The {revised} hierarchy of needs

August 21, 2013

The new hierarchy of needs

Truth behind ‘out of office’ replies

March 17, 2013

Have you ever wondered what it means to receive one of those ‘out of office’ emails? Well, here’s the truth (!):

What’s your judgement like?

February 23, 2013

People AnswersOne of the critical things about making a decision is to have enough information to make a proper judgement. To do this a person needs to be able to identify the gaps in their knowledge, to fill them, and then to come to a sensible conclusion.

Someone who does not see that there are gaps, or who jumps to a conclusion with too little (or inaccurate) information can blindly make decisions without realising what is missing or unclear. What this amounts to is that for judgement and decision making there are four basic types of people:

Over-confident: This is someone who has high confidence in their judgements even when their thinking is faulty. They believe that it’s better to make a decision, even if it’s the wrong one!

Development point: The positive side is that over-confident people take the initiative and get on with life. However they do need to ‘take five’ and learn to recognise when more information is needed. It’s all about thinking before acting!

Animal: The over-confident person is like a Cobra – quick and decisive, but not always hitting the right target.

Under-confident: This is the sort of person who generally has no confidence in their judgement and decision making, even when they’re right. They often find it difficult to get ‘off-the-fence’ because they believe they’re going to jump the wrong way.

Development point: The positive side is not ending up in tricky situations just because they haven’t thought things through properly. However this may end up in no action at all; so to move on someone needs to force themselves to make decisions in low-risk situations, just to recognise that the sky doesn’t necessarily always fall in!

Animal: The under-confident person is like a Gazelle – bouncing around trying to decide what to do, and never quite making their mind up.

Accurate: This is the sort of character who reads situations with confidence, and knows when they’re getting things right or wrong. They have the savvy to check the signs and know if they are taking a risk.

Development point: This person is on the button and has got decision making pretty well organised.

Animal: The accurate person is like a Fox – weighing up the situation, balancing the risks, and picking their battles.

Inaccurate: This is someone who charges at things and gets most decisions the wrong way round. They are not confident when they’re getting things right, and over-confident when they’re getting stuff wrong.

Development point: The good news is that this person wants to do things, it’s just that they have a habit of getting everything upside down. A bit like the Cobra this person really needs to think before acting, in fact they need to think, and think again before acting!

Animal: The inaccurate person is like a Bull – enthusiastically charging backwards and forwards, but tending to put their foot in it.


What sort of an animal are you?


1. How do you feel when you have to make a snap decision?

A Energised – It’s better to make a decision than no decision at all

B Decidedly queasy – I don’t like having to make a decision

C Confident – I’m pretty good at weighing things up quickly

D Resigned – I’m famous for making the wrong decision.


2. When deciding between a number of options, do you…

A Pick one and stick with it, even if it turns out not to be the best

B Want more and more information (you can never have too much)

C Dispassionately check out the options and move on

D Home in on the wrong one like a guided missile?


3. If you haven’t got enough information, how do you decide what to do?

A Gut instinct

B I can’t decide (you just said there isn’t enough information!)

C Go with what I calculate is the best bet

D Pick anything – it’ll all go pear shaped anyway.


4. You’re going to make an expensive purchase in a shop, do you…

A Just go in and buy it

B Come over all uncertain

C Check that it’s what you want, and then buy it

D Feel like you’re about to make another costly mistake?


5. It all goes horribly wrong, what do you do next time?

A Exactly the same!

B Nothing (there isn’t going to be a next time)

C Better research

D Take a lucky rabbit’s foot.


6. What’s happening in your head when making a really BIG decision?

A Surprisingly little

B A Headache

C A meticulous balancing of the pros and cons

D A feeling of déjà vu (and not a pleasant one!)


7. You have a number of things to do, how do you decide where to begin?

A First on the list

B Definitely look at the list, but it won’t be nearly long enough

C The most important thing on the list

D Gave up using lists years ago.


8. How would your best friend describe your judgement?

A Shoots wildly from the hip

B Never gets his gun out

C Hits the target, every time

D Judgement, what judgement?


Mostly A = Over-confident (Cobra)

Mostly B = Under-confident (Gazelle)

Mostly C = Accurate (Fox)

Mostly D = Inaccurate (Bull)


Note: This is a fun questionnaire! However it is based on sound research and I wrote it for a magazine a couple of years ago.

Santa’s Silos

December 17, 2012

For an update on the latest HR and brand management issues at Santa’s toy factory, take a trip to:

How to enter a room

April 4, 2012

Here’s something from Entrepreneur magazine. Click on the How to Enter a Room video option, view and enjoy.

PS: It has its funny moments!

PPS: It also includes useful advice on how to dress like an entrepreneur…

It’s enough to make Stephen Fry blush!

July 26, 2011

I was, dear reader, going to write a post on the relationship between brand management and human resources. However, having just been on the receiving end of a tranche of incomprehensible business-speak I thought I would have a rant about communication: more precisely, communication that does not communicate. Firstly, have you noticed how everything has to be ‘uber’ these days? So, to begin, I was asked to contemplate how I could achieve an ‘uber-solution to a multi-channel marketing strategy’. So far so good, say what you mean… But secondly, had I not noticed that ‘consumers where differentially attracted to the convenience of 24/7 self-transaction.’ Well, I had actually. Not only that, I was ahead of this Johnnies game and had realised (perhaps rather smugly) that I needed to ‘extend my pipeline in order to tap into regional discontinuities’.  All of this is of course total tosh. There is never a time or a place for this sort of thing, and it’s not clever, it’s just a misguided attempt to re-image rather tired third generation resources. Ahh, I feel better for that.

Now, to change the subject only slightly, I am not for a moment suggesting that Mr Fry is the sort of person to suffer from any of form of craniofacial erythema, indeed I cannot think of anyone less likely to succumb to such an encumbrance; nor, I should add, can it be said that he is anything other than a precision engineer, a veritable 21st Century Dr Johnson, of the intricacies and vicissitudes of our Mother Tongue, but there are times when plain speaking is required – not least when it comes to business communication. As, I think, I may have demonstrated. And, to pick another obscure example completely at random, perhaps that’s why we find ourselves in such a mess with regard to the banks. Frankly they don’t even understand each other, hiding behind their Chinese Walls and their Hedges, trying to leverage a despondent Bear Market with a quick Swap or a nifty Spread, on the way to Leveraging a Buy Side solution, or maybe a touch of Arbitrage with a Credit Derivative. Give me Liquidity every time I hear you say, and you’d be right. I’d certainly be very interested in taking out an Option on a double. No, don’t get me on the subject of bankers. Enough said I think.

PS: And I know about the apostrophe in wits’ end!

Photo credit: NowandZen/

Anti-PowerPoint party formed in Switzerland!

July 14, 2011

There’s a new political movement in Switzerland that has a single aim: the outlawing of PowerPoint! Curious really, but perhaps the Swiss think that PowerPoint gets in the way of getting stuff done, and just clogs up the neural arteries with mind numbing charts, graphs and diagrams, and those slides packed with very small text. Nothing is of course further from the truth.

PowerPoint is a fine business tool that can transform any audio-visual presentation in to a thing of pure beauty. And what would people do if they didn’t have to spend endless hours looking for suitable images, getting the animations to work in the right sequence, and cutting the whole thing down to a mere 60 slides (for a 10 minute talk). No, I think our Swiss friends are barking up the wrong tree this time.

Think you know about PowerPoint, take the BBC quiz:

Finding more time to do stuff!

June 17, 2011

I seem to be having a battle with time again. It’s the usual problem, there just isn’t enough of it. And when there is, I’m so surprised I often fill it with things that don’t need doing, or stretch what I am doing to span the gap (c.f. Parkinson’s Law). But, to get to something specific, have you ever fantasized about longer lunchtimes, but didn’t know how to swing it? Well, here’s the answer!

Thanks to advances in clock technology, it’s possible to have a clock that speeds up 20% every day at 11:00 and slows down 20% every day at 11:48, giving you an extra twelve minutes of lunchiness to enjoy. Twelve minutes may not seem like much but it equates to an additional hour every week.

Get the technology here:

Cats with thumbs

May 6, 2011

When I first went to University I studied Biology and I well remember being asked in some interview or other how you could breed a dog that could climb trees. Seriously. And in response I think I waffled on about the need for it to develop opposable thumbs or to grow claws like grappling hooks. I’m sure you get the idea. Anyhow this is a long winded way of introducing a great and funny advert about… cats with thumbs. Nothing to do with business, I just like it!

Why don’t meetings work?

March 11, 2011

The place holder on the left-hand table says 'Reserved', that on the left says 'Extraverted'.Every time I attend a meeting I am struck by the fact that most of what goes on is an utter waste of time. What is it about the situation that just seems to bring out the unproductive in us? Something I have to say which is aided and abetted by the curse of the PowerPoint presentation. A method of boring people that is surely without rival. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a picture and a thousand words, that’s something else entirely.

The reason that most meetings flounder can also be attributed to Parkinson’s Law of Triviality (that’s C.Northcote Parkinson of ‘Parkinson’s Law’ fame). Put simply this draws the distinction between the amount of time that’s spent discussing complex and difficult issues, such as business strategy, as opposed to simple and ultimately unimportant things like the location or colour of a bike shed. Hence the alternative name for the law, that of ‘bike-shedding’.  


We all feel comfortable talking about the bike shed (or the colour scheme to use on the website, the type of water cooler to have etc) because we think we understand what’s going on, and this limits are chances of appearing stupid. But when it comes to strategy there’s far more scope for seeming to be ignorant, if not a complete noodle. Thus the result is one hour discussing the ‘bike shed’, and ten confused and nervous minutes contemplating the strategic direction of the business. There’s also something else going on…

So to add to the Law of Triviality, and Parkinson’s other laws, the famous first law: ‘work expands to fill the time available for its completion’, and the less well-known second law: ‘expenditure rises to meet income’; I would like to add my law of meetings.

Parkinson’s Law of Meetings

Having studied meetings over the course of many years I can report that the ‘law of meetings’ states that there are only three types of people who attend:

  • Type A: This person does all the talking but knows none of the answers.
  • Type B: This person does none of the talking but does know the answers.
  • Type C: This person doesn’t know why they’re at the meeting.

These types map neatly onto three second-order personality factors: Type A is Extraverted (a ‘do-think-do’ sort of person); Type B is Neurotic (a ‘think-think-maybe do’ sort of person); and Type C is clearly Psychotic (detached, and angry and resentful about having their time wasted).

And this is why so little is achieved, because A+B+C≠Decision.

Oops, must go, I’ve got a teleconference in a few minutes…


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