This is a basic question I keep asking my CEO clients and I have done so for several decades. What keeps you awake at night?
It’s interesting to note that CEOs of medium to large companies (1000+ employees) are usually pre-occupied with finding solutions for the same 4 or 5 problems.
1. innovation and creating new customers
2. getting and keeping people engaged in their work
3. global uncertainty and the unexpected
4. shareholder returns and capital issues
5. global expansion and growth.
These show a mix of the macro business environment which a CEO does not control, and company-specific challenges that require thoughtful CEO solutions with better strategic allocation of resources. It also points to the need for regular and unfiltered bottom-up input directly to the CEO.
For a beautifully presented lecture from the Royal Institution on how The Braggs’ work in x-ray crystallography is foundational to so much modern science in chemistry, materials research and biology and allows us to see the world in a different light.
Sir William Lawrence Bragg was born in North Adelaide in 1890. He is the youngest person to win the Nobel Prize, which he did at only the age of 25.
At 31 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society, the oldest and most elite scientific society in the worldâ€‰–â€‰a qualification that, he said, “makes other ones irrelevant”. He would live through two world wars, and in 1941 he received the knighthood for his scientific contributions.
Son of an equally decorated scientist, Sir William Henry Bragg, young William Lawrence Bragg made his first scientific contribution as subject, rather than experimenter. After William Lawrence broke his arm falling from a tricycle, his father used the recently discovered powers of X-rays to investigate the break; this was the first surgical use of X-rays in Australia.
A keenly interested scientific mind from an early age, Bragg spent much of his time at the Australian Astronomical Observatory, which his family played a part in maintaining, and collecting shellfish, discovering a new species of cuttlefish. At 14 he entered the University of Adelaide, where his father held a position, studying mathematics, physics and chemistry.
His father’s following academic appointment was at the University of Cambridge, and he took the family to England, where father and son made discoveries relating to X-rays that earnt them the Nobel Prize in physics in 1915, a year where they beat some tough competition in Max Planckâ€‰–â€‰formulator of the field of quantum physicsâ€‰–â€‰and Albert Einstein.
One could be tempted to think that as a first-year research student Bragg took a backseat to his decorated father. Quite the contrary, Bragg’s biographer, Graeme Hunter, reports that it was the son’s insights that drove the research forward. It was in this time he formulated “Bragg’s Law”, which allowed the calculation of the position of the atoms within a crystal by examining the diffraction of X-rays.
Somewhat like examining the silhouette of an object by shining a light on it, X-ray crystallography allowed the atomic structure of various materials to be investigated; it is particularly useful in the study of metals and biological materials.
Bragg was one of that unlucky generation who twice had to endure total war. His research was halted, but his scientific acumen allowed him to avoid combat and contribute to the war effort by working on techniques to locate enemy guns using sound. His brother Robert wasn’t so lucky, dying in Gallipoli in 1915. For his contribution to the victory of the Allies in World War I Bragg received the Military Cross and was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).
Having already achieved so much, when he returned to uninterrupted research after World War II he still had one major contribution to humanity to give. Bragg became interested in the application of his X-ray methods to the structure of proteins, and was in part responsible for creating a research group at Cambridge’s famous Cavendish Laboratory for their investigation.
It was during this time that the group’s research began the investigation of the structure of one protein in particular: deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. Bragg played an important part overseeing the research of the young Francis Crick and James Watson, who successfully identified DNA’s double-helix structure via X-ray crystallography. It was on the recommendation made by Bragg nine years before he died in July 1971 that the duo received their Noble Prize.
William Lawrence Bragg didn’t score runs for Australian or gain international acclaim in Hollywood. But he contributed massively to advancing scientific knowledge.
It’s hard to measure just the extend of the impact of Bragg’s work, but two quick examples: his method of X-ray crystallography was fundamental in the understanding of the properties of many chemicals, including silicon, which is the basis of modern computer chips; his contribution to the discovery of DNA unlocked the new field of molecular biology and all the discoveries and medical therapies that have come from that.
People of a certain age (and we know who we are) don’t spend much leisure time reviewing the research into cognitive performance and aging. The story is grim, for one thing: Memory’s speed and accuracy begin to slip around age 25 and keep on slipping.
The story is familiar, too, for anyone who is over 50 and, having finally learned to live fully in the moment, discovers it’s a senior moment. The finding that the brain slows with age is one of the strongest in all of psychology.
Over the years, some scientists have questioned this dotage curve. But these challenges have had an ornery-old-person slant: that the tests were biased toward the young, for example. Or that older people have learned not to care about clearly trivial things, like memory tests. Or that an older mind must organize information differently from one attached to some 22-year-old who records his every Ultimate Frisbee move on Instagram.
Now comes a new kind of challenge to the evidence of a cognitive decline, from a decidedly digital quarter: data mining, based on theories of information processing. In a paper published in Topics in Cognitive Science, a team of linguistic researchers from the University of TÃ¼bingen in Germany used advanced learning models to search enormous databases of words and phrases.
Since educated older people generally know more words than younger people, simply by virtue of having been around longer, the experiment simulates what an older brain has to do to retrieve a word. And when the researchers incorporated that difference into the models, the aging “deficits” largely disappeared.
“What shocked me, to be honest, is that for the first half of the time we were doing this project, I totally bought into the idea of age-related cognitive decline in healthy adults,” the lead author, Michael Ramscar, said by email. But the simulations, he added, “fit so well to human data that it slowly forced me to entertain this idea that I didn’t need to invoke decline at all.”
Can it be? Digital tools have confounded predigital generations; now here they are, coming to the rescue. Or is it that younger scientists are simply pretesting excuses they can use in the future to cover their own golden-years lapses?
In fact, the new study is not likely to overturn 100 years of research, cognitive scientists say. Neuroscientists have some reason to believe that neural processing speed, like many reflexes, slows over the years; anatomical studies suggest that the brain also undergoes subtle structural changes that could affect memory.
Still, the new report will very likely add to a growing skepticism about how steep age-related decline really is. It goes without saying that many people remain disarmingly razor-witted well into their 90s; yet doubts about the average extent of the decline are rooted not in individual differences but in study methodology. Many studies comparing older and younger people, for instance, did not take into account the effects of pre-symptomatic Alzheimer’s disease, said Laura Carstensen, a psychologist at Stanford University.
Dr. Carstensen and others have found, too, that with age people become biased in their memory toward words and associations that have a positive connotation – the “age-related positivity effect,” as it’s known. This bias very likely applies when older people perform so-called paired-associate tests, a common measure that involves memorizing random word pairs, like ostrich and house.
“Given that most cognitive research asks participants to engage with neutral (and in emotion studies, negative) stimuli, the traditional research paradigm may put older people at a disadvantage,” Dr. Carstensen said by email.
The new data-mining analysis also raises questions about many of the measures scientists use. Dr. Ramscar and his colleagues applied leading learning models to an estimated pool of words and phrases that an educated 70-year-old would have seen, and another pool suitable for an educated 20-year-old. Their model accounted for more than 75 percent of the difference in scores between older and younger adults on items in a paired-associate test, he said.
That is to say, the larger the library you have in your head, the longer it usually takes to find a particular word (or pair).
Scientists who study thinking and memory often make a broad distinction between “fluid” and “crystallized” intelligence. The former includes short-term memory, like holding a phone number in mind, analytical reasoning, and the ability to tune out distractions, like ambient conversation. The latter is accumulated knowledge, vocabulary and expertise.
“In essence, what Ramscar’s group is arguing is that an increase in crystallized intelligence can account for a decrease in fluid intelligence,” said Zach Hambrick, a psychologist at Michigan State University. In a variety of experiments, Dr. Hambrick and Timothy A. Salthouse of the University of Virginia have shown that crystallized knowledge (as measured by New York Times crosswords, for example) climbs sharply between ages 20 and 50 and then plateaus, even as the fluid kind (like analytical reasoning) is dropping steadily – by more than 50 percent between ages 20 and 70 in some studies. “To know for sure whether the one affects the other, ideally we’d need to see it in human studies over time,” Dr. Hambrick said.
Dr. Ramscar’s report was a simulation and included no tested subjects, though he said he does have several memory studies with normal subjects on the way.
For the time being, this new digital-era challenge to “cognitive decline” can serve as a ready-made explanation for blank moments, whether senior or otherwise.
It’s not that you’re slow. It’s that you know so much.
Since the creation of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1900 the Crown of Australia has been worn by six monarchs: Victoria, Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII, George VI and Elizabeth II.
Monarchy to Republic
Whether or not to change the Australian Constitution from monarchy to republic is currently being thought through and discussed by the majority of electors of Australia.
Peoplepower: the Majority of Electors
200 years ago Napoleon’s master, Prince Talleyrand, said, “There is someone more intelligent than Voltaire, more powerful than the emperor–and that is the people.”
100 years later in 1900, this became true in Australia. Today, it is still one of the enduring truths of our Commonwealth.
The Majority of Electors was the original power in 1900 that created The Constitution and MOE is still the only power in Australia that can change The Constitution.
In contrast to other political realities like in Iraq, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Fiji or even the Vatican, the USA, India and China, the fact is that the MOE of Australia have been able to hold, without interruption, the ultimate constitutional power in Australia for over a hundred years!
This continuous record of peoplepower and political stability is unprecedented in modern world history.
Australia is the name given to an agreement between the Majority of Electors of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, Tasmania, and Western Australia to unite in one federation under the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia.
So who really created what we now know as ‘Australia’?
On July 5, 1900, Australia was legally created by an Act of the Westminster Parliament known as the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act. The Act was proclaimed to commence on January 1, 1901.
At that time, the population of Australia was under four million and consisted of a number of colonies which regarded themselves as British. This Act was the product of a vision which began fifty years earlier in the self-governing colonies. The Constitution of Australia is also internationally regarded as one of the cleverest agreements ever designed.
It was crafted in Australia by our own people. It was a product, not of war nor of revolution, but of many years of business discussion, political debate, legal argument and peaceful referendum.
The First Convention
Two Conventions were held in 1891 and in 1897-98. Delegates to the 1891 Convention were appointed by the colonial parliaments and met in Sydney.
The Convention President was the Premier of New South Wales, Sir Henry Parkes whose image is still on today’s five dollar bill.
The draft of a Bill for a Constitution was approved by the Convention.
This Bill was drafted with the help of Sir Samuel Griffith, Premier of Queensland, who later became the First Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia.
The Second Convention
The second Convention was held in Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne in 1897 and 1898. Delegates to this Convention were elected by the Majority of Electors.
The document produced at this Convention became the new Constitution and many features coming from the first Convention were included.
In 1899, the draft of the Constitution was approved by the Majority of Electors in a state by state referendum–each held in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland. New Zealand which was represented at the first Convention did not join the Federation.
Western Australia voted to join in 1900. Thus, the Constitution was designed, not at Westminster but in Australia and by our own MOE.
In the words of the Eleventh Chief Justice of the High Court, The Honourable Murray Gleeson AC: “The Commonwealth Constitution was not drafted by civil servants in London, and presented to the colonies on the basis that they could take it or leave it. Its terms were hammered out in Australia in a process of public debate, and political and legal negotiation, by the leading figures of the day.”
One hundred years later, in 1998, a third Convention was held. From 2-13 February 1998, 152 delegates from all over Australia met at Old Parliament House in Canberra to discuss whether Australia should become a republic.
Seventy-six of the delegates were elected by the Majority of Electors in a voluntary postal ballot. The other seventy-six were appointed by the parliament whose members were also chosen by the Majority of Electors.
The delegates come from every State and Territory and had a wide diversity of backgrounds and interests. The Convention was chaired by the Rt Hon Ian Sinclair MP, with the Hon Barry Jones AO MP as Deputy Chairman.
It was finally resolved at the third Convention that a republican model of an appointed president be put to the people in a constitutional referendum.
On 5 November 1999, the Electors of Australia were asked:
Do you agree with A proposed law to alter the constitution to establish the Commonwealth of Australia as a Republic with the Queen and Governor General being replaced by a President appointed by a two-thirds majority of members of the Commonwealth Parliament?
In recent months, I have had discussions about SOT with a variety of CEOs in Melbourne and Sydney. I have been discussing the strategy of RETURN ON PAYROLL by upgrading the brain software of their enterprises.
Last week I was asked the kind of question I like to be asked by a client. Not just, “How much does it cost?” but “Can you outline for me in a few sentences the theoretical underpinnings of your model?”
In other words, keep It simple. So, this was my response in a few … er … six sentences:
The latter, IP used by military science for training young conscripts to lead other conscripts into battle, is a very robust leadership algorithm based on what we call PRR (Practise. Repetition. Rehearsal).
The PRR learning strategy exploits the neuroplasticity of the human brain and is also employed in the dojo, trauma centre, music conservatory, tennis court etc etc whenever the learning goal is not just knowledge but actual skill and virtuosity.