Official Launch of my 5th book: “Purposeful Discussions”

The Spring Equinox occurred on Thursday 19th March and marked the end of winter and the beginning of spring, new beginnings, new paths everything being fresh full of vitality.

An exciting day for the official launch of my latest tome, ‘Purposeful Discussions’, which started with a signing at Waterstones book shop in London and followed with an exclusive invite-only event, bringing together a gathering of business industry professionals and leaders.

We had a wonderful evening of great minds and meaningful conversations across some of today’s greatest challenges in business, business trends and business futures, and there was no shortage of great topics to discuss!

 

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.”

Guest-blog: Reeta Minhas-Judd discusses her personal journey of being an NLP Life Coaching practitioner and ‘Why Supporting Others’ has changed her life

Reeta Minhas-Judd
Reeta Minhas-Judd

I was recently invited to a birthday lunch by a very good friend of mine who is a businessman discussing this subject: “Is a mentor really necessary for children, teenagers, post-grads and adults?” It was a fascinating discussion that caused much debate for hours, at which point and very fortuitously he introduced me to a lady, Reeta Minhas-Judd.

We examined the current world we live in, which is a world that is focused on the things that are new, fast and most innovative — but there was also something to be said about looking back in time and how life has changed through the generations.

We discussed that in society mentoring and coaching can bring about a range of benefits for young people, including for example improved relationships, increased communication skills and resilience.

It can lead young people to change their behaviours, for example helping to reduce absenteeism and/or improve pass rates. That the older generation rarely used coaching or mentorship as a succession plan to their careers, mentors provided newer employees with information and support they really needed to succeed and move up the ranks in an organisation.

But the employees who did engage with mentorship saw the benefits of the mentor-employee relationship, thus, the benefits were not just for the employees; generally, the company saw some significant engagement benefits as well.

At its most basic, the mentor-protégé relationship is one of information sharing. When the mentor works at the same workplace as the protégé, that means he or she will be able to share details about the way the workplace functions that may have taken the protégé years to figure out.

This can enrich the protégé’s understanding of a subject in ways that may not have been possible in the classroom, or help the protégé understand a topic in a way she may not have considered. In short, the additional knowledge helps employees become more well-rounded and think more critically about problems and solutions.

Jeff Myers president of Summit Ministries, once said: “Mentoring is the cultivation of young adults, the tender caring for and nurturing of them so that they will grow, flourish, and be fruitful.”

Today I have the distinct pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, Reeta Minhas-Judd, who is a qualified NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programme) Coaching Practitioner.

She is passionate about transforming positive change with people, starting her life journey working in customer-facing job roles and then trained to become an NLP Practitioner which proven to be very successful, also qualifying in NLP coaching which led Reeta to become an NLP Life Coach.

In her own words, ‘NLP has transformed my life by me simply changing my beliefs and values with a more positive view.’

Reeta is now going to talk to us the importance of coaching through the lens as an NLP Life Coach.

Lack of Confidence
I have seen several clients who have experienced low confidence. This has impacted on all areas of their lives. It is a belief that lacking confidence can sometimes just affect one aspect of a person’s life, however, I believe this is not the case. The lacking of confidence and self-belief impacts on everything you say and do. Do any of these examples sound familiar and resonate with you?

“Not accepting the job offer because you do not feel you will be successful in the job role and you don’t want to be seen as a failure”
“Refusing to confront an issue for fear of reprisal and humiliation”
“Not following your dreams, because you just don’t think you are good enough”
“Declining invitations to functions, because you feel that you will be ignored or ridiculed”
“Not having the courage to ask for help, for fear of rejection”

Constant Negative Outlook
This is a very common perception for many people. This is connected with lacking confidence and in turn, causes the negative outlook. Some of my clients’ glass has always been half empty because they chose to see things in a more negative light so that when bad things do happen they are justified for believing that this is the case. When you are in the “negative zone”, everything appears to be dark and they see nothing but negativity and dismay.

Do any of these examples resonate with you?
“I knew my computer was going to break one day and now it has”
“It always rains when I am going out”
“I never have any luck”
“I hate my job and my boss hates me”
“The world is a horrible place and everybody hates me”

Self Esteem & Self-Worth
I have experienced so many clients who do not believe in their own self- worth. They tend to forget or blot out what they have achieved in their lives and instead focus on what they have not done or gained. They make comparisons on what others have and what they feel they will never be able to have. Self-worth and self-esteem is very closely connected to lacking of confidence and negativity. It is your belief that you are not worthy. It is not necessarily the view of others, but you choose to think that this is the case. Some examples of this may include:

“I wish I was as attractive and confident as he/her”
“I look so fat, I just can’t seem to lose any weight”
“I will never be able to get that job”
“He/She will never ask me out because I am not pretty or intelligent enough”
“They have achieved so much in their career and I am still in the same job role”

Suppressed Issues
Suppressed Issues/Trauma is another aspect which I have dealt with on a personal and professional basis. It is so easy to suppress things we don’t want to think about or talk about. This suppression will never be dealt with and will fester unless it is addressed and managed. If not addressed issues/trauma will come out of you in a physical form. This will cause health issues because of the constant anxiety and stress of not dealing with the problem.

I was bullied as a child at school and I never disclosed this information to any of my family or friends for fear of embarrassment, feeling ashamed and being judged. It took years for me to identify why I was feeling and behaving the way I was and to deal with my emotions. I am now able to deal with the trauma I experienced as a child and I am now at peace with this issue and have moved on and left the negative experience in the past, where it belongs.

Coping & Dealing with Bullying
Bullying is not just prevalent in the school playground, it is evident in everyday life including an individual’s work life, personal life, relationship, family life.

As a survivor of bullying, it is important to address it and not disregard the feeling and emotions, as I speak from experience, it will haunt you for life and impact on everything you do. Your personality will alter because of the emotions of bullying if it is not addressed. Learning to cope and deal with bullying will give you the strength to know it is wrong and to make the changes required to stop it from taking place in whatever aspect of your life you are experiencing it.

It will also, in turn, prevent others from having to face the same challenges of bullying. In my experience, bullying made me a “people pleaser”, and subservient to others and I was so worried to speak my mind for fear of being bullied in return.

I only started my journey of NLP a few weeks ago as a secondary business to my main source of income, customer service training. I feel I have already evolved into a more positive and happier person very quickly.

NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) can be used by everybody and the strategies are simple, but the outcome can be so effective. The impact can be life-changing, and I speak from experience, as an article which I wrote on ‘Training within Businesses’ has been published in the Business Connexions magazine.

I never believed that an article which I wrote would ever be printed, published and read by so many people. This is why I have followed my passion and have become a Life Coach, because the feeling of being able to help and support others is by far the most rewarding element within my role.

NLP has made me believe that I can achieve anything I want through the power of the mind and simply by changing my perception. Through one simple advert on a local community website, since qualifying as an NLP Practitioner, I have been inundated with enquiries and I had 21 clients in the space of a month. This in itself speaks volumes.

People are so busy with their lives, that the art of communication has become redundant in many circumstances. With the technology of mobile phones, social media, the internet etc, actually sitting down together in the same room and communicating face-to-face, has now become secondary to texting, emailing etc.

There are millions of people in this world who just want to talk to somebody about their issues and concerns, and yet they refrain from sharing with others for fear of being judged, or because they feel ashamed.

This is where NLP is so decisive because it allows individuals to change their outlook and their mindset, by simply applying and practising daily strategies which will shift their current mindset and allow them to have their voice heard, without fear of judgement or ridicule.

My passion for listening and helping others has made me appreciate my own life and I have learnt how others have been less fortunate than myself. Therefore, I show gratitude for everyday things which we all take for granted.

We have one life and it is not a dress rehearsal, so it needs to be embraced with happiness and not be suffocated with sadness and negativity. I myself was once a “glass half empty” person, but now my glass is overflowing!

We must try to live in the present and not the past, so many things which have previously angered me and festered a feeling of resentment within me, I have now addressed and allowed myself to move on. I now let the bad and negative emotion go, and see it as a part of my life which I no longer need to revisit.

I have received flowers from clients and received many testimonials which have moved me to the core.

My clients have expressed their gratitude to me with such warmth and passion, and this makes my job so worthwhile. I truly believe that I have finally found my vocation in life, and helping clients achieve their goals and aspirations is life-changing, not only for themselves but also for myself.

Being heard across matters of the heart matter and this makes a huge difference.

We all need purpose in our lives, why not contact me for a real conversation today?

You can contact Reeta Minhas-Judd via:
– LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/reeta-minhas-judd-b60a5a147/
– Mail: Rmjtrainingservices AT gmail DOT com (removing all the spaces)
– Web: https://rmjtrainingservices.com

The importance of Purposeful Leadership

We hear a lot about “purposeful” and “purpose-driven” leaders and organisations. But what does that really mean, and does it make a difference?

There’s been considerable interest in the notion of “purposeful” and “purpose-driven” leaders and organisations in recent years, driven by growing levels of distrust and disillusionment with what are often regarded as the short-termism, financial imperatives driving contemporary firms.

Typically, the attributes of purposeful organisations – societal responsibility, values and ethics – are simply translated into the qualities that characterise their ideal leaders. But what type of leaders do purposeful organisations really need?

My definition of a Purposeful Leader is the extent to which a leader has a strong moral self, a vision for his or her team, and takes an ethical approach to leadership marked by a commitment to stakeholders.

Purpose is an aspirational reason for being that inspires and provides a call to action for an organisation, its partners, stakeholders, and society as a whole. Strategic research has consistently shown that purpose enables organisations to perform well in times of volatility. The research joins a growing body of evidence demonstrating that a strong and active purpose raises employee engagement and acts as a unifier, makes customers more loyal and committed to working with you, and helps to frame effective decision making in an environment of uncertainty. The EY Global Leadership Forecast 2018 found that getting purpose right builds organisational resilience and, crucially, improves long-term financial performance.

Independent research from Linkage found connections between purposeful leaders and business results: The companies they led had 2.5 times higher sales growth, four times higher profit growth, five times higher “competitive differentiation and innovation” scores, and nine times higher employee engagement scores. Companies that create lasting leadership impact differentially invest in developing purposeful leaders; and they take concrete steps to assess the organisational dynamics that shape leadership performance.

So exactly what is a Purposeful Business Leaders?

My extensive research into the subject came up with the following structure of what makes a Purposeful Leader:

  •  Purposeful leadership and its constituent components – moral self, commitment to stakeholders and vision – are important in influencing a range of employee outcomes, including intent to quit, job satisfaction, willingness to go the extra mile, sales performance and lower levels of cynicism. Alongside this, ethical leadership approaches also emerge as central for employees’ experience of their work. Employers should consider ways of creating and embedding a purposeful and ethical approach throughout the organisation.
  • Vision is especially important for employees and leaders alike to provide a sense of direction to guide activities. However, multiple or conflicting visions can emerge over time and in different departments or units, causing a sense of confusion and uncertainty, and so organisations should aim for alignment around a set of core themes.
  • There is much that organisations can do to foster an environment conducive to purposeful and ethical leadership; appropriate central policies, leader role-modelling, training and development, and the organisational values and culture can nurture purposeful leaders.
  • Constraints in organisations revolve around time and resource pressures, unrealistic targets, communication errors such as over-communication, remoteness of the centre, and cultural factors such as risk-aversion. When seeking to develop a purposeful approach to leadership, organisations should attend to issues such as these that may sabotage their efforts.
  • Organisations tend to focus on a limited range of stakeholders and discount others from their decision-making. However, this can lead to an imbalance in how the organisation relates to its wider setting. To combat this, organisations can consider strategies such as creating working groups to evaluate the impact of important decisions on a wide range of different stakeholders

So, let’s now move to leadership, my understanding of leadership is that leadership is the ability to motivate groups of people towards a common goal, an incredibly important skill in today’s business world.

Without strong leadership, many otherwise good businesses fail. Understanding the characteristics of strong leaders and cultivating those skills is paramount for those pursuing a career in business.

Many of the world’s most respected leaders have several personality traits in common. Some of the most recognisable traits are the ability to initiate change and inspire a shared vision, as well as knowing how to “encourage the heart” and model the skills and behaviours that are necessary to achieve the stated objectives. Good leaders must also be confident enough in themselves to enable others to contribute and succeed.

Let’s now look at some of the most recognised model leaders from the past:

The Ability to Initiate Change — Franklin D. Roosevelt

Good leaders are never satisfied with the status quo and usually take action to change it. In addition, strong leaders bring about change for the common good by involving others in the process. Roosevelt. sought practical ways to help struggling men and women make a better world for themselves and their children.

His philosophy was, “bold, persistent experimentation…Take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” Being willing to take risks by trying new ideas and involving others in the process of change is a key quality of strong leaders.

Inspiring a Shared Vision — The Leadership of Martin Luther King

Leaders, through their words and actions, must have the ability to draw others into a common vision by telling others where they intend to go and urging them to join in that vision.

Martin Luther King’s vision of a country free from racial segregation and discrimination, so poignantly expressed in his famous “I have a dream…” speech, exemplifies this critical leadership trait. King had a vision of a better America, and his ability to bring both whites and blacks together to march against segregation changed America profoundly.

Model Leadership — Mohandas K. Gandhi

Strong leaders not only need to have a vision and the ability to initiate change, but they must also model the values, actions, and behaviors necessary to make the vision reality. Gandhi not only created and espoused the philosophies of passive resistance and constructive non-violence, but he also lived by these principles.

According to Indira Gandhi, “More than his words, his life was his message.” By choosing to consistently live and work in a manner that exemplified the values he believed in, Gandhi engendered trust, becoming a role model for others looking to affect change without resorting to violence.

Encouraging the Heart — The Leadership of Winston Churchill

On December 29, 1940, London was hit by one of the largest aerial attacks of World War II. Somehow, St. Paul’s Cathedral survived. Two days later a photo showing a silhouette of the dome of St. Paul’s, surrounded by smoke and flames ran in the paper with a caption that read, “It symbolises the steadiness of London’s stand against the enemy: the firmness of right against wrong.”

Churchill recognized the importance of St. Paul’s as a morale booster. His instructions were clear on that December night, “At all costs, St. Paul’s must be saved.”

Leaders must be able to encourage the hearts of those who share their vision, providing a sense of confident optimism even in the face of enormous difficulties.

Traditional skills have not been supplanted but they now co-exist and very visually have survived with a mix of new factors, in your mind was Franklin D. Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Mohandas K. Gandhi or Winston Churchill a Purposeful Leader?

What is your purpose?

Purpose goes beyond our physical and emotional needs. Being driven by a purpose or a mission contains much more than when we are driven by basic needs for which we set goals that we want to achieve.

When we are driven by purpose, we look for meaning in what we do – ways to create enrichment and happiness in our lives. In that sense, purpose means identifying our reason for being.

Today, many of us increasingly look for our professional lives to provide us with meaning and that is why one of the key tasks of effective leaders is to ignite a deeper sense of purpose in their employees.

Purpose ties the organisation together

When an organisation delivers excellent service, it is because the employees know what they do and why they do it. They simply manage to bring people together for a common cause. That is the backbone of what they do – namely the purpose. It is the job of the organisation and its leaders to provide the employees with meaning and in this context, purpose can be a driving force to achieve the intended results.

Being aligned on the purpose of work and being committed to fulfilling the mission is probably one of the most effective ways to engage both consumers and employees. However, we all know that it is hard enough to find individual purposes in life that creates meaning and motivates us. So how can this be done for a whole organisation with many diverse people?

How to lead with purpose?

When creating an organisational shared purpose the essential questions to ask are:

What is the shared purpose that:

  • Articulates a clear purpose for your organisation. Focus on answering the why questions. We all know what our organisations do. Purpose is about asking why we exist in the first place, what our employees and stakeholders care about, and what resonates with customers.
  • Use purpose as a lens for everything you do. Let purpose guide the solutions you offer, how you treat your customers, and how you engage your workforce.
  • Communicate success stories to all constituents. Stories perpetuate purpose. Each time people repeat them, purpose entwines more closely with day-to-day business.
  • Integrate purpose into the company’s DNA. Reinforce purpose through the day-to-day customer and employee experience. Treat purpose as a commitment to stakeholders and publicly update on its progress.
  • Focus on leaders. Help them develop their own “why.” Work with all leaders to articulate their own purpose as it relates to the overarching purpose for the business. Then, help them do the same for their teams and employees.
  • Develop key skills. Purpose-driven leaders form teams, inspire, and motivate in a fast-changing world. They develop psychological safety and agility.

I have developed the fifth book in a series of books that provides purpose-driven outcomes in support of some of the most talked-about subjects in life today, my book is called ‘Purposeful Discussions’ through the book and its 32 chapters, I take purpose across everything we do; covering emotional intelligence, human to human interaction, human relationships, strategy, government, geopolitics, compliance, regulation, cybercrime with conclusions across life growth, long life learnings, personal development, mentorship and the takeaways that we all need to arm ourselves with over the next 10 years to survive, to co-create a more sustainable future.

https://www.waterstones.com/books/search/term/purposeful+discussions+geoff+hudson+searle

My overall conclusion on Purposeful Business leadership in today’s disruptive world is a balanced view of universal characteristics and traits which has the potential to guide us through years of transformation with optimism and idealism.
The first step to using Purpose is to think about a company direction and Inspire others and thus to begin the personal transition from managing to leading is to understand your own Purpose.

If you aspire to become a leader, you also need to find an organisation that will accommodate your Purpose, only if we set sail on the right course and with smart individuals that make our Purposeful journey, progress, performance will become so much more worthwhile.

Stephen R. Covey once said:

“When you listen with empathy to another person, you give that person psychological air.”

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.”

Guest-blog: Colin Smith discusses the importance of listening and ‘Why Listen’

In today’s high-tech, high-speed, high-stress world, communication is more important than ever, yet we seem to devote less and less time to really listening to one another. We are more connected than ever through technology and at the same time the disconnect with ourselves, others and our environment is growing. We need meaningful conversations to help us reconnect, going beyond our egos and our fears to build strong relationships, communities, networks and organisations, so that through collaboration we can begin to co-create a more sustainable future.

Genuine listening has become a rare gift—the gift of time. It helps build relationships, solve problems, ensure understanding, resolve conflicts, and improve accuracy. At work, effective listening means fewer errors and less wasted time. At home, it helps develop resourceful, self-reliant children who can solve their own problems. Listening builds friendships and careers. It saves money and marriages.

When you’re told, “Listen!” by someone, most often you think, “I need to hear this.” Listen to your CEO’s instructions; listen to your wife or husband’s rules; listen to the information your friend is sharing.

But listening is so much more than hearing. It’s what happens when we not only open our ears, but also open our minds and sometimes our hearts to another person.

“I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.”

Larry King – American television and radio host

But who do we turn to in times of listening needs, how can we learn to be better listeners, how can we perfect effective listening to help improve our lives and the lives of others?

Today I have the distinct pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, Colin Smith, who is aka ‘The Listener’, an executive coach and confidant, facilitator and speaker.

He is passionate about transforming the way we listen. His calm, attentive and patient way of being, enables you to feel seen, heard and understood. It awakens your thinking and inspires you to empathically listen to yourself and others.

His approach is not about fixing, offering advice (unless asked), or rescuing you. He creates a safe, compassionate place for you to slow down, settle, and be yourself. In this space, you are able to listen to your innermost thoughts and feelings, out of which your true story and answers will emerge.

Colin is going to talk to us the importance of listening and ‘Why Listen’

Why Listen?

Or, what’s the point, everyone is talking?

We grow up and live in a society where speaking is revered. Where he who talks most and loudest wins. We have courses galore on speaking and presenting yet little on listening.

If we look at the four mediums of communication, Writing, Reading, Speaking and Listening, research highlights the following:

• The least used medium of writing is used 9% of the time and attracts 12 years of formal training.
• The most used medium of listening is used 45% of the time attracts very little formal training.

“Hang on a minute, I think my ears do me a good service thank you, without the need for any formal training”.

Listening or Hearing, they are different, aren’t they?

I often ask groups a couple of questions.

“Hands up, if you believe you are better than average at listening?”

As you would expect, most of them put their hands up.

“Okay. Now, keep them up if anyone has said to you, “Thank you for listening”, during the last two weeks?”

Most people put their hands down.

Apart from the obvious point that we can’t all be better than average at anything, what is going on here?

The answer is that we can all hear unless audibly impaired, yet only around 10% of us are good listeners.

In the silence that I leave, usually, one person will ask, “But isn’t hearing and listening the same thing?”

We hear from – Hearing is passive, we don’t need to do anything. Its primary function is to alert us and to keep us safe. Hearing interrupts us.

For example, we will hear our name being called out across a noisy restaurant, we hear all sorts of noises when we sleep in a different bed, such as the central heating or planes passing overhead, until we get used to them.

We listen to – Listening is active, we have to intend to listen. Listening enables us to connect more deeply with the person speaking, understand what else is going on for them at that moment and where they are coming from.

The speaker becomes aware that we are listening to them, so they feel heard, feel that they matter and feel validated. This means that they relax more deeply and interestingly, the quality of their thinking improves.

During one exercise, where I play a piece of music one of the participants shared that she could feel the sadness in his voice, not just the words.

Listening changes lives

After a workshop on listening, a young man came up and thanked me. He explained that during the ‘not listening’ exercise, he had seen himself.
He had seen that all the traits of not listening being demonstrated by the person ‘listening’, were just like him.
Such as, supposedly listening with his mobile in his hand, not looking at the person speaking, interrupting and not acknowledging what the person had just said. He was listening to speak, not listening to understand.

He went on, “The experience had also caused me to question my behaviour at work with my team. So I have decided to change three things. Whenever I go into a conversation I will make the point of turning my mobile to silent and putting it out of sight. I will give them my undivided attention and keep my eyes on their eyes throughout the conversation”.

He followed up with me via email and said that on reflection his not listening behaviour was impacting his personal life as well. He said that he had sat down with his wife that evening and apologised for not listening to her and their six-year-old son. He promised that from now on he would listen more actively”.

I have no idea of the outcome, but I do know his future looks brighter, both at work and at home. If he can listen more actively, each of them will feel heard and valued by the other.

Arriving at the checkout to pay for my food, I was greeted by the usual, “Hi, how are you?”
I replied, “I am fine thank you”, and looking her in the eyes asked, “How are you?”
She replied, “Fine, thank you”, and scanned my first item.
Then looking back at me, she said, “Not really”.

Keeping my gaze, I say, “Oh” and left it hanging in the air.

“No, my boyfriend is being very difficult. We broke up a week ago and since then he has been bad mouthing me and putting up pictures on social media.”

I continued to hold contact with her eyes, she went on, “It has got so bad I had to talk to my teacher, and now we have the Police involved. My parents return from holiday in three days, so I think I am going to be okay”.

That was it, a brief moment in time. I said nothing, just deeply listened, and it enabled her to share something to a stranger. I have no idea of the outcome but know that it took some pressure out of what was building up inside, and maybe helped her to breathe a little easier and make it through the next few days.

So what?

In “Lost Connections”, Johann Hari’s recent book, he refers to the connection between loneliness, and anxiety and depression. And how loneliness can be the trigger.
As we all know too well, we can feel lonely in a crowd, be that an office, a party, or even a social gathering. Loneliness, among many factors, can be a symptom of not feeling heard, not fitting in, not being good enough, or not feeling valued.

We try and hide it through our addictions, alcohol, work, drugs, sex, and social media. But we can never get enough, we can never fill the hole we have inside.

Each ‘fix’ numbs things out for a while until the feeling returns. Then we have to take more of the ‘fix’ to numb things out.

What we are missing, and what we are yearning for? I believe it is for more deep and meaningful conversations. Conversations, which are not about the weather, celebrity gossip, or what is on the television tonight.

Rather, conversations about our feelings, our challenges, our hopes and fears, and what matters to you. Sometimes these turn out to be conversations that you have never had before.

There is an exercise that you can complete together, as a couple. It consists of 36 questions plus a 4-minute eye gazing exercise at the end, which if done correctly predicts that you would fall in love with each other.

In looking at the questions, where you both answer the questions, each person taking their turn to speak first, I can begin to see why. Each question enables you to learn something meaningful about the other, for example, “What is your most treasured memory?” and, “When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?”

Whether or not you do end up falling in love is another matter, what I like about this idea is that it causes us to be vulnerable, to open up and share, to feel heard, to be validated, to understand another human being. And all of which is for what we are deeply longing.

Could we ask similarly deep questions in the workplace, could we have more meaningful conversation? Could we ask questions that would evoke vulnerability, empathy, sharing, connection collaboration and relationship?

“Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person they are almost indistinguishable.”
David Augsburger, Author of Caring Enough to Hear

What is the impact of not listening on the business?

There is growing evidence that companies don’t care for their people. In the US it is reported that 7 out of 8 US workers feel they work for a company that does not care about them. Globally, Gallup reports that 70% of workers say they feel disengaged.

This can lead to
• Disparate teams.
• Duplication of effort.
• Missed information.
• An unsafe working environment.
• Avoidable mistakes.

With the impact across the business of
• Less connection.
• Just doing my hours and that’s it!
• Less discretionary effort and thinking for the company.
• More bad-mouthing, dishonesty, isn’t it awful.
• Less trust and a growing toxic culture.
• Individuals becoming less focused on the business.
• Feeling stressed, values not aligned, disillusioned.
• A knowing that fear is keeping me here.

Personal issues
There are also deep issues happening at a personal level.
• Feelings of isolation, uncertainty, less confidence.
• No one to talk to or to confide in about how I am feeling or what is happening in my life.
• Potential for being on long term sick.

With the personal impact
• Rising levels of mental health, stress, suicide, depression, and loneliness.
• A continued increase in divorce and erosion of the family unit.
• A growing feeling of disconnection from society, people, life and sadly nature and the planet.

What to do?

Listen first. Listen to each other. Listen more.

Take the opportunity to complete a simple eleven-minute listening exercise.

You can use a timer to keep this exercise focused. This could be with your work colleague, your partner or friend, or even your child.

1. Begin with one minute of silence, with your eyes closed, as this forces you inward.
2. Face each other and look at the other in silence for about a minute or longer if it feels right. Maintain eye contact throughout, become aware of your breath as you look at them, and allow any thoughts to arise and to pass.
3. Agree who will go first. The listener asks the speaker by name, “X, what would like to talk about?” As there are no rules, the speaker can share as much or as little as they want.
4. They will have the opportunity to talk uninterrupted for three minutes. If they stop talking before the three minutes are up, allow them to sit in the silence. You will be surprised how often they will talk some more. If they think they have finished, and they look at you, gently ask, “What else?”
5. The listener says nothing throughout but will give the other their undivided attention and actively listen. Maintain eye contact (even when the speaker looks away so that when they return to you they will find you still looking at them), no interrupting, and avoid thinking about what you may say when it is your turn.
6. When the three minutes are up, swap around.
7. In the final minute, look at the other, take a deep breath in and breathe out, then each of you shares one thing that you appreciate about the other. Make this appreciation about who they are, not what they do.

NB. At first, the idea of talking for three minutes can seem daunting, afterwards, you will realise it went quickly and it did not seem like three minutes. It will also feel unusual, yet supportive, to have been able to speak freely without interruption.

“We are dying to be heard, literally and figuratively”.

So, Why Listen?

Because feeling heard matters and makes a huge difference.

Who will you have a meaningful conversation with today?

You can contact Colin Smith via LinkedIn or by email:
colin dot smith AT dexteritysolutions dot co dot uk (removing all the spaces)

https://dexteritysolutions.co.uk/

 

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 Strategy and Strategic Leadership Should Never be Confused with Metrics!


I was asked recently to speak at a conference, when I ask about the topic to be discussed I was instructed ‘to discuss leadership’, I sat back and smiled, it was clear the person leading the content really did not understand the breadth of the subject in today’s business world, I asked if I could discuss leadership in the context of strategic leadership vs undermining metrics, I received a nod, so I took that as an acceptance.

The concept of strategy emerged more than 2,500 years ago in ancient Greece with a one-dimensional perspective that focused on how generals waged war. Under this concept, a general is responsible for multiple units, on multiple fronts, in multiple battles, over various spans of time. The general’s challenge is to provide the vision and preparation for orchestrating the subsequent comprehensive actions.

The general’s strategy, then, consists of an integrated set of choices designed to achieve specific goals. But it is important to remember that strategy is not an accurate term for every important choice that the general faced.

This is where organisations fail in the business world. Many executives have begun calling everything they do strategic. Too often, strategy becomes a catchall term, used to mean whatever the executive wants it to mean.

And all too often, the result is that the organisation undertakes a collection of business activities that create confusion and undermine credibility because they are not strategically aligned. Sometimes these executives confuse actions or tactics which are the means by which strategies are executed with strategies themselves. They are then left to wonder why they failed to achieve their desired goals.

Strategy addresses how the business intends to engage its environment in pursuit of its desired goals. Without strategy, time and resources will be wasted on piecemeal, disparate activities. Sometimes, senior managers will fill the void with their own interpretation of what the business should be doing. The result is usually unsuccessful initiatives that are incomplete, disjointed, and confusing.

Strategic leadership rises above this confusion. But it does not come easy. Studies show that fewer than one in 10 leaders exhibit strategic skills, a woefully inadequate number.


It would be a mistake to believe that strategic leadership is only needed in times of crisis. During the good times, strategic leadership is just as important as during the bad times, because it ensures valuable resources are focused on the right areas and in the right ways, long term planning of strategy to execution vs short-termism and no planning.

At its essence, strategic leadership is the ability to learn, anticipate, challenge, interpret, decide, and align organisational capabilities and competing interests in ways that effectively engage the everyday opportunities and problems presented by the competitive environment. It is the ability to translate vision into reality by seeing the bigger picture and longer time horizons, then creating the strategies necessary to achieve goals that deliver valued results.

Tying performance metrics to strategy has become an accepted best practice over the past few decades. Strategy is abstract by definition, but metrics give strategy form, allowing our minds to grasp it more readily. With metrics, Ford Motor Company’s onetime strategy “Quality is job one” could be translated into Six Sigma performance standards. Apple’s “Think different” and Samsung’s “Create the future” could be linked to the number of sales from new products. If the strategy is the blueprint for building an organisation, metrics are the concrete, wood, drywall, and bricks.

But there’s a hidden trap in this organisational architecture. A company can easily lose sight of its strategy and instead focus strictly on the metrics that are meant to represent it. We all know that metrics are inherently imperfect at some levels. In business, the intent behind metrics is usually to capture some underlying goal and they almost always fail to do this as well as we would like.

Surrogation is especially harmful when the metrics and the strategy are poorly aligned. The greater the mismatch, the larger the potential damage.

Executives and senior managers who are charged with communicating strategy into this process are responsible for outcomes, strategy needs embedded execution and metrics on its success.

In addition to executives and senior managers losing sight of strategy over metrics, they often make the mistake of sticking with a failing strategy.

Why, and how do they avoid this trap?

Every company strategy whether good or bad has dissenters. But in some organisations, objectors are either suppressed or they understand that any constructive feedback isn’t welcome

Sticking with a once-successful strategy for too long can have repercussions. So how can companies avoid making a similar mistake when facing disruption?

The Too Many Bosses, Too Few Leaders

Executives and senior management must challenge mutually reinforcing biases that see people being influenced by a prior commitment to a particular course of action.

People who make investment decisions push ahead with a project even if things go badly because of the costs they have already incurred. Those costs will not be recovered if they walk away. This is called the ‘sunk cost fallacy’.

Decision-makers prefer to invest more in a course of action rather than withdraw and lose everything, believing that they can turn the situation around. In this scenario, people suffer from loss aversion.


The illusion of control takes hold. This bias, which is reinforced by the previous two, sees people overestimating their ability to control the future. They take credit for the outcomes of decisions and confuse forecasting the future with actually making it happen.

An inherent desire to complete tasks such as loading the dishwasher or finishing a project drives most people who have a preference for completion.

Those opposing a course of action often remain silent because they believe no one else shares their view. Meanwhile, colleagues interpret their silence as agreement. That can lead to everyone agreeing to a decision that nobody believes in. This is known as pluralistic ignorance.

Psychological and sociological studies show that someone’s identity and social status is often linked to their commitments. People can suffer a perceived loss of status or a threat to their identity when they withdraw from a commitment.

Understanding what drives people to push ahead with a project even if it’s failing is the first step to avoiding an escalation of commitment. The next is taking the following measures to prevent it from happening.

Spotting an escalation of commitment can be challenging, which is why things go wrong before executives and senior managers really see what’s happening.

Once invested in a course of action, they ignore the signs even when their company is on the verge of collapse. Prevention is possible, providing managers across the organisation are encouraged through the right processes and practices to consider different strategies and adopt a more objective approach to decision-making.


Final thought, the only certainty about the future is that it is uncertain, and past success does not guarantee future success.

Some of the factors driving this uncertainty include advances in technology and the quantity of information being produced; shifting customer needs; internal competition within companies for resources; struggles to maintain profitability as the economy changes and evolves; and the new normal of doing more with less for countless business operations.

But we also see markets offering greater opportunities to those able to adapt.

The ability to influence others to engage in efforts that enable organisational success, while acknowledging the constraints of time and resources, is at the heart of being strategic. It is why leaders must prove they are capable strategic leaders.

These leaders recognise situational constraints and adapt to their environment. By necessity and design, they are flexible and able to adjust their strategies to achieve the stated goals. What they do is measurably tied to goals.

Their attributes go beyond charisma, experience, and expertise. Aspirations are not enough; businesses want to see results. And results, more often than not, take strategic leadership.

As Jerome Powell – Chair of the US Federal Reserve, once said:

“Alignment of business strategy and risk appetite should minimize the firm’s exposure to large and unexpected losses. In addition, the firm’s risk management capabilities need to be commensurate with the risks it expects to take.”

Navigating the Data Experience Economy

I recently attended a Podcast in London called ‘Unleash your Product Data’, the description of the event caught my attention with speakers and experts in the field from Boden, Productsup and The Comma Group. I have recently been a judge for ‘The Experian Data Excellence Award for Lloyds Bank National Business Awards 2019’, so fresh off the mark, I was ready with my questions!

Here is a link to the PodCast: Podomatic Podcasts

After the questioning, Emile Bloemen from Productsup approached me and we had a very interesting discussion across the Product and Customer Experience in data, which I found fascinating, and which prompted me to write this blog.

Let’s have a look at the customer experience and why the need for product experience management.

Truly understanding customer needs may help companies improve not only the buying experience but also their bottom line. A company’s relationship with its customers is about much more than improving product ratings or decreasing wait times. Understanding the customer journey is about learning what customers experience from the moment they begin considering a purchase, and then working to make the journey toward buying a product or service as simple, clear, and efficient as possible.

Customer experience has become the centrepiece of most marketing strategies today. Marketers have begun to realise that it’s the biggest differentiator a brand or a retailer has in today’s overcrowded market. A great customer experience starts with a compelling product experience. Customers have their pick of channels, so standing out among the crowd with relevant product information is imperative.

The race to own customer experience is on. Companies are recognizing the importance of delivering an experience that makes them stand out from their competition. Some are learning the hard way.

In recent year’s United Airlines had a brand crisis, in which $1.4 billion in value was wiped out overnight when a passenger’s experience went viral on social media. And, you may not have heard about Juicero, but it fell victim to a brand crisis when it was discovered the proprietary juice packets needed for its $699 juicer weren’t so proprietary, resulting in the company dropping the price of the juicer to $200, and then ultimately going out of business.

Be it customer service, product quality or just the way the customers feel about the companies they do business with, customer experience rises to the top of whether or not the customer will decide to keep doing business with a brand.

Everything a brand does – the way it does its marketing, research, advertising and more – all play a role in shaping the customer’s experience. Focusing on customer experience management (CXM) may be the single most important investment a brand can make in today’s competitive business climate.

Look around you. How many people are on their computer? Their cell phone? We’re surrounded by digital experiences, both at work and at home. Whether you’re a SaaS or cloud business, or if a digital experience is just one facet of your offerings, it’s imperative that you deliver an amazing product experience.

As a product leader, this weight of this responsibility falls on your shoulders and if you want to create competitive products, you need to develop a customer-centric mindset. Understanding product experiences inside and out will benefit your customers and your career. We’re no longer transitioning to a new era of business, we’re deep in it, and if you want to keep up, you need to be in tune with your customers and deliver continuous intrinsic value. Otherwise, you’ll be obsolete before you can say “Blockbuster.”

For this reason, Product Experience Management (PXM) tools are a necessity. You want to be able to compete on all the shopping channels and new marketplaces that arise. The ability to prepare a product catalogue to flow into every channel in the required format is no easy task.

The eCommerce space is changing. Customers demand a compelling and consistent brand experience wherever they shop. Product experience management allows brands and retailers to offer buyers these superior experiences, leading to increased conversions, reduced returns, improved customer satisfaction, and stronger brand loyalty.

‘Brands and retailers must deliver a compelling story across all digital touchpoints during the purchasing journey.’

That all sounds well and good – but how do you actually do that?

How can brands and retailers manage product experiences and provide compelling content in the proper context?

And where does product information management (PIM) fit into this picture?

What is Product Experience Management (PXM)?

Product Experience Management is a new profession. It’s the subtle science of delivering product information in context, adapted and scoped by channel and locale to match the buying experience at every touchpoint. Having the right data and insight into the type of product experience buyers expect is the foundation for any great customer experience.

‘According to Forrester, 85% of customers rate product information as the top feature they want from a website.’

Product experience management is how you make an emotional connection with your buyers. It’s the next stage beyond goods and services in the progression of economic value. PIM is the “what” you use to describe your commodities, goods, and services, while PXM is “how” you stage an experience. In 1999, Joseph Pine and James Gilmore wrote a book entitled ‘The Experience Economy’. The context is about how people trade money for time. This concept and the progression of economic value help us understand how we arrived at the place where customer experiences are the centrepiece of business models.

Pine and Gilmore say that in today’s economy people differentiate themselves from their competitors by moving up the economic value chain to provide excellent customer experiences. This value chain concept is shown below:

By using PIM as an engine for automating the boring, tedious, repetitive tasks involved in collecting, standardizing, and enriching product content, your marketing and eCommerce teams can turn their attention to contextualising product information, before distributing it to each channel.

Putting product data in context can mean several things: the right images, the right descriptions, the right attribute sets, and more. Each must be precisely tailored for the locale, cultural norms and standards, context for the channel, and the ways your buyer interacts with your brand. With the right tools, you can even leverage product data intelligence to further streamline your PXM practice.

These days, it’s all about speed. If you can’t get your products to market fast enough, then you’ll miss out on sales. It’s especially critical to get to market on time if your products are sold on a seasonal basis, or if you regularly add new products and models.

A good PXM solution enables your team to publish and update product catalogues in a timely way. It provides workflows to optimize and streamline processes, helping brands and retailers quickly add new products or channels. It uses business rules and automation to reduce manual work, freeing up time for marketers to write emotional product descriptions, while managing product images as well as text. With improved, streamlined processes, marketers can create complete and compelling product experiences across all channels.

This is the century of ‘smart devices’ which pushes the boundaries further and making the impossible possible. Organisations should analyse the gap across various markets in the technology field and innovate smart products and accessories catering to different requirements of their customers. The right product innovation can not only save an organisation from extinction but also help them sustain and grow by penetrating markets faster, connecting better with clients, seising big opportunities and having an edge in the business competition.

Profitable it seems for organisations to come up with innovative products, the groundwork to find a breakthrough idea is extremely complex. The complete cycle of inventing & innovating a product, after further developments and modifications, till it reaches maturity and leads to innovation of another new product is time-consuming and exceedingly complicated.

It needs immense precautions to implement an idea for product innovation and the development of the same. Tech experts should keep in mind its further implications, possible benefits, and disadvantages, if any, before the product is launched in the market. Balance is a very important aspect for an organization in product innovation.

The refinement of ideas, innovation of products and their public acceptance decides the future of an organisation and its success. The path is full of risks, nevertheless, organizations should step ahead cautiously by investing majorly in product innovation and deploying the best minds, in order to succeed and sustain today’s market

Final thought, in an age of constant, complex and disruptive technological innovation, knowing what, when, and how to structure regulatory interventions has become more difficult. Regulators find themselves in a situation where they believe they must opt for either reckless action (regulation without sufficient facts) or paralysis (doing nothing).

Inevitably in such a case, caution tends to imply risk. But such caution merely functions to reinforce the status quo and makes it harder for new technologies to reach the market in a timely or efficient manner.

Possibly the solution, is for lawmaking and regulatory design needs to become more proactive, dynamic, and responsive. So how can regulators actually achieve these goals? What can regulators do to promote innovation and offer better opportunities to people wanting to build a new business around a disruptive technology or simply enjoy the benefits of a disruptive new technology as a consumer?

As Mahatma Gandi once said:

“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises, he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.”