Breakfast with TED: Trust, Memory and Gladwell on David vs Goliath

For a while now I have developed the ritual of TEDTuesday – taking time each Tuesday to watch and learn something on

If you are new to – it is a platform for some of the most amazing explorers of knowledge and witnesses of humanity to share their knowledge, insights and experiences. Based on themed conferences and an annual general conference, TEDTalks are videos of public talks. I love TED for its purpose and for its diversity. If you have never watched a TEDTalk, I beg you – please – do so now!

So today I decided – over breakfast – to watch as many TEDTalks as I could during my breakfast time (about 30 minutes). I got out my Galaxy Note and launched the TED app and off I went. Without much thought about what I wanted to watch I just picked topics that vaguely interested me and something from Malcolm Gladwell – an author I really like learning from. So here goes…

#1 -Onora O’Neill: What we don’t understand about trust

This talk seemed a little laboured, however Onora brought a lot of focus to the issue of trust and the misguided populism of some of the soundbytes that are regularly banded about by buzzwordists and politicians, for example ‘Gain trust’, ‘Rebuild trust’.
Trust is a big deal for me in my life and being worthy of the trust of people I am interested in having mutually positive relationships with is something I spend a lot of time and thought exploring. How do I communicate my trustworthiness to my wife, my kids , friends and my clients? Truth is, they each have their own set of operating rules to determine whether I have earned it.

I think Onora falls into the same trap of offering simple templates and more – though different – sound bytes. For example, she proposes that establishing trustworthiness is based on 3 things – ‘Competence, honesty and reliability’. It may do for certain people in certain contexts but not as a general rule. They are reasonable examples but not absolutes. My son who is nearly 5 years old might consider me trustworthy because I demonstrate sacrifice – that I forego other things to make time for him.

I enjoyed the talk but it was perfectly timed at 7 minutes – any more and I think she may have totally lost me. It left me with a lingering learning that asking people how you might earn their trust i.e. how you might be worthy of their trust – is the first activity one might do and then go from there.

My key learning: Trustworthiness is a more effective goal than trust. It is subjective and trying to understand what constitutes it in every relationship is a great place to start from.

#2 -Elizabeth Loftus: The fiction of memory

This impassioned and fascinating talk really opened my eyes and mind to the power of suggestibility – especially in when it is sustained and deliberate. The lessons Elizabeth shares and glimpses of what is possible throws up huge questions in my mind about the quality of our legal systems.

My imagination is pretty vivid and I often find myself questioning a memory that flashes in my head – did I dream it, imagine it or did it really happen? This is a conscious act. So far I have deliberately developed mental tools to cross validate my memories with other things to rule out whether that event was real or imagined. For example, I often ‘remember’ that I replied to someone’s email when in fact I haven’t. Typically I retrospect on this and find that I mentally composed the reply and did so visually – as though I typed it out. At some level, my brain registers this as a memory. Then I seek evidence (like checking my ‘Sent’ box to see whether it was right.

As a student of NLP and very keen on the way the mind works, I know how easy it is to affect someone’s behaviour through some pretty easy ‘tricks’ and although it is not something I  do for ethical reasons, I know of practitioners that use these techniques in personal coaching work. The insight that the use of some of these techniques, like hypnosis and subliminal messaging, could tamper with people’s memories and unleash a chain of events that have lifelong consequences was very interesting.

It raises other questions in my mind – about film and fantasy work and advertising. Do they really understand the long term effects of such realism in film. I know there is research now into the effects of pornography on the brain and behaviour – how much of this effect is on memory? Perhaps certain content needs regulation – like dosage!

My key learning: Memory is far too open to suggestion to be reliable on its own. Even collectively it is dangerously unreliable (due to anchoring and suggestion). So finding evidence based thinking tools to cross validate it is both essential and offers a whole new world of potential innovation.

#3 –Malcolm Gladwell: The unheard story of David and Goliath

I like Malcolm – he is a fantastic story teller and I value his ability to get to the essence of something. Usually it is an essence no one else sees! Many ah-ha moments with his books.
Anyway, Malcolm retells the story of David vs Goliath really beautifully, taking us through the geography of the times and the geopolitical forces at play.

Then he shares his opinions – some backed up by various bits of research – about how David was really not an underdog and simply fought Goliath on his own terms. In the end all of it was circumstantial and personally I thought it was reasonable. For example, Goliath could have been suffering from acromegaly – which many people suffering from gigantism also tend to suffer. This could have caused him to be visually impaired and may have contributed to David’s victory.

My key learning: Aside from all the biblical blah blah, I took from the subtexts some really powerful messages about adversity and some of the challenges of competition and some lessons that I can directly apply to my startup journey. For example – focus on my strengths. Also to play by my rules – not the rules of my opponent or competition. Also, weirdly, in place of competition, collaborate. Work with the weakness of my partner for my gain. This is also something that resonates really strongly from my Aikido practice.


What have you learnt from these TED talks? I really would love to know and share. Go ahead, drop me a comment or tweet me your thoughts.

Unlock the power in your old blog posts with 3 awesome tools

I have been blogging off and on for about nine or ten years and I seem to have accumulated quite a few posts in that time.

In the early days, I focused on human rights issues, military interventions and the games governments play. In recent times – with the Syrian crisis – I wondered how  I might get some of my older but still very relevant posts out on my twitter timeline for my followers to read. More importantly, how to do this without flooding my timeline or creating more work for myself. More work is bad, mmmkay. I have 3 tools I want to share with you that made this problem go away and best of all are easy to use and free!

Tweetily – something to tweet old posts

Tweetily by Flavio MartinsSo I searched the WordPress plugin world and found Tweetily by Flavio Martins (who you may know as the totally awesome customer experience guru). I don’t know whether Flavio actually wrote the plugin but it has his name on it. Anyway, I installed it and it worked great. With very little effort – less than 10 minutes – I was able to get all my old posts tweeted on a basic schedule  – yay!

Basically you tell Tweetily which posts to exclude by category, the minimum age of posts to include and how often to tweet and away you go. It also has a nifty little feature that lets you prefix the tweets with some free flow text. This is the critical feature that makes this whole setup work.

Buffer – something to spread out your tweeting

Buffer by Buffer.But hang on – I also use the super-easy Buffer app to schedule my tweets, this could pose a problem. Buffer – for those not in the know – is a super-easy app that lets you schedule your tweets so that you don’t flood your timeline, but more importantly , you can optimise when you send tweets for maximum reach. Buffer also does Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and

I don’t really want another thing posting to Twitter – that might flood my timeline or need more management!

BufferDM – the bridge between Buffer and Tweetily

BufferDM by @mhsuttonThen I remembered BufferDM – a happy little utility app I wrote to help me add to my buffer account by a twitter DM. Let me explain.

My ideas for tweets come to me in floods, before Buffer I just let that flood flow – not good! I pissed a few people off and they unfollowed me. That sort of tweet-diarrhea stinks.

Buffer made a huge difference for me, but it was still tedious to go to the website or even the mobile app. Typically I just use the Twitter for Mac client. So I wrote a little app that I could tweet a DM to and it would put it into my buffer on BufferApp. I didn’t need to use any other clients and the only decision I have to make was whether to prefix my tweet with a ‘d bufferdm’  or not – I could keep my flow without the flooding. Happy!!

Back to Tweetily. After a few days of using Tweetily I was a little dissatisfied with the timing conflicts of old blog posts and my other tweets from Buffer, but by getting Tweetily to tweet my post as a DM to BufferDM which then puts it nicely into my Buffer queue.

I did this simply by setting my prefix text to ‘d bufferdm’ in  the Tweetily config.

Now Tweetily handles the figuring out of which old posts to tweet and Buffer does what it does best and sends them out in a very optimised way. BufferDM is the pipe that makes it all sing.

I am also noticing a generally increasing readership and a lot more conversations (that I love) on Twitter. When I have the data to prove this, I’ll share.

So if you have some old posts you want to tweet without killing your timeline, try this setup and let me know how it goes.