My Writing

My Writing

I get my best ideas from listening to people. Fortunately, that’s my job.

I like to say that people are my library, and my daily writing practice is a way to discover what’s in it: new ideas, inspiration, wisdom, and a little whimsy for good measure.  As your humble librarian I invite you to check out a new idea every day. No late fees ever.


Go and learn something totally different

dad skateboarding

This week a friend and his son are taking beginners skateboarding lessons each day.

Learning something totally different and unrelated to your work or prior skills in life is now recognised by psychologists and neuroscientists to be something that truly fosters creativity and innovation. It literally rewires the brain.

I first thought more about this a year or so ago when Chip Conley spoke of it and how he had decided to learn to surf. (more…)

Want to be creative? Walk a different route to work


“Innovation = doing things differently and doing different things”

I distilled this some years ago into my definition of innovation.

Innovation at work is really “buzzy” these days, with book after book, TED talk after TED talk about how we can be more creative and innovative at work.

One simple suggestion today. Take a different route than the usual one you walk to work each day, then repeat the new route again and again rather than your regular route. (more…)

Your mind is like a parachute: If it isn’t open, it doesn’t work


Your mind is like a parachute: If it isn’t open, it doesn’t work.”

~ Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 astronaut 

Today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, July 20th, 1969.

It all began with the open mind and huge vision of one man.

On May 25, 1961, President John F Kennedy told Congress that the US “should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”

On July 20th, 1969, that vision was realised.

This came only 20 days after the first time any NASA mission had taken someone out of the earth’s atmosphere, and then only for a 15 minute sub-orbital flight.

JFK, however, had the vision to restore confidence in his country that had been dented by the space race and cold war with Russia. He believed that this lunary goal could play a key role in building on the ability of Americans to innovate and achieve. The lunar landing was a massive vision and one that took 400,000 people to achieve, but many historians now look back on it as leading an epochal shift for the USA in the 1960s.

Now you may say you are not JFK, but I challenge you to be your own JFK. (more…)

The connectedness of meaning allows ideas to be scaled

Purpose, People, Planet - Profit for Impact Triple Bottom Line

A line from Nilofer Merchant’s recent LI article: “Don’t Be The Lonely Only” reads:

“when connected people can do what once only large organizations could; the connectedness of meaning allows original ideas to be (a) incubated and (b) scaled.”

The graphic above is my distillation to a model key to #OpenLeadership that I call the new triple bottom line, as I most recently wrote about in: “Make Purpose the first P in your triple bottom line“, noting at the end of that piece:

“It is my consistent experience that the more you focus on Purpose,

the easier it is to make a Profit.” (more…)

Speak out against intolerance


Just when we thought the level of intolerance and racism in countries like the US and the UK could not get any worse, over the last few days the US President has not only lowered the bar below where many thought it possible to go in attaching four congresswomen of colour, but he then doubled down on this over the next days and, as I write this, yesterday he addressed a rally and, as he attacked Representative Ilhan Omar once more, the crowd chanted “send her back”.

Meanwhile, the silence from elected politicians is deafening.

A few weeks ago, a cabinet minister in the UK grabbed a woman by the throat and marched her out of a room where she was making a peaceful protest.

After watching the video of that again and again, what chilled me most was that nobody in the room thought to take action against him.

We now live in an environment where people of colour are increasingly scared to be in public transport, or even go to work, where, more than ever, they are told to “go back to where you came from” and even physically bullied and assaulted.

In such an environment, speak out, take action, don’t be silent.

Consider these words:

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King

Also, from an earlier post:

“When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” ~ Edmund Burke

A powerful phrase that has been adjusted and repeated for many years as:

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”


You are only as good as your people

chelsea warr

Recently I had a check-in call with a long-time contact who is a shooting star rising up in one of the world’s top financial institutions. This individual is someone I know will be a model of #OpenLeadership for decades to come, they absolutely model the attributes of being Hungry, Humble, Brave and Open that are essential to leading now and into our future. This young leader absolutely gets the power of putting people first in a business, and their business is currently investing in them by having them work out of any formal target-driven role for several years as they shift around areas of the global business learning as they go.

I also am working with a client a quarter-century into their career who is about to take a brave leap out of the world of driving to corporate targets as short terms as monthly and often weekly, week in and week out. They have recognised the untapped opportunity for businesses to focus so much more on their people, not just in funding L&D and other programmes, but truly and deeply investing in people as more leaders see that this is where their unerring focus needs to be.

In my own three decades in business, I absolutely see that organisations that truly believe in, trust in and invest in their people are those that do and will thrive into the future.

Those are some thoughts, and I also love the quote from Chelsea Warr:

“You are only as good as your people and you are the greatest asset we have. You are our high-performance system.”

Who is Chelsea Warr? (more…)

Language is powerful – what energy sector are you in?

energy sector

Have you ever said phrases such as?:

“have a safe flight”

“please don’t hesitate to ask”

In an earlier post, “the map is not the territory”, I wrote about the power of language and linked to an in-depth presentation on some of the ideas.

Suffice to say that the first phrase may implant the idea of the flight not being safe (instead, perhaps say “have a good trip”), the second is implicitly asking someone not to ask anything of you.

Today I note a simple change in language around types of energy in that industry and the potentially powerful impact of that simple change.


CASE – Copy and Steal Everything


European folklore talks of magpies as birds that steal objects (including, particularly, shiny ones) to make their nests.

Someone with a “Magpie Intellect” tends to be known for having a lot of knowledge that they have acquired by voraciously learning from others. Some magpie intellects then synthesise what they have learned and make those ideas their own, as I wrote about in: “Synthesising ideas – who inspires you?“, using a definition of synthesising: “combining different aspects of your ideas and research and the ideas of others in order to produce new ideas”.

Now, to the acronym “CASE”, which stands for:  “Copy and Steal Everything”

Picasso said (and Steve Jobs quoted him often): “‘Good artists copy; great artists steal”

Bringing the leadership qualities of being Hungry, Humble, Brave and Open to these phrases to define them for leaders:

  • Good leaders copy. They are open and humble to learn from others and utilise what works, not needing to have all the answers themselves
  • Great leaders steal. They are not only open and humble enough to learn from others, but brave and hungry enough to be compelled to make the ideas their own by building upon them, evolving them. Oh, and they also love it when others then “steal” their ideas, as they practice abundance.

Are you a magpie? Do you “CASE”?

Guest Post: Referendum Thoughts (Remastered)

forth crossing brexit referendum

This photo is of the three bridges across the River Forth outside Edinburgh. Furthest away is the seminal Forth (rail) Bridge, nearest is the brand new Queensferry Crossing, which somewhat hides the Forth Road Bridge, opened in 1964. At that time it was the first bridge of its kind in the UK, the longest outside the USA, and the fourth longest in the world.

My grandfather was a consulting civil engineer on the Forth Road Bridge.

I’m very proud to hail from Scotland, a country that certainly has always felt very different to England politically, particularly at a level of what feels important to Scots around society. In the last few years I see this disparity growing more and more as the values of Scotland and Scots continue to be those of a fair and inclusive society, whilst England feels like it is becoming ever more divided and divisive.

Today a guest post from a friend and fellow pragmatic dreamer, David Ross, otherwise known as @dfr10 on Twitter and the man behind the “up” morning tweets (I sense a new type of book in his future for this “weegie noir” novelist).

David’s post shared here today was originally written after the Brexit referendum three years ago, recently “remastered” for where we are today. I love the way he writes, the way he expresses the Scotland I see and feel, plus hey, we see eye to eye on this.


Want to magically increase your performance? Sleep

eat sleep swim repeat

“Sleep is a natural performance enhancing drug. Tragic how many people think they can get by on 7 hours or less.”  @DHH

My two oldest sons were elite swimmers. As teenagers then university students, it may have seemed to outside observers that they were lazy, as when they weren’t swimming or at lectures they were mostly eating and sleeping.

What may not have been obvious was that eating and sleeping were consciously planned and part of their training regime. Eating and sleeping weren’t what they did when they weren’t training, it was part of the training. When you train well over twenty hours per week and also maintain a high academic workload, fueling and resting are essential.

The younger of these two boys seemed to take this to all new levels. Not only did he typically eat well over 8000 calories per day (that is about 4 times the average adult requirement!), he could also easily sleep 12 or more hours per day. If sleeping were an Olympic sport, he may well have won Cayman’s first medal!

Perhaps inspired by my boys and my own experience as an athlete in the past, I’ve always focussed on human performance and support leaders around this as part of my 1:1 work with clients.

When someone appears tired, unfocussed, demotivated, scattered, very often I’ll ask them (or pick up without having to ask) that they don’t sleep well.

Sleeping is critical for performance, addressing sleep issues is not optional, it is paramount. Perhaps you don’t think you have an issue with sleep, but do you sleep at least 7 hours per night and wake up without an alarm each morning? If not, then I’d say there is real room for improvement.


Without Context, Data is simply Noise

Without Context, Data is simply Noise

Data = Noise
Data + Context = Information
Experimentation + Error = Experience
Information + Experience = Knowledge
Knowledge + Humility = Wisdom

Recently Fergus Connolly posted this on Twitter. I love following learnings on elite performance in sport and Fergus is an absolute leader in this space.

Love his distillation here, and particularly the first level.

Any current or past client reading this will likely give a wry smile when I say that Context is everything.

Without Context, Data is simply so much noise.

Context is the lens you use to view the world, your business, anything.

What’s yours?

PS my Context in writing daily is to share learnings around #OpenLeadership. As we are now well over 600 posts, sometime soon I will create a section on the site capturing and distilling some core models and themes developed and shared over that time.



Take a look at the right forearm of this swimmer. One word, written in marker pen:


This photo popped up this week as a Facebook memory for me from several years ago when this particular swimmer was at an international meet looking to make a time that would qualify them to go to and swim for a leading university.

In short, they wrote the word CLARITY on their arm to give the focus on what they were there at the meet for. On a one-week team trip overseas, everything came down to one four-minute swim.

That swimmer wanted that reminder of the absolute CLARITY they would need in order to succeed. This was their Context, their lens through which they viewed everything on that trip, at that swim meet.

When I work with individual clients, one of the most frequent “key learning” clients share at the end of each meeting with me is that it gave them CLARITY.

The same day I saw this Facebook memory I had a regular ninety-minute meeting with a client. As we began the meeting they told me they were really stuck on how to move forward with a business strategy. At the end of the meeting, they reflected that they now had CLARITY on the way forward.

Where might you benefit from more CLARITY? Who is helping you with that?

PS The swimmer made the qualifying time. Years later, they continue to be clear on their direction and focus in life.

The market for something to believe in is infinite

The market for something to believe in is infinite

Yesterday I had one of my regular catch up calls with my friend Bruce Peters.

In life, I love deep conversations that get to the heart of things. Every time I talk to Bruce we uncover new things that get to the heart of the matter, the source.

Sometimes we also revisit things and that is also of value, as some things, simple or complex are worthy of revisiting.

On our latest call, then we talked about the power of being present for others, also then linking to the power of believing in someone.

With all of that in mind, today I repost in entirety a post I wrote over a year ago, on the power of belief.


The tyranny of the blank page

blank page blank screen

At well over 600 daily posts on this site since I started that discipline, most days I love to write, some days I struggle to come up with something to write.

As Neil Gaiman put it:

“Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it’s always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins.”

Today I woke up feeling like the blank screen would win.

I then realised that I’ve been on vacation for the last ten days and still wrote, that today I unexpectedly have one of my sons visiting me here in London for the first time in nearly a year.

So, sometimes it is good to recognise that life wins. To give myself permission to allow my focus to not stay on the blank page of the daily blog commitment, but instead to simply choose to share my presence wholly with him today.

I’ll see you all tomorrow.

Thank you for visiting my website

People are my library, my daily writing a way to discover what’s in it: ideas, inspiration, wisdom, and a little fun. As your humble librarian, I invite you to subscribe to check out a digest of daily emails emailed twice each week. No late fees, ever.