78% Negative Tweets on Premises

To address this astonishing modern-day phenomena, it is worth looking at some real word examples while recalling the old fashioned power of empathy. Empathy is a term that is often misunderstood. Empathy is perhaps the most advanced of all communication skills. If you are reading this and 100% of your reviews on Trip Advisor are negative (see below), you may have to accept that hospitality is not the profession for you.

The truth is that most hotels, bar and restaurants should have a healthy mix of good, bad and indifferent reviews. It seems that the secret to a successful hospitality business is being empathic in dealing with poor feedback. Responding to your (potentially poor) reviews with humility and honesty will prove you have that this highly professional skill and may change the mindset of your customers (for the better).

One way forward in dealing with these potential problems, is by keeping on top of your social media feeds. It provides an ideal opportunity to turn potentially negative experience into a positive one. The other way of course, which I don’t recommend, is trying is to BAN NEGATIVE REVIEWS.

In December 2014, the Broadway Hotel in Blackpooltried prohibiting bad reviews which only gives further credence to the issues raised and will encourage further negativity from other visitors. They charged retired van driver Tony Jenkinson, 63, and his 64-year-old wife Jan £100 extra after they described the establishment as a ‘rotten stinking hovel’ in their damning online review. The review sparked a row between the couple and the hotel, which said it operated a ‘no bad review policy’, as stated in its terms and conditions.

TripAdvisor spokesman, James Kay said, ‘While, thankfully, such instances are very rare, it is completely against the spirit and policies of our site for any business owner to attempt to bully or intimidate reviewers who have had a negative experience. ‘Where we find evidence of a business doing so, we will take action to protect the integrity of our site.’

The hotel is still (amazingly) open for business. At reception there was a large notice stating:

We no longer take verbal abuse as tips.

Their policy was only ever likely to create enough negative press for the story to go viral and no one wants that. Far from putting off hoteliers and restaurateurs, I would actively encourage hospitality leaders to engage with their customer feedback, across all social platforms, come rain or shine.

Most modern savvy gurus in the areas of communications, management and self-development refer in one way or another to the importance of empathy. Being able to step back and achieve a detachment from our own emotions, is essential for effective, constructive relationships.

While you should always treat complaints and bad reviews with a certain amount of seriousness and professionalism, there’s no harm at having a joke at your own expense. Indeed, some cafes and restaurants reference bad reviews on their sandwich boards (see above) or digitally on their website or social feeds. Again that word, empathy, is the key. All the research shows that it’s easier to relate to companies making light of their imperfections and making sure they correct them (as well).

Empathy is the ability to see the world as another person, to share and understand another person’s feelings, needs, concerns and / or their emotional state.

Empathy is a skill that can be developed and, as with most interpersonal skills, empathising (at some level) comes naturally to most people. So try this to improve your empathetic levels: Next time you eat out or go on holiday, write about it and post to your preferred site. While writing try and recall the feeling of reading a piece about your establishment: I bet it makes you think twice about the language you use and how you expect your review to be handled. Empathy is a selfless act, it enables us to learn more about people and relationships with people – it is a desirable skill beneficial to ourselves, others and society. Phrases such as being in your shoes and soul mates imply empathy – empathy has even been likened to a spiritual or religious state of connection with another person or group of people.

Being an empathetic leader requires just three basic components:

  • effective communication 
  • a strong imagination
  • shared experiences 

Part of this empathy journey is establishing real trust and rapport. Creating trust and rapport helps us to have sensible adult discussions. Establishing trust is about listening and understanding – not necessarily agreeing (which is different) – to the other person. Listening without judging. A useful focus to aim for when listening to another person is to try to understand how the other person feels, and to discover what they want to achieve. Dr Stephen Covey (of ‘The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People’® fame) is one of many modern advocates who urge us to strive deeply to understand the other person’s point of view.

There are plenty of methods that encourage good customer reviews to put against the less pleasing ones. Leaders need to decide which strategy best suits their main customer base and implement it now. It is difficult and rarely appropriate to try to persuade another person to do what we want; instead we must understand what the other person wants, and then try help them to achieve it, which often includes helping them to see the way to do it. So start by asking:

  • Does your website have a section (or links to areas) where customers can leave comments?
  • Do you mention reviews while customers are paying the bill or (better yet) on your business card?
  • Do you incentivise customer reviews with discount offers?

If your answer was no to any (or all) of these questions, then you need to ask an expert (try me!) what you need to do now. If we learn to work with our critics collaboratively, to see what they really want and then help them to get it, we can change everything. The act of doing all this establishes trust and maybe, just maybe those 78% of on premise tweets will become positive.

Be Amazing Every Day.

I Quit! Neurobiology of Overcoming Fear

Slide3Fear may be one of the oldest emotions we know. Well before we knew happiness, before grief and sadness, before joy and long before the desire to start a new business, there was fear.

It has been said that the 3 most addictive substances in life are: CarbohydratesCrack and the end-of-month pay Cheque. The reasons are becoming clear and generally are associated with the emotion of fear. Although the word fear is hard to precisely define, everyone knows how it feels to be afraid. The fear of quitting a good job and starting a new business can be crippling. Can we ever truly get rid of these fears? Neuroscientists are trying to find out the neural pathways of this powerful emotion. There are a few useful tricks that can really help overcome fear.

Human anxiety is greatly amplified by our ability to imagine the future, and our place in it, even a future that is physically impossible. – Joseph LeDoux

But fears very much like fire; our best friend when it isn’t raging out of control. It is essential for your survival, allowing an organism to detect a potential threat to its life. Too much fear, however, can lead to pathological conditions such as anxiety, phobia, paranoia, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Please note that fear is definitely not anxiety. Fear is an emotional state that exists in the presence of danger and ends once that danger has passed. Anxiety exists when we anticipate a danger or threat, regardless if one is present or not.The physiological response to fear is called the ‘fight or flight’ response, was first described by the American physiologist Walter B. Cannon in the 1929. The response is caused by the actions of adrenaline, noradrenaline and the steroid cortisol, whose release is triggered by the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. The following physiological responses will happen, that you will have experienced:

  1. Your heart rate increases
  2. Your breathing speeds up
  3. Your pupils dilate to let in more light
  4. Your metabolism of fat and glucose in the liver increase to provide the energy
  5. Your production and release of endorphins is greatly increased
  6. Your brain’s decision-making areas become primed for action.

On top of this (and it is surprising), your brain doesn’t want your conscious awareness to override your fear response. This is a result of millions of years of evolution. If I ask you, right now, to get on stage with no preparation and be funny (with a big, ugly audience whom are restless and hostile), you may have an evolutionary response to protect you and help you survive. It turns out that it was a helpful survival mechanism in our cave dwelling days but is distinctly unhelpful at The Comedy Store. What your brain does next is very interesting. It does two things simultaneously.

Firstly, is the powerful Primary Response. This is both innate and unconscious and very fast (a few milliseconds).

  • The sensory thalamus receives some sort of a sensory input, like seeing rows of unfriendly people sat there, staring at you.
  • The sensory thalamus then passes that information to the amygdala.
  • Your brain isn’t even sure what exactly it’s seeing here but knows that you might be killed or eaten.
  • Your amygdala recognises that the input is a threat and prepares your body to respond.

The Secondary Response takes a few seconds, is both conscious and rational.

  • Your sensory thalamus also sends information to your cortex (which gives you context to understand what you are seeing).
  • Your higher brain, the cortex says, OMG, that is a lot of people. They really do look aggressive. I might die out there.
  • This information is sent back to the amygdala, where your fear response takes over: your heart rate further increases, your pupils dilate, and you sweat more.
  • You may feel sick, forget your lines and run off the stage screaming.

This neural circuitry, which processes information about fear is now well mapped, but otherwise, little else is known about the biological basis of this emotion. In recent years neuroscientists have understood some of the cellular and molecular mechnisms underlying fear. Your brain is set up to allow fear to take control. The evidence is in the wiring: there are a good number of pathways from the amygdala to the neocortex. There are far fewer pathways from the neocortex to the amygdala.

What can we do about this fixed pathway of neurones and circuits? Research indicates that just admitting what fears you have can help you get over them faster. The research shows the ability of the brain to restructure our fear pathways and heal itself throughout life. This discovery alone tossed out centuries of scientific belief which previously held that we cannot do much about the damage caused by trauma and certain set patterns such as those labeled mental or behavioural disorders. Known as neuroplasticity, the findings show you have an innate ability to restructure the gray matter of your brain. Change the primary and secondary response pathways with your mind and conscious-mind action. We can then challenge these fears and barriers to success.

Because your fear responses are largely unconscious many people have struggled to think that they can change them. The become bound by unwritten rules and don’t change. It is these poor decisions (or fear of making them and non-decisions) that stop us achieving our potential. The evidence is that we can change and help re-wire our circuits with some simple actions. The first thing you need to do is bring awareness to what is happening for you right now. By being honest and asking some good questions about the basis for your fear you have the capacity to change the basis of your fears. So ask the following questions and right your honest answers down:

  • What am I actually afraid of? [Specific / Detailed / Thoughtful]
  • What triggered this fear? [Look at the timing, circumstances and previous traumas.]
  • What is the worst that can happen? [When I ask this question, many people start to exaggerate the actual real risk and consequences. This end of the world scenario needs careful re-framing and a reality check.]

You may think these questions seem silly or indeed obvious, but it’s not about the complexity of the question, it’s about unravelling the fear. By untangling it from our minds we can get control of it. The thing about fear is that it often makes us believe things that just aren’t true.

So back to the title question, why do people fear quitting and start out on their own? What do they need to do to be fearless and courageous? Maybe it starts by resolving a fundamental fear and changing those neural pathways.

For example, If I quit my job, I am a quitter.

  • What am I actually afraid of? [ List, sort edit and amplify]
  • Am I afraid of not being good enough? [To whom? When? Where? Why?]
  • Am I afraid of letting people down? [About? Where has this come from?]
  • Am I in fear of not living up to my potential? [ Analysis and Honesty]

If you can understand this, you can use evidence to contradict your fear. It’s also extremely beneficial to talk to others about your fears.

When you start to ask the right questions and reframe them, challenge what you think, say or do in response to an event or situation, you change inner emotional states. As emotions are molecules that transmit the what to fire and wire messages, whenever your felt experience of an event changes, accordingly, this physically restructures the neural pathways of your brain.

By disputing fears and reframing them, you can covert them into something that isn’t a scary abstract beast. Break the fear apart by questioning and understanding; dissect it, smash into small pieces, then you can control it Your brain will do the rest if you can change your physiology (start with your breathing) and if you ask the right questions.You can quit that job and become an entrepreneur, a business leader or your own boss.You can achieve anything you want in life if,

  • You have the courage to dream it,
  • The intelligence to make a realistic plan,
  • The will to see that plan to it’s end.

Be Amazing Every Day.

What They Didn’t Teach You in School

Metacognition and the 4 Simple Actions for Success.

Can you imagine your gravestone having your ‘net worth’ carved in it? I hope that you genuinely can’t imagine that; so what would you like on the headstone?

We belong to a remarkably quirky species. We are unique, as a species in understanding metacognition. This is often described as the process of ‘learning to learn’ and what it means is giving individuals a range of strategies they can use to monitor and improve their own development. Being engaged in metacognition is a salient feature of good self-regulated learners. The activities of strategy selection and application include those concerned with an ongoing attempt to plan, check, monitor, select, revise, evaluate, etc. I have been training people in this technique for years and it is currently coming to the attention of a wider audience.

Our lives are inundated with practicality and productivity. We think that if there’s no purpose to something, there’s no point in doing it. In my own personal journey of trying to be a better person, I realised that it was all about aiming to be Amazing. Nothing more, nothing less. When you are Amazing, you’re effectively better in every aspect of your life. When I coach and train individuals and groups I am encouraged by the powerful changes that result. There seems to be some universal themes to this change and many people report that they have been dealing with these problems since school. This email from one of my clients to another potential client, explains this further,

I hope things are going ok for you there, actually I hope they are going better than ok – but if not, then I have a man I’d really love to introduce you to, he has been training me recently and I have to say that I feel that his insights have been nothing short of revolutionary for me. Things that seem really simple and obvious, but which I did not know. I think 2015 is going to be my year of getting my life back. I am confident that 2015 is going to be the year I get my life back, and you know how long it has been since I have said anything like that.’

You know how you can hear something a hundred times in a hundred different ways before it finally gets through to you? That powerful understanding is what clients seek and really want. Many are challenged by the fear of change. Their need to embrace change and realise it happens for a reason is one of my first objectives. It won’t always be obvious at first, but in the end it will be worth it. What you have today may become what you had by tomorrow. You never know. Things change, often spontaneously. People and circumstances come and go. Life doesn’t stop for anybody. It moves rapidly and rushes from calm to chaos in a matter of seconds, and happens like this to people every day. It’s likely happening to someone nearby right now.

I always start my training and coaching with 4 Simple Actions; simple life lessons that many of us likely learned years ago and have been reminded of ever since, but for whatever reason, haven’t fully grasped.

1. Change Your Physiology First. Stop being a headless chicken (Kinesis) and learn to use the power of Eustress. Learn to breath properly and reduce stress, and increase eustress. Being busy does NOT mean being productive. Busyness isn’t a virtue, nor is it something to respect. Though we all have seasons of crazy schedules, very few of us have a legitimate need to be busy ALL the time. We simply don’t know how to live within our means, prioritise properly, and say no when we should. Being busy rarely equates to productivity these days. Just take a quick look around. Busy people outnumber productive people by a wide margin. Busy people are rushing all over the place, and running late half of the time. They’re heading to work, conferences, meetings, social engagements, etc. They barely have enough free time for family get-togethers and they rarely get enough sleep. Yet, emails are shooting out of their smart phones like machine gun bullets, and their day planners are jammed to the brim with obligations. Their busy schedule gives them an elevated sense of importance. But it’s all an illusion. They’re like hamsters running on a wheel

2. Take Action Now: Excellence, Always. Thinking and doing are two very different things. Success never comes to look for you while you wait around thinking about it. You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do. Knowledge is basically useless without action. Good things don’t come to those who wait; they come to those who work on meaningful goals. Ask yourself,

  • What’s really important to you?
  • Have the courage to build your life around your answer?
  • How would you explain what you do to someone new?
  • What is your remarkable point of view in 8 words or less (R POV 8)?
  • If you got run over by a bus, could you guarantee that your successor is better than you are?

3. Become a Brilliant Listener. Are you a good listener? The chances are are very high that you are not and that you’re getting worse. Some people are very good at speaking, telling their stories and being able to inspire others. But being a good listener is often more important than speaking. It gives a deeper level of understanding about someone’s situation, and helps to know what words are best to use and what words should be avoided. Nothing is more important than the ability to listen. It is a subject that can be studied and mastered:

  • Are you a PROFESIONAL … listener?
  • Are you a PROFESIONAL … at hiring?
  • Are you a PROFESIONAL … at evaluating people?

4. What You Own is Not Who You Are. Material goods that you may or may not have are not relevant. It has absolutely no bearing on who you are as a person. Most of us can make do with much less than we think we need. That’s a valuable reminder, especially in a hugely consumer-driven culture that focuses more on material things than meaningful connections and experiences.

So imagine what you would have on your gravestone now. What really matters? What will make you say,

2015 is going to be my year of getting my life back?

Be Amazing Every Day

Illusion of Control in Business

Control is one of our greatest illusions as humans, business leaders and pedestrians. You may have a lucky number, believe there is significance in random events or even believe that pressing a pedestrian crossing button will actually do something.

Dr. Claire LewickiControl is an illusion, you infantile egomaniac. Nobody knows what’s gonna happen next: not on a freeway, not in an airplane, not inside our own bodies and certainly not on a racetrack with 40 other infantile egomaniacs.

Actually the pedestrian crossing button not being connected is not such an absurd theory. In New York, there are indeed placebo buttons, as in many locations they appear to have no effect. But in the UK does pushing the button make any difference? Well actually it depends (the answer in a moment).

But we all like to be in control- well mostly. Others expect leaders, managers, or owners to have influence over business success. This is normal and it can be good. Especially if the manager or business owner is good at managing systems and processes.The illusion of control rests at the heart of superstitious and pseudoscientific beliefs. It is a belief that we are controlling events, which, are actually occurring independently of our behaviour.

This is a very common illusion that occurs in most people, particularly when desired events occur frequently though uncontrollably. When you think you control something, you are generally wrong. You can have some control of some things, but total control is not achievable. We constantly make plans that never actually turn out the way we envisioned.

The term control freak is used (usually in a bad way) for a person who attempts to dictate how everything around them is done. The phrase was first used in the late 1960s — an era when great stress was laid on the principle of ‘doing one’s own thing’ and letting others do the same.

Steve Jobs was a perfectionist who favoured the closed system of control over all aspects of a product from start to finish – what he termed the integrated over the fragmented approach. As Steve Wozniak, his long-term collaborator and occasional critic, put it: Apple gets you into their playpen and keeps you there. The triumph of the PC over the Mac was a blow for that philosophy, a situation which was then reversed by the serial successes of the iPod, iPhone, and iPad – only for the Android challenge to reopen the debate again.

The illusion of control is also the tendency for people to overestimate their ability to control events; for example, it occurs when someone feels a sense of control over outcomes that they demonstrably do not influence. It can be produced in experimental participants using points in a video game, lights and tones that turn on or off independently of the participant’s attempts to control them, spontaneous remissions of pain in fictitious patients in a computer game, or fictitious stock prices that can rise or not as a function of several potential (and fictitious as well) causes. In all these cases people tend to think that they have control over the events they are trying to obtain even when those events have been programmed to occur following a predetermined sequence.

In real life this often leads to poor decision-making based on coincidences and cognitive illusions rather than contrasted knowledge. It affects areas as diverse as health, finance, or education. This illusion rests at the heart of pseudoscientific practices and superstitious thinking. Even the best business leaders make mistakes, judge issues incorrectly, or over-estimate their abilities to control things. Sometimes, however, the mistakes are made because the individual is so good and because others rely on them. Prior success builds confidence. Sometimes, over-confidence. Sometimes, they fall victim to the illusion of control.

The illusion of control rears its head when we overestimate our abilities to influence an outcome. You can know it has happened when you look back and realise that, despite thinking you had the ability to affect the situation, you really were not in a position to influence the result. Practically, this can cause leaders to underestimate effort, cost, and resource requirements. It can also lead to overestimation of profits, market share, or other outcome indicators.

Like pressing that pedestrian crossing button ….

if it’s a busy junction, anywhere in the UK, you might see people who don’t bother pressing. Ask them and they’ll tell you it doesn’t do anything.

Ok let’s clear this up. At a ‘stand alone’ pedestrian crossing in the UK, unconnected to a junction, the button will turn a traffic light red. Yes, absolutely.

But let’s take one very busy crossing – at the intersection between Kingsway and High Holborn in London- and you immediately start to doubt the button’s efficacy. Sometimes people press it, sometimes they don’t. In both cases there is a 105-second interval between the red man coming on and the green man appearing. At night, the button does act to stop the traffic, says Transport for London. But this is only between the hours of midnight and 07:00.

In the daytime, the button has no effect. Doh!

Transport for London (TFL) denies it is misleading people. There are 4,650 pedestrian crossings in London of which about 2,500 are at junctions. At the majority of these junctions the button controls the green man. There is also a theory that pressing the close button in a lift (elevator) doesn’t work. Gizmodo, more recently, contends that:

…the Door Close button is there mostly to give passengers the illusion of control. In elevators built since the early ’90s. The button is only enabled in emergency situations with a key held by an authority.

Total control is an illusion. Our attempts to control the world can be seen through

  • You are not in total control of the way you feel. If you were, then you could just stop being anxious and stop worrying about everything right now and never be anxious again.
  • you are not in total control of your behaviours. If you were, then you could stop blinking your eyes while being awake for the next 5 hours.
  • Trying to control how our children turn out, as if we can shape them like blocks of clay, as if humans aren’t more complex than we can possibly understand.
  • Tracking every little thing, from spending to exercise to what we eat to what tasks we do to how many visitors are on our site to how many steps we’ve taken today and how many miles we’ve run. As if our selective tracking can possibly include the many, complex factors that influence outcomes.
  • you are not in total control of your own mind. If you were, then you would not think of a pink elephant when I tell you not to think of a pink elephant, but I will bet you money that you thought of one.
  • Trying to control employees — again, complex human beings with many motivations and whims and habits that we don’t understand.

We are all human and can make mistakes. In our complex world, it is difficult to know everything and judge all situations accurately (just scan the business headlines over the past few years for proof). Having an obsession of wanting to control everything is like a disease, it can stress you out, and it will almost always lead to you being a lonely, unsuccessful person. So maybe the only type of control you should be practicing is self-control. You are the only person you can control, so instead of focusing on what might happen, and trying to control the future, focus on controlling yourself so that you can become a more successful individual.

Since control is just an illusion, focus on taking charge of your own life, so that you can better yourself, and leave the uncontrollable to Transport for London.

Be Amazing Every Day.

You say you want a revolution?

There is a revolution coming, if Googles chairman Eric Schmidt is to be believed. Not the sort that Russell Brand hankers after (or as the Guardian puts it rather well:The comedian’s desire to lead a global revolution is undermined by his smug, shallow manifesto).

But a revolution none the less. At Davos 2014, Schmidt warned that the constant development of new technology will put more and more middle class people out of work. Before you through down your laptop, smash your tablet and trash your smartphone, (and have a glass of Sancerre) it’s worth remembering that human workers survived the earlier industrial eras of steam, electricity, the telegraph, micro-chips and globalised media. We continued to work because with every new level of automation, new jobs are created that replace those that are lost.

You say you want a revolution, well, you know / We all want to change the world / You tell me that it’s evolution, well, you know / We all want to change the world / But when you talk about destruction / Don’t you know that you can count me out / Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right..

Seth Godin once said that if you can’t describe your position in eight words or less, you don’t have a position. Tom Peters’ version is R.POV8, which stands for Remarkable Point of View in 8 Words or Less. Tom Peters & Seth Godin try this:

Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right ?

Peters’ discusses the need for organisations to declare their position in the market in simple, clear and compelling terms . His R.Pov8 is really Excellence, always and only needs one symbol – a Pantone #032 (red) exclamation point. I think it fits him perfectly.

Here is my R.POV8: Inspiring people to be amazing every day. But here is the big problem – we are just not satisfied. Not satisfied with life, our jobs or our technology. Certainly not with the technology we have at work. Recent figures show only 39 percent of employees in Germany are satisfied with the technology that they are provided with at work, according to a recent Forrester survey. The picture is only slightly better in the UK with 53 percent satisfied. It is this technology expectations gap that is leading not only to disgruntled employees, but lost customers across of lots of industries. Tom Peters often uses the phrase ‘white collar revolution’ (WCR). Like so many of his predictions, the idea of a revolution transforming the world of the white collar worker, in much the same way as blue collar work had been in the preceding decades, has now become a mainstream concept. So how does this work?

Let’s look at something else that is amazing: your smartphone. However if you ask it to do something and it doesn’t have an ‘app’ for and it just sits there. Just plain dumb. The smartphone up until this month needed programmers to write apps. The WC revolution I am talking about is the one inspired by Google’s secretiveDeepMind. DeepMind Technologies to be exact, is a London-based artificial-intelligence firm acquired by Google this year for $400 million. It revealed last month that it is designing computers that combine the way ordinary computers work with the way the human brain works. Excellent as I am a huge fan of neuroscience and technology and this smells of convergence. They call this hybrid device a Neural Turing Machine (NTM).

Turing is of course back in the news again, with the new film staring Benedict Cumberbatch. Here is the film’s R.POV27:

Genius British logician and cryptologist Alan Turing helps crack Germany’s Enigma Code during World War II but is later prosecuted by his government for illegal homosexual acts.

The ‘Turing test’ is the test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. In the original illustrative example, a human judge engages in natural language conversations with a human and a machine designed to generate performance indistinguishable from that of a human being. The big ‘hope’ with the new NTM is it won’t need programmers and will instead program itself. DeepMind’s solution is to add a large external memory that can be accessed in many different ways, which Turing realised was a key part of ordinary computing architecture, hence the name Neural Turing Machine. This gives the neural network something like a human’s working memory – the ability to quickly store and manipulate a piece of data.

DeepMind’s breakthrough follows a long history of work on short-term memory. In the 1950s, the American cognitive psychologist George Miller carried out one of the more famous experiments in the history of brain science. Gorge Miller I have written about often as his ‘Law’ inspired the ‘my toaster talks to me’ problem about capacity to examine ‘what something might be true of..’

Miller was deeply interested in the capacity of the human brain’s working memory and set out to measure it with the help of a large number of students who he asked to carry out simple memory tasks. His conclusion was that the capacity of short-term memory cannot be defined by the amount of information it contains. Instead Miller concluded that the working memory stores information in the form of chunks and that it could hold approximately seven of them.

Neural networks, which make up half of DeepMind’s computer architecture, have been around for decades but are receiving renewed attention as more powerful computers take advantage of them. The idea is to split processing across a network of artificial neurons, simple units that process an input and pass it on. These networks are good at learning to recognise pieces of data and classify them into categories.

The longer term impact of DeepMind could be massive, prompting some doom-sayers and non rational observers to warn (again) of job destruction at a faster rate than new jobs can be generated with mass middle class unemployment leading to social unrest. As Google’s leader notes, the rise of automation as nothing short of a second industrial revolution. He believes the way work is conducted will be radically different in the future as many human tasks are automated by algorithms and computer services.

Schmidt’s call for a debate is a timely reminder that all these things also have the potential to create new levels of human value and better lifestyles for people. Technology replaces humans in many ways but new opportunities are created to exploit these technologies too. The White Collar Revolution is coming. Whether your country’s economy is now recovering from the global recession or is still bumping along the bottom, or slipping back into the gloom, the WCR gives a new perspective. A remarkable point of view, that could change the world. A new era of work is upon us and new types of work will emerge to exploit the new technologies that we will use.

Bring on real Excellence and the White Collar Revolution!

Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right .

Be Amazing Every Day.

Big Data and Winning the Lottery

Big Data and Winning the Lottery

There is no rhyme or reason. If there is no rhyme or reason why something happens, there is no obvious explanation for it. Imagine you had to randomly select one person, from a giant database of everyone whom has ever lived on earth. I know this is unlikely but bear with me. What are the chances that person is Steve Jobs?

The answer is a very big number: 1 in 107,600,000,000 .

So, now imagine being able to pick the 6 numbers of tomorrow’s lottery: the chances are one in 13,983,816. Not too bad?

So consider this real event and think about the chances of it really happening. On September 6th, 2009, the Bulgarian lottery randomly selected as the winning numbers 4, 15, 23, 24, 35, 42.

On September 10th, the Bulgarian lottery randomly selected as the winning numbers 4, 15, 23, 24, 35, 42—exactly the same numbers as the previous week.

  • Fix?
  • What are the odds?
  • Could a massive fraud have been perpetrated?
  • Had the previous numbers somehow been copied?
  • More on this later.

For a long time, economists, scientists and science-fiction writers alike have pursued the question whether you can accurately predict the future from the past given sufficiently large groups, big data, historical information and computational power. In one of science-fiction’s classics books the Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov, introduced the fictional scientific concept of Psychohistory. The essential idea in psychohistory, is that while one cannot foresee the actions of a particular individual, the laws of statistics as applied to large groups of people could predict the general flow of future events. Asimov used the analogy of a gas: an observer has great difficulty in predicting the motion of a single molecule in a gas, but can predict the mass action of the gas to a high level of accuracy. Maybe that is the future.

You may have read the book by Nassim Taleb on the black swan theory. It is an excellent and still relevant example of understanding data. Worth watching him explain it here. It is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. The theory was developed to explain:

  • The disproportionate role of high-profile, hard-to-predict, and rare events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations in history, science, finance, and technology.
  • The non-computability of the probability of the consequential rare events using scientific methods (owing to the very nature of small probabilities).
  • The psychological biases that make people individually and collectively blind to uncertainty and unaware of the massive role of the rare event in historical affairs.

Black Swans are events that can totally change the course of history, sort of like the unexpected appearance of a mutant with psychic powers in Asimov’s Foundation, except that they occur far, far more often. As examples of such Black Swan events he cites the rise of the Internet, the personal computer, World War I, the 9/11 attacks, and our ongoing financial meltdown.

Models based on analyzing historical data are very good at accurately measuring the risk in a portfolio under normal market conditions, the kinds of markets that explain 99 percent of events and follow the familiar bell curve or normal distribution. But, every so often, say one percent of the time, improbable events happen that are way outside a normal distribution. Such market events are totally unpredictable, that is, the future could not have been predicted based on past behavior, because the improbable event is something that has rarely, if ever, happened before.

But there is a massive neuroscience and psychology problem called cognitive biases. These are tendencies to think in certain ways. Cognitive biases can lead to systematic deviations from a standard of rationality or good judgment, and are often studied in psychology and behavioural economics. To give you my two of my current favourites (I have already dealt with Gamblers Fallacy and the God of Gaps).

Firstly the rhyme-as-reason effect is a cognitive bias whereupon a saying or aphorism is judged as more accurate or truthful when it is rewritten to rhyme. Yes truly. Researchers looked at people who judged variations of sayings which did and did not rhyme, and tended to evaluate those that rhymed as more truthful (controlled for meaning). For example, the statement ‘What sobriety conceals, alcohol reveals’ was judged to be more accurate than by different participants who saw ‘What sobriety conceals, alcohol unmasks’.

One of the most famous examples of this persuasive quality of the rhyme-as-reason effect, see ‘If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit’ the signature phrase of Johnnie L Cochran, Jr. in the O.J.Simpson trial.

The second joyful example of a cognitive bias is the so-called IKEA effect. It is a cognitive bias that occurs when consumers place a disproportionately high value on products they partially created. The IKEA effect is thought to contribute to the sunk costs effect. It occurs when managers continue to devote resources to sometimes failing projects they have invested their labour in. Have a watch of this brilliant Dan Ariely talk on What makes us feel good about our work? –

Back to the Bulgarian lottery result. It was unusual in that the duplicate sets of numbers occurred in consecutive draws. But the law of truly large numbers, combined with the fact that there are many lotteries around the world regularly rolling out their numbers, means we shouldn’t be too surprised—and so we shouldn’t be taken aback to hear that it had happened before. For example, the North Carolina Cash 5 lottery produced the same winning numbers on July 9 and 11, 2007. The lottery is a six-out-of-49 lottery, so the chance of any particular set of six numbers coming up is one in 13,983,816. That means that the chance that any particular two draws will match is one in 13,983,816. But what about the chance thatsome two draws among three draws will match? Or the chance that some two draws among 50 draws will match? There are three possible pairs among three draws but 1,225 among 50 draws. The law of combinations is coming into play. If we take it further, among 1,000 draws there are 499,500 possible pairs. In other words, if we multiply the number of draws by 20, increasing it from 50 to 1,000, the impact on the number of pairs is much greater, multiplying it by almost 408 and increasing it from 1,225 to 499,500. We are entering the realm of truly large numbers. How many draws would be needed so that the probability of drawing the same six numbers twice was greater than one half—so that this event was more likely than not? Using the same method we used in the birthday problem results in an answer of 4,404.If two draws occur each week, making 104 in a year, this number of draws will take less than 43 years. That means that after 43 years, it is more likely than not that some two of the sets of six numbers drawn by the lottery machine will have matched exactly.

As our world becomes increasingly integrated, fast changing and unpredictable, we expect large improbably disturbances or black swans, to occur more frequently, not only in finance but across business, government and society in general. Mathematical models, information analysis and fast computers will continue to be extremely valuable tools, critical to the smooth functioning of our complex systems. But, when the going gets really rough, no machine or model can ever make up for the wisdom that only comes from human judgment and experience. As long as you understand your bias!

Be Amazing Every Day.

10 Rules You Must Follow

10 Rules You Must Follow

The Ten Golden Rules for Amazing Customer Service

Are you ready to make a massive change and do something amazing everyday? The thing is, you can change and it is so easy; you can decide, right now, only to do excellent work and make those changes in your life, your business and train your staff. It all starts with some simple rules.


  • We are all in Service.
  • That's right, all of us.
  • All the time.
  • Be Proud Of What You Do
  • 'It's not my job' is not acceptable.
  • If you see a problem, take steps to correct or prevent it.


  • Treat your customers the way you would want to be treated.
  • The customer is a person, not data.


  • Excellence, always.
  • No Excuses.
  • From this nano second onwards, only do excellent work.
  • Think continuous improvement.
  • Quality means exceeding expectations.
  • Everyday be a service champion.


  • Do it on time, or sooner.
  • Pick Up The Phone.
  • Answer your own phone in three rings and give your name.
  • Return messages within 12 hours.
  • Customer calls / requests are not an interruption.
  • Servicing the customer is the purpose of our work.


  • LISTEN to your customers' needs and requirements.
  • Look for opportunities to improve.
  • Be Amazing Every Day.
  • Measure customer satisfaction.
  • Improve your emotional signature.
  • Seek opportunities.
  • Design unique features into our products and services.
  • The inches you need are all around us.


  • Build a relationship first.
  • Become a trusted advisor.
  • Look at things from the customer's point of view.
  • Go the extra mile (actually the extra10 miles)
  • Exceed expectations, always.
  • The customer is not an outsider.
  • They are part of our business.


  • Don't promise something you can't deliver.
  • Follow through on your commitments.
  • Go further.
  • Dream Big, Start Small.
  • Act Now.
  • Praise, Award and Reward.


  • Don't be afraid to apologise.
  • We all make mistakes.
  • Own up to your shortcomings.
  • Never say the word NO.
  • How else can i help?
  • Suggest a mutually beneficial alternative.


  • Don't let an upset customer upset you.
  • Imagine the customer is telling the truth (they don't have to be right).
  • Listen and empathise with your customer's problem.
  • The customer is not someone with whom to argue or match wits.


  • Don't expect customers to change to accommodate your needs.
  • Take the initiative to help solve their problem and improve their business.
  • The customer is the most important person to our Company.
  • The customer is not dependent on us
  • We are dependent on them.
  • The customer pays our wages.
  • Thank them, every day.

Remember to be Amazing Every Day. Everyone who works with you is yourcustomer, both internal and external.



Top 10 Business Rules for Success

Top 10 Business Rules for Success

Want more money? Want more clients? Want to be a true success in business? These are my top 10 business rules for being successful every day.

There are so many books, blogs and so-called experts / gurus / consultants out there who think they have a quick solution to being successful in business. I am here to tell you they are short changing you. You can Be Amazing Every Day, but it takes time, discipline, energy and lots of motivation. I love showing people how this works for them as individuals, as teams and as a business. If you want success, then follow these 10 simple life changing rules. They can massively increase your chances of success. I have been reviewing all the literature, watching hours of videos, listening, asking questions and reading so much more than is required. Most importantly, allowing myself time for some deep thought about how it all works. I have written this directly for you; a very short, sharp course on how to be Amazing in Business. See if you can achieve every element: each one has a link to a specific resource, videos and more of my thoughts and other people I admire.

These are my distilled droplets of wisdom:


Exude Passion. Passion is the #1 element in business success. Passion is a term applied to a very strong feeling about what you do. It is not shouting or being a clanging wok. Passion is so obvious and without it you will fail to be a success in business. Passion is an intense emotion, compelling enthusiasm or desire for anything. If you are not passionate about your work, product or service, everyone can tell. There are no short cuts. You need to get a grip of your physiology (ask me how).


Knowing Your Why: the reason for which your business exists. What is your motivation, your grounds, cause, impetus, occasion, reason, point, basis, justification and PURPOSE. Find your why by asking the right questions. Remember, people by why you do it, not what (or how) you do it.



Excellence is a continuously moving target that can be pursued through actions of integrity, authenticity and continuously learning. it involves a commitment to improving in all spheres to pursue your goal.Change in a nano-second and only do excellent work from now on. Know everything about your business, your customers, your product your field, your world and constantly demand more of yourself.



Transcend your fears. Single minded attention to the task. Simplify and Edit, then amplify.What is the core of what you do? Put your mind to one thing and exceed expectations and deliver excellence, always. Aim for genius but stay humble.



Risk more than is required.Application of better solutions that meet new requirements. Be passionate about innovation. Be original and break the mould. Do Different. See the world in a different way.Outsource your brain.



Act now, don't stop. Endurance is the ability to be persistent and remain active for a long period of time, as well as its ability to resist, withstand, recover from, and have immunity to trauma, wounds, or fatigue. Never give up. Never. Be strong and show courage.



A push is an applied force typically intended to drive or impel. In contrast to a pull it acts in a direction away from person or thing causing the force. Your energy and enthusiasm are infectious; show, lead and inspire. Drive your business every day. Work on your business not in it. Leadership can be acquired.



The desire to give back, givers gain and to help others will result in a positive feeling of involvement in the wider world. It often results in Law of Reciprocation and people want to help you. Make a contribution and others see your capacity to inspire and grow. Great companies develop the habit of being amazing at training, giving to those that don't have their opportunities and inspiring those less well off than they are. Change the world.



Deliver more than is needed. Dedicated, habitually working diligentlyand for long hours, is part of the process. But make it fun not a grind. Understanding the concept of SMART work, focus on what matters and making it fun everyday. Work and Play are the same thing, if you get it right. Understand PFR: Performance, Feedback,and Revision.It changes everything.



Learn more than is required, read more than you thought possible and ask better questions everyday. Find out why: Explore, Play and Create Novelty. Use the genius of others to stand on the shoulders of giants. Never stop learning and be willing to teach others. Be Amazing Every Day