Sweathead, with Mark Pollard

A while back I was holed up in a hotel room in Lisbon after running a leadership workshop for Vodafone and I recorded an interview for Mark Pollard’s excellent Sweathead podcast. Mark’s an excellent interviewer and has a lovely disarming style to his questioning so even though I was pretty knackered, Mark ensured that we had a good chat around subjects as varied as being a consultant, my work, the whole agile-at-scale thing, how leadership is changing, books I recommend, my next book, strategy blogging, Post of the Month, Google Firestarters and more. You can listen to it here.

My thanks to Mark for a great chat.

Post of the Month – July 2019 – The Vote

Post of the Month – July 2019 – Nominations


It’s time to open nominations for Post of the Month, so if there is a good post that you’ve read over the past four weeks please do nominate it by sending the link to me direct or leaving it in th comments below. As usual I have a few starters below but do add to these and when I have enough I’ll put them up for the vote. So my strarting three are:

Lessons from Japanese athletes for creative brief writing by Phil Adams

Listening to your inner rhythm by Jim Carroll

Want to innovate like Amazon? Here’s their formula by Scott Brinker

Do add to these nominations with your own.

Adaptability Quotient

The BBC had a great list of the 101 people, ideas and things changing how we work today. Lots of interesting thoughts in there – Jason Kottle picked out a few of the most notable. One of my favourites though was the idea of an ‘Adaptability Quotient’ (or AQ) which relates to your ability and willingness to learn continuously and embrace change. As the article says:

‘The good news is that scientists agree AQ is not fixed – it can be developed. Theory U by Otto Scharmer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggests three elements can help provide a framework: keeping an open mind, so you see the world with fresh eyes and remain open to possibilities; keeping an open heart, so you can try to see any situation through another person’s eyes; and keeping an open will, letting go of identity and ego to sit with the discomfort of the unknown.’

In a time when we move jobs more often than ever before, and when success is increasingly defined by how well we adapt, soft skills like curiosity, open-mindedness, adaptability, collaboration have never been so important.

The Power of Positive Attention

I liked this (via Tom Peters, taken from Nine Lies About Work):

“Positive attention is THIRTY TIMES more powerful than negative attention in creating high performance on a team…So whilst we may occasionally have to help people get better at something that’s holding them back, if paying attention to what people can’t do is our default setting as team leaders, and if all our efforts are directed at giving and receiving negative feedback more often and more efficiently, then we’re leaving enormous potential on the table. People don’t need feedback. They need attention and, moreover, attention to what they do the best. And they become more engaged and therefore more productive when we give it to them…

…Therefore a focus on strengths is what creates growth. The best team leaders seem to know this. They reject the idea that the most important focus of their time is people’s shortcomings, realising instead that in the real world, each person’s strengths are in fact her areas of greatest opportunity for learning and growth and that consequently time and attention devoted to contributing to these strengths intelligently will yield exponential return now and in the future.”

It’s funny that since setting out on my own ten years ago now I think I’ve received more positive affirmation for my work than I ever did whilst working in corporate world. The power of positive attention makes a whole bunch of sense.

The Decline of Historical Perspective


I’ve been thinking a lot recently about whether we’re seeing a deterioration in the value that we place in learning from the past. This New Yorker piece on the decline of historical thinking in particular struck me. The article features a study done by Northeastern University professor Benjamin M. Schmidt that showed that in spite of more students than ever attending college in the US, History has been declining over the past decade more rapidly than any other major. It now accounts for between 1-2% of batchelor degrees which represents a drop of about a third since 2011. A quick Google shows that there is a similar pattern in the UK

More generally, and in an industry context, we seem to be increasingly captivated by the new and the novel and on speculation about the future. My hope is that this is not at the expense of the learning we get from historical contexts and examples, and also classic thinking and theory that should continue to underpin much of what we do. The optimist in me says not, but it does seem sometimes as if the industry is perhaps a little impatient about learning from the past when compared to the magpie-like pursuit of the shiny and new. 

The past is such a powerful teacher. Classic theory and practice in any industry should be the foundation on which we layer new context. But in doing that we shouldn’t diminish the value of that past bank of knowledge and understanding. Because as this quote (from Helen Lewis, via Amelia Torode) points out ‘studying history completely reframes how you see the present’:


I hope we don’t forget this.

Photo by Giammarco Boscaro on Unsplash

Post of the Month – June 2019 – The Vote

Thanks for the nominations. So our vote this month is between:

How to Piss Off a Creative by Fred Rodwell

Don’t Ask Forgiveness, Radiate Intent by Elizabeth Ayer

The Last Thing Your Business Needs is More Metrics by Alastair Thomson

Give me a (bridge) sign by Nick Parker

How much is clear language worth? by Andy Whitlock

Meaningful Measurement by Murray Calder

And you can vote below:

Post of the Month – June 2019 – Nominations


It’s time to open for Post of the Month nominations. Do you have a post that you’ve read over the past month that really resonated with you, or that you thought was a particularly good read? If so, then do nominate it by sharing the link with me direct or in the comments below. As always I have a short starting list below but please do add to these – my starters are:

How to Piss Off a Creative by Fred Rodwell

Don’t Ask Forgiveness, Radiate Intent by Elizabeth Ayer

The Last Thing Your Business Needs is More Metrics by Alastair Thomson

Please do add to these with your own nominations.