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‘No, not that one!’ my four-year-old shouts from his bed when I’m getting his clothes out for the day.


On the inside I’m about to explode. On the outside I’m showing my best impression of understanding-mummy-who-isn’t-getting-desperate and ask him, calmly:

“Okay, sweetie, not the red jumper, not the blue one and no t-shirt either… you need to wear something so what would you like?”

I will never forget my surprise when I tried asking him for the first time and it actually worked. I had already given up hope for that day.

“First I want to eat. Then I want to wear my Cars t-shirt,’ he answered. Yes! He’s happy, I’m happy.


Hitting a brick wall

This is actually quite similar to many situations that happen in the workplace. Imagine the scene: You’ve produced a thorough plan to ensure your department can make the desired steps to improve efficiency and get rid of a few bureaucratic procedures. You have asked for input beforehand from a number of employees. Next, you present your plan in a meeting and what happens? All you get are moans and criticism: ‘That’ll never work’ is basically the message. It’s the same story every time and the same people who get in the way of achieving change.


One of the biggest misunderstandings here is that we feel like the resistance is something inherent in others. It’s your employees or your colleagues that are resisting your plans.

  • They don’t react in the way you would like them to.
  • They are being tricky.
  • They put up barriers against innovation.
  • They’re clearly resisting, right? While you want to get ahead so badly.




But what is happening to you while all this is going on? Aren’t you resisting their reactions as much as they’re resisting your plans?


Resistance can be a two-way street

You can probably explain perfectly well why it annoys you: you want to move on, make things better. They will benefit from it in the end, their jobs might even be at stake if you don’t make this change…

The reasons for resistance can always be brought back to a fear of losing something or a strong desire to reach something new. As for your own resistance, you can often define it quite easily. It makes perfect sense.

The funny thing is, the same is true for their resistance. Like you, they have their fears and desires. They just aren’t as obvious to see, because all you see is their defence mechanisms: putting their foot down, being tricky, trying to stall things.


Ask the right questions

If you want them to come onboard, you will have to find out what these ‘tricky people’ want or need.

 Behind their ‘We’ve tried this a hundred times before’ you might find they fear becoming invested and then being disappointed (again). Or they want to try out a completely new approach, because they want to develop themselves.

Knowing these fears or desires creates an opening to incorporate them in your discussions about the new plans. They may contain some valuable information to help transform your plans into reality. Bringing these fears or desires to the surface, means you can turn their resistance into constructive contributions.

It comes down to the following five steps:


1. First of all, repeat what they say, using their literal words

As in the earlier example, you feedback: ‘Okay, you say this’ll never work…’

It’s the simplest way to show that you’ve heard them and taken them seriously. You acknowledge what they’ve said, which puts people more at ease. They no longer feel the need to repeat their point of view.


2. Then turn the focus round and ask about what they (do) want

‘And what would you like to have happen?’

You’re inviting them to think along with you, to give you a clue of what’s behind their resistance to your plans. It’s more useful to take on board ‘testing the plan first’ than ‘you don’t get us’. You may need to help shift their focus more than once to get to a desired outcome instead of a problem. Hold on, it pays off in the end.


3. Repeat their answer, literally again

Again, acknowledge what’s being said. And moreover: confirm it to help them take in what they’ve just said. Resist the urge to add in any of your own words, since it is clearly a sensitive matter and you never know what might trigger a more defensive reaction instead of cooperation.


4a. If what they say simply isn’t possible, say that and go back to step 2

If need be, you can explain why this isn’t possible for you/the organisation. For example: ‘Keeping this the way it is isn’t going to work; we have set out a growth strategy and we are dedicated to making it happen. So, knowing that, what would you like to have happen then?’  


4b. If what they say is possible, explain how you will incorporate their contribution

In this way, you start negotiating how your desires can come together. You suggest what you think you can do with their input and give them a chance to react to this as well.


5. Check if you’re on the same page

It’s so tempting to stop here! Often this step gets overlooked but it makes the difference between ‘asking for input’ (and doing your own thing with it, a Change 2.0 approach) and ‘creating a desired outcome together’ (a Change 3.0 approach).

Even asking: ‘Is that okay for you or is there anything else?’ can be enough to explicitly check for real commitment.

If it turns out not to have been enough, start over.


Check yourself

Like with my four-year-old, you will have to manage your own state and emotions to be able to do this. Every time you get a ‘tricky’ reaction, you are being pulled back into your own resistance, which you will either have to set aside for the time-being or deal with it first. You may need to ask yourself what you would like to have happen, knowing that others may not just go along with your plans.

The good news is, following these simple steps does work nine times out of ten. And, as a bonus, you ‘train’ people to take ownership of what they do want, as much as what they don’t want. If you keep putting the focus on what they do want when things aren’t going the way they’d like, you’ll see that they will start doing this unprompted.

Complaining doesn’t come free anymore. You convey the message: ‘We will take you seriously but it requires you to go beyond telling us what doesn’t work as well’. As long as you’re willing to go along with them within your boundaries… like letting them have their breakfast first.



About the authors

Wendy & MaaikeWendy Nieuwland and Maaike Nooitgedagt are the authors of the best-selling Dutch business book, Change 3.0, which has been translated and updated for the UK business audience. Based on 7 Essential Principles, Change 3.0 demonstrates how leaders and managers can create and sustain lasting change within their organisation



“The first job of any leader is to inspire trust.” – Stephen R. Covey


Scan the headlines and in minutes we can form the opinion that trust in leaders is in short supply. What about you? Do people trust you? You’re only truly a leader when other people want to follow you. Trust is essential to earning the respect and commitment of followers. Take a look at the 10 ways to earn trust below, and as you do so you may want to assess yourself. Where are you already earning trust, and where may you have some work to do?


1. Be credible

Do people actually believe what you say? Do you follow words with actions? The key to being credible is to honour your commitments: do what you say you will. Warning: you may need to take a reality check before promising your new team that you will the leader who – finally – turns things around. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.


2. Be purposeful

Leaders earn trust by defining and reminding the team of their purpose – their ‘why’. The most trusted leaders articulate purpose in ways that followers can understand, identify with and commit to act upon.


3. Be clear about expectations

Communicate – in writing, when speaking – with complete clarity and simplicity. Set out expectations. Lack of clarity can be interpreted as being vague in order to deceive, or fudging an issue because you just don’t know the answers and won’t admit it. Obfuscation will cause confusion and erode trust.


4. Be consultative

Trusted leaders seek the input of team members on major developments and subsequent decisions. They give fair hearing and listen well to what their team members say and give credit where it’s due when members’ contributions are adopted.


5. Be available

OK, maybe not round the clock, nor to molly coddle people; but at least be clear on when you are available and not. People can soon lose faith in a leader who’s nowhere to be seen, or constantly closeted in mysterious meetings. One of my best bosses, respected by clients and employees alike, was known for ‘being available’. He had a habit of saying, “I’ve got five minutes now / in an hour / this afternoon” – and he meant it. In return for his time, we soon learned that clarity and brevity were required.


6. Be accountable

Leaders who walk their talk don’t just hold team members accountable for their actions – they hold themselves accountable too.


7. Be realistic

Positivity is generally a good thing in a leader – being around a pessimist can spread fear. But don’t dress it up if things are bad; that’s a shortcut to losing trust. Be honest about the situation and realistic about what can be achieved.


8. Be considerate

Showing consideration for people’s opinions and feelings, accepting that they may be very different to your own, will help earn followers’ trust. Whether someone’s simply having a tough time and needs compassionate leave or counselling, or they’re looking to boost their skills, you’ll build trust when people know they can count on your support.


9. Be consistent

Followers won’t trust an inconsistent leader. If you agree to a brave suggestion from one team member on Monday and immediately reject another from them on Thursday, you’ll earn a reputation as a leader who is unpredictable and changes with the wind. In the same vein, having favourites is a sure-fire way to lose the trust of those you lead. If you want to play Machiavelli and manipulate people you may recruit one or two ‘lieutenants’ who will follow you (to a point), but you will never earn the trust of your whole team, or indeed the wider organisation.


10. Be trusting of others

Once you’ve communicated the team’s purpose, clarified expectations and accountability, trust people to do their best. If you’ve been clear with others, you’re not trusting blindly, but wisely. Set the tone by trusting others and in so doing, you’ll earn their trust.


“A man who trusts nobody is apt to be the kind of man nobody trusts.” – Harold Macmillan


About the author

Dawn SillettDawn Sillett has been designing and delivering training workshops and executive coaching for over 15 years.


Author of: The Feedback Book

THE FEEDBACK BOOKMaintaining performance today is no longer simply about having an annual appraisal and telling employees “you must try harder”. Research demonstrates that regular discussions about performance and providing feedback to the people you manage is a more effective way to motivate them and keep them on track.Distilled into this single, handy-sized volume are 50 tips, advice and techniques to help any manager become quickly skilled at regularly discussing performance, setting goals and objectives and providing the necessary feedback to ensure individuals and teams thrive in the company. Structured into five key parts, each of the 50 concise chapters also contains a practical exercise to help the reader understand and implement the concepts and ideas of this book.

The advice to business is loud and clear – Plan wisely for independent talent to get the best value and returns.


This comes from the largest global survey of its kind to date conducted by Talmix and IR Connect.

The survey of 40,000 consultants found that 60% say use of independent talent increased in the last 12 months. This trend is expected to continue and over half expect more businesses to use online staffing platforms to access this talent, taking over from using personal networks.

Of the consultants surveyed, 72% believe that companies would benefit from help and advice in budgeting for the independent workforce. Respondents identified the biggest impact on project budgets is the urgency of a project and issues relating to overrunning projects, outweighing strategic and complex projects. There is some concern among the consultant community that they are seen only as a short-term resource to address this, and that better planning would avoid this last-minute panic buying.


Talent pool

Sandeep Dhillon, Talmix CEO, commented: “The continuing uptake of independent talent isn’t a surprise as it’s a fast solution to filling the skills gap which all businesses are encountering. What our consultants tell us most clearly is that companies need to plan to embed this workforce ahead of projects hitting urgent/overrun problems to get the best returns and value.”

“At Talmix, we want to provide practical support to businesses aiming to build independent talent into their plans. Together with the insight on trends from our consultants, we’ve collated over 70,000 data points globally to create rate cards so that companies find it easier to budget for this workforce. We see this as the next step needed to create a fluid workforce mixing the best full-time and independent talent and returning the best value to business,” Sandeep concluded.


SOURCE: ResponseSource

If you own a health and fitness brand or have a great idea for one now is the time to consider how your brand story can include making a contribution in the world.


Let’s look at how a brand can make a profit at the same time as contributing to a particular charitable cause.

Fitness is bigger business now than ever before. Gym membership in the UK has increased approximately 4% year on year from 2015 to 2018. The UK industry is worth a staggering £4.9 billion (according to The 2018 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report). That is an increase of £0.6 billion since 2015 and, with that growth likely to increase in the coming years of data driven health and fitness, it’s the industry to be in.

Fitness apparel, for example, is no longer just about the big names. Small boutique brands are appearing – each with their own unique take on what looks and feels good in the gym.

Beyond style, functionality and quality (which should be givens for every brand) – what is there to help a consumer choose one over the other?  The answer lies in choosing to prioritise social responsibility in your brand.


Charitable partnerships

The fitness industry has traditionally had strong links with charity. For example, the Virgin Money London Marathon is the world’s largest one-day fundraising event. Over 75% of the 40,000+ runners who participated in 2018 raised money for charity.

In the UK every year there are approximately 807,000 running events. There are 100,000 members of British Cycling and over 140,000 active triathletes running, swimming and cycling. So, with such large numbers of keen people willing to push their limits in the name of doing good, why are the fitness brands not living up to this generous giving mentality?

The answer is, of course, profit. They are there to make money. And that’s exactly where they are missing the point. Doing good is also good for your bottom line.


Positive impact

Examples of profitable companies, in a variety of sectors, making a contribution to the world include:


  • FIGS – Provide medical scrubs and other clothing, whilst donating thousands of scrubs to medical projects around the world
  • TOMS – For every pair of TOMS shoes brought, they provide a pair of shoes to someone in need
  • S’WELL – Providing sustainable water bottles and coolers that support UNICEFs water projects
  • ASUNO – Providing premium quality fitness and yoga clothing that supports charitable actions with every purchase
  • SOAPBOX – A one-for-one model donating soap bars for good health and sanitation with every product purchased
  • VITAE LONDON – Each watch purchased supplies a child with two sets of a school uniform, a bag and footwear to see them through the year in Africa

As these companies show, doing good is good for business. As so many fitness fans are also keen charity fundraisers it makes perfect economic sense to combine the two if your brand is in this space.


There are a variety of ways of approaches and you need to find the one which suits your business model, internal resources, and target market best:


  1. Donate a percentage of your profits.  Every penny helps when it comes to charity, and if you are rocking a healthy turnover then even 1% contribution will make a huge impact.


  1. Partner with a charity. Support a charity directly with co-branding and awareness campaigns; keep your profits but co-advertise to bring more awareness for your charity partner. Make it easy for your customers to donate, promote the charity on your website, social media and in your newsletters.


  1. Empower your employees. Support and sponsor employee fundraising days, put on an event, get your employees family and friends involved. Target your employees that are most passionate at volunteering.


  1. Buy one, give one. Adopt this into your business model. Do you have a product that could help others? Support a cause that compliments your product and donate one for one.


  1. Sponsor events. Becoming a corporate sponsor for an event is not only a huge help to the charity, it provides your company with a great advertising opportunity.


  1. Develop your story. Customers want to know the story, envelope themselves in the cause and believe that your company is seriously in it to do good, build your brand story to tell them.


All of these options show your brand’s commitment to social responsibility by helping those in need.

Don’t just focus on profit. Your brand will be even more successful when you are part of something bigger.


About the author

Ben MorelandBen Moreland is co-founder of Asuno, a Manchester-based fitness and yoga clothing brand passionate about making an impact on the world. Using the city as inspiration, the team design beautiful, premium quality, functional fitness clothing that saves lives. Every item in the range is linked to an individual charity and each purchase provides a specific contribution, from helping to alleviate hunger to providing access to water and helping children build an identity.






Goals. Values. Beliefs.

The personal development trifecta.

I create and commit to powerfully inspiring goals. I come to know – and align – to my values. And I choose to adopt empowering beliefs. And so: I can achieve anything.

Knowing – and aligning with – our values (those things most important to us) is one of the most powerful personal development steps we can take. And not least because:

Sometimes, our values play-out in negative ways.

Don’t think so? Here are some examples …


Perhaps I value a strong work ethic.

It’s played a big part of my success to date. I’ve worked hard. Harder than the other guy. I’ve stuck diligently to my project and had success as a result.

But now I notice I’ve come to associate success as only ever following significant hard work. And so I sidestep or overlook more direct routes to my goal because it can’t be success without the strife that must come beforehand. Because I’ve not yet earnt that success. Because I don’t deserve it.

And so I harbour the belief that success without strife is not success, not earnt, not deserved and not for me. Hmm.


Perhaps I value organisation.

And my highly-organised approach to work has me in total command of what I do. I’m known for it! But now I notice I can’t start anything unless everything is laid-out in advance. Unless everything is neat and tidy (even though I know that’s not how careers or businesses really happen). Unless everything is certain – which it never can be. Hmm.


Perhaps I value learning and knowledge.

What I have learnt and what I know have been huge factors in my success. I love putting my deep knowledge to work. And revelling in the spirit of continual learning and improvement. But now I notice I am incapacitated by my need to (over-) educate. And rather than getting into action with what I do know, I choose to stay stuck – although I hide it behind my latest learning project. Hmm.


Perhaps I value perfection.

And so my high-standards drive me forward and achieve amazing outputs. But now I notice I’m missing deadlines. And that nothing is ever good enough. Including me. Hmm.

What’s the lesson here?


Examine your values.

Think about how they are playing out: positively and negatively. And notice where those well-intentioned and positive values are harbouring beliefs that actually sit in conflict to your goals and objectives.

And from there: rewrite the story around those values. And how best you’ll choose to put them to work.

Some consumers are happier after an indulgent purchase if there is no good reason for it, according to research.

A team of marketing academics led by Francine Espinoza Petersen from ESMT Berlin business school conducted a number of studies examining the emotional responses and subsequent happiness levels of consumers.

They found that while previous research and lay theory suggest that having a reason to indulge will make for a happier customer, consumers with ‘low self-control’ are actually happier when they have no reason to indulge at all.


Customer satisfaction

One online study measured the predicted effect on happiness and the satisfaction with the purchase as a consequence of happiness.

The results showed that consumers with high levels of self-control were happier after indulging with a reason for doing so, while those identified as having low self-control were happier after indulging without reason.

Consumers with high levels of self-control tend to be more rational and disciplined, therefore valuing reasoned-indulgences. Consumers with low self-control, on the other hand, tend to be more relaxed and easy going, thus enjoying spontaneous indulgences.

“Our findings send a few clear messages to companies. Firstly, marketers should be aiming to communicate better based on personality types. If you are pushing a typical ‘because you are worth it’ message or something like Chrysler’s ‘luxury feels better earned’ tagline you may be alienating a sizeable portion of your potential consumer base who don’t identify with that message. If a brand is more likely to have low self-control, or frivolous, customers, promoting spontaneous indulgence, as with Lexus recent ‘dare to be spontaneous’ campaign, may be a more effective strategy.”

“In addition to this, because the happiness post-purchase influences the ongoing satisfaction of that purchase, targeting the consumer message more accurately could actually result in lower levels of consumer returns and an increase in positive word-of-mouth promotion.”


SOURCE: ResponseSource

Setting up and online business is an attractive prospect.


After all, ecommerce is a big market.

But it can be fraught with challenges.

Unfortunately, having a great idea and business plan isn’t enough to grow a successful online business.

So here are my top tips to get your started:


1. Know your target market


Knowing your target market is useful for web development and much more. Making the most of your marketing and advertising spend relies heavily on well-defined target markets. For example, you can use targeted advertising on Facebook across all of our target segments to understand which group has the most interest in actually buying.

Your customer segments also inform product sourcing. If you know that your main customer segment is mums with young children, you can find gifts for kids to appeal to that group.

Top Tip: Use available research to develop your customer segments and then test using digital advertising to quickly gain granular detail about each group.


2. Be user-friendly


Surprisingly, many ecommerce sites are difficult and frustrating to use. They seem to focus on design, branding and ‘cool’ functionality, rather than focusing on what’s important and useful for the customer.

For example, some sites really do make the ordering process so difficult that the customer abandons their basket.

The problem gets worse when you consider that most shopping is now completed on a mobile device. Resource-intensive plugins and a clunky user interface can make ordering personalised and customisable products slow and difficult while hogging data.

Top Tip: Develop a mobile-first website using lightweight plugins or native interfaces to provide a smooth, user-centric platform.



3. Use clear advertising


There is a lot to separate the good ads from the bad. Online advertising can be expensive, especially in the run-up to key shopping seasons, so it’s important to maximise your ROI.

Again, testing is important, but you need to start with clear ad copy and imagery. Stock photography and vague text will be quickly dismissed and your investment wasted.

Copy and imagery need to work together to quickly inform the customer: what the product is, who it’s for and the price. Of course, the product also needs to be in stock, so it’s important to link your ads to live stock info. Using this approach, we managed to achieve a conversion rate of 3.6% over the Christmas season on Facebook.

Top Tip: Take time to understand the possibilities around online ads. Each platform has different rules and options – the best ROI can be achieved by developing the right combination of settings, targeting, copy and video/imagery.


4. Photography and layout


Getting the photography right is just as important for your actual website. A lot of websites use images of products on a white background. While this does make it clear what the product is and what’s included, it doesn’t help sell the product.

Christmas for example: would you be more inspired by images of a gift against a white background, or of kids playing with the product in front of the Christmas tree? Lifestyle shots, where the product is being used in situ, activate the imagination and stir-up emotions. Customers are then better able to make the choice to purchase based on both rational and emotional reasoning.

Top Tip: Lifestyle shots sell the dream; white backgrounds can help sell the product. Use a combination of both for best effect, but always lead with the lifestyle shots.


5. Competitions drive traffic


Another way to driving traffic to your new website is by running regular competitions, especially on social media. For example, you can email customers asking them to share a picture of their purchase on Facebook and tag your page in order to win. Their friends will quickly become more aware of you and and are more likely to use your service and enter your competitions themselves, growing awareness exponentially for a relatively low cost.

Again, knowing your target audience and which segment you want to entice is particularly useful when selecting a prize. The prize needs to be relevant to people who have already purchased your products, but also attract those who haven’t used your website before. Alternatively, you could offer a voucher as the prize, attracting all of your target segments.

Top Tip: Make your competitions relevant and specific to the platform where it will run. Photos and videos work well on Facebook and Instagram, for example, whereas Twitter entries could be more text-based.


6. Partnerships and resellers


If you want to achieve rapid growth, it’s worth developing solid partnership with business partners and resellers.

Resellers, in particular, tend to have established brands and customer bases. By becoming their go-to supplier, you tap into their existing market, growing your sales volume dramatically.

The most important thing to remember is that resellers value is created through their brand, so they are very protective about it. As such, you need to help maintain or enhance their reputation by delivering outstanding service. Products and delivery need to be reliable and high-quality, while your team need to be flexible when responding to requests. If you can solve a partner’s challenges, they will love you for it!

 Top Tip: It can be especially helpful to invite resellers to come and see your products first-hand so they understand exactly what they’re selling and are reassured of the quality.


7. Customer service – keep it local


Many online businesses outsource customer support to somewhere cheap and rely solely on web chats and email to manage tickets.

This may be cheaper but it’s likely to frustrate your customers and partners if they can’t reach someone with the power to actually do something. In our sector, many customers have very short lead-times, so waiting on a reply to an email will cause anxiety around delivery times.

Local customer service may cost more, but customers will feel reassured that any issues will be resolved quickly and easily, and that they will receive their purchase in the expected time-frame.

 Top Tip: Don’t assume that everyone wants web-based help. Make your phone number prominent on your website and staff your phones to ensure quick, easy resolution to any customer issues. You’ll also get valuable feedback that you can use to improve your service.



About the author

Stuart MaclarenStuart Maclaren is the award-winning Managing Director of The YPP Group, a leading name in the UK wide-format print sector. Your Print Partner is a specialist digital print company producing flags, banners, exhibition displays and other promotional products. YPP is now launching an exciting new brand that will supply year-round high quality personalised printed gifts with late ordering and next-day delivery.

UK businesses have to wait more than five months for new joiners to train and get up to speed in their jobs, according to global research by Robert Half.


The study, which polled almost 5,000 CFOs in 14 countries, examined how traditional job roles are becoming more complex due to digital transformation initiatives.

CFOs in the UK report that the key skills for finance professionals are changing. With digital transformation a priority for many organisations, there is now more focus on skills such as data analysis (cited by 43% of CFOs), financial analysis (35%), and data forecasting (34%).

Finding the right people with these abilities is made even more challenging by the fact that businesses around the world are struggling to find qualified professionals. Almost all (93%) UK businesses find it challenging to attract qualified accounting and finance professionals. Globally, the issue is equally pronounced, with 94% of businesses also reporting similar challenges.

This shortage of skilled candidates places even greater pressure on organisations to ensure that they select the right candidate and train them effectively to do their job – especially given the cost of bad hire.

“Identifying the right candidate in this current war for talent means that businesses need to define what skills and qualities are required for a successful role, then focus primarily on these alongside cultural fit,” highlights Matt Weston, UK Managing Director at Robert Half. “Defining the skills that can be learnt will allow businesses to expand their candidate pool and identify talent with the potential for long-term success.”


Training new recruits

Earlier this year Robert Half UK revealed that nine in ten candidates would consider leaving a new job during their probationary period, potentially causing significant business disruption and cost.

“Two major factors that lead new employees to consider leaving a job early include poor management and a lack of proper onboarding – including effective on-the-job training and personal development initiatives. This can be a crucial factor in ensuring that businesses hold on to their most talented new hires,” added Weston. “Training is key to ensuring that employees are productive and feel they have an incentive to advance and grow with the company.”

However, while training and development are important factors in retaining employees – including tenured workers – a large proportion of companies still aren’t making this a priority.

“In today’s recruitment landscape, the importance of effective recruitment and retention strategies cannot be overlooked. As skilled professionals are now in the driver’s seat of their careers, recruitment responsibilities continue long after the contract is signed,” Weston concluded.


Most common training and development opportunities:

External training opportunities48%
Internal training opportunities52%
Encourage employee memberships to professionals organisations36%
Sponsor professional qualifications and training34%
Proactively work with industry bodies31%

*Responses do not total 100% as multiple responses permitted.



About Robert Half

Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialised recruitment consultancy and member of the S&P 500. Founded in 1948, the company has over 300 offices worldwide providing temporary, interim and permanent recruitment solutions for accounting and finance, financial services, technology, creative and administrative professionals. For more than 20 years, Robert Half has been named to FORTUNE® magazine’s list of “Most Admired Companies” and offers workplace and job seeker resources at and



“Before we demand more of our data, we need to demand more of ourselves” – Nate Silver


There is always a crisis in marketing: from new consumer sophistication, to new channels; from new thinking (like Behavioural Economics) to delivering more accountable ROI in the boardroom. And for every crisis there arises a new White Knight: Day After Recall, Tracking, neuromarketing, NPS scores, channel neutrality and now….Big Data.

One of the unfortunate legacies of FW Taylor’s Scientific Management is what I have called the arithmocracy.

I use the term to describe a system that I find increasingly pernicious and prevalent, and not just in the domain of business: think of school league tables, the UK NHS service, or targets for other bodies such as the police force.

There are two variants to the definition:


1. The system of government whereby the pursuit of numerical solutions leads to runaway measurement at the expense of imagination, creativity and fulfilment.

2. A ruling class (cf. democracy, autocracy), which derives its power not through intelligence or merit but by means of its access to and control of numbers.


My worry is that in our era, which could be characterised as Data Rich Insight Poor (DRIP), the arrival and veneration of Big Data is helping those who put the anal into analysis at the expense of what we should all be working towards: the pursuit of transformative business insights and innovation via strategic and creative means.

Instead, it is fuelling the physics envy that much of marketing suffers from, and it is turning us all increasingly into slaves to the algorithm seeking safety in numbers.


From data to meaning 

So, I would like to see a new focus, not on Big Data but on a role that sees its goal as creating and managing meaning.

Let us all think of ourselves as being ‘meaning managers’.

Big Data will be one of the tools for creating meaning but no more.

I want to see Big Data takes its rightful place as part of an integrated theory. The main principles of this theory would be:

  • A shared theory and understanding of human behaviour and communication, which must underlie any attempt at deriving or analysing human behaviour.
  • Accepting that insight compresses information into attention, but that we must avoid the temptation of conflating Big Data with genuine insight and the false sense of “safety in numbers”.
  • Knowing when data [big or otherwise] is relevant and sufficient, and when data cannot contribute to genuinely non-incremental innovation, and the strategic and creative breakthroughs which precede it.

This means acknowledging the power of instinct, theory, understanding, observation and other ways of seeing that do not necessarily sit under the aegis of Big Data.

To separate the two terms more distinctly: data is to be collected, insight is to be connected.

Ensuring that the communication of insightment is conducted via storytelling as an antidote to the remorseless march of the arithmocracy.


Here are three ways to create insightment and fight against our innate analytical bias:


Cherish Failure


“Fallor ergo sum” [I am wrong, therefore I am] – St Augustine


We have become so driven by the need to succeed and so ready to punish failure (ask any football manager) that we have lost the essence of St Augustine’s words.

Etymology fans (who I hope will find plenty to enjoy in the book) will point out too that “errare” in Latin means ‘to wander’ (still visible in the word “erratic” and “aberrant”) with no hint of failure.

Scientists like Darwin and Vilfredo Pareto (signor 80/20) and modern screenwriters like Charlie (“Being John Malkovich”) Kaufman have all testified to the liberating power of failure and error.

So, we need to wander more, idly daydream while unconscious System 1 does its work of finding insight in its own serendipitous way.


Stay Naïve

Hemmed in by groupthink, frightened of going against the rest of our tribe/team/company, bouncing around the echo-chamber of our own frozen assumptions and conventions, we have to unthink (in every sense) how we liberate ourselves from the prison of logic and extend our cognitive diversity.

Much has been written by the likes of Professor Philip Tetlock, professor of political psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, on our over-reliance on (narrow) expertise and how it is a hindrance to genuine new thinking of all forms. There is a strong body of evidence from Tetlock that the accuracy of experts in all fields is disconcertingly mythical.

So, we need to resist the lure of being wholly Insider Thinkers and act like we are also seeing things as Outsiders, who make new connections, see new links and create genuinely disruptive ideas.


Embrace Serendipity

Of the six universal human emotions that scientists since Darwin and Paul Ekman have identified, surprise is perhaps the least appreciated.

The shock or twist of recognition means that it penetrates our conscious filters (what I call ‘attention spam’) and will create the emotional cue of ‘aha’, ‘eureka’ or Asimov’s ‘that’s funny’ without which any insightment is doomed to fail [and here I really do mean fail].

Examples include Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, arguably literature’s first detective story, and Andrew Stanton, director and writer of Wall-E, Up and the various Toy Stories.

So let us encourage our unconscious system 1 to come into contact with what experts call ESIs- external serendipitous influences. We need to go out of our way to decompartmentalise and flood ourselves, or more accurately our unthinking System 1, with cross-cultural, inter-disciplinary randomness, serendipity, and spontaneity; to seek out the challenging, quirky and eclectic, maybe even the arcane and recondite.

Only then can we turn data into insight in a way that appeals to our innate curiosity and creativity.


About the author

Anthony TasgalTas is the author of The Inspiratorium: flitting between the poles of science and art, hedgehogs and foxes, quantum physics and etymology, philosophy and football, ancient history and artificial intelligence, this book is a web of connections, of jumps and leaps that will take you to different places and areas that will intrigue and inspire.

His previous book, The Storytelling Book was runner up in 2016’s Marketing Book of the Year and is already on a fourth reprint.


To hear more from Tas, check out Episode #97 of the LID Radio podcast.

The confidence gap between men and women is a myth, according to Laura Guillén, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at ESMT Berlin.


This is because women viewed as self-confident aren’t more likely to get ahead. For women, gaining influence at work is more closely tied to their warmth and caring than the appearance of self-confidence.

Ms Guillén’s research, in collaboration with Margarita May of IE Business School and Natalia Karelaia of INSEAD, examined high-performing workers in a male-dominated technology company that employs more than 4,000 people worldwide.

“Despite there being no visible confidence gap in the way high-performing men and women rated themselves, their reasons for gaining influence in the company showed a sharp gender disparity. Although men viewed as self-confident were more likely to get ahead, our research demonstrated that this was not the case for women, who were judged on their warmth, or how caring and social they seemed,” she explained.

“This means that popular messaging about how women must change themselves to appear more self-confident in order to be successful isn’t just false, but also dampens the gender-diversity of the workforce. It ignores that the responsibility of nurturing this diversity should fall with employers and places the onus on the female employees themselves to conform with lazy, masculine stereotypes.”


Confident vs caring

The research suggests women are expected to care for others on top of their workload, while men are held to a lower standard of key performance indicators.

Ms Guillén continued: “In order to get ahead, women are having to care for others while their male counterparts focus on their own objectives. Despite this prosocial quality not being listed on any job description, it appears to be the key performance indicator against which access, power and influence is granted to successful women.

“In order to combat this, HR departments should make sure that women and men are being evaluated against the same criteria in the hiring process and when being selected for promotions. Performance appraisals often contain nearly twice the amount of language about being warm for women than for men. These unconscious gender biases must be confronted so that talents and skills across organisations are rewarded fairly, regardless of gender.”

SOURCE: ResponseSource