Posts tagged ‘public speaking’


Four ingredients of leadership

26.01.2014

140121 Defining leadership_Page_02

I was asked by my Alma Mater, Victoria University of Wellington, to give a 90-minute lecture on leadership last week to students visiting New Zealand from Peking University and the Guangdong University of Foreign Studies. (My half-serious suggestion that I spoke Cantonese and the three students from Guangdong who understood could translate to Mandarin to the rest of their classmates was turned down.) The above was the second slide, and the four main points I wanted to get across. When I posted this on Facebook and Instagram, it got quite a few likes, so I’m sharing it more publicly here.
   They were a personal look at my style of leadership and what drove my career over the last quarter-century or so.
   The first one was more down to luck and necessity than my being a great visionary who foresaw virtual firms and how we could be brought together through online communications. The second, however, is probably down to a number of factors, though one must also evaluate the risk of taking those steps.
   The third and fourth, however, should be things we can all accomplish, by finding causes close to our hearts.
   One student asked about the fourth, because she noted that there were circumstances where dissent might land one in trouble. (You may think I was taking a dig at China there, but I suspect Edward Snowden might have a thing or two to say about that.) I gave her the example of a person who had a criminal record for a minor matter because he had fallen in with the wrong crowd, and had repaid his debt to society. Did he deserve a leg up because you knew he was a good person? Now, what if that person wanted to go for a particular job? Even if the glass ceiling isn’t shattered, you can still put cracks in it if you believe he’s the best person for it. Help him out: give him feedback on his CV, offer him advice, help rehearse a job interview.
   What if it was someone who wanted to go to a good school but his parents couldn’t afford it? Would you write a letter of endorsement and put your weight behind his application for a scholarship—because you knew he would make the most of that opportunity?
   My apologies for the use of the masculine pronoun but the above are based on real-world examples.
   We all have something to offer the next person, and those opportunities to help others will always arise.

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Posted in business, China, culture, leadership, New Zealand, social responsibility, technology, Wellington | No Comments »


Optimism marks out the Indian decade

17.01.2012

Jack Yan at SIMCUG
Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication

I’ve had a wonderful time in Pune and Mumbai, two cities to which I had wanted to go for some years. Like some New Agers say: be careful what you put out into the universe. It can come true.
   My main reason for going was to address the Knowledge Globalization Conference at FLAME in Pune. FLAME’s campus is remarkable: 1,000 acres, near a fancy golf course, and completely teetotal (which actually suits a social-only drinker like me). The scenery in the valley is stunning, and the sound of the water trickling down the mountain during the winter was particularly relaxing.
   But as with any place one visits, it’s never the scenery that makes it: it’s the people. And in Pune I found a sense of optimism from all people from all walks of life, one which I hadn’t seen for quite some time.
   I also ran into Deo Sharma from Sweden, whom I first met in 2002 in København. When there are coincidences like that, you know you’re on to a good thing.
   Equally inspirational was addressing the Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication. This talk, arranged through my friend Nishit Kumar—who learned I got a bigger buzz sharing knowledge than sitting on a beach relaxing—was attended by 600 students at different year levels. When you see a school like that, and students prepared to ask tough questions (both in person and later on Twitter), you feel encouraged that Pune has an incredible future ahead.
   And before I advance to my next point, Mumbai was just as fantastic, and I need to acknowledge my old friend Parmesh Shahani, who let me stay with him in a home that beats some of the art galleries I have seen.
   Everywhere you go in Pune, you see schools. A lot of tertiary institutions. Like so many Asian families, Indians place education highly. I had two parents who never seemed to go out on the town because we weren’t made of money, and everything they had went to my private schooling. I can well comprehend this mentality.
   Which, of course, begs the question: why isn’t our country doing more in this sector with India?
   I realize things are gradually changing as we incorporate more air routes directly to India and the government begins focusing on our fellow Commonwealth nation, but, as with capitalizing on the wave of Hong Kong emigration in the 1990s, I fear we might be too slow. Again.
   This is nothing new. I’ve been saying it since the mid-2000s, on this blog and elsewhere. Privately I’ve probably been uttering it for even longer, before we nominated Infosys of Bangalore as one of our Brands with a Conscience at the Medinge Group.
   And yet in the quest to get a free-trade deal with Beijing, we brushed aside India, a country with whom we have a shared heritage, a lingua franca, and a lot of games of cricket.
   When I first went to India in 2008, one Indore businessman asked me: why on earth did New Zealand pursue the Chinese deal ahead of the Indian deal?
   ‘Follow the money,’ I swiftly answered, a response to which I got a round of applause.
   I know the numbers may well have been in China’s favour, but sometimes, there is something to be said for understanding what is behind those numbers. And there is also something to be said for looking at old friendships and valuing them.
   We can’t turn the clock back, nor might we want to, but it seems greater tie-ups with Indian education could be a great way to expose the next generation to more cultural sharing.
   While in Pune, there was news of two Indian student murders in Manchester, which won’t have done the British national image a great deal of good. Australia already suffers from a tarnished image of racism toward Indian students, one which the Gillard government is hurriedly addressing with advertising campaigns featuring Indian Australians. It strikes me that there is an opportunity here in New Zealand, now that I have apologized for Paul Henry. Only kidding. I don’t think that I had much influence doing so unofficially, but I felt I had to get it off my chest, and I did apologize.
   I was frank about it. I was frank about Henry, and I don’t mean Benny Hawkins off Crossroads. I was frank about the Indian immigrant who had to change his Christian name to something sounding more occidental before he got job interviews—prior to that he did not get a single response. But, I also noted, none of this would be out in the open in the mainstream media if New Zealanders, deep down, were not caring, decent people. The incidents would have been covered up.
   Despite what we might think, most folks didn’t realize that we had a decent high-tech industry, that we are the home of Weta, and that Tintin, The Lord of the Rings and King Kong were local efforts. Although Players had only been out for three days by that point—and not to particularly good reviews, either—few realized a third of it was filmed in New Zealand.
   They still think of sheep.
   But there is a generation which, despite a huge domestic market and the optimism in their own country, wants an overseas experience, and the occident is still regarded as the place to do it in.
   When they heard there was the possibility of high-tech jobs in a beautiful land, ears pricked up.
   I realize the OECD stats say we’re average when it comes to innovation, but I know it’s there, under the radar, growing. People like Prof Sir Paul Callaghan reckon it’s the realistic way forward for our nation. Interestingly, this message sounds an awful lot like the one I communicated during my 2010 mayoral campaign.
   And if we are to grow it, then maybe working with our Indian brothers and sisters is the exactly the direction we need to follow.

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Posted in branding, business, China, culture, India, media, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | 2 Comments »


Speaking on typography and social media, with Retake the Net in between

29.10.2011

Sometimes, a brand-new speech will give you some jitters, because the material’s unrehearsed. But I have to say I had a lot of fun today at Creative Camp at Natcoll in Wellington, organized by Kai König, Diane Sieger and their team, talking about typography and how we should be aware of it today. It was helped by a few graphics from Font Police, our humour website which netted itself a mention in Mashable earlier this month. I did feel inspired, and this was one of those talks where I was really happy with the content and how it fell into place.
   After a quick bite, it was off to Retake the Net, organized by Brian Calhoun, Sibylle Schwarz and Aimée Whitcroft, discussing internet freedoms.
   I attended two sessions: one on the corporate control of the cloud, and another on intellectual property (in part—I had to leave during it, but not before raising the Bill of Rights Act and its position vis-à-vis the Copyright Act). In the former, I was somewhat buoyed to learn that four of the sixteen participants used Duck Duck Go instead of Google, and the idea of the filter bubble was raised.
   November will see me head to the MTA conference to speak on social media, and participate in a debate over fuel prices.
   My talks will centre around social media. We had nutted out the approach as early as April, before Facebook launched Timeline, and before Google Plus. The landscape has changed, not in principle, but in terms of the tools. Had I prepared screen shots back then, they would have become dated. I plan to finish that talk off, along with its graphics, in the next few days, so what attendees will see will be only a couple of weeks old, at the most.

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Posted in business, design, internet, New Zealand, technology, typography, Wellington | No Comments »


Sponsorship specials going at MTA conference and expo

01.10.2011

The Motor Trade Association, whose conference and expo are on in Rotorua this November, has some last-minute sponsorship deals going. I’ll be heading up to speak on social media, and if anyone would like to reach this industry and the sizable numbers that are going to be there this year, events’ manager Anna McGeorge has some specials and would love to hear from you.
   You can have your logo on the vehicles heading between the Repco Carnival and the MTA Gala Dinner for NZ$3,000; speak at the MTA Council breakfast on November 11 at NZ$1,500 (along with having your display banners and signage up); sponsor the MTA Gala Awards dinner (no reasonable offer refused, but retail is NZ$20,000); buy a full-page ad or insert for $500; or get your logo at the registration desk (with wifi) for NZ$1,500.
   The PDF brochure with further info is linked here, and you can reach Anna on anna.mcgeorge@mta.org.nz or 64 4 381-8802.

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Posted in business, cars, internet, marketing | No Comments »


Giving our young people a fair go

26.02.2011

Earlier this month, I gave a workshop talk to the Leadership and Development Conference for the New Zealand Chinese Association in Auckland.
   I’ve just uploaded the speech notes, and as I did so, I wanted to append a few more thoughts.
   The topic was identity—not just branding, but personal identity.
   My self-critique ex post facto was that I spent insufficient time discussing my mayoral campaign, which, I am told, was the one area the audience wanted to hear more of. In the hour’s space, I spent more of it on the theories behind personal branding.
   It’s not hard to see why the young Chinese New Zealanders who attended this conference wanted to hear more about politics. First up, the title of the conference was a big clue. If you weren’t interested in leadership, you wouldn’t be there.
   Secondly, they’ll have grown up in a far more equal and fair society than I did. Which means they have more opportunities to seek the jobs they want. They won’t be limited by societal expectations and the false stereotypes will be waning.
   While there have been mayors of Chinese ethnicity in New Zealand for the last 40 years, it has only been in recent times that men like Meng Foon and Peter Chin have surfaced and brought a modern face to these positions.
   With the departure of Pansy Wong from Parliament, ‘Asians’ are underrepresented more than ever.
   God knows how many times I have heard the BS line of ‘But Chinese people aren’t interested in politics.’
   Funny, considering China has had politicians for most of the last five millennia and I come from a long line of them.
   And that’s the experience I should have shared more of with the Auckland audience. If we’re to be better represented, then we should be giving young people the courage to do what they want to do.
   If they’re interested in politics, then by all means, they should seize the day, and who gives a damn what their ethnicity is?
   The good news is that I didn’t experience much racism on the campaign trail. Our media were above board on this front, which shows some level of maturity has come into New Zealand society. Bias came in due to politicking in at least one case, but, generally, the fourth estate did well.
   I noticed a couple of instances where my lack of council experience became a talking-point. This is despite three of the last five mayors lacking council experience.
   Considering the structure of Wellington City Council needs fresh eyes to examine it, not being part of the furniture and having a healthy scepticism toward Humphrey Applebys might be a good thing.
   But they were valid concerns for some people, though to be dismissed by a few members of our media because of it means that fresh ideas won’t surface in our society, at least not till the idealism has gone out of them through groupthink and establishmentarianism.
   What would have been worth discussing with the audience was the idea that there will always be forces that try to include and exclude. I’m not pointing fingers because we all do it. The whole debating season I had with my five opponents was about oneupmanship.
   However, it would have been a great exercise to have looked at how they could overcome exclusion in their careers. And without changing their names.
   It would have tied neatly back into my criticism of the Uncle Tom behaviour.
   I apologize for furthering another stereotype: I realize Tom was a far more noble character in Uncle Tom’s Cabin than what people would believe today. I use the term only as a shortcut.
   The behaviour, I am sorry to say, has existed among our own race, too.
   I feel it’s still a concern when I see certain people who buy in to comfortable stereotypes, and use them to shoot down someone. Worse still, when they use them to shoot down someone of their own colour.
   It serves neither the majority nor the minority.
   And given that the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders gave me a fair go, you’d hope that we’d have seen an end to the Uncle Tom mentality.
   That would have been a great debate.
   Fortunately, there were equally members of the Kiwi Chinese community who were extremely encouraging toward my candidacy, because they had grown up with racism not unlike my own experience. They tried to redress the balance wherever possible, and I was extremely grateful for that.
   So many used their contacts to make life easier for my campaign—and it was through those and many other efforts that we punched well above our weight. Netting a third of the numbers of the victor on a tenth of the money is no mean feat.
   The good still outweighs the bad when it comes to race, and it can only get better for our young people. If all Kiwis get to do the things they are most passionate about, without prejudices about what they “should” be doing, they will ultimately benefit New Zealand.

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Posted in branding, culture, leadership, media, New Zealand, politics, Wellington | No Comments »


The changing accent of Gillian Anderson

09.01.2011

Gillian Anderson, Chicago-born, star of The X Files, grew up in North London and speaks with an accent that’s closer to Britain than the States. I noticed that she gets quite a bit of flak for this on YouTube comments, which is rather sad, perhaps revealing more about those who criticize her than anything else. (See the above video from 1’15”.)
   Critics say that when she’s on The Tonight Show or the less watched one with the cranky old guy, she has an American accent. To me, that makes sense.
   It’s not about “putting it on”. It’s because Anderson subconsciously switches between the two, because she’s had time in both countries.
   The story, as she tells it, was when she got back to the States at age 11, she had an English accent and wanted to hang on to it ‘because it made me different’. However, she learned to speak with a midwestern one, though it is not her natural accent. In my world, we all do this.
   I remember when I was once in London, the cabbie could not understand me when I asked him to take me to Waterloo Station. I summoned up my best Dennis Waterman and put in a guttural stop, asking for ‘Wa’erloo Station’, and there was an immediate understanding.
   Anyone who has grown up in two countries, or in two cultures, will have a very different approach to accents than those who grew up in one.
   I tend to waver between British and Kiwi for a number of reasons, mostly unconsciously. I’m typing this after getting off the phone to my friend Marie, who hails from Nottinghamshire. My colleagues here have often laughed at me when they overhear us because I go slightly northern without intending it.
   The fact is, despite having been raised in New Zealand for most of my childhood, I don’t have a natural accent.
   If the theory that your most impressionable years for learning to talk are between two and four, then I can say, hand on heart, that my exposure to spoken English was minimal: I was in a British colony where 99 per cent of spoken communication was Cantonese, though we learned some English at kindergarten. There were imported TV programmes but my parents and grandmother tended to watch the dubbed stuff.
   Ms Anderson was in London two to eleven, and that explains a lot.
   After moving to New Zealand, we never spoke English in the home. My godparents were English, one of my best friends at school was English, and one of the teachers I was close to at school was English. What was on telly back in those days? Mostly British programmes: The Brothers, Rainbow, Jamie and the Magic Torch, The New Avengers, Return of the Saint, etc.
   Unlike most Kiwi kids, my exposure to Received Pronunciation through media and family friends was not balanced by New Zealand-accented speakers around me. By the early 1980s, I would guess my accent was a mixture, which accounts still, 30 years on, for people asking if I had spent time in Britain or have some greater connection with the country than I actually do.
   By the time more American programmes began here, I believe my impressionable stage had passed. I have met one New Zealander who speaks with an accent closer to American, though I didn’t get to ask why. It wouldn’t surprise me if her story was not unlike my own.
   The fact I speak in the lower registers might make me sound more well spoken than I really am. When I really try to listen to myself, I hear a strong Kiwi twang, but others don’t seem to.
   By the time I was at uni I was embarrassed by the subconscious switching, which I couldn’t control. I attempted to sound more Kiwi—logically, since I was raised here, my accent should reflect that—but to this day, it jumps all over the place.
   The only accent I can actually “do”, as in switch with intention, but effortlessly so, is Scottish English, which I label ‘lower-register Aberdeenshire’—I’ve even been hired to MC a céilidh on one occasion.
   So poor Gillian, speaking so properly and still, many, many years after she was 11 and heading back to the midwest, still gets criticized for it.
   But there you are: this world is a big place and people have many reasons for speaking the way they do—and don’t deserve accusations of faking the way they speak.

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Posted in culture, general, New Zealand, TV, UK | 2 Comments »


Remember when we had an imagination like this?

23.11.2010

I keep telling people, most recently Mark Westerby, the producer, at last night’s Pecha Kucha where we both spoke, about ‘a cartoon strip that’s written by a six-year-old and drawn by his 20-something brother’. Except I encountered it so long ago that, beyond a few initial Tweets and a long browse of their website, I had forgotten its name.
   A quick search on Duck Duck Go located it: it’s called Axe Cop, and can be found at axecop.com.
   It’s a work of genius. Malachai Nicolle, who began the Axe Cop saga when he was five, comes up with the ideas. His older brother, Ethan, 29, gets his younger brother’s ideas and draws them up as a comic strip. So for those who ever wondered what rests in the mind of a five-year-old boy, Axe Cop answers that question.
   Many of us, while we admire the thought processes of a child, might not be able to use our own imaginations to appreciate fully what he or she has drawn. The Nicolle brothers solve that problem: while the interpretation still has a filter, this one’s probably finer than many, since the pair are related and a big brother is far more likely to be sympathetic to his own kin in ensuring that his execution is faithful.
   Below is a video made just under a year ago showing the writing process.

   Episode 1 has been turned into a motion comic by Axe Cop fans, and gives you an idea of how the saga began:

   I really admire the work of the Nicolle brothers. It also helps those of us who are grown up to try to recapture the thought processes that we had when we were children. The obvious benefit is to innovation and product-development, freeing us from the rigour of standardized methods. It could go even further: remember when we were innocent, free from notions of racism and prejudice?
   Sometimes, we have a lot to learn from children.

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Posted in business, interests, internet, publishing, USA | 1 Comment »


Metro gives thumbs-up to Stefan Engeseth’s Unplugged Speeches

21.03.2010

This is rather heartening to see, from the Metro freebie in Stockholm (the below is copied from the online edition):

Metro

   What’s in: Stefan Engeseth’s Unplugged Speeches series at the Regina Stockholms Operamathus (where yours truly gave the first edition).
   What’s out: the growing mounds of paper (rather appropriate in an eco-conscious nation).
   I hear his second edition, with Dr Farida Rasulzada, was a huge success as well. My wholehearted congratulations to Stefan for an excellent concept.

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Posted in business, culture, leadership, marketing, media, Sweden | 1 Comment »


Wellington wants free wifi

17.02.2010

While I’ve been a LinkedIn member for many years—my LinkedIn ID has six digits, which gives you an idea of how long ago—I have to confess that I did not browse the brilliant Wellington, New Zealand group till quite recently.
   And free wifi is being talked up there, too, as something Wellingtonians genuinely want.
   We hear from expats who feel Wellington needs this as a major city, from Wellingtonians who believe this would be great for growing business, and from some concerned citizens who wonder where the money comes from.
   Fortunately, two of the posters there have experience in the wifi space, and can attest to the fact that the infrastructure already exists. As mentioned on my mayoral campaign site, we can make this profitable for the city. Secondly, it will provide an additional avenue for Wellington businesses to be found.
   Indeed, one of these experts notes that it was exceedingly rare for anyone to go mental over downloading things; in any case, I propose there will be a daily data cap on the service.
   When I made wifi one of my core issues last year, I knew instinctively it would be right for Wellington.
   I don’t live in a bubble, and I’m not part of the political élite. Which means I haven’t learned how to distance myself from the needs of Wellingtonians. I’ve been engaging with people for a long time with an eye on this campaign. Anyone with one’s pulse on the city knows that free wifi and new jobs are things that a world-class city needs—and I firmly believe Wellington is potentially world-class. I would hate for us to miss the opportunities that are before us right now, which can catapult us into the big league to become one of the world’s great cities.
   As those of you who came out to the two Asian Events’ Trust shows at TSB Arena in Wellington over the weekend know, I have returned to our shores after a wonderful trip to Europe. The warmest it got, I should note, was 2°C, which makes even a foggy, overcast day like today seem dreamy. (The coldest was –15°C.)
   Some of the conversations I had in Sweden still can’t be revealed yet (this isn’t about transparency—this is about legality), but I was there studying some benchmarks for transportation and the environment. I want Wellingtonians to know I travel on my money and I use the opportunity to benefit my city. I don’t miss these opportunities. (And yes, I was in København, too.)
   As some of you who have followed my career know, I am not talking about incremental improvements.
   After all, as early as 2001 I was talking about Fair Trade and social responsibility. By 2003, I had talked to the United Nations Environment Programme and convinced them that the best way of making environmental issues cool was to mainstream them through the world of fashion and celebrity—and Lucire’s partnership with them was born. The same year, we at the Medinge Group decided that Beyond Branding should be a Carbon Neutral book. The previous decade I was doing everything from web publishing (1993) to launching the country’s longest running online fashion title (1997).
   So when I talk about these ideas in Sweden, I am talking about game-changers that can benefit Wellington.
   You have to be a few years ahead of your time, given what politics is like. No one who seeks public office can afford to be reactive or behind the times. And I hope that in the last 23 years, I’ve managed to demonstrate a fairly good record of identifying the next big thing.
   And I owe a debt of gratitude to my good friend (and one of Sweden’s outside-the-box marketing thinkers) Stefan Engeseth for arranging my speeches and meetings. Thank you for entrusting me, Stefan, for being your first speaker in your Unplugged Speeches session—it was an extremely good, interactive morning. It’s not every day I get to interact with someone who works for NASA. (If you thought I was good, you should see speaker number two, who has a Ph.D. and is very easy on the eyes.) But mostly, thank you for inspiring me even more, because you, too, always seem to be a few years ahead of the game.
   As to France, the other country I spent heaps of time in on this trip, it was an honour to talk at the Sorbonne–CELSA campus with my colleagues at Medinge.
   While part of the Paris trip was occupied by a board meeting and with the 2010 Brands with a Conscience awards, I had the opportunity to discuss my mayoral campaign with the world’s leading brand thinkers in a meaningful, collegial presentation. Medinge, too, is filled with those forward-thinking from people who are nearly always right about their predictions of how the world would look in three to ten years’ time.
   And the session at La Sorbonne was, in my mind, a true highlight—where, again, Wellington got plenty of promotion, and I was able to share some thoughts with a smart, young audience.
   I’ll be letting voters know ahead of time what else was discussed with the Swedish companies, so you can be even better armed when you fill out your ballot forms for the local elections later this year.
   In the meantime, let me give my Facebook campaign page another little plug: click here for more. My heartfelt thanks to all those who have joined and have given me amazing encouragement for this campaign.

At the Sorbonne–CELSA
Cat Soubbotnik

Above At La Sorbonne–CELSA in Levallois. Below Presenting to my Medinge Group colleagues at MIP.

At Medinge Paris
Sergei E. Mitrofanov, copyright

StockholmRight I wasn’t kidding about Stockholm hitting –15°C. It was around –9°C when this pic was taken.

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Posted in branding, business, France, internet, leadership, New Zealand, politics, social responsibility, Sweden, technology, Wellington | 4 Comments »