Julian Treasure: How to speak so that people want to listen


Julian Treasure is the chair of the Sound Agency, a firm that advises worldwide businesses – offices, retailers, hotels on how to use sound.


Sometimes you talk and get the feeling that noone is listening. Julian starts by listing the ‘7 deadly sins’ of conversation – basically people don’t want to listen if you are doing this

  1. Gossip (speaking about people who aren’t present, and probably saying nasty things about the listener later)
  2. Judging (judging the person you are speaking to, and finding them wanting)
  3. Negativity (negative outlook)
  4. Complaining (achieves nothing)
  5. Excuses (passing problems of the world on to everyone else)
  6. Lying
  7. Dogmatism (mixing up facts and opinion)

However there are 4 positive, powerful ways to improve your conversation style – summarised as HAIL.

  • Honesty – be true and clear with what you mean
  • Authenticity – be yourself, stand in your own truth
  • Integrity – do what you say, be trustworthy
  • Love – wish people well

You can also look at how you say it – tools in your speech patterns to enhance your speech.

  • Register – a deeper voice from the chest speaks with more power and authority.
  • Timbre – how the voice feels or sounds – distinct from tone or loudness.
  • prosody – the sing-song or up and down of the movement – opposite of montonous. Some problems are an upward inflection at the end of every sentence to make everything a question?
  • Pace- a rapid pace, then slowing down for emphasis. Or just pausing occasionally can be very powerful.
  • Pitch – a higher pitch can make you sound more excited
  • Volume – quiet to make people lean in and pay attention, louder can also show excitement. Don’t broadcast loudly all the time.

Finally he discusses 6 vocal warmup exercises – to get you ready before you need to talk. This includes breathing, making noises with lips, ‘rapberries’, lalala on tongue, practising a rolled ‘r’, and moving through the whole range of pitch.


Sheryl Sandberg: Why we have too few women leaders


Sheryl Sandberg is an American technology executive, activist, and author. As of August 2013, she is the chief operating officer of Facebook.


Women have made progress towards equality, but this is not reflected in leadership positions. Female heads of state, parliament members, and board positions are only 13-15%, and these have not improved over the past decade. They also need to make tougher decisions between work and lifestyle – with 2/3 of married men in leadership having children, compared to 1/3 of married women.

Sheryl talks about what women can do to stay in the workforce and move towards leadership.

  1. Sit at the table – men tend to oversell themselves, while women underestimate their abilities. Importantly, men attribute their success to themselves, while women will say they got lucky, or someone helped them. No-one gets the promotion if they don’t believe they deserve it. This point is about having the confidence to sell yourself, and let yourself sit at the table or meeting where important decisions are made.
  2. Make your partner a real partner – Women have made more progress in the workforce than they have in the workforce. Even as fulltime workers, women do 2x the housework and 3x the childrearing compared to their fulltime partners. The stigma affects men too, with men sometimes differently by other parents at playdates. Domestic duties need to be as respected as success in the workforce to get more equality here.
  3. don’t leave before you leave – the actions women take to stay in the workforce can sometimes force them out. When she decides to have a child, she has to think about how to find the time to care for it, and she stops pushing for a better job, and better projects. Once you have a child it is really hard to go back to work and leave the child alone. The work needs to be as challenging and interesting as possible, so if you have excluded yourself from rewarding projects then it will be more difficult to get back. The message is to keep pushing for better work right up until you have to leave.

Sheyl has both a young son and a daughter. She doesn’t think leadership equality will happen for her generation, but she wants her son to have a real choice between domestic and workplace responsibilities. She wants her daughter to not only be able to succeed, but also to be liked for it.

Ruth Chang: How to make hard choices


Ruth Chang is a professor of philosophy at Rutgers University. She is known for her research on the incommensurability of values and on practical reason and normativity.


Ruth discusses how to make hard choices – between 2 jobs or partners, or whether to have children. In an easy choice one is better than the other. In a hard choice each choice has better qualities, but neither is clearly better. We think of them as big choices, but the same dilemma can happen when choosing breakfast – do you want healthy food or tasty food? By realising that even these small choices are hard, we can make the big ones easier: if I managed to eat breakfast I should be able to choose a new job. We also shouldn’t think of ourselves as stupid for being unable to pick a best option – they may genuinely be equally good options.

When choosing between being a philosopher and a lawyer Ruth tried writing the pros and cons, agonised over her decision, wished she could see a DVD of her life after taking each option. She settled on lawyer out of fear – she didn’t think she could get a job as a philosopher, and lawyering seemed the safe route. Later she switched back, becoming a philosopher.

Looking at a hypothetical job choice between banking and artistry, you can list all the advantages of each but still be unable to choose one over the other. You can then start to imagine what it would take to make one better than the other – eg if you added an additional $500/month to the banker’s salary, is it suddenly clearly better than the artist? Not necessarily, and this may show that the 2 original options were not equal. If the original jobs were equal, then adding more salary to one should have made it clearly better.

Choices are difficult because they cannot be easily broken down into numbers. In comparing the weight of 2 suitcases, one could be heavier, lighter or equal in weight. All questions involving numbers can be broken down in this way. It is a mistake to think that these simple numerical comparisons have the same structure as the decisions between your future life. We need to make a 4th alternative – that things can be better, worse, equal, or ‘on a par’. When decisions are on a par, neither is better or worse than the other, and your lifestyle after the decision is not exactly the same, but you see both future lives as having a similar value.

We need to see hard choices as empowering. If life only consisted of easy choices, we would always pick the clearly better route. We would then be slaves to our own reason. It is the ‘on a par’ decisions where we get to create our own reasons for picking one over the other, and define who we are. We become the authors of our own lives. People who don’t exercise their own reasons on hard choices become drifters. They allow the world around them to dictate their lives – they follow the obvious rewards, punishments, and fears to define them. Ruth was drifting when she chose to be a lawyer and later regretted it.

When the ‘correct’ and ‘incorrect’ choices disappear, we have the power to create reasons for ourselves, and become the distinctive people we are. That is why hard choices are not a curse but a godsend.

Janette Sadik-Khan: New York’s streets? Not so mean any more


Janette Sadik-Khan was the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation from 2007-2013


Streets are one of the most valuable assets a city has, but their power is not fully recognised. Janette looks at New York’s modernising of their infrastructure, which is generally unchanged since the 50s. Goals were to cut fatalities, treat streets as public space, double cycling commuting, and implement rapid bus lanes.

Looking at the design of streets, there were no seats, no room for pedestrians crossing the street, and Time Square was chaotic.

To redesign Time Square, Janette installed temporary materials to close it off to traffic. The temporary materials allowed a 6-month trial to be carried out, and if data showed it worked it could be continued. The closing of Time Square was a monumental success, turning it into a top 10 worldwide retail hub, 5 new stores opened, and people flocking to the public space. Similar road closures were done elsewhere, and were powerful for businesses who recognise that more foot traffic is better for them than car traffic.

All up her team created 50 pedestrian plazas, and they have been emulated in other US cities. The power was using paint and temporary materials to quickly roll out a change and trial it, rather than waiting for conventional design, simulation and construction.

Although it used to be scary as a cyclist, after the roll out of new bike lanes New York has become the cycling centre of USA. New Infrastructure has included USA’s first separated bike lanes and bike share schemes, and injuries are down by 50%. The bike lanes were controversial, with media frenzy but 64% of New Yorkers supported the move. Over time it has become even more accepted.

The bus was another key issue – New York has the largest bus fleet in US, but the slowest. Everyone knows you can walk faster than a New York bike. Adding priority bike lanes has made their movement much faster.

It is possible to change the streets quickly, it’s not expensive, can provide immediate benefits, and is quite popular. You just need to re-imagine your streets – which are hidden in plain sight.

Jason Fried: Why work doesn’t happen at work


Jason Fried thinks deeply about collaboration, productivity and the nature of work. He’s the co-founder of 37signals, makers of Basecamp and other web-based collaboration tools, and co-author of “Rework.”


Businesses, governments and other organisations invest so much money in bringing their people together at the office, but when people really want to get something done at work, they want to do it elsewhere. They tend to either do it at home, or on their commute (plane, train, car), or at strange times – early morning, late night, weekends. This is because most people in creative professions need uninterrupted time to work, and being at work chops up your day with meetings and other requests.


Jason sees a connection between work and sleep. Sleep happens in phases – to get to the deepest phase you need to go through the others first. If interrupted in an early phase you need to go through them all again. The interruptions in an office are not the same as at home – at home you can choose to turn on the TV or surf the internet or go for a walk. In the office the main interruptions are managers and meetings. Managers job is to interrupt – to check what you’re doing. They also tend to call meetings to resolve issues – taking 10 people out from their train of thought to talk about work (rather than actually working). For a 1hr meeting, this is 10hrs of lost productivity from the organisation. Meetings also have a habit of causing more meetings – scaling up the damage done.

So how can enlightened managers get their employees working at the office again?

  1. ‘No talk Thursdays’ – tell people not to talk to each other for 1 afternoon per month. It is amazing how much work will get done if employees can have 4hrs uninterrupted.
  2. Move away from face-to-face communication, and towards emails / messaging. This can still be time-consuming, but at least the recipient can choose when to deal with it. They can schedule around their core work and take it at their own pace.
  3. Cancel a meeting – if you have to make a decision at a meeting, just cancel it. The decision will still get made somehow, and you’ll free up everyone’s schedule.


Terry Moore: How to tie your shoes


Terry Moore is the director of the Radius Foundation, a forum for exploring and gaining insight from different worldviews


At 50 yrs old, Terry discovered he (and most people) have learned to tie their shoes wrong. If you pull on the laces at the base of the knot, the incorrect common knot will turn vertically along the shoe. This is a weaker form of the bow.

The key is when turning around the loop, go the opposite way to normal. This will yield a stronger knot, and will make it align across the shoe.

As Terry concludes, sometimes a small advantage sometime in life will yield extraordinary results.

Dan Gilbert: The psychology of your future self


Dan Gilbert is a Harvard psychologist and author of “Stumbling on Happiness”


Why do people look back at decisions that they regret – that the ideas they embraced 10 years ago they would now rush to reject? Dan looks at a misconception of time – that we have turned into the person we are over time, but will stay as we are now into the future.

People change less as time goes on – the older the person is, the less they change. Dan asks people to predict how much they will change over the next decade and compare it to people of the same age who say how much they changed over the last decade. The finding was that people greatly underestimate how much they will change in the future.

This same pattern can be seen in a number of things – their best friend, favourite vacation, favourite band, their personality traits, their level of success in life. People expect their values right now will persist into the future, while in truth they will change.

Dan suggest this is because it is much easier to remember who we were, rather than imagine or predict what they will become. So because it is difficult, we assume it will not happen.

This leaves us with an illusion that right now is a special moment where we become the person we will always be. Human Beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they are finished.

Dan Pink: The puzzle of motivation


Dan Pink is the author of five books about business, work, and management that have sold two million copies worldwide


Dan Pink introduces ‘The Candle Problem’ – attaching a candle to a wall with a box of thumbtacks and matches to that it doesn’t drip. 2 groups try to solve the problem – one is told they are timing to discover norms, while the other is given money if they are in the top 25%. This test consistently shows that the group being given money is 3minutes slower than the other. Other research over 40 years backs up the idea that for most tasks you can’t incentivize people to perform better with money. This is one of the most robust findings from social science, but also the most ignored. There is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does.

Extrinsic motivators do however work well for ’20th century tasks’ – with manual work and simple solutions. The reward narrows their focus towards the answer, and pushes them to solve it quicker. But most modern professionals don’t do this kind of work, they do much more complicated tasks with no easy answer. An MIT study found a similar result – for simple mechanistic tasks a reward improved their performance, but if they required ANY kind of cognitive function the higher reward decreased performance.

Modern psychology is leaning more towards intrinsic motivators – the desire to do more for personal reasons. In the business setting it revolves around

  • autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives
  • mastery – the urge to get better, or develop skills
  • and purpose – the need to do what we do for reasons bigger than ourselves.

Dan’s talk focuses on autonomy. Management is an example that improves compliance, but decreases autonomy for most workers. Modern approaches can increase autonomy – giving people a personal project. Atlassian for example is a software company that makes engineers take a day off their normal work to develop whatever they want – as long as it is unrelated to their normal work and they deliver something by the end of the day. This approach was so successful that they adopted Google’s famous approach, which lets people allocate 20% of their time to personal projects. Around half of Google’s new products come from engineer’s personal projects.

A more extreme approach is ROWE – Results Only Work Environment. People can work whatever hours they want as long as they do the work. This increases autonomy and productivity, and decreases staff turnover.

Dan’s ultimate example was Microsoft Encarta vs Wikipedia. Encarta was build by well paid professionals and managers, incentivized with standard extrinsic motivators. Wikipedia was built by unpaid (autonomous) volunteers for fun, and because they believed in the project. In 1999 no economist would have tipped that Encarta’s model would be overtaken by Wikipedia’s, but it has.

If we get past the simplistic ‘carrots vs sticks’ ideology, and allow people to be more motivated by autonomy, mastery and purpose, we can make our businesses stronger and maybe change the world.