Why H2H and a sense of purpose is still what real people (not machines) focus upon!

By now you’ve probably heard a lot about wearables, living services, the Internet of Things, and smart materials. As designers working in these realms, we’ve begun to think about even weirder and wilder things, envisioning a future where evolved technology is embedded inside our digestive tracts, sense organs, blood vessels, and even our cells.

Let’s talk about a scourge of modern times. There is so much stuff to watch, read, listen to, buy, eat or learn about. The world is available at our fingertips at any moment. It feels glorious but also horribly, paralyzingly overwhelming.

Should I wade into Spotify’s sea of every song ever recorded or give up and listen to my downloaded copy of Beyonce’s “Crazy for Love” for the 47,000th time? Psychologist Barry Schwartz called this the “Paradox of choice” in his 2004 book of the same name. Like many ideas that come out of TED Talks, it is too simplistic to say more choices are counterproductive, but I think we’ve all experienced the feeling.

Naturally, technology companies have some ideas about how to help people discover things and select among the flood of options — and make money in the process. And even they are recognising the limits of technology in helping people stay informed and entertained.

To see the future, first we must understand the past. Humans have been interfacing with machines for thousands of years. We seem to be intrinsically built to desire this communion with the made world. This blending of the mechanical and biological has often been described as a “natural” evolutionary process by such great thinkers as Marshall McLuhan in the ’50s and more recently Kevin Kelly in his seminal book What Technology Wants. So by looking at the long timeline of computer design we can see waves of change and future ripples.

The effects of technological change on the global economic structure are creating immense transformations in the way companies and nations organise production, trade goods, invest capital, and develop new products and processes. Sophisticated information technologies permit instantaneous communication among the far-flung operations of global enterprises. New materials are revolutionising sectors as diverse as construction and communications. Advanced manufacturing technologies have altered long-standing patterns of productivity and employment. Improved air and sea transportation has greatly accelerated the worldwide flow of people and goods.

All this has both created and mandated greater interdependence among firms and nations. The rapid rate of innovation and the dynamics of technology flows mean that comparative advantage is short-lived. To maximise returns, arrangements such as transnational mergers and shared production agreements are sought to bring together partners with complementary interests and strengths. This permits both developed and developing countries to harness technology more efficiently, with the expectation of creating higher standards of living for all involved.

Rapid technological innovation and the proliferation of transnational organisations are driving the formation of a global economy that sometimes conflicts with nationalistic concerns about maintaining comparative advantage and competitiveness. It is indeed a time of transition for firms and governments alike.

In the markets of the United Kingdom and the United States, we are constantly seeing ‘flexibility’ and ‘change’ to our economies; this evidence is continuing with the ‘Gig Economy,’ the millennials and a new operating business economy. There are huge advantages to inflexibility and predictability, as continental Europeans appreciate. The evidence shows that continuous re-optimisation is not always the best route to building solid, sustainable foundations for business and relationships.

People also want to be trusted and respected themselves. This requires that they have some responsibility and autonomy. Most of us like to feel we are working well or helping others, because we could not expect to be respected otherwise. That is a key element in the motivation to work, the satisfaction of the professional norm. Yet in recent years employers have used more and more financial incentives to motivate people: Performance-related pay has been creeping in everywhere, including the public service.

With all of these considerations, are mainstream economists right or wrong in how they approach our social and economic problems? Partly right, partly wrong. Here is the good part: Each individual knows more about himself or herself than anyone else does. So, there are huge gains all round if we can freely exchange

goods and services with each other, including our labour. This is especially so where markets are large and well-informed and no one affects anyone else except through the process of voluntary exchange. Indeed, economists have correctly shown that if these conditions exist and contracts can be enforced and people can start sharing within a ‘shared economy,’ the outcome will be fully ‘efficient.’ In other words, everyone will be happy as is possible without someone else being less happy. This important claim helps to explain the extraordinary success of post-war capitalism in producing material advance.

Yet, why did this advance not guarantee a rise in personal happiness? The reason is that many of the most important things that touch us do not reach us through voluntary exchange. Nor have our tastes, expectations and norms remained unchanged, and these too affect our happiness.

Values in people can also change. In the last 50 years we have become increasingly independent and individualistic. We are ever more influenced by the Internet and versions of the ‘survival of the fittest;’ Charles Darwin said, ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.’ Describing ‘the invisible hand,’ Adam Smith said: ‘The great source of both the misery and disorders of human life, seems to arise from over-rating the difference between one permanent situation and another. Avarice over-rates the difference between poverty and riches: ambition, that between a private and a public station: vain-glory, that between obscurity and extensive reputation.

The person under the influence of any of those extravagant passions, is not only miserable in his actual situation, but is often disposed to disturb the peace of society, in order to arrive at that which he so foolishly admires. The slightest observation, however, might satisfy him, that, in all the ordinary situations of human life, a well-disposed mind may be equally calm, equally cheerful, and equally contented. Some of those situations may, no doubt, deserve to be preferred to others: but none of them can deserve to be pursued with that passionate ardour which drives us to violate the rules either of prudence or of justice; or to corrupt the future tranquillity of our minds, either by shame from the remembrance of our own folly, or by remorse from the horror of our own injustice.’

My final thought in the matter is that the answer to technological overload is not less technology but more humanity.

Digital transformation, solving problems with technology, exponential growth through technology, the integration of humans/machines, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things etc. Like it or not, there is no way out, technology has taken over already: I lived without a Smartphone for a few weeks to find out that you soon get excluded from communities, groups, discussions and business.

The problem is not development of new technology, this is nothing new for humanity. The problem is the speed and the major impact it creates for us. It is paradoxical, but humans have the capacity to create innovation and technology with which, at the same time, they have problems keeping up with, technically, emotionally and as a society. We are used to slow, incremental change. Only few people can keep up with the speed and nature of change, most of us get anxious and try to row backwards.

The most important things for our survival are not digital: air, water, food, clothes, emotions, the warmth of a human body next to us. Spending time with people living in a strong connection with and in and from nature was eye opening: we do not live in and with the nature, we are a part of nature, fully integrated with it.

We should ask: “If technology was supposed to make our lives easier and better, why is everybody so exhausted?”. “How can we stay present and awake in a world of distraction and consumption?”

My belief is that a society cannot flourish without some sense of shared purpose. The current pursuit of self-realisation will not work. If your sole duty is to achieve the best for yourself, life becomes just too stressful and too isolated and lonely, and you will be set up to fail. Instead, you need to feel you exist for something larger, and that very thought takes off some of the pressure.

We desperately need a concept of a common purpose, a common vision and a sense of working together to achieve the one overall goal. Human happiness comes from the outside and from within. The two are not in contradiction. The secret is compassion towards oneself and others, and the principle of the greatest happiness is essentially the expression that can all share connections. Perhaps these are the cornerstones of our future culture.

I believe now is the moment to define our terms. Technology is fast, and fast is getting faster, fast is busy, controlling, aggressive, hurried, analytical, stressed, superficial, impatient, active, quantity-over-quality. Slow is the opposite: calm, careful, receptive, still, intuitive, unhurried, patient, reflective, quality-over-quantity. It is about making real and meaningful connections – with people not machines, culture, work, food, everything.

A great quote by Gwyneth Paltrow, she once said:

‘My life is good because I am not passive about it. I invest in what is real. Like real people, to do real things, for the real me.’

Do we have international differences in corporate governance and conduct?

There has been much discussion of late on the values of corporate governance in companies and more importantly the international differences in governance and agenda. As we both advise on company boards, I decided to speak to my business partner in the US, Mark Herbert, and create some joint thoughts on the matter.

Some of the questions we discussed:
“How do you know a board is effective?”
“Do you balance trust with challenging discourse?”
“Is the CEO engaged enough with the board?”
“How can the board challenge management with critical questions without engagement and collaboration?”
“Do you engage in a continuous improvement process?”

As you can imagine, our discussions were quite heated on leadership and at times in the lack of engaged leadership in business today.
The first matter we considered was: “Is there such a thing as a typical board of directors, since size and composition will vary according to a company’s needs?”

Board size can range from five to eighteen board members, though the average board size across Europe stands at about nine members. Regardless of board size, there are certain practices that should be followed to achieve optimal results. Overall, it is important to establish the desired board profile for your company by identifying the types of directors needed in relation to your business goals and ambition.

The composition of boards continues to be a focus for investors, and companies are responding by paying increased attention both to who sits on their boards and to enhancing their disclosure and engagement with investors. The data reported in the 2016 Spencer Stuart Board Index on S&P 500 boards highlights emerging practices, compiled from proxy disclosure and a related survey. Overall, the trends have stayed steady from last year but represent a meaningful departure from 10 years ago.

Directors sit on an average of 2.1 boards. 74% of boards have an over-boarding policy to limit the total number of boards on which directors may serve; 76% set it at three or four boards. Only 43% of CEOs serve on one or more outside boards, the same as last year, but more than a 10% decrease from 10 years ago.

Many companies regularly review the list of skills that are desirable on the board and match them with board members’ profiles. Directors’ “softer” skills and personalities should not be forgotten as they are instrumental in establishing appropriate board dynamics. When deciding on the composition of your board of directors, you should keep in mind the balance between the number of executive directors (board members who are part of the company’s executive team) and nonexecutive directors (board members who are not part of the company’s executive team). You may also want to consider having independent non-executive directors on the board.

On average, 49 percent of board seats in Europe are held by independent, non-executive directors. Such directors can bring real value to your company by providing new business opportunities and more independent, objective advice. They also can provide constructive criticism, to an extent which is unlikely to come from within the company. When thinking about your board’s profile, you should keep in mind the practicalities related to the size of the board. In other words, consider that the effectiveness of the discussion is impaired when there are too many people around the table. Larger boards of directors are not always the best source of constructive challenge or fresh ideas.

Generally common convention suggests that a board size of between seven to 10 directors is optimal for most companies. Equally important is the issue of gender balance. This issue has received a lot of attention recently, since women tend to be under-represented on boards. In Europe, in particular, this issue is pertinent, since only about 12 percent of boards have a female board member.

While public attention mostly focuses on governance for larger and listed companies, many business leaders of smaller companies understand that the fundamental principles of corporate governance such as transparency, responsibility, accountability and fairness are beneficial to all companies, regardless of listing status or size.

Corporate governance is crucial for increasing an SME’s ability to attract funding from both direct investment and credit institutions. Good governance is particularly important to shareholders of unlisted SMEs. In most cases, these shareholders are less protected by regulators, have limited ability to sell their shares, and are dependent on controlling shareholders. Accordingly, the higher risk implicit in owning a stake in an unlisted company increases the demand for a good governance framework.

Positive corporate governance changes have the impact of improving access to investment, allowing the company’s to access facilities of equity and debt. There has also been the additional impact of helping the company position itself for an eventual exit, trade sale or IPO, as the changes help send a signal to the market about the company’s emphasis on good governance.

Corporate management is the general process of making decisions within a company. Corporate governance is the set of rules and practices that ensure that a corporation is serving all of its stakeholders. According to the Center for International Private Enterprise, “Successful development efforts demand a holistic approach, in which various programs and strategies are recognized for their important contributions to progress and prosperity. In this regard, linkages between corporate governance and development are crucial… Yet, corporate governance and development are strongly related. Just as good corporate governance contributes to the sustainable development prospects of countries, increased economic sustainability of nations and institutional reforms that come with it provide the necessary basis for improved governance in the public and private sector.

Alternatively, corporate governance failures can undermine development efforts by misallocating much needed capital and resources and developmental fall backs can reinforce weak governance in the private sector and undermine job and wealth creation.” Globalization of finance and trade has supported the widespread adherence to common underlying corporate governance principles. They are not always country-specific and have been applied in various and diverse emerging markets, adjusted for local regulations and business traditions.

Building a strong board of directors never seems to get easier. High-profile board failures, the boom in activist investing, and the disruptive forces of technology are only a few of the reasons effective board governance is becoming more important.

Start with oversight, a role of the board that, most directors would agree, is no longer its sole function. Directors are now required to engage more deeply on strategy, digital, M&A, risk, talent, IT, and even marketing. Factor in complexities relating to board composition, culture, and time spent not to mention social, ethical, and environmental responsibilities and the degree of difficulty is set to continue to rise.

Mark and I stipulated a few points to help CEO’s and board chairs, as well as executives and directors, build stronger boards, this guide synthesizes multiple areas to make quick sense of complex issues in corporate governance, while focusing on the areas that are essential for building a better board and ultimately a better company.

Corporate Management Development
Corporate management has changed over time as managers have acquired better tools for understanding the problems they face. Most corporate managers are able to quantify many of the issues they consider, in order to make the correct decision. Managers factor in costs, benefits and the uncertainty of projects they are considering.
A good corporate manager is someone who can perform sustainable functions within the company they work for, while either maximizing revenue or minimising cost, depending on the department. Since the principles of corporate management are so broad, there are often specific disciplines for different parts of a company. The way a sales team is managed differs from the way the accounting department is managed.

History of Corporate Governance
Corporate governance is a newer subject of study. In the past, many companies were run solely for the benefit of their managers or founders. A company might have outside shareholders, business partners and thousands of employees, but under older ideas of corporate governance, the company would pursue only the goals of their managers. Managers might choose to provide poor benefits for employees, knowing that these employees couldn’t find better opportunities. Managers might also pay themselves excessive salaries without paying attention to community standards with respect to such practices.

Rise of Corporate Governance
In recent years, many companies have become more conscious of the need for good corporate governance. As regulations have tightened, it has become more difficult for companies to exploit workers or harm the environment. In addition, changes in financial markets have made it harder for companies to harm their shareholders. A mismanaged company becomes vulnerable to being purchased by another firm, so managers tend to treat their shareholders better. An increased focus on sustainability as a business practice, not just an ethical position, has also affected corporate governance.

Measuring Corporate Management Success
Corporate management’s success can generally be measured in terms of numbers. If the department in question is meant to create a profit (for example, if the entity being measured is a retail store or a factory), a quantity like profit margin or return on investment can demonstrate that it is achieving its goals. For departments that don’t have such responsibility (like a shipping department, or an accounting group), many managers measure their results in terms of cost. If a department can accomplish the same functions and spend less money, then by this measure, it’s a success.

Integrating Corporate Management and Governance
In recent years, many management thinkers have tried to synthesize corporate management and corporate governance into a single discipline. Since corporate governance is meant to equitably distribute the results of good corporate management, they fit together naturally: the best situation for a company to be in is for it to have good governance and good management. Combining these can take a variety of forms, from giving workers representation in company management to pursuing more efficient manufacturing processes in order to cut costs and help the environment. The most effective companies combine these practices in a mutually reinforcing way.

Finally, we discussed one more topic that is very typical that is trust – trust is generally lacking when board members begin to develop back channels to line managers within the company. This can occur because the CEO hasn’t provided sufficient, timely information, but it can also happen because board members are excessively political and are pursuing agendas they don’t necessarily want the CEO to know about. If a board is healthy, the CEO provides sufficient information on time and trusts the board not to meddle in day-to-day operations. He or she also gives board members free access to people who can answer their questions, obviating the need for back channels.

Another common point of breakdown occurs when political factions develop on the board. Sometimes this happens because the CEO sees the board as an obstacle to be managed and encourages factions to develop, then plays them against one another. We used the example of Pan Am founder Juan Trippe who was famous for doing this. As early as 1939, the board forced him out of the CEO role, but he found ways to sufficiently terrorize the senior managers at the company and one group of board members that he was returned to office. When he was fired again following huge cost overruns on the Boeing 747 the company underwrote, he coerced the directors into naming a successor who was terminally ill.

Most CEOs aren’t as manipulative as Trippe, and in fact, they’re often frustrated by divisive, seemingly intractable cliques that develop on boards. Failing to neutralize such factions can be fatal. Several members of Jim Robinson’s American Express board were willing to provide the advice, support, and linkage he needed — but the board was also riddled with complex political agendas. Eventually the visionary CEO was pushed out during a business downturn by a former chairman who wanted to reclaim the throne and a former top executive of another company who many felt simply missed the limelight.

The CEO, the chairman, and other board members can take steps to create a climate of respect, trust, and candor. First and most important, CEOs can build trust by distributing reports on time and sharing difficult information openly. In addition, they can break down factions by splitting up political allies when assigning members to activities such as site visits, external meetings, and research projects. It’s also useful to poll individual board members occasionally: an anonymous survey can uncover whether factions are forming or if members are uncomfortable with an autocratic CEO or chairman. Other revelations may include board members’ distrust of outside auditors, internal company reports, or management’s competence. These polls can be administered by outside consultants, the lead director, or professional staff from the company.

The Rt Hon David Blunkett, Home Secretary, London made a great statement once, when he said;

“Business continuity and planning is just as important for small companies as it is for large corporations. Plans need to be simple but effective, comprehensive but tailored to the needs of the organisation. Employers have a responsibility to their staff for their safety and security, and we all share the desire to ensure that any disaster or incident – whether natural or otherwise – has a minimal effect on the economic well-being of the country.”

The Values of Human 2 Human Spirit and Tea!

Recently I wrote a blog called “Let’s have some tea and continue to talk about happy things!” this blog stimulated much discussion with my business partner, Mark Herbert, in the US and then I informed Mark I had purchased a Chinese tea set to practice the tea ritual.

Mark’s view on tea was fascinating, he said ‘many friends, including the present company, know a lot about western afternoon tea etiquette, yet, few of them are acquainted with China and Eastern culture.

As is well-known, China is a country with a time-honored civilization and a land of ceremony and decorum. In China, tea is always served when guests come to visit. As an important medium of etiquette, tea plays a significant role in Chinese interpersonal relationships. Knowing the tea etiquette, being polite and showing respect when drinking tea in Chinese tea house can not only reflect your good self-cultivation, but also bring you the pleasantness and peacefulness from tea.

Nowadays, few people know the seating etiquette in traditional Chinese teahouse. Conventionally, the host’s left hand side should be the first guest of honour, the importance of the seats are in descending order from the host’s left hand to the right. It is the iron law to follow regardless of the table shapes. Besides, the old and teachers are most revered to take the first ranked seat, among them ladies have the priority when age differences are small. In addition, it would be inappropriate to sit opposite to the host. If it is inevitable, children should be allowed to take this seat.

It is the first time that the guests express appreciation to the host when they’re invited to taste the first steep, it is one of the most important etiquette in traditional tea ceremony. The formal and standard gesture is to stand up, men hold fists(left over right), women put palms together, make a bow, sit down, and take over the tea cups, smell the tea’s aroma first, then take a sip and savor the tea.

Finger Kowtow, otherwise known as finger tapping, is a ritual performed as a silent gratitude to the person serving the tea. According to legend, Emperor Qianlong of Qing Dynasty used to travel incognito to the south and once he went into a teahouse with his companions. The tea house owner used a long pot and poured the water three ups and downs with rhythm to make a cup of tea without even spilling a drop. Emperor Qianlong was impressed yet didn’t understand, “What was that movement?”, he asked. The owner smiled and said: “ This is the tradition of our tea house called ‘ Three Nods of the Phoenix’”. Heard that, Emperor Qianlong took over the long pot and tried to do the same, but that cup was his servant’s, normally the servant would get down on knees and kowtow to the emperor for this great honor.
However, to do so would reveal the identity of the emperor, so the quick-thinking servant bent his two fingers and tapped on the table as if he was kneeing and kowtowing to the emperor. From then on, finger kowtow has been the practice. Nowadays, instead of the implication of kowtow, people just tap their two fingers on the table to pay silent thanks to the tea server.

The tea ceremony may seem complicated after seeing that so many tools are required and sometimes some optional ones are also used. The traditional tea ceremony isn’t at all complicated and the steps to complete it are actually logical and simple. A nicely organized tea ceremony has a duration of 20 to 25 minutes. The traditional Chinese tea ceremony features the following steps.

1. The first stage of the ceremony is completed after warming the teapot and heating the cups. To easily achieve this, the performer of the ceremony needs to heat the water in a kettle and then place the teapot in the hot water together with the cups. After a few minutes the tea pot and the cups must be removed from the warm water.

2. The second stage of the tea ceremony includes appreciating the tea. During this step, the tea is passed around for participants to examine and admire its appearance, aroma and quality.

3. The third stage of the tea ceremony includes the actual preparing of the tea. The amount of tea and water will vary depending on the type of tea, its quality, and the size of the teapot but generally one teaspoon of tea leaves for every three quarters of a cup of water will suffice.

4. The next step includes placing the teapot into the bowl, raising the kettle at shoulder height and pouring the water into the teapot until it overflows. After pouring the water,the performer scoops away bubbles and tea leaves and put the lid on the teapot.

5. What the performer does next is to pour all the tea into the tea pitcher and fill the tea snifters. Then, he or she begins placing the tea cups upside down on top of the snifter cups, a ritual act said to bring prosperity and happiness. After which the performer grabs the cups and flips them so the snifter is inverted into the tea cup while removing the snifter to release the tea into the tea cups. The tea isn’t drank, but poured into the bowl.

6. The following step is the actual steeping of the tea which can vary depending on the tea leaves, their quality and the size of the tea leaves. Usually for the oolong tea which in general is used for this kind of ceremony the steeping time starts from 30 seconds up to maximum of 10 minutes. After the tea steeps, the host pours the beverage from the teapot into the tea pitcher. Using the tea pitcher, the tea is poured into snifters and then transferred to the tea cups.

7. The final step is the actual tea drinking. Good etiquette dictates that tea drinkers cradle the cup with both hands and enjoy the tea’s aroma before taking a sip. The cup should be drunk in three sips. The first sip needs to be a small sip, the second sip is the largest, main sip, and the third sip is meant to enjoy the aftertaste and empty the cup. After everyone has finished the first round of tea, an unlimited number of subsequent rounds of tea can be made. The best part is that oolong tea leaves can be reused up to five times in a row.

Gongfu Cha (tea skills). The proper way to serve tea, demonstrated with oolong tea.

Apart from practicing this fascinating ritual at home, the whole process triggered and stimulated many subjects around why we do not spend more time with loved ones, family and friends in gratitude. I am not suggesting that we all purchase a Chinese tea set, but it certainly embraces; honour, respect, laughter, gratitude and love for time well spent in the right company.

People of all ages are trying to learn and understand the etiquette of social media, as a fast growing platform in our society there is no one there to tell everyone the right way to behave. New things go viral every day, and the trending lists on the various social media platforms perpetuate them. Some of these things are promoting positive change, while others are attacking people or companies around the world. The big question is how is our ability to empathize is effected by social media. While I believe that social media can do amazing things in fighting a common cause or connecting us with people around the world, I believe that it can also cause a lapse in empathy.

Individual values reflect how you show up in your life and your specific needs-the principles you live by and what you consider important for your self-interest. Individual values include: enthusiasm, creativity, humility and personal fulfilment.

Our values are important because they help us to grow and develop. They help us to create the future we want and to experience true life.

Every individual and every organisation is involved in making hundreds of decisions every day. The decisions we make are a reflection of our values and beliefs, and they are always directed towards a specific purpose. That purpose is the satisfaction of our individual or collective (organisational) needs.

Relationship values:
reflect how you relate to other people in your life, be they friends, family or colleagues in your organisation. Relationship values include: openness, trust, generosity and caring.

Organisational values:
reflect how your organisation shows up and operates in the world. Organisational values include: financial growth, teamwork, productivity and strategic alliances.

Societal values:
reflect how you or your organisation relates to society. Societal values include: future generations, environmental awareness, ecology and sustainability.

Like organisations and the innovations they produce, the workforce has undergone significant change over the last 15 years. It shows every sign of continuing to evolve at this accelerated pace. Emerging developments are shifting stakeholder expectations, leaving industry leaders struggling to steer their organizations. Power is shifting from traditional executive positions to the workforce and customers with a proliferation of new ways to gather and disseminate information and collaborate on strategic tasks. As that shift happens, the gap between operations, workforce desires, customer expectations, and governing policies is widening.

Translating what makes environments like WeWork or relationships like Veterati so innovative in the prosumer-based model are they provide opportunities for organic and cross-functional work to occur. As we look at organizations of the future and how each member of this ecosystem will function together, leaders need to first understand the demands and then figure out how to meet their workforce where they are. That might mean rethinking how to use existing tools and channels to harness the full capacity of their resources. Humans are the most fundamental of those resources. As opportunities for daily H2H engagement decrease, the value of these interactions goes up.

Consider new mentorship models that can be harnessed for broader scale application and are not dependent on physical presence. Think outside of the traditional profile of a member of the workforce. AI and other machine-learning capabilities show promise for helping to equip managers with new mechanisms for efficiencies and more time to engage their workforce when the opportunity arises.

The capacity for success in a massively shifting work environment may be as simple as making sure that your human workforce feels personally connected to the group. Even as you pull down the walls around your operations, spend the time to listen and communicate shared purpose.

Bernard Beckett once said:

“Human spirit is the ability to face the uncertainty of the future with curiosity and optimism. It is the belief that problems can be solved, differences resolved. It is a type of confidence. And it is fragile. It can be blackened by fear and superstition.”

The challenges of leadership and digital disruption

The pace of digital disruption has left 50 per cent of businesses and public sector organisations fearful or worried that their organisations will not be able to keep up with what is still to come over the next five years.

As technology continues to transform business models, a new breed of corporate leader is emerging who is digitally-savvy and assiduously curious. Rather than fearing change and obsessively trying to retain control, the most accomplished CEOs accept that for an organisation to compete globally and attract and retain the best talent, they must be highly collaborative, operationally focused and ruthlessly strategic.

It is not enough for businesses to simply be aware of digital advance they must interpret what these could mean for them and how they might benefit. Senior executives of large incumbent organisations have many legitimate concerns and questions about the opportunity that digital presents.

Whether due to unclear monetisation models, baffling market valuations, inflexible IT systems or never-ending jargon and predictions, digital can certainly seem disruptive, and not always in a positive sense.

Despite a sea of uncertainty, it is becoming evident that organisations that successfully leverage digital technologies for new growth operate with a different set of rules and capabilities, and see a greater return also.

Below is a list of seven critical management concerns:

1. Sense and interpret disruption
Merely sensing change is not enough. The trick is to interpret what these changes mean to the business and, more importantly, when they will have an impact.
If business leaders are unable to interpret these change signals, they are no better placed than those who did not see change coming. Research shows that half of business leaders expect competitors to change at least some part of their business model.
The key question is: What will these new business models be, and when will they become relevant?

2. Experiment to develop and launch new ideas more quickly
Ask most entrepreneurs about how they innovate and they may look nonplussed. Most digital disrupters do not see themselves as “innovating”, per se.
In their minds, they are solving specific customer problems the best way they know how. As such, innovation is a consequence, not a goal.
Solving customer problems requires two actions: experimenting more and learning to self-disrupt. Digital technologies enable a new way of experimenting at almost an unlimited scale.

3. Fully understand and leverage data
Businesses hold almost unimaginable amounts of data, and are grappling with how to use it to develop new products and services that bring new value to their customers.
Mastering the art of exploiting data, not only by turning it into useful information, but also by finding new ways to monetise it, will be fundamental to how businesses run in the future.

4. Build and maintain a high digital quotient team
While IQ and EQ measure intellectual and emotional intelligence respectively, the time is ripe for “DQ” ‒ a measure of the digital quotient (or digital savviness) of organisations. As companies evolve their digital capabilities, they need to measure and rapidly build their teams’ DQ ‒ not least among their senior members.
Some organisations are pursuing a strategy of “acqu-hiring” ‒ buying the right skills through acquisitions of technology start-ups, or by establishing formal relationships with the start-up community.

5. Partner and invest for all non-core activities
One of the characteristics of effective digital leaders is their intuitive understanding that the journey is not one to be undertaken alone. A recent report that I read indicated that companies will be increasing their partnerships and alliances as they attempt to boost digital growth in the next three years.
Whether looking for new application programming interfaces (APIs), corporate development or business development partners, aligning with an ecosystem of partners is critical to digital progress.
The more they invest in others, the more organisations extend the team that is as vested in their success as they are.

6. Organise for speed
Two elements are essential for businesses to be organised for speed: according to “digital leader” aspirants, the first is CEO-level support and the presence of a dedicated central team to drive new digital growth.
The second is a team of “fixers” ‒ those at the centre of operations who are independent, respected and can draw on the right skills at the right time.
Many organisations are establishing the role of chief digital officer (CDO) ‒ a sound choice when that person also has the power to drive change and has responsibilities that are distinct from the chief information officer (CIO), chief risk officer (CRO) and chief marketing officer (CMO).
New structures are emerging to help organisations respond more quickly to digital change. Banks have partnered with accelerators that help bring new ideas, while many retailers have set up venture funds to access disrupters.
Other companies have acquired digital teams to enhance their internal capabilities, often funding entrepreneurs who know little about their industry to create a start-up that could seriously hurt their respective businesses.
This counterintuitive process can reveal some implicit industry assumptions that are holding back the business.

7. Design a delightful customer experience
Customers’ primary motivation for repeat business is the quality of their experience. Digital technologies have reset expectations here.
Today, a banking customer using a mobile banking app does not compare it with apps from other banks, but against their best mobile user experiences for usability or functionality, whatever the industry.
It’s important that organisations put the customer at the heart of their business and stand in their shoes when designing beautiful customer experiences.

Digital technology has already broken down the old, familiar business models but the effect it will have on the future of organisations’ operations as it evolves remains significant and unknown. So, CEO’s and business leaders are rightly concerned about keeping up with speed and objectives.

Embrace the change, or get left behind
While executives do not necessarily need to be literate in coding, it is imperative that they understand the role that digital technology plays in a modern organisation, especially if they are to realise the benefits of optimised productivity, efficiency and responsiveness to customers. In fact, nine out of 10 senior decision makers say digital technology is essential to a business’s future success.

Meeting customer expectations before someone else does
Delivering good customer service has become more challenging due to an overwhelming consensus that digital, and a hyper-connected society, has changed customers’ expectations. Business must adapt the way they do things to keep up.

Business to business organisations that may not have originally seen these consumer-focused demands as relevant to them are also feeling the pull, increasingly citing digital media as being very important from the perspective of recruiting talent, engaging colleagues and disseminating and sharing information across teams. As a modern day leader it’s critical to understand not only what technology exists, but how to utilise it to satisfy consumers’ and employees’ ever increasing expectations to drive a competitive advantage.

A modern workforce is a collaborative workforce
With the increase in the use of digital tools for working, boundaries are blurring and businesses are becoming more agile. To enable collaborative working, CEOs are turning to their CIOs, CROs and CDOs to make use of technology to achieve this.

By taking a more collaborative approach with all leaders in the business, digital can be used to transform business processes. By reaching out to the wider team, the CEO can unearth processes and areas of the business that could become more efficient and effective through digital technology, such as customer service and workflow management.

Digital is an enabler, not a disrupter
Having acknowledged that digital technology will play a central role in future success, business leaders cannot afford to show fear of, or reluctance to implement it. Instead they must lead by example, embracing technology with a clear view of the potential advantages to be unlocked.

Using technology to meet the rising expectations from the consumer is a must in today’s marketplace. Business leaders need to first understand what customers expect and then make best use of the available technology to meet their customers’ needs.

By embracing technology and using it in an innovative way, business leaders will be better positioned to maintain a competitive advantage by driving innovation, productivity and efficiency throughout the business.

Finally, when leaders move toward improving their observable behaviors, they have the extraordinary ability to positively influence employees to willingly become engaged. That’s a powerful investment that pays dividends not only in developing good people, but by directly affecting the organisation’s bottom line.

My conclusion is that leadership in today’s world is a balanced mix of universal characteristics and digital leadership traits which has the potential to guide us through years of transformation with optimism and idealism. Technology continues to prove that it can be used for the benefit of mankind, but only if we set sail on the right course and with smart individuals that make our journey, progress, and performance so much worthwhile.

As Robin S. Sharma once said:

By seizing the opportunities that disruption presents and leveraging hard times into greater success through outworking/outinnovating/outthinking and outworking everyone around you, this just might be the richest time of your life so far.

Challenges in best practices and governance within education

I had a very interesting and heated debate recently with a friend discussing education, edu-tech, best practices, governance, and the student/teacher relationship in education.

My good friend stated that “Best practices” is the worst practice. The idea that we should examine successful organisations and then imitate what they do if we also want to be successful is something that first took hold in the business world, but has now unfortunately spread to the field of education. If imitation were the path to excellence, art museums would be filled with paint-by-number works.

The fundamental flaw of a “best practices”-approach, as any student in a half-decent research-design course would know, is that it suffers from what is called “selection on the dependent variable.” If you only look at successful organisations, then you have no variation in the dependent variable: they all have good outcomes. When you look at the things that successful organizations are doing, you have no idea whether each one of those things caused the good outcomes, had no effect on success, or was actually an impediment that held organisations back from being even more successful. An appropriate research design would have variation in the dependent variable; some have good outcomes and some have bad ones. To identify factors that contribute to good outcomes, you would, at a minimum, want to see those factors more likely to be present where there was success and less so where there was not.

We discussed the subject for hours – with the thoughts in mind, I thought I would provide my observations from education in the UK to the problems and then to globalisation and best practices.

Students up and down the country are anxiously discovering their education results. For the majority, their future depends on the grades they achieve – their place at university, or possibly their first full-time job.

The fact is, every student needs a teacher or coach, every person in life needs a mentor:

Until recently, many teachers only got one word of feedback a year: “satisfactory.” And with no feedback, no coaching, there’s just no way to improve. Bill Gates suggests that even great teachers can get better with smart feedback – and lays out a program from his foundation to bring it to every classroom.
Some would have you believe students’ success depends solely on their individual grit, determination, and raw talent. Of course, these are important, but they don’t make up the whole picture. A student’s success also depends on things completely outside of their control: whether they have had to work to support their studies, whether they have had a quiet space to study alone, or how well-funded their college was.

Successive governments have neglected and underfunded these young people, and many of those receiving their results have witnessed this neglect first-hand. A friend of mine, at college in Hillsborough in Sheffield, was only taught for the first half of each lesson. For the second half, a teaching assistant would supervise silent study.

Education is a seamless web. Difficulties caused by a poor start in life cannot always be fully compensated for later on, and every stage of a person’s education will affect the next. Our education system today is more rigid than it used to be. It fails countless people for whom a good college course or university degree is just not possible in their late teens. The students who must care for relatives, or who must work to support their hard-up family while their friends and peers study hard, lose out severely under the current system. Funding for adult skills has been cut by 35 per cent over the past seven years, and the number of mature and part-time students has plummeted dramatically over the past ten.

Before students even receive their results, in fact, before they even start school, some already know they’re at a disadvantage. New research shows there is a widening gap between elite state schools in the south-east and schools in the rest of the country, while figures also show the gap between state and private schools sending students to university has widened since tuition fees were tripled.

Then consider those students who, after receiving their results, will be heading off to university. With the Government’s recent removal of maintenance grants, and their plan to raise fees above £9,000, student debt is soaring: those starting in September will graduate with around £50,000 of debt, maybe more.

Sky-high tuition fees and the rising cost of living have been blamed for “overwhelming” stress levels felt by the majority of students, with one in seven admitting they have been chased by debt collectors as a result of missing rent payments.

A survey commissioned by financial technology company Intelligent Environments found three-quarters of students who receive maintenance loans feel stressed about the amount of debt they accumulate while studying, with over a third (39 per cent) saying they cannot afford their weekly food shop.

Disadvantaged teenagers four times less likely to apply for university

Over a quarter of students admitted to missing rent payments, with three in five polled (58 per cent) running out of money completely before their next payment is due.

Students who experience financial difficulties and worry about debt have a higher chance of suffering from depression and alcohol dependency, new research has found.

Conducted by the University of Southampton and Solent NHS Trust, the study showed symptoms of anxiety and alcoholism worsened over time for those who struggled to pay the bills, while those who were more stressed about graduate debt had higher levels of stress and depression.

Mass demonstration against Tory cuts to education was confirmed in London

The study asked more than 400 undergraduate freshers from across the UK to assess a range of financial factors, including family affluence, recent financial difficulties, and attitudes towards their finances at four time points across their first year, allowing researchers to examine which came first: financial difficulties or poor mental health.

The study also found students who had considered not going to university or had considered abandoning their studies for financial reasons had a greater deterioration in mental health over time.

As a result of globalisation, many people are becoming interested in ranking systems which show how their own countries compare with others on a variety of measures. The World Economic Forum publishes an annual ranking of countries on economic competitiveness; the United Nations a ranking on human development; the OECD publishes comparisons on the quality of healthcare systems. Even a ranking for happiness can be found.

My belief is that change is needed to develop education and to introduce better understanding to practices:

A truly international approach to ranking countries on education should take cultural differences into account before benchmarking and characteristics of good school systems and good teachers.

We can and should learn from each other. But we should also understand that to make a Best practice, work requires translation to a different culture / value system.

The same applies to the discussion on the autonomy of schools. In high power distance countries (by far the majority of countries in the world) Autonomy will only be possible in a
clearly defined and limited mandate that is given by the central power holders. It shold be defined top down.

As Nelson Mandela once said:

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Predictions for the start of 2018!

2017 was definitely one interesting year, and as the Chinese say: ‘We live in interesting times’.

‘2018 will be a year of political turmoil and environmental crisis caused by dramatic and unprecedented weather’, says Craig Hamilton-Parker in a recent blog post.

A man who successfully predicted the unlikely victory of Donald Trump and the UK’s vote to leave the European Union has come up with a new round of prophecies for 2018.

Craig Hamilton-Parker has prophesied there will be a terrorist attack on a British motorway, revolution in North Korea which overthrows Kim Jong-Un’s regime, and a chemical weapons attack by drones on a European city.

On a less morbid note, Mr Parker also predicted Prince Harry would become engaged to Meghan Markle.

Christmas holiday’s are always a period for introspection and once my dreaded cold had calmed down, I started to reflect on some of the most influential push buttons of business and ‘leadership with technology and operating in the new business world came to mind’.

2017 has come to a close and businesses are preparing to enter 2018 with an instant bang.

What do entrepreneurs really expect heading into the new year?

A shift in IT spending: “A significant number of enterprises will begin to invest in a dedicated security operations center as part of the shift away from prevention towards detection and response … Hybrid security offerings combining on-premise and SaaS/Cloud solutions will become the dominant architecture with customers beginning to integrate these offerings starting in 2018.” – Prakash Nagpal, vice president of Infoblox.

The Cloud will fragment into microservices: “In 2018, technology companies are going to ditch the buzzword ‘cloud’ in favor of the next big trend in IT – ‘microservices’. This is where companies will increasingly look to scale by essentially breaking up their IT and thinking smaller and using more SDN and NFV type approaches. Enterprises should also take note fast – moving to smaller applications makes it much easier to scale and decreases risk, while increasing efficiencies.” – Craig Walker, CEO of business communication platform Dialpad

The rise of the sharing economy: “Digitization and the sharing economy will disrupt more industries. Already, retail (Amazon), automotive (Uber and Zipcar), and the server market (Google, Amazon) have been disrupted – and we have had two years without another major industry being disrupted. Given this, financial services and healthcare are ripe for disruption.” – Prakash Nagpal

Banking models will begin a radical shift: “Millennials want to bank wherever they want and whenever they want, which does not align with the traditional banking model. It’s predicted that digital banking will grow to more than 2 billion users by 2020. As a result of this shift, the traditional brick-and-mortar banking solution will be replaced with a technology first-mindset. In essence, your wallet will be your phone.” – Dave Mitchell, president of NYMBUS

Speed is key in modern banking: “The banking channel will strive for speed. Lending, banking services, statement processing and other banking channel players are scrambling to get online and get faster. We expect the scramble to continue as the industry seeks to eliminate middle men – like brokers – and better serve their customers.” – Vernon Tirey, co-founder and CEO of LeaseQ

Mobile banking means more mobile cyberattacks: “All are experiencing a big increase in attacks on their mobile banking and transactions. Expect that to continue. Approximately 80 percent of financial institutions’ customers are doing online banking, 50% are on mobile and that’s growing. More customers equals more opportunity for attacks.” – John Gunn, CMO of VASCO Data Security

Machine learning and Blockchain will grow more prominent: “Two of the most interesting IoT developments to emerge in 2017, with the most potential for innovation, were blockchain and machine learning. They likely won’t go straight to market in the new year – we’ll likely see more proofs of concept instead – but, we have seen some fascinating PoCs already.” – Mike Bell, EVP IoT & Devices at Canonical

Machine learning will become more responsive in customer service: “Machine learning will play a bigger role in sales and customer support in 2018. Lower costs and increased availability of speech analytics tools mean more businesses will record and monitor calls within their contact centers. Instead of simply guiding callers through prompts, speech analytics will help to categorize them and analyze responses in terms of what you say and how you say it. Insights like these will be used to guide agents, in real time, to get the best results from each interaction.” – Chad Hart, head of strategic products at Voxbone

AI implementation will help business capitalize on large troves of data: “Although discussions on the topic of data may not be new, until now most business have been focused on forming teams and building data pipelines, but the data itself has not produced much disruption. With the right people and tools in place, companies can now focus on using data to drive growth. Companies will look to incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) to gain a competitive edge.” – Jennifer Shin, founder and chief data scientist of 8 Path Solutions

IoT cyberattacks will become more common: “There will be an increase of random IoT hacks and attacks because the tools are easy to find and use, and also because of all the unsecured IoT devices – Gartner says there are 8 billion connected things in 2017 and expects 20 billion connected devices by 2020. Anyone can go onto the dark web and start using available malware code, not to mention the readily available services such as hacking, malware- and ransomware-as-a-service, which can all be hired for next to nothing. It’s very easy these days for someone with little knowledge to launch a sophisticated attack, and there’s clear financial incentive – in the last three years, business email compromise alone made $5.3 billion.” – Christian Vezine, CISO at VASCO Data Security

IoT devices will become more secure: “Expect to see at least 2 or 3 large-scale, botnet-style attacks on IoT-related hardware in 2018. To remedy this, the industrial space may pick up a trend from the consumer space, where device updates are downloaded automatically, and give the user little say in the process.” – Mike Bell

Industry will employ more low power wide area networking (LPWAN): “LPWAN technology can be unwired and run for a long time, with minimal power consumption. Its potential applications include heartbeat communications and predictive maintenance for industrial equipment like basement boilers, which can be otherwise difficult to reach … LPWAN provides better penetration and range in hard-to-reach areas, which opens the door for groundbreaking new industrial equipment use cases.” – Mike Bell

Economies are growing. Stock markets are climbing. Employment is healthy. These are all positive signs of the marketplace as a whole.
But the fate of individual companies has never been more uncertain, and the window of opportunity is closing for many companies unprepared or unable to adapt to new market realities.

Many factors are combining to define the fate of companies: Unmet customer expectations are resulting in churn; the lack of digital transformation gains is translating to loss of market share; industry lines that protected some are crumbling; and longstanding, durable business models are failing.

For some, it feels like a burning platform mandating bold action; for others, it will be the quiet but real deterioration of their business.
Customers demand what they demand. And when companies fail to deliver experience by experience or live up to their brand promise, customers will take flight.

Evolving customer expectations will challenge everybody — leaders, followers, and laggards. The across-the-board plateauing of CX (Customer Experience) quality reminds us that customers continuously re-evaluate experiences and reassess loyalties.

Leaders will adapt and, ultimately, thrive. Those slow to change will struggle. And the distance between the two will grow.

2018 will be a year of reckoning for those that have held on too long or tried to bootstrap their way through transforming their business.

Simply put, the distance between customer expectations and the reality on the ground is becoming so great that a slow and gradual transition is no longer possible. Incrementalism may feel good, but it masks the quiet deterioration of the business.

Whether CEOs in these companies start to use their balance sheet wisely, find new leaders, develop aggressive turnaround plans, or do all of the above, they and their leadership teams must aggressively get on track to preserve market share and market standing.

Finally, leaving you with a new year quote and thought by Melody Beattie:

“The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.”

A True Christmas and New Year Message

May peace fill all the empty spaces around you, your family and your friends and your colleagues at this special time of year, and in you, may contentment answer all your wishes.

Raise a toast to yesterday’s achievements and tomorrow’s brighter future.

May comfort be yours, warm and soft like a sigh.

And may the coming year show you that every day is really a first day and a new year.

Let abundance be your constant companion, so that you have much to share.

May mirth be near you always, like a lamp shining brightly on the many paths you travel.

Work with the best of your abilities in 2018 and show to the world your power to create wonderful and superior things.

New Year 2018 may turn out to be a year when you are put on the road to everlasting success and prosperity.

Be the change that you wish to see at your workplace and take initiatives to make things better.

Wish your tomorrow is more prosperous, happy and successful than yesterday and today.

Looking forward to another year with hunger and passion to exceed at work and you are sure to meet with success.

Let new beginnings signify new chapter filled with pages of success and happiness, written by the ink of hard work and intelligence.

May the New Year bring us more wonderful opportunities for success.

Here’s wishing you the gift of peace and prosperity throughout 2018.

Why do we read or even have horoscopes?

Every day, every week, every month and even every year millions of people inspect their horoscope for news about their life and whether their life is about to unfold and change. We have all seen words like; ‘your zodiac sign influences your future, discover your horoscope 2018 here’. ‘Select your zodiac sign and obtain your free horoscope prediction for 2018!’. The signs of the zodiac have existed for hundreds of thousands of years. They are ancient signs that people have looked to for guidance, but exactly how truthful is the information, and can it be relied upon?

Evidence from Nicholas Campions’ book, “Astrology and Popular Religion in the Modern West”, suggests that over 90% of adults know their sun (zodiac) signs. Some surveys also indicate that well over half agree that the signs’ character descriptions are a good fit: Ariens are energetic, Taureans stubborn, and Scorpios secretive, for example.

The zodiac signs consist of 12 astrological signs, each based on a single month of the year. The 12 zodiac signs are: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces. The ruling planets are one of the following: Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn. There are those who dismiss astrology as false, but the truth is that the signs of the zodiac do have some value to them.

Have you ever wondered why the zodiac has never been dismissed as pseudo-science?

There’s a reason for this and it’s because there’s no way to actually dismiss them entirely. Humans have been using the zodiac for literally thousands of years. Through inspecting the alignment of the planets, masters of astrology have managed to comprehend certain truths of the world.

It works in the same way as the movements of the moon control the tides of the oceans of the world. For example, Mars is the planet of passion. And Jupiter is the lucky star.

Over the centuries, kings, popes, and historical figures from Benjamin Franklin to President Reagan have consulted with astrologers. They trusted that astrology could provide valuable information about the future, insightful analysis of the past and, wise counsel they could depend on as being accurate. In fact, J.P. Morgan once said, ‘Millionaires don’t use astrologers, but billionaires do!’
Two types of people are incredibly passionate about astrology: those who love it, and those who love to hate it.

Astrology sceptics scathingly dismiss the field as false and facile, and those who buy into it as stupid. Certainly it’s easy to mock the notion that the entire universe is aligning itself to tell you what kind of business start-up you should create or what romance you should seek, or whether today is a good day to start that diet.

Bill Nye, the Science Guy does so aptly in the video below:

But it seems rash to think that astrology, which has been practiced by humans for millennia, is complete fabrication. Personally, some of my best friends who enjoy astrology are among the most intelligent people I know. Perhaps they’re seeing something that the eye-rolling sceptics have missed?

Astrology’s belief that individual behavioural traits are linked to the cosmos may sound silly, but similar ideas become significantly more respectable in the mouths of more well-regarded thinkers, from Plato to Jung. And while each school of thought has very different nuances, these philosophical fields do influence each other. “Astrology draws on the main philosophical current that comes down to us from Classical Greece,” says Nicholas Campion, professor in cosmology and culture at University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

Astrology’s focus on external forces encourages people to be aware of their limitations (as determined by the planets), as well as how to respond to these limitations. Campion compares this idea to Stoic philosophers’ belief that life is determined by uncontrollable factors, such as where and to whom you’re born, but that we can choose how to respond to these circumstances. Or, as the Marxist philosopher Friedrich Engels wrote, ‘Freedom is the appreciation of necessity.’ “These paradoxes are common to many other philosophies,” says Campion. “They deal with issues of whether we can be free or not.” Whether thinking about the planets or the fates of birth, it’s useful to recognize that one’s own life course is partly determined by factors outside of our control—and even more important to recognize and have empathy with others whose paths are laid (or blocked) by circumstance.

I believe that the true value of astrology is its ability to tap into the part of our minds that naturally gravitates towards things like divination and the occult. By tapping into this inner meaning, it forces the mind to think in a different way. And this alone can generate some meaningful insights.

The accuracy of a horoscope is directly dependent on the power of interpretation of an astrologer. If we consider the power of interpretation of the present astrologer (who is able to predict up to a maximum of 30% accuracy) as 1, then to get a 100 % accurate answer the power of interpretation would need to be 1000 times the present power of interpretation. The power of interpretation and intuition can only be increased by spiritual practice. In this current era 65% of our lives are destined. If we use the 35% of our free will to do spiritual practice we can overcome or be insulated from our destiny. Spiritual practice is the only way to counteract an adverse destiny..

Some people say that astrology is about helping you to understand what you already know. It’s just a matter of forcing it from deep inside you. It’s no coincidence that a variety of successful people have used astrology to further their personal lives and careers.
It’s not compatible with the scientific method. If anything, it’s the polar opposite of the scientific method, and that’s why some people are willing to dismiss it as nonsense immediately. It’s an example of a closed mind. Open your mind and you can unveil hidden insights that you’d previously never known about.

Ultimately, whether the planets really shape our personality or experiences is entirely irrelevant. Astrology is a way to impose meaning on life. “I think that unless we’re capable of making meaning, we probably can’t get out of bed in the morning,’ says Campion. ‘Making meaning is part of functioning.’

The signs of the zodiac do have some value to them. Choose the right astrology expert and you can take advantage of a horoscope that guides you through life and helps you to find new meaning in things.

What is your star sign?

Can we truly renew ourselves?

We live in a very fast paced technological world, running from one place to another and tasking ourselves from one thing after another, it is not surprising that we cannot prioritise exactly what is important in our personal and business lives. Because we get so busy doing all the things we have to do, making them all seem a lot more important than they actually are, we start to panic and live in this constant state of urgency with much anxiety. As a result, we start to accumulate a lot of stress and tension into our bodies and forget what it actually feels like to relax and enjoy life.

Every person I know is looking to redefine their life personally and/or professionally. They want to know themselves better: be happier, more successful, healthier, authentic, integrated and whole Each of us is, to some extent or other, a reflection of the 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.

When I wrote my first book, ‘Freedom after the Sharks’ I described a very difficult and emotional family life with professional setbacks. My belief through my personal journey developed the strength, determination, and skills to create a successful family, business and happy life.

There is nothing more exciting than living a life of constant self-renewal. Self-renewal is the attention you give towards ensuring that your life is forward-moving, with every step bringing you closer to who you really are. It entails stripping away the old and stale, so that you become increasingly aware of the purity of your true essence.

A wonderful quote by Rabindranath Tagore where he once said: “Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.”

Every time you renew yourself, you relate to your world with a renewed sense of aliveness, seeing beauty and colours through fresh eyes. As you experience this newness, your life-force is activated. Life, inside and outside of you, becomes enriched and inspiring.
Most people have heard the saying ‘The next big thing in your life is right around the corner.’ This is an anticipatory mind-set, one I encourage you to live with each day. Don Meyer, one of the all-time winningest college basketball coaches, once said: “Positioning, anticipation and technique create quickness. Therefore, you can always get quicker.”

It is a quote I think about often. I add to this great man’s words, by saying, when we get quicker, we get better. We become more whole. Thinking quicker, acting more on the behalf of our loved ones and ourselves we take care of family, business and find fulfilment.
Quickness manifests itself in our thoughts, as when we have quicker, sharper intellect, we act and make decisions with greater effect. Anticipation leads to excitement for living. The verve with which we carry ourselves comes from self-satisfaction of living in the moment, and a future-seeking mindset of joy, believing that things will keep getting better.

If you are feeling stuck, dull, bored, or lacking inspiration, it may be time to take steps to renew yourself.

During this period of growth and excitement, take inventory in your life. A period of renewal is a time to examine your emotions.

Here are three ways to begin this process of examination:
– Begin by thinking about all the things in your life that are holding you back. Write these down on a list. This could be things like envy of your friend or thinking negative thoughts about a loved one.
– Once you have your list, identify the key themes. In other words, what are the negative emotions that permeate your thoughts, and thus, the things you’ve written on your list? I’m willing to bet you can identify emotions like envy, anger, laziness and anxiety. These destructive emotions lead to fear. The bad kind of fear, fear of success, will always hold you back from what you want to accomplish
– Come up with a solution for all the things that hold you back. But don’t just write it down. Integrate it into your life. Start living out the solutions to the things that hold you back. A prime example of this is, if you have always doubted your ability to finish a project, like completing your work objectives or KPI’s, figure out exactly how you plan to do this. Once you know the answers, it’s so much easier to achieve the solution.

It is normal to feel stuck and uninspired from time to time. In fact, feeling stuck and uninspired is necessary for you to transition to being bigger and better. When you recognise that you have reached a point where you are stagnant in life and then do something to shake things up, you are taking an empowered step to grow to stretch yourself to actualise your highest potential. Thus, it is an opportunity to experience a new feelings of aliveness and passion… that everything is pulsating with an abundance of possibilities.

The majority of us were created with everything we need to live successfully in this world; millions of emotions, thoughts and possibilities are inside each of us. Over time that changes because we make choices about people and the world; how we’re seen and treated and what we think will truly take care of us and make us happy and successful be it money, job, relationships, owning things.

Sometimes we limit ourselves with our choices, and we go away from our true brilliance, infinite potential and purpose in life.

The good news is this: you can get back to it. Genuine happiness and success will be yours, when you make the choice to find out who you really are to know, respect and honour your rare individuality.

The greatest care and gift you can give yourself is the profound pleasure and knowledge of being able to say: ‘This is who I truly am and this is what I want in life.’

Marcus Aurelius once said:

“People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.”

Do we have limitless borders in today’s world?

Last week was particularly interesting and one could even go as far as to say disturbing, so much so I decided to write about these observations, which can only be described as ‘no limits’ and ‘no boundaries’ for others.

It is amazing what an influence we have on others, especially children. Yet, I sometimes ponder on the fact that we are reluctant today to say anything is ‘wrong’; that even using the word ‘wrong’ can be branded as being ‘negative’ or too aggressive.

We hear the expressions “no limits” and “no boundaries” presented as a philosophy of life that is positive.

Interesting research showed that nearly a third of people questioned for a report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said they had personally been a victim of yobbish behaviour, illicit behaviour or had witnessed an incident in the 12 months.

More than eight out of 10 people say anti-social behaviour has risen in England and Wales over the past 12 months, the Government’s main crime survey has revealed.

It is not uncommon to hear people experience these behaviours – what 20th Century psychiatrist Erik H. Erikson called “the problem of identity”.

Why are so many today troubled with “the problem of identity”?

There may be many reasons, but one is clearly the philosophy of ‘no limits, no boundaries’.

Could you imagine a game of football with no boundaries, no rules, no posts, no clock or no scoreboard?

How do we know ourselves? By our boundaries, our limits, by having some sort of order in our life. There are those who live by no boundaries, but this way of life often ends with a jail sentence.

It is a very good thing to stretch our limits, to raise the bar, but even those dudes on You Tube doing “parkour” don’t jump off cliffs! Well, not many of them. They realise that even parkour has its limits.

Boundaries become most significant when considering children. In a world where children can and are caught up in an emotional, physical and spiritual shipwreck if their boundaries are crumbling, it is important that firm boundaries are set to ensure that the child grows with confidence and knowledge to tackle life’s challenges.

If you’ve ever had a written contract or tenure dishonoured on you, you become a devoted fan of boundaries very quickly. Liars, despots, dictators, cult-leaders, and corruption all show that a world with uncertain boundaries and laws is anything but beautiful.
By contrast, in daily life we hope that people are reasonably faithful to who they really are. With the rapid expansion of social life in cyberspace, judging the authenticity of identity has become complicated.

In 1969, before cell phones, laptops, and smart watches, Americans were willing to believe that men walked on the moon. Now, progress toward eradicating deadly infectious diseases is threatened by a growing number of parents who have misgivings about childhood vaccines and delay or refuse vaccinations for their children (American Academy of Arts & Sciences, 2014). In a time of sophisticated video editing, anonymous posting, and computer-generated imagery, we can’t be certain if an online video is a hoax, a secure website is safe, or an email is from whom it purports to be.

We understand who we are partly in terms of our role in relationships and in terms of social comparison. As we spend more and more time in cyber-society, we should be wary of becoming dependent upon it for our sense of identity. For some people, engagement in social media has extended their sense of self to the identity they have in cyberspace. Their smart device can become an extension of their self. If a person has become so attached to their smart device that they are stressed when separated even briefly, he or she might need to re-evaluate the social priorities in their life. We are so much more than the number of likes we score on social media. Being with the ones we love brings satisfaction and fulfilment to our lives. Virtual reality should enrich and extend our relationships, not replace them.

Relationships that evolve around more eclectic interests are more complex. Socially richer, they can meet emotional needs and foster a sense of bonding and belonging. However, the same warp speed that facilitates the birth and growth of these friendships can also torpedo them when online communication reveals an unexpected negative trait, belief, or opinion. Virtual is not identical to face-to-face communication. Unlike face-to-face, online conversation lacks the contextual cues and body language, intonation, and personal feedback that can correct misunderstandings or modulate the severity of reactions or expressions. Online rants can be or appear to be less tolerant, unforgiving personal attacks or hypercritical judgment. The virtual essence of the online world creates psychological distance that diminishes the regular limits on extreme behaviour, such as public accountability, consequences, or even social-emotional feedback of facial expression and body language cues. Such distancing can result in more extreme offensive language, behaviour’s, or threats.

Unlike real life, online relationships can vaporize suddenly with an unfriending or simply an end to responding. In daily life, we can use our next encounter to apologize, explain or correct. The online world might offer no such opportunity. Moving from one such experience to another can ultimately invalidate them all, as they become devoid of substance or meaning. This might explain in part why people feel worse after spending time on social media. Research suggests that some people feel social media time was wasted or meaningless.

If an online experience has become hostile, it isn’t always easy to disconnect. Research has shown that many people become anxious or stressed when not in constant contact with their online social life. hey worry that they might be missing something important or will be left out as the online culture goes on without them. Even terminating a particular relationship online can produce anxiety, as a user cannot know what communications are taking place that they are now blind to. As the two worlds intersect, stress can result from the fear that escalating online hostility will spill over into real life.

While there are several reasons for using social networking, it appears that its main function is for increased contact with friends and family along with increased engagement in social activities. However, research has shown that young adults with a strong Facebook presence were more likely to exhibit narcissistic antisocial behavior; while excessive use of social media was found to be strongly linked to underachievement at school.

So, if you take roughly 1.2 billion Facebook users and 450 million people suffering from mental disorders, what do you get? A global pandemic that’s showing no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

A matter of contention prevalent within the media, several studies have shown that social networking – Facebook in particular – can have detrimental effects on our well-being. Researchers from the University of Michigan assessed Facebook usage over a fortnight and found that the more people that used it, the more negativity they experienced concerning their day-to-day activities; as well as over time, incurring higher levels of dissatisfaction with their life overall.

We understand who we are partly in terms of our role in relationships and in terms of social comparison. As we spend more and more time in cyber-society, we should be wary of becoming dependent upon it for our sense of identity. For some people, engagement in social media has extended their sense of self to the identity they have in cyberspace. Their smart device can become an extension of their self. If a person has become so attached to their smart device that they are stressed when separated even briefly, he or she might need to re-evaluate the social priorities in their life. We are so much more than the number of likes we score on social media. Being with the ones we love brings satisfaction and fulfilment to our lives. Virtual reality should enrich and extend our relationships, not replace them.

I great quote by B. R. Ambedkar, he once said:

“Unlike a drop of water which loses its identity when it joins the ocean, man does not lose his being in the society in which he lives. Man’s life is independent. He is born not for the development of the society alone, but for the development of his self.”