An emotional view of the smart brain

Abstract: Emotional Intelligence - the key to a healthy business, or a 'pop psychology' fad?... Dig around in the field of human resource management and training, and sooner or later you'll come across the terms emotional intelligence or 'EQ'. Claims presented by devotees of emotional intelligence (EI), especially in the business environment, are wide and encompassing: it can predict job performance, improve job performance, develop happier workers, produce better leaders, drive entrepreneurship, possibly even help companies beat the recession. Briefly: it holds the key to success in business. That may be well in theory; but in the results-driven reality of business, investing in EI is dogged by uncertainty: what exactly is EI? And what is EQ? Is it truly a 'new' powerful HR tool, or is it just another pop psychology toy? "Within psychology", according to Dr Despina Learmonth, a lecturer in Health Psychology at

A call for a culture of critical thinking

Abstract: South Africa's neglect of its children is damaging its global competitiveness... As highly developed as we humans think we are, we still retain elements of mammalian instinct, the strongest of which is to protect our young, even if it's at the expense of our own lives. Ironically, it is this mammalian instinct that defines one of the cornerstones of our humanity - it is considered abhorrent, even inhumane, to willfully subject a child to abuse, or to neglect its cries for help. It's helpful to bear this in mind when examining South Africa's ranking in global competitiveness. Every year the WEF (World Economic Forum) publishes the Global Competitiveness Report, which assesses the competitiveness landscape of a list of countries around the world according to twelve key indices. This year that list of countries totals 148. The report draws on an extensive spread of

There’s nothing snippy about ‘the snip’

Abstract: there are certain leading figures in South Africa who could prove their manhood by having a vasectomy... Recent events in South African presidential politics got me thinking about vasectomies and how some people, maybe many, might benefit from some people having it done. Of course, the age-old arguments against it still persist in some cultures, and normally hover around misguided notions that having the snip removes a man's masculinity. This is of course, not true. In fact, the very opposite could be argued: that only real men have 'the snip'. Walk into a crowded bar and shout "Hey, who here's having a baby soon?" and proud hands will reach for the sky. Walk into the same bar and shout, "Hey, who here's had a vasectomy?" and the chances are few, if any, would raise their hands. And it's not just a 'guy' thing. A

The unwelcome eye of journalism

Abstract: There's been a nasty shift in South African journalism... Swimming upstream is a challenging endeavour - ask any salmon - but when the end task is a noble one, even if death - as in the case of the Pacific salmon - follows shortly thereafter, it can be argued that it's worth it. However, fighting against a tide of tabloid journalism has left science journalists wondering if it isn't easier to completely change species. Anyone entrusted with trying to get more science and critical thinking into the media, will be familiar with the edict of most editors that their readers, viewers or listeners 'don't have an appetite for science'. This is of course utterly ridiculous because we are all consumers of science; there isn't a single element to our lives, and how we live it, that isn't examined or improved on by science. But

Handy lessons from North Korea

Abstract: What we can learn from North Korea about populace control... Given the smattering of rather bizarre official reports that emerge from North Korea, and the fact that they're invariably distorted in an attempt to protect it as the world's most secretive state, it's hard to imagine that the country could teach us anything. However, if there's one thing it's hit squarely on the head, it's how to keep its people in place; something I'm sure most governments wish they could get right. If you'd like to try something a little weird but not that difficult, take a couple of minutes one day to pop into your local travel agent and tell them you feel you deserve a holiday, and that you were thinking of Pyongyang. The chances are they'd discourage you and suggest somewhere a little more upbeat; say Siberia. If I were

Why politicians need a whispering slave

Abstract: What modern political leaders could learn from the ancient Romans. As the world waited with baited breath as North and South Korea did the 21st Century equivalent of rattling sabres, I imagined North Korean leader Kim Jong-un perched on a throne, stroking a furry white cat on his lap, whilst he grinned and jabbed a podgy finger at little plastic missiles on a large map of the world. Grouped around him were his trusty generals, continually bowing and scraping the floor, shiny medals littering their chests and beads of perspiration glistening on their furrowed, worried brows. And I thought, "Boy, that man needs a whispering slave". In ancient Rome there was a very special tribute that was accorded to a victorious general. It was called the Roman Triumph. It was a lavish parade designed to honour Rome, but where the general was the

Piggy, and the death of journalism

Abstract: Look to Golding's 'Lord of the Flies' for the tragic future of journalism... You should keep this magazine; and one day in the not-too-distant future show it to your grandchildren or great-grandchildren and explain to them how in the old days you used to pay money to read something written by people called 'journalists'. They'll be amazed and surprised, even laugh at how bizarre such a notion should be. I'll be long gone by then, my final days spent as a dejected pauper, strapped to a gurney, thrashing around and frothing at the mouth, shouting between the spittle about how democracy killed a discipline and an art form, and steered humanity towards idiocy. If you have a sneaking suspicion where I'm going with this, I'd hazard a guess you've read William Golding's 'Lord of the Flies'. Like Orwell's 'Nineteen Eighty-Four', it endures as one

Is a successful business leader necessarily good?

Abstract: No, Steve jobs was not a good leader... It was over fifteen years ago when I bought my first Apple computer. It was a blue iMac - a thing of surreal beauty. At a time of beige boxes and a jungle of cables, the simple translucent coloured curves that was my computer oozed a combination of sex and sophistication. OK, so maybe that's a bit overboard, but it does personify the unremitting, innovative leadership that helped create a highly successful company, but not necessarily one that was good. I was a Mac addict back in the days when it was still a designer fix - the sole reserve of creatives who valued inspiration and innovation over pure operational functionality. My company at that time was creating experimental products that would later leapfrog over a competitor's more staid offering; and as such I worked

A lesson in leadership from Douglas Adams

Abstract: The true power of a leader's voice lies in a lesson from science and space... There's a pivotal saying in the world of journalism: content is king, context in King Kong. In brief it means that whereas what is said in a burst of text is important, its accuracy and correct interpretation - and therefore its impact - is ensured only if it is placed within the correct frame of reference. This same saying should be the preface of every handbook on sound leadership. Like every other science journalist I whooped with joy and punched the air when the Mars Curiosity rover completed its treacherous voyage to the red planet and settled, on cue, into its predetermined landing area. It was the accumulation of years of commitment, insight and wisdom from hundreds of dedicated scientists and thinkers from all over the world. The

“But it’s in the public interest”. Really?

Abstract: Heads up if you're in corporate communications - the media have a sneaky weapon... If I had 5c for every time I had been misquoted in the press, you wouldn't be reading this. I'd be wallowing on a world cruise, travelling first class, sunning myself on deck, sipping Harvey Wallbangers and collecting cherries in my navel. But I have, and I'm not, and you're about to be the beneficiary. It's been said that I have been shaping public opinion as both a broadcaster and columnist for well over 20 years, but not everything has gone smoothly. Just as I have made comment about public events, I have been the focus of public opinion, most of it entertaining, some of it unjustified and quite hurtful, and as such, I have a renowned love-hate relationship with the media. So why am I telling you this? Because