Do fables really convey the power in storytelling and education?


Recently I was discussing the positioning of brands with some friends and saying that some of the biggest and best known Fortune 500 brands still have not told their stories, the best brands in the world are companies that have the ability to continue their stories to craft and sculpture to any situation, circumstance and change, one that is totally transformative.

This provoked some very interesting discussion, then my friend, sipping on his coffee, said: “What about fables?”

Our discussion just became so much more interesting!

A fable is a short, fictional (made-up) story. It usually features animals, although fables can also include mythical creatures, inanimate objects or forces of nature.

One of the most famous fable writers of all time was the legendary Aesop – believed to have been a slave in ancient Greece. Aesop’s Fables contains many classic ones, including “The Tortoise and the Hare” and “The Lion and the Mouse”.


This is an extract from “The Tortoise and the Hare”:

One day, a hare made fun of the short feet and slow pace of the tortoise. The tortoise just laughed and said, “Even though you are as swift as the wind, I will beat you in a race.” The hare thought the tortoise was crazy, so it agreed to the race. The tortoise and the hare asked the fox to choose the course and set the finish line. On the day of the race, the two started together. The tortoise never stopped once. It simply walked with a slow but steady pace to the finish line. The hare, though, believed it would win easily. So it stopped to rest for a while and fell asleep. When the hare finally woke up, it moved as fast as it could. However, it saw the tortoise had already reached the finish line and won the race. Slow but steady wins the race!

What lesson does this fable teach? Do you see how the last line, ‘slow but steady wins the race’, sums up the moral lesson of the fable…. It means that if you keep working, you finally succeed in achieving your goal.

Lucy Cheke, a PhD student at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Experimental Psychology, expanded Aesop’s fable into three tasks of varying complexity and compared the performance of Eurasian Jays with local school children.

The task that set the children apart from the Jays involved a mechanism which was counter-intuitive as it was hidden under an opaque surface. Neither the birds nor the children were able to learn how the mechanism worked, but the children were able to learn how to get the reward, whereas the birds were not.

The results of the study illustrate that children learn about cause and effect in the physical world in a different way to birds. While the Jays appear to take account of the mechanism involved in the task, the children are more driven by simple cause-effect relationships.

Lucy Cheke said, ”This makes sense because it is children’s job to learn about new cause-and-effect relationships without being limited by ideas of what is or is not possible. The children were able to learn what to do to get the reward even if the chain-of-events was apparently impossible. Essentially, they were able to ignore the fact that it shouldn’t be happening to concentrate on the fact that it was happening. The birds however, found it much harder to learn what was happening because they were put off by the fact that it shouldn’t be happening.”

In summary, one of the reasons significant problems are not solved in organisations is that they don’t get confronted. When the stakes are high, the fear factor can be immobilising.

The fable, especially when read by many people within a group, can provide a way for them to first wrestle with issues in the form of a story, which is far less threatening, and then to apply those insights to their own situation in a natural evolution of thought.

Good fables have the incredible power of all good stories to influence behaviour over time. They can help individuals and their groups to become more agile in handling change, for example, in producing better results and, frankly, in having more fun. One of the beauties of a good story is that it can induce action from a broad range of people, in a manner quite different from most professional power’s of leadership.

Tom Peter’s, someone who I have huge admiration for, once said:

“A company brand is a mixture of tangible and intangible attributes, symbolised in a trade mark which, if properly managed, creates influence and generates value.”

Are good story tellers happier in life and business……..continued

A few months ago I wrote a post: “Are good story tellers happier in life and business“? I received an overwhelming response to it, so, with this in mind I decided to continue the subject in this weeks blog.

When we look at the constant and repetitive process of our own thinking, we see how habitually it creates a sense of self and other. The power of storytelling can access unconditioned and untarnishable space of mind; how storytelling can render the mind more pliable and alive with possibility; and the power of fairytales to move us personally.
Reflecting on this now, I see how it is a perfect example of how stories call to stories. While listening to a story, a child experiences all the emotions that are present: whether it is fear, determination, courage, kindness, or gratitude. Usually, storytelling is the domain of the adult; the teacher, librarian, or parent. Making space for children to tell their own stories acknowledges the value of their experience, while also reinforcing their sense of themselves as able to care for others.

Mindfulness sets the stage for this kind of reciprocal sharing, in which the positive values of friendship are powerfully reinforced, first through the images of the folktale, and then through the children’s association of their own life experience with the events of the story they’ve just heard.
We maintain our world with our inner dialogue. A woman or man of knowledge is aware that the world will change completely as soon as they stop talking to themselves.
When mindfulness is focused on the process of thinking, an entirely different dimension of existence becomes visible. We see how our ridiculous, repetitive thought stream continually constructs our limited sense of self, through judgments, defenses, ambitions, and compensations. Unexamined, we believe them. But if someone were to follow us close by and repeatedly whisper to us our own thoughts, we would quickly become bored with their words. If they continued, we would be dismayed by their constant criticisms and fears, then angry that they wouldn’t ever shut up.Finally we might simply conclude that they were crazy. We do this to ourselves!

Stories have value. As an author, I have come to respect their evocative power, I share many stories and quotations daily. But even these stories are like fingers pointing to the moon. At best, they replace a deluded cultural narrative or a misleading tale with a tale of compassion. They touch us and lead us back to the mystery here and now.
Perhaps the most interesting intersection in the business world is between mindfulness and technology, as they appear to pull in opposite directions. The practice is all about slowing down and emptying the mind, while the digital revolution is speeding up our lives and filling our heads with vast quantities of information.

Thich Nhat Hanh is a famous Buddist monk whose core message to the tech leaders was to use their global influence to focus on how they can contribute to making the world a better place, rather than on making as much money as possible.
He and a group of monastics spent a day at Google’s headquarters, spending time with the senior management as well as leading around 700 employees through mindfulness discussions and sitting and walking meditation. So many staff wanted to take part that the company had to open up two additional locations to live stream his lecture.

Thay speaks of the sharp contrast between the normal frenetic pace of work at the technology giant and the sense of peace that came from sitting in silence during his day of mindfulness on the Googleplex campus. “The atmosphere was totally different,” he says. “There’s a silence, there’s a peace that comes from doing nothing. And in that space, they can realise the preciousness of time.”
During his visit, which was themed “intention, innovation, insight”, Thay met a number of senior Google engineers to discuss how the company can use technology to be more compassionate and effective in bringing positive change to the world, rather than increasing people’s stress and isolation, both from each other and from nature.

When they create electronic devices, they can reflect on whether that new product will take people away from themselves, their family and nature,” he says. “Instead they can create the kind of devices and software that can help them to go back to themselves, to take care of their feelings. By doing that, they will feel good because they’re doing something good for society.
At the day-long retreat with the CEOs, Thay led a silent meditation and offered a Zen tea ceremony before talking to the group of largely billionaires about how important it is that they, as individuals, resist being consumed by work at the expense of time with their families: “Time is not money,” he told them. “Time is life, time is love.”

Back at his Plum Village monastery, near Bordeaux, Thay says of his trip: “In all the visits, I told them they have to conduct business in such a way that happiness should be possible for everyone in the company. What is the use of having more money if you suffer more? They also should understand that if they have a good aspiration, they become happier because helping society to change gives life a meaning.”
The trip was just the beginning, he adds. “I think we planted a number of seeds and it will take time for the seeds to mature,” he says. “If they begin to practise mindfulness, they’ll experience joy, happiness, transformation, and they can fix for themselves another kind of aspiration. Fame and power and money cannot really bring true happiness compared to when you have a way of life that can take care of your body and your feelings.”

As Jon Kabat-Zinn sums this up quite well when he quotes:

“Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment. We also gain immediate access to our own powerful inner resources for insight, transformation, and healing.”

Can billionaire status be sustained in the current economy?


Becoming a billionaire seems like a great goal, but unfortunately it’s only a dream for most of us. The thing is, many billionaires didn’t start out as such. Some certainly had economic and educational advantages, but even without those, their smart decisions and business choices, plus a few characteristics that can’t be overlooked, led them from Point A to Point B. So, what can we learn about our own real-life options for becoming billionaires?

First things first: find a way to make money. Four of the most oft-methods of money making in the world of billionaires are inventing, investing, innovating and being an entrepreneur, but remember that how you pursue your billions is just as important as what you do to get them.
Many people in the startup space and business in general are in a rush. A rush to get to market, a rush to sell enough units or services, a rush to avoid their funding running out.

A recent article by McKinsey showed from their research, analysing the life cycles of about 3,000 software and online-services companies from around the globe, that software and online services are in a period of dizzying growth. Year-old companies are turning down billion-dollar buyouts in the hopes of multibillions in a few months. But we have seen similar industry phases before, and they have often ended with growth and valuations fizzling out. The industry’s booms and busts make growth, an essential ingredient in value creation, difficult to understand. To date, little empirical work has been done on the importance of revenue growth for software and Internet-services companies or how to find new sources of growth when old ones run out.

Growth trumps all. Three pieces of evidence attest to the paramount importance of growth. First, growth yields greater returns. High-growth companies offer a return to shareholders five times greater than medium-growth companies. Second, growth predicts long-term success. ‘Supergrowers’ companies whose growth was greater than 60 percent when they reached $100 million in revenues were eight times more likely to reach $1 billion in revenues than those growing less than 20 percent. Additionally, growth matters more than margin or cost structure. Increases in revenue growth rates drive twice as much market-capitalization gain as margin improvements for companies with less than $4 billion in revenues. Further, we observed no correlation between cost structure and growth rates.

Sustaining growth is really hard. Two facts emerged from the research. Companies have only a small probability of making it big. Just 28 percent of the software and Internet-services companies in our database reached $100 million in revenue, and 3 percent reached $1 billion. Of the approximately 3,000 companies we analysed, only 17 achieved $4 billion in revenue as independent companies. Moreover, success is fleeting. Approximately 85 percent of supergrowers were unable to maintain their growth rates, and once lost, less than a quarter were able to recapture them. Those companies that did regain their historical growth rate had market capitalizations 53 percent lower than those that maintained supergrowth throughout.

There is a recipe for sustained growth. While every company’s circumstances are unique, the research found four principles that are essential to sustaining growth and from which every company can benefit.

First, growth happens in phases: from start-up to billion-dollar giant, growth stories typically unfold as a prelude, act one, and act two. In act one, there are five critical enablers of growth: market, monetization model, rapid adoption, stealth, and incentives. A third principle is that the drivers for growth in act two are different. Successful strategies in act two include expanding the act-one offer to new geographies or channels, extending the act-one success to a new product market, or transforming the act-one offer into a platform. Finally, successful companies master the transition from one act to the next. Pitfalls include transitioning at the wrong time and selecting the wrong strategy for the next act.

One of the greatest story’s of adversity was Colonel Saunders, at age 5 his Father died. At age 16 he quit school. At age 17 he had already lost four jobs. At age 18 he got married. He joined the army and washed out there. At age 20 his wife left him and took their baby. He became a cook in a small cafe and convinced his wife to return home. At age 65 he retired. He felt like a failure & decided to commit suicide. He sat writing his will, but instead, he wrote what he would have accomplished with his life & thought about how good of a cook he was. So he borrowed $87 fried up some chicken using his recipe, went door to door to sell. At age 88 Colonel Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) Empire was a billionaire.

What one believes or dreams inside becomes their outside reality. Many books and documentaries point to this, even my book ‘Freedom after the Sharks’ You don’t need to be in a rush if you plan properly. I will say, on the contrary, that some pressure and a sense of urgency is helpful and shouldn’t be completely avoided. There is, however; a line between a bad rush and a good rush.
Inventing is a tough road to take, but if you’ve got the smarts to successfully create, patent, produce and market a product that people need, you can build your future billionaire life on it. Successful inventions are not necessarily complicated or high-tech items.

Innovation is the fine art of considering a current mainstream market and finding a creative way to improve the current offering. Successful innovators will identify the real needs behind customer demands, and will meet them with a smarter, better, more efficient product, or with a service that provides more than its competitors, or with a business that works in a way just different enough to stand out from the rest.

Finally, the moment you think you have nothing left to learn is the moment you kill your potential for becoming a billionaire. Especially if you’re interested in building your wealth through inventing or innovating, you have to be curious, open-minded and always learning. Those qualities allow you to look at old things in a new way, to see the potential for change and profit where others see only what already had been done.
A great quote by Harriet Tubman:

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”

Guest blogger Frank Lewis discusses the qualities and experience needed to be a good executive chairman


Today I have the pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, Frank Lewis, who is an accomplished Non-Executive, Executive Director and Chairman, equipped with a commanding track record over the past ten years of bringing sound judgement and a strong commercial perspective to the full business lifecycle from start-ups to success, from flotation to delisting, and in a few cases, to exit. Developed great versatility from dealing with diverse businesses and cultures, nationally and internationally, and acquired significant experience working with rapidly expanding AIM-quoted SMEs. An expert in corporate governance and compliance and risk management; enjoying challenging the status quo and providing independent advice to Boards whilst maintaining sound judgment, impartiality and integrity.

Frank is going to talk to us about the qualities and experience needed to be a good chairman.

The role of the chairman has become much higher in profile and the expectations have increased as, quite rightly, stakeholders now expect an engaged, energetic and involved chairman who does more than simply manage the corporate governance process.
The success of a chairmanship undoubtedly hinges on the relationship the chairman has with the chief executive, a relationship which should be centred on honesty, trust and transparency. The success of this relationship is based on mutual understanding by both parties of the distinction between their two roles.

Effective chairmen must have an extremely good knowledge of the business they are chairing, they must know enough to ask the right questions, and must provide a constructive level of challenge to the chief executive. One of the main faults of chairmen deemed to be ineffective is their failure to comprehend that they are not there to run the business, and that their role is instead to support and guide. In simple terms, the job of the chairman is to ensure that the business is well run and not to run the business.

There is, however, a fine line to walk between being too involved and being too remote. This means chairmen should devote the appropriate level of time to their roles, which means visiting operations, talking with staff and customers, as well as investors. The best chairmen are able to develop an empathy with the business and engage with its people and issues. But there is no “one-size-fits-all” prescription for an effective chairman. The right level of engagement will vary depending on the company’s stage in the business cycle, competitive environment and the experience of the chief executive.

What ultimately defines a good chairman is the ability to run an effective board and to manage relationships with both shareholders and stakeholders.

The qualities of an outstanding chairman are:
• Charismatic personality.
• Good communicator and listener.
• Clear sense of direction.
• Strategic view – The Big Picture.
• Allow chief executives to get on with their job.
• Good at governance.
• Broad experience.
• Business acumen.
• Able to gain shareholders’ confidence.
• Able to get to the key issues quickly.

The Role of the Chairman in an initial public offering

The appointment of the right chairman is key for a business wishing to IPO. The chairman would greatly enhance the prospects of a successful IPO, by building an effective board and calling on their years of experience to ensure the story a company sells to the market is both compelling and real.

Further, it is the task for the chairman to set the tone at the top and to say what they want the organisation to be, establishing good governance and making sure the business has the right corporate reputation in its community.

In conclusion, a chairman has done their job when the “vision for the business”, as set out and presented in the strategic plan to shareholders and stakeholders, has been achieved.


You can contact Frank Lewis via his website: and at: LinkedIn .

The future of fintech and why london is capital of the fintech universe


I have recently been appointed as a non-executive director for a fintech company in London and thought I should speak this week about some of the findings from the London Fintech week that was held in July.

London is currently hailed as the global centre of fintech. This should come as no surprise, as it is by tradition a financial centre, with most of the leading banks operating in the European and African markets headquartered in the capital. Established banks and financial players are quickening the pace of innovation in the FinTech space, according to Luca Raffellini, director of business and financial services at Frost & Sullivan.
Similarly, leading disrupting actors such as Funding Circle, Transferwise, Nutmeg, and Mondo have chosen London as their home, creating a stimulating ecosystem that other fintech startups can benefit from. The British capital currently hosts 17 of the top 50 fintech companies in the world (Currency Cloud, Revolut, Property Partners, GoCardless, Elliptic, Bankable, Ebury, iZettle to mention a few), and it is the biggest existing cluster of successful fintech companies, ahead of San Francisco, which is the home for 16 of these startups.

According to a recent Accenture study, investment in fintech across the globe, continues to rise. In the first quarter of 2016, investments in fintech reached $5.3 billion, a 67% increase over the same period the year before.
Since the start of the year, sceptics have been asking whether the “fintech” bubble is bursting. A crisis at Lending Club, the biggest online lender in the US, has been pounced on by critics to argue that the potential for digital upstarts to seriously disrupt the financial services industry has been greatly exaggerated.
Yet the Financial Times believes that fintech has substance as well as hype. Here are five reasons why digital innovation is likely to produce the biggest upheaval in financial services since the credit card was invented more than 60 years ago.

1. Finance is ripe for disruption
Paul Volcker, former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, summed it up soon after the financial crisis when he told a room full of stunned bankers: “The most important financial innovation that I have seen the past 20 years is the automatic teller machine, that really helps people and prevents visits to the bank and is a real convenience.” Banks remain deeply unpopular. Their business models are under threat from tightening regulation and low interest rates. Profitability has for years lagged behind most banks’ cost of capital. If ever an industry was ripe for disruption, this is it.

2. Regulators are pushing for change
From New York and San Francisco to London and Singapore, politicians and regulators are competing to attract the flashiest fintech start-ups to their cities. Digital upstarts are being courted to provide much needed competition for the traditional banks. In the UK, for instance, the Financial Conduct Authority has created a “sandbox” allowing start-ups to experiment in a regulatory-light space. A European Union directive is set to force banks to make customer data more freely available to so-called “digital aggregators” that allow consumers to manage all their financial matters via a single application and to compare products more easily.

3. Money keeps pouring in
Venture capital funding continues to pour into fintech companies in ever-greater volumes. VC-backed companies raised $14.4bn of financing last year — almost double the previous year — according to a report from KPMG International and CB Insights. Funding doubled again to $4.9bn in the first quarter of this year and since then Ant Financial — the fintech arm of Chinese ecommerce group Alibaba — raised $4.5bn, making it one of the world’s most valuable private technology companies. “We are starting to see fintech move into the megadeal space,” said Warren Mead, global co-leader of fintech at KPMG International.

4. Big name bankers believe in it
The list of top tier bankers who have joined the fintech crowd is impressive. Since stepping down as co-head of Deutsche Bank last year, Anshu Jain has become an adviser to SoFi, one of the biggest US online lenders, and now plans to launch a similar venture in India. Equally, Antony Jenkins is launching his own fintech start-up a year after quitting as Barclays CEO. Other big name bankers that have switched into fintech include Vikram Pandit, the former Citi chief, John Mack, the ex-Morgan Stanley boss, and Blythe Masters, who left JPMorgan to lead a blockchain start-up.

5. It is happening already
Marketplace lenders issued $23.7bn of loans globally in 2014, of which half were in the US and almost 40 per cent were in China, with most of the rest in the UK, according to Deloitte. That represents a compound annual growth rate of 120 per cent since 2010. While these loans remain a small fraction of the total loans from banks, they will soon become systemically significant if growth continues at the same pace. In China, the growth of mobile payments by the likes of Alipay and Tencent is already staggering, rising fivefold to Rmb6tn ($960bn) in 2014, according to iResearch.

To provide some conclusion to the facts, as we move towards 2020, fintech and the future of fintech will depend on cooperation and collaboration between all stakeholders within the financial industry.
The UK, with London as its financial capital, will remain an attractive place for fintechs to develop their business in future.
KPMG and CB Insights reported earlier this year that fintech companies in the UK raised $962 million in venture capital (VC) funding deals in 2015, up from $409m in 2014. The UK market for VC fintech investments dwarfed Germany’s, where VC deals raised $193m for fintech companies last year. The research represented increasing global confidence in the UK as a fintech hub with opportunities for innovators and investors.

Brexit has created short-term uncertainty but, whilst it may not be the result the fintech community wanted from the referendum, the UK remains well-placed to serve the interests of fintech companies and investors.
London will continue to be a major business hub for global trade and boast expertise in financial services unrivalled elsewhere in Europe and perhaps the world.
The UK also already has a deserved reputation as a financial centre with a regulator that supports innovation and the digitisation of financial services by both incumbents and new entrants to the market.
The FCA is at the forefront of fintech initiatives, including supporting the development of automated advice tools, the use of technologies that help firms meet regulatory obligations, and the testing of innovative products, services and business models in a lighter-touch regulatory ‘sandbox’ environment. The UK government is also backing the development of open APIs in banking in an initiative that goes beyond the ambitions of the EU’s new Payment Services Directive (PSD2) in opening up the payments market to increased competition and innovation.

These are solid foundations for a post-Brexit UK to build on. Together with the opportunities for global passporting and smarter regulation, there should continue to be fertile ground in the UK for fintechs to establish themselves and expand.