Santa Cause20 Dec


Photo with compliments to Simon Jacobs and Guardian Newspapers

Santas – the ultimate endangered species of climate change.

Copenhagen has not made them any happier. Rising global temperatures will make the snow a thing of the past, turning their hot red suits into fur-edged infernos.

Reindeerless, and lacking the essentials of a white Christmas, the Santas will run amok, in a fat and wheezy way until robbed of their natural habitat and livelihood they will turn to crime.

In one awful moment the traditional bringer of presents will become the one who takes them away. Just like Mother Earth who, sick of us her ungrateful offspring, will soon burn us off her hide.

Like ticks on the back of a cow.


Norwegian Sam Taylor-Wood05 Nov


Sam Taylor-Wood tells a good tale in Sunday’s Observer Music Magazine. Her movie about John Lennon (Nowhere Boy) depicts “one of the biggest icons in the world” and she describes her concerns about making the film as sensitive as possible to Ono, McCartney and the other keepers of the Beatles flame.

She builds the emotional tension nicely:
“So I did have a moment where I just thought, ‘I don’t know if I can do this.’ Then I got in the car and turned the ignition on and Lennon came on the radio and I thought, ‘OK I’m doing this.'”

The song was (Just Like) Starting Over. Released as a single on 24 October 1980, it reached number one in both the USA and UK two weeks after Lennon was killed.

Thank you, and you did pass the audition, Sam…


Phil Brown takes it to the bridge07 Oct

Gower sunset

More pearls of wisdom from the lower reaches of the premiership this week as Hull City’s manager tells a
tale or two.

Recalling last Wednesday’s team-walk across the Humber bridge, designed to get some “clarity”, the Tigers’ boss explained his rationale: “It is easier to talk when you are walking than when you are jogging.”

An everyday story of footballing folk – they’re playing rubbish, the manager will try anything. So far, so average. But here’s the emotional bit that makes for a much better story – they come across a woman threatening to jump! Brown explains:

“She was considering her future, shall we say. But we saved this girl. Sweet talk, you can say. In the end she tootled off back to wherever she had come from. I think she saw us and realised ‘OK, at least it’s not that bad.’”

A nice self-deprecating twist to this tale of life, death and football. But all good stories should have a point, too, even when they put us through a bit of drama…

Here’s Phil explaining the idea behind the walk: “The bridge was built with modern-day engineering and based on the fact that when an ill wind blows the bridge becomes stronger. The weight of the wind comes down and makes it sturdier.”

There is an analogy with the club, he told his players. And then, in a masochistic version of getting his retaliation in first, added: “But I can also see others saying, ‘What a load of shite that is.’”

Phil, don’t be so hard on yourself – this is classic ABC – Anecdote-Based Communication. A cast-list of footballers, an avant-garde sports psychologist plus a damsel in distress makes for a great story with a motivational point – and two punchlines! Awesome.

Using my handy 7-slide tutorial you can try ABC for yourself. Never a dull memento.


Global Specifics – the simplest and most efficient way to improve your presentations04 Oct

wood:trees mdm

In my professional life I often come across experts. The more technical and detailed their knowledge, the more reluctant they seem to be to generalise. Nothing quite captures the essence of what they’re describing than – you guessed it – lots of detail.

These people pay me to generalise for them, to draw some general conclusions and map the wood grown from their trees. But even my accountant – and I pay her – suffers from the affliction:

Me: How much do you think my tax bill will be this January?
Accountant: I’ll look into it and let you know
Me: But roughly..?
Accountant (starting to get nervous): I’d need to see the figures.
Me: Will it be the same as last January?
Accountant: Yes – unless you’ve earned more or less than last year.

In NLP terms, my accountant has a “Specific” working style as opposed to my “Global” one. If she’d replied “About the same as last year” I would have been happy, but she would not have been.

If you are a marketeer, politician, brand consultant or other high-concept Global type you will be known as a bullshitter by those with the Specific working style. Whereas you will view them as nerdy anorak pencilled-necked geeks or some such term of endearment.

But I put differences aside with my clients by asking the  corresponding questions:

Questions to help Specific people be more Global, big picture and abstract
What is this an example of?
For what purpose?
What is your intention?
What is important about…?
What will this achieve?
Why is this important?
(What’s the big idea?)

Questions to help Global people be more Specific, detailed and

What will this allow you to do?
What are examples of this?
What specifically?
In what way precisely will this affect you?
Can you describe…?
Give me an instance?
(Prove it or show me!)

Including the answers to these questions helps you to balance your working style in your presentations. If you are Specific, I can help you clarify and emphasise your key messages. If you are Global, I can help you to be more credible and clear through the inclusion of specific examples.

It takes all sorts (Global) and now you know precisely what sorts, and exactly how to use them together (Specific). Happy? If not, send a sample of your presentation to the Bizlike Organisation for fast, efficient advice.
0(0 44) 7860 228 656


Every time I pass a pub now…10 Sep

Cigarettes & Alcohol

Every time I pass a pub now, there’s a morbid fascination to see how busy it isn’t.

Occasionally, I’ll go into one and have a drink. I like proper beer but it makes me fat and, more immediately, drunk.

Following the sad demise of the automatic hand dryer – a roaring noise, a vertical gale of warm air and cold wet hands which you could dry by running through your newly deranged hairstyle in a vain attempt to restore it to some semblance of order – lots of pubs have paper towels. Such is their pathological need to not run out before closing time, they cram the dispenser so full that the first tentative tug usually brings a dozen or more out in one clump. So the very act of overfilling means they run out sooner, I always conclude. This is known as the law of unintended consequences.

Another example of this was the Beer Orders which appeared in the UK in the early 1990s. At the time most pubs were owned by big brewers, and appeared to be taking advantage of a monopoly situation. The legislation was intended to force brewers to sell off most of their pubs, and to allow those they retained to sell at least some beer from small independent brewers. It imagined a return to idyllic pubs with owner landlords all selling local brews. It bombed. Some of the brewers decided they preferred owning pubs and sold the brewing side, most of the pubs that were sold went in bulk to new, huge pub-owning chains. Brewers consolidated even further. Choice went down. Forced to buy expensive beer from the huge PubCos in return for ostensibly cheap leases, landlords were caught by first cheap supermarket alcohol and then by the smoking ban. So the pubs closed down.

But, whilst sleeping off last night’s football-fuelled beerfest this morning, the Radio Four current affairs fairy whispered something magical in my ear – the growing number of breweries in the UK made it the “undisputed top brewing country in the world”.

“Britain has more small craft breweries per head of population than all other major industrialised countries; but it also offers tremendous choice,” said Roger Protz, editor of the Good Beer Guide.

“While most other countries offer mainly mainstream lagers, Britain has enormous diversity – milds, bitters, strong ales, porters, stouts, barley wines, old ales, Christmas ales, spring beers, golden ales and harvest ales to name just a few.”

So, much like Yellow Pages, the law of unintended consequences is not just there for the nasty things in life and apart from the usual screw-ups (step-forward Financial Services Act) and Murphy’s Law (the first spill in months is always on your new, expensive carpet, shirt or tablecloth), those awfully nice Wikipedia peeps describe a third category – a positive unexpected benefit, usually referred to as serendipity or a windfall.

So if I pass a pub these days, serendipitously open, there are lots of great beers to drink. That’s why I get so pissed I can’t work the towel dispenser. Why do they fill those things so full? What a waste, no wonder they’re often empty. Hmm – my hair looks kind of windswept…


Three possible reasons why I feel like Philip K. Dick this morning16 Aug


1. Secret encryption techniques applied to my blogs give our military overlords advance information about alien missile attack patterns (Time out of Joint)

2. I invented the I-Twing, up-to-the-minute oracle of social change (The Man in the High Castle)

3. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain (Blade Runner)


To ABC or not to ABC05 Aug

Top of the Crocs:ABC

Here’s a good example of ABC storytelling (or Anecdote-Based Communication to give it its Sunday name). My main page has a quick tutorial to help you reproduce the effect.

I once worked with an investment expert who told the following story:

Albert Einstein (a very credible character who lends weight to the argument) once theorised about an infinite number of monkeys typing on an infinite number of typewriters. Eventually, he said, one of them would type out the soliloquy from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. But as you can imagine, it would take a very long time before this happened…

Quite a picture, eh? When I tell this tale I sometimes present Einstein himself reading out sheets from some of the monkeys’ typewriters:
“Mix.. Yez.. Pittel.. ick – no good!” says the 20th Century’s greatest thinker.
“Ord.. Fard.. Nord.. Glock – no good either,” he says.
“Wait!” he cries triumphantly, “Listen to this: To be or not to be, that is the – Mix Yez Pittel ick – damn!”
This gives an unexpected twist to the tale so it occasionally gets a laugh.

Then, having established his narrative with an interesting scenario and credible characters (except for the monkeys!), the investment expert revealed the point of his story. Just like Einstein’s simian horde, statistically speaking his competitors would get it right some of the time. But the question he asked potential investors was this: Wouldn’t they rather invest with someone who has a better approach than mere probability? This creates unease, bordering on fear.

So: memorable story + credible main character (plus the Bard) + good point + introduction and then removal of negative emotions + a bit of a twist if you tell it well = full ABC marks and a subtle dig at the competition.

If you’re going to sin – be original! Use anecdote-based communication techniques.


Wolves, Greyhounds, Rabbits and Mick McCarthy28 May

Fog over Mancs 2

Welcome to Bizlike – a practical approach to having it away with words. In the nicest possible way.

Our homepage gives you an overview of Anecdotal-based Communication (ABC). It tells you all you need to turn a story into a vehicle for a specific message. You can use it to jazz up your patter, spice up your pitches and schmooze up your clients.

You’ll also find it helps you by providing you with a framework for the critical analysis of other people’s stories.

So for example, lets take one of Mick McCarthy’s favourites. He told it back in February when they christened him the new Eric Cantona and the Maharishi of Molyneux and it came up again in this Saturday’s Guardian Sport (18th April 2009).

Let’s examine the Bard of Barnsley’s technique step-by-step:

“There’s a greyhound going through the field and he sees a rabbit.” This begins the story by establishing the characters. In my tutorial, I liken this to the fletching or vanes of an arrow – the characters give a story “wings”.

“The rabbit gets up and starts running.” The storyline continues. ABC methodology likens this to the shaft of the arrow – straight, logical and linear – designed to make it easy to recall and, critically for the proliferation of the tale, easy to retell.

“The greyhound fancies a bit of snap but the rabbit fancies his life. Who runs the hardest?” Now it gets complicated. The feelings we experience from contemplating the absolutes of life and death (echoing Bill Shankley’s (in)famous quip) combine with our curiosity about what happens next. The story contains another crtitical characteristic – emotional content – it has drama and we want to know how it ends. My tutorial likens this to a red, bloody beating heart.

“The rabbit”. Final ingredient – the twist. How unexpected is this? The more the better for a great anecdote. So here, a rather banal conclusion to this tale from the animal kingdom, just like Cantona’s enigmatic utterance, is designed to bring us to the final ingredient – the point.

In ABC terms – the tip of the arrow pierces the beating heart and turns magically into a tattoo. An unexpected twist.. In McCarthy’s story, Wolves would struggle to beat Plymouth. The greyhound might not catch the rabbit.

Saturday 19th April – McCarthy prepares for the match by “varnishing his garage at 6am” and Wolverhampton Wanderers beat QPR and are promoted to the Premier League. The greyhound caught enough rabbits for automatic promotion. Good tale, happy ending.

If you’re telling a story, for fun or profit, a 10 minute investment of your time could win you promotion to the premier league. Anecdote-based communication works. Ask Mick.

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