Exploring London Through Photowalks

June 19, 2016

Portobello April 2016

A Shop in Portobello Road Market

Now that I have more free time, I’ve been wondering what new interesting activities I could start. One was getting to know the many parts of London quite well. I live near London and have visited hundreds of times of course, sometimes for meetings and other times for social reasons.

Regarding meetings, one interesting aspect has been going to various Knowledge Cafes that are organised by my friend David Gurteen (see here for context). They are held in a wide variety of venues including universities, business schools, government bodies and commercial companies (BT, Arup etc).

Apart from having interesting and illuminating conversations with people from different disciplines, it’s also been fascinating to see inside the buildings themselves and get a feel for the different atmospheres they generate.

Japanese Garden April 2016

The Kyoto Garden in Holland Park

As part of this I realised how little I really knew of London, except for the obvious places. So with various friends I’ve started doing photowalks in different areas, partly as a form of exploration and partly to improve my photography skills. The photos above and below were taken whilst exploring the attractive area around Holland Park in London.

Commonwealth April 2016

The Commonwealth Institute along Kensington High Street

There are some general, introductory tips on doing photowalks here.

In addition, this week I came across a very well made video that gives 23 creative tips for making photowalks that bit more interesting and imaginative, it’s well wroth a look:

If you have the time and interest, why not do something similar?

Palatable and Contructive Feedback

June 2, 2016

When someone tells you about a new business idea or similar, it’s tempting to focus on any weak points or areas where the approach is incomplete. The likely reaction will then be defensive or unappreciative.

I came across a simple routine to avoid this (often unproductive) battle:

Thankfully, this understanding of the brain reveals a little routine that we can all use to ensure that helpful feedback lands as it’s intended. It goes like this:

1. Tell the other person: “What I like about this is . . .” Give meaningful, specific examples of what you like, and explain why you like them. Aim for as many concrete positive points as you can. Don’t rush.
2. Then say: “What would make me like it even more is . . .”

The goal in the first of these two steps is to be at least as tangible and forthcoming in your praise as you are in your criticism—not just saying “it’s great,” but what specifically is “great” about it. (Matt might’ve said, “I really liked the way you pulled in survey data to support your argument, for example in the section on page two. It tells a great story and sticks in the reader’s mind.”) These sorts of details matter; they make it far more likely that the person properly absorbs the fact that you value aspects of whatever they’ve said or done.

Now all I have to do is to remember to actually use it and see how effective it is!

The Allure of Physical Books

May 31, 2016

TsundokuSee also here

I made an attempt to move over to ebooks a few years ago, mainly in the hope of realising some more space (I literally have hundreds of physical books, many from when I was an academic).

However, over time, I’ve realised that I really prefer physical ones (except for travel). I was curious why this was so and Michael Hyatt has given 8 reasons:

1. Ebooks Are out of Sight and out of Mind

2. Ebooks Engage Fewer Senses

3. Ebooks Make It Easier to Get Distracted

4. Ebooks Result in Less Retention and Comprehension

5. Ebooks Feel Too Much like Online Reading

6. Ebooks Are More Difficult to Interact With

7. Ebooks Are More Difficult to Navigate

8. Ebooks Provide Less Satisfaction in Finishing

My current approach is to read a new physical book through a local library (which also helps keep it going, so that’s a win-win) to see how good it is. If they don’t have it in stock it’s easy and cheap to request it (even for quite technical books eg through inter-library loans). In fact through the British Library you have access to most books that have been published (at least in the UK).

I’ve found in practice that having my own copy is now not that important and I now only buy a few ‘exceptional’ ones (ie ones that have a large and lasting impact on me).

However, I wonder if this is also generational. I was brought up on physical books but for someone brought up on ebooks (and digital media in general) it might be quite different.


How Likeable Are You?

May 21, 2016

3059358-inline-i-5-how-to-know-which-skills-to-develop-at-each-stage-of-your-careerClick to enlarge

When I first saw this I thought it was a bit simplistic and naive but after thinking about it a bit more (in the context of my own and colleague’s careers) I’m now thinking it could be right!

That being said, I think the ability to ‘get things done’ is probably key.

There’s supporting info in the original article here.

Success in School and/or Life

May 8, 2016

A recent provocative article from The Book of Life is well worth a read and here are some extracts:

We want to do well at school for an obvious reason: because – as we’re often told – it’s the primary route to doing well at life.

Few of us are in love with the A grades themselves – we want them because we’re understandably interested in one day having a fulfilling career, a pleasant house and the respect of others.

But, sometimes, more often than seems entirely reassuring, something confusing occurs: we come across people who triumphed at school – but flunked at life. And vice versa.

This leads on to some general remarks on schools:

This helps to explain the many bad habits schools inculcate:

– They suggest that the most important things are already known; that what is is all that could be. They can’t help but warn us about the dangers of originality.

– They want us to put up our hands and wait to be chosen. They want us to keep asking other people for permission.

– They teach us to deliver on, rather than, change expectations.

– They teach us to redeploy ideas rather than originate them.

– They teach us to expect that people in authority know – rather than letting us imagine that – in rather inspiring ways – no one is really on top of what’s going on.

– They teach us to trust that they have our largest, best, life-long interests at heart; without letting on that they are merely interested in our achievements in a very parochial and narrow obstacle course they control. They can’t save us and were never incentivized to do so.

– They teach us everything other than the two skills that really determine the quality of adult life; knowing how to choose the right job for us and knowing how to form satisfactory relationships. They’ll instruct us in Latin and how to measure the circumference of a circle long before they teach us those core subjects: Work and Love.

ending with

That said, it isn’t that all we need to do to succeed at life is flunk school. A good life requires us to do two very tricky things: be an extremely good boy or girl for 20 years; and simultaneously never really believe blindly in the long-term validity or seriousness of what we’re being asked to study.

We need to be outwardly entirely obedient while inwardly intelligently and committedly rebellious.

That’s quite a big ask but a thought-provoking one none the less!

The Usefulness of an Authorised Projects List

April 28, 2016


Mark Forster has written a number of books on time management and productivity. I’ve recently read his latest, Secrets of Productive People. I particularly like the way he challenges some of the myths or at least sayings that you often hear on these matters. One rather simple but key point is that it’s often tempting to take on more than you can actually expect to do. One suggestion he makes for handling this is coming up with an Authorised Projects List.

There are basically two reasons for the list, one a positive one, and one a negative one

The positive is to keep you aware of all the calls on your time so that you can ensure that each project receives adequate attention.

The negative is that a project is as much about what you are not going to do as about what you are going to do. The list therefore keeps you focused on the projects on the list and stops you from deviating onto other “bright ideas”. You should not allow yourself to put any task on your to-do list which doesn’t relate to one of these projects.

The Authorised Projects list also helps you to avoid over-committing yourself. If you want to introduce a new project you need to be able to demonstrate what projects have ceased or have been weeded out in order to make room for the new project.

I’ve found this quite helpful. Firstly it forces you to think through what your major projects actually are (a useful exercise in it’s own right) and then, when a new idea pops up, to cross check whether it’s on the list.

This is related to the powerful concept of firmly and clearly saying ‘no’ to opportunities, which crops up in many different business circumstances. See, for example, ‘Saying No Effectively‘.

Listening Completely

April 27, 2016


“When people talk listen completely. Don’t be thinking what you’re going to say. Most people never listen. Nor do they observe. You should be able to go into a room and when you come out know everything that you saw there and not only that. If that room gave you any feeling you should know exactly what it was that gave you that feeling. Try that for practice.” – Ernest Hemingway

Well I did try that for practice and found it incredibly hard! On the topic of listening better, and from a previous post:

“Very few people are good listeners. A good listener listens slowly to what is being said. He does not jump ahead nor does he rush to judge nor does he sit there formulating his own reply. He focuses directly on what is being said. He listens to more than is being said. He extracts the maximum information from what he hears by looking between the words used and wondering why something has been expressed in a particular way. It is active listening because the listener’s imagination is full of ‘could be’ and ‘may be’ elaborations.” – Edward de Bono

It’s pretty clear why only a few people are particularly good listeners, it’s quite an art and, along the way, requires a lot of practice (or perhaps even a natural inclination).

As a very modest indication of progress, I now occasionally ask myself during conversations ‘am I really listening or just waiting for a chance to speak?’. It does actually make a difference!


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