Underselling, Knowingly

A half-hour delay in my flight from Heathrow recently offered me some unexpected time to browse the stores at Terminal 2. I had hoped that some Christmas gift ideas would reveal themselves to me. Somewhat selfishly, however, I ended up looking for something for myself in the men’s clothing department of John Lewis’s. I lifted a printed shirt from the rail and searched the underside for the garment label. A store assistant, recognising that I need good light to see anything these days, gestured for me to move towards him where the light was better. Continue reading

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Six Degrees of Separation

six-degrees-of-separationA friend of mine contacted me to share news of what he considered to be a remarkable coincidence. In an e-mail (liberally dotted with exclamation marks) he informed me that his wife goes to church with the sister of the UBS rogue trader, Kweku Adoboli. Crikey.

He was flabbergasted to discover that he was linked to the until recently jailed trader by a chain involving just three links. It is quite surprising but, in reality, not that improbable. In fact, as Microsoft uncovered when it investigated the flow of some 30 billion e-mail messages, everyone on the planet is probably linked to everyone else by just six steps.[1] Indeed, I have just discovered that I am just four introductions away from the fraudster myself.

Although we are all rather closely connected to the famous and the infamous, we are usually unaware these connections exist. Even when we know they are there, we still do not know which of our friends, relatives or co-workers is the first crucial link. The person on your left could be signposted Adele; the one on yourright, Donald Trump.

[1] To be exact, 6.8 steps.

Reputations Lost

Hardly a week goes by without some sorry tale of a lost reputation. If it isn’t a politician accused of ruthless betrayal, or a bank’s name sullied by the fraudulent activities of its traders, it is the country itself that suffers the ignominy of being stripped of its triple-A sovereign debt rating. Reputations are clearly things that people, firms and nations can have, and lose. But what are they? Where do they come from? What are they worth? And what does one do to repair a tarnished one?…

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Impossible Decisions Are The Easiest

mindThe difficult we do immediately. The impossible takes a little longer.”

This cheeky slogan, on postcards, mugs and screensavers, provides as much encouragement and motivation to modern office workers today as it did to the US Army Corps of Engineers during the Second World War. Whoever coined it, though, was certainly not talking about human decision-making, as the opposite might well be the case: tough decisions take a while, but impossible ones are easier.

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The Prodigal Son – The Missing Verses

shutterstock_180038786In a recent ‘behavioural’ review of the biblical tale, the Prodigal Son, I was finally able assuage my usual annoyance with the counter-intuitive reaction of the title character’s father to the boy’s return. I understood the wisdom of the father’s action for his own personal well-being, but the parable still irritated a little. This is because, as a father, I struggled to imagine myself being able suppress the urge to scold the child for having squandered half of the family wealth. The expression “I told you so” would probably have rolled more easily off the tongue than “kill the fattened calf for a feast.” It was only after reviewing the episode for a second time that I realised my hasty conclusion was mostly due to the way the story was told.
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The New Prodigal Son

bentley-1273361_1920Over Christmas I became reacquainted with the parable of the Prodigal Son. It is a frequently told story from the New Testament, yet it so often provokes grumbles amongst its audience. And this muffled disapproval always concerns the father’s behaviour. Although everyone can understand the actions of the selfish but ultimately repentant title character, and one can also sympathise with his steadfast but ultimately resentful brother, the father’s response to the return of his lost-but-now-found son strikes many as disproportionate. ..Read more on TCAM’s website

A Pleasure Shared is a Pleasure Halved

“My book got a great review today,” my colleague announced proudly.
“Aren’t you supposed to say ‘our’ book,” I interjected, “there were two of you who wrote it after all?”
“Of course, I meant ‘our’ book,” he replied in voice that was fully one octave lower.

There is an old saying that goes: a pleasure shared is a pleasure doubled. Whoever came up with that was certainly not thinking about the co-authors of a book because when it comes to reviews, it seems that great review shared is a great review halved. Continue reading

The Secret to Great Teamwork

TLost in forest.he first task given to the attendees of a recent team-building seminar was to go out into the nearby woods on a treasure hunt. I heard about it from one of the disgruntled ‘treasure hunters’. Suffice it to say he was not best pleased by the request to search through damp undergrowth on a frosty January morning. Nor was it clear to him how this would improve the performance of his team of auditors and analysts.

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Seasoned Decision-Making

Wrinkled and fresh apple isolatedIs an octogenarian capable of managing a multi-billion-dollar fortune? This is a question a French court is now trying to settle in the case of Liliane Bettencourt, the L’Oreal heiress and France’s wealthiest woman. At least ten people are currently being accused of having taken advantage of the cosmetics billionaire. The legal drama will be closely watched by a French public, who doubtless believe that one must be dotty to give 400 million euros’ worth of gifts to a photographer. It is intuitive to believe that elderly people are less able to make good money-related decisions. But is this really true? Continue reading