Uncensored #AI and #SupplyChain Influencers Jen Stirrup, Rachael White, Sharlyn Lauby and Oliver Christie at #SAPAriba Live

More thought-provoking content from the SAPAriba conference to follow on later posts, but, for now, here is a teaser of some of the uncensored, uncut conversation with thought leaders Rachael White of Cool Logistics, Sharlyn Lauby of HRBartender and Oliver Christie, world-renowned Artificial Intelligence futurist, influencer and leader.

Tune in to this video, and more to follow, for thought-provoking thought leadership; uncut, uncensored, and meaningful.

Many thanks to Gale Daikoku of SAPAriba for the video. Much appreciated Gale and thank you for your support!

The Strategist: Why Business Canvases aren’t enough if you don’t consider value creation

The Strategist: Be the Leader Your Business NeedsThe Strategist: Be the Leader Your Business Needs by Cynthia Montgomery

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The value of this book lay in its ability to distill important, insightful points in a digestible format.

In The Strategist: Be the Leader Your Business Needs, Montgomery helps you to think about applying and understanding the market forces in your industry. Montgomery also discusses the importance of creating value and defining purpose with her Strategy Wheel. Here is an example Strategy Wheel:



The heart of all this is the purpose; why does your company exist? The book is about taking ownership of the process, and ensuring that your system of value creation is critically linked to your purpose. If organizations want to be more effective, efficient, and have more impactful, then the strategist needs to line things up in that direction. If it isn’t working in favour of your purpose and value, then cut it. The book is about identifying that strategy is about having a compelling purpose for why the organization exists, and ensuring that your organization is squared up to meet it, and push it forward.

From time to time, I see people not owning their behaviour. I also see them not owning their industry and understanding everything about it. The book had good case studies, where you could see people straying outside their red lines. Case Studies are all very well since we can look at them with cold objectivity. With our own business, it becomes less clear and it starts to engage our lizard brain, which is harder to master.

I re-read the Strategy Wheel chapter a few times. The danger with canvasses such as the Business Canvas (or rebadged attempts at it) is that people really don’t always ask themselves about value creation. It is supposed to be a core component of the Business Canvas model but I don’t always see it applied. Perhaps because it is the hardest part? It is easy to tick boxes in a dilettante fashion, and not think more deeply from there. Thinking about strategy and value is hard, and Montgomery argues that you have to move deeper than ticking boxes, and I think that she is right. I prefer the Strategy Wheel since it means you have to focus on your purpose, and I will be using a version for it for my AI for the Executives Masterclass in London in May. Register Here

The book is heavily Porterian, which is not surprising since Montgomery is also at Harvard. It means that people without a business knowledge backgound could understand the impacts in a Porterian fashion, but not necessarily know his theory. I think that makes it applicable and relevant to a wider audience, and that’s a good thing.

The Strategist: Be the Leader Your Business NeedsThe Strategist: Be the Leader Your Business Needs

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Empathy and Emotional Intelligence: Your ‘must have’ tools for #Leadership and what we learn from #Theranos

In the book ‘Bad Blood’ by John Carreyou, Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was widely seen as the female Steve Jobs: a brilliant Stanford dropout whose startup “unicorn” promised to revolutionize the medical industry with a machine that would make blood testing significantly faster and easier. Backed by investors such as Oracle’s Larry Ellison and the bitcoin bull and capital investor, Tim Draper, Theranos sold shares in a fundraising round that valued the company at more than $9 billion. Holmes achieved her life’s ambition of becoming a billionaire, with her worth at an estimated $4.7 billion. A major problem led to the largest corporate fraud since Enron: The technology didn’t work.

I read the book as a data professional, horrified by the lackadaisical approach to data governance, testing, and repeatable, testable science. Data was almost irrelevant, and it is clear from reading the book that the authorities, such as the FDA, hammered Theranos for their failure to put safeguards around their testing and data processes. So where does empathy come in?

Empathy is the art of remembering when others have helped make you feel heard, and empowered, and then paying that feeling forward to others.

On a deeper leadership level, it was clear that there was little emotional intelligence or empathy. It showed in a few things, such as a clear inability to empathise with the patients who relied on blood testing for their lives, as well as the military personnel who were one of the target audiences for this faulty machine.

One of my favourite quotes is Maya Angelou’s insightful comment:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

As a leader, becoming empathetic is one of the most complex skills to master. From my reading of the Theranos situation in Bad Blood, it became clear that there was no atmosphere of empathetic leadership; in fact, quite the opposite. The people with the skills and data seemed afraid to speak to the Theranos leaders, and the book describes their feeling of terror when speaking with the leaders. It sounds like a hostile, sick place of work. If only they’d listened, perhaps Theranos might have had some of the successes that it was posited to have.

Earlier in my career, I used to have a complex reaction when people gave me unwarranted advice, or advice that I didn’t ask for. Sometimes I thought that they thought I was an idiot, or I didn’t know what I was talking about.

Now, as a leader, I realize that people felt that they could provide me with feedback; they weren’t afraid to talk to me. Now, I realize what a gift I’ve been given, and I appreciate it now. Thank you to everyone who shared their advice and wisdom with me. Possibly, I was not grateful at the time, but I see now that you felt you could talk to me.

Reading Bad Blood was a source of reflection for me, since it made me think about myself, and my responses to other people. If I had worked at Theranos, I would have been afraid to speak out, and I’d have probably just left.

What Holmes and Balwani missed out on was the gift of advice and thoughtful, constructive criticism for other people. People didn’t seem to be able to talk to them, so Holmes and Balwani never received their insights and help.

On reflection, sometimes I find myself in the situation where I could speak to someone with some insights, or even to warn them. But I can’t, because that person is simply too difficult to deal with, and I have to make a judgement call between making an effort to go through the pain of having to deal with them, and deal with the response of their lizard brain when they default to type, and don’t listen. So I leave it, step back, and leave them on their merry way to make mistakes. After a while, it’s just not worth my time and effort if I’ve bothered to try to engage.

I also realized that I cannot stomach a ‘make it until you fake it’ approach. I am not a dilettante, dabbling and making things sound good. I could see the dilettante, ‘fake it unti you make it’ approach resonate throughout the book and I realized how much it switches me off, and pushes me away. I am not looking for the good in people, I am looking for the real.

So I learned a lot from the book, about lack of empathy and emotional intelligence, but also about my response to people like that. I have been actively trying to grow my emotional intelligence and empathy, and here are some suggested reads. Click on the book for a link:




Enjoy! If you have any other recommendations, please leave them in the comments.

Let my People go Surfing: Book Review

22155I wanted to share my review of Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard. It’s an excellent and sobering book which is fundamentally about responsibility, integrity, honesty authenticity and vision in leadership and business. Read it, and you’ll change your mind about sustainability and how it should not be a ‘nice to have’ but an essential facet of every business. It is so important to behave ethically and consider the triple bottom line – the profit, planet and people – that makes up a business, and puts ethics at the front-and-centre of every business and every leader.

Let My People Go Surfing is an incredibly visionary book, and it led me to think about living and running a business more sustainably. It is a blueprint for running a business in a world that has more knowledge but less judgement, more degrees and ‘experts’ but less purpose.

Every business owner should read this book, and work towards a sustainable environment through business. Following the disastrous practices of the banking community in the past few decades, MBA courses are sensitive to the ethical and environmental aspects of business and I’m glad I’m progressing through my MBA since it has given me the opportunity to learn about sutainability and how I can do my little bit through my own little business.

Read it, and change your mind about leadership and business. The insights from this book has informed my thinking and I’m glad I read it. I’ll go back to it in the future, I’m sure.

Forming #Leadership habits: Getting to Inbox Zero while increasing sales

There are plenty of websites dedicated to helping you to become a good leader, and to form good leadership habits.  I believe that authenticity and emotional intelligence (EQ) form some of the hallmarks of a leader, but it is hard to demonstrate. Habits don’t make leaders in themselves, and neither does authenticity or EQ on their own. It all has to add up properly.  It seems that either you have authenticity or not. It becomes very apparent, very quickly, that you are simply ‘at it’ and people can smell that far away.

I started to look at developing habits that would help me to perform better as a team player and as a leader. I was also very aware that I needed to do better in sales, and I needed to record my sales better. I also needed to get better at following up with people. This would demonstrate EQ, since I’d be better able to show people that I cared by getting back to them. I also needed to follow up sales leads better, something I wasn’t good at.

I’m going to share how I got to Inbox Zero while increasing sales.

Get into the habit of… diligence

The number one point, though, is that at some point you really need to do the work. No Facebook, no distractions, no whatever; you need to plough through it. I created this system to help me to focus better, which, in turn, dialled down my email level and it also led to increasing sales for Data Relish. So here are the steps:

Get through email in Outlook like a Rockstar

I recommend you follow Luise Freese’s recommendations for setting up priorities and quicksteps for labelling email, which mean you can priorities tasks and emails like a Rockstar.  I follow every single step that Luise devised. Luise clearly explains how to set up your mailbox for productivity, using Quick Steps, folders and labelling. I follow Luise’s system, and I focus on the TODAY folder that she recommends you set up.

I changed the system a little. For the ‘TO READ’ folder, I set up a quickstep that forwards the email to Evernote. I have loved Evernote since 2011 and it is a great way of storing notes which I want to read later.

Get into the habit of… delegating

How can you delegate?

I hired a part-time PA

Initially, it was tough to have a PA because I am not used to diary management or someone handling my email. These are hard things to give up, but I had to do it in order to shed things that were holding me back from spending my time better.

Get into the habit of diligently recording every sales lead

It is important to record every single lead, no matter how small. It is a habit which is just as hard. It’s easy to procrastinate, or get distracted.

I use two systems; HubSpot and Insightly. HubSpot is great at marketing, and I use it with Power BI. I use it for my website, and mainly for marketing and sales tracking. I also use Insightly, which also works with Power BI. This might seem like a repeat step, but I like the small project feature which comes with Insightly because I can convert my Opportunities into Projects. HubSpot doesn’t have that final step. I use the Outlook addins for Insightly, Hubspot and Evernote.

I am still test-driving both systems, but it is easy to automate both systems. Put together, they enable my process for my marketing, sales and post-sales work. My PA can support me in this venture, too.

Get into the habit of… better directing your attention

I get a lot of requests for my time by people who want to obtain my help for something, and want my time for free. As an MVP and an RD, I’m active in the tech community and I do help people without expectation of recompense. However, I just can’t service them all. I got 20 requests in the past three days, and it’s a lot for one person.

I already do a lot of volunteer work so I already have an impact in the philanthropic and charitable space. So I have to triage and prioritise free requests for my time. I am trying to be fair to everyone, including myself. My PA really helps here; she gets back to people, explains that I am unavailable but I’ve suggested that they speak to X or Y (for example) or read Z as a starting point, and to come back to me if they are still struggling. So I try to help people on their way, within the limits of my capacity and demands on my time. Usually, people are pretty understanding, particularly if I explain that I’m doing some charity work which impacts issues I care about, such as diversity, and that there will be other routes for people to get what they need. It puts things into perspective, I think.

I have switched off email notifications on my phone, so I can focus properly.

Follow up on sales leads

If you’re following Luise’s system, then you have a Today folder which forms your working memory of things that you need to do.

Using HubSpot and Insightly means that I am better at following-up on sales leads. I use Outlook tools to log emails to both systems, since I’m still test-driving. This only takes a few seconds with both plug-ins.

However, the point here isn’t about the technology; it is about the process. I have a process which means I follow up on leads better. It was something I identified that I was bad at, and it really came down to having a proper process in place, supported by tech.

Actually doing the work

There are plenty of sites and books which promise productivity. The reality is, at some point, you have to do the work. It is not going to go away.

For me, I took out office space in Hertfordshire, and I find I’m able to work well there. I have a separate private room for phone calls, and I tend to book out an hour or so of my time to get through all my calls, one after the other. Once that’s done, I can concentrate on other things.

I chew my way through my Today folder, and I follow the GTDish methodology: delete, delegate, defer, do. And I just keep going.

Remembering what you did

I often need to search for documents. I use the Insightly Opportunity tracking number everywhere, and then the Project number when the Opportunity becomes a real project. I hate spending time to search for documents. I also use tagging in SharePoint Office365.


I journal to increase my EQ. I am watching myself for inconsistencies in my behaviour, and to look at things through different lenses. It means I challenge myself to see if I’m thinking and behaving with authenticity, and I ask a lot of myself. But, if it means I become a better person, then it is worth it.


I think self-improvement is important, and I’ll keep doing it until I die. This system may change, but it is working for now. I’m open to other ideas, so please feel free to comment if you have any thoughts which might help me.