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TED – Technology, Entertainment, Design… and so much more


TEDI am loathe to introduce you to TED, if you don’t already know it. It is like crack cocaine for the intellectually curious. That is, it provides a deep sense that you are awesome and can achieve anything. And it’s highly addictive.

Since the organisation started as a promoter of conferences, it has grown into a worldwide phenomenon and a fantastic intellectual resource base. You can learn about whatever topic or field of human endeavour interests you. TED invites some of the world’s leading thinkers and practitioners to give the talk of their lives – or sometimes a demonstration or performance.  And it records those talks and makes them freely available.


Continue reading TED – Technology, Entertainment, Design… and so much more

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Amy Cuddy: Power Poses

Amy Cuddy is best known for her research on how non-verbal behaviours assert power…

I’ll start again: Amy Cuddy is best known for her remarkable 2012 TED talk, ‘Your body language shapes who you are’, which has become the second most watched TED talk, with over 26 million views to date. You can watch it and add to that number at the foot of this blog. And you should.

Amy Cuddy


Short Biography

Amy Cuddy was born in 1972 and grew up a small Pennsylvania town. As a result of a car accident during her undergraduate years, she suffered a serious head injury that doctors asserted would compromise her academic ability. Nonetheless, she graduated from the University of Colorado in Social Psychology (1998) and then went on to earn her MA and PhD (2005) in the same subject, at Princeton.

Cuddy took a role as an Assistant Professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, teaching leadership to MBA students. She moved to become Assistant Professor of Psychology at Rutgers University, and then, in 2008, to Harvard Business School as Associate Professor, where she teaches MBA courses and executive education programmes, specialising in negotiation, body language, power and influence.

Cuddy’s Research

Amy Cuddy’s research interests have yielded nuggets of valuable knowledge for managers. Her most famous and impactful for many is the concept of the Power Pose, developed with Dana Carny and Andy Yap. But I will leave her to describe that far better than I ever could, in her TED talk below. Instead, I will focus on her research (with Susan Fiske and Peter Glick) on how we judge one another.

How we judge people

Cuddy’s research indicates that our judgements of people can determine how we will interact with them. This can affect our emotions, intentions and behaviours in hiring, promoting, electing, taking risks, giving to charity, and even persecution and genocide. Two trait dimensions are particularly salient in our judgements: warmth-trustworthiness and competence-power. This leads to stereotyping of racial groups, leading onwards to discrimination and persecution.

The first and most important judgement we make about someone we meet is their warmth: it is an attempt to assess ‘friend or foe?’ Then we try to assess their competence – ‘if they are a foe, how much care do I need to take?’.

Interestingly, competence in one arena leads us to infer a wider competence, whilst incompetence in one arena does not lead us to generalize in the same way. But it is different for warmth: one example of coldness creates an impression that this is our true character. This is how Cuddy describes it in one interview (with The Harvard Magazine):

‘You can purposely present yourself as warm—you can control that, but we feel that competence can’t be faked. So positive competence is seen as more diagnostic. On the other hand, being a jerk—well, we’re not very forgiving of people who act that way.’

Another generalization we make is pervasive and dangerous: we generalize our experiences across a whole social or racial group: gender, ethnicity, age, or nationality.

We also create another dangerous generalization: that warmth means not-competent and competent means not-warm. Too much of one trait leads us to suspect a shortage of the other. Hence the title of her much re-printed 2009 Harvard Business Review article, ‘Just Because I’m Nice, Don’t Assume I’m Dumb’.

Regular readers will know that I am a sucker for models and they don’t get simpler than four boxes. Here is one that flows from this, developed by Cuddy, Fiske and Glick.

Warmth-Competence Cuddy, Fiske, Glick

As soon as you look at this chart, you can see how the people and groups seen as cold are also the ones whom societies persecute – particularly when they are under pressure – either as ‘soft targets’ or as a ‘danger to society’.

Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are

Amy Cuddy’s 26million+ TED talk that introduced the world to power posing.

[ted id=1569]

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Roselinde Torres: Adaptive Leadership

Roselinde Torres

Roselinde Torres is an inspirational thinker, who is actively researching and developing the field of organizational leadership.

Like many people, I first became aware of her through her ten minute TED video (which is embedded at the end of this blog).  Her ideas are simple, but thoroughly researched.

Brief Biography

Torres is currently a senior partner at the international management consulting firm BCG – formerly Boston Consulting Group; perhaps most famous for the BCG Growth Share Matrix.  At BCG, she leads their thinking and research into leadership.

Before working at BCG, Torres led internal consulting teams at Johnson & Johnson and Connecticut Mutual Life, and was also a partner at Mercer Delta Consulting.  She studied English and Spanish at college, and also gained an MS in Human Resource development.

Her ideas

As regular readers of this blog will know, I am easily seduced by a good model, and I very much like Torres’ model of Adaptive Leadership.  Adaptive leaders operate effectively in a modern uncertain and ambiguous environment, by creating the conditions to enable dynamic networks of stakeholders to work together, towards common goals.

Torres argues that adaptive leaders need to build and enhance their abilities in four dimension – which she describes as new, but I think that is a touch hyperbolic.

What makes the model a little more clever than some is how she finds language to chart the four dimensions onto compass points north, east, south and west.  Adaptive Leaders need to:


Navigate a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) business environment, by embracing all of those subtleties, rather than by trying to over-simplify them or ignore them.  For this, Torres argues, they need to cultivate a wide diversity of perspectives and share their leadership responsibilities.


Empathise with the people they lead, seeing the world through multiple perspectives, and drawing people together.


Follow a cycle of trial and learning.  Adaptive leaders are not afraid to conduct experiments before committing the whole organization to a strategy.  This means learning from failures, but also seizing successes.  It can lead to greater agility combined with higher certainty of success.


Create sustainable success for all stakeholders, by developing lasting assets like networks of collaborators, and influence into the wider social setting of the organization.

Roselinde Torres: Adaptive Leadership

In her TED video, below, Torres picks up on some of these themes and emphasizes three questions leaders need to ask, which I shall paraphrase.  Do watch this ten-minute video, though.  Torres is clear, eloquent and persuasive.

  1. Where are you putting your attention, so you can anticipate the next changes?
  2. How diverse is your personal and professional network?
  3. Are you courageous enough to abandon practices that have made you successful in the past?

These are fabulous and thought-provoking questions.

[ted id=1930]

This talk is available on the TED website.

You can read much more about the Adaptive Leadership model in two splendid articles on the BCG website:

An interview with Roselinde Torres on How to Cultivate the Next Generation of Leaders.

Management Pocketbooks on Leadership: The Leadership Pocketbook.


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