|Stop asking a dumb questions like, ‘what do you do?’.
Ask better questions. Every day. In my earlier years when I was naive I thought that my success would increase in proportion to the number of business cards I handed out. I handed them out in droves (printers loved it…) but I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t getting any business. After a few years of experience under my belt I realised that it wasn’t the numbers that count, but the quality of relationships that I nurtured.
|To be a great networker you must become “you” centred rather than “me” centred. Recognise that people want to talk about themselves more than anything. They are their own favourite subjects. Take advantage of that and learn these 10 questions that will make people feel warm, appreciated, and important.
Zig Ziglar, the famous sales trainer once said,
You can get everything in life you want if you just help enough other people get what they want.
This is so true. Thanks Mr. Ziglar.
The following are ten questions that Bob Burg, author of the book, “Endless Referrals” gives to help you get to know potential referrers and leave a lasting positive impression. Try using them today and see this amazing thing happen.
You’ll notice something in common with each of these questions. They all centre around the person you are talking to and allows them an opportunity to talk about themselves. Don’t expect to ask your Centre of Influence each of these questions, but do have a few ready when you talk to others. Think of it as a game – watch Brian Walters brilliant explanation…
Please Upload Your Brain Now…or at least that’s what my first hero of science, Ray Kurzweil thinks we will be doing in 2040. He might be wrong (or so his critics believe) but then again he might be spot on. I have been fascinated with my own brain for years. He has spent his life inventing machines that help people, from the blind to dyslexics (me). Indeed, I am writing this article with his software as my undiagnosed for 40 years dyslexia and broken wrist prevents typing [full stop, new paragraph]. Should, by some terrible unpredictable misfortune, Ray Kurzweil died tomorrow (I for one hope he gets to 2040) the obituaries would record an inventor of rare and visionary talent.
I read Kurzweil’s first book, The Age of Intelligent Machines, in 1990. I still have it on my shelf. I was bowled over (and still am) by his future thinking and his thoughts on the brain Within the book, it forecast the demise of the USSR due to new technologies such as mobile phones and fax machines disempowering authoritarian governments by removing state control over the flow of information. Nearly true if you substitute twitter and Facebook. In the book Kurzweil also extrapolated pre-existing trends in the improvement of computer chess software performance to predict that computers would beat the best human players by the year 2000. Yay! In May 1997 chess World Champion Garry Kasparov was defeated by IBM’s Deep Blue computer in a well-publicised chess tournament.
I think I was one of the first to buy his 2005 book, The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. By then Kurzweil has become known, above all, as a technology speculator whose predictions have really polarised opinion. He does not get it right all the time of course. As he said at the TED conference in February 2005:
By 2010 computers will disappear. They’ll be so small, they’ll be embedded in our clothing, in our environment. Images will be written directly to our retina, providing full-immersion virtual reality, augmented real reality. We’ll be interacting with virtual personalities.
Nearly, but no big cigar.
Now, he believes we’re on the brink of a new age (again this has been my discussion with multiple academics this week) called the singularity when technology will allow us to email each other objects run as fast as Usain Bolt (for 15 minutes) and even live forever.
Aside from futurology, he is involved in fields such as optical character recognition (OCR), text-to-speech synthesis, speech recognition technology, and electronic keyboard instruments. He has written books on health, artificial intelligence (AI), transhumanism, the technological singularity, and futurism. Kurzweil is a public advocate for the futurist and transhumanist movements, as has been displayed in his vast collection of public talks, wherein he has shared his primarily optimistic outlooks on life extension technologies and the future of nanotechnology, robotics, and biotechnology. Is there sense to his science – or is the man who reasons that one day he’ll bring his dad back from the grave just a mad professor peddling a nightmare vision of the future?
Lets go back to my ‘home turf’ of brains. According to Kurzweil, technologists will be creating synthetic neocortexes based on the operating principles of the human neocortex with the primary purpose of extending our own neocortexes. He claims to believe that the neocortex of an adult human consists of approximately 300 million pattern recognisers. He draws on the commonly accepted belief that the primary anatomical difference between humans and other primates that allowed for superior intellectual abilities was the evolution of a larger neocortex.He claims that the six-layered neocortex deals with increasing abstraction from one layer to the next. He says that at the low levels, the neocortex may seem cold and mechanical because it can only make simple decisions, but at the higher levels of the hierarchy, the neocortex is likely to be dealing with concepts like being funny, being sexy, expressing a loving sentiment, creating a poem or understanding a poem, etc.
Indeed he claims to believe that these higher levels of the human neocortex were the enabling factors to permit the human development of language, technology, art, and science,
If the quantitative improvement from primates to humans with the big forehead was the enabling factor to allow for language, technology, art, and science, what kind of qualitative leap can we make with another quantitative increase? Why not go from 300 million pattern recognizers to a billion?
Ray Kurzweil is now 61 and sincerely believes that his own immortality is a realistic proposition. In Kurzweil’s estimation by 2030 we will be able to outsource our brain to:
- upload the human brain to a computer [cloud]
- capturing a person’s entire personality [cloudy]
- all past memories [cloud forecast]
- every skills and ability
- their very essence and history
The rest of his timetable he is quite clear on (not in order of date but possibly in my order of achievability):
2025 Reconnaissance Dust: These so-called ‘smart dust’ – tiny devices that are almost invisible but contain sensors, computers and communication capabilities – are already being experimented with.
2035 Nano Assemblers: He says that these three-dimensional printers that can create a physical object from an information file and inexpensive input materials. So we could email a blouse or a toaster or even the toast. There is already an industry of three-dimensional printers, and the resolution of the devices that can be created is getting finer and finer.
2037 Respirocytes: A respirocyte is a nanobot (a blood cell-sized device) that is designed to replace our biological red blood cells but is 1,000 times more capable. If you replaced a portion of your biological red blood cells with these robotic versions you could do an Olympic sprint for 15 minutes without taking a breath, or sit at the bottom of a swimming pool for four hours.
2040 Transhumans: Humans and non-biological machines will then merge so effectively that the differences between them will no longer matter; and, after that, human intelligence, transformed for the better, will start to expand outward into the universe, around about 2045.With this last prediction, Kurzweil is referring not to any recognisable type of space travel, but to a kind of space infusion. “Intelligence,” he writes, “will begin to saturate the matter and energy in its midst [and] spread out from its origin on Earth.”
2044 Foglets: Foglets are a form of nanobots that can reassemble themselves into a wide variety of objects in the real world, essentially bringing the rapid morphing qualities of virtual reality to real reality.
Of course Kurzweil’s ideas have generated massivecriticism within the scientific community and in certain sections of the media. The very idea of a technological singularity is controversial, while it is a popular concept in science fiction. Lots of academics have voiced skepticism about it’s real-world plausibility. See the this talk by James Stirling Long Now Foundation entitled The Singularity: Your Future as a Black Hole. In the cover article of the December 2010 issue of IEEE Spectrum, John Rennie criticises Kurzweil for several predictions that failed to become manifest by the originally predicted date.
I am more positive about his thoughts and predictions. Why? Well Kurzweil is extremely well informed about technologies in development (and sits of Google X board) and is highly insightful about how they can feed into one another, particularly over the relatively near term. He is very sharp on trends and all his predictions are thought provoking. His unwavering confidence in the law of accelerating returns allows him to shrug off contradictory facts and perspectives as mere temporary inconveniences. But then again haven’t all great scientists and futurologist but thought as arrogant?
He might be wrong by a year here, a decade there sure; but the accelerating returns of technology will sweep them all away en route to a singularity beyond human imagination ruled by one eternal truth: that Ray Kurzweil was, is, and always will be the smartest guy in the room
Fah Fah Fah.
Yes these 3 simple words (or sounds) are, in fact, amazing. I know that might be a stretch and maybe a bit difficult to absorb at first; but please bear with me. It is not just that I have been away, (although I have just had a brilliant short break, skiing the powder in the French Alps); or that I have been eating some amazing Michelin Star food (at the very brilliant Ferme de Montagne, in Les Gets, France); or even talking to some super bright people about the meaning of life. Oh no.
Nor have I gone completely off the rails (I hope not), not even with the ‘dread’ of a return to work (because I really love my work). However, on arrival back in the UK today, I immediately wanted to go back skiing again. Greedy maybe, but you know that our eyes are often described as bigger than our stomachs; the same may be true of the need for better (and more frequent) hospitality trips, extreme pleasure experiences, conversation and great company. You see we are so completely dependent on our 27 + senses, every moment of the day, that we totally forget how poor and easily mistaken they can be. Yes, read this if you have any remaining thoughts of there being 5 senses.
Our multiple senses aren’t just giving a flawed view of what’s going on in the world; they’re affected by what’s going on elsewhere, by your pre-programming and by complex sensory interactions. Your reality is in fact cobbled together from a bunch of different parts of your brain working in conjunction. It’s a bit like a crazy ski lift queue (or line in the US) full of insane snowboarders, from different countries, all going in different directions: trust me, that is pretty messy. In fact, I am sure your brain does it’s best to convince you that it is working just fine, despite the reality of it being a messy, chaotic place.
Let’s take food as an example of the chaos and confusion that exists in your brain. Many people have experienced the following parental statement: You can’t leave the dinner table until you finish your food (or think of the starving children and other versions exist). That common parental mantra turns out to have left a mark.You may know that if you are offered varying amounts of food on a plate, you will end up eating more if there’s more food on the plate. This can happen regardless of how hungry you are. We eat more ice cream if we use a larger spoon than if we use a smaller spoon. According to new research, adults from many different cultures around the world typically finish almost all of the food that’s on their plates. It may make you a member of of the Clean Plate Club – you eat pretty much everything you put on your plate. The new Cornell University study shows that the average adult eats 92% of whatever he or she puts on his/her plate. Brian Wansink Ph.D., author of the forthcoming book, Slim by Design, says, If you put it on your plate, it’s going into your stomach.
Wansink and co-author Katherine Abowd Johnson analyzed 1179 diners and concluded that we’re a Clean Plate Planet. Although diners were analysed in 7 developed countries, the US, Canada, France, Taiwan, Korea, Finland, and the Netherlands, the results were nearly identical. If we serve it, we’ll eat it regardless of gender or nationality.
A further study finds that hungry people see food-related words more clearly than people who’ve just eaten. The study, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds that this change in vision happens at the earliest, perceptual stages, before higher parts of the brain have a chance to change the messages coming from the eyes. The research found that when words were flashed very fast on a screen (too fast to read, but slow enough to imprint on the brain), Hungry people saw the food-related words as brighter and were better at identifying [the] food-related words when shown on a list after they were flashed.
Not convinced? Ok, so here comes the most amazing demonstration of how to confused your brain becomes by just 2 of those 27 senses.
Your Eyes Can Make You Hear Different Words.
When you hear someone talk, the whole process is normally pretty straight forward and I am sure you are pretty confident you won’t be fooled.The sound comes out of the other person’s mouth, it travels into your ears and you just heard what they said….this must be so, because you experience it every day. If your hearing works fine, what could possibly go wrong?
The very short answer is your eyes are playing a deep and powerful trick on you. You see, vision is the most dominant sense in humans, and that means that what your eyes are seeing will sometimes override what your ears are hearing. So let me prove it in this extraordinary clip from a brilliant documentary on BBC2 called Horizon: Is Seeing Believing?
You will see (and hear) a guy saying bah bah bah over and over. Afterward, he changes his tune to fah fah fah … or so your eyes would have you believe. In reality, the audio never changed, only the picture did. That is, the voice is still saying bah, but since it’s now dubbed over a picture of the same guy pronouncing fah, your brain actually changes what you’re hearing so that it doesn’t conflict with what you’re seeing. If you close your eyes or look away, fah automatically goes back to being bah. This illusion is called the McGurk effect, and even knowing know full well what’s going on, you can’t get your ears to hear the correct sound. The McGurk effect tends to be minimised when you’re interacting with familiar faces, but it gets worse if you’re dealing with strangers. Things like the way the person is dressed or even what they’re carrying can influence the words you think you hear them say.
So all this research indicates that our perceptions increase toward items that our body wants or needs. But how does this relate to hospitality and my need for another holiday?
Well the simple answer is, it is very complex.
What really motivates people to want to travel, go to a posh restaurants or spend more money on goods and services is driven by internal (old) programmes, powerful external stimuli and by conflicting patterns and hierarchies within the brain.
So if ‘food hunger’ enhances our senses toward food, what does our selection of attractions tell us about what we are lacking, or hungry for, in our day to day lives? Because that is what is guiding our attention to travel magazine, TV shows and advertisements. While I was bashing the new powder snow, what were the things that motivated me to eat at the best restaurant? Why did I seek fine minds to discuss neuroscience with? What do these and many other choices that we make, say about our motivations and needs? What further adds to the improbably hard equation to solve, is why are these so different from one person to the next?
These are the kinds of questions that are getting me (and others) excited. By seeking new clues and answers from a variety of fields we might get closer to the secret of human decision making. If we can understand this powerful mechanism then the following 3 words make perfect sense,
Bah Bah Bah
Light bulb moment: Is the word innovation so over used that we just don’t care? Why would anyone spend time reading a book on innovation, unless it is truly significant and could cause real change? Indeed, some people are asking us to stop using the term innovation entirely. In my opinion, it is just a word and words are free to be abused. Not according to Scott Burkin,
‘I’m confident in this advice: Stop using the word innovation. Just stop. Right now. Commit to never saying the word again. Einstein, Ford, Leonardo da Vinci, Picasso, Jobs and Edison rarely said the word and neither should you.’
Is he right? Well a guarded, definitely maybe. I was astonished that, according to the Wall Street Journal, last year a search of annual and quarterly reports filed in the US, showed companies mentioned the word innovation 33,528 times last year, which was a 64% increase from five years before that. More than 250 books with innovation in the title have been published in the last three months, most of them dealing with business, according to a search of Amazon.com. Most are ironicallyvery dull, desperately out-of-date and do not add any significant positive change to world.
So what do you think about when you hear the word innovation? Do you see a light bulb? There are many definitions out there and the most common seems to be:
‘ An innovation is something original, new, and important – in whatever field – that breaks in to (or obtains a foothold in) a market or society’
In this definition the words original, new and important are vital. The key question is what is actually original, new and important and according to whom? Can we rely on this for the future guidance? Google gave me some 40+ definitions of the word. Throw them into Wordle you get:
The four key words are:
- Create – This seems quite appropriate because innovation isn’t about ideas. It’s about turning something previously only thought about, into a reality.
- Something – Innovation takes many forms, not just products or technology: inventions, services, experience, price, method, process and so on.
- New – Even if you are applying innovation to the most staid industry in the world, there are still things being done, tried or tested that are new to that organisation.
- Value – Innovation is pointless, unless it is focused on generating value: for customers, for its people, or its investors and stakeholders.
So, you could say that the definition of innovation boils down to create something new and of value or better still innovation causes significant positive change.Banks have been innovating for the last few hundred years, evolving into complex, modern organisations, that can transfer money across the world safely, instantly at the speed of light. Unless they are my bank, which seems to allow anyone in Honduras and Guatemala to take all my cash out while I am asleep in London. For most financial institutions, innovation means ensuring existing processes work faster, adding functions and features to existing automation, and inventing new financial products. So this is innovation where there is something new, but it’s not inherent in the product or service itself, it’s about the way it’s delivered, or the way it works.
We all know there are lots of pretentious words in business and companies use them indiscriminately. They include (but not exclusively):
‘Leaders who aim to challenge the limits of what’s possible in their fields, develop a “vocabulary of competition” that captures the impact they’re trying to have, the difference they’re trying to make, the future they’re hoping to create. Almost none of these companies and leaders use the word “innovation” to describe their strategy — implicitly or explicitly, they understand that it has been sapped of all substance. Instead, they offer rich and vivid descriptions of what they hope to do, where they hope to get, and why it matters.’
Just about every company says it has innovation. Businesses throw around the term to show they’re on the cutting edge of everything from technology and medicine to snacks and cosmetics. Companies are touting chief innovation officers, innovation teams, innovation strategies and even innovation days. Often innovation for companies actual means,
- we need new ideas
- we need better ideas,
- we need big changes
- we need to place big bets on new ideas
- we want to make a lot more money
Innovation has been co-opted just like synergy and dynamic and a hundred other terms. This is an example of conflation, where innovate has come to mean which means re-imagine and re-create, with simply the word, change. Every company wants to be innovative of course. On their websites we have further dogma, with semi-profound (yet clichéd): We Innovate Every Day, Innovation by Design andInnovation Business Plan.
When it comes to innovation, the myth of the lone genius also dies hard. You will find dated anecdotes extolling how the boss of Southwest Airlines, Ritz Carlton or [insert company name of the day] are just brilliant at innovation, usually driven by a lone genius. Usually they will quote Steve Jobs – so I will repeat this trend, with his famous words,
‘Innovation is the difference between a leader and a follower.’
Steve Jobs didn’t have to say he was an innovator. He just had to hold up an iPhone. The best marketing is of course, a great product. Innovative companies firstre-create and re-imagine and disrupt, and then let others pile on the adjectives. Not the other way around.
There is little evidence people we would call the creatives, got that way by reading a particular book or watching a video. Maybe by hanging around Hoxton, or Central St. Martins. Most skills in life are only acquired by hard work; to be more creative means to create and learn, rather than merely read and be theoretical. But there are some books out there, that have or will cause significant positive change. I have been honoured to read excerpts from the brand new paperback, The Service Innovation Handbook: Action-oriented Creative Thinking Toolkit for Service Organizations. It is due out in paperback in January 2015 and is by the brilliant author and academic guru, Dr. Lucy Kimbell. @lixindex.The key word in the title is action. It is an excellent primer for those involved in service innovation. It is neither boring nor dull and is absolutely cutting edge. It is very readable and accessible to both academics and those involved in business, innovation and being an entrepreneur: order it now!
Another inspirational tome is from the great Peter Drucker. He has written a book that is profound, clear, concise and memorable Called Innovation and Entrepreneurship it is a short books that encapsulates all of the theory you need to think about starting a business and what it will take to find, develop, launch and grow product ideas.
Sometimes, however, what people mean by innovator is what we will call an innovative leader. Brain Rules, written by John Medina is an excellent neuroscience based book, that touches on the power of the brain to be truly creative and innovative. Those with these brain facets give rise to the small number of innovations that end up having big impacts.
We should also reflect on some older data and authors, that have had a profound influence, like Marshall McLuhan. He was a key thinker in the field and way ahead of his time. His work is viewed as one of the cornerstones of the study of media theory, as well as having practical applications in the advertising and television industries. Even if you’ve never read Marshall McLuhan, you’re probably familiar with a couple of his ideas. The medium is the message and The human family now exists under conditions of a global village. We live in a single constricted space resonant with tribal drums. Both of those quotes are around 50 years old now; McLuhan was remarkably prescient in predicting the World Wide Web. I love his quotation about the future: Only by standing aside from any phenomenon and taking an overview can you discover its operative principles and lines of force. Ordinary men, however, when confronted by new environments, resort to the rear-view mirror. We can’t extrapolate the past to predict the future. In a complex economy, the way to think about the future is this:
- We can’t predict the future.
- But we can learn about the patterns from which the future will emerge.
- We can’t control the future, we can influence it.
- The best way to influence the future is by innovating
So what can we do? The innovative leader is clearly not a micro-manager. They focus on the big picture and works with creative thinkers who can add to that vision and make it greater. Micro-managers, on the other hand, tend to stifle creativity and focus far too much on the details – causing them and their teams to lose sight of the big picture.
Perhaps most importantly, the innovative leader needs to be able to communicate their vision and generate enthusiasm for it. The team needs to be able to see the vision themselves and be willing to invest their own time and resources into making it happen. Innovative leaders know that leadership by demand is far less effective at encouraging creativity and innovation than is leadership through motivation and inspiration.
While the business world is in constant search of the next big thing, leaders must remember that you don’t so much need to be inventive as you do innovative. Being inventive is creating something new that has never existed. Innovation is the creation of something new that represents a communal adaptation or application used and embraced by the masses
If you go around telling people you’re humble, the opposite is true. Humble is a descriptor that’s bestowed not seized. The same is true with innovation. Calling a something an innovation or someone an innovator, doesn’t make it so.
I shall switch off the light bulb now.