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Insights on Beer, Vinegar and Customer Experience

beerI have come to believe that we are all spinning our wheels in our efforts to change until we learn to understand and embrace our irrationality.  I watched anotherDan Ariely talk this weekend and he shared an analogy that really helps illustrate why we are so irrational about understanding our irrationality.  Humans by nature are irrational beings, so how can we become rational about our irrationality?  He speaks about a study where they provide two types of beer and ask the participants for their preference.   One group is told they are tasting one beer with vinegar added and another beer without; in this case the participants all prefer the one without.  Then they offer the same two beers to a second group only this time they don’t share that one has vinegar in it; and in this case the participants prefer the one with vinegar.  Turns out that vinegar enhances the taste of beer but our preconceived notions of what vinegar would do to beer trump how we experience it.  In other words, our preconceptions shape our experiences and trump reality.  Which highlights that we don’t even have a clue when we are being irrational.

So how can companies design products and services that account for what we are unaware of?  And how can we advocate change when we are neurologically wired by our preconceptions that inhibit us from embracing what we really would otherwise prefer.

I think it is fair to say that most companies are finally focusing on Customer Experience as a key imperative.  But they are doing this with little to no regard for how we human beings actually experience products and services.  These days data and rational strategies are typically the drivers behind most Customer Experience initiatives, with high rewards.  But with this approach we are only scratching the surface of the opportunity to maximize the value and returns of our efforts.  If we layer in mechanisms to interrupt or disguise our preconceptions that block us from a positive experience than I believe we can exponentially impact outcomes both for our customers and financial stakeholders.

Ariely gives a powerful example of this in context of social conflict.  An example I see time and again in business is when companies deliver a new message, or create a new product or service that they are certain is of great value for their customer.  Yet it gets received with reluctance, caution or even rejection.  Typically the response to this is to either push harder, re-engineer, or to abandon the change altogether.  When really what is needed is to better understand the preconceived beliefs that are in our way.  To complicate this challenge further, our own personal preconceived beliefs about what our customers needs are may be in our way too.  Bottom line is that we need to invest in a sophisticated understanding of human behaviour.  This awareness needs to begin academically, and once we begin to understand the nuances of it we will see, hear, and experience everything differently.  Only then can we really begin to expand on the rewards of designing meaningful experiences for our customers.

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The 10 Most Important Work Skills in 2020

Last week I was sent a link to an interesting infographic on the ten most important work skills in 2020. It is a graphic respresentation of research done by the University of Phoenix and the Institute for the Future (see their PDF report here). What I like about this is that the team that put it together has looked at the significant drivers of change in society and then worked out what work skills will be required to address these.

It’s a thought provoking read for parents, educators and businesses alike. Whilst none of the skills listed are really new, the emphasis is on their growing importance. The timeline is only 6 years away anyway, and so the focus was not on new skills but on what is becoming vital for success right now in our workplaces. You can find the infographic here, and a summary of their points below.

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Three ways to deal with failure, by Seth Godin

April 10, 2014 Graeme Codrington Change, Innovation, Leadership, Personal Development No Comments
Three ways to deal with failure, by Seth Godin

Seth Godin is one of my favourite authors and business thinkers. I find his daily blog inspirational and insightful.

Here’s one from a while ago that has really stuck with me. I think Seth is spot on with this insight, and it could really help you to deal with failure and think about your corporate culture.

Accuracy, resilience and denial

… three ways to deal with the future.

Accuracy is the most rewarding way to deal with what will happen tomorrow–if you predict correctly. Accuracy rewards those that put all their bets on one possible outcome. The thing is, accuracy requires either a significant investment of time and money, or inside information (or luck, but that’s a different game entirely). Without a reason to believe that you’ve got better information than everyone else, it’s hard to see how you can be confident that this is a smart bet.

Resilience is the best strategy for those realistic enough to admit that they can’t predict the future with more accuracy than others. Resilience isn’t a bet on one outcome, instead, it’s an investment across a range of possible outcomes, a way to ensure that regardless of what actually occurs (within the range), you’ll do fine.

And denial, of course, is the strategy of assuming that the future will be just like today.

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The Year of the Employee: Forbes’ predictions for 2014 talent, leadership and HR tech

The Year of the Employee: Forbes’ predictions for 2014 talent, leadership and HR tech

Ian Turner, one of Duke CE’s top MD’s and leadership development programme experts gets credit for finding this interesting article and sending it on to me. There are some fascinating thoughts in Deloittes’ predictions for 2014, published in Forbes, as they suggest that this will be an important year for talent, leadership and HR.

Read the full article here.

As they point out, based on a Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends survey they’re just completing, “the top two people issues facing organizations in 2014 are leadership and retention. These are the problems we face in a dynamic, growing global economy…. This year, for the first time in more than five years, employees are in charge. Companies have reduced costs, restructured, rationalized spending, and pushed people to work harder than ever. More than 60% of organizations tell us one of their top is dealing with “the overwhelmed employee. This year the power will shift: high-performing employees will start to exert control.”

Their top ten predictions are:

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Booz & Co’s Strategy+Business Best Business Blogs of 2013

Booz & Co’s Strategy+Business Best Business Blogs of 2013

The editor of Booz & Co’s Strategic+Business magazine and blog site selected his favourite business blogs of 2013. I like this list a lot – there’s some really valuable articles here. It’s an eclectic list, but well worth taking some time to read through and share with your team:

Susan Cramm: Retaining Top Talent: Yes, It Really Is All about Them
If you want to retain your high-potential employees, you have to get involved in helping them plan their careers.

Ken Favaro: Is Strategy Fixed or Variable?
Successful strategists understand that their role is to manage a process fraught with contradictions.

Sally Helgesen: The Three Habits of Highly Effective Demotivators
Surefire tips for stamping out morale and making sure you get the least out of your employees.

Nick Hodson and Thom Blischok: What if Clay Christensen Is Right about the Grocery Business (and Amazon Is Wrong)?
The disruptive influences of e-commerce may finally be setting their sights on the grocery industry.

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Five New Year’s Resolutions Every Leader Should Make (HBR Blog)

As we head into a new year, an article on the Harvard Business Review blog network caught my eye. It went beyond those pithy list type emails and Facebook status updates you get at this time of year, with some real insight backed by research. The focus is on five key actions leaders can take to make a real difference in their organisations, especially with regards to talent development.

We all know how vital talent development is: finding, attracting, nurturing, developing and retaining talent are absolutely key to success in the world of work right now. More than ever before. The author of this article in HBR, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, correctly argues though that the emphasis at the moment should be on DIVERSE TALENT. A good talent pool is not enough: a good, diverse talent pool is essential. This is especially true for multinational companies. You can read her full article with all the additional research included (it’s worth well it!) at the HBR blog site here, or a summary of her five leadership actions below:

1. Be more inclusive. What does it take to consistently drive growth and innovation? The answer, according to CTI’s latest research, is a diverse workforce managed by leaders who cherish difference, embrace disruption, and foster a speak-up culture. Leaders have long recognized that an inherently diverse workforce “matches the market” and confers a competitive edge by recognizing the unmet needs of consumers and clients like themselves. But ideas from outliers too often are ignored or squelched because their originators don’t resemble the paradigms of corporate power — Caucasian, male, heterosexual, and from a similar educational and socioeconomic background. Leaders who promote a culture of diverse talent — whether in their team or throughout their organization — where everyone feels free to volunteer opinions or propose solutions that contradict convention unlock the full spectrum of innovative capacity.

2. Create pathways for sponsorship. What can help talented women, gays, and people of color spread their wings and succeed? The answer is sponsorship — a strategic workplace partnership between those with power and those with potential. Unlike mentors, who act as sympathetic sounding boards, sponsors are people in positions of power who work on their protégé’s behalf to clear obstacles, foster connections, assign higher-profile work to ease the move up the ranks, and provide aircover and support in case of stumbles. Sponsors have a significant impact on the career traction of their female and multicultural protégés: 68% of women with sponsors say they are satisfied with their rate of advancement, compared with 57% of those without sponsors; 53% of sponsored African-Americans and 55% of Asians are satisfied with their career progress, compared with, respectively, 35% and 30%. Those numbers add up to employees who are more committed, more engaged, and more likely to attract similar talent.

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Things People Can Still Do Better Than Computers

Things People Can Still Do Better Than Computers

Over the last hundred years, we’ve learnt the hard way that modern technologies both improve our world and destroy our jobs. Today it is computers (in the form of smart devices), the internet and social media that are both revolutionising how we live and transforming (and destroying) jobs at an alarming rate (see last week’s blog entry for more detail on this).

In 1900, close to half of the world’s population was formally employed in agriculture. That number has dropped to about 2% over the past century (excluding subsistence farmers), driven by massive advances in technology and agricultural practice. Similar trends are evident in manufacturing, as robots replaced humans in the world’s factories. And now it seems it is the turn of the office worker and the professional (see our previous blog entry on this topic).

Although it might take another decade or more, we are fully convinced that the signs, trends and research all point to one thing: computers are about to become more intelligent than we are, and will take any jobs that they can. We don’t expect a Matrix or Terminator style ‘uprising’ of sentient machines, but just market driven decisions that make it easy for companies to use computers instead of people whenever possible. We really do believe that this will affect not just lower level workers who do repetitive work, but also high level professionals who think their jobs are a lot more than information processing, but actually are not. This includes lawyers, engineers, doctors, accountants and more.

There are many implications to these thoughts for our businesses and organisations. But the most personal (and most therefore probably most important) implications are for us as individuals. If we take this seriously we must work out what we can do as people that computers can’t (and won’t) be able to do in the future. Therein lies job security and the careers our children should choose for their futures.

Fast Company recently ran an article that suggested four such things. I like their suggestions (although don’t think they go far enough with their examples, so have expanded them below), and I have a few of my own. I wonder what you would add to this list (please do so in the comments section below):

  • Unstructured problem-solving: solving for problems in which the rules do not currently exist. Examples: a doctor diagnosing an as-yet unclassified disease, a lawyer writing a persuasive argument that sets new legal precedent, a designer creating a new web application.
  • Acquiring and processing new information, deciding what is relevant in a flood of undefined phenomena. Examples: a scientist discovering the properties of a new medicine, an underwater explorer, or a journalist reporting on a story.
  • Non-routine physical work. Performing complex tasks in 3-D space, from cleaning to driving to cooking to giving manicures, which is thought of as relatively low-skilled work for humans, but actually requires a combination of skill #1 and skill #2 that is still very difficult for computers to master. (Think of the complexity of walking across a busy train station or shopping mall without bumping into other people – computers/robots cannot do this).
  • Being human: Expressing empathy, love, making people feel good, taking care of others, being artistic and creative for the sake of creativity, expressing emotions and vulnerability in a relatable way, making people laugh. This might even include self-awareness, personality and consciousness (three key things that science really battles to understand). The human touch is indispensable for most jobs, and in some cases, it is the entire job. In this one, humans win.
  • Creativity. Coming up with novel ideas and new insights. Computers can be taught the mechanics of some of what we do in this space, but true creativity seems beyond their reach.
  • Common sense. There are many definitions of common sense. For me, it mainly means our willingness to ‘break the rules’ or to put aside the strict and rigid application of rules, systems or logic, and go with some form of gut instinct. In reality what this normally means is that we select one set of principles to trump another, and go with what legal courts call the ‘reasonable person’.

What would you add to this list?

And, more importantly, how can you add more of these things to how you currently do your job – that way, you’ll be indispensable when the computers come for you.

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Video: Technology replacing professionals in 10 years

If you had told a farmer a century ago that he would not need labourers, and would be able to harvest and manage his farm using machines he would have laughed at you. If you had told factory bosses the same thing about sixty years ago, they would have been equally dismissive. And yet, we’ve gone from 40% of the workforce being formally employed in agriculture in 1900 to less than 2% today, with over 400% increase in output during that time.

So, we should not be surprised that people have been predicting the demise of white colour workers, middle management and service jobs for many years. It was probably Tom Peters who made the most high profile predictions around the turn of the millennium, when he suggested 25% of all office workers would lose their jobs by 2015. As with most future predictions, his timing was somewhat out, but the content is likely to be spot on. Jobs and careers are being disrupted as never before – see what my colleague, Dean had to say on this topic just last week.

And don’t think this will affect just the low level office worker. No, it’s likely to affect professionals just as much. It’s already happening. The best example I can think of is on the trading floor of investment banks. Just two years ago, the traders who handled huge daily trades (especially in currencies) were some of the highest paid people in the business world. Now they’ve been replaced by computers. Just like that.

A few months ago, we read reports of a legal firm in the USA offering a web based service where you can type in the details of your legal complaint and the system automatically finds the legal precedents that will determine whether you will win or lose your case. All without a human lawyer involved. We’re sure that other professionals will face a similar fate – if they’re generalists.

In this video, Graeme Codrington talks about how even your family doctor will be replaced by a machine by 2020. Unless he or she does things that computers can’t do. But I’ll talk about that more later this week.


This video of Graeme Codrington was recorded by our good friends at Your Business Channel as part of their ongoing work to capture the best business insights in video format. See more video at our TomorrowToday TV channel.

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Leadership Self-Awareness

I have yet to meet a leader that can effectively solve problems or conflict by way of assertion. In fact, assertion as a means to resolution is highly toxic to your organizational culture.  Assertion is like holding a beach ball under water, holding it steady is consuming and the slightest shift will cause you to lose control of the ball.  Yet time and again leaders default to assertion or bully tactics to try to attain control of problems or conflict, at best this provides a temporary false sense of control.

When leaders engage others by way of assertion it is a clear indicator that they are lacking in self-awareness and perspective-taking; the ability to see the world through someone else’s eyes.  Self-awareness requires an openness to introspect upon how your biases, beliefs and values affect what you say and do and ultimately how you affect those around you.  Few people take notice of how their own biases manifest irrational behavior and even when we do pay attention, it is challenging to change our deep-rooted habits.

Problems and conflict are a part of life and your level of self-awareness and perspective-taking shapes your response to them.  As you change your level of consciousness your situation changes.  In fact the most powerful method of resolution is to elevate your level of self-awareness and perspective-taking.

We can view self-awareness through three lenses:

Literal awareness: is when problems or conflict are repetitive in nature, they feel frustrating and draining and your perception is that others are the problem and that you are right.

Symbolic awareness: is when problems or conflict are viewed metaphorically, you recognize the patterns, biases and perceptions that are at the root of the problem.

Creative awareness: is when problems or conflict become opportunities for your creativity to shine, your symbolic awareness has enabled you to discover resourceful ways to find resolution and learn.

When someone pushes your buttons, you are in literal awareness and the key to disabling your buttons is to choose a more symbolic perspective.

Next time you feel the urge to assert yourself to resolve a problem or conflict take a step back and gage your level of self-awareness and then consider the perspective of others before you respond.  The same goes when you feel your buttons being pushed, this is not easy, in fact it is very humbling at first but you will quickly discover that this is the most effective and sustainable path to resolution.

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The Best Way to Develop Leaders Yet!

The Best Way to Develop Leaders Yet!

“I have done all the tests,” he said to me, “and the Enneagram is by far the best I have ever done. It really has made a difference in my life. Would you please come and do it for my team”.  So came the request that sees me once again presenting an Enneagram workshop- something I have done countless times in many countries. Every time that I get to present the Enneagram leaves me amazed yet again at how powerfully it resonates with those experiencing it for the first time and the impact it makes.

Today there is a growing understanding of the importance of leading ‘out of who you are’  – an understanding that leadership has more to do with ‘character’ than merely being a ‘skill-set’. There is a growing appreciation for the role that emotional intelligence plays in the leadership mix and it is in such circumstances that the Enneagram offers the ‘best’ solution.  As you start to understand leadership in this light, so the work leaders need to do in order to be ‘fit’ changes. If the world has changed, leadership needs to change. The world has changed! This is one reason why leadership development and leadership education have to shift.  What has gone before is inadequate for the demands placed on leadership into the future. This is the reason that one of the finest business schools globally has invited us to share with them how best to incorporate the Enneagram into their executive leadership education curriculum. It is work we anticipate with relish as the uptake on incorporating the Enneagram will be profound.

The Enneagram is based on ancient wisdom that enables us to understand our personal compulsions that drive our behaviour. In effect the Enneagram invites deep personal exploration, a look ‘beneath the waves’ and therein sits the tremendous transformative power of this tool or framework. If we are to change there has to be an appreciation for what underpins the surface behaviour and this is where the Enneagram offers insights like no other self-awareness tool.  So many of the more familiar and popular tools used in this regard fail when taken across cultural and geographic borders. They hold up well in the West but fail dismally in the East. The Enneagram transcends such borders – something I know from personal experience having worked with the Enneagram with over 30 cultures spanning Asia, Africa, the Americas, Western Europe and Eastern Europe.

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Primary Blog contributors

The main contributors to this blog are:

Dr Graeme Codrington, co-founder of TomorrowToday, author, speaker and expert on the changing world of work
Dean van Leeuwen, co-founder and CEO of TomorrowToday UK & Europe, speaker, consultant and Chief Intellectual Adventurer
Keith Coats, co-founder of TomorrowToday South Africa, leadership development guru, speaker and author
Professor Nick Barker, director of the Asia Pacific Leadership Program at the East-West Center in Hawaii, leadership development expert
Markus Kramer, marketing director for Aston Martin and brand building expert
Keith Holdt, Visionary Enabler of business growth and change, currently works for LDC as an investment executive.
Dil Sidhu, Chief External Officer, Manchester Business School; Executive education specialist.
Dawna MacLean, expert on fostering meaningful change and creating authentic experiences through transparent and trusted partnerships.

Click here for a full list of contributors

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