Archive for February, 2012

When 1 + 1 is less than 2…

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

This insight comes from researchers at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, who have proved that we are less intelligent in groups than on our own. When we are with others who we think are cleverer than us, we respond by becoming even more stupid than we are normally.

The researchers got 70 students together and tested their IQs (all of which were quite high, as it happens) in normal fashion. Then they put them in small groups and gave them another test, telling them between each question how they were faring relative to others in the group. They found that all the students’ scores were lower in the group test than in the individual one, but the IQs of the poorer performers were sharply lower. Those whose IQs fell the most were mainly – surprise, surprise – female.”  Financial Times

It appears that Group Think is just one of the traps that meetings can fall into, being together can actually make you less intelligent!  Unless you make the meeting more than just a talking shop.  It is important to structure them in such a way that you are able to engage everyone and draw on their abilities and experiences.  That is why properly planning and preparing for an important meeting is crucial to its success.  You need to be clear why you are meeting and what you want out of it.  Who needs to be there and how best to structure it in order to get the results you require.  This is just one reason for engaging an independent and expert facilitator. 

In certain cultures it is deemed vital that consensus be reached and meetings tend to be the way this is arrived at but people can easily agree to the wrong thing if the right questions aren’t asked, everyone isn’t listened to.  We have all been in meetings where someone’s point is lost because the chairman is either not focused on them or does not respect them.  It is often this small dissenting voice that is the key to the solution.  Effective meetings are so much more than just turning up and sitting through the agenda…


  1. Business Meetings

What do you do when you work for a B@stard … and you’re self-employed!

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

I meet a lot of self-employed people and business owners in my work and often see them imposing all sorts demands and “I must”s on themselves, and perhaps often putting up with things that they would never accept from another boss. The pattern of my work tends to be either flat out or a bit quiet and that can be very stressful.  I remember clearly realising one day that if I couldn’t enjoy the quiet periods and make them productive and positive then I was on the wrong path.  Otherwise my life would just be made up periods of  worrying and stressing when I had little work and then stressing because of the high demands when I did!  It really was a moment of enlightenment for me. 

When you work from home it is easy to always be at work and smart phones and laptops make this worse.  You can be beavering away in the heart of the family and mistakenly thinking that you are ‘present’.  I’m all for flexible working and working when the Muse is upon you, even if that is 4 in the morning, but don’t forget why you are working and remember to smell the roses along the way and make the most of the flexibility and freedom that this gives us.

If you are being a b@stard boss, chances are you aren’t being much of a father or husband either…

“By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may eventually get to be a boss and work twelve hours a day.”  Robert Frost

“If you think your boss is stupid, remember: you wouldn’t have a job if he was any smarter.”  John Gotti

Change Often

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Winston Churchill once said “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”   This is something that perhaps we need to remember today.  So many people find the unknown scary that they prefer to settle for the known, even if that isn’t what they need or want!  Being prepared to let go of one’s comfort blanket and expose oneself to something different is vital and never more so than in the midst of a globally unstable economy.  Good enough is not a long term strategy, ‘me too’ players go out of business where innovators move on.  Kodak once was responsible for 85% of all camera sales and 90% of all film sales in the U.S, but in 2004 stopped making film cameras and recently announced it would no longer make digital cameras either.  No matter how good you are you have adapt early enough if you wish to stay in the game…

Perfection might be beyond most of us, but the more you change, the more information you have about what works and what doesn’t and the better you are at adapting your game to the current market / circumstances.

Catalytic Clothing or Fashion that Works!

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Catalytic ClothingDesigner Helen Storey MBE and scientist Tony Ryan OBE  teamed up to produce something radical, clothing that cleans the air around it!  In March, the City of London was issued with an ultimatum by the EU Air Quality Directive: cut emissions or face a fine of up to £300 million. An estimated 3,000 deaths per year are caused by dangerously high levels of PM10 (harmful particles likely to be inhaled by humans.)  The material is treated so that it catalyses the air around it.  Read more about it here

I love this as a totally innovative approach to a global problem that enables ordinary people to make a difference about something that they normally could do nothing about. 

Not being bound by previous limitations is a great way to start change.  Combining two entirely unrelated brains / disciplines is another.  Add  a burning platform and you have a recipe for successful change.

“Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I don’t design clothes, I design dreams.”   Ralph Lauren

The day everything changed.. or did it?

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

It was 2 years ago today that Carys died.   I was trying to think what other days marked such a sharp change, and I’m not sure that I have experienced one.  The day I was born, but I guess I was too young to be aware.  The day I left school, but that was just like the end of every other school term really and certainly not traumatic, I was ready to move on.  The day I left home, but I was already living elsewhere and it was really a formality.  The day I got married, but we’d been living together for long enough that it was a gentle, welcome transition.  The day my first child was born, but that came in due course and with 9 months preparation.  In short, I have experience no other such abrupt change in my life.  I know others have experienced similar rough transitions and they are always shocking, perhaps devastating, but oddly, not terminal.

The odd thing to record on the other side of this chasm is, in a way, how much of my personal landscape remains the same.  I live in the same house, in the same town, do the same job and am surrounded by the same people & family.  Change is so complex and multi-layered.  Not everything has to change to change how everything feels and how you related to it.  When you change, your world changes.  Sometimes, things happen to change you; but never forget that the reverse is also true; that if you change yourself, then you change your relationship with everything at the same time.  So if the world isn’t a comfy place for you, rather than waiting for it to change for you, you can decide to change who you are and where you fit in.  Easily said and painful to do, but true none-the-less.

I’m making good progress at rebuilding my life.  My children are still finding the journey very painful and my inability to make that easier is hard.  This is a journey that you can only take on your own.  If you are walking this path, then I pray that you find light and love, warmth and comfort, for they still exist…  I don’t know if Time heals, but it is a key ingredient in this process; it is like a current and you can swim with it or against it but it does carry you along willy nilly.

What would you do with an extra day?

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

I was listening to the radio and someone pointed out that the 29th February is, in effect, an extra free day that we get given once every four years.  The big question is, how can you use it in someway that it is special?  What if on this once-in-four-years day you did something different; something you have always wanted to do or never made time to do?  We spend so much of our lives living in our little groove, and this is a chance to ‘jump track’ and do something else.

So what could you do that would be totally different or special?

Bamboo mobile phone

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Kieron Scott-Woodhouse, from Shepherds Bush in London, a 23 year old student, has designed a new Android phone clad in bamboo, destined initially for the growing Chinese market (Click the picture to see their website.)  You have to admit that is fresh thinking, instead of oil-based plastics, they use totally renewable resources which are strong, light and very stylish.

This kind of reframing of limitations and expectations is vital in every business and frankly every life.  We are like the elephants who are trained from babies to accept a rope tether.  Of course the adult elephant could easily break it but having been used to this fragile restraint since they were young, they never test it.  We need to challenge our habits and thinking.  Most limitations are not real, but arbitrary or self-imposed.  This were an external facilitator or coach can be so useful, by simply challenging people’s ideas of what they can and cannot do.  It is worth having one person in a meeting whose job it is simply to ask “Why?”

“Art consists of limitation. The most beautiful part of every picture is the frame.”  Gilbert K. Chesterton

“Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding, find out what you already know, and you’ll see the way to fly.”   Richard Bach