Parallels between corporate environments and hummingbirds – hummingbirds return to places where there is positive energy

I recently paid a visit to Silicon Valley, California for an executive board meeting and aligned this trip to visit my international business partner in Oregon, Mark F. Herbert, for my yearly catch up, cross border strategic discussions and many “Meaningful Conversations”.

Whilst having a Meaningful Conversation we could not help but see a group of very excited hummingbirds, so we started to provoke thought and discussion across the possibilities and parallels between corporate and that of hummingbirds.

Mark and I sat there and then I said, ‘so why is a hummingbird so positive with energy? Hummingbirds should not physically be able to fly, and like these birds that always defy the “impossible,” ‘Mark stated to discuss that hummingbirds are among the smallest of birds, most species measuring 7.5–13 cm in length.

The fact that the hummingbird is the smallest extant bird species, the 5 cm bee hummingbird weighing less than 2.0 g, and these little winged wonders flutter their wings at a remarkable 80 times per second. Hummingbirds have essentially been reinventing themselves throughout their 22-million-year history’, which made me think of how us humans have so much to learn from these amazing little birds.

Then, there is the migration each year a hummingbird will fly from North America, in January or February to South or Central America proceeding at an average rate of about 20 miles per day, the northward migration is complete by late May. Banding studies show that each bird tends to return every year to the same place it hatched, even visiting the same feeders. The Rufous has the longest migration route of all hummingbirds—up to 3,000 miles (4.828km)—traveling from summer in Alaska to winter in Mexico.

Hummingbirds have so much association, they are associated with goddesses throughout the myths and legends of multiple cultures. In one Mayan legend, the hummingbird is the sun in disguise, trying to court a beautiful woman, who is the moon. Hopi and Zuni legends tell of hummingbirds helping humans by convincing the gods to bring rain.

An Aztec legend tells of a god who, in the form of a hummingbird, flew to the underworld to be with a goddess, who later gave birth to the earth’s first flower. A Native American hummingbird animal totem is said to aid in self-discovery and provide us the paths to self-expression and awareness
Hummingbirds can only be described as Agile and Adaptable!

The Oxford dictionary meaning of Agile is Nimble, Supple, Dexterous, Acrobatic, graceful. Qualities that organisatios and leaders today certainly look at building, being and demonstrating.

It seems to me that there are leaders who are more like hummingbirds in their approach to life and leadership.
As a leader your attitude will make you or break you. The right attitude can guide you through times of adversity with poise and grace and be a source of inspiration for others to emulate. And at the end of the day it is all about the daily decisions you make.

Here are four considerations for a good positive attitude.

1 – What you choose to see. As you look over the landscape of your business or organisation do you see recession, fear and uncertainty or do you see opportunity, growth, and new markets?

What you choose to see speaks of your perceptions. Your perceptions are shaped by your attitude. That is not to say you are not mindful of the negatives that exist but you are making a choice not to be defined by them. If you are going to have an attitude of excellence it begins with what you choose to see and ignoring the rest.

2 – What you choose to believe. By its choice the hummingbird chooses new life and growth over what is dead and gone. Your belief systems form the foundation of your personal growth and that of your leadership potential. What you choose to see formulates your perceptions but your beliefs formulate how you live. This attitude is the deal breaker both personally and professionally and it truly matters.

What you choose to believe speaks of your passion. Your passions are a reflection of your attitude and that is a reflection of your heart. What you choose to believe may not always make sense at the time. Yet when you choose faith over fear, hope over despair, trust over doubt, forgiveness over resentment, and love over hate, you are living out an attitude of belief that will set you apart as a leader.

3 – How you will spend your time. The hummingbird spends its time seeking life and beauty. When your attitude is aligned with what you believe and what you see it makes how you spend your time an easier proposition.

How you spend your time is all about priorities. Whether in business or in your personal life your priorities are a good indicator of a healthy attitude. Your time is your most valuable possession and a smart leader learns how to master it.

4 – How you will live your life. The vulture and the hummingbird, for better or worse, have made their choices and live their lives accordingly. Your attitude as a leader has consequences that will determine your altitude. The choice to have a good attitude is not always easy. Someone cuts you off in traffic, the deal you thought you were going to close doesn’t happen, your earnings report falls short of expectations; a friend betrays you; these scenarios and more constantly challenge your resolve to have a good attitude.

How you will live your life speaks of your purpose. Your attitude should be one of your strongest attributes that sustains you in the good times and what gives you the courage needed when times are tough. Make it your priority to live your life as a leader with purpose in your heart.

A final thought, let us take a moment to analyse the amazement of this little creature that have been known to some scientists as “An Impossible Miracle” and derive some lessons.

Hummingbirds are one of the smallest birds in the species. They can probably fit in your tall cup of coffee and weigh less than a tennis ball. They are one of the most adaptive creatures around. Having one of the highest metabolisms in any animal but can also go in a hibernation-like state to conserve energy when needed.

They are one of the most versatile animals on earth. The only bird that can fly both forward, backward, upside down and has the ability to hover in one place as needed. They are also one of the fastest animals on the planet with recorded speeds of up to 54km per hour. That is faster than some of the best race horses around. And, if you did not know, hummingbirds actually inspired the creation of the Helicopter.

There are a lot of things we can learn from the Hummingbird, both from the story and around the real facts about it.
Perseverance, Courage, Innovation, Adaptability, Versatility, and defying all odds.

As a human you always think about the experiencing the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and we are all tested in ways that you never expect.

Leadership forces you to stay true to yourself and to recognise when you are at your best and when you are at your worst; the important thing is to stay focused and keep moving forward. We aleways learn that it is overcoming adversity that brings the most satisfaction, and that achievements are made more meaningful by the struggle it took to achieve them.

Like the hummingbird, anything is possible if you believe in yourself and if you set your mind and heart to it. If you want something badly enough, you must be prepared to go after it with everything you have, no matter what the odds.

Change has a funny habit of teaching you much about yourself; it goes to the core of your own weaknesses, strengths and eccentricities. Leadership forces you to stay true to yourself and recognise times when you are at your best and worst; the key is to stay focused and to make decisions that will look at continuous improvement. Even though this may be small, incremental change, it is positive change you can build upon even though you may be in quicksand.

The question is, how much do you truly want your dream?

As the famous scientist Charles Darwin once 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.’

Guest-blog: Brad Borkan – Pivot from your goal for greater success

Brad Borkan

I have the fortune of meeting a fellow author recently, Brad Borkan, for a meeting of minds, to discuss our literature journeys, which I must say was incredibly enjoyable.

We discussed many subjects but importantly our personal thoughts and experiences across resilience and overcoming adversity.

Adversity of any magnitude should make us stronger and fill us with life’s wisdom, however, art in any form is born from adversity, I wrote ‘Freedom after the Sharks’ from adversity and set up a business in the double dip of 2008 and 2009, many people have done the same and it is almost a universal theme in the lives of many of the world’s most eminent creative minds.

For artists who have struggled with physical and mental illness, parental loss during childhood, social rejection, heartbreak, abandonment, abuse, and other forms of trauma, creativity often becomes an act of turning difficulty and challenge into opportunity.

As Eckhart Tolle once said:
Whenever something negative happens to you, there is a deep lesson concealed within it.

Much of the music we listen to, the plays we see, the books we read, and the paintings we look at among other forms of performing art are attempts to find meaning in human suffering.
Art seeks to make sense of everything from life’s potentially smallest moments of sadness to its most earth-shattering tragedies. You have heard the statement ‘there is a book in everyone’ we all experience and struggle with suffering.

Determination, resilience, and persistence are the enabler for people to push past their adversities and prevail. Overcoming adversity is one of our main challenges in life. When we resolve to confront and overcome it, we become expert at dealing with it and consequently triumph over our day-to-day struggles.

Today I have the pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, Brad Borkan, who works in SAP Strategic Partner Marketing. He has a graduate degree in Decision Sciences from the University of Pennsylvania. Brad co-authored the book, “When Your Life Depends on It: Extreme Decision Making Lessons from the Antarctic”. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society and lectures internationally on early Antarctic exploration and its relevance to modern-day decision making. His website is: www.extreme-decisions.com.

Brad is going to discusses with us today “Pivot from Your Goal for Greater Success:”

One of the five key lessons from the early Antarctic Explorers

Have you ever been in a situation where you are so close to achieving your goal, you can almost taste it? With just a bit more effort, luck and perseverance you can get there, but there is high risk and danger along the way. At what point do you push through and at what point do you determine that the risk is too great and turn back?

This was the dilemma facing Ernest Shackleton on January 8th 1909. Shackleton was leading a team of three other men: Jameson Adams, Eric Marshall, and Frank Wild. Their aim: to be the first to get to the South Pole.

As described in my book, When Your Life Depends on It: Extreme Decision Making Lessons from the Antarctic, this was the first Antarctic expedition under Shackleton’s command. In the style at the time, Shackleton named it the Nimrod Expedition, using the name of the ship in which he and his men sailed to Antarctica. The Nimrod Expedition had taken years to plan and everything hinged on this one life-and-death decision.

By January 8th Shackleton, Adams, Marshall and Wild had been on the ice for two and a half months, man-hauling a heavy sledge containing all their equipment: food, cooking oil, tent, sleeping bags and other gear necessary for survival across 750 miles of dangerous terrain in sub-zero temperatures. They were totally on their own; the only communication was as far as they could shout. However they were nearing their goal.

In that era, there was no understanding of nutrition, calories, vitamins or the causes of scurvy. Shackleton and his men knew they were running desperately low of food and were subsisting on starvation rations. While there were some depots of food and supplies they could pick up on their return journey, there was a substantial risk they could die on the way back trying to reach one of those depots.

Yet the South Pole was tantalizingly close. One hundred and three miles to go to attain the biggest, unclaimed, land-based prize on Earth – the first to the South Pole. It would guarantee their names in the record books forever. A bit of luck with the weather and snow conditions, fewer rations, a bit more effort each day — surely goals this big deserved some risk. As goal-driven human beings, wouldn’t we all want to go for the goal, regardless of the consequences?

Yet, amazingly, Shackleton turned back.

What he did before turning back is one of the great lessons from the “Heroic Age” of Antarctic exploration. He told Adams, Marshall and Wild that on January 9th they would leave the tent, sleeping bags and all other supplies behind and walk South as far as they could in one day, plant the flag, and turn back to their camp. Then the next day they would begin the long and treacherous journey home. Why did Shackleton do this? Why not just turn and head back immediately? They all knew the return journey would be risky.

The answer is: Shackleton wanted to cross the 100 mile mark. He wanted to go back to England with a prize. Maybe not the prize, but getting to within 100 miles of the South Pole sounded a whole lot better than either: (1) achieving the South Pole and starving to death on the return journey or (2) getting back alive with only have reached the 103 mile mark. In a letter to his wife Emily about the decision, Shackleton wrote, “I thought you would rather have a live donkey than a dead lion.”

He and his team did almost starve to death on the return journey. Remarkably, they did survive and upon his return, Shackleton wrote a two-volume book about the expedition called, “The Heart of the Antarctic”. He didn’t dwell on failure. He celebrated success — pivoting from his initial goal, and achieving a memorable landmark — the farthest South.

So why is this an important lesson for today’s business leaders? Because it is exceedingly difficult to turn away from one’s goal. It is difficult for a business to do it, and even more difficult for goal-driven businessperson to do it.

Business schools teach us that:
“Goal attainment = Success”

&

“Success = Goal Attainment”

Yet, this is not always the case. Businesses can be so goal driven that they do not see the big obstacles in their way. Take the case of Blockbuster. Their goal was to dominate the high street of every US and UK city and town, and they were achieving that. They were on such a tear, that in 1989, a new Blockbuster video rental store was being opened every 17 hours! In the early 2000’s Netflix was offered to Blockbuster for $50 million. Why should Blockbuster turn away from their goal of high street dominance? Goal attainment was so tantalizingly close.

We all know what happened to Blockbuster and Netflix. Had Blockbuster taken the Shackleton goal-assessment approach – that survival is more important than goal attainment — they may have survived, just like Shackleton and his men did, to live to see another day.

Shackleton’s next expedition, the Endurance Expedition, also didn’t achieve its goals. Again he had to pivot from his primary goal. Yet it propelled Shackleton to even greater fame, success and glory. It also revealed compelling lessons for modern business decision making. We will save that story for the subject of another blog.

You can contact Brad Borkan on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/bradborkan or by email: brad.borkan@gmail.com or via his website: www.extreme-decisions.com

Not just data… Meaningful Data that enables decisions

I have been discussing on the board of a company that I represent as a Non-Executive Director at a great level of detail the subject of Meaningful Data and the value of Meaningful Data vs Data and Information, in making informed decisions across the business. As the subject seems to becoming a business imperative, I thought a great opportunity for my next blog discussion.

It is very clear in today’s world that most organisations recognise that being a successful, data-driven company requires skilled developers and analysts. Fewer grasp how to use data to tell a meaningful story that resonates both intellectually and emotionally with an audience.

Joseph Rudyard Kipling was an English journalist, short-story writer, poet, and novelist who once wrote, “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” The same applies to data. Companies must understand that data will be remembered only if presented in the right way. And often a slide, spreadsheet or graph is not the right way; a story is.

Boards of Executives and managers are being bombarded with dashboards brimming with analytics. They struggle with data-driven decision making because they do not know the story behind the data.

Sometimes the right data is big. Sometimes the right data is small. But for innovators the key is figuring out what those critical pieces of data are that drive competitive position. Those will be the pieces of right data that you should seek out fervently. To get there, I would strongly suggest asking the following three questions as a process for drilling down to the right data.

  1. What decisions drive waste in your business?
  2. Which decisions could you automate to reduce waste?
  3. What data would you need to do so?

Information systems might differ wildly in form and application but essentially they serve a common purpose which is to convert data into meaningful information which in turn enables the organisation to build knowledge:

Data is unprocessed facts and figures without any added interpretation or analysis. “The price of crude oil is £50 per barrel.”

Information is data that has been interpreted so that it has meaning for the user. “The price of crude oil has risen from £30 to £50 per barrel” gives meaning to the data and so is said to be information to someone who tracks oil prices.

Knowledge is a combination of information, experience and insight that may benefit the individual or the organisation. “When crude oil prices go up by £10 per barrel, it’s likely that petrol prices will rise by 2p per litre” is knowledge.

The boundaries between the three terms are not always clear. What is data to one person is information to someone else. To a commodities trader for example, slight changes in the sea of numbers on a computer screen convey messages which act as information that enables a trader to take action. To almost anyone else they would look like raw data. What matters are the concepts and your ability to use data to build meaningful information and knowledge.

The ability to gather meaningful data is as important as the insights the data can generate. Those insights, the end result of any data collection, is what people see and judge.
The hard truth here is that bad data leads to bad decisions. Thus, it is important to take the time necessary to build a proper data collection process.

Data is meaningful if we have some way to act upon it. Otherwise, we are mere spectators. This is one of the most problematic aspects of the current fetish of data visualisation, which appears to treat data as an unquestionable justification for itself, rather than as a proxy for things that we actually want to understand or probe.

You generally can’t put yourself into a visualisation, tell it a little about yourself, and nudge it towards a better understanding of the questions you want to ask of it (like you would any person you want to find out more about).

If we are satisfied with mere data, datasets or data visualisations as the end goal – rather than all the contextual complexity behind who, why and how it was collected, and what was excluded from the presentation – then we are contenting ourselves with just one dimension, not four.

Data doesn’t need to be numeric, digital or electronic; it’s anything that helps you to make an assessment, and in many senses if it’s non-digital it can integrate a whole host of other phenomena, providing a much deeper, if more complex, proxy.

A wonderful example of this was an air quality experiment led by professor Barbara Maher of Lancaster University. In the test, four houses had 30 potted birch trees placed directly outside their doors; and four households, acting as control subjects, did not have any trees placed outside.

A major innovation in the experiment was that levels of particulate pollution were evaluated by collecting dust particles that settled on television screens, which had been wiped clean at the beginning of the experiment, and comparing the two sets of households to see which had amassed more particulate. The experiment showed – viscerally, visibly and physically – that planting trees reduced particulate. It didn’t require a digital sensor sitting on a mantelpiece.

DIY data
One of the best ways to make data more meaningful is to make it yourself. Measure something – your body, your home, your neighbourhood – and it helps you to not only understand something about it, but more importantly it helps you to figure out the questions you want to ask and the hypotheses you want to assess. Measuring something yourself (the way your body temperature fluctuates; the cycles of noise in your neighbourhood) means you can better decide why and what you might do to affect or act upon it.

A city hackathon bringing dozens, if not hundreds, of software developers together for a short space of time to work for free on government-approved historical datasets is all well and good, but you have to ask how transformative it actually is to work on something without questioning why and how the data was collected, or which data has been excluded.

Collective collecting
When you join with others to measure something, you make meaning by having conversations about the data you are collecting. Sensemaking in this situation becomes a collective activity – you don’t even need to be using the same measuring equipment, you just need to be able to talk about what you’re doing with each other. “I’m measuring air quality,” you say. “Well I’m recording atmospheric humidity levels,” says your neighbour. Have a discussion and you’ll start to build up an intuition of how they correlate, or even better, look at ways of affecting them together, ideally for the better.

User experience
The most important aspect of making data more meaningful is to experience it, somehow, in situ. Even if you were not part of the process of collecting a dataset, to be near to where and when it was captured you are far more likely to be able to integrate all the unspoken, ambient, implicit, informal and unrecorded metadata that datasets and visualisations strip out with their numeric authority.

To stand in a space, a neighbourhood or a city and experience its windy mess while simultaneously being able to interrogate, prod and affect a dataset provides you with the kind of multivalence that is crucial to constructing any useful meaning. You are far more likely to be held accountable, and to hold others accountable, for making use of the data in any decision making process.

Most captivating storytellers grasp the importance of understanding the audience. They might tell the same story to a child and adult, but the intonation and delivery will be different. In the same way, a data-based story should be adjusted based on the listener. For example, when speaking to an executive, statistics are likely key to the conversation, but a business intelligence manager would likely find methods and techniques just as important to the story.

In a Harvard Business Review article titled “How to Tell a Story with Data,” Dell Executive Strategist Jim Stikeleather segments listeners into five main audiences: novice, generalist, management, expert and executive. The novice is new to a subject but doesn’t want oversimplification.
The generalist is aware of a topic but looks for an overview and the story’s major themes. The management seeks in-depth, actionable understanding of a story’s intricacies and interrelationships with access to detail. The expert wants more exploration and discovery and less storytelling. And the executive needs to know the significance and conclusions of weighted probabilities.

Discerning an audience’s level of understanding and objectives will help the storyteller to create a narrative. But how should we tell the story? The answer to this question is crucial because it will define whether the story will be heard or not.

As Stewart Butterfield once said:

“Hard numbers tell an important story; user stats and sales numbers will always be key metrics. But every day, your users are sharing a huge amount of qualitative data, too – and a lot of companies either don’t know how or forget to act on it.”

Leap first and the net will appear!

Do you know the one thing that people who have followed their dreams have in common?

None of them knew what the outcome of taking the steps to follow those dreams would be. They didn’t know if things would turn out like they wanted it to or if, instead, they would wind up failing at what they set out to do. They all had to take a leap knowing there was no safety net below.

It is normal when trying to create the life you want to feel some fear. When you are in the midst of doing the hard work to create the life you want, you will wonder if you have what it takes. You will have to come to a point where you have to leave behind the safety of comfort and the known and you must take that jump into the unknown, and you know there will be no net to catch you.

Are there risks to changing? Yes, and there might even be failure. But not really. The worst thing that can happen is that we wind up somewhere different from where we thought we would end up. But, I promise you will have changed in the process. You will have learned. You will be different.

And, you will be farther along the path to becoming the you who you were meant to be than if you had never jumped in the first place.

However, many people have mixed feelings about risk, in part because they sense that facing the things we fear can present solutions to our internal dilemmas. Risk is something you want and don’t want, all at the same time. It tempts you with its rewards yet repels you with its uncertainties.

Like it or not, taking risks is an inevitable and in-escapable part of life. Whether you’re grappling with the possibility of getting married, starting a business, making a high-stakes investment, writing a biograpgy, or taking some other life or career leap of consequence, one of these days, you’ll wind up confronting your own personal high dive.

At its simplest, a net is a series of ropes and knots bound together in such a manner as to create an effective support structure. As a metaphor for life, nets are the family, friends, coworkers, teachers, even short-term relationships, that support us through their kindness, shared wisdom and thoughtful guidance. In short, they are our safety nets. Safety nets come in a multitude of forms. At times, they’re even invisible to us, only to come into view when it seems like all is lost.

But, what if there were no safety net? When you’re standing at the threshold of opportunity, can you trust in yourself to step forward, to take a leap of faith with only your skills, knowledge and scrappy persistence to propel you and protect you? When you’re making the decision to jump or stay put, remember these three thoughts.

We try so hard to control so many things. We try to control the outcomes of our own situations. We try to control our environment, to control others, how they believe, how others choose to love us, how others choose to live.

What if we just stopped? And enjoyed what showed up? Exactly how it shows up. Surrender. Let go. Forget about the safety net and let yourself fly.

You just might end up exactly where you should be.

Smith’s four pillars of meaning — belonging, purpose, storytelling, and transcendence — can help victims recover from severe trauma. They can also aid anyone dealing with the stresses of daily life. These strategies for nurturing the four pillars can guide you through times of adversity.

Write about your experiences, emotions, and thoughts regarding the causes and consequences of the trauma. Research shows that those who write about their lives make better sense of their stories, report better grades, display fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression, and enjoy more powerful immune systems.

Cultivate a sense of belonging. Feeling part of a larger purpose is vital to finding meaning. A survey of 28 janitors at a large Midwestern hospital found that when they felt doctors or nurses acknowledged rather than devalued them, they began to see their work as meaningful. Many even started to view themselves as caregivers.

Adopt a “meaning” mindset. High school students who believed their studies would allow them to fulfil a life purpose earned better grades in math and science several months later. For more on the power of mindset to help you build resilience.

Experience awe. Highly resilient people tap into sources of strength and power greater than themselves. One study noted that college students who spent one minute viewing a grove of 200-foot-tall trees became more altruistic than those who spent a minute looking at a tall building. Awe-inspired people feel a diminished sense of their own importance, researchers concluded, which leads them to be more generous.

Finally, there is no such thing as luck. Make your own luck by leveraging opportunities that come your way. Do the small things well. Do the hard things without complaint.

As Albert E. N. Gray writes in ‘The New Common Denominator of Success’, “make a habit of doing things that failures don’t like to do.” In other words, be diligent in everything you do. Not because there is a pending reward, but simply because it is the right thing to do and prosperity of opportunity will certainly find you.

There are no accidents. Be as prepared as possible and then proceed with caution. I love the term cautious optimism. It’s a feeling of general confidence regarding a situation and/or its outcome; coupled with a readiness for possible difficulties or failure.

The law of Flexible Planning states that whatever can go wrong might go wrong. And once you adopt this pragmatic approach to life, you’ll begin shoring up your personal safety nets in the event of the unforeseen or unspeakable. I love Aung San Suu Kyi’s quote: “If I advocate cautious optimism it is not because I do not have faith in the future but because I do not want to encourage blind faith.”

Remember, we are not saved from hardship but out of hardship. Tough times are going to happen to everyone no matter how healthy or wealthy you are.

My father used to say:
“Things don’t go wrong and break your heart so you can become bitter and give up. They happen to break you down and build you up so you can be all that you were intended to be.”


One of the greatest safety nets of life is the realization that what you are going through is going to have you emerge on the other side as a more tremendous version of yourself.

Without this truth, I would have given up a long time ago.

Guest-blog: Mike Johnson – The gig economy and 31 tips to get ahead of the competition

Mike Johnson

There are an estimated 1.3 million workers in the UK’s gig economy that means approximately 1.3 million people are engaged in ‘gig work’ according to ‘To gig or not to gig: Stories from the modern economy’ a new report from the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development. The report is based on a survey of 400 gig economy workers and more than 2,000 other workers, as well as 15 in-depth interviews with gig economy workers, who, instead of a regular wage, get paid for the ‘gigs’ they perform, such as a taxi ride or food delivery. The rapid growth of the gig economy threatens to transform the way we work and make the traditional nine-to-five job with a single employer a relic of the past.

Readers may recall that in February 2016 I wrote a blog: ‘So exactly what is the gig economy’

Today, I would like to introduce Mike Johnson, Mike is a self-taught prepper that turned his passion for preparedness into an online survival guide: MikesGearReviews.com. Mike shares his experiences and knowledge with the main objective of teaching families how to get ready to survive pretty much everything and anything from civil unrest to natural disasters.

Mike is going to speak to us today on the gig economy and 31 tips for using the gig economy to get ahead of the competition.

Working under the so-called gig economy isn’t always easy. You get to choose your schedule, sometimes also your terms, and your commitment. You get paid for your work output and nothing else. The gig economy can be a great thing for you but can also be the worst decision for your career.

The pros and cons of the expanding gig economy are still up for discussion. Some analysts fear what it can mean for the future of the whole labor industry. But it doesn’t look like it is going any time soon. After all, freelance and contractual jobs aren’t a new concept; these have been around for a long time.

Some also prefer doing freelance work rather than commit to a full-time job. For all the cons of not having a regular work, there are those who feel that providing jobs on a contractual, temporary basis is the best choice for them. They have more freedom that way, and they have more control of their situation.

If you are convinced that working freelance is the right choice for you, prep yourself for some competition ahead. Because like any other labor setup, the gig economy is full of competitive individuals.

Read our infographic for more information about gig economy and how you can get ahead presented by MikesGearReviews
(click to expand in new tab):

Source: https://www.mikesgearreviews.com/gig-economy/

If you have any questions, you can contact Mike on mike @ mikesgearreviews. com (just remove all 3 spaces)

Guest-blog: Roger Phare – The Jekyll, Hyde and The Executive Director

Roger Phare

As an executive director, how do you powerfully lead your organisation through complex challenges? How do you align your organisation, staff, and board around impact and achieve financial sustainability? As daunting as these questions can seem, they are fundamental executive leadership responsibilities.

In spite of its institutional power, the position of an Executive Director remains an immensely demanding one, and not one that any qualified and capable man or woman will agree to lightly.

We welcome back Roger Phare as our guest blogger who is an accomplished Global Executive Director, equipped with a commanding track record over the past 37 years of bringing sound judgement and a strong commercial perspective to IT businesses, from ‘Mainframe to Mobile’. Roger have been fortunate to have been part of the commercial computing lifespan. With a market driven approach, which he has strategically supported, a number of organisations, both at significant Board, Executive and Regional Directorship and responsibilities. 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 with integrity.

Roger is going to talk to us about ‘Jekyll, Hyde Associates and the Executive Director’

Thank you Geoff, today I would like to discuss the role of the Executive Director, which can arguably be the most individually challenging and changeable of all Board roles. Not that the responsibilities are any greater or less than Non- Executive counterparts, yet the concept of disassociating the “day job” with the Board role can be tricky and take some fortitude. The Executive director must possess or develop the ability to perform separate roles with separate mindsets; a veritable Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde (and maybe other) set of personas.

The majority of companies start from small beginnings. Friends, family or work colleagues decide to set up in business and likely form a limited liability company. Almost invariably they become shareholders, directors and employees overnight. Generally there will be a leader; a chief executive who, more often than not, will also be elected chairman of the board. The other board members are often generalists, providing input based upon their work role experience.

Confusion can set in as the company grows and more employees are taken on board. This is where the understanding of role demarcation is vital. I recall being an executive director on the board of a growing company some years ago when one of my colleagues, who was head of the technical department as well as an executive director/shareholder, threatened to fire the receptionist for an indiscretion.
The receptionist did not report to this individual but his view was that as a major shareholder and director he had the over-riding power and right to make such decisions. He clearly had confused the roles, effectively merging all three responsibilities into one.

In the board room the need to disassociate the individual roles becomes even more apparent. Recalling that a director’s duty is to represent the medium and long-term interests of the shareholders, the double or triple role can be a major challenge. Let’s say that within a growing goods and services company the head of development, one of the founders and a minority shareholder, also sits on the board as an executive director. As a manager doing his day-to-day job, he has put up a business case to employ a number of new staff members within the development team.

At a board meeting, the annual item regarding profit distribution by way of dividends is discussed. The head of development sees this as an ideal forum to lobby for the approval of the business case. This is not say the overall decision will necessarily be wrong; it is that he has unwittingly brought his managerial role into the boardroom.

Once a company goes public, then the appetite for executive director’s wanes considerably. Most Commonwealth countries operate a unitary system, indicating a balanced mix of executive and non-executive directors. Yet over the past twenty years there has been a push for greater board member independence, with a move towards more non-executive directors. The executive directors are often consigned to the roles of chief executive and possibly head of finance.

Yet are we about to see the return of the executive director on public boards? There is no doubt that the need for up to date subject matter knowledge of industry trends is as much a requirement as expertise around governance and compliance. The need for this has started show itself in the rise of the advisory board; yet this can never replace true in-house expertise.

Perhaps we are about to witness the return of our Henry’s and Edward’s; but this time around improved peer mentoring and coaching maybe the answer.

You can contact Roger Phare via LinkedIn. Roger Phare on LinkedIn or by email: roger phare @ gmail .com (remove all spaces)

Guest-blog: David Priseman – The future of technology in home-care for the elderly

David Priseman

Technology is currently critical to home health care. Future advances in home health care technologies have the potential not only to facilitate the role of home health care within the overall health care system but also to help foster community-based independence for individuals.

Today I have the pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, David Priseman, who is an accomplished Executive Director. David had a career in consultancy and banking, including spells abroad with two major European banks and has worked for several years in the field of private equity and alternative finance as well as an advisor to SMEs. He has considerable board experience and currently chairs a mid-sized care home group and is a non-executive director of a small but ambitious technology company. He has a particular interest in how technology can address the challenges of the care sector, which is often slow to adopt innovation.

David is going to discuss with us today the future of technology in home-care for the elderly.

Both councils and families strive to keep the elderly living in their own home for as long as possible. Councils see a simple cost advantage in doing so, whilst families also like the idea that mum (statistically, it is usually mum) can still live at home.

However the reality of a single elderly person living at home on her own can be far from the rosy ideal. There is an alternative image of a harassed care worker rushing into an elderly person’s home, quickly heating up a tin of baked beans then 15 minutes later rushing out of the door. Yet this might be the only contact the person has with anyone until the same or a different care worker rushes by the next day.

Domiciliary care, like residential care, is difficult to provide effectively and profitably. Companies are handing back council care contracts as they cannot operate at the fee levels on offer (1). Staff recruitment and retention is a permanent challenge.

Councils are reluctant or unable to pay more than £15/hour, which is not financially viable for home-care providers, who now have to pay employees a higher minimum wage as well as their travel costs. However it can be viable at £20/hour. With care home costs around the £1,000/week level, half this amount would buy 25 hours of home-care per week. As the number of residential care beds is in slight decline whilst the number of elderly people is projected to rise steeply, this implies that the number of elderly people living at home will also rise. With this could come a significant growth in the self-payer home-care market.

People living at home are exposed to the risk of physical vulnerability, slow and inappropriate care delivery and social isolation. However the recent development of new technologies may in combination significantly improve the social and care experience for such people.

The unpredictability of the number of hours worked together with the short term notice of rotas and sudden changes in rotas are a major cause of high home-care worker turnover (2) and a headache for domiciliary care providers. However a range of competing software and apps have now been developed to mitigate (though not remove) this challenge. This can improve the efficiency of staff scheduling from a provider’s view point, addressing one of the main sources of dissatisfaction of employees whilst also introducing flexibility for the elderly resident.

Many elderly people have traditionally had a regular, perhaps weekly, phone call with their children. Some now conduct this through Sype. In addition, some families have installed a videocam or webcam in their parent’s home, usually in the kitchen or lounge/dining room, so they can see mum. This helps to maintain social contact and give reassurances about mum’s safety and wellbeing.

The development of ‘wearable technology’ should become more widespread. Currently the dominant application is for fitness monitoring during exercise, however it will increasingly move over to healthcare monitoring. This can be a watch or a monitor which is worn as an arm panel or in the future may be embedded in clothing; in all cases it measures certain of the wearer’s vital signs.
At present, these are mostly used in hospitals to reduce the requirement of nurses, of whom there is a well-documented shortage, to conduct routine patient checks. Instead, the data are transmitted to a cloud-based server and if a vital sign reading crosses a warning threshold this immediately signals an alert. In time, these devices will migrate to the residential setting.
This will speed up the awareness and treatment of a wearer’s condition. Major medical devices companies such as Medtronics and GE are active in this area, which has also seen technology start ups enter the market, such as EarlySense and Snap40. (3)

The internet of things (IoT) is rapidly increasing the number of internet-connected devices in the home. This can be used in a number of ways to improve the safety of elderly people living at home. For example, many people get up, go to the toilet, have a cup of tea and open the curtains. Sensors can detect whether or not the toilet has been flushed, the kettle boiled and the curtains opened, and if any of these things has not happened by say 9am then an alert would be triggered. (4)

One of the main problems facing the elderly living alone is loneliness and the lack of contact with others. Here, a combination of technologies is emerging to provide at least a partial solution. Awareness has recently increased of Amazon’s Alexa voice-controlled system which can search the internet, answer questions and respond to simple commands. Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana are similar and rival devices.
Owing to improvements in voice recognition and AI, it will increasingly be possible to have an interactive ‘conversation’ with such devices. At some point, it may be possible to combine this with the face of a person on a screen or even a hologram of a person in the room to create the impression that a human is having a conversation with and maybe even developing a relationship with an intelligent machine-based ‘person’.
This idea has been explored in television and film, for example the science-fiction drama Her when a man develops a romantic relationship with his computer’s feminised operating system (5). Soon, it may become reality and even commonplace.

Finally, more than one of these technologies may combine in a way that provides care monitoring, practical assistance and companionship. Developed countries all have aging populations so the need to find solutions is urgent and many companies and universities are conducting research into this area, such as robotics with AI (6). New market opportunities are emerging to integrate and package appropriate technology solutions.

The vulnerable elderly living on their own at home have often been poorly served to date. Yet the number of such people is poised to continue to rise steeply. However a number of technologies are now being developed in parallel to tackle the problems they face. The result may be an improved care environment for the elderly at home: safer, reliable, better supported and less isolated. Such a future could be with us sooner than we think.

You can contact David Priseman on LinkedIn or by email: davidpriseman @ btconnect.com (remove spaces).

References

1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39321579
2. http://timewise.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/1957-Timewise-Caring-by-Design-report-Under-200MB.pdf
3. http://www.earlysense.com/ and http://www.snap40.com/
4. https://www.ibm.com/blogs/internet-of-things/internet-caring/ and https://www.ibm.com/blogs/internet-of-things/elderly-independent-smart-home/
5. http://www.herthemovie.com/#/about
6. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-39255244

“Journeys to Success” – out next week!

In the best-selling “Journeys to Success” series, men and women share their personal stories of transforming life-shattering events into triumphant success. The stories inside this book contain powerful seeds for resilience, spiritual awakening and plain determination in the face of powerful events. ‘Volume 9’ (to be published on 19th June, 2018) is a dedication to the late Tom Cunnigham, who recently passed away.

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

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

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

See also: “Journeys to Success” – Podcast

Guest-blog: Roger Phare – The qualities and experience needed to getting the right advise on the Board

Roger Phare

In the small business world, there is a lot of talk about whether a company should have a Board of Advisors (Advisory Board), and if yes, what the composition of such a group should be. In my time in the small and medium enterprise (SME) world, I have been exposed to and worked with hundreds of companies, a small percentage of which have had a Board of Advisors. Whether having such an advisory group makes sense depends a lot on the business and more importantly, the CEO and senior management team of the business.

In my opinion and I state this with wisdom, one of the smartest growth initiatives a business owner can implement is an advisory board: a hand-selected group of advisors that believe in your leadership, are aligned with your culture and mission, and are committed to your success.

The vast majority of business owners who implement an advisory board fail to see a strong return on investment because they have not followed guidelines to recruiting the right advisors, and have not set them up for success.

Today I have the pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, Roger Phare, who is an accomplished Global Executive Director, equipped with a commanding track record over the past 37 years of bringing sound judgement and a strong commercial perspective to IT businesses, from ‘Mainframe to Mobile’. Roger have been fortunate to have been part of the commercial computing lifespan. With a market driven approach, which he has strategically supported, a number of organisations, both at significant Board, Executive and Regional Directorship and responsibilities. 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 with integrity.

Roger is going to talk to us about the qualities and experience needed to getting the right advise on the Board.

Over recent years we have seen the rise of the Advisory Board concept, a trend that reflects the changing nature of modern organisational leadership and governance. Thinking further on this, the obvious question is why? What has changed in public and private Boardrooms to see such a demand for specialist knowledge and expertise?

The answer perhaps dates back some twenty or even thirty plus years. Up until the late eighties board members generally came with experience related to the company’s market or industry, together with all round leadership and business skills. This had largely been the post war formula, in other words Executive or Non-Executive Directors in 1958 had much the same attributes of those in 1988 – then everything changed.

We had Wall Street, Enron and the Sub-Prime less than twenty years apart. Not co-incidentally, this timeframe was paralleled with the rapid rise of business computing and the internet. Ironically, while technology was an enabler for business growth it became an inhibitor for effective all-round board performance. Directors became much more focussed on financial and legal due diligence as the regulators took control. Boards became largely the keepers of compliance and governance, with their members skilled and qualified in these disciplines. So what happened to the much needed advice in areas such organisational structure and market direction?

Enter the Advisory Board, bringing relevant expertise and experience in key strategic areas.

There is perhaps another reason for the rise of the advisor(s) in the boardroom. Casting the mind back to our pre-1988 Director, past industry experience was a key attribute for the senior board member. Being five to ten years away from a hands-on roles was not a major issue – as business and market fundamentals remained consistent. Today key industries are in rapid growth mode that did not even exist five to ten years ago, with “here and now” expertise required.

So Advisory Boards are most likely here to stay and ideally should complement our incumbent NEDs or Exec Directors; the key is find the right balance and consistency.

You can contact Roger Phare via LinkedIn. Roger Phare on LinkedIn or by email: roger phare @ gmail .com (remove all spaces)

Robots are surely not going to destroy the planet, or are they?

Elon Musk, the mastermind behind SpaceX and Tesla, believes that artificial intelligence is “potentially more dangerous than nukes,” imploring all of humankind “to be super careful with AI,” unless we want the ultimate fate of humanity to closely resemble Judgment Day from Terminator. Personally, I think Musk is being a little futuristic in his thinking after all, we have survived more than 60 years of the threat of thermonuclear mutually assured destruction but still, it is worth considering Musk’s words in greater detail, and clearly he has a point.

Musk made his comments on Twitter back in 2014, after reading Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom. The book deals with the eventual creation of a machine intelligence (artificial general intelligence, AGI) that can rival the human brain, and our fate thereafter. While most experts agree that a human-level AGI is mostly inevitable by this point it’s just a matter of when Bostrom contends that humanity still has a big advantage up its sleeve: we get to make the first move. This is what Musk is referring to when he says we need to be careful with AI: we’re rapidly moving towards a Terminator-like scenario, but the actual implementation of these human-level AIs is down to us. We are the ones who will program how the AI actually works. We are the ones who can imbue the AI with a sense of ethics and morality. We are the ones who can implement safeguards, such as Asimov’s three laws of robotics, to prevent an eventual robot holocaust.

In short, if we end up building a race of super-intelligent robots, we have no one but ourselves to blame and Musk, sadly, is not too optimistic about humanity putting the right safeguards in place. In a second tweet, Musk says: ‘Hope we’re not just the biological boot loader for digital superintelligence. Unfortunately, that is increasingly probable.” Here he’s referring to humanity’s role as the precursor to a human-level artificial intelligence and after the AI is up and running, we’ll be ruled superfluous to AI society and quickly erased.

Stephen Hawking warned that technology needs to be controlled in order to prevent it from destroying the human race.
The world-renowned physicist, who has spoken out about the dangers of artificial intelligence in the past, believes we all need to establish a way of identifying threats quickly, before they have a chance to escalate.

“Since civilisation began, aggression has been useful inasmuch as it has definite survival advantages,” he told The Times.

“It is hard-wired into our genes by Darwinian evolution. Now, however, technology has advanced at such a pace that this aggression may destroy us all by nuclear or biological war. We need to control this inherited instinct by our logic and reason.”

In a Reddit AMA back in 2015, Mr Hawking said that AI would grow so powerful it would be capable of killing us entirely unintentionally.

“The real risk with AI isn’t malice but competence,” Professor Hawking said. “A super intelligent AI will be extremely good at accomplishing its goals, and if those goals aren’t aligned with ours, we’re in trouble.

“You’re probably not an evil ant-hater who steps on ants out of malice, but if you’re in charge of a hydroelectric green energy project and there’s an anthill in the region to be flooded, too bad for the ants. Let’s not place humanity in the position of those ants.”
The theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who has died recently aged 76, said last year that he wanted to “inspire people around the world to look up at the stars and not down at their feet”. Hawking, who until 2009 held a chair at Cambridge university once occupied by Isaac Newton, was uniquely placed to encourage an upwards gaze.

Enfeebled by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a form of motor neurone disease, he displayed extraordinary clarity of mind. His ambition was to truly understand the workings of the universe and then to share the wonder.

Importantly, he warned of the perils of artificial intelligence and feared that the rise of the machines would be accompanied by the downfall of humanity. Not that he felt that human civilisation had particularly distinguished itself: our past, he once said, was a “history of stupidity”.

Here are 10 interesting insights into the life and viewpoints of Stephen Hawking. Sure, Stephen Hawking is a brilliant, groundbreaking scientist, but that’s not all …

Stephen Hawking had much to say on the future of tech after all, he was an expert: Hawking was one of the first people to become connected to the internet.

“So, we cannot know if we will be infinitely helped by AI, or ignored by it and side-lined, or conceivably destroyed by it.
“Unless we learn how to prepare for, and avoid, the potential risks, AI could be the worst event in the history of our civilisation.
While he saw many benefits to artificial intelligence – notably, the Intel-developed computer system ACAT that allows him to communicate more effectively than ever – he echoes entrepreneurial icons like Elon Musk by warning that the completion of A.I.’s potential would also “spell the end of the human race.”

Stephen Hawking co-authored an ominous editorial in the Independent warning of the dangers of AI.

The theories for oblivion generally fall into the following categories (and they miss the true danger):
– Military AI’s run amok: AIs decide that humans are a threat and set out to exterminate them.
– The AI optimization apocalypse: AI’s decide that the best way to optimize some process, their own survival, spam reduction, whatever, is to eliminate the human race.
– The resource race: AIs decide that they want more and more computing power, and the needs of meager Earthlings are getting in the way. The AI destroys humanity and converts all the resources, biomass — all the mass of the Earth actually — into computing substrate.
– Unknowable motivations: AI’s develop some unknown motivation that only supremely intelligent beings can understand and humans are in the way of their objective, so they eliminate us.
I don’t want to discount these theories. They’re all relevant and vaguely scary. But I don’t believe any of them describe the actual reason why AIs will facilitate the end of humanity.

As machines take on more jobs, many find themselves out of work or with raises indefinitely postponed. Is this the end of growth? No, says Erik Brynjolfsson:

Final thought: Artificial Intelligence will facilitate the creation of artificial realities  custom virtual universes  that are so indistinguishable from reality, most human beings will choose to spend their lives in these virtual worlds rather than in the real world. People will not breed. Humanity will die off.

It’s easy to imagine. All you have to do is look at a bus, subway, city street or even restaurant to see human beings unplugging from reality (and their fellow physical humans) for virtual lives online.

AIs are going to create compelling virtual environments which humans will voluntarily immerse themselves in. At first these environments will be for part-time entertainment and work. The first applications of AI will be for human-augmentation. We’re already seeing this with Siri, Indigo, EVA, Echo and the proliferation of AI assistants.

AI will gradually become more integrated into human beings, and Virtual platforms like Oculus and Vive will become smaller, much higher quality and integrated directly into our brains.

AIs are going to facilitate tremendous advances in brain science. Direct human-computer interfaces will become the norm, probably not with the penetrative violation of the matrix I/O ports, but more with the elegance of a neural lace. It’s not that far off.
In a world with true general AI, they’re going to get orders of magnitude smarter very quickly as they learn how to optimize their own intelligence. Human and AI civilization will quickly progress to a post-scarcity environment.

And as the fully integrated virtual universes become indistinguishable from reality, people will spend more and more time plugged in.
Humans will not have to work, there will be no work for humans. Stripped of the main motivation most people have for doing anything, people will be left to do whatever they want.

Want to play games all day? Insert yourself into a Matrix quality representation of Game of Thrones where you control one of the great houses. Go ahead. Play for years with hundreds of friends.

Want to spend all day trolling through the knowledge of the world in a virtual, fully interactive learning universe? Please do. Every piece of human knowledge can be available, and you can experience recreations of historical events first-hand.

Want to explore space? Check out this fully immersive experience from an unmanned Mars space-probe. Or just live in the Star Wars or Star Trek universe.

Want to have a month long orgasm with the virtual sex hydra of omnisport? Enjoy, we’ll see you in thirty days. Online of course. No one dates anymore.

Well, some people will date. They will date AI’s. Scientists are already working on AI sex robots. What happens when you combine the intelligence, creativity and sensitivity embodied by Samantha in the movie Her with an android that is anatomically indistinguishable from a perfect human (Ex Machina, Humans, etc)?

Deep learning algorithms will find out your likes, dislikes and how to charm your pants off. The AIs will be perfect matches for your personality. They can choose your most desirable face and body type, or design their own face and attire for maximum allure.
Predicting the future is always a difficult matter. We can only rely on the predictions of experts and technology observations of what is in existence, however, it’s impossible to rule anything out.

We do not yet know whether AI will usher in a golden age of human existence, or if it will all end in the destruction of everything humans cherish. What is clear, though, is that thanks to AI, the world of the future could bear little resemblance to the one we inhabit today.

An AI takeover is a hypothetical scenario, but a robot uprising could be closer than ever predicted in which AI becomes the dominant for of intelligence of earth, with computers or robots effectively taking control of the planet away from the human species, according to royal astronomer Sir Martin Rees, who believes machines will replace humanity within a few centuries.

Possible scenarios include replacement of the entire human workforce, takeover by a super-intelligent AI, and the popular notion of a robot uprising. Some public figures that we have discussed in this blog, such as Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, have advocated research into precautionary measures to ensure future super-intelligent machines remain under human control.

We need to watch this space…..

As Masayoshi Son once said:

“I believe this artificial intelligence is going to be our partner. If we misuse it, it will be a risk. If we use it right, it can be our partner.”