Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Open Data and the Autumn Statement tomorrow

Today I was at the Open Data Institute http://www.theodi.org launched by Francis Maude and David Willetts. Sir Tim Berners-Lee set it up to create knowledge for everyone.  I didn't realise the implications it may have and the repercussions across our society until I went today.  Access to open data may change the way we interact with economics and our world.

On the eve of the autumn statement where most of the pain in dealing with our deficit has come from tax rises and cuts in investment, how may we get rid of the deficit in the future?  Well the future may be using open data.

HOW? Accessing large quantities of data and putting it through statistical tests will help us understand where there are weaknesses in economic and business models.  It will then give government departments more factual back up to cut areas that aren't economically viable.  Fundamentally it may bring a new kind of infrastructure spending to all areas of business - including politics.

In the future we won't be guessing where to make cuts we will have statistical and factual backing to know where best to make cuts.  The decisions could be more statistical than intuitive and emotional.  It is already happening in education and crime. As our data increases so will our knowledge of how to implement it. Whether this is a good thing only time will tell.

We in Britain have a large backlog of data that we can use to understand the world today.  For example merchant navy records may help us understand climate change better.

During the afternoon I met a number of data entrepreneurs.  One company can take data and plot it visually.  The demonstration I saw was the use of open data on pharmaceutical prescriptions and they plotted it on a graph showing what areas in the UK have the highest number of prescriptions. Visualising data makes it so much more accessible than numbers on a page.

Another company uses data to help you find a house.  Locatable http://www.locatable.com/ can help you find where to live.  You put in where you work and where your girlfriend lives and it tells you the easiest place in London to live - in a few months you may even be able to search on living close to outstanding schools or the best pubs.  With one in three google searches being about location this may have further implications.  Only time will tell how our innovative entrepreneurs will put this into practise and help us interact more effectively with our world.

Nick Robinson discussing the Autumn statement on the Ten o'clock news tonight  said that it's data that counts.  Increasingly I believe the use of open data will be used to make considered judgements on how to cut spending and where to invest.

David Willetts and Francis Maude said they wanted Britain to be at the centre of the open data revolution.  In particular satellite data.  The three things they argue it brings is
1) accountability and therefore it counters corruption.  Francis Maude discussed how the Ugandan government uses satellite data to find out if local companies have built schools they were contracted to do.  With the data they can see if the works have been completed.
2) Informed Choice by increasing information over a longer time
3) Help the growth agenda and the creation of wealth and opportunity - both in developing new businesses and identifying cost cutting

David Willetts said today we don't yet know the economic value that open data will bring.  We do know that there is an investment of £10m over 5 years into it. Only time will tell how it gets interpreted into society, business and politics.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Bill Clinton on innovation

I went to the Entrepreneur's 2012 conference today and heard Bill Clinton speak.

He said "You have to have the right to fail and admit it so you can succeed."

In our world today this is tricky - especially when you think about the George Entwhistle situation at the BBC. Where as Director General he had to resign when some believe he may be the perfect man to lead the BBC through this crisis.  We can learn from our mistakes.  Success is not always a good teacher.

Clinton joked about liking being part of an NGO because now "When I  screws up I can now say “I did’"

He said

We should try rewarding politicians for saying “I tried this, I failed,  it didn’t work, we stopped, we’re not wasting your money any more, here’s what we learned so now lets do something else.  I wish one of these organizations that gives people awards would set up an award system for innovative political leaders who tried things that didn't work and admitted it to their voters.

So how would this work.  Would we have to redefine how journalism reports politics.  Is it more about solution finding than blame pointing.  Would we have to reform our attitude towards party politics and look at the longer game rather than the short term votes. 

Perhaps over the next few years we have to define how we want our society to run.  Do we want it the same way as before?  With all the challenges and changes happening in politics, banking and the media I think now is a great time to innovate how we live in our society.  Let's look to society outcomes rather than pointing blame.  Let's find economical solutions that help us, our children and our planet not just quick fixes. 

How do we do this.  I'm not sure but it starts when someone like Bill Clinton is posing the argument that politician have to have the right to fail in order to truly succeed.  

Friday, 9 November 2012

Women work for free until the end of the year

Have a look at the evening standard article which says
The Fawcett Society, which campaigns for gender equality, (states that ) the pay gap — 14.9 per cent across the country — is even more marked in London, at almost 23 per cent. And in financial services...., it is a stonking 55 per cent.


Here's my comment on the story:

I completely agree with Vicky Pryce.  I have coached women in the City and the public sector to get their next promotion.  The things they often need to work on is:
1. Belief - they don't believe they can do the job - even when they're doing it already
2. Networking - they get on with being brilliant at their job and forget to tell anyone about it.
3. Clarity - their words can lack confidence - they say "I just won a deal the other day" or "yeah things have been good" when they closed a million pound deal in a new sector.  Tell the facts and let the success speak for itself.
4. Body Language - their body language can imply a  lack of confidence - lowered eyes and shoulders when talking to senior people. They have to get used to stating their successes.
5. Ambassadors - they need other people to shout about their brilliance.  It's always good when it comes from other people not just you.  More women need to ask colleagues to email their line manager to tell them what a great job they've done.

Telling people what you've done isn't bragging - it's helping your manager understand what role you play in the organisation.  It then helps them promote their department.  We're all in sales after all!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Chuggers get choked

Sales and influence are often considered synonymous but often they are not.  I love the subtlety of influence but chuggers play on good nature

Chugging is when someone from a charity approaches you in the street to ask for a donation.  A chugger is the person who stops you in the street.  Actually it's more likely a company has bought a contract from a charity - and the more donations they get the more the secondary company profit.  In the Independent today it said charities pay an average of £100 for every signature obtained by face-to-face fundraising firms.  http://tinyurl.com/cwwahdl This is then split between the 'chuggers' and their employees.

Here are the reasons I'm so against them:
1. they greet you as if they're genuinely interested and then try to make you buy - it's not authentic
2. they use influence tactics in a manipulative way e.g. asking only for your name - part of the Law of Commitment and consistency.  If you get an oral or written commitment people are more likely to follow through and honour that commitment. it's not transparent.
3. they play on your good will.  Again using another law of influence - the Law of Social Proof - people will do something they see others do.  So if you feel other likeminded people are doing it you feel more pressure to do it too.  it plays on society values rather than the person's true values. It puts on pressure.
4. they threaten you - so many of us cross the road to avoid them, change our shopping route and put on our defences.  I don't get to go shopping much so I'd rather it was a relaxing enjoyable experience rather than feeling like an A star celebrity getting attacked by paparazzi.
5. they make you defensive. Luckily the lovely visitors who've been here and are coming for the Olympics and Paralympics have not been affected but I've found myself put on my chugger defence armour only to realise it was a tourist.  I no longer trust people who come up to me with a lovely smile. As a Glaswegian I find this offends my cultural heritage!

I've had a chugger shout at me down the road  "I save children's lives what do you do".  This is without any provocation.  My standard answer is "I'm sorry I don't do this kind of marketing".  It's amazing how offended they get. It's also insulting that they assume because you don't do that kind of marketing you don't subscribe to a charity.  So if they now walk more than 3 paces after me we can tell the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association. I may never do that but it's good to know I can.

So influential techniques can be used effectively or non-effectively.  The fascinating thing is chugging works so well because they use these powerful laws of influence.  Just think what you can do with them if you're authentic, transparent, open and honest.  To find out more about the Laws of Influence and how to implement it at work sign up for our Influencing course.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Find your invisible helmet - Innovative thinking

Working in the City many employees say "I'm not creative".  However business and finance is a hugely creative industry.

I recently came across with video of two women trying to come up with an invisible bike helmet.  It's worth a watch http://vimeo.com/m/43038579.  People said they couldn't do it and they have. 

Innovation, life  and business are the same. What makes businesses and society work is unique and creative individuals who want to push business and society to be better.

Increasingly my role with senior executives is to create time to be innovative, take a step back and focus on the direction you want things to go, and strategically look at ways of implementing it.  It's not what you wish for you get but what you work for.  However in busy times we often work so hard we forget to look up and see where we are going.  We get taken along for the ride.  It's all very well saying I want to make the most money but what do you want your legacy to be?

These women took 7 years to come up with an innovative and imaginative product.  We all can take a few steps to be innovatitve with our life.

1. Have a goal.  Usain Bolt said on Jonathan Ross on Friday he always has a goal.  He said he was having a meeting with his coach this week to discuss his next goal.  People want him to do the 400m - he doesn't.  He wants to try it as a long jumper.  What is your next goal? It doesn't have to be big just clear.
2. Take a small step towards it.  Inch by inch is a cinch. Yard by Yard is hard.  Do something with that idea that's been in your mind or on your to do list for so long. Email someone for a coffee or chat.  Scarey things become quite easy once you make the first step. Innovative thinking involves researching what others are doing.
3.  Make a difference.  Look at what is going to have the biggest impact on people. Think big. Don't worry about HOW you will do it think about WHAT you want and WHY you want it.  The How quite often takes care of itself.
4. Be authentic.  Think about what you like - how you'd like things to work or how you'd like things to be better.  Find a real need and use that to make things better.

Innovative thinking is simply thinking about things from a different angle.  What's another way of looking at it? What other industry could you get inspired by to help you find a solution?  is there another department who does things differently that you could talk to? Another culture that approaches things differently?

Have fun finding solutions and innovative ways to make things better.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Want more energy - here's how!

Some nutritionists call themselves a doctor but when I found Dr Deborah Quinn had been a GP and had a first in physiology I thought she might be a bit different. How right I was!  

I am a little bit skeptical of nutritionists to be honest.  I've seen a few in my time and they've all just said the same thing.  There seemed very little logic to it.  It's very different with Deborah.   There is a test and checking process she goes through and is constantly developing your diet to achieve your full potential. 

If you want to check her out she's at the Lloyds Building's Wellness Centre 
all week this week http://quintessentialexecutivehealth.com/home.swf and I think she's offering a 20% discount.  I'm not on commission - I've just found her knowledge, help and clarity inspiring.  She will be there weekly too if you can't do this week. 

Over the last 5 weeks I've been doing a gentle detox to give me more energy.  The first 2 weeks I thought I'd hit a truck I was so tired and grown grass on my tongue it was so furry.  4 weeks later I've lost 8 lbs without exercising.  Most importantly I feel so energetic.  I've had one of my busiest 3 months and had to stay up late and get up early pretty consistently.  It's been so easy doing it because I feel so energised.    

I'll grant you there's no alcohol allowed and for a Glaswegian that has been a bit of a challenge.  However I wouldn't swap this energy for a bottle of whisky.  

I am now beginning to realise what wellness truly is: helping your body be more effective.  In business we talk about efficiency in time management, systems and process but without an efficient body we wont work at our best.  

Thursday, 8 March 2012

International Woman's Day March 8th

Did you see the Google picture today?  The colourful cogs turning the google icon around?  It was for International Woman's day.  

Today U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will join several accomplished women, including Meryl Streep, Angelina Jolie and Nobel Peace laureate Leymah Gbowee at the third annual Women in the World summit, which begins today - Thursday 8th March In New York. 

Female leaders, advocates and activists will share stories of women who are battling the status quo, opposing injustice and shattering glass ceilings around the world.

The summit is organized by Newsweek and the Daily Beast.  If you were ever in any doubt how many amazing women are out there doing amazing things have a look at this list http://tinyurl.com/7tda8r4

Perhaps this can be a reminder of how powerful a woman's way of doing things is.  Perhaps it can also be a reminder that we need to support our fellow female co-workers.  We need to help mentor them and support them to grow.  I know so many woman and men that are committed to doing this - are you one of them?

Sunday, 4 March 2012

The Magical Influence of Disney

I'm just back from a few days in Disneyland Paris.  While waiting in the early morning queue I realised how cleverly Disneyland incorporated the 6 principles of Influence.  Call me sad but you have a lot of thinking time when queuing in Disney!

1. Scarcity: We bought the trip when we saw the advert: “40% off if you buy before March".  Then we made a bee-line for the longest queues because they must be the best – yes?

2. Commitment and Consistency.  Once we committed to the queue we stayed in the queue.  Only once did we buck the trend when we got swept up into the Haunted House queue at the end of the day.  Not the best idea for a 4 year old before bedtime.  It felt like we were driving in the wrong lane and bucking the trend pushing our way out! 

3. Social Proof. If all these people are queuing for this long it must be right – yeah?

4. Liking.  All the Disney characters are so friendly and make my daughter so happy – we’ll have to come again!

5. Authority.  If Mickey says come back we must do it.

6. Reciprocity.  We got into the park 2 hours early because we stayed in the hotel.  And our daughter got to stay for free.  We’ll have to go back.  It’s rude not to!

Even though I know all the tricks they are playing – they play them so well.  I get into the Dumbo ride and think “that queue wasn’t so bad, look how happy my daughter is, it’s definitely the best place for a few days break!”

Now where can I find an apple without some toffee on it?

The 6 principles were devised by Robert Cialdini in his book "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion".

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

From Promotion to Expectation and Success

Did you get the promotion you expected?

This can be a tricky time of year in Banking if you didn't get what you wanted.  What we often forget is: when you do get what you want what do you do now?

Promotion is a great boost.  You know all your work paid off and you are getting recognition for it.  You acted the promotion for many of the months before you got the job so what now?

Well the reality is senior management often expect more of you after a promotion.  They want to see you step up even more.  They want to hear more of your successes, hear you more in meetings.

What is your promotion 100 day plan?  What is your vision for those next few months.  What do you want people to notice that is different about you?

Take some time to celebrate then take some time to concentrate on your strategy.

Here are some things you could do
1. create your vision statement
2. ask different teams what their processes are then present your findings to your senior management - with possible recommendations
3. show how you deal with conflict by keeping calm and focused in heated debates
4. offer to do presentations on a project you are working on to various senior people
5. increase your networking.
6. build on your subject knowledge
7. build on your people knowledge - the best way to influence people is to know what excites and interests them
8. listen more to your team - they may not be your peers but they are still a font of knowledge and ideas.

These are just a few ideas.  I'm sure you can think of more.

What do you need to do to show them they were right to promote you?  Give them reason to feel proud!

Pancake day resolutions

Did you have your pancakes last night? That wonderful nostalgic practise we do each year.

In the Christian tradition you eat up all the butter, eggs, sugar and milk and get ready to fast.  People today even if they are not Christian use Lent to give up things - drink, chocolate or crisps.  Or to start things eg jogging or being more pleasant to people or do a good deed a week for the community.

Often the reason our January resolutions fail is we try to achieve a goal too quickly.  What small thing could you start doing every day from today that would help you reach your goal?

  • If you want to get a promotion - work on a strategic idea a day and go to a senior manager with them once a week. 
  • If you want to get noticed - plan 3 ideas for every meeting and make sure you say one. 
  • If you want to improve your delivery - decide to banish um's and err's from your speech. 
  • If you want to improve your outlook - decide to smile more
  • If you want to be happier in your work - create an intention for the day eg to listen more to everyone - then keep resetting it until it becomes a good habit.  
  • If you want to lose weight - give up carbohydrates after 6pm or exercise more. 

Notice these are all simple - are they too simple? How much do you want to change.  Often if you start with the small things, big things change. Try it and see if it works for you. What have you got to lose? What could you gain?

One way to build momentum, self esteem and belief is to get quick results.  What can you do tomorrow that will get you the quickest and biggest result?

We all have a weakest skill.  You know what yours is..


  1. Think of a where you can realistically get to in 40 - 50 days. 
  2. Identify the small steps to take to get there 
  3. Then take those steps.  

If it's scarey, find someone to support you.

All we generally want from setting these goals is results.  We can only get results if we know where we start, know where we want to end up and know what success looks like along the way!

I wish you every success and achievement with your goals!

I plan to write a relaxation tape to help support people in stressful jobs.  Watch this space.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Bonuses and Inspiration for the year ahead.

CIPD press release today (3rd January 2012) said 2011 left many employees across all sectors dissatisfied with the size of pay rise and bonus they received, with the majority having seen their pay either frozen (48%) or cut (5%), and just 18% having received a cash bonus. That's according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)'s annual survey of Employee Attitudes to Pay, which also found that employees are readjusting their expectations for the coming year in line with the economic climate. 

With bonus season starting now - most people in the corporate sector that I meet are waiting to get their Performance Management Report to determine their bonus for last years work. 

Last year was tough on staff.  There was a reduction in staff so more work to be done.  If you haven't coped with the new level of work you may be worried it will affect your bonus.  This can be a very stressful time.  I have noticed that staff can get quite focused on their bonus for the year.  I completely understand this.  

So what can you do to take control of your role? If you are looking for promotion there is a good chance you've had the interview and your work has been reviewed.  Rather than stress about the outcome what could you do to empower you and help you take control of your career now?

Here are 5 tips to get you in control and motivated this year. I'm sure you can think of your own too: 

1. Decide on a 100 day leadership plan.  If you start tomorrow (4th January) what can you achieve by 12th April?
2. Know your vision statement.  Does it need revamping? is it aligned with your line manager's vision? One manager had a meeting with all staff and got the team to come up with the vision statement and 100 day goal for the team. 
3. Choose your brand.  How do you want to be seen as an individual? Choose the way you want to behave and behave like that consistently.  If your brand is "I can do it" make sure you choose jobs you can do and then do it!  If your brand is "I make things easy for you" what can you do to reinforce that brand?
4. Seek a mentor.  Choose someone you aspire to.  Recently a client had a chat with a mentor about their desire for a promotion.  Their mentor suggested this might not be the best time for promotion in their business.  Seek out people who know your business at a higher level so you can put your goals into perspective. 
5. Build your network.  Keep building your network.  In difficult times your network will help you out.