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.


How far is it acceptable to push?

I am catalysed to write this by an article by Richard Moore, a journalist and author I hold in high regard, written in advance of a key documentary going out on BBC on November 19, 2017, in which he concludes :

“..questions that are being increasingly asked about elite sport: how far is it acceptable to push; how close to the line do you want to go?”

Take a moment and consider this for your own leadership. Leadership of your business, leadership in your family, leadership of your own self. How far is it acceptable to push? How close to the line do you want to go?


Knowledge, Belief and Leadership

A reminder of the genius of one of the greatest comedy series of all time:

Sir Humphrey: “Have you read the Financial Times this morning?”
Banker: “Never do”
Sir Humphrey: “Well you’re a banker, surely you read the Financial Times?”
Banker: “Can’t understand it, Full of Economic Theory”
Sir Humphrey: “Why do you buy it?”
Banker: “oh, you know, part of the uniform”

This clip illustrates how far and how high a senior executive can climb with limited knowledge and only lots of belief in themselves and their ideas.

Am recently back from Kilkenomics and seeking to distil learnings from so many amazing people, including so many brilliant economists with so much knowledge to share.


Did you hear the one about the funny Economist ?

Did you hear the one about why the Irish Economics professor did not one, but two research studies before publishing his new theory? 

To be sure, to be sure!

Yup, I made that one up. Apologies, couldn’t resist! I’m not an Economist, nor a Comedian (to be sure!), nor am I at all sure how I know what I know (see the previous article on knowledge here).

However, I was at Kilkenomics recently. Having seen the brilliant David McWilliams speak a few years ago in the Cayman Islands, combining great knowledge with humour to land his opinions, I was irresistibly drawn to this festival for many reasons, a key one being to get a sense for how injecting humour would support learning and shifting of opinions among both the panellists and the audience.


How do we know what we know?

At the same time as I arrived in Kilkenny a few days ago for a weekend of Economics geekery at Kilkenomics, I was messaging on Twitter with a brilliant friend of mine to get their ideas on future themes for my writing on this site. They messaged :

write about epistemology?
You don’t write about things you can evidence in a repeatable study
But what you write has value and conveys knowledge
How do you know what you know?
And how do you know that you know it?

I’ve never focussed on Epistemology, nor even studied Philosophy in any depth, but the timing of the idea really switched on my radar as I listened and spoke to the many experts at Kilkenomics, both about what they thought and shared, and also for myself. How do I know what I know?


The Distributed Trust revolution

In our UNTHINKABLE era,  #Open Leadership is the way forward for leading through such radical disruption, as we are not living in an era of incremental change, it is and will be revolutionary.

How revolutionary?

From thought leader Rachel Botsman, the most beautifully concise expression of the Distributed Trust revolution to come:

“So an idea that intrigued me, and I’d like you to consider, is whether we can better understand major waves of disruption and change in individuals in society through the lens of trust. Well, it turns out that trust has only evolved in three significant chapters throughout the course of human history: local, institutional and what we’re now entering, distributed.

This is really, really big. For more, 13″ here :


Even thought leaders can’t keep up

speed of change thought leaders

In recent articles, I’ve focussed on DISTRIBUTED TRUST.

As a term, it is currently mostly applied at a technical level, and mostly to areas such as Blockchain and FinTech etc.

Distributed Trust is going to be so much bigger, see my recent post for some cogitations on what it could mean. Take a picture of your passport, it will be a historical piece well within our lifetimes.

The speed our world moves at means that we cannot possibly lead by staying up to date with content changes, even at the level of conceptual or even detailed level of understanding of areas like blockchain technology.

Such technologies create great leaps for us and catalyse further change. What the speed of change in our era means, though, is that they are coming closer and closer together and to lead, to stay ahead of what is current, to be thought leaders, means to stay in context.

Now, at this stage, I wish to recognise a thought leader around Distributed Trust and also to share something she shared that is a very direct reminder of how fast the world moves, even for thought leaders.


Love, trust and Distributed Trust

I am hugely excited about the future of our world.

Yes, we live in an UNTHINKABLE time and the speed of change renders the way we historically have learned and lead obsolete.

However, the answer is in moving to lead from our emotions and from a place of trust (contextually, from a place of LOVE), as opposed to leading from intellect, knowledge, control, scarcity, competition (ie from a place of FEAR). Put that way, I hope you are excited about the future too!


Distributed Trust in the UNTHINKABLE age

As regular readers know, I’m obsessed with the idea that #OpenLeadership is a radical approach that can make a massive difference for humanity and our planet in this UNTHINKABLE age that we live in.

Change is SO rapid that we cannot have the answers, yet we aren’t yet acting in recognition of this.

Recently I wrote a post “What a fool believes about Bitcoin“. Yes, it primarily focussed on the bitcoin bubble and psychology of the “greater fool theory, but I also said :

“I do actually believe that Blockchain in 2017 is at just such a moment as Netscape and the “WWW” was in 1994. Distributed trust is going to change our world, and at such a speed we cannot even imagine.

Let me run you through a line of thinking.


Why humans will always stay ahead of AI

“May you live in interesting times” 

A little research attributes this to Sir Austen Chamberlain in 1936, soon before his brother was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and had to do the best with the tools he had to politically address the challenge that was Adolf Hitler. Suffice to say that he had limited success, as his brother had somehow unconsciously predicted with what has since been embellished to be called “the Chinese curse”.

So, we definitely now live in interesting times. Things are changing faster than ever and we won’t be able to cope at all with current leadership models.


Forget knowledge, simply lead

Moore’s Law (simplified) states that computer processing power doubles every 18 months.

Gordon Moore was one of the founders of Intel and he posited this back in 1965. It is quite stunning that is has continued to hold for over 50 years. I was born in 1965 and had the great good fortune of having a father who spent his whole career in the computer industry, so I got to see and play with computers from a young age and experience first hand the “wow” of every change in computing power.

The smartphones we now use have WAY MORE computing power than computers did when the first smartphone came out around a decade ago.

Now, I now put it to you that as technology at such power has become so all-pervasive in our lives, Moore’s Law applies EVERYWHERE in our lives.


Zen and teaching your son to drive

When I turned 17, I excitedly got my “L” plates and attached them to my Dad’s car and asked him to take me for a driving lesson on the quite and straight country road close to our house in the Borders of Scotland.

As I tried to master applying some throttle to keep the revolutions up while gently engaging the clutch, I stalled the engine and the car jerked forward. Embarrassing but not unexpected.

“Try it again”, my father said gently.

Stalled it.


Stalled it


My father was patient, but even Job would not have had sufficient patience once this happened about 20 times or so. Zen he was not, in that moment.


Story time. The hat that caused chaos

chaos at carifta
photo : Cayman Compass

Chaos? A hat? Yes, a hat. Not even a hat, a latex swim cap.

Trouble, you say, what do you mean trouble?

Chaos! International incident! (well, nearly 🙂 )

Pull up a chair, I’m going to share a story in writing I’ve told many times. Perhaps it has evolved in the telling to a legend, I’ll leave that for you to say.


Captain Kel – Seize the Day

Captain Kel Thompson and Steven Coe
Cayman Airways pilots Kel Thompson and Steven Coe

In writing another article on “Leadership lessons from a Swim Referee” I was reminded of something a mentor and dear friend often said to me. Captain Kel Thompson described being a commercial pilot as “endless hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror“.

Recently I wrote about “Response-ability“, talking about whether we are able to respond in the moments of truth, or do we simply react?


Leadership lessons from a Swim Referee

swim referee leadership

This past weekend I had the privilege of being  “on deck” as a Referee as I spent a day at the Olympic Pool in London, an architectural marvel and a centrepiece of London 2012. My first time in the building and the first time as a swim Referee in the UK. Many thanks to the swimming community here for welcoming me.

After the day, with my focus on writing and sharing, I reflected on what leadership lessons can be gleaned.

I do feel that leadership is part innate, but it can be taught. A third layer is that we all have leadership within us, so with self-knowledge, we can be open to learning. So, let me talk through leadership in swimming as a Referee, the “CEO” of a swim meet, and let’s see what lessons pop out as I write.


Are you a Ford or a Ferrari?

I love to support and to work with a person who is a “Ferrari”. Read on, and if you recognise yourself here, I’d love to talk to you and support your journey. This can start with a call, a cup of coffee, and out of this I know we will connect you to something in and for you on your journey.

So, are you a Ford or a Ferrari? Both are cars with merits, but why would you use a Ferrari to do the work of a Ford? You could drive to work, drive around in traffic, run an errand, do anything routine in a Ferrari, but it is meant for, born for, yearns for more. A Ferrari can drive slowly, it can carry you from A to B, but is that realising the potential of such a magnificent car?

To me, the greatest Ferraris all have V12 engines, and there is nothing like the sound of a finely tuned V12 in full song with all 12 cylinders in harmony being used to the full.

In my experience, these are three main types of “Ferraris” in human form.