Sri Lanka and its gems of beauty!

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

Marco Polo – 1292 AD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rauf Abdul & Ishan Rox
Rauf Abdul & Ishan Rox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What makes our identities unique?

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

Well, exactly what makes us unique?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clues about the evolution of our extraordinary minds: Thomas Suddendorf

The big question is: what defines us?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Kallam Anji Reddy once said:

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

Are we too busy to connect to real people?

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

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

– which prompted me to write this blog.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what happens if you run your own firm?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As American author Regina Brett once said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So where do you start?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A True Christmas and New Year Message

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

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

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

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

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

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

Work with the best of your abilities in 2019 and show to the world your power to create wonderful and superior things.

New Year 2019 may turn out to be a year when you are put on the road to everlasting success and prosperity.

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s wishing you the gift of peace and prosperity throughout 2019.

What can we all learn from the cyber threat landscape of 2018?

Every year, as a co-founder and member of the Neustar International Security Council, I attend The Neustar Cyber Summit, this year the summit was held at the OXO Tower in London and there really were some very interesting findings from the summit which I would like to share.

Rodney Joffe, Chairman of NISC, started to discuss where the Internet of Things fits into the equation.

‘The first thing to recognize is that the Internet of Things is a new phrase for something that’s existed for years. The only difference is scale.
Sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s, some computer science students wired a Coca-Cola vending machine to the Internet. The students wanted to solve the problem of walking down three flights of stairs to the lobby only to discover there weren’t any cold Cokes in the machine.
It was one of the first devices wired to the Internet, and anyone could connect to it and ask for the status of the Cokes. So IoT isn’t really new. It’s probably best defined as all of the devices that can be connected to the Internet that don’t necessarily look like traditional computers. Items like smart power meters, smart lightbulbs and modern home thermostats, all the way to critical medical appliances and devices, jet engines and power turbines.

Because everyone is now focused on the IoT, we’re trying to develop rules around how all people, places and things interconnect. But millions of devices and things that are out there already are not secure, so we have to find ways of securing them and making sure that everything that gets added in the future is secure.
It’s no big deal if the Coke machine is wrong, but what if a nuclear-generating turbine goes down or if all the air-conditioning systems in a city go on at the same time because the smart meters that control the smart homes were compromised?

The other thing to recognize is that the industrial IoT is much larger than the consumer IoT. The breach of Target customer credit cards started when network credentials were stolen from an air-conditioning filtration vendor that had serviced various Target stores. Those credentials were used to hack into Target’s system, then install malware on a large number of the chain’s point-of-sale devices. The end result was brand damage for Target that has reverberations today.

The facts are, in 2016, we saw a number of huge attacks — many that exceeded 1Tbps. In 2017, by contrast, we saw fewer large distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, possibly because hackers were finding little advantage in taking a company completely offline. Another explanation is that hackers were simply enjoying the success of the previous year’s myriad of extortion and ransomware-oriented attacks, as well as the many DDoS associated data breaches.

So far in 2018, however, the big attacks are back with a vengeance. Earlier this year we saw the largest DDoS attack ever recorded — 1.35Tbps — using a new type of attack called Memcached, which will be discussed later. Then, a 1.7Tbps DDoS attack was recorded. Previous amplification attacks, such as DNSSEC, returned a multiplication factor of 217 times, but Memcached attacks returned amplification records exceeding 51,000 times! In fact, the potential return from Memcached attacks is so large that they do not require the use of botnets, making them a new and dangerous risk vector.

We are hoping that these attacks will go the way of the Simple Service Discovery Protocol (SSDP) amplification attacks, which used the protocol designed to advertise and find plug-and-play devices as a vector. SSDP amplification attacks are easily mitigated with a few simple steps, including blocking inbound UDP port 1900 on the firewall. There are similar steps that organizations can take to mitigate Memcached attacks, including not exposing servers and closing off ports, but until then, Neustar is prepared.

This year we are also seeing different uses for DDoS beyond simple volumetric attacks, including what we call quantum attacks. Quantum attacks are relatively small and designed to bypass endpoint security and avoid triggering cloud failover mitigation. These attacks are being used for scouting and reconnaissance. In a recent incident, Neustar stopped a quantum attack that never peaked over 300 Mbps, but it featured 15 different attack vectors, went on for 90 minutes, and involved all of Neustar’s globally distributed scrubbing centers.
This attack came from all over the world and was designed to bypass perimeter hardware, using protocols to circumvent their defenses. The attackers behind such campaigns may start small, but they can quickly add botnets, attack vectors, and ports to get what they want.

Neustar recently thwarted what is believed to be the first IPv6 attack. This attack presented a new direction that attackers are likely to pursue as more and more companies adopt IPv6 and run dual IPv4/IPv6 stacks. We believe that IPv6 vectors will continue to emerge as organizations around the world move to adopt the new standard.

You can also expect to see more Layer 7 (application layer) attacks, including those targeting DNS services with HTTP and HTTPS requests. These attacks are often designed to target applications in a way that mimics actual requests, which can make them particularly difficult to detect. It is important to note, however, that Layer 7 attacks are typically only part of a multi-vector DDoS attack. The other parts are aimed at the network and overall bandwidth.

DDoS attacks can be found in a multitude of sizes and for any reason imaginable. They can now be used to find vulnerabilities, to locate backdoors for exfiltration, and as a smokescreen-like distraction for other activities. Today’s organized criminals are able to focus on the results that they want and simply buy or rent the malware or botnets they need to get there. Some have gone so far as to comment that criminals are getting more and more like corporations, each with their own specialization.

The simple fact is that if you’re online, you’re susceptible to an attack. Whether you are vulnerable or not is entirely up to you.

The summit and Rodney Joffe’s keynote was incredibly insightful, but where does that leave us today and how can we guard against such threats in our business and personal lives?

A New York Times report reveals another cyberattack using stolen NSA hacking tools, and experts warn computer systems are not prepared for even more widespread attacks likely in the future. Max Everett, the managing director at Fortalice Solutions, joins CBSN to discuss the threat.

Cybersecurity expert warns the world is not ready.

We can all agree over the course of 2018, global cyber threats have continued to evolve at speed, resulting in a dramatic reshaping of the cyber security landscape. Traditional threats such as generic trojans, ransomware and spam bots were transformed.

After years of focusing on individuals, malware authors will increasingly target enterprises and networks of computers.
Powered by military-grade code allegedly leaked from the NSA, threats such as WannaCry and GoldenEye wrought havoc throughout, shutting down businesses and causing unprecedented operating losses.

The effectiveness of these threats has been compounded by novel lateral movement vectors that augment zero-day exploits such as EternalBlue and EternalRomance, allowing malware to ‘hop’ from one network to another, from organisation to organisation. These targeted attacks are reshaping corporate and government digital security, whilst simultaneously causing fallout in the consumer space.

Ransomware specifically aimed at companies has also become far more prevalent. Since the re-emergence this March of Troldesh, companies have faced extremely targeted attacks that abuse the Remote Desktop Protocol to connect to infrastructure, then manually infect computers.

Certain strains of ransomware such as Troldesh and GlobeImposter come equipped with lateral movement tools (such as Mimikatz), allowing malware to infect an organisation and log clean-up mechanisms to cover their tracks.

Following a surge of market interest around cryptocurrencies that has continued through 2018 and into 2019, miners have diversified and proliferated. Traditional illicit coin miners have rushed to adopt lateral movement tactics such as the EternalBlue and EternalRomance exploits, allowing cybercriminals to infect computers in organisations and increase mining efforts.

Based on threat developments in 2018, organisations should essentially prepare for more sophisticated iterations of malware based on the same theme in 2019.

After years of focusing on individuals, malware authors will increasingly target enterprises and networks of computers. Lateral movement will become standard in most malware samples, either via password-grabbing utilities like Mimikatz, or by exploiting wormable vulnerabilities. In addition, the number of malicious attachments in SPAM emails will increase, particularly those written in scripting languages such as PERL or Python.

“All the world’s a stage/ And all the men and women merely players”; Shakespeare’s famous line makes us consider each person an ‘actor’ in their own right, with their own individual role to play. And when looking across the cyber threat landscape, this rings especially true – each actor has their own motivations and distinct part to play.
When the proverbial hits the fan, it’s typical for the victim – a business or government entity – to focus on the indicators of compromise (IoC) rather than what led to the attack in the first place.

Looking at IoCs is an essential part of a cyber defence strategy and can help victims identify who is targeting them. But it’s a reactive approach, which doesn’t help once your organisation has been breached.

This rear-facing view is also reflected in the cyber sensationalist news narrative. The media tend to focus on the number of attacks – a vanity metric – but rarely on its complexity, length, or who was behind it, and what their motivations were for attacking the organisation in the first place.

IoCs tend to change very quickly, the actor behind does not, nor their objectives and tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs). For example, US-CERT’s release of the Grizzly Steppe malicious Russian activity was complex in that many of the IoCs that were provided were false positives or TOR exit nodes, making it difficult for companies to make sense of them and ingest.

As such, it’s vital that organisations look to understand the actor – their motive, opportunity and means – and not merely read into the IoCs if they are to protect themselves from potential attack.

Threat intelligence highlights IoCs around an attack, such as that the actor was using cheap outsourced labour to perpetuate the attack, was using a particular hosting platform, or shared infrastructure.

IP addresses and domain names change very quickly, but the adversary’s motive does not. Knowing this is the first step towards changing an organisations’ security stance to mitigate the threat, identifying the indicators of attack (IoAs) rather than just the IoCs. Without intelligence, this would be impossible.

The type of malicious actor organisations must deal with will differ. Some may be state-sponsored, for example, carrying out cyber espionage on behalf of a nation. Others may be hacktivists, looking to incite political change, or cyber criminals looking to make a profit.
Understanding the bigger picture beyond the impact of the attack itself is critical if the good guys are going to triumph over the bad. Intelligence plays a key role in getting to the core of that bad apple.

STIX, the standardised language to represent structured information about cyber threats, helps to store and share information on actors and TTPs. It has become the de facto standard for information sharing in cyber threat intelligence as it facilitates automation and human assisted analysis.

Finally, it’s worth remembering that intelligence is not a silver bullet. It’s a part of a wider puzzle that enterprises need to put together in order to give themselves the best chance of defence against a cyber attack.

Security needs to be seen as an architecture, embedded in the foundation of an organisation. Hygiene factors such as ongoing patch management and end-user training also need to be considered.

The human element behind an attack is often forgotten. However, analysts can create a ‘big picture’ of the lifecycle and ecosystem of hackers by adding in the more specific details.

Enterprises and governments are under a constant barrage of cyber attacks. With the threat landscape evolving and attacks becoming ever-more sophisticated, having time to stop and think about the actor behind the malicious intent may seem like a luxury.
However, businesses need to start looking at cyberattacks from the adversary’s perspective to understand what is most attractive to an attacker. Without this understanding, the problem will persist and the next newspaper headline will feature their name.

In summary, the question is not whether you will be attacked. It is when, by what, and how badly your company’s reputation or finances will be damaged. And one thing is sure in the uncertain world of cybersecurity – the wrong time to consider defence is after the attack has occurred.

James Comey once said:
“We face cyber threats from state-sponsored hackers, hackers for hire, global cyber syndicates, and terrorists. They seek our state secrets, our trade secrets, our technology, and our ideas – things of incredible value to all of us. They seek to strike our critical infrastructure and to harm our economy. “

Not enough time… too much work

I really enjoy meeting up with my colleagues and friends, especially when we engage in ‘Meaningful Conversations’, but just recently, and more than ever, the words ‘I do not have enough time, I am on work overload and feel exhausted’ seem to be a running theme with life in general.
So the question is do we have enough focus, are we taking on too many initiatives?

One of the most persistent challenges that people face these days is “initiative overload” – driving themselves too hard and having too many projects and not enough time to get them done.
If you’ve ever found yourself working long days and weekends, and still not feeling caught up with your workload, then you know what I mean.

We all know that a big reason for this overload is the surge in expectations that’s tied to a technology-enabled and connected global economy. As email, texting, instant messaging, teleconferencing, and other electronic communications have become indispensable, people have grown conditioned to expect fast, if not instantaneous, responses to almost everything.

For example, a recent study found that when consumers contact companies through social media, 42% expect a response in one hour or less, and 67% expect a response the same day.
The same seems to be true with work assignments in companies: Customers, managers and even in our personal lives we do expect much more rapid turnaround times for getting things done.
And as people try to action faster, actions and changes to actions end up taking on more and more – and less gets finished.

Sometimes boards of directors and leaders are unaware of all the initiatives under way and their impact on the organisation. In other case’s organisational politics conspires to let initiatives continue long after they should have run their course.
Either way, overload can result in costly productivity and quality problems and employee burnout. With record low unemployment, companies that do not adjust the workload are also at risk of losing valuable talent.

So why does “Initiative Overload” happen?

In my experience, companies often lack the means (and the will) to stop existing initiatives. Sometimes that’s because they have no process for determining when to close things down.
A project might have been vital for the business when it launched, but later the rationale no longer exists – and yet the funding and the work continue.

Leadership teams often engage in prioritisation exercises that define and communicate where people should focus their energy. However, they undermine those efforts if they don’t also do the hard work of explicitly deciding what trade-offs to make and what has to stop.

For companies already experiencing ‘initiative overload’, focusing on the benefits of cutting back can make the path forward somewhat easier.

Organisations are at a great advantage when they learn how to say no, as Steve Jobs once put it, to the “hundred other good ideas that there are.”

They can then use their creative and productive energy more wisely, foster greater employee commitment and loyalty, and accomplish more in the areas that really matter.

The facts are that we’re subjected to thousands of distractions throughout the day. A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that you can be distracted simply by hearing or feeling your phone vibrate, even if you don’t pick it up.
Try putting your phone out of sight (and touch) for 10 minutes of uninterrupted productivity.

Modern technology has evolved to exploit our urgency addiction: email, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, and more will fight to distract you constantly.

Turn off all your notifications. Choose to check these things when you have time or allocate time to be distracted - say, during a break from work – and work through them together, saving time.

My final thought on the matter is, it’s not easy but once you build the good habit of turning off notifications, you can actually get to work and be more productive.

Schedule your priorities and stick to them.

Treat your highest priorities like flights you have to catch: give them a set time in advance and say no to anything that would stop you making your flight.

It pays to unplug.

If you can be reached via smartphone, email, Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, you’re way too available and all these outlets are possible connections that can distract you from your purpose.

Disconnect and watch as your productivity improve.

Your smartphone might be the biggest productivity-killer of all time. Most people just can’t put the phone away.
If your phone is connected online, the temptation to stay updated about almost everything is very high. If you can, put down that phone (or power it off) for a while when in the office and witness the effect that can have on your level of productivity.

Don’t take on too much

The basic principle of success is to focus. It is what makes the difference between those who are successful and those who are not, regardless of how much talent, resource, and energy that they have.

The most accomplished and well-known people in history were known for something unique to them. Einstein pursued the theory of relativity like his whole life depended on it.

Relativity is one of the most famous scientific theories of the 20th century. Mozart was incredibly passionate about music. He was the very best for many generations before and after him. Even today, is there a second musician who could match his genius?

Spend most of your time on the right things and the rest takes care of itself.

It’s not enough to just ‘work hard’. Hard work is not necessarily a bad thing.

But hard work can be a waste of your life when it’s directed at the wrong cause. Decide what is good for you in the long term, and pursue it with all you’ve got.

Each time you have something extra to do or an additional goal to pursue, you further split your power.

Less is more

The key to focusing on the essentials in life and at work is to limit yourself to an arbitrary but small number of things, forcing yourself to focus on the important stuff and eliminate all else.

A great video by Carl Honore, who discusses ‘Thinking Slow and Smart’

When you are doing too much at a time, you are constantly switching from one task to another, constantly interrupted, constantly distracted.

Do less, clear away distractions, single-task, and get more done.

When you do too much, your work is spread thinner, you have lower quality, and people won’t spread your work like they should.
By doing less, you can create something remarkable. Something incredible worth sharing.

Prioritising and optimizing your time during the day will give you more time to focus on what matters, getting more accomplished in a lesser amount of time.

A really great quote by Nido Qubein, he once said:

“One of the greatest resources people cannot mobilize themselves is that they try to accomplish great things. Most worthwhile achievements are the result of many little things done in a single direction.”

Why Corporate Governance should not be stored on your C-drive

Being a director is often challenging and potentially lucrative, but if the prospect of being sued is looming, it can be a lonely and alarming position.

Directors and officers cover (D&O) provides a suit of armour in the face of legal action, with the insurer stepping in to provide guidance at the first sign of a problem and ensuring legal costs and damages are met.

According to Eleni Petros, commercial crime practice leader for broker Marsh: “Cyber risks are a key topic in many boardrooms and are driven onto the agenda by high profile data breaches, distributed denial of services attacks and rising ransomware and cyber extortion attacks.

In the digital age, threats are coming thick and fast and directors are now more frequently having to contend with cyberattacks and data breaches – these are not just issues that affect large organisations.

Directors and high-ranking officers in public and privately-held corporations are under scrutiny like never before as they conduct business in an increasingly regulated and complex global business environment.

As regulatory authorities have responded to public and shareholder pressure in the wake of the credit crisis with more rules, heightened vigilance and tougher enforcement powers, corporate leaders find themselves exposed to even greater risks on a daily basis as they go about their roles.

The pressures on their time are vast, not least for non-executives, who frequently spend as little as 30 days a year working in the business, and for the many directors who sit on the boards of four or five companies.
These directors tell us the information packs that they receive from the companies they run are either far too large, and make it difficult for board members to target the business-critical information, or that they tell directors far too little about the key issues.

Nevertheless, directors face sanctions that make them sit up and take notice, not least the threat of jail. Though probably the least likely outcome for corporate leaders, jail terms can be handed down for antitrust failings, insider trading, bribery and corruption, money laundering or sanctions violations.
There is also the very real concern of regulatory fines and penalties. And these penalties can extend to being prohibited from sitting on boards in the future: the SIF regime now means that directors of banks that perform badly, though not necessarily personally liable, can find themselves excluded from directorships in regulated businesses going forward.

Then of course there is the growing threat of civil actions, and particularly shareholder class actions on both sides of the Atlantic. For antitrust violations in the United States, the maximum jail term for executives is ten years, and there are instances where officers and directors have served four-year terms.
These penalties apply equally to foreign nationals running companies with U.S. operations as they do to those businesses headquartered in the States, and antitrust authorities around the world are increasingly adopting similar approaches.
There are now more than 120 regimes that pursue this conduct around the world, with around a dozen of those imposing criminal sanctions for breaches.

The number of antitrust cases being dealt with by the enforcement agencies has increased exponentially in recent years, not least because the incentives for reporting incidences of wrongdoing have increased, encouraging whistle blowers and pushing companies to approach the authorities when they are alerted to issues within their own organisations.

This first-mover advantage can work to the detriment of directors, who may be implicated by the companies they work for when detailed investigations take place

It is increasingly important for directors and officers to work hard to set the compliance tone for the organisation from the top, by making it clear to employees what is expected of them, by setting an example and by ensuring that the messages are communicated across, and become part of, the company.

The guidance published with the Bribery Act 2010 is just one example of express reference to the importance of “tone at the top”.

Business leaders need to design and implement systems and controls that are appropriate to their organisation, and regularly review and test those systems to ensure they are delivering results. At the same time, compliance requires a bottom-up approach, such that the system ensures that regular requests for information are made of all levels of the business, and frequent enquiries are initiated and followed up.
Directors need to ensure that the information that they receive is both timely and appropriately prioritised, so that they know they have done their best to be on top of what is going on.

In today’s environment, directors and officers also need to look out for themselves, which means that if they have questions they must not only raise them, but also pursue answers, and record the fact that they have done so.

Directors need to be assertive with their colleagues across the business. If they find themselves dealing with topics with which they are not comfortable, they should seek external advice. There were countless examples of directors of financial institutions telling Congressional hearings in the U.S.- that they didn’t understand the collateralised debt obligation products that their banks were trading, but ignorance is not an excuse that will find favour with regulators.

The key message is that devoting time, resources and effort to the compliance programme is the best guarantee of success, and that the companies that have successfully introduced effective cultures have done so only as a result of sustained commitment.

Directors must take responsibility for introducing and maintaining a culture of compliance across their organisation, which means building the right structures; delivering regular training to employees, and particularly those in high-risk areas; setting up proper audit procedures that allow for deep-dive checks on a regular basis; and acting on discoveries in a timely and effective way.

Finally, with an ever-growing list of mandatory and non-mandatory rules is ramping up the risks faced by directors & officers. The general trend is toward raising the level of care expected of D&Os and expanding their existing duties.

These higher standards increase the personal risks and liabilities for D&Os as they look to steer their organisations through the complexity of today’s business challenges. As a consequence, at-risk senior executives are searching for more sophisticated D&O coverage.

In many instances it is not the personal liabilities of directors that have changed, nor what constitute illegal acts, but rather the appetite of enforcement agencies to hold directors and officers accountable. Reprimanding senior executives is increasingly seen as the most effective means of changing behaviour and preventing criminal and civil offences going forward.
The trend of rigorous enforcement particularly holds true when it comes to international criminal acts, including crimes committed against antitrust legislation, against the UK Bribery Act or America’s Foreign and Corrupt Practices Act, or breaching international sanctions laws.

Final thought, whether you are a large corporation or a small business, reaffirming the significance of the role of good corporate governance.

Corporate governance performed properly, results in the protection of shareholder assets. Fortunately, many boards take on this difficult and challenging role and perform it well. They do so by, among other things, being active, informed, independent, involved, and focused on the interests of shareholders.

Good boards also recognise the need to adapt to new circumstances—such as the increasing risks of cyber-attacks. To that end, board oversight of risk management is critical to ensuring that companies are taking adequate steps to prevent, and prepare for, the harms that can result from mis-appropriation of management.
There is no substitution for proper preparation, deliberation, and engagement on company related issues. Given the heightened awareness of these rapidly evolving risks, directors should take seriously their obligation to make sure that companies are appropriately addressing those risks.

Nicolas Berggruen once said:

‘The biggest determinant in our lives is culture, where we are born, what the environment looks like. But the second biggest determinant is probably governance, good governance or a certain kind of governance makes a huge difference in our lives.’

Why forecasting is important

Many CEOs tell me they would seek more comfort and be more confident if they could keep better tabs on their financials. They have put their plans into place based on economic and market assumptions made a few months back, but will they sustain the continual pain barriers to maintain, and increasing growth?

Any company seeking growth in 2018/2019 would be wise to include a sensitivity analysis as part of the balance sheet forecast. There are many ways to book actuals, and financial teams may want to spend some time determining the best processes for their companies.

In either good times or bad approaching the future with a robust forecast is vital for all kinds of businesses, other considerations should also consider, Politics, Economics, Global Risks and Customer Behaviour.

Politics
The pollsters failed miserably to predict the outcome of the past two UK general elections, the Brexit referendum and the US presidential election.

It’s tempting to blame the influence of fake news posted on social networks, given that allegations of foreign interference via such media are rarely far from the headlines.
But Ian Goldin, director of the programme on technological and economic change at the University of Oxford’s Martin School, suggests that other forces are stronger.

“The growing extremism we’ve seen is part of a broader set of factors, of which the web is an amplifier, not a cause,” he says.
“Change is accelerating and our social-security safety net is weakening.

People are getting left behind more quickly and insecurity is growing. There is a distrust of authority and expertise. Because house prices, rents and transport costs have increased so much relative to their incomes, people are getting locked out of dynamic cities where unemployment is low, pay is relatively high and citizens are more comfortable with change and immigration.”

So where does that leave those whose job is to gauge public opinion and forecast electoral outcomes accordingly?

Earth image courtesy of NASA http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/

Economics
The playwright George Bernard Shaw once said:

“If all economists were laid end to end, they would still not reach a conclusion.”

More than 120 years after he co-founded the London School of Economics, his wry observation has lost little relevance.

Paul Hollingsworth, senior UK economist at Capital Economics, agrees, noting that their profession has “taken a bit of a beating in recent years” for its failure to predict, among other things, the 2007-08 global financial crisis.

“More emphasis needs to be placed on possible ranges of outcomes and the associated probabilities, to enable businesses to plan for the worst but hope for the best,” he says.

Andrew Goodwin, lead UK economist at Oxford Economics, believes that “a premium on adaptability” is the smart way forward. He explains: “We find that the best approach is to combine sophisticated tools with expert insight and to identify alternative scenarios.”

Parikh, meanwhile, points to the value of “stronger intelligence-sharing and collaboration”, especially among SMEs.
Given that the Office for Budget Responsibility has dropped its 2018 GDP growth forecast from 1.6 per cent to 1.4 per cent, calculated circumspection – or what he calls “stress-testing organisations against an array of macroeconomic scenarios” – seems wise advice indeed.

Global risks
“In many respects it’s becoming easier to assess business-related risk owing to the increasing accessibility of open-source information and intelligence,” says Phil Cable, co-founder and CEO of risk management firm Maritime Asset Security and Training.

“Global competition has forced businesses to spread their wings and trade in places where they wouldn’t otherwise go. But assessing personal risks and employees’ safety, security and health concerns in places where western standards are limited is still challenging.”

The Ipsos Mori Global Business Resilience Trends Watch 2018 survey, conducted in partnership with International SOS, revealed that 42 per cent of organisations had altered the travel arrangements of their employees in 2017 because of risk ratings pertaining to security threats and natural disasters.

200 million people were connected in the late 1980s to one in which more than six billion people are connected. The silos we used to work in no longer apply. We can sell to places anywhere in the world, but there’s a downside – a pandemic can now cause a financial crisis, for instance. Hurricane Sandy, had it been bigger, could have led to a global crash.”

Customer behaviour
Forecasting how the public might spend its hard-earned cash is a far better-informed exercise than it ever has been.
So says Steve King, co-founder and CEO of Black Swan, a firm that predicts consumer trends using what he calls “the world’s most advanced database of consumer thought and opinion” – aka the internet.

“Never before have we lived in an age when so many people have shared so much information about themselves, or when this knowledge has been so readily accessible,” King says.

“It’s going to be incredibly interesting to see how the development of disruptive connected technologies such as the internet of things will change our behaviour in unexpected ways.”

To fully exploit the sheer volume of customer-related information to be found online, real-time monitoring and instant responses are imperative, he adds.

“Micro-trends are effectively created and destroyed almost overnight now. Brands must start moving with the times and away from qualitative future-gazing. They need to adopt new platforms that continually analyse social trends and offer quantifiable, robust predictions powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning.”

A final thought
Many companies do not understand the strategic importance of forecasting.

Having the right resources available at the right time is essential for efficient functioning.
In today’s tough business environment where businesses are trying to save costs it is needed that every penny is saved.
Forecasting is one way to save costs as from forecasting only companies can guess the future demand and can manage their resource accordingly. Any mismanagement in forecasting can lead to great loss in both small and large businesses.

All large companies use forecasting when formulating their strategy because without it no decisions can be made. It is true that no one can predict the future accurately, but forecasting can give a general idea about future on which present decisions can be made. Forecasting is therefore an important strategic tool for all businesses.

Paul Polman once said:
“Practically, systemic thinking can be used to identify problems, analyze their boundaries, design strategies and policy interventions, forecast and measure their expected impacts, implement them, and monitor and evaluate their successes and failures.”

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.’