Welcome to the belivernomics blog


I will try my best to update this webpage with  thought provoking and interesting content, as often as I can.  Please feel free to leave comments as  there is much that can be learnt from the sharing of ideas.

By pa360, Jan 31 2015 11:06AM

If you had to define the primary measures of business growth what would they be? Higher net profits and greater market share? Or perhaps increased customer satisfaction and higher brand value? Certainly if you were looking to determine the commercial viability of a business, then any one of the above metrics would be very good indicators of growth.

Notwithstanding, we know that a business is a much more dynamic and multi-faceted construct than its balance sheet and quarterly results would suggest. As such, there are other equally meaningful measures of 'business growth', ones that offer a slightly more nuanced and less obvious perspective of the direction in which a business is travelling. So, what are these metrics and what sorts of insights do they offer? Well, set out below are seven uncommon characteristics of business growth.

1. Effective utilisation of organisational memory

One of the most valuable and transactable assets that any business possesses is its knowledge. These days it is even suggested that knowledge (specifically data) has a greater value than gold. However, by itself, organisational knowledge is of limited value without the organisational memory (ie: habits, behaviours and ways of working) to process it. The particular importance of memory is two-fold; in the first instance it enables an organisation to retain the valued knowledge that it has acquired over time. Secondly, it serves as the most effective way in which knowledge acquired and retained can be recycled or re-purposed for future use. Retention of valued knowledge empowers repetition and repetition of what works produces sustained results. As such, the role of organisational memory as one of the most important characteristics of business growth, cannot be understated.

2. Willingness to circle back to the beginning

In almost every circumstance, the decision to go back to the beginning or 'back to square one' would be a sign of complete and total failure. However, it is in reality one of the best signs and measures of organisational growth. The reason for this is because, the courage to start from the beginning, in order to determine what has not worked, demonstrates the maturity and bearing of an organisation. Those organisations that are confident enough to retrace their steps, are not only well placed to reflect on what is right and correct what is wrong, they will also be able to avoid repeating the same mistake in future.

3. Consolidation and concentration over expansion and extension

It is often the case that business growth is measured by 'expansion'. Particularly where this facilitates the provision of products and services into new territories and markets or where the scope of the product or service offer, is diversified. However, dependent on the circumstances, consolidation and concentration can be better or more appropriate measures of 'growth' than expansion and extension. Fundamentally, consolidation is the practice of strengthening what you already have. By combining this with concentration, (eg: intensified focus or effort in a particular area of operation) products and services can be made more durable and resilient. A business that consolidates and concentrates, can therefore develop a more in-depth and meaningful understanding of the functionality and capability of its product.

4. Knowing who is imitating, not just who is watching

There are few measures that reflect the progress that you have made more than the influence that you have in your market-place and wider-operational environment (particularly the impact that you have on others). The more that your competitors imitate you, the more they acknowledge your creative insights, the strength of your brand and your market edge. If no-one is imitating you, that may itself be an indicator of how they perceive your presence in the market and the extent to which they view you as a viable competitor. Imitation is not just the most sincere form of flattery, it is also one of the most visible signs of business growth.

5. Awareness of your market presence

Ok, so think about how you behave when you are aware of something. What do you do when you are about to leave your home and discover that it is raining outside? Or if you are at the wheel of your vehicle as the traffic lights change from 'amber' to 'green'? Awareness is critical because it empowers you to know and if your knowledge leads to understanding, then it empowers you to act. In the context of business growth, if year on year, more people are aware of your brand and products then that increase in awareness, presents you with potential for growth.

6. The size and durability of your footprint

A footprint is a clear and visible indicator of your presence. A footprint that lasts long after you have departed is evidence of your impact. As a measure of customer engagement, business footprint should not just let you know who is aware your presence, but perhaps more importantly who remembers you were ever there. The insight gained from measuring business footprint enables you to test the effectiveness of messaging to current and future customers. Specifically, it will enable you to determine where and with whom your messaging resonates. Using these insights, a business will be better able to determine where the greatest scope for further 'growth' might be.

7. The strength of your weakest link

Speed or pace of improvement is a fairly common measure of 'business growth'. Whilst this metric can be applied across the scale, including those areas where a business performs best, it is most effectively applied to those areas where a business performs worst. The rationale and logic here is predicated on the assumption that: a business or any other entity, is only ever as strong as its weakest point. As such, a 'truer' measure of business growth is the one that will help an organisation to gain a more realistic and rounded picture of its overall performance, rather than the one that could inadvertently mask the areas of greatest risk.

In conclusion, growth is a measure of whatever you value and whatever you deem to be significant, in the context of your business. By definition, that could be a commercial return on investment, a public welfare outcome or something more nebulous. The most important thing is that, as a business, you are measuring the right thing, for the right reasons, in the right way and at the right time. If you are, then that is growth.

By pa360, Jan 30 2015 06:13AM

The extent to which a business achieves the level of success that it hopes for, depends on whether or not that business is able to meet the varied and multi-dimensional expectations of its customers.

Yet, understanding customer expectation is far from straightforward and can actually be quite challenging. On the one hand, there are those fundamental or non-negotiable expectations that derive from the 'promise' between the supplier and the customer (eg: that a product or service 'says what it does and does what it says'). Then there are the implicit expectations that customers have, which reflect their insatiable wants and desires for something better (eg: a phone that doesn't just tell the time, but also reads the pulse, monitors the heart rate and scans the brain).

Just how well a business is able to operate across and between each of the above boundaries will determine whether the needs of customers are being met as well as how quickly and sustainably that business can attract and build a loyal customer base. With all this in mind, set out below are seven ways to meet customer expectations.

1. Cultivate customer appetite

When I think of modern day brands that have mastered the art of cultivating customer appetite, I immediately think of Apple and Star Wars. Whether or not you are an Apple product user or Star Wars aficionado, one has to acknowledge the skill and craft with which both products have been marketed and the aura that has been built around them. So much so in fact that, even the anticipation of new Apple product or a new offering from the Star Wars universe, seems enough to satisfy the hunger (albeit temporarily) of the respective fan bases. However, if like me you are not fanatical about either product, then no amount of hunger will drive you to develop an appetite for them. The point being made here is that even if customers have a hunger for a product they are still much more likely to choose one that they have an appetite for, than one that they do not.

2. Over-sell and over-deliver

Two of the most effective ways to get noticed by your customers is to over-sell and over-deliver. In simple terms, your customers expect you to do what you promise. As part of this, they rightly expect suppliers to return value. However, the commitment to over-sell and over-deliver speaks to a desire to return not just value, but added-value (something that customers often hope for, but cannot reasonably expect). To the extent that a supplier makes the principle and practice of returning added-value part of their product or service offer, then that will become the customer's expectation. The key learning point here is that in some circumstances, suppliers may need to think out of the box in order to incentivise customers to look at them, when they would ordinarily be inclined to look at others.

3. Cultivate a customer entitlement culture

Customers will always expect what they think they are entitled to. To the extent that a supplier has the capacity and capability to realise these entitlement-driven expectations, then considerable influence can be exerted over the market-place. This is not to be sniffed at, especially if it enables a supplier to gain a potential market advantage over their competitors. But there is more; entitlement also creates a different kind of supplier-client relationship, one which is predicated as much on 'culture' (ie: custom, practice and convention) than the quality of the product or service itself. This type of relationship is also much more likely to produce customer loyalty and dependency, where customers do not so much need products because they want them, they want them because they need them.

4. Recognise where the wind of customer sentiment is blowing and adjust your sails

From time to time the weight of customer sentiment clearly and unequivocally points in a particular direction. At such a time, there really is nothing to debate about, the customer has spoken and suppliers either fall into line or fall out of favour. As a case in point, look at the instant messaging app market, which over the years has been saturated with products. During that period, some products have emerged as market-leaders, with 'everyone' seeming to be using them one minute and then migrating en masse to a different product, the next minute. Trying to remain competitive in an environment where customer sentiment has clearly shifted away from you is the market-place equivalent of circling a drain - you can only go in one direction and that's down. Better to redefine your product to capture a 'boutique' market or get out altogether and try something completely new.

5. Be mindful that, often, the customer does not know what they really want

Human wants are insatiable. That insight, shared by my former economics lecturer has forever shaped my understanding of customer expectation. By definition, customers cannot get enough of the things that they want and are often on a perpetual search for something even better. Part science and part art, even the most well funded and experienced marketing teams cannot predict with absolute certainty what products will succeed and which ones will fail. At a fundamental level, of course all customers want products and services that represent excellent value for money. However, beyond that, the lives of customers are so multi-faceted and diverse, the scope for meeting their expectations is incredibly broad. The key learning point here is that once you get the basics right, most customers are ready to be impressed and more than happy to be surprised.

6. Stop thinking that the customer is always right

Every business or supplier has heard of the phrase: ‘the customer is always right’. It is something of a customer service mantra that is hammered into just about anyone engaged in consumer driven transaction. However, in reality, the presumed rightness of the customer is actually a crude, unsophisticated and dare I say patronising way of framing the supplier- client relationship. The fact is that customers are not always right and neither do they expect to be. Rather, customers want to be understood, treated with dignity and not have their rights trampled upon by suppliers looking to engage in sharp and questionable practice for profit. Treat your customers as rational, sensible and reasonable individuals. Put yourself in their shoes, respect their right to their experience. Not only that; give them straight answers, offer them alternatives and don’t keep them waiting whilst you’re at it.

7. Raise expectation

A great way to meet the expectation of your customer is to raise it. That is to say, once you have reached the promised benchmark or delivered on the agreed guarantee, go even further and do something different or prepare to do something more. Raised expectation is also important because, by adopting this is a principle, it becomes difficult to slip into complacency. Instead, a commitment to raise expectation speaks to the continual growth, development and enhancement of a product or service. With continual and consequential growth, the overall experience of the customer is also likely to improve.

In conclusion, a business should never be passive in the face of customer expectation. Not only are there a number of active steps that could and should be taken to meet the needs and wants of customers, there are specific actions that a business can take to influence and create customer expectation as well.

By pa360, Jan 28 2015 06:15AM

Ok, so let's set the context; sometimes the things that people say or do, result in outcomes that they do not expect. For example, when innocent clowning around results in a serious accident or when an email sent between friends is innocently forwarded on to others and goes viral. When this happens it is commonly known as the law of unintended consequences.

Back in 1991 a British businessman Gerald Ratner, delivered a speech to some 5,000 people in which he unflatteringly described one of his own products as 'crap'. At the time, Mr Ratner was one of Britain's most successful businessmen, with a global chain of some 2,000 jewellery outlets. At the peak of his powers Ratner was known as the biggest jeweller in the world and his empire was worth well over a billion dollars. So why did he call his own product 'crap'?

Well the comment was intended as a joke, but the joke went viral and the damage was terminal. In the aftermath of Mr Ratner's comments hundreds of millions were wiped off his company's share price, hundreds of its retail outlets were forced to close, thousands of its employees were laid off and Mr Ratner himself was eventually sacked. This commercial faux pas has since become known as 'doing a Ratner' and from the case study above, I have picked out seven lessons that you need to learn to protect your brand.

1. Handle your brand carefully, it is easier to break things than build things

If there is one salutary lesson from the Gerald Ratner case study, it is the fact that breaking things is easier than building things. Brands can be like fine art, they are painstakingly cultivated over time, but they need to be handled with care. In the unforgiving world of brand and reputation management, an item that is dropped unintentionally can break into just as many pieces as item that is dropped on purpose. As an individual or a business, you are never more than a custodian, steward or a caretaker of your brand. The key learning point here is that a brand is indeed incredibly delicate and once damaged or broken is extremely difficult to fix.

2. You can measure your value, but it is your customers who determine your worth

A smart business understands the very simple truth that its brand is determined and decided by its customers. That is why, in an effort shape the perception of would-be customers, many businesses spend so much time and energy trying to cultivate and craft their brand image. Customer perception is important because when it is positively disposed towards a brand, customers are much more likely to be confident in that brand and with confidence comes trust and with trust comes loyalty. The key learning point here is that customers bring considerable leverage to the table, because without their endorsement, there is no business.

3. Sometimes the biggest barrier to your success is your success

Nothing creates a culture of complacency more than the mistaken belief that you are above the possibility of failure. Sometimes success can create a sense of megalomania, which itself can incentivise increasingly risky or chancy behaviours. It is inconceivable that Gerald Ratner could have envisaged the extent to which an obvious joke, would be taken so seriously that it would eventually bring down a long established business empire. However, that is the inherent 'danger' of success, it can often blind us to reason and risk, encouraging us to do things that we would not normally consider. Perhaps the key learning point here is the need to constantly remind ourselves that success, like fire, is a good servant, but a bad master.

4. If you are going to 'dis' your product make sure that your customers are in on the joke

Ironically, there are times when taking a jab at your own product can actually be part of a carefully thought out marketing or branding strategy. Consumers of the UK brand Marmite, a spreadable and edible yeast extract, will know what I am referring to. The product, an acquired taste for a discerning palate, sharply divides consumer opinion. However, instead of avoiding this controversy, the manufacturer has actively courted it through marketing and advertising. The distinct difference here is that a widely known and public acknowledged fact about the product is being commercially exploited. The Ratner case implied something that, even if widely known, was certainly not publicly acknowledged. The error of Gerald Ratner is not that of commission (ie: discrediting his own product) it is of omission (ie: failing to take his customers into his confidence before doing so).

5. Build a firewall around your brand

One of the things that struck me about the comments made by Gerald Ratner is that they were from prepared remarks and not delivered off the cuff. A prepared statement implies that time was given to its content and construction, which is actually quite baffling because one wonders where was the due diligence? Who checked and signed it off? If ever evidence were needed, the Ratner case highlights the fact that organisational seniority does not equate to a monopoly on good judgement. In a healthy organisation, there are appropriate 'firewalls' in place to protect a brand from risk. One therefore assumes that no (or insufficient) 'firewalls' were in place. Alternatively, they may simply have been ignored.

6. If something gets through your 'firewall' make sure you have a recovery plan

Whilst Gerald Ratner did bounce back, the damage to the Ratner business brand was very serious indeed. Three decades after the event, 'doing a Ratner' has become something of a study in the business equivalent of self-harm. In an ideal world, no business wants to find itself in a position, where it needs to rescue its brand from self-inflicted wounds. However, stuff happens and in the event that some unintended harm finds it way through your protective 'firewall' you need to have a fallback plan. Quick and decisive action, as early as possible can prevent a growing crisis from engulfing and consuming an organisation,

7. Own your error and do it quickly

I have always believed that humility in the face of failure and even ridicule is evidence of courage and courage is a high value character trait. Owning error does not mean allowing yourself to be buried by your failings. It simply means taking responsibility for things that have gone wrong and using the lessons you have learnt to put things right. Over the years Ratner has indeed 'fessed up', taken full responsibility and even poked fun at himself for his foot-in-mouth moment. To his great credit, Ratner has recovered and is once again trading successfully in the jewellery industry, albeit under a different brand name.

In conclusion, the fact that a simple four letter word could destroy a brand and bring a long established business to its knees seems absurdly disproportionate. But that is exactly what happened. As this blog clearly sets out, brands can be incredibly fragile and customers can be extremely unforgiving. Of course, for various reasons, brands receive negative press all the time. However, the aim and intention of this blog is not to help you to prepare for the unknowable, it is to help you prevent the avoidable.

By pa360, Jan 26 2015 05:34AM

By definition, when something is imperfect it has fallen short of expectation, not met the required standard or is in some way deficient. However, what is reassuring is that we all start from the same place when it comes to imperfection. For each and everyone of us, there is some obstacle that we cannot hurdle, a challenge we cannot overcome or a blemish that we are desperately trying to conceal. Perhaps even more reassuring is the knowledge that the rubble of imperfections are the building blocks of every brand.

Yes, embracing rather than running away from imperfection is not only what helps to build brands, but also what turns a weak brand into a good brand and a good brand into a great one. But how is that possible? Well here are seven imperfections that are building blocks for the best brands.

1. Re-occurring insecurity

Insecurity has negative connotations as it is often associated with defensiveness, over-anxiety and risk aversion. At a fundamental level however, insecurity simply reflects the need or desire for assurance and anyone who claims not to feel insecure at times, is simply not being honest. In the context of a brand, insecurity can be a very effective counter-weight to the risk of complacency. To the extent that insecurity leads to diligence, responsibility and accountability, then it can play a critical role in building, strengthening and sustaining a brand. Particularly so because, where you start with insecurity, through the process of elimination, you should eventually conclude with a greater degree of confidence and a higher level of assurance. The key learning point here is that perpetual or never-ending insecurity is clearly unhealthy as this will eventually lead to paralysis. However, in the right measure and managed in the right way, insecurity can help you to achieve better results and build a stronger brand.

2. Repetitive failure

The tragedy of failure is not that it occurs, but rather that we often run away from the experience of it and as such leave behind valuable and sometimes critical learning points. In reality, failure can often be an enriching, energising and empowering experience. One that should spur us on to greater curiosity and transformative discovery. Through failure, character is built — in particular the courage to persist when you want to give up, the humility to recognise that you do not know it all and the empathy to relate to those unlike you. Failure is a brand builder because it is predicated on the principle of improvement, which is exactly the assumption upon which every strong brand is built. The key learning point here is that whilst it is absolutely true that success shapes the perception of any brand, sustainable success is often the result of repeated failures.

3. Over caution

Many years ago, a senior executive in a public organisation commented to me that: “it is better to get it right, than to get it written”. I have never forgotten that statement nor the importance embedded within those words. A simple translation of that comment is that: a sub-standard product that is delivered to an agreed deadline is still a sub-standard product. If the point of producing a product or a service is to ensure that the it is ‘finished’, then it cannot be ‘finished’ if it is not ready and it will not be ready if it is not right. If you had to choose, would you rather have excellent food that is delivered slightly late or poor quality food that is served on time? Whilst there are times when delay is clearly symptomatic of incompetence and poor planning, very often it is a product of due diligence, accountability and a commitment to customer care (all characteristics of a strong brand). The key learning point here is that there are times when delay is not just understandable, but may actually be desirable.

4. Fault-finding

No-one seems to like fault-finders. At best they are considered perfectionists, setting unimaginably and unachievably high standards. At worst they are thought of as nit-pickers, who are prepared to ‘cross the road’ in order to undermine and second guess for no discernibly good purpose. Whilst there are undoubtedly fault-finders who operate at either end of the spectrum, the truth is that most probably operate somewhere in-between. But here’s the rub, in business do you know who your biggest fault-finders are? They are your customers! Yes, the very group of people whose endorsement your brand relies upon. So let’s be clear, if you find your own faults then your customers will not have to find them for you.

5. Wilful neglect

Under normal circumstances, an act of wilful neglect is tantamount to gross misconduct and would be enough to get a person fired from their job. For a business, it would likely do irreparable damage to consumer confidence and probably destroy the brand. However, there are occasions when wilful neglect is actually a prerequisite for a role and a defining characteristic of a brand. Take those in the military where the willingness to forfeit one’s own life, whilst performing acts of extreme courage in the service of country, comrade and in combat, is an expectation of those who serve. On their own, acts of courage, valour and bravery are the very definition of wilful neglect. Yet, in the context of the right brand, they represent the most desirable characteristics.

6. Stubbornness

Stubbornness is often associated with poor listening skills, arrogance and the inability to build successful relationships. There is nothing redeeming or brandworthy about stubbornness right? Well think of the stance taken by historical figures such as Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Emmeline Pankhurst and Martin Luther King. Each of the above, easily meet the definition of stubbornness. Each were committed to their principles and were even subject to ridicule and resentment for their stance. Yes, in the context of branding-building, there are some things that you should not, cannot and must not compromise on. As such, there are times when you will absolutely need to be stubborn, hard-headed and refuse to give ground, if doing so will deliver the outcomes that are critical to your brand.

7. Obsession

The chances are that when you read of the word ‘obsession’ you will immediately think: excess, extremes and even destructiveness. However, context is everything. Are you a fan of the Marvel Universe? One of the things that I find fascinating about Marvel fans is how deeply they are invested not just in the product, but in the genre surrounding the product. So much so that they can tell what is and is not canon, whether or not a story-line is continuous or whether a character arc makes sense. By any common definition, the level of commitment and degree of loyalty shown by Marvel fans could be described as ‘obsessive’. The point being made here is that in many cases, brand loyalty (the very thing that makes product successful) is a derivative of the ‘obsession’ that shows that your customers care. As such, if you are not ‘obsessed’ about your own product or service (ie: fastidious about attention to detail and committed to authentic experience) then do not expect your customers to be either.

In conclusion, a few weeks ago I was reading a fascinating article about the late Apple Chief Executive Officer, Steve Jobs, who passed away in 2011. As well as eulogising Mr Jobs’ many and varied achievements, the article also drew attention to his perceived weaknesses. To my great surprise, some of the adjectives used to describe him included: bully, rude, manipulative and spiteful. Why does that matter? It matters for two reasons; firstly, whilst none of those behaviours can ever be condoned or accepted, people still achieve great success in-spite of their weaknesses. The second reason why it matters is because one should not assume that imperfection automatically means rejection. If properly contextualised and purposed, some of the most disagreeable characteristics can be the building blocks for the best brands.

By pa360, Jan 24 2015 11:06AM

On a particular afternoon, many years ago I was making chicken stew. Just as I had done many times before, I placed all the ingredients in a saucepan and left them to simmer on the cooker for 30 minutes. Given that I had successfully performed this task on previous occasions, I had absolute confidence in the outcome. However, this time I did something different - I fell asleep.

I don't remember how long I was asleep for, only that I was awoken from my slumber by the acrid smell of burning chicken. My stew had been reduced to a smouldering ruin, all because I had failed to pay attention to what I was doing. I think it is worth repeating that I didn't fail in my objective because I lacked the belief, skill or talent to complete the task. On the contrary, I failed in my objective because at a key moment I was distracted and lost focus. This is a sobering lesson because it reveals that by themselves our skills, talents, competencies and experience amount to nothing without the ability to stay focused. So here are the seven kinds of distraction that the most successful people avoid.

1. The distraction of success

Success can be a major distraction primarily because it can lead to complacency. The danger of complacency is that complacent people rest on their laurels and take for granted the things that made them successful in the first place. The eco-system of success can also be a distraction for other reasons, notably because those who achieve success often attract people around them who will feed their insecurities, nourish their vanity and massage their egos. When others tell us what we want to hear, they wittingly or unwittingly shield us from what we need to know. As a matter of course, the most successful people surround themselves with those who will provide challenge, balance and context to their thinking and reasoning.

2. The distraction of discouragement

At some point everyone will experience disappointment of some description. By itself, disappointment is not final or definitive. However, where it becomes problematic is when disappointment leads to discouragement and where discouragement then results in indecision and unreasonable self-doubt. This in turn can provide a justification for giving up. With successful people, disappointment is contextualised in a completely different way. Instead of giving undue weight to disappointments, when things have gone wrong, focus is given to active learning in order to better understand what went wrong and what can be done better next time. In this way. the discouragement that comes from disappointment can be re-purposed to build resilience and persistence.

3. The distraction of significance

Not everything has the same level of importance. One of the things that really successful people are able to do is prioritise the most important issues, without being distracted by those that are of lesser significance. Think of it this way, if you have 100 things that you need to do of which 60 are desirable, 30 are essential and five are critical, which ones should be given the greatest priority? The critical ones right? Not only that, but really successful people would then be able to make discerning judgements about the apportionment of their time eg: they might spend 70 per cent of their time on the most critical things, with the rest of the time apportioned to essential tasks. The key learning point here is that successful people avoid spreading themselves too thinly, mindful that doing so can divert attention away from those things that matter most.

4. The distraction of preference

Successful people know that preference is the opposite of necessity. The things that we prefer to do are the ones that give us the greatest satisfaction or stimulation and reflect our personal interests and choices. Unfortunately preference can also be a major distraction, diverting focus and attention away from those things that are absolutely necessary. A manager who prefers to avoid difficult conversations with poorly performing employees, because they do not want to offend them, will likely encourage other employees to underperform. By contrast, a manager who does what is necessary, rather than what is preferable is more likely to take the difficult decisions if that is what will produce the most appropriate and successful outcomes.

5. The distraction of the moment

Have you ever observed the behaviour of people waiting to cross the road at a major pedestrian crossing? They will check the traffic lights, wait until it is safe and then walk across the road before the lights change. For the most part, people intending to get from one side of the road to the other take active steps to de-risk their behaviour. You do not for example see them reading newspapers, applying make-up or stopping to tie shoelaces in front of stationary traffic. The reason is because such behaviours are distractions that will increase one's exposure to risk and potentially lead to undesirable outcomes. Successful people understand the moment and are quickly able to distinguish that which is appropriate in the moment from all the other things that might be happening or could happen during that point in time.

6. The distraction of ambient noise

Noise is a powerful distraction. Not least because we routinely ascribe some sort of value to sound. For example, the sound of whispering can make us suspicious, the sound of laughter can make us curious and the sound of shouting can make us anxious. However, it is how we behave and respond when we hear ambient noise that makes the difference. Again the point being made here is not how much you hear, but rather what you ascribe value to, because it is what you ascribe value to that will determine what requires your attention. Consequently, what requires your attention ultimately determines what you need to do next. Successful people are able to filter out that which amounts to actionable information from that which constitutes ambient noise. It is this distinction that enables them to enhance access to opportunity and mitigate risk.

7. The distraction of the unfamiliar

Almost anything that is new, different or unfamiliar can create a distraction. However, having one's concentration momentarily broken may not necessarily be the worst thing, particularly where this might offer new insights that could help to re-balance perspectives and positions. Rather, the problem is more likely to arise when concentration is continually broken in a way that points to shallow reasoning, a lack of commitment or transactional values. In simple terms, it is almost impossible to complete or finish any task if you lack the capacity and intensity to see it through to the end. By contrast the most successful people are determined, resolute and conscientious. As such, they are better able to avoid the risks associated with those who exhibit indecisive tendencies.

In conclusion, when you are distracted you lose focus. When you lose focus you are no longer paying attention. When you are no longer paying attention standards slip, behaviours become erratic, decisions become questionable and end goals are compromised. By themselves distractions are unavoidable (everyone has to face them) but it is ultimately how you deal with them that makes the difference. To that end, living with distraction puts you on the pathway to learning, but when you avoid being distracted, you are on the pathway to success.

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