If you don’t prioritise your life, someone else will!

June 29, 2012

Do you say ‘Yes’ when you should say ‘No’… We all do it, but why? Read Greg McKeown’s article:


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…

Do one thing at a time…

March 30, 2012

Do one thing at a time (well!) or multi-task, that’s the question. Watch this interesting CNBC video clip in which Tony Swartz talks about how to get stuff done whilst balancing your energy needs.


10 reasons why face-to-face meetings are a good idea

January 3, 2012

As I try to manage a four-way video-conference on my Dongleberry I suddenly realise how much technology is getting in the way of genuine human interaction. So let’s just think about what can happen in a traditional face-to-face meeting that cannot occur if we all choose to sit in different rooms gazing at little cameras. Here’s a short list:

  • Authentic human contact. Whichever way you cut it, the only way to really connect with another person is when you meet them in the flesh.
  • Informal promises. This is the stuff that happens on the side, in the form of favours, promises and bits of negotiation. It’s all part of developing a relationship that’s both personal and informal, and best done when you are with another person.
  • Non-verbal understanding. Most technology is not up to the job of capturing all the subtleties of gestures, voice, facial expression and so on; let alone giving you the opportunity to study the expressions of all the other people present at a virtual meeting!
  • Real-time information. Don’t you just love it when it all freezes up, or is just a little bit out of synch…
  • Social identity. It’s much easier to know where you stand in a group (or an organisation) when you can interact properly with other people. Status is harder to understand if you try to construct it  from the fragments of a cyber conversation.
  • Discovering norms. No virtual conversation is ever going to help you appreciate the unwritten rules and norms that drive an organisation; or for that matter any strange or idiosyncratic aspects of its culture.
  • Bonding & commitment. You need to share something meaningful to bond – it really is all about being there in person.
  • Emotional support. The virtual world might be fine for transmitting information, but it’s not a good place for providing meaningful emotional support – and you might well need this from your colleagues if the going gets tough.
  • Honesty & trust. It’s very difficult to know if someone is being honest, or to trust them, without experiencing the full weight of their communication and interpersonal skills.
  • Tapping into the lighter side. Come on, it can all be a bit stiff and formal. In ‘real life’ humour is frequently needed to get things going, and this can be harder to use when you can’t easily check the reactions of others; and of course the very act of organising something like a tele or video-conference tends to give the proceedings a gravitas that’s not necessarily helpful.

None of this should be any surprise. Humans are social animals and we need to get information through all our senses in order to make proper sense of the world, even the digital world.

Photo credit: Daniel St Pierre/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14125596

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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