A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future

A Whole New Mind I can see it now – mathematicians, accountants, engineers and doctors all sitting around at lunch time in their new careers as petrol pump attendants and hamburger flippers while the artists, designers and outrageously dressed run the corporate world.

Well, perhaps that’s not quite what Daniel Pink was getting at with this book.  In fact the first part of the title does say what he’s getting at and the second part, well that’s the section of the title that makes you buy it.

The book itself is also in two parts – the current problematic situation entitled ‘The Conceptual Age’ and the solution called ‘The Six Senses’.

The current problematic situation…

… is down to three things: abundance, Asia & automation.

Abundance: in the western world we are short of very few things.  In fact for the most part we have an opulent abundance of ‘things’ whether it’s cars, computer mice, orange juice or toilet brushes – the range and choice of options is often staggering.  There is no doubt that we can do mass production.

And in a world of abundance, where you can get a thousand different chairs that all function perfectly well holding you off the floor, a great way to compete, is through design.  Imagine a designer toilet brush!  Oh yes, absolutely – why else would you pay £22 for a 10 pence cents of plastic?

Asia: in countries like India and China, there are millions of people with access to education and skills that match that of the west.  If you pair that with a lower cost of living you can see why outsourcing and off shoring to Asia is a growing trend.  If the skills exist and they are cheaper to obtain, then why not?  OK, I’ve simplified it somewhat but that’s the essence of the Asia part of the argument.

Automation: finally, computers are not sitting on their Loral's, or their chips.  They just keep getting faster and software gets more sophisticated – if your job could be done by a computer, watch out… you may have noticed that they’re happy to work 24 hours a day for very little pay… your job could be automated.

Daniel’s summary about whether your role is safe is in the form of three questions:

  1. Can someone overseas do it more cheaply?
  2. Can a computer do it faster?
  3. Are you offering something that satisfies the non-material desires of an abundant age?

Before tackling the solution consider this.

We’ve come from the the industrial age of factories and efficiency where the individuals were characterised by their physical strength & personal fortitude into the knowledge worker age.  Where we have achieved our current state through our proficiency in L-directed thinking – that is left brain directed thinking.  And now, we’re entering the conceptual age where the individual starts are creators and empathizers with a mastery of R-directed (right brain) thinking able recognise patterns and  create meaning for our fellow humans.

So, what are the aptitudes of this conceptual age?

The Solution…

… is down to six high concept (rather than low level detail), high touch (close to human) senses, where we all need proficiency:

  1. Design – not just function
  2. Story – not just logical argument
  3. Symphony – not just focus.  The ability to see the bigger picture and put disparate things together to form new solutions and products.
  4. Empathy – not just logic
  5. Play – not just seriousness
  6. Meaning – not just material accumulation

Each of these areas has it’s own chapter which includes a handy and extensive ‘how do I improve my ability’ section.  For example, for symphony one of Daniel’s suggestions is to learn to draw - and he recommends a book and course by Betty Edwards called “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” (I’ve already ordered my copy).  And under meaning one of the suggestions is to read Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” (which is an absolute must-read; I delayed reading it for a few years thinking it would be too morbid – the context is Frankl’s experience in the Auschwitz concentration camp – I wish I hadn’t delayed).

On one or two occasions I thought that Daniel had included too many examples (if I’d been reading the book, rather than listening to the audio I would probably have skipped a few pages) – but even if you don’t read all of the detail in every section, I have no hesitation in highly recommending it – particularly, if like me, you’ve trained yourself well in l-directed thinking!

Format: Book 248 pages, Audio 6hrs 15mins and DVD 55 mins
Author: Daniel H. Pink


Becoming a great blogger...

OK, that's a better headline.  One that at least hints at the significance of my interview with Steve.  I've no idea what I was thinking with 'Steve Clayton and online success'.

Actually, I do know.  I was kind-of excited to be publishing the interview.

I could have used:

  • Start a tribe the Clayton way...
  • Leading blogger spills the beans
  • Become a great blogger and lead a tribe
  • 2 blogs a day and you'll be away

Almost anything would have been better.  I'll try not to commit headline annihilation again :-)


Steve Clayton and online success


Steve works at Microsoft.  A company where a lot of people blog.  If you want to find out what’s happening there, a great way is to find bloggers from the team that’s working on the product or area of interest… that’s even true if you work there, like I do, too.

Not all blogs are equal.  Some are read by many thousands of people.  A few are used as regular sources of the latest information.  A few stand-out.  And one in particular was voted Computer Weekly’s ‘The best of the best’ of UK company blogs.  It’s Steve Clayton’s Geek in Disguise.

Steve started blogging in 2005 and having reviewed the number of posts, starting May 2006 he’s written an average of 76 pieces every month (or 2.5 per-day, 7 days a week)!

So, how does he do it, why does he do it and just why is he in disguise?  I thought I’d ask, and this is what I found out…

What made you start blogging?

4 things I think

  1. Frustrated journalist – I always wanted to be a journalist and now a finally have an outlet :-)
  2. Extend reach – when I was in our partner organisation, we have 7 people trying to reach 35k. This seemed the best way
  3. Change perceptions – I get frustrated at the misperceptions around Microsoft and foolishly thought I could change some via my blog
  4. Personal bookshelf – my blog is my outboard brain

What did you do that took you from zero to the best of the best awards?

Persistence, patience and sticking with my theme – which is not really to have a theme. For a while I thought I ought to remove some of the off the wall, random stuff I put on my blog but the feedback I got was that’s what people like – the mix of topics and the quirkiness. I also got lucky with making some great connections to people like Hugh MacLeod, David Brain, Scoble and others who bring credibility and traffic to your blog. I also made my blog part of my brand – it went on my business card, in every presentation I gave and became what i talked about a lot.

In May 2006 you seemed to change strategy – from an average of 12 posts per month to an average of 76 posts per month (with 120 in January 2007).  That’s 2.5 posts a day.  What made you change strategy?

I think it was probably around May 2006 that I read Naked Conversations and realised #3 up there – what i really wanted to do with my blog was change perceptions. Scoble proved it could be done and I wanted some of that action. I decided my blog would be my vehicle to share my passion for Microsoft. Things really took off with the Blue Monster in October 2006.

How much time do you spend writing each day/week?

That’s probably the question i get asked most about my blog and the answer is a really don’t know...sometimes 20 minutes, sometimes 2 hours. It depends on the topic, the amount of research for each post and whether I have time in between my day job. I spend more time reading blogs (and twitter) than writing them. Which may be equally worrying :-)

What is your process/approach to writing?

I create lots of drafts. If I see things on a blog that I want to write about, I hit the “blog this button” in Internet Explorer which you get when you install Windows Live Writer. That created me a draft post with a link to the original story I want to reference. Often I just save that off and will come back to it a few hours or even days later if the topic isn’t time sensitive. That means i often have a good backlog of stories I can post when news is lean or I don’t really have anything I want to write about. I take quite a bit of pride in writing a post as I always want to ensure I link correctly, that I have an eye catching image and if I can dream one up a catchy title. I think graphics are really important on a blog as many people read blogs in a feed reader so you only really have the title and image to catch their eye with in a sea of news. I also make a real point of referencing where I found the story if I’m referring to someone else as link love is part of what makes the blogosphere and the web go around. A real bug bear of mine is people who don’t reference others...it’s lazy and discourteous. I was caught out once doing this and will never do it again.

Do you consciously seek out areas of interest for your blog?

Not really...I just go with the flow of stuff I find, both online and in life. If it’s interesting to me I post about it. It may be of interest to others (I hope) but often it just gets it out of my brain and somewhere I can easily find later. I do have some consistent themes of course around Microsoft, technology, cloud computing, design, great quotes, clever adverts and so on. That keeps me busy enough.

What is the next big thing in social networking online?

Twitter. It’s already here and though I originally said it was nonsense I now genuinely think it’s going to be huge. Today’s use is just the tip of the iceberg as in a world where we value speed and trust our friends more often than any company, website or organisation, Twitter has it nailed.

[Mark: you’ll find Steve on Twitter at @stevecla]

What are your top 3 tips for bloggers?  (you’ve written ‘I write my own blog’ which includes your top 10, what are the top 3)

Ahhh, top 10 are above. Choose 3 you like  :-)....one additional tip. If you can, use Windows Live Writer. It’s a beautiful, elegant blog editor that makes writing blogs a pleasure. Definitely one of the best pieces of software Microsoft has written for a long time.

[Mark: yep, that’s what I’m using right now…]

How did you come up with the name :-)?

A friend coined it a few years back. I was telling her I was a bit of a geek but tried not to show it too much and she said “ahh, you’re a Geek in Digsuise”. I needed a name at the time and it was a good one I thought.

Thanks Steve!


Great Success Quotes #6

“It’s not about service - it’s about the experience”
Nicholas Bate

This quote is from Nicholas’ book ‘Instant MBA: Think, Perform and Earn Like a Top Business School Graduate’ which I’m about a 3rd the way through.  Nicholas is a master of distilling the essence of an idea down to something you can use, usually quickly.  At first pass when I read this I thought it was an obvious point, but I don’t think it is – customer service is just one element of the experience.

Nicholas has a series of related blog posts on the differentiators for the new world of work that’s worth a read.


Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us

TribesTribesSeth Godin’s latest book Tribes follows his successful formula of being short and like many good books, based around a set of stories.

The key points of the book, as indicated by the title, are tribes and leadership.  But, leadership delivered very differently from say Stephen Covey in The 8th Habit.  Seth’s perspective of leadership is the leader as a heretic – which fits with his Big Moo (be/represent something remarkable) approach.

A heretic here is someone with unconventional beliefs, someone who has an opinion that doesn’t confirm to the status quo.  If you add to that passion for their heretical view, you have the core makings of a leader.

The reason that passionate heretics should lead is that they are a force for change and their very heresy is a reason they will be listened to – or at least listened to by a key set of people who like their particular flavour of heresy.  And if the passionate heretic leads those people who want to listen, they become a tribe… and even a small tribe of say a thousand people can create change; and change is what makes the world go around.

In fact, Seth’s view is that stability is an illusion and that the ‘fad focused early adaptors’ are the people that buy and the people that talk.  The fad focused early adaptors inspired by the heretic become partisans – passionate tribe members supporting the shared purpose of the tribe.

So the two key elements of a tribe are a shared purpose and a way to communicate.

It’s important that the communication happens not only from the centre or leader to the tribe, but from tribe members to tribe members.  It’s this element that really differentiates this new style of marketing.  Even in the current digital marketing world with permission email marketing and pay-per-click, the centre is the source of the communication.  Whereas a tribe of partisans communicating with each other will create a much stronger bond and so momentum for the cause.

The ‘cause’? – what happened to ‘product’?  I think the point here is that if the passion comes first, passion for a new way, a new style of product, a new ‘thing’, the product sales will follow.  And one way to describe that, is as a cause or a movement.

This passion/cause/movement first approach is also what defines a great leader - along with authenticity, able to create a culture, inclusive, curious, committed, able to communicate their vision and connect their followers to each other.  Oh, and that inclusiveness is at the expense of those that are excluded.  Excluded because they don’t get it, or don’t revolve in the right circles or… whatever.  Include passionate partisans and exclude everyone else.

Seth clearly points out that being a leader isn’t the same as being a manager; far from it.  A good leader can come from anywhere in an organisation – in The 8th Habit Stephen Covey uses the term ‘trim-tabbing’ to describe leaders in a company who lead from outside the management chain (the trim-tab is a small ‘rudder’ on the end of the big rudder that turns an entire ship – also check out the Buckminster Fuller description on Trim-Tab).

A leader could be an individual with no connection to an existing organisation at all. Gandhi is commonly sited as a model for leadership.  He had no given authority, no business or firm to back him up.  Yet, his leadership lead to India’s independence.

There’s much more to TribesTribes.  I really enjoyed it and as usual with a Godin, it’s the snap that brings into focus a concept or in this case a trend that is happening right in front of you, but just outside of conscious awareness.

It’s also a call, as is apparent by the title, to would-be leaders, to start leading.

Format: BookBook 147 pages, Audio 3hrs 42 mins
Author: Seth Godin


Seth Godin - The London Session


Seth has a following.  At Amazon.com he is worthy of his own store... and I suspect this will be one of very many blog posts about Seth's visit to the UK and his London Session.

But that's OK.  Seth's following is proof of the concepts he writes about.  I guess you might guess that I'm somewhat of a Seth fan - after all, I paid money to go and spend three hours with him (and a few hundred other people) and I've read (listened to actually) six of his books (my view of the core topic in parenthesis):

  • Tribes (leadership)
  • Meatball Sundae (new marketing doesn’t mix well with old)
  • The Dip (it’s there to make success worthwhile)
  • The Big Moo (Seth + 33 others on remarkable ideas, beyond the purple cow to the big moo)
  • Unleashing the Idea Virus (get a free electronic copy) (it’s implementations of remarkable ideas that get attention)
  • All Marketers are Liars (the point of this one is precisely the opposite of the title, tell interesting authentic stories)

So what are his concepts?  As far as I can tell he invented the term 'permission marketing' as distinct from 'interruption marketing' - he wrote the book (Permission Marketing).  TV advertising is a simple example of interruption marketing - you're watching your favourite show and just at a critical point, it's interrupted with an advert break.  You didn't want the break, your show was interrupted.  Whereas with permission marketing you provide permission to receive communication from whoever asked - when you buy something from Amazon you expect to get email from Amazon promoting stuff similar to whatever your bought.

So permission is Seth's base concept for modern day marketing.  Building on that marketing that is 'anticipated, personal and relevant' is likely much more effective than anything that interrupts.  The ultimate test for your marketing in this mould is 'if a recipient didn't receive your communication would they complain?'  if they would, you've cracked it.

Hang on - is getting a blog post via an rss feed, or an email that you are looking forward to or some form of communication that passes this test marketing?  Sure it is, it's the very best kind of marketing.

And the test for the end product of the marketing - if your marketing causes the recipient to do something that they are pleased they did, then you're in a good place.  so, ethical marketing that people want to receive, that sells a product that people want to buy.  Actually when put in such a pithy sentence, it sounds obvious; it's a shame reality isn't always so simple - and that I guess is a key reason Seth still sells lots of books.

Finally, Seth talks about 'new marketing.'  Starting with Permission Marketing his approach has always been against the status quo of traditional marketing (actually, going against the status quo is a key topic of Tribes, I'll write about that shortly).  "In the middle of a revolution it's weird.  The rules are changing but most people don't realise."  In America there were 1000's of car companies building cars by hand at the time Henry Ford was changing the world through mass production - in that revolution there were two sets of rules - build one at a time or build using mass production.

Today, we are still in the transition between interruption marketing and new marketing - and Meatball Sundae tackles that topic head on.

Having read most of his books, I can't say I learned a great deal of new information - but it was a great way to spend three hours - one hour of Seth presenting and two hours of Q&A.  The audience weren't all marketeers either.  The lady I sat next was a dance teacher, she was a 'fan' too.  If you get the chance I'd recommend Seth Godin live.

Late addition: with thanks to John Welsh there’s blow-by-blow account of the session at These Digital Times.


The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness

The 8th HabitThe 8th HabitWhen terms coined by a writer or a company enter our every day language, you know they’ve had an impact.  The cover of my copy of The 7 Habits of Highly Successful PeopleThe 7 Habits of Highly Successful People say’s that it’s sold over 10 million copies (and it’s still ranked 9985 on Amazon’s best sellers list, despite being first published in 1989) so you might not be surprised that phrases like ‘sharpen the saw,’ and ‘think win / win’ were made popular from this Dr Stephen R. Covey’s classic.

So, what’s so important about the The 8th HabitThe 8th Habit that it has a book all to itself (and an extra 10 pages ignoring the appendices, and 38 pages more with)?  Dr Covey’s concise description is that The 7 Habits lead to great effectiveness; and in today’s world that’s not enough so the 8th HabitThe 8th Habit builds on the previous seven and leads to greatness.  Which is even move concise in the books title!

One unique element is that it’s accompanied by 15 videos.  You can watch these online or order a DVD and pay the postage (which is $35 for the UK and $7.95 for the USA at the time of writing).  Although the book still works without them, I thought the videos made an interesting compliment.

There are two parts to the book – Find Your Voice and Help Others to Find Thiers.  Which might be broadly summarised as learn to lead yourself - more focused on you as an individual (like the ‘private victory’ of The 7 Habits), and then lead others - more focused on business (the like ‘public victory’ of The 7 Habits).

Then there are four core themes that pervade both parts and I’ve tried to condense Dr. Covey description to give you the essence of if for self leadership:

  • Mind
    • Assume that the half life of your profession is two years – now prepare accordingly.  What is your vision of the future? 
  • Spirit
    • Assume you had a direct relationship with your maker – now live accordingly.  Use your conscience.
  • Body
    • Assume that you had had a heart attack, now treat your body accordingly.  Have discipline.
  • Heart
    • Assume that everything you say about another can be overheard – now speak accordingly.  Live with passion.

This really does only give you a flavour.  Like many good books it’s full of stories and fitting with Dr Covey’s data orientation there’s plenty of charts, tables and research.

There are parts of the book that I found a little difficult to keep my concentration, but overall it’s worth it.  If the super summary "Live, Love, Learn & Leave a Legacy" sounds good and you want to be a leader, this is one of the books you really should read.

Format: BookBook 382 pages, AudioAudio 14hrs 24 mins, Short video 48mins and WorkbookWorkbook
Author: Dr. Stephen R. Covey


Outliers: The Story of Success

outliers outliers

I've often felt somewhat disadvantaged. You see, I had a good upbringing in a loving family, with hard working parents. And, following in the footsteps of my older brother decided to go to University where I gained a great degree in computer science.

If you listen to enough talks and read enough books on success a theme quickly emerges – people that have great success did it in reaction to misfortune.  Terrible poverty, dysfunctional parents, illness, bankruptcy and so on feature in the stories of many.  And, let’s face it those rags to riches stories often make good listening.

Not having had any of those or any other major challenges I began to feel that I shouldn’t be succeeding and clearly could only go ‘so’ far encumbered by my privilege.

In Outliers – The Story of SuccessOutliers – The Story of Success , Malcolm Gladwell tells it differently.  Firstly an outlier in science is something that doesn’t fit the typical bell-curve.  In the context of successful people it’s those who achieve extreme success – create the most successful companies, make the most remarkable breakthrough, are awarded Nobel prizes, become the best sports stars and so on.  Outliers argues that these people all had advantages.

It’s true that some of the advantages may be seen as negative ones.  But, just as often they are advantages of timing, events, place, birth date, culture, socio/economic class coupled with the wherewithal and hard-work ethic to use the advantage.

If this doesn’t sound terribly profound, consider that being born in December would scupper your chances to become a world-class hockey player and being born in August could make it much harder to become a British football star – irrespective of your talent.

A couple of months ago I watched a TV documentary on the BBC called “The Making of Me” about Vanessa Mae the child prodigy violinist who entered the music scene with a bang at the age of 10.  It asked the question of her incredible talent was it ‘nature or nurture’.  One of the researchers had studied many musical superstars and found that each of them had 10,000 hours of practice before ‘making it’.

Gladwell sites 10,000 as the magic number of hours to create an expert.  Bill Gates and Bill Joy managed to get 10,000 hours of computer programming in before most people even knew what a computer was – fundamentally down to when and where they were born.

Both of Gladwell’s previous books Blink and Tipping Point are brilliant – combining research, great stories and something different from the common knowledge.  Outliers is even better.  It doesn’t provide a list of actions but it is brilliantly written, brings a new perspective and helps you see things just a little differently.

Format: Audio book, 7 hrs 17 mins Audio book, 7 hrs 17 mins and Book, 300 pages Book, 300 pages
Author: Malcolm Gladwell