The Placebo Effect

Many people have heard of The Placebo Effect. It is a remarkable medical phenomenon in which a placebo, an inactive substance, can sometimes improve a patient’s condition simply because the person has the expectation that it will be helpful.

Skeptics in many fields cite “The Placebo Effect” to demolish evidence of good and benefit in fields where they have no knowledge or expertise. For example they would say that healing stones have no active properties, so can not possibly work. But empirical evidence is against them; so how do people feel better, or even recover? Well of course “That is the Placebo Effect!” comes back the smug reply.

Why do we need to know about The Placebo Effect?

In coaching, we often use whatever comes to hand to enable our clients to achieve their objectives; Milton Erickson would have called that utilization. By understanding what is happening with the placebo response we can better help the people we work with. What better reason can there be than that?

What the medical experts say

It has been shown in medically supervised tests that placebos have measurable physiological effects. For example, when participants are told they have taken a stimulant, the placebo tends to speed up pulse rate, increase blood pressure, and improve reaction speeds. Placebos have the opposite physiological effects when participants are told they have taken a sleep-producing drug.

Humans have the potential to respond to the suggestion of a healer or coach, or even a caring parent. A patient’s distress may be relieved by something simple like being told “You can feel it getting better”. A familiar example is Band-Aid put on a child. It can make the child feel better by its soothing effect, though there is no medical reason it should do anything.

Many experts question the use of cough medicines because clinical trials have not found that cough medicines are any better than a placebo or dummy treatment. However, there is a massive industry that manufactures, markets and sells cough treatments. Who is right and who is wrong? It depends on your point of view.

How do we use The Placebo Effect

After some careful and protracted analysis, I realized that as coaches, therapists and parents, we use the placebo effect frequently. Sometimes we use it consciously, like the Band-Aid on a child; we do not believe for a moment that there is any magic ingredient in a plaster. At other times without conscious thought, when we give good luck charms as presents.

We use metaphors to elicit desired states in people, and get them to imagine the outcome they want. Sometimes we make those metaphors link to actions or things in the real world, so they have some tangible artifact as their focus. Like my magic stones.

What Magic Stones?

Around my home and office I have a number of magic stones, which I sometimes refer to as healing stones. They are usually river rounded and smooth, and have been collected on my travels round the world, or from the local DIY store. Suitably washed and sterilized, they lie waiting for their moment in someones life.

If someone comes with a particularly intractable problem and needs a shift in focus, I ask them to select one stone out of a choice of three. I then tell them the story of that stone, and weave it into a metaphor, relating to their particular problem. By focusing on the stone, they allow the metaphor to get to work on their unconscious. Finally we layer in some positive emotional states, and anchor them in the feel of their chosen stone.

It works because we have something external to focus on while the metaphor is building in the mind of the subject. Instead of an internal dialogue about how this could not possibly have any positive effect, there is just concentration on the nice smooth stone. We have bypassed the critical faculty which gets in the way of progress.

When they leave, they take the stone with them as a quick and easy way to re-trigger the metaphor and their positive states.

These healing stones have worked for people quitting smoking, overcoming anger and lowering blood pressure. There are another group of magic stones which work for people with performance anxiety, interview nerves and fear of public speaking. Finally there is a special group of stones which help athletes, artist and musicians achieve their full potential.

Of course, we now know that it is the placebo effect at work. There can be no other explanation possible. Or is there?

What If The Placebo Effect is really something else

What if human beings were actually capable of doing and being more than current medical science and physics accept is possible.

Imagine that your vision could be improved by conscious will alone. Imagine that your hearing could be made more sensitive or discerning by your own actions. Imagine that if you took charge of your life that you could control pain, or the way you feel, or physiological factors like blood pressure, heart rate, or weight.

Maybe all that is needed is for someone to give us a sugar pill, or talisman, or magic stone and tell us that we are now healing. Maybe that is all we require to disregard the medical and scientific dogma and rhetoric; that we can only get better by the products of multinational pharmaceutical companies.

Maybe the placebo effect is just a name given to the visible part of the unfathomable depths of human potential.


The placebo effect is a medically demonstrable response by a subject to a suggestion that something is beneficial. The dialogue is between the expert, professional or parent and the subject’s unconscious. The placebo or magic stone is just a way to bypass the troublesome critical faculty. It exists, it works, and it is beneficial. We can ridicule it, ignore it or use it to benefit our clients. It is a matter of personal choice.

Just remember, there are more than a few people in the world who are still carrying a smoothly polished stone in their pocket!

Links about The Placebo Effect

Medical Definition of Placebo effect
Boots WebMD Medical Reference (Cough medicine)

Content updated December 2016, and May 2017.

Changing Personal Micro-Strategies

Do you know anyone who always seems to struggle with the world and everything it throws at them? Do you hear them frequently say something like “it’s always going wrong for me”? Do you feel that people sometimes over-react when you say the simplest of passing comment? We all know people like that, sometimes very well. We may even recognize this happening in ourselves, and wish that we could make a change.

The problem we are experiencing is unproductive personal micro-strategies, and that is why this piece is about Changing Personal Micro-Strategies

What is a Personal Micro-strategy?
In business we all know that a strategy is a recipe which produces a particular result for a given set of ingredients, by following a specified process. We have a Corporate Strategy, a Business Strategy, an IT Strategy and probably an Operational Strategy. These are all Strategies which allow the business to plan to achieve a particular goal or set of goals or objectives.

A Strategy is the direction and scope of an organization over the long-term which achieves advantage for the organization through its configuration of resources to meet the needs of markets and to fulfill stakeholder expectations

A Personal Micro-strategy is therefore a recipe which produces a particular result for an individual in a particular set of circumstances.

Advantages of a Personal Micro-strategy?
Does a Personal Micro-strategy always achieve advantages for the individual? Is it fixed or can it be changed? Consider a child who learns at an early age that they can get the attention they want from their parents if they cry. Crying gives them an advantage when they want attention, so it becomes their micro-strategy. Need attention, apply strategy, achieve desired result. The more often this strategy is applied and works, the more it is flagged as a successful micro-strategy.

Perhaps later when they learn social interaction at school, they find that crying does not necessarily work as well in competition with many others. Children are resourceful and usually very flexible, and so may adopt a newer strategy, for example telling tales. Need attention, apply strategy and tell tales on someone, achieve desired result. If unsuccessful, try something different.

Depending on the personal circumstances of the individual, this can result in many Personal Micro-Strategies, which can be used interchangeably, or a few deeply engrained ones which are always used for almost any occasion.

Who has Personal Micro-strategies?
Everyone has personal micro-strategies, and use them every day to deal with the apparently random sequence of events to which we are constantly exposed.

We all probably know someone who is always gossiping around the office, telling everyone who will listen secrets and detail of other people’s lives. The chances are that they have a deeply entrenched personal micro-strategy, which they picked up before the age of seven, possibly through imitation of peers or roll models. For the short term it gets them the attention they are seeking, but does it serve them in the long term? Or does it work to the detriment of the business of their employer, and ultimately pose a risk to their job?

Workplace bullies often have a similar problematic micro-strategy, which covers up their own feelings of insecurity and vulnerability by responding with angry outbursts when challenged, or storming out on difficult discussions, or picking on weaker individuals as a way of fitting in with the crowd. While the behavior may confer a short term benefit, it presents longer term challenges to forming relationships, long term employment and ultimately happiness. It also cost the business in lost productivity, absence through sickness and litigation.

A Personal Micro-strategy is the sequence an individual adopts in the short term which achieves perceived advantages in response to internal or external events, needs and circumstances.

What is an Unproductive Personal Micro-strategy?
An unproductive personal micro-strategy is a recipe which achieves a short term benefit, if it achieves anything, but returns unprofitable longer term results. This could be poor health, lost of employment, injury or even death. At best it is a recipe for long term unhappiness and poor performance, and at worst it is a recipe for disaster.

Consider the person who has an angry reaction when an unthinking driver in another vehicle cuts them up on the freeway. The immediate response to a perceived invasion of personal space is anger, as they learned in school. However, they are unable to intimidate the other driver by shouting and cursing, so that is replaced by flashing headlights and sounding the horn, and possibly by impolite hand signals. What happens if the other driver also has an unproductive personal micro-strategy and reacts negatively to the situation? This micro-strategy likely has little short term benefit, but may ultimately result in a road rage incident, or an accident which could end in death for someone.

So is there anything we can do to change our own unproductive personal micro-strategies and help others deal with theirs?

How To Change Personal Micro-Strategies
If we consider a personal micro-strategy to be a recipe which produces a particular result for a given set of ingredients and a specified process, then by changing any of the ingredients, or the process, or both we will produce different results.

How do we change the ingredients of the events or circumstances which triggered the micro-strategy? We can not prevent the other vehicle from pulling in front of us without signalling the maneuver. No but we can change our interpretation of the event! Human beings are meaning making machines, and we give meanings to anything and everything, even if it actually has none. Perhaps we could affix a different meaning to the event and interpret it as a reminder to watch out better for potential actions of other road users.

Alternatively, how about changing the process so that instead of reacting to an ignorant action by another we smile and thank them, or acknowledge their imperceptible thanks with “you’re welcome!”.

What else can we do?
As personal micro-strategies are learned, the good news is that they can be unlearned and replaced by more productive micro-strategies.

For example with the help of a personal coach or hypnotherapist it is possible to change the reaction to a given event. Perhaps replacing anger with laughter the next time someone slights us, or replacing feelings of insecurity and vulnerability with more positive emotions would prevent the unproductive personal micro-strategy from triggering. Either way it opens up new opportunities and new possibilities for performance and success.

Remember, a business coach can help with business strategies and goal setting, while a personal coach can help us with unproductive personal micro-strategies. If we find that our own unproductive personal micro-strategies are getting in the way of our businesses, it might be that we need help from both.

This article explores some simple ways of Changing Personal Micro-Strategies. If you want to find out more you why not click on the link below, fill in your details and get in touch.

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The Critical Role of Beliefs

Siting in a quiet cafe today, a thought occurred that beliefs play a critical role in the way we handle conflict. Think for a moment about the way that our beliefs shape the way we behave.

A woman walked into the almost deserted cafe, and asked the cafe owner if she could use the loo. The cafe owner who was on the phone to a supplier at the time, interrupted his call and asked the woman if she wanted anything to eat or drink, or did she just need the toilet. Exasperated, the woman immediately turned and walked out of the cafe uttering a sarcastic “Thanks a lot!” as she went on her way.

The perplexed owner exchanged a puzzled expression with the girl making the bacon sandwiches, and the only other person in the cafe, and then went back to chasing his supplier on the phone.

Watching this play out, we can only wonder how many establishments the woman had visited before she formed the opinion that she would only be allowed access to the toilet if she purchased something. Five? Three? Or none?

Where else in life do we jump to an erroneous conclusion and then act upon our beliefs or assumptions without challenging them? Or even doing a bit of negotiation?

Overcome Procrastination and Overwhelm

The post back in December about Identifying Corporate Procrastination has sparked a bit of a debate about the relationship and difference between Procrastination and Overwhelm. While procrastination is an internal choice, albeit unconscious in most cases, some people have reasoned that overwhelm is a frozen state when one feels overwhelmed by external circumstances, and therein lies a trap for the unwary!

How Procrastination and Overwhelm Affects Business
It is easy to assume that a company in difficulties is the end result of taking wrong decisions. However, it is often the case that the problem is delayed decision making rather than making a wrong choice. The reason why Managers delay action in the face of emerging risks will be explored elsewhere, but the consequence of failure to make timely decisions can cost a business in a number of ways, including:

  • Unsatisfactory performance
  • Missed opportunities
  • Inadequate damage limitation

What Have Procrastination and Overwhelm In Common?
It is not difficult to understand that procrastination is a an internal process, but spotting the similarities with overwhelm is a bit of a stretch.

In order to deal effectively with Overwhelm, it is important to understand the mental processing involved in order to feel overwhelmed. If we believe that Procrastination and Overwhelm are different then it makes a solution more complex, and hence a greater challenge. However once we realize that overwhelm is just another form of procrastination then the solution is much simpler. In coaching terms, once we understand the micro-strategy which is running, then we can make a conscious decision to change the strategy, and so behave differently.

A Typical overwhelm micro-strategy goes something like this:

  • First imagine the task at hand as a gigantic, looming mass of work of incredible complexity
  • This leads to feeling that the task is impossible to achieve
  • Logically and rationally it is pointless starting an impossible task
  • This feeling in turn leads to putting off doing the task
  • But we are now in conflicted with the task imperative, so the result is overwhelm!

Put like that, being overwhelmed is more like a conscious decision not to start something, or failure to act for some reason, which is a bit like procrastination!

How To Overcome Procrastination and Overwhelm
The key to dealing with procrastination and overwhelm is to understand that they are the same thing, which is an internal response to external circumstances. Once we take responsibility for the internal process then it is easier to make the change. All we have to do is Decide, Commit, then Act.

Decision making can be regarded as the mental process which results in the selection of a course of action among several alternatives. Every decision making process produces a single 1 final choice. With the right motivation, such as a clear positive vision of where you are going, then decision making is straightforward.

Once you rule out the environmentally damaging options, the do-nothing option (this is overcoming procrastination after all!), and any choice limiting options, what remains are candidate options. The question we must ask ourselves, is which of the remaining choices takes us closer to our goals and the vision? If you have multiple choices, with equal merit, then invite your team to chose, or toss a coin! The latter is quick and easy, while the former gets buy in from your team. Either would work.

When you commit to a course of actions, you cut yourself off from any other possibility, including the possibility of not taking the action. To use a skydiving metaphor, you are suited, booted and out of the door; you can decide on when to pull the ripcord, or your final approach route as you go. If you are CEO, you announce what the result will look like, even if you have no idea how to achieve your vision.

When John F. Kennedy said “We choose to go to the Moon” he personally had no idea how that was going to be achieved; he trusted his team, and put his vision out there. That is commitment!

Once you have made your decision and committed to your course of action, then Act! As Jedi Master Yoda from Star Wars 2 is renown for saying “Try not! Do or do not; there is no try!”

To overcome procrastination and overwhelm all we need is the right positive motivation, a clear vision of where we want to go, then decide, commit, then act.

Note 1. For the argumentative or miss-matchers who want to know what happens if you are looking for two options, or a top three, then it is still a single pair, or a single trio, or a single triskaidectet (13) which matches your selection criteria.

Note 2. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980) © and TM Lucasfilm Ltd.

Identifying Corporate Procrastination

Procrastination, or failure to act, is one of the biggest challenges in business. Regardless of whether you are CEO of a multinational corporation, MD of your own limited company or a solo entrepreneur, all businesses suffer from inertia or procrastination from time to time. Identifying Corporate Procrastination is the first step in overcoming it.

Sometimes procrastination can be as simple as overwhelm in an individual, which prevents them from seeing past the pile of paperwork on their desk or the unread mail in their in-box. At other times, this can be collective paralysis when the senior management team has too many voices with conflicting suggestions, which make it almost impossible to pick out the right message from the cacophony. Or it might be the inability of a large organization to alter course in response to a change in the business environment, because of excessive or constraining process or legislation, or an over-reliance on historical precedence.

Procrastination usually takes one of three forms:

  • Individual Overwhelm
  • Collective Paralysis
  • Titanic Obliviousness

Individual Overwhelm
In the first case nothing ever gets done, because there is no place to start. This is sometimes colloquially known as rabbit-in-the-headlight syndrome. The deadline is past, the opportunity is missed, or an entrepreneur’s business venture never sees the light of day. There are plenty of statistics about how many business start and then fail within one, two or five years, but no meaningful information about how many great ideas never get off the ground through procrastination. For a business coach or indeed another person taking an interest, individual overwhelm is quite easy to spot.

Collective Paralysis
The second case, Collective Paralysis, the inertia is procrastination in stealth mode. The subjects will be unaware that they have a problem. If it is the senior management team, they will no doubt be able to show evidence of movement or progress, with minutes evidencing the steps towards a decision, but still the net result is no actual movement. Sometimes this covert procrastination is covered up by excessive requests for further information, and an almost obsessive need to overcome all objections. This can quite often occur at team level, when too many people are talking but no-one is listening.

Titanic Obliviousness
In the third example, it is not always obvious that anything is out of place. The organization is progressing according to projections, all the numbers are looking good, there are no alarm bells ringing and the ship is steady underfoot. Unfortunately, the potential danger may be the iceberg somewhere ahead, so it is no use just looking at the internal gauges of progress. The need to change course rapidly requires mental agility, which may not be the strong suit of the crew that got you where you are today. One possible warning sign of this form of procrastination is that there is a lot of talent leaving the organization.

Procrastination Worst Case
The worst case scenario is a combination of all three forms of procrastination! An organization which is steaming along nicely and does not realize what lies ahead, a dysfunctional senior management team too busy talking up their own interests to respond to new ideas from outside, and a Captain or CEO who has spotted the obstacle ahead but does not know what to do, or has too much work, or just does not realize what is possible. Do you recognize that scenario?

Where To Get Help
If you are a solo entrepreneur starting a new business venture, or the multinational CEO, the last thing you want to focus on is failure. But if you address the common reasons for failure, you’ll be much less likely to fall victim to them yourself. That is the purpose of a mastermind group, and why quotes from some of the greats can often help.

  • One of my favorite quotes in business coaching is actually from Arthur C. Clarke: The only way of finding the limits of the possible is by going beyond them into the impossible. In other words imagine what might be possible, and try it.
  • Another quote which works for me is from Samuel Johnson – Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome. Allow sufficient time for the objectors and nay-sayers to have their moment, and then make up your own mind. Decide on the new course, commit yourself to your chosen direction by documenting your decision, and finally act upon that decision.
  • In case you fall into the trap of thinking that you still do not have enough information to make a decision, then heed the words of Albert Einstein: Imagination is more important than knowledge.

All businesses suffer from inertia or procrastination from time to time, but a good executive business coach can help us identify the problem and point us in the right direction. All we need then is a little imagination and the fortitude to decide, commit and then act.

The Seven Pitfalls of Business Failure And How to Avoid Them by Patricia Schaefer

The Nature of Motivation

As performance coaches, one of the fundamental questions that we sometimes get asked concerns the Nature of Motivation. At the risk of coining a catchphrase, There are two kinds of motivation in the world, toward and away from. More precisely, there are two motivational directions, and each has different properties and different results.

Nature of Motivation (Direction)
Motivation Direction is easily summarized as toward pleasure and away from pain. As living beings, we naturally avoid pain and discomfort unless there is a higher imperative at work. Similarly, if there are no competing environmental influences, then we will move towards comfort, pleasure, and reward. So how does that knowledge influence motivation and ultimately performance?

In NLP the choice of toward or away from depends on the employee, and their internal meta-programs. In management coaching, it is important to understand the relationship between the duration of the motivating stimulus, and the duration of the effect. In simple terms, which is more effective, the carrot compared to the stick? Which one produces the longer lasting effect?

Away Motivation
Away motivation can prompt an immediate reaction, such as the involuntary movement of ones hand away from a hot stove. However, once away from the direct stimulus, the effect is short lived. Once your hand leaves the vicinity of the heat source, there is no tendency to rush away to the gym and exercise for an hour, or paint the spare bedroom!

This can lead to cyclic behavior like so-called yo-yo dieting. We are overweight so we go on a diet. We lose some weight, so the motivation is reduced. We lose a bit more weight and are now cured, so we go off the diet. Our old comfort eating eating habits return and we put the weight back on again. Back comes the motivation to lose weight, and we are off round the circuit again!

Toward Motivation
Toward motivation on the other hand, may prompt only a slow reaction, but the effects can be much longer lasting. When a goal is clearly in mind, such as a the achievement of completing our first marathon, the incentive to start may be small. For some this may be too small to overcome our own internal inertia, sometimes known as procrastination. However, if the motivation is real, and we keep the vision in mind, then we can start training, at first a couple of miles a week, and build it up slowly. It may be raining, or we have had to work late, but the goal of completing the marathon will keep us on track.

Effective Motivation
There is an long running management debate about whether employees are best motivated by bonuses and rewards (theory Y) or by threats of punishment (theory X). Supporters of both theories can show that their cause has merit. Threats of punishment will often give a short lived result, such as a boost in performance, but may only work while the manager (for which read stimulus) is present, to reenforce the threats. Long term rewards can work if the workforce is moving in the right direction, but are useless if there is apathy or procrastination. But which motivation is the most effective?

When Motivation Goes Wrong
Setting performance targets is sometimes seen as a balance between carrot and stick, with the implicit or explicit threat of withholding a cash grant or bonus for poor performance. However, once people lose the belief that they might get the bonus, for whatever the reason, the motivation can quickly evaporate. This is because cash is often motivation away from poverty, or hunger, rather than the pure accumulation of wealth. It lacks a long term beneficial goal or strategic vision.

Worse still, targets can sometimes lead to undesirable result contrary to the interests of the target setters. Government frequently fall into this trap, but so to can businesses and financial institutions, encouraging staff to make decisions targeting short term personal gains at the expense of long term profitability. For examples of when motivation goes wrong, we need look no further than the crisis in the financial sector and the problem of sub-prime loans.

Motivation Objectives
Most management text will make reference to setting SMART objectives which means that the objective is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound. However there is less guidance about the nature of the motivation behind the objectives. So how do we set objectives and motivate people to achieve them?

Take the example of Health and Safety. Every good manager knows that they have a responsibility for Health and Safety. Every manager committed to improving the well-being and productivity of their workforce would encourage their workers to read the organizational Health and Safety policy and all risk assessments which relate to their job. We can even set a SMART objective about reading all the relevant documents by a given time, and providing evidence back to management. But how do you motivate the workforce so that they want to do it?

Motivational Vision
There have been many great leaders who have made motivational speeches which have become milestones in history. A few examples are listed here, but there are many more, with the same thing in common:

  • “We shall fight them on the beaches” by Winston Churchill
  • “We choose to go to the Moon” by John F. Kennedy
  • “I have a dream” by Martin Luther King, Jr

They all provide a stirring vision which galvanized their audience into action, and in one way or another, changed the course of history.

It is often said that other people do not much care about what we want or need. Harsh, but sometimes true. However, if you inspire them with your vision, then it will become their vision too, and they will move in the direction of that goal; the result of toward motivation. All we need is a little away from motivation to overcome procrastination, and we are moving! It does not necessarily need the proverbial kick in the pants from us as a manager; any environmental stimulus will do. That takes us off in the direction of utilization, and the work of Milton Erickson, which is a subject for another day!

Tackle Violence At Work

As an employer you have an obligation to tackle violence at work under health and safety legislation. Failure to deal effectively with violence costs you in multiple ways, with poor staff moral, poor organizational image and extra cost through absenteeism, higher insurance premiums and compensation payments. Making a start to tackle violence at work makes good business sense and could pay dividends in improved productivity and reduced absenteeism.

There are five main pieces of health and safety legislation which are relevant to violence at work:

  • The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSW Act)
  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
  • The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences 1995 (RIDDOR)
  • Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977
  • The Health and Safety (Consultations with Employee) Regulations 1996

You have a legal duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of your employees, under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. This duty includes all forms of work-related violence, which HSE defines as: ‘Any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work’. This means:

  • physical violence – including kicking, spitting, hitting or pushing, as well as more extreme violence with weapons
  • verbal abuse – including shouting, swearing or insults, racial or sexual abuse
  • threats and intimidation

Violence at work can cause pain and distress for victims, even disability or death. Although physical attacks can have a obvious effect, serious or persistent verbal abuse or threats can also damage the health of employees through stress or prolonged anxiety.

If you have a violent incident at work involving members of your workforce it is important to act quickly in order to reduce the effect of long term distress. Plan to support your employees before any incident occurs, so that the support mechanisms are already in place. As an employer you may want to consider

  • Debriefing to give victims time to talk through their experience
  • Time off work, possibly with special counseling
  • Legal help in serious cases
  • Providing training for other employees to help them react appropriately
  • Reviewing you policies and procedures to reduce the possibility of occurrence

As good employers we can all work to help reduce the frequency and severity of violent incidents at work, and provide support for the victims if it does occur. Act promptly to reduce the cost of workplace violence to your business, and have a safer and happier workforce as a bonus!

Additional resources to help tackle violence at work:

Every Morning in Africa, a Gazelle Wakes

Remember the old joke about the two explorers on the plain in Africa when they hear the roar of a nearby lion. One explorer quickly starts putting on running shoes, to the amazement of the other. “You must be crazy if you think you can outrun a Lion” says the second explorer. “I don’t need to outrun the lion” responds the first explorer “I just have to run faster than you!”

There is an ancient African proverb. Every morning in Africa, a Gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a Lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest Gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a Lion or a Gazelle, when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.

Sometimes when we are faced with change, often perceived as danger threatening, there is a temptation to pull tighter round the metaphorical camp fire circle and wait to see what will happen. This is where comfort and familiarity can be found, and it is easy to associate with other people in the same mindset. There is a facile belief that Lions would not venture into such a safe place.

However if we are in business, this is exactly the wrong thing to do. The initiative rests with with the first one with their running shoes on. When circumstances change in business, when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.