How to Avoid Busy Brain


There is no doubt that we all feel overwhelmed from time to time. It’s natural. But a few years ago I noticed that the pace of change had markedly accelerated to the point where it was changing other things. It was changing our capacity to create and innovate. It was crippling our ability to effectively “spend time” with people that we care about. And it was skewing our sense of entitlement and investment.

What we all seemed to be suffering from as the state of “busy brain”.

Think, for example, how many times you have done the following in the last week:

  • Shared a link without checking it first
  • Stayed awake too late at night doing work
  • Relied on alcohol or drugs to slow your body rhythms
  • Avoided exercise because there is not enough time in the day
  • Were impatient with a child or a colleague

Because we are consistently rushing from meeting to meeting, task to task and tweet to tweet, we forget.

We forget the reason. The purpose. The force of the activity that drives us.

And we do so because we have given over to busyness rather than focusing on business. Sometimes it seems that we are barely in the business of living.

We are not just distracted but alerted. Buzzed and connected. We hurry between places, spaces and events not because we fear missing out but because our presence is marked on a hidden scale of check-ins, appointments and leaderboards. We have given over to the machine and it keeps its own counsel.

So what are we to do?

I like these simple suggestions from Deepak Chopra. And like everything simple, they require us to forego complication. Here’s to a less busy brain. Sleep well.

Improve Your Innovation Fitness: Make Yourself Redundant


“Waves are not measured in feet and inches, they are measured in increments of fear.”
Buzzy Trent

When we talk about technology – and when we talk about change – we often talk about “waves”. Like surfers talk. Except it’s nowhere near as interesting or compelling. Except when we add a tinge of fear to it.

When I first started working in publishing, I realised that I was already redundant. Or was on the way to being redundant. I led the way in implementing online coding in a world full of typesetters, and I started using desktop publishing when it seemed like blasphemy. The change was coming and I was doing all I could to ride the wave was there before me.

Later, at IBM, I learned about process re-engineering. And “restructuring”. And “outsourcing”. Everywhere I looked, I could see disruption, dislocation and relocation. There were people losing their jobs, careers being swept out from under them. It was a time of tremendous uncertainty.

The thing is, it is no different now than it was then. In many ways, we now live our lives in a constant state of disruption. Gone is the fabled “job for life”. Gone is the bond between employer and employee. And gone is the social contract that saw us all working towards a shared future where a “fair go” was on the table for anyone who stepped up. In its place is uncertainty, change and anxiety.

But disruption is not just about fear. It is also about opportunity.

One of the better lessons from my time at IBM was the need to treat a company like a living organism. Every year or two, there would be a restructure. While this was used as a way to reduce costs or shift them to another country, it was also amazingly invigorating. It challenged us to forge new networks in new parts of the business. It forced new and often unexpected ways of working. And it did so when all we wanted was to stay in our comfort zones.

Now, “restructuring” is not always the most pleasant of experiences. And it is emotionally bruising to find yourself out of work suddenly.

Disrupt yourself first

If you take your job seriously – and almost everyone I have ever met does – then the challenge is to make yourself redundant. The opportunity is to disruption yourself, your career and your industry before it happens from the outside in.

This is partly what we are doing with the Disruptor’s Handbook. Despite the name, it is not a “book”. It is a strategy and innovation firm. Our mission is to bring the innovation practices and methods used by startups to the enterprise. And yes, we have handbooks. We make them freely available on our website so that you can apply these practices to your own business. We also have thought leadership eBooks designed to help you make the case for innovation in your business. We also have a series of techniques and approaches that have not been published but are used in our client work. These are shared with clients so that they learn to do what we do – so they know what we know and grow in confidence and capability. We are effectively disrupting ourselves as we grow.

Challenging yourself

I believe that you must challenge yourself and your industry. Can you do better? Can you reinvent your business?

In challenging yourself this way, it keeps you thinking about the long game. It keeps you focused on the health of your skills and networks, your capabilities and your ability to deliver. And it keeps you focused on your customers and their needs, serving them as they shift and change.

And in a time of uncertainty, making yourself redundant puts you in the driver’s seat of your career. You can choose the timing of your next step and its direction. You can prepare yourself for the changes that are coming. It’s Darwinian. Survival of the fittest.

And this … “innovation fitness” means that you are giving yourself the best next chance possible. Don’t just see the next wave coming, ride it, baby. Ride it.

The Barrier to Entry is You


Everything makes sense in hindsight. If only you had taken a chance on that young startup, Microsoft. If only you had gone on that blind date. If only you had risked all like a young Richard Branson. And if only you had bought property when the prices were low(er).

The thing is, we are all, always, starting from today. We have at our disposal what we know, what we can do and what we are passionate about. But we also have networks, connections and friends. We have family. There are people we can rely upon and trust.

So the question about your next job, or business opportunity, partnership or date is “what is stopping you”?

Maybe it isn’t your boss that is stopping your progress at work. Maybe you are settling for the backseat of the bus without realising it. Maybe. Just maybe, the barrier to entry is you.

And that can change in the blink of an eye. What are you waiting for?

HT inspiration to Seth Godin on a cloudy Sydney day.

Five Lessons from a Year of Disruption


When you are head down working on projects, developing new business and just keeping it all together, it’s easy to miss business milestones – like your first year in business.

The initial idea for Disruptor’s Handbook came from a lunchtime meeting with my former colleagues at PwC. We were talking about the concept of “disruption” and how it could be managed. Used for innovation. Simon Gibbard suggested that we write a handbook – a disruptor’s handbook. Tim Lovitt and I had topic ideas and thought we could pull together a blog. Or an ebook. Or something.

Of course, it never happened. We were busy with projects and with life.

When my PwC contract ended, I launched Disruptor’s Handbook with the view that there was something to the concept. There were plenty of lessons from the world of startups that could be applied to corporates, and vice versa. I had also worked with communities and business networks and knew there was value in collaboration. The plan was to bring these things together – to help corporates, smaller businesses with the appetite for change, and innovative NFPs:

  • Reduce the risk of innovation
  • Innovate quickly by adopting proven frameworks
  • Be supported by experienced executives, mentors and teams.

The Three Principles

So I began with three principles that applied not only to collaborators but also to clients:

  • Intention: When working with clients and with collaborators, I needed to understand their intention. Did they truly, deeply have an intention to work together? Or was it a “lipstick on a pig” project designed to give the appearance of innovation?
  • Commitment: Was there a commitment to make a difference with innovation? Would clients and collaborators commit to a problem, wrestle with politics, budgets and organisational apathy?
  • Gavin is not always right: I can be passionate and easily convinced of the power of my own ideas, but I challenged myself to be open to alternatives of all kinds.

Five Lessons from Disruption

Like any fledgling business, there’s a lot required to build, learn and grow. You need work. Case studies. Cash flow. But these are the same for any business. What follows, however, are the more hidden lessons that I have taken out of the last 12 months:

  1. Your greatest strength is speed – but only if you use it. There is plenty of competition out there. But being a small business means that you can change the way you DO business quickly. But you have to commit to doing so. If you take a week to change your website, you’re too late. If you need to delay a project you may lose it. The challenge is to actually use your nimbleness to respond to project, client or market changes faster than everyone else.
  2. You aren’t what you sell. After creating a dozen or more disruptor’s handbooks on various topics from “using the lean canvas” to “how to run a hackathon”, I realised that I needed to bring things together. Potential clients could see the value but not the offer. I needed to quickly change the way that I explained Disruptor’s Handbook to make it more tangible. Remember to sell the sizzle as well as the steak.
  3. What you have isn’t necessarily what clients want. This is a hard one. Sometimes people “want” disruption but they’re not “ready” for it (yet). Like most innovation, it’s a journey. You’ve got to both educate your clients and lead them on a journey. You’ve got to support them in selling the concepts into their own teams and management. It may be that your offerings are too early for the market. In which case, it’s time for Lesson 4.
  4. Ditch your beautiful ideas. Ideas in your disruptive business are worth nothing. What counts is traction. If a proposal is successful, analyse it for what worked. Keep refining it. But if you proposals are not succeeding, you need to move on quickly (see Lesson 1). No one will love your idea more than you, and that’s what makes it hard to let go. Be honest with yourself, ask for feedback and figure out where to go next. After all, you need to eat.
  5. Ride the horse all the way to “yes”. In our minds we are often saying yes but our words, presentations, proposals and actions indicate “no”. Keep practising saying “yes” out loud so that your clients and collaborators can hear it. Be open (as per Principle 3 above) as a project can often veer into unexpected and exciting territory. It may start out simply but can become truly disruptive and exciting. Ride that horse all the way to yes.
  6. A note of thanks. I know this is Lesson 6 … but it’s also important to be thankful. In the first year I have been fortunate to work with and learn from many people. We’ve done some great work together – from the innovative Qantas Hackathon to StudyNSW digital strategy. We’ve run workshops, spoken at conferences, mentored startups and incubated a few new businesses that are yet to launch (more to come). Every project took commitment and intention from the business and the business sponsors. And I was not always right. But I am truly thankful for the opportunity and experience.

With one year down, I’m excited to be looking further ahead. Plans are being considered. Collaborators cultivated. If you have a project you like to discuss, I’d love to hear from you. If you’d like to be a collaborator, hit me up.

“Receiving the knowledge” and other youthful fancies

2015-07-05 17.14.51

I recently met with an old colleague to catch up after many years apart. While we settled very quickly into an easy conversation – almost like the time had never passed – it also gave me cause to reflect. It made me think about my business behaviour and some of the decisions I made on the way to achieving various things. It made me think about my own expectations and approaches – the things I wanted and how I thought my future might play out.

For example, I thought that at some point that I would:

  • “Receive the knowledge” – that sense of understanding of how the world works and why
  • Work less and earn more – I know. I can hear you laughing from here
  • Work on more meaningful projects – sometimes you strike it lucky, but I look to my work with Vibewire for this
  • Know what I’m doing – the truth is, I’m constantly creating new knowledge and new ways of working. And I think you should too.

The interesting thing, is that I am not alone in these youthful delusions. It seems that the much more self-aware Ann Handley rowed that same boat. Here are five things that she thought she knew at 22 that turned out to be totally wrong. Of course, it doesn’t make her any less awesome.

Live a Rewarding Life – Pay it Forward with Annie Parker


“We rise by lifting others”

Do you ever wonder what you want to be when you grow up? Have you asked this at age 20? 30? 40? 50? Beyond?

Do you look at your career, your choices and your reflection in the mirror and wonder how you have arrived where you have found yourself?

Too often we find that our choices are made for us and that we find ourselves swept along on the path of someone else’s life. How do we change this? Regain our sense of purpose? Annie Parker, co-founder of Telstra incubator, Muru-D shares her story of what it takes to live a rewarding life. It’s a talk given as part of the Do Lectures and she suggests there are four things you can do:

  1. Say no to something as a catalysing decision for a new awesome beginning
  2. Pay it forward by helping others

You’ll need to watch the video to learn the other two insights. It’s 16 minutes well spent on changing your life.

The Way to Wealth by Chicago Professor

Exchange Money Conversion to Foreign Currency

I love this advice written on the back of an index card by University of Chicago Professor, Harold Pollack. In clear, simple terms, he explains the dos and don’ts of building wealth over time. Of course, like all advice, it’s easy to hear and hard to put into action. My favourite point is “The person on the other side of the table knows more than you do about their stuff”. Applies to everything in life. Remember it.

Exchange Money Conversion to Foreign CurrencyCreative Commons License epSos .de via Compfight

Food for Thought Friday: A Manifesto for a Deeper Future

~ BLINK some BLUE ~

Increasingly our public discourse is dominated by three word slogans, catch phrases and sound bites. We suffer from an attention deficit – are time poor, over worked and under valued. We’re overwhelmed by technology, choices and our inbox.

And we think that the answer it to skim closer to the surface. To read the tweets rather than the articles.

To look at the infographics rather than the data behind it.

But in a culture of superficiality, our competitive advantage … our ethical advantage … and our creative advantage lies not in the shallows but in the depths of our imagination.

I think it is time that we went deeper …

Five points on a deeper future:

We need to:

  1. THINK more about ideas and what needs to happen to make them RESONATE within our cultures
  2. ACT like ideas MATTER and can CHANGE lives
  3. HELP articulate possible FUTURES because there’s always more than ONE
  4. WORK to make the first step of that future TANGIBLE because it sets the agenda
  5. INCLUDE others because FEAR is the first response to the NEW

Inspired by this awesome presentation from Critical Mass on the Cultural Impact on Digital Design.

Put Some Play into Your Day

Who dressed YOU?

For a long time I have been a fan of the concept of “play”. It brings a great deal of creativity into what can often be a very serious approach to business. In fact, I used PLAY as a metaphor for brand engagement, precisely to provide a creative nuance not only to “kids marketing” but to what we now call social media marketing.

But how can we take this further? How do we bring this sense of play and creativity into all aspects of our lives?

Leslie Bradshaw suggests going back to the beginning – to our childhood. It’s about using the lessons of our childhood to unleash our creativity and find balance in our work and life. Now, I am off to feed my inner child. Enjoy.

Travel Like a Local – AndableTV


Travelling for business can be pretty boring. Once you fight off the jetlag and close out the meetings, many business travellers find themselves hanging out in their hotel. In the bar. In the lounge. Or in the room.

It’s almost the opposite of being social.

But what if there were ways to tap into the local community? What if you could find and meetup with others who share your interests? That’s where various forms of social media can really transform your travel experience.

This episode of the new AndableTV channel looks at things you can do to travel like a local. There are some great ideas to try out on your next trip. And there’s more to come on the AndableTV sustainable living channel. Be sure to subscribe.

Taxi Al Fed via Compfight