Speaker Blogs Archives – MFL Global

Becoming a Legendary Leader by Dean van Leeuwen

Dean van Leeuwen believes in challenging people to use the power of business to innovate and do remarkable things. He believes that the most amazing innovations of the 21st century are yet to be invented. But a remarkable century will not just happen, we have to create it. So, Dean is on a quest to challenge audiences to unlearn and relearn, mobilising them to forge innovative solutions for the new Age of Discovery.

​Dean is a cancer slayer, TEDx speaker, futurist and moonshot provocateur working with leading businesses such as John Lewis Partnership, GSK, M&S and Deloitte. He is also an associate fellow at the Säid Oxford, Henley Business Schools and the Centre for European Executive Leadership  Development at Fontainebleau Paris. He is the author of the book Quest: Competitive Advantage and the Art of Leadership in the 21st Century.

Dean has been asked to write a series of articles for Real Leaders Magazine and we are pleased to share his latest article on becoming a Legendary Leader here.

How and why people ‘shirk’ and how to stop them doing it by Phil Hesketh

We’ve all spent time in think tanks, tasked with generating as many ideas as possible. But although this may be a fast way to achieve volume, is it the best way to generate quality?

Well according to psychologists in the US, probably not. Their studies prove that many people ‘hide’ in a group situation and become much less productive than if they were working alone.

How and why people ‘shirk’ and how to stop them doing it

American psychologists call this phenomenon ‘social loafing’. In Harrogate that means distributing bread to the homeless, but I digress. This theory is supported by an experiment by Professor Max Ringelmann. He got people to pull on ropes and measured how hard they pulled. He found that the more people were introduced to the task, the less effort each one put in. The graph shown here demonstrates this. Notice how people did half as much work when there were eight others in the group than when they were alone. Bell ringers take note.

More recently, Professor Bibb Latané asked people to cheer, shout and clap as loud as they could. He found that when people were in groups of six they only shouted at one-third of their full capacity. This is probably why panto audiences never give a big cheer at the first time of asking. Or why the away fans at football matches always seem to make the most noise. So how do you stop social loafing? Here are four top tips.

Cut down group numbers

Psychologist George Miller discovered that people can only cope with up to six things at one time. For example, when dots of light are flashed on a blank screen for a fraction of a second most people can only correctly guess the number if it’s less than six. Similarly, if we try to store more than seven numbers or words in our short-term memory, we struggle. And this same phenomenon is true of managing people. So don’t have more than six or seven in a group.

Make the task important

Studies show that when people think the task is important they do less loafing. An experiment by Zacarro in 1984 found that groups worked harder to construct ‘moon tents’ when they thought the task was important. Personally, I’ve always valued the construction of moon tents. If anybody knows what they are, let me know.

Make the group feel important

Similarly, when the group is important to its members, they work harder. One study had two groups of people building paper chains. One of the groups wore their normal day clothes whilst the other was given white coats and name tags plus a sense of competition. This latter group produced five more paper chains. But, personally, I wouldn’t swap them for a moon tent.

Evaluate each member

Finally, if each member’s contribution is evaluated they won’t want to be identified as a loafer. Although I remember Sir Clive Woodward once telling me how one of his rugby players would deliberately run up and down the pitch when the ball wasn’t in play just to get his metabolic rate stats up. We were speaking at the same conference and he arrived – and left – on the back of a powerful motorbike. We’d had a nice chat and I couldn’t resist the opportunity as he was leaving to say to a Knight of the Realm; “Right mate, on yer bike.”

And he chortled as he left.

Key thing is this: people can be made to work harder by cutting off their natural tendency to hide in the group.

If you’d like to book Philip Hesketh as a speaker or have him run a workshop for your team on how you can improve your relationships and increase your sales, contact us here

Bringing the skills of Stand-Up Comedians to Speaking

“The most viewed TED speakers deliver on average one joke per minute in their keynote speeches. The best deliver two jokes per minute.” Jeremey Donovan, ‘How to Deliver a TED talk’

A great speaker does not need to be famous (although it helps), they do not need to have conquered Everest in a kayak while singing the entire score of Sound of Music (but again it will help), however, more than anything their speech needs:

  • To entertain and amuse – a bit like a stand-up
  •  To be delivered authentically with panache, charm, clarity and energy – yep, a bit like a stand-up
  • To provide insight which is relevant, and you won’t get from anyone else – that’s the bit you do

“The best speakers in the world are stand-ups, or at least the ones people spend good money to go and hear speak. What I do is take the skills of a stand-up and make those applicable to business speakers.” Jack Milner

This masterclass has been tailored specifically for speakers who want to excite clients, have their agent eager to find them more bookings, change the lives of their audiences and entertain.

Jack Milner will share the techniques used by the world’s leading stand-ups, giving you the tools to transform your speech making it more engaging, funnier and inspiring.

Jack Milner

What you will take away:

  • A speech that will already be significantly improved as a result of attending this masterclass
  • 10 writing tools and performance techniques from stand-up that will ensure that your future speeches keep your audiences engaged
  • A personal plan on how you can continue to improve and hone your speech
  • Personal coaching on your delivery and content
  • A clear idea of what you need to do and how you will implement the changes to take your speech to the next level with the confidence and delivery of a stand-up comedian.

“Jack Milner has brought his techniques from the world of stand-up comedy to business communication. In fact, he has coached our most booked speaker to be the hugely successful performer he is today.”Maria Franzoni

Comedy writer, comedy director, speaker and facilitator, Jack Milner is a leading speaking and stand up coaches. He is a preferred speaking coach for London Speaker bureau and Maria Franzoni Limited. He has coached many of the world’s leading speakers (yes a few of those are now the most booked speakers with the London Speaker Bureau), politicians, TED speakers and business leaders from some of the world’s 10 largest companies. His latest creation, co-written with Mark Stevenson, the farce “Octopus Soup” tours nationally and then internationally from February 2019.

DATE: WEDNESDAY 23RD JANUARY 2019 (09:30-13:15)




Why do some people succeed in their goals, whilst others are left behind? by Amy Brann

Not just realising your goals, but achieving them.

Why is it that some people can more easily succeed in their goals, whilst others are left behind? Why are some people able to overcome hurdles along the way, whilst others find themselves stumbling along? And why is it that some people can achieve success, whilst others are left behind?

There are many answers to these questions. But one thing that can help us understand these differences is the concept of procrastination. Or in neuroscience speak “action control”.

In other words our ability to control our actions in a meaningful way to achieve our goals, whilst not getting distracted by other things, or becoming bogged down in negative thought.

To read the rest of this fascinating subject and find out more about the elements of goal pursuit and success, click here

For more information on the author of this article, Amy Brann, click here

Is another Economic Crisis domino coming? By Stephen Archer

As we approach the centenary of the end of WW1 it’s a reminder that many people at the time said ‘never again’. But it did happen again. It was not quite history repeating itself but in the case of the next economic crisis there will be a lot of history repeating itself.

Spoiler alert, the next sentence is also not a cheerful one. There will be another financial crisis, not just a recession, a proper crisis though perhaps not of the magnitude of 2008-09. But unlike the last crisis it will have a wider impact. It will be farther-reaching than the near collapse of the banking system in the western economies ten years ago though it was far more than just the banks that suffered. This news is further tainted by the fact that tools to correct a recession are now less powerful given that many large economies are still in varying states of austerity; growth is still tepid in Europe and China is struggling to maintain growth and stability.  Oh but the US is forging ahead so why worry, er, there is one of the problems. But more of that in a moment.

The last crisis was a watershed but not as much as it should have been. The weaknesses of the financial system have not been eradicated sufficiently. For example, bank balance sheets are only marginally strong enough; a lack of separation between investment and retail banking; excessive sovereign and consumer debt. Oh, and another legacy, the banks were rescued but so too were many of the bankers. So many key elements are in place to  make us close to a tipping point.

Before 2008 there was confidence in a world order of stable democracies, self regulating markets, globalisation being a force for good and the rise of new economies as inevitable and desirable. Those have been critical elements to serve confidence, trust, investment and growth. Take any one of them away and it is damaging. But the truth is that all of these elements are now risk factors.

World order is far from stable with swathes of Latin America in economic distress including Brazil, the ‘B’ of the once vaunted BRICs. and China’s performance slipping at the same time as its democracy is being eroded and it is flexing its military and territorial muscles in the South China sea. India is on  respectable path but Russia is not only in economic trouble but seems to want to show that it is outside the received wisdom of Global order of political and economic probity. It is not playing by the rules.

The IMF has done a study of the effects of the last crisis. “91 economies, representing two-thirds” of global GDP experienced declines in 2009. Nothing like that had been seen since 1945. Compared to pre-crisis these economies also now have greater income disparities. Of the countries that suffered a banking crisis, 18 are high-income economies and nearly all of these have growth levels behind trend.

Output is also beneath pre 2009 trends in 60 per cent of countries that did not a suffer banking crisis; this proves the contagion effect. China’s stimulated growth of 10% was a big help to the rest of the world then but that effect has subsided. Western economies have been supported by radical monetary policy but fiscal policy did not have big enough tools in the box by comparison. Exchange rates have also been inflexible, especially in the Eurozone, which is one of the reasons for its sluggish growth.

Right now the global economy is in reasonable heath. So what would change that and why is this story a pessimistic one? It is a combination of factors, some already mentioned. The monetary activity that was the rescue remedy in 2009 is has also fueled debt. Lots of debt. It would not take much, such as another rate rise, for the consumer to draw in their horns (credit cards) and bring about a contraction. In the US the rate rise has already slowed consumption.

Income inequality is now much higher across the world. This has two risks. The aforementioned self-imposed debt control through consumer spending reduction but the other risk is more fundamental. The ‘left behind’ disenfranchised members of society are a large body and social unrest cannot be ruled out. The signs are already there. On the other end of the scale, the wealthy are harbouring and off–shoring their wealth rather than putting it into circulation.

The risk of social unrest is greatly exacerbated by the far-reaching authoritarian governments around Europe and the rest of the world. Democracy is in trouble.

Sovereign debt remains another risk. Greece is a still broke but a sideshow compared to Italy whose debt at 130% of GDP is higher than Greece’s debt in 2009.  Italy has a chaotic populist political leadership and wide ranging social issues. It is breaking many EU rules and the fight with the EU on its budget is in full swing.

The US is now on a spectacular deficit financed growth path. The national debt is rising faster than ever and there is a bull run on Wall Street helped by Trump’s outlandish tax cuts. This is a precarious stimulus policy and when one factors in the instability of the US administration and the real scope for it being unwound at any time we should perhaps be worried. A lot of crisis risks emanate from the US. Both sovereign and consumer debt are major risks but an escalation of a trade war with China is another hazard. It seems unlikely that the Chinese will be content to lose a trade war. This is not a zero sum game – it’s a minus sum game.

So if there is to be crisis where will it start? It maybe the ‘butterfly in the jungle syndrome’, a small trigger or tweet from an obscure source that sets things in motion and leads to a collapse in confidence.

When? Within the next eighteen months – hold on tight!

Article written by Stephen Archer – A consultant to multi-national companies in the USA and beyond at CEO level, Stephen Archer is well placed to provide commentary on business, economic and business trends and offer insightful perspectives on the changing nature of the world economy and corporate world.

BREXIT – Why it is so messy BRINO – Why this may be the real outcome by Stephen Archer

A divorce is easy when both parties are confident and content about their future. But if either side is nervous or apprehensive then it gets difficult, very difficult.

In the BREXIT divorce there is a lot that we don’t know about going on behind closed doors; this is to be expected. That which is allowed to escape and is ‘message managed’ rarely sounds encouraging though there are the odd days when positive sentiments are revealed. Such is the nature of a gladiatorial contest to reach an agreeable divorce settlement. It was ever going to be thus, this separation has its roots way back in 1945 and maybe even goes further back for some people. Emotions are running as high as the stakes.  But there has to be a deal – of some sort. Despite all the posturing the UK imports 50% more than it exports to the EU, this is just one statistic to show how big the divorce is. Maintenance payments and access will be demanded…

As a divorce or separation it has no precedent in history. US Independence in 1776? No, that was a piece of cake and of course unilateral. Unwinding the British Empire? Also far easier. But why were such geopolitical and economic changes easier compared to the EU separation? To understand we have to consider what is happening outside the negotiating room. In fact, consider also that since the UK decided to leave two years ago the situation has got much more complex. Here is why.

UK. The PM unwisely and clumsily called an election in 2017, which weakened her power significantly.  Worse still, she has to power share with the DUP whose view of the vexed Irish border is intransigent to say the least. May is weaker in parliament, the country and against her opposition. All of this undermines her negotiating power. The political dissent from those wanting another referendum (either in/out or on the terms of departure) are also putting pressure on the UK Government though not as much as the Government’s own equivocation as to what deal will be acceptable. Chequers is not everyone’s mate! May also has Scotland threatening to depart the UK again on the pretext of BREXIT. In normal times the UK may be able to lean on the US for some support but Trump’s isolationism does not chime with free trade deals with anyone. However, we do have strong messages of intent to do deals from many major trading partners such as Australia and Japan so its not all bleak news.

EU. When the UK leaves it will also stop paying about 19 Billion Euros each year to Europe or 15% of their budget. That is a big hole to fill. In reality it will impact the administration but overall it will make the EU a smaller federation. That is the rub; the mission of the EU leadership (unelected by the people) is to increase the federal size and power of the EU. With the UK gone, Germany will be a 24% contributor to the EU budget; not all countries are happy with that weighting and the fact that Germany’s power in the EU will increase after March 2019. Two other major issues are of concern to the EU. The currency has helped to drive the southern states into a parlous economic state. Spain is bad enough but Italy’s debt situation is dire and breaks many critical EU rules such as debt to GDP ratio. This concern is greatly amplified by Europe’s other problem: popularism in politics. This has taken hold in Italy, Austria, Poland, and Hungary and is creeping up in other states, most notably Germany. This political trend is for the EU leadership ethically undesirable but above all for Europe it threatens many of the tenets of the union such as open borders.  The rise of popularism for Germany is an existential threat. These issues are causing great stress within EU leadership and weaken the EU position in negotiation with the UK. In short, they don’t want us to leave because of the weakening economic outlook and the political threats.

So in conclusion, BREXIT is a bad day at the office for the UK but a nightmare for the fragile entity that is the EU.

But will it be hard or soft? It will be soft and contain many fudges. The EU will be able to pretend that we are still part of Europe in all but name and the UK will be able to pretend that it has left but can continue to trade – mostly by EU rules.

Will it be a real divorce? NO, a divorce but staying under the same roof. I.e. BRINO. BREXIT in Name Only.

Stephen Archer

A consultant to multi-national companies in the USA and beyond at CEO level, Stephen Archer is well placed to provide commentary on business, economic and business trends and offer insightful perspectives on the changing nature of the world economy and corporate world.  His main areas of expertise are commercial performance and leadership improvement in high-performance organisations. Stephen talks both in the capacity of an advisor to businesses and from the perspective of a business owner and someone who has set up and sold businesses. A decade ago he became a regular commentator on the challenges of the world’s politico-economic flux. In this time of unprecedented uncertainty he brings clarity to issues surrounding Brexit, global leadership and the economic outlook.

To learn more about Stephen click here

Intentionally shape your brain for high performance by Amy Brann

Amy Brann is the founder of Synaptic Potential working with organisations to strengthen their strategy, culture and performance.  She is the author of three books: ‘Make Your Brain Work’, ‘Neuroscience for Coaches’ & ‘Engaged: The neuroscience behind creating productive people in successful organisations’.  Amy is a visiting lecturer to Manchester Metropolitan University teaching the neuroscience of leadership on the Master of Sports Directorship programme. 

Podcast with Amy Brann

 Intentionally shape your brain for high performance

Your employees are your most important asset. They are the source of your best ideas. They can overcome difficult challenges with resilience and they create the high performing success stories which cumulatively lead to organisational greatness.  

Your employees create the high performing success stories that cumulatively lead to organisational greatness 

 But employees like this can’t usually be obtained “off the shelf”. They have to be developed, created and nurtured within your organisation and to do this effectively you have to understand how they operate. What makes them tick? What motivates them? This doesn’t mean just asking them about their strengths and weaknesses or sending them on countless training courses. It means getting inside their head. Or more specifically inside their brain.  Because it is their brains that are powering your organisation.  

 Understanding how to get the best value out of this unique biological utility (much like you might do for the other more mundane forms of power which keep your offices switched on) means knowing how to optimise it. It means knowing how to prevent unwanted wastage and it means knowing where to strategically invest to add the most value.  

This can only be done if you have an understanding about how the human brain works. What makes it emotionally resilient? How does it solve problems, makes decisions or comes up with creative ideas? Why does it procrastinate or get distracted? What kind of rewards are particularly effective for motivating it to succeed? Where are its weaknesses and what can you do to compensate for them? 

Luckily the brain isn’t a black box anymore, it is a colourful array of insights that can answer these questions, and more. Answers that can be directly applied to improving your organisation’s brain power.

This is because the brain isn’t fixed during adulthood (like scientific researchers once thought) but is highly malleable over time. It can therefore be rewired to work at its most efficient with the appropriate engineering. Preventing wastage and low productivity. Encouraging motivation, resilience and innovative thinking.  

The brain can be rewired to work at its most efficient with the appropriate engineering, preventing wastage and low productivity. 

 So, what does this process of brain engineering look like? Here are 5 examples of ways to boost the brain power of your employees: 

  1. To get your employees to be more creative or innovative, don’t encourage creativity. Encourage curiosity. By becoming more curious they will feed their brain with snippets of new information which, when integrated and juggled into existing knowledge, can lead to that next big breakthrough idea.
  2. One cause of mental fatigue in your employees is intense and sustained mental focus over time. Taking short breaks from work in the natural environment (e.g. listening to nature sounds, taking a walk in green space) is an excellent way for them to refocus and restore their attentional capacity over the longer-term. 
  3. Get your employees to stop ‘putting off’ tasks or decisions by creating a clear reward structure which avoids irrational biases to slip in and use appropriate nudging strategies to prevent procrastination. Long-term rewards are irrationally discounted so make the reward tangible and in the near future, whilst streamlining choices prevents loss-aversion (the irrational fear of rejecting options). 
  4. Research has shown that your employees really can ‘be on the same wavelength’ as their co-workers. Encouraging them to make eye contact, pay attention to where the other person is looking, work on the same page at the same time, and be comfortable with the person they are working with during group sessions, will help get their brain waves aligned.  
  5. Encouraging prosocial emotions in the workplace such as empathy, kindness and gratitude can strengthen resilience, reduce stress and improve motivation in your employees. They can learn to become a better “mind reader” by picking up on the subtle emotional cues given off by their co-workers, whilst acts of kindness rapidly propagate through teams. 

Intentionally shape your brain for high performance by Amy Brann 1

To view Amy’s website

To listen to our podcast with Amy

Love this article, read our magazine

If you would like a hard copy of the magazine, drop us a line at enquiries@mfl.global

How to increase the chances of people doing what you want them to do

Why do we buy lottery tickets every week when we all know the odds of winning the lottery jackpot are 14 million to one? Statistically, there’s more chance of being eaten by a shark.

The answer is because it cleverly exploits a simple weakness in the way the human mind works. Called the ‘availability bias’, it’s the tendency that we have to judge probabilities on the basis of how easily examples come to mind. So it doesn’t matter that the odds of winning the lottery are very long – every week we hear about yet another lucky jackpot winner. Hence, we assume that we’re much more likely to win than we really are.

There’s a well-known brand of cat food that eight out of ten owners say their cat prefers. That sounds like 80% of cats prefer it. But, of course, it just means that 80% of the 100 or so cat owners who took part in the survey think their cats prefer it. In other words, less than 0.01% of all cat owners say that their cats prefer it. Not as impressive when the stats are presented this way, is it?

How to increase the chances of people doing what you want them to doWhen I speak at conferences and ask delegates to guess the percentage of UK households consisting of a husband, wife and two children – a boy and a girl as per the photo – they always overestimate wildly. This is because they are so used to seeing the ‘typical’ nuclear family in TV dramas and in advertising they think it’s more common than it really is. The actual figure is less than 4%.

So how can you exploit the ‘availability bias’ to influence the behaviour of others? Well, you can start by reminding them how common it is to benefit from what you want them to do. For example: ‘Join the thousands whose eyesight has already been restored with laser eye surgery’ might be your slogan if you’re a laser eye surgeon.

I very deliberately only do one public seminar each year in the UK (with Gavin Ingham). And it’s sold out (166 tickets) every year for five years. And we make great play of the fact that it sells out.

It positions both of us as top experts in our field. We are well known for always selling out. So we must be good…………

Blog written by Phil Hesketh.  To read more on Phil click here

Listen to Phil’s podcast here

How often do you check your emails?

Research has shown that we check our emails between 70 and 350 times a day, which really doesn’t leave a lot of time for the deep work – the work that creates impact, value and self-worth. As tempting as the email refresh button may be, it’s time to resist, to rethink how and when we process our emails and to get back in control, by becoming an Inbox Zero Hero. To get you a step closer, here are 4 of Graham Allcott‘s favourite email tips for you!  Don’t know Graham?  He’s the Productivity Ninja!


How often do you check your emails? 11. Set Up an Email Processing Schedule

Do you feel the urge to respond to an email as soon as it lands in your inbox? Every Inbox Zero Hero knows that you get the email you deserve – the quicker you respond, the more you get! That’s why, instead of immediately replying to emails, we think you should set up a processing schedule, which will limit you to responding to emails 2-3 times a day.



How often do you check your emails? 22. Set Up Email Rules  

Besides limiting yourself to how often you check your emails on a daily basis, you can also set up email rules within your inbox, which saves you the task of manually moving emails into specific folders. You could, for example, set up a ‘priority inbox’ in your Gmail, or a ‘do not disturb, except for favourites’ rule on your smartphone.



How often do you check your emails? 33. Start Your Day Without Emails 

It’s almost a reflex to arrive at work, start up the computer and immediately dive into your inbox. Instead of letting the content of your inbox dictate what you’ll be working on in the morning – start your day by writing your to do list or tackling your biggest task first (eating the frog).



How often do you check your emails? 44. Get Your Inbox to Zero

Maybe you’ve been working a deadline or relaxing on holiday and your inbox feels a little out of control again? Get back on track in your own time by heading over to The Productivity Ninja Academy. As a Black Belt member, you’ll have access to all our eCourses, including ‘Getting Your Gmail Inbox to Zero’,  ‘Getting Your Inbox BACK to Zero’ and look out for our Outlook tutorial coming soon!

To get more handy tips, listen to Graham’s podcast here

Brexit, trade tensions, investment restrictions and overvalued markets with Parag Khanna

With the publication of The Future is Asian nears in February 2019 and concerns mount about Brexit, trade tensions, investment restrictions and overvalued markets, Parag Khanna shares some major points that will be especially relevant for all clients in the financial domain such as investment banks, pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, insurance/reinsurance companies, hedge funds, private equity firms, private wealth managers, ratings agencies and payments companies.

As much as Brexit should be reversed, if implemented by March 2019, the UK will need a much more robust strategy around services trade agreements. As I demonstrated in Connectography, the value-added from services far exceeds that from goods and the UK is the second-largest services exporter in the world. On numerous occasions over the past decade I’ve advised the UK Foreign Office and more recently a number of senior officials on how to maximise the benefits from its new Prosperity Fund aimed at driving growth and economic partnership with emerging markets, especially in Asia. In The Future is Asian, I also document the inbound Asian investment into the UK from China and other Asian economies and what the UK must do to continue to be the leading European destination for Asian investors.


Even as the Eurozone struggles to find consensus on controversial issues such as migration, pragmatism has prevailed in the core question of Eurozone integrity. As I have been categorically stating for a decade, there will be no Grexit, nor will the new Italian government pursue the radical path of exiting the Eurozone for which it has no competence. The German and French governments continue to work with the ECB (whose next leader is to be chosen soon) to develop a mechanism for fiscal coordination and a fair mutualisation of Eurozone debt. I expect the political will to coalesce over the course of the coming year — and it will be equally essential for managing the deleveraging of major Eurozone area banks. Importantly, the Eurozone’s overall economic recovery is solid as evidenced by healthy growth, demand for business loans, and prioritising new trade agreements with Asian countries such as Japan and India. The Future is Asian contains a comprehensive chapter on how Asia can aid Europe’s economic future titled “Why Europe Loves Asia — but not yet Asians.”

US Economy

Presidents more often inherit economic trends than drive them. The Trump administration initially benefited from the confluence of a stronger labor market driving consumption growth, healthy corporate balance sheets boosting business investment, and tax cuts serving as a fiscal stimulus. As interest rates stabilise, however, the business cycle may struggle to maintain its momentum without further support from the credit cycle. This is because of weak aggregate demand owing to declining median incomes (the US is the only advanced economy whose median income declined since the financial crisis) and high inequality. Congressional gridlock over infrastructure and entitlement reforms — combined with the midterm elections and extreme political polarisation — set the course for the budget deficit to reach $1 trillion by 2020. The combination of rising interest rates and debt is eroding America’s sovereign credit, while a strong dollar and reciprocal trade tariffs are hurting US exports. We cannot expect equity markets to continue their strong run unless the private sector further expands investment in new infrastructure, industries, jobs and skills.  

The Chinese Economy

China has managed to defy predictions of a hard landing and will likely continue to use its many policy levers to maintain robust economic performance. Corporate (primarily SOE) and municipal debt represent the lion’s share of its ballooning debt — the former is being addressed by restructuring via the SASAC and the latter by policy reforms and raising taxes. In both cases, the PBOC still has more than $3 trillion in reserves to absorb write-downs and fund recapitalisation. At the same time, China is responding to trade tariffs and investment restrictions by opening key sectors from industry to finance to greater foreign investment, which continues to attract Western corporates and investors — even at the risk of accelerating the “Made in China 2025” initiative and other efforts to move China up the value chain that I documented in depth in Connectography. Indeed, China continues its rapid shift towards a services focused economy with ever less export dependence. At the same time, weakening the yuan while increasing the range of partners with which trade is denominated in RMB cushions its economy and others weary of a strong dollar. In The Future is Asian I make the case that China should not be understood as entirely distinct from the fast-growing, young and entrepreneurial Asian neighbors to which it is increasingly directing its trade and investment priorities. This provides yet another reason to be relatively optimistic about China’s economic future with the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party around the corner in 2021.

Global Trade

There is no question that globalisation is in fact thriving, but it no longer requires Anglo-American leadership, as I argued in this widely circulated article for Politico. Instead, globalisation 2.0 will be led by Asia, with China opening many doors for the region’s economies to deepen their internal integration and Europe looking both to further open China while expanding its presence in Asia’s other fast-growing and more open economies. Together, Europe and Asia’s two-way trade across Eurasia far exceeds either’s trade with America — and the gap will accelerate on the back of Belt & Road infrastructure and free trade agreements. As I explain in The Future is Asian, the greater Indian Ocean region now accounts for most global trade growth and is the new epicenter of world trade. Western firms will have to redouble their efforts to compete directly in these high-growth markets if they want to maintain market share against the increasingly confident Chinese, Indian and other Asian companies.

Asian Markets

Asia no longer belongs in the inaccurate catch-all category of “emerging markets” with countries such as Argentina. Asian markets are weathering both the trade wars and strong dollar well owing to their strong reserves, flexible exchange rates and manageable US dollar debt exposure. Even as Asia’s corporates need to finance significant US dollar bonds, overall sovereign and corporate credit ratings remain solid and local currency bonds provide a very strong cushion. Furthermore, Asian equities are relatively undervalued and provide attractive opportunities for the many Western institutional investors looking to raise their Asian exposure to generate higher yields. The Future is Asian contains a plethora of new charts and graphics attesting to Asia’s strong demographics, growth rates, trade integration, economic reforms and other indicators that I will be actively presenting.

Financial institutions should be equally interested in my geopolitical analysis of themes ranging from the confrontation with Iran, the course of diplomacy with North Korea, and the consequences of China’s Belt & Road Initiative for Russia, Central Asia, Pakistan, India and ASEAN. These topics are covered in significant depth in The Future is Asian. See also my recent CNN column arguing that Asia is already building its own foundations for the next world order. 

For more information on Parag Khanna, click here

The Pepsi Challenge and who won the Cola war by Phil Hesketh

In the decades-long battle of the colas, Coke continues to outsell Pepsi. Not because it costs less or tastes nicer, but because, we the consumer, just think that it’s better. Let me explain.Philip Hesketh

Back in the early 1980s, a series of taste tests found that most people actually preferred the taste of Pepsi over Coke. Provided, that is, they were blindfolded during the challenge and couldn’t see which one they were drinking.  However, run the challenge without the blindfolds and the results were almost always reversed. Coca Cola – or Coke as it is universally known – proved itself time again to be the real thing. But why?

Well, years later, Reed Montague and his team at the Neuro-imaging Lab in Houston, came up with an answer. His researchers discovered that the ventral putamen – one of the brain’s reward centres – behaved differently when people used only taste information than when they also had brand identification.

So, brainwashed by years of advertising telling you that Coke is better, when you see a can and take a swig your ventral putamen thinks bingo.

(My words, not Montague’s.)

Technically speaking, this area is hijacked and the neuron connections go straight to your dorsolateral prefrontal cortex which is the area concerned with opinions. So your brain is telling you that you love the taste even though your taste buds may be screaming for you to gag.

So the first thing you should know about your preference for Coke or Pepsi is that you don’t really know what you are doing; so deep is the belief about certain brands in your brain. Which explains why it’s such a hard job to get people to change their mind about brands regardless of how good the product might be. You might well have that frustration yourself..

But the second thing you should know about Coke is who really won the cola war. Well not the customer for a start. If you go to any bar and ask for Coca-Cola you will often get the reply ‘Will Pepsi be OK?’ That’s because bars that sell Pepsi don’t sell Coke, and vice versa.

Maybe, these establishments would gain a marketing advantage if they were able to offer both. Because we all know what happens when you offer the customer a choice. That’s right, their dorsolateral prefrontal cortex gets all excited and they come back for more.

Incidentally, if you were Coca Cola and knew that people liked your brand but preferred the taste of Pepsi, what would you do to strengthen your market position? Of course, you would bring out New Coke  which tasted more like Pepsi. This is exactly what they did with disastrous consequences. Which just goes to show, you can’t fool all the people all the time.

Article written by Philip Hesketh.  Philip is one of the country’s leading experts on sales motivation, Philip Hesketh both commands the attention of an audience and captures its imagination. He has a potent mix of thought-provoking, well-researched, persuasive techniques and his own highly entertaining, unique brand of humour. The result? Audiences are enthralled as well as informed from the first minute to last. Smiling throughout and often laughing out loud. But more importantly, they leave the event inspired and better informed on how buying, selling, persuading and influencing actually work. His talks are always tailored to a client’s particular organisation or industry.

To listen to Phil’s podcast