Where truth is a valuable commodity

Abstract: There is big money in finding the liars out there. Even a cursory glance at our daily newspapers would give credence to the opinion of the famous poet and essayist WH Auden that politics cannot be a science because "in politics, there is a distinction, unknown to science, between Truth and Justice." However, the race is on in science to design, manufacture and roll out what would be the greatest threat to politics as we know it: an accurate lie-detector. With the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003, it is neuroscience - the study of the brain and the nervous system - that has been dubbed 'the new genetics'. Like the world's oceans, the brain remains largely unexamined - something of a mystery - and this is why neuroscientists are busy trawling through reams of studies in an attempt to get

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

When your brand goes viral, untethered

Abstract: What breakfast radio can teach us about the secret of social media... In the cut-throat world of commercial breakfast radio there's a golden measure of the impact of a show, the holy grail as it were of how powerful it is; and here's the twist: it's a measurement that, itself, can never be measured. But wait - as the saying goes - there's more: it now holds the key to your, and your company's image. Concerned? You should be. Commercial breakfast radio is a rather fickle beast. Keep it well fed, unexercised, and it will purr along contentedly, occupying the room with little attention, a bit like an overweight cat. Ignore it and it will whine in the corner, become disruptive and invite all manner of maladies, until you have to get rid of it. It'll be somewhat feral. If you really want

“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

Fracking’s foot soldiers are reading this

Abstract: If fracking is so bad, why are you supporting it?... It's quite possible that when discussion around fracking turns nasty, I am the only person that sees its connection to the foot soldiers throughout history who have faced condemnation for the orders of their masters. Except in this case, we are those 'foot soldiers', and we are also our own masters. I have a habit of seeing connections that others say don't exist. My wife says I'm just 'otherwise'; and yet Malcolm Gladwell, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner do exactly the same thing, and their careers have been highly lucrative! I must write these things down. But I digress. In 2004 when news broke that American military police guards at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq had been torturing Iraqi prisoners of war, the finger of responsibility was jabbed at the guards, then

When ‘gut feel’ goes big

Abstract: There really is a powerful 'emotion' that comes from the stomach... Regular readers of this column will know that I have been afflicted with a most colourful malady - I tend to become infected with words and phrases. I doubt if there's a cure for it, and the last time I visited my doctor he literally threw the book at me - it was a rather large copy of the Oxford English Dictionary. Leaving his office, with said book bouncing off the back of my head, I heard him shout, "Come back to me when you have something more worrying than a dose of visceral morality!" This 'visceral morality' thing had been bugging me for a while. Whereas some words and phrases are like burrs and hook themselves to my conscience during my daily stroll through life; others are like lint, coalescing near

What’s in a name? Your job, possibly

Abstract: You could be more connected to your career than you realise... "What's in a name?" wrote Shakespeare, "that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet". An admirable line for a man who was in the wrong job - he should have been a soldier, or at least an ironmonger. The clue is in his own name. Not so long ago I was doing some research for an article on bar-headed geese (not for this magazine obviously). They're remarkable creatures that, it is believed, can fly right over the top of the Himalayas, at altitudes that would kill a human. Anyway, my investigations led me to a study by a Dr Hawkes. I suggested to her that it was interesting that someone called Hawkes was studying birds. She agreed. But then she took me in a direction where things

Whip out your moral muscle!

Abstract: There's a 'muscle' in your body that could make you healthier...and wealthier... What's long and hard and brings a smile to the face of many a woman? You're right: it's the decision of whether or not to have another piece of chocolate cake; and if decades of research are anything to go by, it's what makes us successful in life. No, not the chocolate cake...the other thing. If there's something that separates us humans from our fellow animals, it's the capacity for higher thought. A wild animal never really ponders whether or not to eat something. It never struggles with the greater philosophical question surrounding the morality of consuming another living thing. It just chomps it. There are of course many examples in the animal kingdom where food, instead of being eaten immediately, is stored for later, or transported to a mate or offspring;