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.’

Not just data… Meaningful Data that enables decisions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Stewart Butterfield once said:

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

Leap first and the net will appear!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You just might end up exactly where you should be.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

“Journeys to Success” – out next week!

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

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

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

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

See also: “Journeys to Success” – Podcast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We need to watch this space…..

As Masayoshi Son once said:

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

How to infuse boards with entrepreneurial spirit

I was recently having tea and a ‘meeting of minds’ with a great friend on the subject of executive board management and entrepreneurial spirit, the question ‘whether the mindset of boards can infuse entrepreneurial thinking objectively? ’

We all know that entrepreneurial spirit is a mindset and then a behaviour. It is an attitude and approach to thinking that actively seeks out change, rather than waiting to adapt to change. It is a mindset that embraces critical questioning, innovation, service and continuous improvement. It is about seeing the big picture and thinking like an owner, It is being agile, never resting on your laurels, shaking off the cloak of complacency and seeking out new opportunities. It is about taking ownership and pride in your organisation.
Despite the best intentions, too much success may ultimately lead to failure as employees in well-established companies focus on maintaining the status quo and following procedures instead of looking for new opportunities. Executives ultimately get a wake-up call when a svelte competitor swoops in and seizes market share by capitalizing on an untapped opportunity.

Dr. Glen Taylor, director of MBA Programs for Global Innovation at CSU once said “When things are going well, it’s natural for companies to thrive on their own logic and nurture a culture that resists change, but if you don’t consider new ideas and opportunities, eventually you’ll hit a dead end.”

Wherever you look in business, there’s a new level of interest in entrepreneurship. As attention at corporations swings away from retrenchment and toward growth, more and more people are wondering why some companies and not just start-ups are able to stimulate creativity and initiative among their employees more effectively than others. Beyond helping to trigger the impulse, what do those organisations do to convert intriguing ideas into commercial ventures?

Most managers whose companies have found success in fostering entrepreneurial activity agree that no single practice enables them to identify and capture new opportunities. For example, many companies have found that pushing decision making down into the organisation is only part of what’s needed. Building a culture of entrepreneurship often requires pulling and nudging a variety of other levers as well.

Many large companies are seeking ways of reinventing or revitalising their entrepreneurial roots.

These companies often long for some of the spark, innovation, speed and risk taking that they once had, but which have slowly eroded under the weight of size, bureaucracy, complex processes and hierarchy. Corporate entrepreneurship encompasses a set of activities, attitudes, and actions that are believed to help large companies regain some of this lost magic. Although much has been written about corporate entrepreneurship over the last ten years, very little is understood regarding its implementation within large company settings. First, the concept is little understood beyond the halls of academia, and there are very few guidelines regarding successful implementation.

Amazon.com has forced Barnes and Noble to re-evaluate and change some key aspects of its business model. Homeruns.com has changed the way many people shop for groceries, and Autobytel has forced GM and others to put up their own websites in direct competition with their own dealers. What’s going on?

The little guys are taking advantage of the big guys, and the big guys have to fight back … fast. entrepreneurship is quickly becoming the weapon of choice for many of these large companies. It is an attempt to steal and inculcate some of the thunder from these little entrepreneurial start-ups.

Corporate entrepreneurship can be a powerful solution to large company staleness, lack of innovation, stagnated top-line growth, and the inertia that often overtakes the large, mature companies of the world. Corporate entrepreneurship can also be hugely positive, a novel approach to new business development that often sits uncomfortably, sometimes impossibly, next to the planning, structure and careful organization many large companies have often built so carefully over the years.

Big companies are turning towards corporate entrepreneurship because they are not getting the continual innovation, growth, and value creation that they once had. Unfortunately, many CEOs look around their own company, and see very few entrepreneurially-minded executives. Perhaps they never showed up to work because of their dislike of large company bureaucracy and politics. Or those who did show up were either pushed out or learned to stop pushing. We may all love entrepreneurs, but large companies have a way of eroding their entrepreneurial underpinnings. In large companies, most managers are rewarded for minimizing risk, following the rules, and performing their functional roles to the best of their abilities. They look forward to a predictable rewards and, in many instances, a fairly predictable bonus.

Most big company executives would be hard pressed to call themselves value creators. They are quota and budget watchers. They are planners and organisers and more rule adherents than rule breakers. Big companies have slavishly gone after waste and redundancy with, sometimes, spectacular success. But these machinations rarely create long-term sustainable value for the shareholders. It helps the bottom line, but not necessarily the top line.

So how then can a corporate leader try to re-establish this start-up kind of mentality in his or her large company where the organisation’s sheer size and bureaucracy have managed to kill this type of behavior?

1. Corporate venturing involves starting a business within a business, usually emanating from a core competency or process. A bank, for example, which has a core competency in transaction processing, turns this into a separate business and offers transaction processing to other companies who need mass processing of information. In some organizations, functions like product development are tasked with being the people responsible for new venture creation. Ventures usually involve the creation, nurturing, and development of a new business that comes from within the old business, but represents a significantly new product or market opportunity.

2. Intrapreneuring, first espoused by Pinchot (1985), is an attempt to take the mindset and behaviors that external entrepreneurs have, and inculcate these characteristics into their employees. Sometimes the company wants every employee to act like an entrepreneur, but a more typical approach involves the targeting of a subset of managers to act as corporate entrepreneurs. Companies usually want this cadre of corporate entrepreneurs to identify and develop spin-ups (innovations in current businesses that can lead to substantial growth opportunities) or to create an environment where more innovation and entrepreneurial behavior is evidenced.

3. Organisational Transformation is another variation or flavour of corporate entrepreneurship concept especially if the transformation results in the development of new business opportunities. This type of entrepreneurship only fits the original Schumpeterian definition if the transformation involves innovation, a new arrangement or combination of resources, and results in the creation of sustainable economic value. Clearly, some transformations meet these requirements, while others do not. Transforming an organization by de-layering, cost cutting, re-engineering, downsizing, and using the latest technology does not guarantee that the organization will recognize or capture new opportunities.

4. Industry Rule-Bending is another type of transformation but focuses on changing the rules of competitive engagement. Stopford and Baden-Fuller (1993) label this behaviour as ‘frame-breaking change’. Toyota, for example, changed the rules of the game in the automobile industry by producing low cost automobiles with exceptionally high quality. As a result, US and European auto manufacturers were forced by Toyota and other Japanese automakers to follow suit. Thus, Toyota not only transformed itself, but also helped to start a wholesale transformation of the industry.

Companies can take a number of different approaches to becoming more entrepreneurial. AVCO Financial Services, a large international finance company was a very organized, detailed organization controlled by many governmental requirements in the management of their business. These governmental requirements demanded great attention to detail, complex systems, and daily financial reporting mechanisms. Not the stuff of entrepreneurial, fast companies. Nonetheless, AVCO was quite entrepreneurial.
They did not try to change the whole culture, or create a mass of internal entrepreneurs, nor dabble too far into corporate venturing, but it was still entrepreneurial. AVCO has operations all over the world, but mainly in the Americas, Europe, and in Asia. Much of their innovation and branch operations experiments were done in Australia.

Their reasoning was quite sound. First, Australia was far enough away from corporate headquarters in Irvine, California that the experiments could be undetected for months. And even if sanctioned, the experiments were being done in that odd country down under that seemed so remote to many at headquarters that it didn’t make much of an image on the corporate radar screen.
If innovation is the ability to recognize opportunity, then the essence of being an entrepreneur is being able to mobilise talent and resources quickly to seize that opportunity and turn it into a business. Particularly for big companies, the challenge is to find ways to nourish the activities that give rise to innovation while at the same time cultivating the ability to move decisively once an opportunity presents itself.

Finally, despite all of the aforementioned, when corporate entrepreneuring works, it can work spectacularly. And, if the company is serious and supportive of internal entrepreneurs, corporate entrepreneurship can be a powerful tool for innovation, growth, and personal fulfilment if approached thoughtfully and with courage of conviction.

As John C. Maxwell once said:

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.”

“Striving for an Ultimate Goal” – my chapter in ‘Journeys to Success – Volume 9’ (June 2018) + PODCAST

In the best-selling “Journeys to Success” series, men and women share their personal stories of transforming life-shattering events into triumphant success. The stories inside this book contain powerful seeds for resilience, spiritual awakening and plain determination in the face of powerful events. ‘Volume 9’ (to be published in June, 2018) is a dedication to the late Tom Cunnigham, who recently passed away. (Volume 7, at Amazon)

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

The Journeys to Success series has become an international sensation, international author and businessman Geoff Hudson-Searle has contributed his chapter: ‘Striving for an Ultimate Goal’.

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

Geoff talking about his chapter in ‘Journeys to Success – Volume 9’:

Resources: Freedom after the Sharks

PODCAST (opens in new tab)

Why Cyberbullying is destroying our children’s lives

I recently received an email from Jane H via the Freedom after the Sharks website after she had read one of my blogs that I wrote on 15th May 2015: “Is cyberbullying really necessary?”

Bullying has been around for decades, even centuries. In fact, the word “Bully” originated during the 1530s. On the contrary, cyberbullying has emerged thanks to the advent of technology. In the 1990s and 2000s, webpages, cellphones, and early social networking sites like MySpace introduced cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying is any form of bullying which takes place online or through smartphones and tablets. Social networking sites, messaging apps, gaming sites and chat rooms such as Facebook, XBox Live, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and other chat rooms can be great fun and a positive experience. But what do you do when things go wrong?

As technology keeps evolving, cyberbullying progressively is getting worse. Different platforms and ways of degrading an individual got easier such as blogging and posting anonymously. Regrettably, this has caused some young people to deteriorate physically and emotionally or even take their own lives. All of these cyberbullying cases have prompted several groups to discuss and find an answer to this conundrum. Some of their solutions conflict with each other, but they are committed to stopping cyberbullying.

Nowadays, people associate social media with negativity, such as cyberbullying or cyberhacking. In actuality, only a small portion of youth is misusing it. Instead of using social media to hurt others, the majority are using it as a way to heal. For example, many teenagers go on YouTube to connect with their peers, find role models, and deal with their emotional and mental health.

The facts are, recently, there has been an increasing trend of “cyberbullying.” “Cyberbullying” entails the harassment of students using social media websites, text messages, emails, and other technology. “Cyberbullying” presents several new and troubling problems for state government, the school systems, parents, and the courts. Most importantly, “cyberbullying” can lead to dire consequences, such as grief-induced suicides. Sadly, this occurs frequently because “cyberbullying” is often aimed at emotionally fragile adolescents. Clearly, such tragic consequences should be prevented.

This video by Trisha Prabhu ‘Rethink before you type’ TEDxTeen conveys her emotions and passionate comments on the subject:

Bullying is a persistent problem for educators and policy leaders across education, particularly with the ubiquity and popularity of social media platforms. The problem has become so embedded in the culture that we now see the appearance of cyberbully laws in many countries against such terror.

Statistics show that Cyberbullying appears to be somewhat less frequent than face-to-face bullying, but the consequences may be even more severe, issues like trauma, depression, anxiety, academic problems and social problems can result from cyberbullying.

Schools have responded by amending anti-bullying codes to include cyberbullying in their social media policies, anyone who makes threats to a child on the internet could be committing a criminal offence. It’s against the law in the UK to use the phone system, which includes the internet, to cause alarm or distress. It could also be against the 1997 Harassment Act.

Many cyberbullies think that bullying others online is funny. Cyber bullies may not realise the consequences for themselves of cyberbullying. The things teens post online now may reflect badly on them later when they apply for college or a job. Cyber bullies can lose their cell phone or online accounts for cyber bullying. Also, cyber bullies and their parents may face legal charges for cyber bullying, and if the cyber bullying was sexual in nature or involved sexting, the results can include being registered as a sex offender.

Teens may think that if they use a fake name they won’t get caught, but there are many ways to track someone who is cyberbullying.
Despite the potential damage of cyber bullying, it is alarmingly common among adolescents and teens. According to Cyberbullying statistics from the i-SAFE foundation:

Over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyberbullying.
• More than 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyberthreats online;
• Over 25 percent of adolescents and teens have been bullied repeatedly through their cell phones or the Internet;
• Well over half of young people do not tell their parents when cyberbullying occurs.

Further alarming statistics show:
• Around half of teens have been the victims of cyberbullying;
• Only 1 in 10 teens tells a parent if they have been a cyberbully-victim;
• Fewer than 1 in 5 cyberbullying incidents are reported to law enforcement;
• 1 in 10 adolescents or teens have had embarrassing or damaging pictures taken of themselves without their permission, often using cell phone cameras;
• About 1 in 5 teens have posted or sent sexually suggestive or nude pictures of themselves to others;
• Girls are somewhat more likely than boys to be involved in cyberbullying.

The Cyberbullying Research Center also did a series of surveys that found these cyberbullying statistics:
• Over 80 percent of teens use a cell phone regularly, making it the most popular form of technology and a common medium for cyberbullying;
• About half of young people have experienced some form of cyberbullying, and 10 to 20 percent experience it regularly;
• Mean, hurtful comments and spreading rumours are the most common type of cyberbullying;
• Girls are at least as likely as boys to be cyberbullies or their victims;
• Boys are more likely to be threatened by cyberbullies than girls;
• Cyberbullying affects all races;
• Cyberbullying victims are more likely to have low self-esteem and to consider suicide.

There are many types of different technical tools available in the market to support you and keep your children safe online. These vary from VPNs and antivirus software to internet filters and parental controls. Essentially, none of these are really enough to help keep your child safe.

The below link is a useful guide: ‘The Ultimate Parent Guide for Protecting Your Child on the Internet’

In summary, cyberbullying is a serious issue, and like any form of bullying it can have long-term effects on its victims.

As technology continues to become an increasingly large part of our daily lives, and the lives of our children, it is important to recognize the dangers of cyberbullying and to take definite steps to prevent it.

Parents, teachers, and children must work together to prevent cyberbullying and to make the internet a safer place for all. Children should be educated on what to do and who to go to in the event that they encounter a cyberbully.

And parents should encourage schools to update their technology policies to help prevent instances of online bullying. With parents, children, and educators working together we can decrease the instances of cyberbullying and create a safer and more rewarding online environment for all of our children.

As Ellen DeGeneres once said:

‘We focus so much on our differences, and that is creating, I think, a lot of chaos and negativity and bullying in the world. And I think if everybody focused on what we all have in common – which is – we all want to be happy.’