An act of personal empowerment that gives you freedom from the past and allows you to retain the initiative


(Source: Flickr)

FORGIVENESS is a noble sentiment, but shouldn’t our tormentors be punished?

What about truth? What about justice? What about revenge?

Breathe, breathe, everything will be okay.

The deceptions and betrayals of those around us can sometimes infect and overwhelm the mind. The feelings aroused from past hurts make it difficult to see clearly, the blood boils and the mind can replay the situation many times, thinking of how we were wronged and counting the ways we might be able to get even.

This kind of thinking is not particularly healthy or helpful, and you risk becoming trapped in an endless cycle of negative emotions.

You feel hatred today, because you felt it yesterday, because you felt it the day before that.

Forgiveness has value because it frees us from this cycle and liberates mental energy to focus on the matters at hand.

Thinking about it this way, we can see that forgiveness actually has nothing to do with the person(s) who wronged us (they may not care less about your feelings), but it instead confers a benefit on the person who forgives.

Past hurts afflict the mind only for so long as you hold on to them, and by letting them go you regain your freedom.

Another way to think about forgiveness is as an act of personal empowerment. People who hurt us are able to do so by wielding some kind of power: money, influence, strength, a seductive story, a daring feat, shiny packaging, or anything else which allows them to attract attention or control the game. This power can sometimes be used to hurt us, and the negative emotions that result leave us feeling dis-empowered.

Forgiveness puts you back in control.

If you can forgive, then it gives you an opportunity to learn the lessons hidden in the rubble.

Was it just bad luck, or did you enable your competitors to defeat you through bad judgement, poor execution and inferior strategy?

The situation may reveal something about the other person’s character or about your own. It may show you a blind spot in your vision, or uncover a shortage of critical resources and capabilities.

By practicing forgiveness and learning your lessons, you can retain your freedom and seize the initiative going forward.

Loyalty Games

If you are there for them, they will be there for you

WHEN it comes to marketing, you have a choice.

Chase new customers, or care for the ones you already have.

Buy a million dollar Superbowl ad, or do the hard work of creating remarkable products for the people who care.

Pursue the glittering promise of untold wealth by trying to please everyone, or focus on delighting the loyal few.

It’s hard to do both.

In the old days, before the Interweb, it was common to reward customers for their loyalty with points, exclusive discounts and upgrades.

Digital hasn’t changed this, but it does offer new opportunities for social engagement, data analytics and making things fun using online games.

Our friend John Persico is leading the charge to help us transition into a new and exciting digital future with the 2014 Loyalty and Gamification World Championships, a free online competition that will test and develop your skills and understanding of gamification and loyalty marketing.

Round 1 kicks off on July 12 (you can register here).

Let It Go

Holding a grudge is like drinking poison, and wishing your enemies would die.

Let it go, keep moving, and retain your freedom.

Or, as Oscar Wilde put it, “always forgive your enemies, nothing annoys them so much.”

Tourist or Adventurer

If you’re waiting for the bus, and missing it throws out your whole day, then you’re a tourist.

Some people go through life this way.

High school, university, respectable office job, marriage, house, children, death. A safe bus ride with a predictable number of stops.

There is an alternative, but it won’t fit neatly on your itinerary.

You can choose to meet life on its own terms. To see problems and try to solve them. To passionately pursue opportunities as they arise. To help the people you meet, and those you can reach, as much as possible. To figure out who you are, and how you can bring that to the table. To be amongst it, and not just an observer from the window of a red double-decker bus.

You may end up making all the same stops, but you will have seen more, felt more, and have many more stories to tell.

Is someone else driving the bus, or are you?

Stock and Flow

Advice for The Australian and other failing newspapers

Late last year at the Oxford Union we had the opportunity to talk with Tim Ferris, author of the 4-Hour Workweek, about his tips for successful blogging.

Tim’s key piece of advice, an echo of every good guidebook we’ve read, is that bloggers who are just starting out should focus on producing “evergreen content”. That is to say, publish content that will be just as interesting in 6 months time as it was the day it was written.

Tim Ferris knows what he is talking about, and his advice is sound. But why?

Well, in order to understand what Tim’s talking about, you need to understand the difference between “stock” and “flow”. (Very simple concepts, but incredibly powerful.)

Stock is how much you have of something at a point in time, whether it be money, property, equipment, or interesting articles. Flow, on the other hand, measures the rate of change over a period of time: income, expenditure, production of new articles, or the depreciation in value of old ones.

Not surprisingly, the value of an online publication derives in part from its stock of interesting and insightful content.

The most obvious way to make this number go up is to write more, increase production, and burn the midnight oil. We had coffee with a journalist from The Australian recently, and understand that they are doing just that. They are working harder than ever, but with shrinking expense accounts and diminishing job security.

The problem with merely writing more is that news articles are losing their value more quickly than ever. Breaking news becomes old news within 24 hours, and the fair use exception means that news aggregators can pinch chunks of content without paying for them.

Could it be that Tim’s advice for rookie bloggers is relevant for struggling newspapers too?

Producing content with a more enduring value may help them to stem the flow.

Capacity versus Leverage

IN the quest for market dominance, companies often engage in a war for talent. They seek out new recruits with outstanding capacity, the chosen few who are able to demonstrate a track record of success, and an ability to solve new problems quickly and easily.

Management consulting firms are the flag bearers in this war. In a clear and methodical way, they invite the strongest applicants to come and joust in a competitive case interview tournament, which emulates the complexity and ambiguity of real business situations.

Only the strongest are awarded the prize of employment.

Underlying this behaviour is a belief that high capacity individuals are crucial for organisational success.

We beg to disagree, at least in part.

If an organisation were to wake up each Monday morning and forget everything it had ever learned, then it would obviously be important to employ only the very smartest individuals. Every week would bring new problems, and people with exceptional talent would be needed to solve them.

Fortunately, however, this rarely happens. Organisations and the individuals who work in them have memory which accumulates over time, captured in the form of skills, know-how, products, technology and culture.

Customers bring their problems, and companies have a choice in how to serve them. One option is to employ the brightest individuals so that new problems can be solved quickly and easily. In this case, customers benefit from expensive bespoke solutions based on entirely novel thinking. Another option, though, is to do the hard work of building institutional capital that can be leveraged and enhanced on each occasion in order to provide consistently more value at lower cost than ever before.

Every employee will sooner or later leave their employer, one way or another, and so in the long run capital accumulation is key.

A problem can arise though when companies believe that they have to choose: should we hire top talent to be competitive now or invest in building capital to be competitive down the road?

The options are not in conflict, or at least they don’t need to be, and you only have to look at the way McKinsey handles its talent pool to realise this. The firm hires the best and brightest minds in the countries in which it operates. It combines this with an “up or out” policy and a strong alumni relations program that allows it to benefit from the thinking, patronage and cooperation of its former employees long after it has ceased to pay them. In this way, the firm transforms former employees into an enduring asset.

And so, dear reader, you are faced with a choice. You can solve problems by simply using available capacity, your own or that of others, or you can work to build something remarkable and enduring that will enable you to solve more problems with less effort over time.

Gorillas in our Midst

Why you’ll often miss the best opportunities – and biggest upcoming problems – when they are right in your face

Gorillas in the Midst

(Source: Freaking News)

Suppose for a moment that I were to walk into your office, right at this minute, dressed as a gorilla.

Yes, a gorilla – stay with me here.

Now imagine I start making a scene, beating my fists on my chest, grunting, upturning desks and throwing papers.

I sincerely doubt that this would go unnoticed in your workplace (if it would, I’d love to know where you work). But it’s quite possible that you might be missing things almost as obvious every day. Even right now.

This includes some of the best opportunities, but also the gravest threats.

“Ow, my head hurts” – Why Information Bombardment interferes with your focus

The modern world is a visually crowded place. There is a huge amount of information flooding our brains at all moments.

Let’s use an example from your life. Take, for example, your commute to work this morning – how many people did you see? How many items of clothing? How many cars, traffic lights, street signs and advertisements? There were likely hundreds (if not thousands) of different things that passed your eyes.

Now, what percentage of those do you remember? I’m going to guess a very small percentage, which will get even smaller as the day progresses and your memory fades.

So the obvious question from all of this is – how does your brain decide what information to absorb, and what to ignore? How does your brain decide what to ‘filter out’ and what to ‘see’?

We are bombarded with information at all times and it simply isn’t possible for the human brain to process it all. The brain will focus on what’s important and ignore the rest, and the part of your brain that does this is called the Reticular Activating System (also known as “what you’ll be Googling during your lunch break today after you finish reading this article”).

Introducing the RAS and how it works for you (and sometimes against you)

The RAS is part of a loose network of neurons in the brain centred in the brain stem and extending into the cerebellum. The RAS has many useful functions including regulation of sleep/wake cycles, eating and, most importantly, the ability to focus our attention.

Reticular Activating System

(Source: Siriraj Medical Journal)

Importantly, the RAS helps us lighten our mental burden by ‘deleting’ or ‘filtering’ irrelevant information from our conscious awareness. This saves us from mental processing overload but can also remove useful information. This is called inattentional blindness.

This still sounds rather academic, doesn’t it? I bet you think it doesn’t affect you very much.

Let’s test that right now and see how much it affects you.

Try this experiment. Watch the video below. It’s simple – you just need to count the number of passes of the ball that are completed by the team wearing white. Let’s see if you get the right number.

For those of you unable to watch the video, roughly halfway through a large man wearing a full Gorilla suit walked into the scene, paused and beat his chest several times before continuing to walk off screen. In Chabris and Simmon’s famous 1999 experiment into inattentional blindness, almost 50% of the participants did not see this as they were focusing on counting the passes.

Then again, why would they? Wasn’t the number of successful passes the important information?

And there lies the crucial point – what you determine to be of value at a particular point in time is what the RAS will choose to focus on.

It’s also a reason why positive thinking works – if you choose to have a positive attitude, your mind will search for and identify the positives and opportunities in a situation. However, if you are more concerned about the negatives, then the negative aspects are all you’re likely to see (creating a self-perpetuating loop of negativity).

Inattentional blindness can have significant implications for business success and survival, especially in the context of new disruptive technologies. Take the music industry for example. In response to the rise of peer-to-peer file sharing in 1990s, the record industry took aggressive legal action to shut down sites like Napster that allowed consumers to share music online for free. At the time, they were focused on selling CDs to consumers through retail music stores, and so they saw the new technology as a threat to what they thought was important. They thought they were in the business of selling CDs, when they were actually in the business of sharing music. As a result, they missed a huge opportunity to take control of online music distribution. While they were focusing on CD sales and law suits, Apple came along and launched the iTunes Music Store, which is now the world’s largest music retailer with revenues exceeding $12 billion per year.

So, just how much valuable information are we missing in the world around us? The answer is probably a much larger amount than you initially thought. But luckily, there are a few things you can do to reduce the effect of inattentional blindness.

What you can do about it

Inattentional blindness is hard to avoid as it has been helping to keep us alive for countless generations and is ingrained in our behaviour. So how can we reduce its occurrence in our work lives?

1. Identify what’s important

RAS works on relevance, importance and value. By taking the time and effort to consciously decide what is important and of value to you, you’re more likely to identify relevant opportunities as they arise (often subconsciously). Making a concise list and referring to it will help – this will essentially help to “train” your RAS.

2. Be careful what you choose to consciously focus on

Stimulus deletion in the RAS is indiscriminate and can have a profound impact on your performance in a range of tasks. Choosing to focus on negative aspects of your work or life can be disastrous as positive factors are automatically filtered. Again, your RAS will focus on what you train it to.

3. Seek information that contradicts your point of view

We tend to try and make sense of the world by seeking information that confirms the things that we believe. This leads to a risk of unintentionally filtering out valuable alternatives and causing our RAS to be limited in scope. Look for diversity of opinions to keep your RAS open (but still be clear on what kind of things you want to focus on).

Different people will naturally have different values and by extension different RAS filters. Consult widely with a range of people to help you see aspects of a problem that you might have filtered.

4. When communicating with others, use multiple mediums

How do you stop others from filtering when you’re trying to make a point or send an important message?

Be sure to use multiple means of communication, as some of them are likely to fall victim to filtering. Using email, phone calls, text messages, tweets, smoke signals, friend requests and other methods in conjunction increases the perceived importance of a message and will increase its likely uptake.

5. Reassess Frequently

Times change and so must we. Just because something was important to you yesterday does not mean that it will be important today. Reassess frequently in line with your long term goals to make sure that you’re still on the path that you want to be. This is good advice for most things in life.

So, in conclusion – GORILLAS. They are everywhere.

But seriously, give it a shot today – make a few subtle tweaks to your attitude and see what it does. It will take time, but you might just see a few things that you were surprised you hadn’t noticed.

And who knows, it just might save your entire office from getting messed up.

This article was written by Shishir Pandit, Editor and Deloitte Strategy Consultant, and Matthew O’Sullivan, President of the Global Consulting Group at Melbourne University. Matthew is pursuing a Masters in Management following a bachelor’s degree in psychology and has over ten years of experience in education and sports process improvement.