Human challenges in a post-pandemic era

In the wake of this once-in-a-century pandemic, COVID-19 has turned into a global crisis, evolving at unprecedented speed and scale. It is creating a universal imperative for governments and organizations to take immediate action to protect their people.

It is now the biggest global event—and challenge—of our lifetimes. As such, it is changing human attitudes and behaviors today and forcing organizations to respond.

As the immediate impact of the coronavirus shock becomes clear, we will inevitably turn to the question: what long-term changes will this bring about and how will all of us be affected?

COVID-19 has forever changed the experience of being a customer, an employee, a citizen and a human. Expect to see behavior change at scale for some time to come.

What will have changed in the way we think? How will that affect the way we design, communicate, build and run the experiences that people need and want? The answers to these questions will lie in the way people react and how individuals, families and social groups all sources of creative innovation hack new ways to live. Every organization must become a listener sharpening their sensitivity to signals in real-time in order to respond immediately.

We are witnessing massive behavior change at a scale and speed that we’ve never seen before, sparked by fear, proselytised by social media, encouraged by the government. Such change includes frequent handwashing, working from home and discouraging bad behavior such as toilet paper hoarding.

This goes way beyond “nudge” techniques, though some are being used, and extends to the outright insistence that is either working naturally or enforced. Twitter even launched a handwashing emoji.

The science of behavior change had already become a known subject of study and an increasingly important tool for design over the past ten years. Leading companies had already instituted tools and practices to monitor, collect, analyse and act on a mix of digital surveys, behavioral signals, listening and sentiment.

Now, the need for these capabilities will become foundational to experience creation, and the speed at which companies can and, increasingly must respond to them will become sources of competitive advantage.

The coronavirus pandemic is fundamentally shifting how we live and do business and will accelerate the Fourth Industrial Revolution, fuelled by smart technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and mobile supercomputing.

The formula is to listen, empathy, learn, execute reassess and execute again, using kaizen as a continual performance measure to everything we do.

Evidence-based research suggests that 20% of the world’s population is currently under lockdown due to the current pandemic. Those that are not in full lockdown are likely experiencing significant disruption to their usual routine. For the vast majority of us, these are strange and unprecedented times.

Isaac Newton was forced to practice the early-modern equivalent of social-distancing twice during his time as a Cambridge undergraduate. Like many others in Cambridge during the Great Plague of 1665-6, Newton retreated to the countryside to escape the disease-ridden city and spent two extended periods at his family home in rural Lincolnshire, Woolsthorpe Manor.

While many of us are struggling to adapt to the new and uncertain challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak, Newton thrived in his period of isolation, and later described it as one of the most productive times in his life. Freed from the limits of the Cambridge curriculum, and from the rigor and bustle of university life, Newton found that he had the breathing space to reflect on and develop his theories on optics, calculus, and the laws of motion and gravity.

Another world event was the financial crisis of 2008, we saw cloud computing kicked into high gear and started to become a pervasive, transformational technology. The current COVID-19 crisis could provide a similar inflexion point for AI applications. While the implications of AI continue to be debated on the world stage, the rapid onset of a global health crisis and concomitant recession will accelerate its impact.

Times of crisis bring rapid change. Efforts to harness AI technologies to discover new drugs – either vaccine or treatment – have kicked into hyperdrive. Start-ups are racing to find solutions and established companies are forming partnerships with academia to find a cure.

Other companies are researching existing drugs for their potential applicability. AI is proving a useful tool for dramatically reducing the time needed to identify potential drug candidates, possibly saving years of research. AI uses already put into action are screening for COVID-19 symptoms, decision support for CT scans, and automating hospital operations. A variety of healthcare functions have started to be performed by robots, from diagnosis to temperature monitoring.

The time to act is now. Below I have set out 5 simple steps to support in the new era:

Trust
The erosion of trust will make purpose more important than ever before. This will necessitate a “trust multiplier” action that, to be effective, rebuilds trust quickly and credibly. Focus will be on purpose-building through every channel.

Justifiable optimism will sell well. All of this may change the nature of what we regard as premium products and services.

The online world
The enforced shift during the worst of the pandemic to virtual working, consuming and socialising will fuel a massive and further shift to online activity for anything and everything. Anything that can be done online will be.
Winners will be those who test and explore all of the associated creative possibilities and necessitate steps to protect and secure their IT infrastructure, irrespective of micro, small, medium or large users.

Your health and wellbeing is everything
The concerns about health amplified during the crisis will not ebb after it is over. Rather, health will dominate. A health economy will emerge with opportunities for all to plug into. Every business will need to understand how it can be part of a new health and wellbeing ecosystem that will dominate citizen thinking.

Innovative isolation
The desire for isolation at home, along with opportunities for those with creative strategies to enable it, will move center-stage for the same reason. Winners will be those who zero their sights on the home. At the height of the crisis, many workers, especially are spending more time at home. After, this pattern will endure with meaningfulness and comfort carrying a price premium.

A purposeful authority
A reinvention of a purposeful authority is likely after the effect of travel limitations, self-isolation and lockdown officially mandated by many governments. This is likely to be the trickiest of the five human implications as its impact could go one of two ways.
If governments get their handling of the crisis broadly right, expect top-down control to be back in fashion; if not, the reverse. This is likely to vary by geography. What role will companies play and how will this be implemented?

Another perspective….
All attempts to predict the future could famously turn out to be completely wrong. “A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth’s atmosphere,” claimed the New York Times in 1936, three decades before man landed on the Moon. Last year, the Economist magazine predicted that the 2020 Olympics would be a great success. Anyway, Mayo’s prediction is extreme; in the end, most people will return to the status quo.

Much science fiction has proved to be uncannily accurate. In George Orwell’s 1984, “telescreens” meant public and private spaces were filled with cameras. Today, CCTV and video calls mean we are constantly on screen. And people worldwide have been captivated by Dean Koontz’s 1981 novel about a virus called Wuhan-400. Maybe Mayo’s vision is not as outlandish as it seems.

My thoughts on the matter……
Covid-19 has triggered such an immense wave of social experiments that some change seems inevitable. But which experiments will we want to continue and which should we discard? Some, such as homeschooling, will be enthusiastically abandoned, while others, like virtual working, we might wish to keep at least in part.

We have already experimented with new ways of living and working on a vast scale, yet as we face the current crisis as a society, we must resolve the competing values of protecting health while also ensuring privacy and liberty.

And we must find a balance between business viability and protecting the ability of people to earn a reasonable living. There is no going back; we’re heading into a new normal. Immediately, the focus will have to be on managing the crisis with the best available tools.

This period could be 12-24 months until there is enough herd immunity, treatment therapies, and an effective vaccine.

During this time, governments will need to do everything possible to provide a social safety net, at least until business can resume and employment levels approach pre-crisis levels.

Concurrently, people should realize there will be new rules in the new normal, especially those who work in fields where automation is likely. They should use this period to learn new skills such as systems analysis and evaluation, problem-solving, ideation, and leadership. Many companies, from Shell to Amazon have announced plans to re-skill large segments of their workforce. More will need to do so.

Protecting privacy and liberty is perhaps even more challenging. Once surveillance technology is used in response to an immediate crisis, it is difficult to reverse. Surveillance does not need to be our manifest destiny.

One proposal out of Europe would limit the retention of collected data for only 14 days, the period of possible virus transmission. The only effective means to reasonably protect privacy is to require that surveillance powers assumed during a crisis expire when the crisis ends.

COVID-19 will accelerate the trend towards corporate-purpose made visible through experiences and corporations standing for something bigger than their core output. The legacy effect on the sustainability debate will be profound.

It will be interesting to see if, among the majority of customers locked down who have been forced to think for many weeks about their priorities, there is an accelerated shift to “conscious consumption” – buying only what matters and what they really need. Will life’s little luxuries rebound fiercely as everyday life resumes? Or will luxury be redefined?

A culture may emerge that’s far more sensitive to ostentatious displays of exclusivity. Brands now trading off luxury will face a choice. Should they embrace and communicate meaningful values that benefit the greater society? Or should they become an “invisible luxury” brand that eschews materialistic ostentation in favor of discreet experiences, for example, or relationships, and understated signifiers? This would not just change what these brands sell, but how they market and sell it.

Finally, the subject of EQ is not new, we all need to understand behavior: honing your emotional intelligence to better understand your customers’ and employees’ behaviors new, changed or those left unchanged. Be ready to draw on all three sources of data: big data, thick data (deep insights on people), and broad data (contextual and market trends). Ensure that all data sources are constantly updated and utilised across the organisation.

As the effects of COVID19 pan out we will have to wait and see exactly what takes place for the good of change.

Maris Popova, a successful Bulgarian writer once said:

“On the precipice of any great change, we can see with terrifying clarity the familiar firm footing we stand to lose, but we fill the abyss of the unfamiliar before us with dread at the potential loss rather than jubilation over the potential gain of gladnesses and gratifications we fail to envision because we haven’t yet experienced them.”

A world event and perseverance may just be the start of a new journey of innovation

The current COVID-19 pandemic is presenting business leaders with some very difficult decisions.

COVID 19 is not alone on the list of world event’s and its easy to forget the legacies of the past that have shaped our world. World history is filled with disasters, and most of them come with extremely high death tolls.

This list looks at the top 12 disasters:
1. Shaanxi Earthquake 1556
2. Tangshan Earthquake 1976
3. Antioch Earthquake 526AD
4. Haiyuan Earthquake 1920
5. Aleppo Earthquake 1138
6. Hongdong Earthquake 1303
7. Hiroshima Nuclear Detonation 1945
8. Nagasaki Nuclear Detonation 1945
9. Spanish Flu 1918
10. Asian Flu 1957
11. Sept. 11, 2001, Terrorist Attacks
12. SARS 2003

The Worst Disasters on Earth have been truly devastating, and they go to show that no matter how impressively we build our structures, Nature wins out in the end.

Every disaster has things to teach us.

Looking back at a decade in which superstorms, wildfires, disease outbreaks, and monster earthquakes have taken unimaginable tolls all over the planet, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the scope of the problem.

But learning the lessons of every disaster, every time, is important. Every time, the world can respond more effectively – drawing from past experiences and avoiding past mistakes. As extreme weather worsens, people’s understanding of a disaster’s scope and effect can evolve as well.

Isaac Newton was in his early 20s when the Great Plague of London hit. He wasn’t a “Sir” yet, didn’t have that big formal wig. He was just another college student at Trinity College, Cambridge.

It would be another 200 years before scientists discovered the bacteria that causes plague, but even without knowing exactly why, folks back then still practiced some of the same things we do to avoid illness.

In 1665, there was a version of “social distancing” – Cambridge sent students home to continue their studies. For Newton, that meant Woolsthorpe Manor, the family estate about 60 miles northwest of Cambridge.

Without his professors to guide him, Newton apparently thrived. The year-plus he spent away was later referred to as his annus mirabilis, the “year of wonders.”

In London, a quarter of the population would die of the plague from 1665 to 1666. It was one of the last major outbreaks in the 400 years that the Black Death ravaged Europe.

Newton returned to Cambridge in 1667, theories in hand. Within six months, he was made a fellow; two years later, a professor.

Resilience is the process of being able to adapt well and bounce back quickly in times of stress. This stress may manifest as family or relationship problems, serious health problems, problems in the workplace or even financial problems to name a few.

Developing resilience can help you cope adaptively and bounce back after changes, challenges, setbacks, disappointments, and failures.

To be resilient means to bounce back from a challenging experience.

Research has shown that resiliency is pretty common. People tend to demonstrate resilience more often than you think. One example of resilience is the response of many Americans after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and individuals’ efforts to rebuild their lives.

Persistence is the quality of continuing steadily despite problems or difficulties. It is one of the qualities of high achievers. The longer you stay committed to a task or goal, the more likely something good will happen for you. And believe me- the Universe will test your commitment to your goal. You develop yourself and learn new lessons, you face challenges and obstacles, but the payoff comes when you refuse to give up.

Have you heard that anything worth having is worth working for? It’s true. Some of my most difficult situations preceded tremendous breakthroughs. There are tons of examples of underdogs or heroes of ours who persisted, stayed on course, and met or even exceeded their goals.

Let’s look at some examples.

• NASA experienced 20 failures in its 28 attempts to send rockets to space.
• Tim Ferriss sent his breakthrough New York Times bestselling book 4 Hour Workweek to 25 publishers before one finally accepted it.
• Henry Ford’s early businesses failed and left him broke 5 times before he founded Ford Motor Company.
• Walt Disney went bankrupt after failing at several businesses. He was even fired from a newspaper for lacking imagination and good ideas.
• Albert Einstein was thought to be mentally handicapped before changing the face of modern physics and winning the Nobel Prize.
• It took Thomas Edison 1,000 attempts before inventing the light bulb. His teachers also told him growing up that he was too stupid to learn anything.
• Lucille Ball was regarded as a failed actress before she won 4 Emmys and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kennedy Center Honors.
• Dr. Seuss’s first book was rejected by 27 publishers before it was accepted.
• American author Jack London received 600 rejections before his first story was accepted.
• Vincent van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime, though today, his works are priceless.
• Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team for not being good enough.
• J. K Rowling was nearly penniless, severely depressed, divorced, and a single mom, who went to school while writing Harry Potter. Rowling went from needing government assistance to being one of the richest women in the world in a 5-year span through her hard work and perseverance.

Persistence as with resilience, determination and purpose is the quality of continuing steadily despite problems or difficulties. It is one of the qualities of high achievers. The longer you stay committed to a task or goal, the more likely something good will happen for you. Some of my most difficult situations preceded tremendous breakthroughs.

Persistence is one of several vital characteristics of successful leaders. Driven by an indomitable spirit, successful leaders never give up on their dreams of building a viable business. There is no impediment too great. This unflagging attribute is a key characteristic of triumphant business builders.

Purposeful Driven Leaders tackle bewildering and potentially catastrophic situations. They possess courage, hope and a deeply held belief that they can survive the moment and continue to prosper.

Personal strength, greatness, self-confidence, maturity and wisdom are by-products gained through unfathomable adversity. It has been said that men become great mariners when sailing on troubled waters, not calm seas. The same axiom applies in the business world.

Serious hardships may be financial in nature. They might also be employee-, client-, vendor-or investor-based. They may arise through human error or market conditions. I can see, in my mind’s eye, the depressed face of a purposeful leader who can’t make payroll or has just lost a substantial client. I can sense an owner’s profound frustration upon learning a product has failed and there is a lawsuit to manage.

We can empathize with a founder’s pain when there has been a fire, theft or betrayal. Consider the emotions felt with the death of a spouse or key employee. These occurrences are severe, somewhat common, and require a powerful and thoughtful response.

We need to have more gratitude for the amazing opportunities that are born from disasters and world events.

On a final note, the first step in becoming innovative is accepting that the world around us needs to change, sometimes because of unexpected and unprecedented events, and believing that we as individuals must take initiative to make that change happen.

It requires ongoing learning and an open mind with a willingness to see the world in new ways. Upon such realization, one must develop an unshakeable mental toughness for the long haul.

Changing the way we live or do business requires imagination and creativity. And that requires staying curious about the world. The less we’re wrapped up in our current situation or thinking, the more we notice about the world.

Even Einstein famously declared that he had “no special talent beyond being passionately curious,” which means there is no better avenue to cultivate creative work aside from impassioned curiosity.

Taking unconventional paths requires taking risks for a greater reward (financial or otherwise). It takes courage to act differently than others might. Innovative people tend not to dwell on things, but are decisive – the unknown does not paralyze them. They invest in their own capabilities and plough forward to create access where there is none. This brings us back to the need for mental toughness, because many times those risks don’t pay off right away.

Connecting the dots between the access one already has and the access one needs, coupled with the traits described above, allows us to survive and thrive.

As Walt Disney once said:

“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

Can we all be Super Human?

Recently, I watched a highly recommended film called ‘Limitless’, a 2011 American science fiction thriller film directed by Neil Burger and written by Leslie Dixon. Based on the 2001 novel ‘The Dark Fields’ by Alan Glynn, the film stars Bradley Cooper, Abbie Cornish, Robert De Niro, Andrew Howard, and Anna Friel.

Limitless Trailer

Eddie Morra is a struggling author in New York City. His girlfriend Lindy, frustrated with his lack of progress, breaks up with him. Eddie encounters Vernon, the brother of his ex-wife Melissa, who gives Eddie a sample of a new nootropic called NZT-48.

On the drug, Eddie discovers he has acquired perfect recollection of everything he has ever read and refined interpersonal skills. As he swallows a pill, he is being yelled at by his landlord’s wife.

With his new power he calms her down, helps her with her homework and sleeps with her. His new power enables him to make significant progress on his book.

The next day, the effects having worn off, he brings his pages to his publisher, who praises them. Eddie seeks out Vernon for more NZT-48, but while Eddie leaves to run some errands for Vernon, Vernon is murdered by someone searching for the drug.
Eddie locates Vernon’s supply and begins ingesting pills daily. With its effects, Eddie improves his entire lifestyle, appearance, sex appeal, and social circle, and finishes his book.

While enjoying his new life, Eddie has an epiphany; in order to achieve the plan he derives from his epiphany, he decides to focus his talent on investing in order to raise capital.

Eddie quickly begins making large returns on the stock market and borrows $100,000 from a Russian loan shark, Gennady.

He is hired at a brokerage firm and resumes his relationship with Lindy. Eddie experiences what he refers to as a “time skip”, a momentary lapse in memory.
Eddie’s success leads to a meeting with finance tycoon Carl Van Loon, who tests him by seeking advice on a merger with Hank Atwood’s company. After the meeting, Eddie experiences an 18-hour party-hopping time skip. The next day in a meeting with Van Loon, Eddie sees a news telecast that a woman has been murdered in her hotel room. Eddie recognizes her as the woman he slept with during his time skip and abruptly leaves the meeting.

Eddie experiments with NZT-48 and learns to control his dosage, sleep schedule, and food intake to prevent side effects. He hires a laboratory in an attempt to reverse-engineer the drug, an attorney to keep the police from investigating the death of Vernon or the woman, and two bodyguards to protect him from Gennady, who is threatening him to obtain more NZT-48.

On the day of the merger, Atwood falls into a coma. Eddie recognizes Atwood’s driver as the man in the trench coat and realizes Atwood is on NZT-48.
While Eddie participates in a police lineup, his attorney steals Eddie’s whole supply of pills from his jacket pocket. Eddie enters into withdrawal, and while Van Loon questions him about Atwood’s coma, Eddie receives a parcel which is found to contain the severed hands of his bodyguards.

He hurries home and locks himself in, before Gennady breaks into Eddie’s apartment, demanding more NZT-48. Gennady flaunts his abilities while injecting himself with NZT-48. As Gennady threatens to eviscerate him, Eddie grabs his own knife and kills Gennady. Eddie then consumes Gennady’s blood in order to ingest the NZT-48 in the blood. This gives Eddie the mental abilities of the drug once again, and Eddie is able to kill the remaining henchmen. He then meets with the man in the trench coat, surmising Atwood employed the man to locate more NZT-48. Once Atwood dies, the two recover Eddie’s stash from his attorney’s apartment.

A year later, Eddie has retained his wealth, published a book, and is running for the United States Senate. Van Loon visits him and reveals he has absorbed the company that produced NZT-48 and shut down Eddie’s laboratory and both acknowledge that Eddie will likely become President of the United States one day so Van Loon offers Eddie a continued supply of the drug in exchange for Eddie assisting his ambitions.

Eddie tells Van Loon he has already perfected the drug and weaned himself off of it, retaining his abilities without side effects.

This all made me think beyond current limits and borders, and question will AI rise up and take over, what if humans become superhumans without AI?

Does anyone recall the Trachtenberg speed system of basic mathematics?

The Trachtenberg Speed System of Basic Mathematics is a system of mental mathematics which in part did not require the use of multiplication tables to be able to multiply. The method was created over seventy years ago.

The main idea behind the Trachtenberg Speed System of Basic Mathematics is that there must be an easier way to do multiplication, division, squaring numbers and finding square roots, especially if you want to do it mentally.

Jakow Trachtenberg spent years in a Nazi concentration camp and to escape the horrors he found refuge in his mind developing these methods. Some of the methods are not new and have been used for thousands of years.

Multiplication is done without multiplication tables “Can you multiply 5132437201 times 4522736502785 in seventy seconds? One young boy (grammar school-no calculator) did successfully by using the Trachtenberg Speed System of Basic Mathematics.

So, with human intelligence, why do we need AI, deep learning or machine learning?

It is a fact that humans have gradually discovered many additional recurring shapes and patterns in nature, involving not only motion and gravity but also electricity, magnetism, light, heat, chemistry, radioactivity and subatomic particles.
These patterns are summarized by what we call our laws of physics. Just like the shape of an ellipse, all these laws can be described using mathematical equations.

Equations aren’t the only hints of mathematics that are built into nature: there are also numbers. As opposed to human creations like the page numbers in this magazine, I’m now talking about numbers that are basic properties of our physical reality.

For example, how many pencils can you arrange so that they’re all perpendicular (at 90 degrees) to each other? The answer is 3, by placing them along the three edges emanating from a corner of your room.

Where did that number 3 come sailing in from? We call this number the dimensionality of our space, but why are there three dimensions rather than four or two or 42?

There’s something very mathematical about our universe, and the more carefully we look, the more math we seem to find. So, what do we make of all these hints of mathematics in our physical world?

One of the last subjects Stephen Hawking wrote was not as widely reported as perhaps it should have been.
The physicist, who had previously warned about the potential threat artificial intelligence posed, more recently suggested that humans faced an even greater and more immediate threat.

Sometime in the foreseeable future, he said, the human race could divide into two: those with an average intelligence level by today’s standards and those with super intelligence. The latter breed will have bodies improved by genetic engineering and brains improved by artificial intelligence (AI).
These “superhumans”, as they are called, will be relatively few in number, but will pose a serious threat to normal humans.

If “Super Humans” exist in future, the super-intelligent might be few in number because genetic engineering of humans’ brains and bodies will be very expensive, and only the very wealthy (or wealthiest) will be able to afford it.

The result will be the gradual consigning of most humans to the role of a subservient class, less healthy and less intelligent than the others. In a few generations, the superhumans’ progeny will begin to inherit the enhanced traits and, so, medical intervention to engineer those enhancements will become less necessary.

Some experts believe AI is a serious threat because machines will eventually become conscious, develop more sophisticated brains than humans, and decide humans are dispensable.
Yet despite such warnings about AI, nobody knows if machines will ever become conscious, indeed nobody really knows what consciousness is.

The idea of machines becoming smarter than humans and threatening the human race is pure speculation and most experts believe it’s unlikely to happen this century, if at all.

The creation of superhuman beings, however, is less speculative. Already, humans can be improved by genetic engineering and most experts accept that greatly improving the human brain’s cognitive abilities by both genetic engineering and electronic implantation will happen sooner than most people think.

Hawking suggests that anticipated advances in genetics will enable people to acquire improved memory and intelligence, as well as improved disease resistance and longer lifespans.

Talking about “Super Humans”, two solutions floating across the internet are:  To give every person the same chance to become superhuman.
The second is to ban the technology.

Neither of these solutions will work. The first one is simply not practical, not affordable and could be the biggest threat for the human race.
The later one will just stop human evolution. History is not reassuring on either count.

The common take-home message is that we often feel we have to strive for more in a commercial way, by buying things, getting a job that will pay us more money or moving to a bigger house in a better place. But if you look at people who are denied these things because they’re locked in, you realise that there are other, perhaps deeper ways to find happiness.

Thomas Jefferson declared that “the pursuit of happiness” was a universal right. But how can you define happiness? Is it material or spiritual—or genetic?

Final thoughts: Can we all be superhuman? Or are the rest of us condemned to remain mediocre?

Finally, we cannot all be superhuman, and I do not find that to be a depressing conclusion because I think we can learn from the things these people have accomplished and advance further forward and make ourselves happier in our lives and do a little better.

There are ways of managing without being superhuman, that will still improve your happiness and day-to-day existence. Even if we know we’re not going to be superhuman, we can all improve and benefit from purposeful knowledge.

In today’s scientific world we have evidence that proves the importance of attitude and specific proven actions we can take to manage our attitude. We all know that being happy today is a daily challenge.

Between our personal daily struggles, the challenges of those we are close to, and the hardships that are happening globally, it’s easy to fall to a place of sadness.
And yet we still yearn and often times work towards a feeling of true happiness, purpose, self-acceptance and inner peace, which is pure elation.

A great quote by Ellen Key – Swedish Writer:

‘Unless one believes in a superhuman reason which directs evolution, one is bound to believe in a reason inherent in humanity, a motive power transcending that of each separate people, just as the power of the organism transcends that of the organ. This reason increases in proportion as the unity of mankind becomes established.’

The benefits or not so beneficial aspects of telecommuting

Telecommuting has made the news a lot in recent years. Technology has enabled this growing trend, and more and more companies are taking advantage of it. Well, this has certainly been the year, working from home (or WFH, as I recently learned is a widely utilised acronym) is hardly a new concept.

Yet, we have encountered an unprecedented time when many who did not have the option to telecommute previously are now mandated to partake. This experience has elicited an array of reactions and results across the nation and the globe.

COVID-19 struck fast and hard when the whole world was unprepared for it. From social distancing, working from home (WFH) and panic buying, life took a sudden turn for the worse. As the new normal takes a foothold, mental health has become a bigger national concern as more people are forced to remain isolated away from loved ones and support systems.

New studies are popping up to show the benefits and concerns of social distancing and remote working. These studies run the gamut from fears and vulnerabilities to a rise in virtual meetings that might be the future of work.

A very serious lesson in a pre-COVID-19 environment, I recently met a Family Office who invested heavily in a small company 3 years ago, when discussing some of the family’s portfolio, we came to discuss a particular company to find that the leadership was mismanaged, money and investment was wasted and the remote working development operations manipulated the code of operations, business ethics and this conduct and set of practices caused an unprecedented situation has resulted in the ownership and operations now managed by the Family Office.

Although remote workers can save the company money in terms of renting out office space, they can also be risky for the firm, especially if they use personal electronic devices for official correspondence. As a company, you must ensure that you have security measures to handle the remote staff.

There are risks that the company faces when working with a remote team. The security of the client information and the firm’s servers are a huge concern. Unlike an office setting where the IT department can easily control the access of information because all the machines are in one building, it is difficult to monitor the security of data with remote workers because they use different devices to access company data.

The main reason most employers are not in favour of home-working is that they don’t trust their workforce, according to Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University Management School. “They’ll never say that, but that’s what it’s about. Managers want people in the office because they want to see their little empires there in front of them,” he says. “It’s totally about trust, and the incompetence of managers who don’t know how to manage people remotely.”

Telecommuting – one of the new terms for working remotely – seems to be the perfect arrangement for workers in dozens of industries. And, for the most part, it is. Companies that encourage and support remote work often report higher levels of employee retention and engagement, reduced turnover, higher employee satisfaction, increased productivity and autonomy, and lots of other benefits.

I wrote a blog in March 2015, Is Telecommuting to be Considered or Banned? The essence of the blog I discussed Yahoo’s decision to ban its staff from “remote” working. After years of many predicting working from home as the future for everybody.

When a memo from HR dropped into the inbox of Yahoo staff banning them from working from home it prompted anger from many of its recipients. ‘Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings,” the memo said. “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.’

The move to get staff back into the office is thought to have been driven by the then-new chief executive Marissa Mayer, who herself returned to work weeks after giving birth. COVID-19 and employers decision to increase remote working may seize on the opportunity of allowing telecommuting to cut down on the amount of office space they need or to channel the time employees would otherwise spend commuting into business-productive work, but these real opportunities of purposeful discussions will have a real effect on strategy to execution.

In May, 2017, IBM made the decision to call its remote workers back to the office. This was a huge surprise to many, given that IBM has long been a staunch supporter of remote work environments for its employees. The official reason was that the company believed greater productivity can occur when teams of workers are physically together “shoulder to shoulder.” This move was followed by a number of other enterprises making the same decision – Aetna and Bank of America being just two examples.

Impressive, right? Why then, in March of this year, did IBM pull thousands of its workers back into the workplace? Was it the desperate move of a company whose profits had fallen, as some pundits suggest? Or might it be the result of something else – something that has triggered companies like Yahoo, Aetna and Best Buy to also pull back their work-from-home policies, and corporations like Apple and Google to pass on the concept of telecommuting in the first place?

Consider, for instance, the increasing emphasis on collaboration and the corresponding realisation that any collaborative effort is highly dependent upon well-developed personal relationships among participants. While remote workers might be highly efficient with individual efforts, nothing builds collaborative relationships better than being physically present.

In face-to-face encounters, our brains process the continual cascade of nonverbal cues that we use as the basis for building trust and professional intimacy. Face-to-face interaction is information-rich.
We interpret what people say to us only partially from the words they use. We get most of the message (and all of the emotional nuance behind the words) from vocal cues, facial expressions, and physical movements. And we rely on nonverbal feedback – the instantaneous responses of others – to help us gauge how well our ideas are being accepted.

So potent is the nonverbal link between individuals that, when we are in genuine rapport with someone, we subconsciously match our body positions, movements, and even our breathing rhythms with theirs. Most interesting, the brain’s ”mirror neurons” mimic not just other people’s behaviours, but their feelings as well. (A reaction referred to as “emotional contagion.”)

But companies are not the only ones dealing with issues of a remote workforce, many of whom are a part of the new gig economy. Remote workers themselves face challenges that can hinder their productivity and job satisfaction.

Here are some challenges you may be facing that can negatively impact your work life and productivity.

1. The feeling of being disconnected
Even though there are great tools now for video chat and conferencing, there is still a “disconnect” when a remote worker sees his team members physically together at the office, while he is physically removed.

2. Interruptions
The ability to focus on the task at hand is critical for remote workers. And yet they often feel a need to respond quickly and immediately to any messages they receive from the “home office.” These can come via chat or email, and so the worker finds himself constantly checking to see if messages are coming in or responding to an alert of a message. Each of these interruptions means taking focus away from a task, engaging in responses and then attempting to get that focus back once again.

3. You never really “leave” work
When people work in offices, they leave at the end of the day. Sure, they may take some work home with them on occasion, but they physically remove themselves from their workplace. Gig workers do not do this – their workspace is right there, 24-hours a day. This leads to the ongoing temptation to skip that after-dinner walk or kid’s sports game in favor of moving back into that office space and trying to get more accomplished.

4. Loneliness
Working remotely is somewhat a lonely proposition. Some people, particularly introverts, love this arrangement. Others, not so much. And the problem is that continuous isolation can lead to mental health issues and even increased mortality. Only you know whether you can be happy and productive in a remote work environment, and you may have to actually try it out for a period of time before you do have the answer for yourself.

5. Risk to long-term career growth
As a remote worker, you will not have a lot of visibility within the company. If you are looking for an ultimate C-level position, then your choice to work remotely is the wrong one. You need to be physically present to gain the visibility you need for those major promotions.

Final thought, if relationships are the key to innovation and collaboration, trust is at its heart. When it comes to developing trust, there’s no substitution for getting people face to face.

Building trust is a multi-sensory process, and it’s only when people are physically together that are they able to use all their senses. At my seminars on collaborative leadership, audience members tell me about the challenges and frustrations of trying to get their virtual teams to bond. Although it can be done, various studies confirm that it is more difficult to build trust in virtual teams, harder for informal leaders to emerge, tougher to create genuine dialogue, and easier for misunderstandings to escalate.

Whether working from their homes or globally dispersed, remote workers are part of business reality today. But in our world of video meetings and teleconferences, the value of face-to-face encounters can often get overlooked.

As Oliver Markus Malloy, Inside The Mind of an Introvert once said:

“Being a self-employed means you work 12 hours a day for yourself so you don’t have to work 8 hours a day for someone else.”

Leadership: when the only answer is to make better decisions


Recently I had a very early morning meeting with one of my mentor’s discussing the changes in leadership within the 4th Industrial Revolution and why leadership, needs to understand the emotional wake of transformation and the time to step down.

Leadership is about defining what the future should look like and getting the board of directors, stakeholders not only to share but develop that future together.

Being trustworthy and selfless; truthful and compassionate – these are wonderful qualities. If leaders consistently displayed these traits, workplaces and employees would be doing much better. But not all leaders, including many of the most famous and successful, exhibit these qualities.

Leadership is getting smarter about work and people and the intersection between them. More and more, working people are telling the truth about topics that they were afraid to talk about openly before. One of the stickiest topics is the quality of leadership found in large and small employers.

We are starting to tell the truth about the fact that most people in leadership positions are lacking in critical skills.

One of the problems with leaders is their ability to listen, at best, or abusive bullies, at worst. Consequently, significant data on workplace bullying report widespread verbal abuse, shouting, berating others, and the creation of a climate of intimidation.

According to a psychology report from the University of California, Berkeley many leaders start to feel powerful, their more benevolent qualities like empathy start to decline.

Other studies show that people in positions of corporate power are three times more likely than lower-level employees to interrupt co-workers, multitask during meetings, raise their voices, and say insulting things.

They don’t know how to talk to their employees and they don’t know how to listen.

If they received any management training at all, they were probably trained to dole out work assignments and evaluate people. They don’t know how to probe for understanding or how to create cohesion on a team.

Organisations have always needed leaders who are good at recognising emerging challenges and inspiring organisational responses. That need is intensifying today as leaders confront, among other things, digitisation, the surging power of data as a competitive weapon, and the ability of artificial intelligence to automate the workplace and enhance business performance.

These technology-driven shifts create an imperative for most organisations to change, which in turn demands more and better leaders up and down the line.

Unfortunately, there is overwhelming evidence that the plethora of services, books, articles, seminars, conferences, and TED-like talks purporting to have the answers—a global industry estimated to be worth more than $50 billion—are delivering disappointing results.

According to a recent Fortune survey, only 7 per cent of CEOs believe their companies are building effective global leaders, and just 10 per cent said that their leadership-development initiatives have a clear business impact.

McKinsey’s latest research has a similar message: only 11 per cent of more than 500 executives we polled around the globe strongly agreed with the statement that their leadership-development interventions achieve and sustain the desired results.

The 4th Industrial Revolution holds the promise of a new era of globalisation, however, many senior executives remain less prepared than they think they are.

A year ago, Deloitte’s inaugural survey assessing private and public sector readiness for the Fourth Industrial Revolution observed a “tension between hope and ambiguity.”

It found that while executives conceptually understood the profound business and societal changes the 4th Industrial Revolution may bring, they were less certain how they could take action to benefit.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution enables an increasingly globalised world, one in which advanced technologies can drive new opportunities, diverse ideas can be heard, and new forms of communication may come to the fore.

But how are leaders adjusting?

Executives are struggling to develop effective strategies in today’s rapidly changing markets. Faced with an ever-increasing array of new technologies, leaders acknowledged they have too many options from which to choose, and in some cases lack the strategic vision to help guide their efforts.

Organisational influences also challenge leaders as they seek to navigate the 4th Industrial Revolution. Many leaders reported their companies don’t follow clearly defined decision-making processes, and organisational silos limit their ability to develop and share knowledge to determine effective strategies.

Leaders continue to focus more on using advanced technologies to protect their positions rather than as bold investments to drive disruption. Although many of the businesses that have made investments in technology are seeing payoffs, others are finding it difficult to invest even as digital technologies are engendering more global connections and creating new opportunities within new markets and localised economies.

Challenges include being too focused on short-term results and lacking understanding, business cases, and leadership vision.

Leaders acknowledge the ethical implications inherent in new technology, but few companies are talking about how to manage those challenges, let alone actively putting policies in place to do so.

The skills challenge becomes clearer, but so do differences between executives and their millennial workforces.

Last year, most leaders (86%) thought their organizations were doing enough to create a workforce for the 4th Industrial Revolution. This year, as more leaders recognize the growing skills gap, only 47% are confident in their efforts.

On the bright side, twice as many leaders indicate their organisations will do what they can to train their existing employees rather than hire new ones. And they’re more optimistic than last year that autonomous tech will augment, rather than replace, humans.

The journey to get where you are has not been easy. From setting records to surviving recessions, you’ve been there from day one, becoming a leader that’s respected and praised from the board, shareholders and staff.

But somewhere along the way, it all started to change. Now your leadership strategy is getting you nowhere, and you can no longer deny that nagging feeling that something’s just not right.

Recognising that you may not be the best person for the job anymore is incredibly difficult to admit, especially after investing blood, sweat, and tears into the company.
But if that little voice in the back of your head is now shouting at you front and center, it’s a likely scenario that others feel the same way.

Hanging on too long makes you irrelevant. Organisations change. Leaders should change too. You may not be the best person to lead your business forward. The skills that worked yesterday may not work today or tomorrow. Successful leaders know when to move-on. Are your strengths, the right strengths, to lead the organization tomorrow?

How does a leader know when it’s time to step down and hand over the reins?

The most important question a leader should ask is: Are you placing the good of the organisation first? This is what leadership is all about.

Final thought; most CEOs have gotten religion about the impact of accelerating disruption and the need to adapt in response. Time and again, though, we see those same CEOs forgetting about the need to translate strategy into specific organizational capabilities, paying lip service to their talent ambitions, and delegating responsibility to the head of learning with a flourish of fine words, only for that individual to complain later about lack of support from above.

To be fair, CEOs are pulled in many directions, and they note that leadership development often doesn’t make an impact on performance in the short run.

At the same time, we see many heads of learning confronting CEOs with a set of complex interwoven interventions, not always focusing on what matters most.

But as the pace of change for strategies and business models increases, so does the cost of lagging leadership development.

If CEOs and their top teams are serious about long-term performance, they need to commit themselves to the success of corporate leadership-development efforts now.

Chief human-resource officers and heads of learning need to simplify their programs, focusing on what really matters.
As Vince Lombardi, NFL player, coach and executive director once said:

“The leader can never close the gap between himself and the group. If he does, he is no longer what he must be. He must walk a tightrope between the consent he must win and the control he must exert.”

Leadership in the 4th Industrial Revolution and why purpose is more than appropriate business policies and practices

Business today is subject to the rapid exhaustion of constant change, and constant change seems to be affecting leadership to its limits. Windows of opportunity are shorter and companies are forced out of business quicker.

If we revisit the 1950’s, the average life of a company was just over 60 years. Today it is less than 20 years. According to a recent study by Credit Suisse, disruptive technology is the reason for the constant decline in company life longevity.

However, disruptive technologies are not a new phenomenon. The credit card, the microwave oven, transistor radio, television, computer hard disks, solar cells, optic fibre, plastic and the microchip were all introduced in the 1950s.

It is not technology that explains the failure and costly investments to business; it is less about technology and more about leaders’ failure to envision the future of their business as the world changes around them. It is the result of short-sightedness, an inability to see the future, adapt and lead a focused strategy with flexibility in a changing world.

For humans to be effective, productive and innovative, we must have great leaders who also focus on making trust, humility, accountability, experimentation, collaboration, digitization, innovation within a commercially astute context, a way of organizational life. Doing this ensures that their people and their company constantly deliver increased value for customers.
It also ensures that in the future of work, they drive success within their ever-expanding areas of influence and responsibility, to flow and flourish in uncertain times.

The purpose of a company is not just to make money but to pursue a just cause, we can all remember the words of Henry Ford when he said ‘A business that makes nothing but money is a poor kind of business.’


Purpose is the very reason to have the business. It’s not marketing. It’s not a recruiting tool. It’s not something you just write on your website. It’s not a corporate social responsibility program. It’s the very reason why you started the business in the first place, and it has nothing to do with money.

To be truly purpose-driven, the most senior leader in an organisation will still see themselves as subservient to a higher purpose not to another human being, but to an ideal. We are in service of those ideals, and although we will never actually achieve them, we will die trying, which is the point. It’s about progress, not just prosperity. Prosperity is counting what comes in; progress is counting how far we’ve moved down a purposeful path. The people who work at truly purpose-driven organisations feel like they have a belonging, that this is their calling and it has nothing to do with the business or the product.

Companies exist to advance, innovation, technology, quality of life or something else with the potential to ease or enhance our lives in some way, shape or form. That people are willing to pay money for whatever a company has to offer is simply proof that they perceive or derive some value from those things. Which means the more value a company offers, the more money and the more advancement the company will have for further progression.

Capitalism has to be more about prosperity, about progress.

We have all seen the increase in certain practices that drive stock price value in the short term, all these deals certainly sound ethically dubious. At a point of fact, laws, regulations and ethical conduct normally are an output of bad practices, not by policing them in advance of conduct.


The importance of business ethics reaches far beyond employee loyalty and morale or the strength of a management team bond. As with all business initiatives, the ethical operation of a company is directly related to profitability in both the short and long term. The reputation of a business in the surrounding community, other businesses, and individual investors is paramount in determining whether a company is a worthwhile investment. If a company is perceived to not operate ethically, investors are less inclined to buy stock or otherwise support its operations.

Technology companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google, certainly look like they are more relaxed at asking for forgiveness across ethical misconduct than leading the charge with a fundamental view of how they safeguard one of their most important assets; our private data. You could question how can these company’s operate without such an accountable and responsible view?

The responsibility of business is to use its will and resources to advance a cause greater than itself, protect the people and places in which it operates and generate more resources so that it can continue doing all those things for as long as possible. An organisation can do whatever it likes to build its business so long as it is responsible for the consequences of its actions.

Leadership is the lifeblood of an organization. When leaders create safe environments at work, everyone thrives and devotion is the natural response to those conditions. Toxic cultures breed cynicism, paranoia, and self-interest.

The responsibility of a company is to serve the customer. The responsibility of leadership is to serve their people so that their people may better serve the customer. If leaders fail to serve their people first, customer and company will suffer.

The management team sets the tone for how the entire company runs on a day-to-day basis. When the prevailing management philosophy is based on ethical practices and behaviour, leaders within an organisation can direct employees by example and guide them in making decisions that are not only beneficial to them as individuals, but also to the organisation as a whole.

Building on a foundation of ethical behaviour helps create long-lasting purposeful effects for a company, including the ability to attract and retain highly talented individuals, and building and maintaining a purposeful reputation within the community.


Running a business in an ethical manner from the top down builds a stronger bond between individuals on the management team, further creating stability within the company.

Finally, globally successful entrepreneurs are emerging as exciting, courageous and authentic new role models demonstrating many of the vital qualities required for effective 21st-century leadership and in the future of work.

This is because they are re-inventing how to engage in the art of applying entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship practices to harness potential and mobilize human energy towards creating a better future.

This suggests that 21st-century leadership learning programs are most effective when they focus on cultivating new mindsets, creative, critical and foresight thinking strategies. That develops the ability to anticipate, adapt and cultivate new behaviours and take intelligent actions.

As Klaus Schwab a German engineer and economist once said:

“Technology is not an exogenous force over which we have no control. We are not constrained by a binary choice between “accept and live with it” and “reject and live without it”. Instead, take dramatic technological change as an invitation to reflect on who we are and how we see the world. The more we think about how to harness the technology revolution, the more we will examine ourselves and the underlying social models that these technologies embody and enable, and the more we will have an opportunity to shape the revolution in a manner that improves the state of the world.”

The Truth About Why Our Real Connections Are Disappearing

In January 2019, I wrote a blog ‘Are we too busy to connect to real people? – this blog had more significant views than any single blog I have ever written in the last 7 years, and there have been a ‘few’: a total of 560 blogs across topics.

My engagement in the subject and some alarming statistics, not to mention mental health awareness, made me think that we all should start to understand the need for more human to human interaction and fulfilment from others, our work, our loved ones, our friends and importantly why we need to make time for each other.

A decade ago, smart devices promised to change the way we think and interact, and they have, but not by making us smarter. I now explore the growing body of scientific evidence that digital distraction is damaging our minds.

Today, it is estimated that more than 5 billion people have mobile devices, and over half of these connections are smartphones and it’s changing the way we do countless things, from taking photos to summoning taxis.

A recent report from Hitachi Vantara in collaboration with MIT, ‘From innovation to monetization: The economics of data-driven transformation’ cites the exponential growth in ‘big data’, arising from the multiplicity of data sources from sensors, edge devices and other connected devices. It cites expert estimates that 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated every day, piling up to over 44 trillion gigabytes by 2020.

A statement from IDC on the same subject “150 billion systems and devices will be connected across the globe by 2025”

Smartphones have also changed us, culturally and in our behaviour – changed our natures in elemental ways, reshaping the way we think and interact. For all their many conveniences, it is here, in the way they have changed not just industries or habits but people themselves.

The evidence for this is research by psychiatrists, neuroscientists, marketers and public health experts. What these people say – and what their research shows – is that smartphones are causing real damage to our minds and relationships, measurable in seconds shaved off the average attention span, reduced brain power, declines in work-life balance and hours less of family and friends time.

They have impaired our ability to remember. They make it more difficult to daydream and think creatively. They make us more vulnerable to anxiety. They make parents ignore their children. And they are addictive, if not in the contested clinical sense then for all intents and purposes.

Consider this: In the first five years of the smartphone era, the proportion of internet and app users who said internet use interfered with their family time nearly tripled, from 11 per cent to 28 per cent. And this: Smartphone use takes about the same cognitive toll as losing a full night’s sleep. In other words, they are making us worse at being alone and worse at being together.

Ten years into the smartphone experiment, we may be reaching a tipping point. Buoyed by mounting evidence and a growing chorus of tech-world goliaths, smartphone users are beginning to recognise the downside of the convenient little mini-computer we keep pressed against our thigh or cradled in our palm, not to mention buzzing on our bedside table while we sleep.

With all of these statistics, and with the projected speed of 5G networks, simply said, 5G is widely believed to be smarter, faster and more efficient than 4G. It promises mobile data speeds that far outstrip the fastest home broadband network currently available to consumers. With speeds of up to 100 gigabits per second, 5G is set to be as much as 100 times faster than 4G, how will it affect us, humans?

More recently, researchers who study the relationship of mobile phone use and mental health have also found that excessive or “maladaptive” use of our phones may be leading to greater incidences of depression and anxiety in users. according to The Mental Health Foundation, the following statistics apply:

  • 1 in 4 people experience mental health issues each year
  • 676 million people are affected by mental health issues worldwide (2)
  • At any given time, 1 in 6 working-age adults have symptoms associated with mental ill-health (3)
  • Mental illness is the largest single source of burden of disease in the UK. Mental illnesses are more common, long-lasting and impactful than other health conditions (4)
  • Mental ill-health is responsible for 72 million working days lost and costs £34.9 billion each year (5)
  • Note: Different studies will estimate the cost of mental ill-health in different ways. Other reputable research estimates this cost to be as high as £74–£99 billion (6)
  • The total cost of mental ill-health in England is estimated at £105 billion per year (1)

https://mhfaengland.org/mhfa-centre/research-and-evaluation/mental-health-statistics/

Nowhere is the dawning awareness of the problem with smartphones more acute than in the California idylls that created them. Last year, ex-employees of Google, Apple and Facebook, including former top executives, began raising the alarm about smartphones and social media apps, warning especially of their effects on children.

Chris Marcellino, who helped develop the iPhone’s push notifications at Apple, told The Guardian newspaper that smartphones hook people using the same neural pathways as gambling and drugs.

Sean Parker, ex-president of Facebook, recently admitted that the world-bestriding social media platform was designed to hook users with spurts of dopamine, a complicated neurotransmitter released when the brain expects a reward or accrues fresh knowledge. “You’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology,” he said. “[The inventors] understood this, consciously, and we did it anyway.”

Peddling this addiction made Mr Parker and his tech-world colleagues absurdly rich. Facebook is now valued at a little more than half a trillion dollars.

Global revenue from smartphone sales reached $435-billion (U.S.).

Now, some of the early executives of these tech firms look at their success as tainted.

“I feel tremendous guilt,” said Chamath Palihapitiya, former vice-president of user growth at Facebook, in a public talk in November. “I think we all knew in the back of our minds… something bad could happen.

“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works,” he went on gravely, before a hushed audience at Stanford business school. “It is eroding the core foundations of how people behave.”

Business leaders are grappling with the issue, too. In a recent blog post, Bank of England analyst Dan Nixon argues that the distraction wrought by smartphones may be hurting productivity. It takes office workers an average of 25 minutes to get back on task after an interruption, he notes, while workers who are habitually interrupted by e-mail become likelier to “self-interrupt” with little procrastination breaks.

If we have lost control over our relationship with smartphones, it is by design.

In fact, the business model of the devices demands it. Because most popular websites and apps don’t charge for access, the internet is financially sustained by eyeballs. That is, the longer and more often you spend staring at Facebook or Google, the more money they can charge advertisers.

To ensure that our eyes remain firmly glued to our screens, our smartphones – and the digital worlds they connect us to – internet giants have become little virtuosos of persuasion, cajoling us into checking them again and again – and for longer than we intend.

On some level, we know that smartphones are designed to be addictive. The way we talk about them is steeped in the language of dependence, albeit playfully: the CrackBerry, the Instagram fix, the Angry Bird binge.

But the best minds who have studied these devices are saying it’s not really a joke. Consider the effect smartphones have on our ability to focus.

But John Ratey, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and an expert on attention-deficit disorder, said the problem is actually getting worse. “We’re not developing the attention muscles in our brain nearly as much as we used to,” he said.

In fact, Prof. Ratey has noticed a convergence between his ADD patients and the rest of the world. The symptoms of people with ADD and people with smartphones are “absolutely the same,” he said.

A recent study of Chinese middle schoolers found something similar. Among more than 7,000 students, mobile phone ownership was found to be “significantly associated” with levels of inattention seen in people with attention-deficit disorder.

Maybe studies like these have gotten so little attention because we already know, vaguely, that smartphones dent concentration – how could a buzzing, flashing computer in our pocket have any other effect?

But people tend to treat attention span like some discrete mental faculty, such as skill at arithmetic, that is nice to have but that plenty of folks manage fine without.

Researchers at Cambridge University showed recently that eye contact synchronizes the brainwaves of infant and parent, which helps with communication and learning.

Meeting each other’s gaze, Ms Sandink says, amounts to “a silent language between the baby and the mom.” That doesn’t mean breastfeeding mothers need to lock eyes with their children 24 hours a day. But while Ms Sandink emphasises that she isn’t trying to shame women, she worries that texting moms may be missing out on vital bonding time with their babies.

While email and mobile technology have greatly accelerated the way we do business, Leslie Perlow argues that the always “on” mentality can have a long-term detrimental effect on many organisations. In her sociological experiments at BCG and other organisations, Perlow 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.

Leslie Perlow is the Konsuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership at the Harvard Business School and author of the book, “Sleeping With Your Smartphone”

See below her video: “Thriving in an overconnected world”

Harvard University research suggests that, in a way, the mere presence of our smartphones is like the sound of our names they are constantly calling to us, exerting a gravitational pull on our attention. If you have ever felt a “phantom buzz” you inherently know this.

Attempts to block or resist this pull takes a toll by impairing our cognitive abilities. In a poignant twist, then, this means that when we are successful at resisting the urge to attend to our smartphones, we may actually be undermining our own cognitive performance.

Are you affected? Most likely. Consider the most recent meeting or lecture you attended: did anyone have their smartphone out on the table? Think about the last time you went to the movies or went out with friends, read a book, or played a game: was your smartphone close by?

In all of these cases, merely having your smartphone present may have impaired your cognitive functioning.

Data also shows that the negative impact of smartphone presence is most pronounced for individuals who rank high on a measure capturing the strength of their connection to their phones that is, those who strongly agree with statements such as “I would have trouble getting through a normal day without my cell phone” and “It would be painful for me to give up my cell phone for a day.”

In a world where people continue to increasingly rely on their phones, it is only logical to expect this effect to become stronger and more universal.

We are clearly not the first to take note of the potential costs of smartphones.

Think about the number of fatalities associated with driving while talking on the phone or texting, or of texting while walking. Even hearing your phone ring while you’re busy doing something else can boost your anxiety. Knowing we have missed a text message or call leads our minds to wander, which can impair performance on tasks that require sustained attention and undermine our enjoyment.

Beyond these cognitive and health-related consequences, smartphones may impair our social functioning: having your smartphone out can distract you during social experiences and make them less enjoyable.

With all these costs in mind, however, we must consider the immense value that smartphones provide. In the course of a day, you may use your smartphone to get in touch with friends, family, and co-workers; order products online; check the weather; trade stocks; read Harvard Business Review; navigate your way to a new address, and more.

Evidently, smartphones increase our efficiency, allowing us to save time and money, connect with others, become more productive, and remain entertained.

So how do we resolve this tension between the costs and benefits of our smartphones?

Finally, Smartphones have distinct uses. There are situations in which our smartphones provide a key value, such as when they help us get in touch with someone we’re trying to meet, or when we use them to search for information that can help us make better decisions.

Those are great moments to have our phones nearby. But, rather than smartphones taking over our lives, we should take back the reins: when our smartphones aren’t directly necessary, and when being fully cognitively available is important, setting aside a period of time to put them away — in another room — can be quite valuable.

With these findings in mind, students, employees, and CEOs alike may wish to maximise their productivity by defining windows of time during which they plan to be separated from their phones, allowing them to accomplish tasks requiring deeper thought.

Moreover, asking employees not to use their phones during meetings may not be enough.

I have suggested in the past that having meetings without phones present can be more effective, boosting focus, function, and the ability to come up with creative solutions.

More broadly, we can all become more engaged and cognitively adept in our everyday lives simply by putting our smartphones (far) away, or as Leslie Perlow has already demonstrated, perhaps we all should concentrate on a balanced life of “predictable time off” (PTO) from our smartphones to increase efficiency and collaboration, heightened job satisfaction, and better work-life balance with our relationships.

As Robin S. Sharma once said:

“Cell phones, mobile e-mail, and all the other cool and slick gadgets can cause massive losses in our creative output and overall productivity.”

Predictions for the start of 2020

2019 was definitely an interesting year!

As Abraham Lincoln once said: “The best way to predict your future is to create it.”

It’s hard to imagine that we’re living in the year 2020. Though we’ve seen plenty of impressive technological advances, like artificial intelligence and phones that unlock by scanning our faces, it’s not quite the world of flying cars and robot butlers people once imagined we’d have by now.

As crazy as these all seem, the world is on track for some spectacular innovations in 2020. Privately operated space flights, self-driving taxis and increases in cyberwarfare would have all seemed like science fiction a few decades ago, but now they’re very real possibilities.

So, let’s have a look at some of the expectations for 2020:

Space Travel
Humans living on other planets is a staple in sci-fi, but it’s growing closer to reality thanks to private space travel initiatives.

As greater advances in space travel are made, the media’s interest will be revitalised. Those private companies will likely capitalise on that attention, which could lead to opportunities to bid on government contracts. Jobs will be created. Auxiliary innovations will be developed. And our chance to become a multiplanet species will (infinitesimally) increase.

Self-Driving Cars

Ride-hailing services are already part of everyday life, but self-driving cars are set to cause seismic changes to the industry. Once safety concerns are addressed, many passengers might find that they prefer being driven by a computer rather than a nosy human. And implementing a network of self-driving cars will be crucial in order for these platforms to finally make a profit.

Companies may adapt to self-driving cars as well. Autonomous transport obviates the need for large fleets of corporate cars. Transportation costs for employees could be drastically reduced. The company could get depreciating assets off the books. And energy efficiency would increase. It’s a win-win-win.

Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity continues to grow in importance as more of our information moves online. Unfortunately, we’ve seen how woefully unprepared even trusted sectors like finance and government can be when it comes to keeping data safe.

No one wants their credit card information appearing on a hacker’s forum, so cybersecurity is crucial for any company doing business online. Cyberattacks are becoming more sophisticated, but fortunately, innovation in countermeasures has surged forward as well. Going into the next year, the cybersecurity industry will likely grow, assisted by cutting-edge technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.

We are amidst the 4th Industrial Revolution, and technology is evolving faster than ever. Companies and individuals that don’t keep up with some of the major tech trends run the risk of being left behind. Understanding the key trends will allow people and businesses to prepare and grasp opportunities.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the most transformative tech evolutions of our times. Most companies have started to explore how they can use AI to improve the customer experience and to streamline their business operations. This will continue in 2020, and while people will increasingly become used to working alongside AIs, designing and deploying our own AI-based systems will remain an expensive proposition for most businesses.

For this reason, much of the AI applications will continue to be done through providers of as-a-service platforms, which allow us to simply feed in our own data and pay for the algorithms or compute resources as we use them.

Currently, these platforms, provided by the likes of Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, tend to be somewhat broad in scope, with (often expensive) custom-engineering required to apply them to the specific tasks an organization may require. During 2020, we will see wider adoption and a growing pool of providers that are likely to start offering more tailored applications and services for specific or specialized tasks. This will mean no company will have any excuses left not to use AI.

The 5th generation of mobile internet connectivity is going to give us super-fast download and upload speeds as well as more stable connections. While 5G mobile data networks became available for the first time in 2019, they were mostly still expensive and limited to functioning in confined areas or major cities. 2020 is likely to be the year when 5G really starts to fly, with more affordable data plans as well as greatly improved coverage, meaning that everyone can join in the fun.

Super-fast data networks will not only give us the ability to stream movies and music at higher quality when we’re on the move. The greatly increased speeds mean that mobile networks will become more usable even than the wired networks running into our homes and businesses.

Companies must consider the business implications of having super-fast and stable internet access anywhere. The increased bandwidth will enable machines, robots, and autonomous vehicles to collect and transfer more data than ever, leading to advances in the area of the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart machinery.

Extended Reality (XR) is a catch-all term that covers several new and emerging technologies being used to create more immersive digital experiences. More specifically, it refers to virtual, augmented, and mixed reality. Virtual reality (VR) provides a fully digitally immersive experience where you enter a computer-generated world using headsets that blend out the real world.

Augmented reality (AR) overlays digital objects onto the real world via smartphone screens or displays (think Snapchat filters). Mixed reality (MR) is an extension of AR, that means users can interact with digital objects placed in the real world (think playing a holographic piano that you have placed into your room via an AR headset).

These technologies have been around for a few years now but have largely been confined to the world of entertainment – with Oculus Rift and Vive headsets providing the current state-of-the-art in videogames, and smartphone features such as camera filters and Pokemon Go-style games providing the most visible examples of AR.

With so many changes to our technology coming so fast, it can be hard to grasp the sheer scale of innovation underway. The list above highlights some of the more interesting developments, but is far from exhaustive. Whatever happens, 2020 will be an interesting year for major tech companies and budding entrepreneurs alike.

2020 will be a year of reckoning for those that have held on too long or tried to bootstrap their way through transforming their business.

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

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

Purposeful Discussions cover

Finally, 2020 brings ‘Purposeful Discussions’ which is now my fifth book in a series of books that provide purpose driven outcomes in support of some of the most talked-about subjects in life today. This book demonstrates the relationship between communications (human 2 human), strategy and business development and life growth. It is important to understand that a number of the ideas, developments and techniques employed at the beginning as well as the top of business can be successfully made flexible to apply.

As Swami Vivekananda once said:

“Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life – think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.”

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 2020 and show to the world your power to create wonderful and superior things.

New Year 2020 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 2020

Why emotional intelligence is leadership, team spirit and company culture

As all leaders experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, you will know you have been tested in ways that you never expected. And yet, somehow, we all prevail. Despite the frustrations, anger and fear, you will have learned a lot about yourself. You will be forced to recognise your own weaknesses and eccentricities, and discover reserves of strength that you had not known existed. In the process, you will become less judgmental and more accepting of yourself and of others.

No matter how large or small a company is, teams are vital to businesses these days, allowing them to maximise productivity and profitability when operated effectively. As such, it’s absolutely imperative for employers to nurture team spirit in the modern workplace.

That being said, employees should make the effort to connect with their team as much as possible as well. A genuine sense of camaraderie not only improves the morale and general mood of each individual member of staff but similarly helps them feel like an integral part of the organisation.

A united team’s greatest strength is undoubtedly the combination of skills present in collaborative environments with engagement into the company vision and mission. With a broader range of abilities and knowledge at the employer’s disposal, businesses can be more flexible, taking advantage of the greater number of opportunities open to them as a result. Close-knit teams are also better equipped to deal with individual shortcomings; for instance, if during the course of a project it emerges that a team member is lacking in a particular area, a strong bond makes it easy for the individual to simply defer to a colleague for support.

Likewise, working in a collaborative environment alongside trusted companions makes it easier for employees to discuss any ideas they might have for improving the firm’s operating practices, or even ask for assistance if they’re struggling personally or professionally.

Team spirit often produces a healthy dose of friendly competition; not in the sense that each individual is trying to outperform their colleagues, rather, as the group contribute to the overall success of the company, team members will work assiduously to avoid being seen as the weak link in the chain. Conversely, innate trust in a co-worker’s abilities enables one to concentrate fully on one’s own tasks and responsibilities, without fear of interruption.

Contented employees that are able to participate in traditional team-building exercises tend to be less stressed than more isolated workers, resulting in increased productivity, and a tighter connection between individuals; understandably, these effects are amplified if regular social outings are arranged. In addition, office disputes will be easier to resolve when team members feel able to communicate their grievances with each other openly, especially when there’s a professional and personal association.

From a practical perspective, cohesive team units often correlate with low staff turnover rates, saving the business money in a number of ways. For starters, as these employees are much happier in their work, businesses are spared the hassle of replacing staff on a regular basis; often a costly and time-consuming process. Furthermore, with fewer new starters each year, the company can save money on training staff and reduce the impact such transitional periods tend to have on productivity.

Company culture is an integral part of business. It affects nearly every aspect of a company. From recruiting top talent to improving employee satisfaction, it’s the backbone of a happy workforce. Without a positive corporate culture, many employees will struggle to find the real value in their work, and this leads to a variety of negative consequences for your bottom line.

According to research by Deloitte, 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct corporate culture is important to a business’ success. Deloitte’s survey also found that there is a strong correlation between employees who claim to feel happy and valued at work and those who say their company has a strong culture.

There’s a reason why companies who are named as a Best Place to Work see so much success. These organizations tend to have strong, positive corporate cultures that help employees feel and perform their best at work. Research gathered by CultureIQ found that employee’s overall ratings of their company’s qualities – including collaboration, environment and values – are rated 20% higher at companies that exhibit strong culture.

But why is corporate culture such an important part of a business?

The culture factor – 8 types of company culture

The 8 Types of Company Culture

A great quote we have all heard time and time again is: ‘No man is an island’, especially in a business organisation. Everyone in the organisation needs someone else’s help sometime or another, either as part of the regular workflow or during emergencies.

Whether it’s the CEO or the cleaning lady, every person in an organisation has to consider himself or herself as part of a team in order for a business to function smoothly. The moment a “That’s not my job!” attitude appears, you have the makings of a dysfunctional organisation and a decline in team and company performance

What Creates a Team Environment?

Creating a team environment in a company does not come easy. To effectively build teams, it is important to remember that:

Teamwork is based on a company’s culture. Companies that encourage open, honest communication and foster employee interaction are in a better position to have good teamwork among employees.

Team spirit comes from the top. Building effective teams with the right attitude emanates from the highest levels of an organisation. Only by flattening the traditional organisational pyramid can one expect to instil the right team culture.

People must fit the culture. Some people are team players and some are not. It’s partly a question of personality and partly a matter of training. One person in the team with the wrong attitude can undermine the effort of the entire team. Hiring only people with the right traits for teamwork is crucial in building effective teams.

Leaders that develop great teams around them have two things that they do well:

• they have a lot of emotional intelligence and
• are able to provide a clear vision for the team.

Well, you are probably wondering what the team members need to have:

The team members themselves also need to possess high emotional intelligence so that they interact with each other with the least amount of friction.

The importance of teamwork is essential in today’s multidisciplinary world. In the past, during the industrial era when most jobs were represented by people on a manufacturing line doing one thing all day – teamwork wasn’t as important as it is today.

When emotional intelligence first appeared to the masses, it served as the missing link in a peculiar finding: people with average IQs outperform those with the highest IQs 70% of the time. This anomaly threw a massive wrench into what many people had always assumed was the sole source of success—IQ. Decades of research now point to emotional intelligence as the critical factor that sets star performers apart from the rest of the pack.

Emotional intelligence is the “something” in each of us that is a bit intangible. It affects how we manage behaviour, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions that achieve positive results. Emotional intelligence is made up of four core skills that pair up under two primary competencies: personal competence and social competence.

At a recent World Economic Forum it was stated in a report named ‘The Future of Jobs’ that in 2020, the core skill sets in highest demand will be complex problem-solving skills and social skills, including emotional intelligence.

In today’s knowledge economy, most of our jobs involve interacting with others that are not even in the same line of profession. The need for effective teamwork is critical for any business.

The ability to simultaneously perform as an individual and together with your colleagues or employees in effective teamwork is key to attaining growth and success.

In every aspect of a business, the diverse skills of teams are needed for reaching success. Make use of every opportunity you have to engage in teamwork so you develop effective communication skills.

Steve Jobs changed the whole pattern of living with his innovative and creative mind. However, without his team of hard-working professionals and their abilities, his innovations would not have reached the hands of so many people around the world.

In effect, teamwork is important and essential in order to accomplish the overall objectives and goals of an organization.

The following 5 reasons summarise the importance of teamwork and why it matters to you:

• Teamwork motivates unity in the workplace

A teamwork environment promotes an atmosphere that fosters friendship and loyalty. These close-knit relationships motivate employees in parallel and align them to work harder, cooperate and be supportive of one another.

Individuals possess diverse talents, weaknesses, communication skills, strengths, and habits. Therefore, when a teamwork environment is not encouraged this can pose many challenges towards achieving the overall goals and objectives. This creates an environment where employees become focused on promoting their own achievements and competing against their fellow colleagues.

Ultimately, this can lead to an unhealthy and inefficient working environment.

When teamwork is working the whole team would be motivated and working toward the same goal in harmony.

– Listen to our teamwork fundamentals audio course:

• Teamwork offers differing perspectives and feedback

Good teamwork structures provide your organization with a diversity of thought, creativity, perspectives, opportunities, and problem-solving approaches. A proper team environment allows individuals to brainstorm collectively, which in turn increases their success to problem solve and arrive at solutions more efficiently and effectively.

Effective teams also allow the initiative to innovate, in turn creating a competitive edge to accomplish goals and objectives. Sharing differing opinions and experiences strengthens accountability and can help make effective decisions faster, than when done alone.

Team effort increases output by having quick feedback and multiple sets of skills come into play to support your work. You can do the stages of designing, planning, and implementation much more efficiently when a team is functioning well.

• Teamwork provides improved efficiency and productivity

When incorporating teamwork strategies, you become more efficient and productive. This is because it allows the workload to be shared, reducing the pressure on individuals, and ensure tasks are completed within a set time frame. It also allows goals to be more attainable, enhances the optimization of performance, improves job satisfaction and increases work pace.

Ultimately, when a group of individuals works together, compared to one person working alone, they promote a more efficient work output and are able to complete tasks faster due to many minds intertwined on the same goals and objectives of the business.

• Teamwork provides great learning opportunities
Working in a team enables us to learn from one another’s mistakes. You are able to avoid future errors, gain insight from differing perspectives, and learn new concepts from more experienced colleagues.

In addition, individuals can expand their skill sets, discover fresh ideas from newer colleagues and therefore ascertain more effective approaches and solutions towards the tasks at hand. This active engagement generates the future articulation, encouragement and innovative capacity to problem solve and generate ideas more effectively and efficiently.

• Teamwork promotes workplace synergy

Mutual support shared goals, cooperation and encouragement provide workplace synergy. With this, team members are able to feel a greater sense of accomplishment, are collectively responsible for outcomes achieved and feed individuals with the incentive to perform at higher levels.

When team members are aware of their own responsibilities and roles, as well as the significance of their output being relied upon by the rest of their team, team members will be driven to share the same vision, values, and goals. The result creates a workplace environment based on fellowship, trust, support, respect, and cooperation.

Final thought, without the ability to effectively work in a team environment, you could delay the success of developing, formulating and implementing new and innovative ideas. The ability to problem solve is reduced, as well as the attainment of meeting goals and objectives, in turn, limiting the efficiency and effectiveness of growing a successful company is hindered

No matter how much they want to be part of the team, some will always find it difficult to work collaboratively, whether that’s due to a lack of confidence, a clash of personalities, or simply that an individual prefers working alone.

Fortunately, most people – even those who’d describe themselves as shy – can succeed in a team environment given enough time, enjoying the benefits of a happier and more fulfilling working life.

One of the most important roles a leader has is creating a positive culture. Be sure to cultivate a positive culture that enhances the talent, diversity and happiness of your workforce. Building a unique, positive culture is one of the best – and simplest – ways to get your employees to invest their talent and future with your company.

As Paul Ryan once said:

‘Every successful individual knows that his or her achievement depends on a community of persons working together.‘