewel in the world. White sapphire has the lustre, beauty and the same hardness as the different colours of sapphires. Any person can imitate and pretend a white sapphire is a diamond. White sapphire is also a valuable gem with sheen and lustre like a diamond.

Star Sapphire
Star sapphire is a miraculous and wonderful stone. It is a blessed stone to Sri Lanka, because it is the wonder of asia found only in Sri Lanka. It is a natural formation available in the popular and famous traditional gem mining town of Sri Lanka precious and semiprecious stones and different colour gems can be seen in and around the city. Star sapphire is a re gem and an amazing jewel because no one is capable of inserting the star into the stone. It is a natural formation naturally formed supernatural gem star sapphire is the stone of destiny in which three crossed lines intersect in the centre of the stone symbolising faith, destiny and hope. Star sapphire brings one’s good fortune, fame, wealth, longevity and popularity. It is a very rare gem. Star sapphires always comes in blue and slightly blackish blue in colour.

Blue Sapphire
An expensive and gorgeous gold ring set with a huge natural blue sapphire gem (natural corundum) colour royal blue, double cluster set with VVS1 (VVS1 is actually immaculate) diamonds around, which was gifted to princess Diana at the Royal wedding function took place at Buckingham Palace by our former president. Britain’s Prince William married Kate Middleton in April, a ring set with the same stone previously worn by Princess Diana originated in Sri Lanka which was gifted to Princess Kate Middleton by Her Majesty.

The best-known fact that Sri Lanka was called as Ceylon in the ancient times Ceylon was very popular and famous for magnificent natural blue sapphires. Whenever an Englishman come to Ceylon (Now Sri Lanka) who never missed the opportunity of buying at least a piece of precious blue sapphire gem. It promises wealth, name of fame, joy, love and happiness to the wearer. It increases once’s good fortune, fame, health and wealth, longevity and popularity, peace, patience and tranquillity. It helps reach a high level and will always triumph. This is a well-known fact of a person who is in possession of a blue sapphire gem ensures a very long energetic life with dignity and inspires love and faithfulness and harmonious. There is a common belief that the precious gems have magnetic powers in varying degrees and have the curative and healing power to cure many illnesses unlike other gems, blue sapphires are prized for their clarity, weight, cut and lustre is more valuable.

Yellow Sapphire
Yellow Sapphire is also one of the different colours of sapphires found in the world. Known very popular traditionally manual gem mining old town of Ratnapura. Ratnapura literally means City of Gems. Ratna is the gem and pura is the city. It is also a natural formation same as other different colours of sapphires. Yellow Sapphire is a very famous and familiar gem among the Indian people. It is obvious that, on the advice and the guidance of the Sage (Samy) most of the Indians used to adore a ring set with a yellow sapphire gem. Because the yellow sapphire gem has the magnetic power to increase good health, wealth, longevity and popularity. It brings good fortune, and protects and safeguards from evil effects and spirits.

Rauf Abdul & Ishan Rox
Rauf Abdul & Ishan Rox

Indian people of course call the yellow sapphire gem as Pushparagam. Literally mean ‘Passion of Flower’. It flowers life of the person who is in possession of a yellow sapphire. Indeed, he is a very lucky and fortunate human in the world. Try to be a proud owner of a ring set with a yellow-sapphire gem and feel the benefit and enjoy fortunes and experience the difference. Yellow Sapphire is an enchanting gem with beautiful lustre and attraction.

Ruby
Ruby is a gem of various shades of red corundum, generally some stones are hot pink, some are blackish red, and some are pale coloured. Of course, it is a hot stone and most valued among precious stones. Most of the rubies are translucent and suitable to wear due to the wide range of colour and hardness. Ruby is an enchanting gem.

A flawless ruby is smooth and having a attractive lustre, brilliance and radiance and a rich red-colour. Rubies are very costly because of the scarcity. A large ruby is rare and very expensive than a large diamond. The rarest and most expensive shade is described as being the colour of pigeons blood a rich velvety deep red, but without fire or sparkle. A few people only prefer the red ruby. It brings wealth and leads a prosperous and joyful life and popularity. The person who is in possession of a ruby is a blessed and always triumph in his life. It activates and vitalises the whole body through the circulation of blood. Ruby will make on with courage of determined, cheerful, active, ambitious and successfully blessed with sterling qualities. Ruby is generally an enchanting gem to win the heart.

Star Ruby
Star ruby is also a very rare gem rarely come to the hands of fortunate gem merchants. Of course, the Star Ruby is also a wonderful gem. It is also naturally formed, supernatural gem found in the famous and very popular traditional gem mining town of Ratnapura. It is also the wonder of Asia. As mentioned before, Star Ruby is the stone of destiny. Same as the Star Sapphire three crossed lines intersect in the centre of the stone. Symbolized the heart of spiritual love and devotion.

It is also a natural creation of nature. A blessed stone rarely available in Ratnapura and found only in Sri Lanka. The Star Ruby paves the way for achievement of goals and betterment in life. No one is capable of inserting a three crossed-line star into the stone. It is truly a naturally formed wonderful creation of nature.

Cat’s Eye
Cat’s Eye is a wonderful and rare gem. It is a blessed stone, naturally formed a super natural gem found only in the traditional gem mining town of Ratnapura. It is a hard gem belonging to semi-precious and transparent variety of quartz because of the rare gem much valued in the gem trade. It is a hot stone and appearance opalescent available in various shades, ranging from a cloudy yellow to brownish green colour. The pure variety has a yellowish radiance and white brilliant straight band. It is a miraculous and vary rare gem. Only a few people whoa re blessed to be the proud owner of the naturally formed supernatural and amazing gem in the world of a person who is in possession of a cat’s eye brings success and prosperity, longevity and happiness in the life. Cat’s eye is a very rare gem extremely unique gem remarkably resembles same as an eye of a cat is called cat’s eye.

Zircon
Zircon is also a rare variety of gem rarely found in the traditional gem mining town of Ratnapura. Means literally the city of gems. Yes of course it brings success and prosperity. It ensures good health, wealth, safeguards one from enemies and criticism. It is naturally colourless, reddish orange, brownish red, grey, violet-grey or green. A very good stone reflects a golden colour, when seen from a distance. It is transparent, soft to the touch, lustrous and ample radiance. Zircon is also a very rare gem.

Padmaraga
Padmaraga is the King of the precious and semi-precious gem. It is also a wonderful stone in the world, a blessed gem very rarely come across to the gem dealers’ hands. It is also found in the old traditional gem mining town of Ratnapura. Padmaraga is a very beautiful and enchanting gem-like florescence of blossomed flowers. It is also a very rare, expensive and unique gem.

Topaz
Topaz is also a naturally formed beautiful gem. Adequality available here in Sri Lanka in different colours. Topaz is transparent mineral gem being a silicate and fluoride of aluminium and generally found in rocks. It is a cold gem occurring naturally in a prismatic form and also found in yellow colour, pink and blue shades. The jewelleries settled with blue topaz are beautiful has an enchanting power to attract the teenagers. Of course, it is a very beautiful gem.

Aqua Marine
Aqua Marine means sea water. The finest beryl and is called so because of its bluish, sea green, bluish green tint and it is transparent. It is also a very rare gem found rarely come across to the hand of gem dealers. It is also a valuable gem found in Ratnapura.

Amethyst
Amethyst also a violet variety of quarts is used as a gem containing traces of manganese titanium and iron found in the gem mining area. It is a very beautiful stone and gives more appearance of sets in the enchanting design of jewelleries. Amethyst is an attractive gem also found in Sri Lanka.

Garnet
Garnet is a hard-vitreous silicate mineral occurring in a number of varieties. It is also a natural stone found in the popular traditional mining town in Sri Lanka. It is a very familiar gem common deep red colour and transparent. It belongs to the Capricornian garnets are available in different varieties namely rhodolite garnet, hessonite garnet, spessartile garnet and alamandine garnet. Most of the people knows about the garnet it is an internationally well-known gem.

Alexandrite
Alexandrite is a blessed gem. Very rarely found and seen in the traditional mineral mining town of Ratnapura. For popularly famous for rare and unique gems. Alexandrite is also a very rare and wonderful gem. Also naturally formed supernatural gem. Alexandrite was discovered on the day King Czar Alexander was born. It shines green in the natural day light and turns raspberry red in the artificial light. Of course, it is a very rare and very expensive gem found only in Sri Lanka.

Moonstone
Moonstone was the first stone discovered about one hundred and fifty years ago in an alluvial mine located in an old village called Meetiyagoda in the Southern Province (Galle District). The employees who engaged in the mining used their own traditional system with the support of the poles and planks to go down about twenty or twenty-five metres or sometimes further down. It was very dangerous because always the alluvial floor is liable to collapse at any moment. Nowadays we use advanced scaffolding system to go down further with the support of planks is safer.

Moonstone is always a translucent variety of feldspar with a pearly lustre. Once it is cut and polished having a glistening white, brilliant straight band inside, which rolls with the turn of the stone. Moonstone is a very famous and familiar gem among the Germans. The Germans believe that Moonstone has the magnetic power to give good health, wealth, longevity and specially popularity. Moonstone brings good fortune, protects and safeguards from dangerous diseases and evil effects. When a German visits to Sri Lanka, never misses an opportunity of buying a piece of moonstone available in the island of paradise and the pearl of the South East Asia.

Emerald
This is a gem of rich variety of beryl and the colour is due to the presence of chronium oxide. It is a hot gem and one of the expensive gemstones in the world. The lush intense green colour of the emerald is associated with wisdom, fertility and life. It is also instilling divine quality through the power and beauty of its ray. It is a symbol of regeneration and life flowers with creative and artistic abilities while energising and replenishing. It has the magnetic power for calming. Its rays always help in healing and balancing and providing with a tranquil and a serene state of mind. It increases one’s intelligence, farsighted vision. Commonly people will think of having an emerald gem will help to preserve the chastity and protect from evil spirits. Of course, it is a sure cure for stammering, ensures wealth, popularity and prosperity.

The world famous and very popular Cleopatra is most desirous and willingly adored gem was the emerald. She always adorned some of the enchanting jewelleries set with valuable emerald gems.
It is a well-known fact in the world. The gem emerald protects from evil effects, ill eye and specially from venomous snake bites. A flawless emerald is smooth and transparent and has a radiance brilliance. It is also a rare and unique gem in the world.

As old as civilization itself the Sri Lankan Gem Industry currently ranks with those of Myanmar, Brazil, South Africa and Thailand as one of the world’s most prominent gem-bearing nations. Swathed in the myth, legend, religion and the occult of Sri Lanka, gemstones, precious and semi-precious, have enriched the island’s economy, culture and reputation since about the year 543 BC.

Gemstone mining in Sri Lanka is mostly from secondary deposits. The gravels yield sapphires, rubies, cat’s eyes and other chrysoberyls, spinels, garnets, beryl, tourmalines, topazes, quartz and many other gemstones. In Sri Lanka, gem-bearing gravels known as illam are some of the richest in the world. Blessed with geological conditionsmade up of the ideal blend of chemistry, heat, pressure, time and weathering, the island is a veritable nature-made gem laboratory. Besides the well-known Pangaea, which existed about 300 million years ago, there were several other supercontinents in the Earth’s early history, their assembly and break up cycle helped form most of the world’s gem deposits. A number of these cycles are linked to the formation of gems in Sri Lanka. Most of the country’s gem deposits are in an area known as the Highland Complex, extending northeast to southwest and containing high-grade metamorphic rocks.

Sri Lanka boasts a true mine-to-market industry, both domestically and for export. A fascinating aspect of this is the harmonious and productive blend of tradition, experience and modernization. Mining is done primarily by use of traditional methods, and is small-scale by choice and design as such mines are considered to be less harmful to the environment and a more stable source of employment for more people. Pit, river and mechanized are the three types of mining practiced in Sri Lanka. Manual labor is the primary method used in mining. The National Gem and Jewelry Authority is the regulatory body responsible for the issuance of mining licenses and ensures that all related processes are conducted according to the set standards and rules. The NGJA is particularly strict when it comes to the requirements for mechanized mining. This strategy fortifies the continuous employment of 60,000 to 70,000 gem miners.

Such a fascinating set of historical facts and truly these semi-precious and precious stones are simply stunning.
It is clear that there is a long and rich history of producing and trading precious gems within the eastern world. Looking through historical and fictional writing, it is easy to establish the longstanding connection of Sri Lanka to the gem industry.

If you have any questions or if you would like to know more about the gems available through Jewel Court, do contact Rauf and Ishan on the following email address:

Rauf: abdulrauf598@yahoo.com
Ishan: ihshanrox@gmail.com

What makes our identities unique?

An interesting subject that seems to be appearing more and more is: ‘what makes each individual unique’ – back in 2016 I wrote a blog called ‘Can we create our own identities from reinvention? which discussed whether we can reinvent our own identities.

Well, exactly what makes us unique?

Psychologists have explored the tricky question of how our sense of uniqueness and identity develops. When a child is born, it has no clear idea of where ‘myself’ ends and ‘the external world’ begins.
It takes a while before the limits are established. And not until the age of two will a child begin to lose its preoccupation with itself, and start to become interested in other people. It is at this time that pronouns begin to appear in its vocabulary ‘my’, ‘me’, ‘you’, ‘I’ and usually in that order. And while the child is two it goes through a stage of rebelliousness and wilfulness in which it suddenly becomes domineering, endlessy, inquisitive, and impatient when its wishes are not gratified straightaway.
The child seems to be waking up to the fact that it has an identity of its own which needs to fit in alongside the identities of other people, and is simply testing out the limits of its powers and freedoms.

However, there are multiple theories about what makes us unique, some related and some not so interconnected. We have been pondering the topic for thousands of years – the ancient Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle all theorised about the nature of human existence as have countless philosophers since.
With the discovery of fossils and scientific evidence, scientists have developed theories as well. While there may be no single conclusion, there is no doubt that humans are, indeed, unique. In fact, the very act of contemplating what makes us human is unique among other animal species.

Apart from our obvious intellectual capabilities that distinguish us as a species, humans have several unique physical, social, biological, and emotional traits. While we can’t know precisely what is in the minds of another being, such as an animal, and may, in fact, be limited by our own minds, scientists can make inferences through studies of animal behavior that inform our understanding.

Humans also have unique memories, that Professor Thomas Suddendorf calls “episodic memory.” He says, “Episodic memory is probably closest to what we typically mean when we use the word “remember” rather than “know.” Memory allows human beings to make sense of their existence, and prepare for the future, increasing our chances of survival, not only individually, but also as a species.

Memories are passed on through human communication in the form of storytelling, which is also how knowledge is passed from generation to generation, allowing human culture to evolve. Because human beings are highly social animals, we strive to understand one another and to contribute our knowledge to a joint pool, which promotes more rapid cultural evolution. In this way, unlike other animals, each human generation is more culturally developed than the preceding generations.
Profesor Thomas Suddendorf once said about these stories:

“Even our young offspring are driven to understand others’ minds, and we are compelled to pass on what we have learned to the next generation…. Young children have a ravenous appetite for the stories of their elders, and in play they reenact scenarios and repeat them until they have them down pat. Stories, whether real or fantastical, teach not only specific situations but also the general ways in which narrative works. How parents talk to their children about past and future events influences children’s memory and reasoning about the future: the more parents elaborate, the more their children do.”
Thanks to our unique memory, acquisition of language skills, and ability to write, humans around the world, from the very young to the very old, have been communicating and transmitting their ideas through stories for thousands of years, and storytelling remains integral to being human and to human culture.

Clues about the evolution of our extraordinary minds: Thomas Suddendorf

The big question is: what defines us?

In recent years, many traits once believed to be uniquely human, from morality to culture, have been found in the animal kingdom. So, what exactly makes us special?

Ever since we learned to write, we have documented how special we are. The philosopher Aristotle marked out our differences over 2,000 years ago. We are “rational animals” pursuing knowledge for its own sake. We live by art and reasoning, he wrote.

Much of what he said stills stands. Yes, we see the roots of many behaviours once considered uniquely human in our closest relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos. But we are the only ones who peer into their world and write books about it.

We see the roots of many behaviours once considered uniquely human in our closest relatives
“Obviously we have similarities. We have similarities with everything else in nature; it would be astonishing if we didn’t. But we’ve got to look at the differences,” says Ian Tattersall, a paleoanthropologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Charles Darwin, in his book ‘The Descent of Man’, wrote that humans and animals only differ in degree, not kind. This still stands true but Professor Thomas Suddendorf says that it is precisely these gradual changes that make us extraordinary and has led to “radically different possibilities of thinking”.

And it is these thoughts that allow us to pinpoint to our differences with chimpanzees. That we do so is because they are the closest living relative we have. If any of the now extinct early humans were still alive, we would be comparing our behaviour to them instead.

Still, as far as we know, we are the only creatures trying to understand where we came from. We also peer further back in time, and further into the future, than any other animal. What other species would think to ponder the age of the universe, or how it will end?”

We have an immense capacity for good. At the same time we risk driving our closest relatives to extinction and destroying the only planet we have ever called home.

Finally thoughts, no matter how you look at it, humans are unique, and paradoxical. While we are the most advanced species intellectually, technologically, and emotionally, extending our lifespans, creating artificial intelligence, traveling to outer space, showing great acts of heroism, altruism and compassion, we also continue to engage in primitive, violent, cruel, and self-destructive behavior.

As beings with awesome intelligence and the ability to control and alter our environment, though, we also have a commensurate responsibility to care for our planet, its resources, and all the other sentient beings who inhabit it and depend on us for their survival. We are still evolving as a species and we need to continue to learn from our past, imagine better futures, and create new and better ways of being together for the sake of ourselves, other animals, and our planet.

As Kallam Anji Reddy once said:

‘Everyone has a purpose in life and a unique talent to give to others. And when we blend this unique talent with service to others, we experience the ecstasy and exultation of own spirit, which is the ultimate goal of all goals.’

Have we forgotten leadership and the foundation of business planning?

One of the questions I hear frequently from emerging and current leaders is this one: “How has leadership changed from 10 years ago and what do I need to understand about running a successful enterprise that I don’t know today?”

Well the reason is simple: only 14 Percent of CEOs Have the Leadership Talent to Execute Their Strategy.

The data in Global Leadership Forecast 2018 shows that organisations with effective leadership talent outperform their peers. Yet very few organizations manage this high-value asset in an integrated, cohesive way.
Even after spending more than $50 billion annually* on developing their leaders, many companies still don’t have the bench strength to meet their future business goals. And despite the spending, investments are often fragmented and see a lack of returns.
Leadership models and development programs abound; few ties to business goals. Worse yet, there’s scant evidence that they actually work. What’s needed is a coherent, integrated leadership strategy.
A well-crafted blueprint ensures that companies have the right talent, at the right cost, and with the right capabilities to deliver today and into the future. Yet, this report found less than one-third of the HR professionals surveyed feel their organisations have an effective leadership strategy. Companies that do have such strategies in place report better returns on their investment in talent. They consistently feature deeper leader bench strength and stronger leaders at all levels.

Many leaders are living under an identity crisis. They are uncertain about how to lead in a more diverse, transient, multigenerational environment that requires them to embrace diversity of thought – and they fail to see the potential opportunities this represents to both workplace and marketplace success.

When leaders become too comfortable with a one-size-fits-all approach to leadership, they conversely become uncomfortable with the uncertainty and change that more successful leaders embrace as part of the job. Complacent leaders are at risk of becoming irrelevant because they are unable or unwilling to course correct their style, approach and attitude to the environment of change they must lead through.

Leaders fail in their primary role and responsibility of enabling the full potential in people and the business they serve because they don’t know the difference between substitution and evolution. Instead of leading the organization and its people to continually evolve, they get stuck in a cycle of complacency and the substitution of activities associated with it. As a result, the company cannot grow or its growth cannot be sustained.

The result is a major shortfall in competent, clued up global leaders.

According to a 2017 report by Price Waterhouse Coopers, 75 percent of hiring managers believe leadership skills are hard to find in new recruits. And a Deloitte study found a whopping 87 percent of companies aren’t effective at building global leaders.

What could be more vital to a company’s long-term health than the choice and cultivation of its future leaders? And yet, while companies maintain meticulous lists of candidates who could at a moment’s notice step into the shoes of a key executive, an alarming number of newly minted leaders fail spectacularly, ill prepared to do the jobs for which they supposedly have been groomed.

Look at Coca-Cola’s M. Douglas Ivester, longtime CFO and Robert Goizueta’s second in command, who became CEO after Goizueta’s death. Ivester was forced to resign in two and a half years, thanks to a serious slide in the company’s share price, some bad public-relations moves, and the poor handling of a product contamination scare in Europe.

Or consider Mattel’s Jill Barad, whose winning track record in marketing catapulted her into the top job—but didn’t give her insight into the financial and strategic aspects of running a large corporation.

Ivester and Barad failed, in part, because although each was accomplished in at least one area of management, neither had mastered more general competencies such as public relations, designing and managing acquisitions, building consensus, and supporting multiple constituencies. They’re not alone. The problem is not just that the shoes of the departed are too big; it’s that succession planning, as traditionally conceived and executed, is too narrow and hidebound to uncover and correct skill gaps that can derail even the most promising young executives.

However, Harvard Business School released some research into the factors that contribute to a leader’s success or failure, the findings found that certain companies do succeed in developing deep and enduring bench strength by approaching succession planning as more than the mechanical process of updating a list. Indeed, they’ve combined two practices: succession planning and leadership development, to create a long-term process for managing the talent roster across their organisations. In most companies, the two practices reside in separate functional silos, but they are natural allies because they share a vital and fundamental goal: getting the right skills in the right place.

A final thought: to succeed in the 21st century workplace and marketplace, leaders must come out from under their identity crisis and embrace diversity of thought so that those they lead can overcome their own identity crises and reach their full potential. They must embrace risk and change as opportunities that others may fail to see as such. And they especially must understand the difference between substitution and evolution: one leads to the trap of complacency, the other leads to a path of growth and continued success. In the end, the wise leader knows their subject matter expertise and specifically what their leadership (identity) solves for – in support of the organisation’s evolution.

Perhaps the underlying lesson is that good succession management is possible only in an organisational culture that encourages candor and risk taking at the executive level. It depends on a willingness to differentiate individual performance and a corporate culture in which the truth is valued more than politeness.

A.P. J. Abdul Kalam once said:

“When we tackle obstacles, we find hidden reserves of courage and resilience we did not know we had. And it is only when we are faced with failure do we realise that these resources were always there within us. We only need to find them and move on with our lives.”

Are we too busy to connect to real people?

I recently had a meeting in the City of London with a group of executives – the interesting fact was when I left the boardroom, there was this picture on the wall with the words:

‘Do more things that make you forget to check your phone’

– which prompted me to write this blog.

The facts, do we actually have time for our most precious relationships, do we give the time to build lasting relationships around trust and values or do we constantly feel we can always do better with the latest api or technology app?

Let’s face it: Technology is everywhere, but the more we depend on it, and the more we use it when we don’t really need it, the harder it becomes to create meaningful relationships — and sometimes, it actually makes things more difficult.

Is it really best to brainstorm an upcoming project with your co-worker over email, or would it make more sense to walk over to that person’s desk and have a face to face discussion? Can you actually go a whole dinner without checking your smartphone? Is it necessary to charge your phone right by your head at night?

In February, 2017 I wrote a very interesting blog ‘Has Technology Killed Love and Romance?’. The attributes that have now come to define us and the overexposure that the 21st century human is subjected to leaves no dearth of psychological problems. More and more people each year are diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety problems. This becomes a detriment when it comes to business and personal survival with relationships. With dissatisfying home, office or academic environments the relationship in many cases becomes the dumping ground for emotional baggage.

I challenge you to try going without technology when possible you will be surprised how great it feels (and how little really happens when you’re out of touch). While some business people avoid e-mail and mobiles during their time off, others find it tough to remain out of contact.

According to the study conducted by a group of international researchers, anyone who devotes more than four hours daily on screen-based entertainment such as TV, video games or surfing the web, ups their risk of heart attack and stroke by 113 percent and the risk of death by any cause by nearly 50 percent compared to those who spend less than two hours daily in screen play – and this is regardless of whether or not they also work out.

A very interesting TEDx video by Leslie Perlow – Thriving in an overconnected world, Leslie Pernow argues that the always “on” mentality can have a long-term detrimental effect on many organizations. In her sociological experiments at BCG and other organizations, Pernow found that if the team – rather than just individuals – collectively rallies around a goal or personal value, it unleashes a process that creates better work and better lives.

A very good friend of mine, Moran Lerner, is a behavioural and experimental psychologist with expertise in the fields of Cognitive Behavioural Innovation, computational intelligence and human-machine interaction. Moran has founded/co-founded over 20 market-leading global companies with 14 successful exits in Computational Intelligence, Biomimetics, Interactive Gaming and Behavioural and Bio Engineering over the past 20 years.

We often explore new and creative ways of listening, engaging, working together, learning, building community and being in conversation with the other. We are more connected than ever through technology and at the same time the disconnect with ourselves, others and our environment is growing.
We need ‘Meaningful Conversations’ to help us reconnect, going beyond our egos and our fears to build strong relationships, communities, networks and organisations, so that through collaboration.

Anyone who has sat on a Caribbean beach this summer will be familiar with the thrill of mobiles producing an instant response among supposedly off-duty executives. Mobile phones, BlackBerries, iPads, WiFi and sub-miniature laptops make it all too possible to pack the office along with your luggage. But how in touch or out of touch should businesspeople be?

So, what happens if you run your own firm?

You might have the big salary that comes with the top job, but little time to enjoy it.

Can CEOs ever release their grip and truly take a break?

The biggest obstacle to disconnecting is not technology: it is your own level of commitment or compulsion when it comes to work. If you work 80 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, you may find it pretty hard to get your head out of the office – and even harder to break the association between hearing the ping of an incoming email and immediately shifting into work brain.

If you told somebody 50 years ago that the most world-changing invention of the near future was telephones you could carry around in your pocket, they’d probably look at you like you were insane. But it’s true — mobile phones (and the data networks that have grown with them) have drastically reshaped the way we live in thousands of different ways.

Remember when horror movies had people menaced by slashers with no way to call for help? Remember unfolding confusing paper maps, trying to find where you were on the road? Remember racking your brain to think of that actor who played a robot on that one show? All of those things are gone thanks to Google and the incredibly powerful networked computers we carry in our pockets.

With great power comes great responsibility, however, and scientists are starting to learn that spending so much time staring at our phones is actually doing some damage to our physical, social and intellectual lives.

Here a few reasons why you should balance you time on your device:
It damages your eyes – Experts advise that prolonged screen usage can be seriously detrimental to eye health

It makes people perceive you negatively – Studies from Takashi Nakamura – Professor in computers in human behaviour reveal that frequent peeks at your device might damage your friendships as much as your eyes.

They carry bacteria – A study conducted by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine determined that one out of every six cell phones in England is contaminated with fecal matter, and 16 percent of them carry the E. Coli bacteria.

It’s bad for your neck – “Text Neck” has been springing up more and more in the last few years. The human head is a heavy object, and our neck and spine are designed to keep it up at a certain angle.

It makes driving dangerous – Recently released results from a new Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) naturalistic driving study continue to show that distracted driving is a tangible threat. The study showed that a staggering 213,000 accidents involved cell phone usage.

It makes walking dangerous – Phones can distract you on the street just as much as behind the wheel. In fact, an increase in pedestrian deaths last year was partially due to distractions caused by smartphones – some countries including the Netherlands – the Dutch town of Bodegraven has come up with a clever new way of keeping phone-obsessed pedestrians safe as they cross the road, a strip LED traffic signals installed in the pavement that glow red or green, allowing pedestrians to see if it is safe to cross, even if their eyes are glued to their phone screens.

It can damage your hands – We have all heard about “cell phone elbow” and “Blackberry thumb.” We’ve heard that looking down at a smartphone puts pressure on the spine and may damage your eyes. We are now experiencing “text claw,” a soreness and cramping in the wrists, forearms and fingers resulting from overusing our phones. But now we’re learning that such overuse might lead to temporary pain or even a deformity of your pinky finger.

It’s bad for sleep – Many people have a hard time putting down their cell phones before bed — when your Twitter interactions are going crazy, that temptation to take just one more look is hard to resist. Unfortunately, a number of studies have revealed that using LCD screens — especially close to your face — can upset your natural sleep cycle.

It makes you stressed – A study at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden attempted to measure the effects of cell phone usage on people in their 20s over the course of a year, the study connected mobile phone use and stress, sleep disturbances, and symptoms of depression among young adults.

It can make you hallucinate – even when you’re not looking at your phone, it can still mess with your mind. A professor at Indiana University-Purdue University conducted a study on “phantom pocket vibration syndrome” — i.e. people thinking that their cell phone was vibrating to alert them even when it wasn’t. In her survey, 89 percent of undergraduates reported thinking that their mobile was vibrating even when it wasn’t. The fact that our brains are being rewired to constantly expect this stimuli can also lead to stress, with another study observing significantly elevated anxiety levels in subjects separated from their phones for an hour.

It is altering your brain – this last one isn’t a definite negative — scientists still don’t understand exactly what is happening — but it’s troubling nonetheless. A study from the National Institutes of Health hooked up 47 people to PET scanners and observed their brain activity while a cellular phone was kept close to their head. The scientists observed a visible increase of about 7 percent, but as of yet don’t know its cause or what kind of long-term effects it will have. What we do know, however, is that the radiation is up to something in there, and are you really willing to take that risk?

“Most people check their phone every 15 minutes or less, even if they have no alerts or notifications,” Larry Rosen, psychology professor and author of The Distracted Mind . “We’ve built up this layer of anxiety surrounding our use of technology, that if we don’t check in as often as we think we should, we’re missing out.”

Rosen’s research has shown that besides increasing anxiousness, the compulsion to check notifications and feeds interferes with people’s ability to focus.

Besides the wasted time, there’s also the psychological grind that comes from spending too much time on your phone. Several studies have shown social media can be bad for your mental health, and Facebook admitted last year that passive use of its social network can leave people in negative moods. Researchers are still trying to figure out what long-term effects channelling so much time and energy into our devices will cause.

Some large investors are even pressing Apple to develop new tools to help users curb their phone addictions, saying that a feeling of dependency is bad for the company’s long-term health.
Fortunately, you don’t have to wait for Apple – you can simply become more deliberate about how you use your phone.

One group of business people at The Boston Group, a consulting firm, discovered just that when they participated in an experiment run by Leslie Perlow, who is the Konsuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership at the Harvard Business School and author of the book, “Sleeping With Your Smartphone”.

As described in her book. the group found that taking regular “predictable time off” (PTO) from their smartphones resulted in increased efficiency and collaboration, heightened job satisfaction, and better work-life balance.

Four years after her initial experiment, Leslie Perlow reports, 86% of the consulting staff in the firm’s Northeast offices including Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C. were on teams engaged in similar PTO experiments.

Final thought….. If you use your phone less, you’ll end up with more free time. Much of this will be in small chunks, such as when you are in the elevator, waiting in line of on the train. These can be great opportunities to take a deep breath and just do nothing (which can be a surprisingly relaxing and restorative experience).

You’re also likely to find yourself with longer periods of time to fill. In order to keep yourself from reverting to your phone to entertain you, it’s essential that you decide on several activities you would like to use this time for and then set up your environment to make it more likely that you will stick to these intentions.

For example, if you say you want to read more, put a book on your coffee table, so when you flop down on the couch at the end of a long day, your book will be within eyesight and reach. If you want to practice playing music, take your instrument out of its case and prop it up in the hall, where it will be easy to grab when you have a few spare moments. If you want to spend more time in mindfulness take the time to schedule time for meditation and practice it daily. If you want to spend more time with your family or a particular friend, make plans to do so and put your phone in your pocket or bag for the duration of your time together. Smartphones are habit-forming, so think about the habits you want to form.

As American author Regina Brett once said:

“Sometimes you have to disconnect to stay connected. Remember the old days when you had eye contact during a conversation? When everyone wasn’t looking down at a device in their hands? We’ve become so focused on that tiny screen that we forget the big picture, the people right in front of us.”

What is required to be an effective leader in today’s totally disruptive business world?

A discussion and running theme that seems to be on every leadership and executive director’s mind, is ‘what is required to be an effective leader in today’s totally disruptive business world’?

Experts have opined for decades on the reasons behind the spectacular failure rates of strategy execution.
In 2016, it was estimated that 67% of well-formulated strategies failed due to poor execution.
There are many explanations for this abysmal failure rate, but a 10-year longitudinal study on executive leadership conducted by my firm showed one clear reason.
A full 61% of executives told us they were not prepared for the strategic challenges they faced upon being appointed to senior leadership roles.
It’s no surprise, then, that 50%–60% of executives fail within the first 18 months of being promoted or hired.

Becoming a disruptive leader is not a straightforward journey, no matter your background. It requires the embrace of wholesale change, the nurturing of innovative thinking and behavior, and the management of outcomes rather than resources. It requires a personal transformation that many will choose not to make.

Over the past year, we’ve been struck by how many times we’ve heard C-suite leaders use these words, or very similar ones, to describe the strengths they believe are critical to transforming their businesses, and to competing effectively in a disruptive era.

What’s equally striking is how difficult organisations are finding it to embed these qualities and behaviors in their people. That’s because the primary obstacle is invisible: the internal resistance that all human beings experience, often unconsciously, when they’re asked to make a significant change.

Cognitively, it shows up as mindset — fixed beliefs and assumptions about what will make us successful and what won’t. Emotionally, it usually takes the form of fear.

Amazon changed how we buy things. Netflix transformed how we consume videos. And companies like Airbnb and Uber have shaken up the hotel and transportation industries.

A few years ago, digital disruption was something that happened to someone else. Now, no company is immune.
Disruptive technologies, products, services and business models are being introduced almost daily. So executives need to take charge of their organisation’s response to ensure long-term business success.

But while many organisations are eager to “get ahead of the curve” on digital, there’s no instruction manual or template on how to do it successfully.

A recent KPMG survey of chief executives and chief information officers found that while most are concerned about digital disruption, few are adequately prepared to address it.

Although digital may be disrupting your business model, it also creates opportunities for those that embrace change. Organisations that don’t will find it increasingly difficult to catch up as technology continues to advance rapidly.

So where do you start?

First, understand how digital disruption is affecting your products, services and business model. Then develop a digital strategy. That includes acquiring the necessary digital skills and getting the company to buy into the required changes.

KPMG’s CIO Advisory survey shows this won’t be easy.

The majority of CIOs (58 percent) and almost half of the CEOs (43 percent) are involved or very involved in their firm’s digital business strategy. But only a small number are actively leading the effort.

Given the magnitude of digital disruption, the lack of strong leadership could have a major impact on the company’s ability to adapt.

Companies must master and implement new technologies. That requires new skills, many of which are in short supply. Most CIOs in the KPMG survey cited a lack of critical skills and the limits of existing IT systems as their biggest challenges.

There are no quick solutions to these challenges. But first, companies need to develop a strategy. Without one, it is impossible to tackle the other issues.

Final thought, the complexity of the challenges that organisations face is running far out ahead of the complexity of the thinking required to address them.

Consider the story of the consultant brought in by the CEO to help solve a specific problem: the company is too centralised in its decision making. The consultant has a solution: decentralise. Empower more people to make decisions. And so it is done, with great effort and at great expense. Two years pass, the company is still struggling, and a new CEO brings in a new consultant. We have a problem, the CEO explains. We’re too decentralised. You can guess the solution.

The primary challenge most large companies now face is disruption, the response to which requires a new strategy, new processes, and a new set of behaviors.
But if employees have long been valued and rewarded for behaviors such as practicality, consistency, self-reliance, and prudence, why wouldn’t they find it uncomfortable to suddenly embrace behaviors such as innovation, agility, collaboration, and boldness?
Einstein was right that:

“We can’t solve our problems from the same level of thinking that created them.”

Human development is about progressively seeing more. Learning to embrace our own complexity is what makes it possible to manage more complexity.