Growing Up

Birthday Baby

A New Season’s Greetings

September has always been a special month for me. It’s a month of new beginnings, ranging from the start of a new season to that of a new school year, throbbing with the promise of excitement and adventure.

September is also the month of my birthday and I’ve had to make special preparations this year given I’m about to turn 40. The big 4-0. And I think this impending event has blown a circuit or two in my head.

Birthday Baby

Looking back, I now realise I not only suffered from acute thrisis (mid-life crisis in my thirties), I also had a similar short-circuiting experience just before I turned 20. And it turns out I’m not alone.

According to one theory about “9-Enders“, people who’s current age ends in a “9” such as “19”, “29”, “39”, “49”, 9-Enders find themselves searching for answers to the big questions: “What is the meaning of life? What is my purpose? What does it mean to be happy? What makes me happy? What’s my life plan?”

What’s more, research shows that most people respond in one of two ways when confronted by such questions. One group will become more determined to make the most of their life while the other group concludes that “my life sucks” and grows increasingly despondent.

Becoming Better with Age

Just as September marks the end of something old, September marks the start of something new. So long as we continue to stretch ourselves by expanding our comfort zone, we can keep going strong.

If you’ve become unstuck with the big questions or even small ones, or simply want to feel re-energised and inspired to get a move on with your dreams, join my friends and I in a bunch of fun-packed and thought-provoking conference sessions in the UK this autumn:

Agile Cambridge: 30 September, Cambridge, UK.

Agile Tour London: 23 October, London, UK.

Lead for Greatness

Grow Leaders

Everyone a Leader

I have a dream. I dream of my two year old little girl all grown up, doing what she loves and loving what she does. She tells me how much fun she’s having at work. And that she’s great friends with the people there. And of how what she does makes the world a better place.

When I explain how far mankind’s relationship with work has come in the past twenty years alone, she laughs. She shakes her head at ideas such as “putting people first”, “Intent-Based Leadership“, “self-actualisation” and “collaboration”.

She tells me, “It all sounds like common sense, Mama. Why would people want to live and work any other way?”

I reply, “Because all too often, common sense isn’t common practice, Darling. And even though some ideas sound simple, they’re not easy to implement.”

She asks me to tell her the Ship story, of how long ago I made a wish to learn how to lead. And how one day, I met a former U.S Navy submarine captain who gave his power away to turn his ship around, taking his crew and boat from poor performance to greatness.  And of the leadership course that transformed the way I live and lead.

My grownup little girl turns to me and says with a bold and brave smile, “I intend to… make the most of my life because anything less would be a waste of the gift you have given me.”

And with that, we hug and I look forward to a brand new adventure of making more dreams come true.

Playmakers Assemble!

Play at Work

The Meaning of Life

Did you know that in Chinese, the word “business” is made up of two characters that translate to “meaning” and “life”?

Given that we spend more than 70% of our waking hours doing work or work-related activities, don’t you wish we could all make more of our meaning of life?

Come join me in an interactive presentation on Play to help take you and your team from good to great:

Learn more about how to transform work through play complete with my talk and presentation at the Playmaking site!

Thanks to everyone at Playcamp London for their enthusiasm for play and learning. Play, like Change, begins with ourselves.

Time for Play and Work

Time for Play

Calling all Players…

Consider this your very special invitation to Playcamp London on 24 March 2015!

What’s Playcamp?

Playcamps are one-day regional conferences celebrating the use of Innovation Games® and other serious games for problem-solving in both the public and private sector. These events capture the best of traditional conferences and unconferences through a mix of compelling speakers and attendee-driven content, and include both in-person and online forms of serious play.

Why play at Playcamp?

  • Learn about how play can help you bring about positive change at work and deliver more value.
  • Play and learn games that can help you with your daily job.
  • Gain new skills in facilitation, problem solving, creativity and innovation.
  • Get the most out of learning from play practitioners.
  • Have fun and make friends!

What’s the agenda for Playcamp London?

Luke Hohmann and I will be keynoting and there’ll be 6 possible open space slots for you to share ideas with others on games you play to deliver more value at work. Find out more here.

Where can you sign up?

Here! Get your tickets quick! And tell you friends all about Playcamp!

What if you’re not in London and you want to play?

Check out playcamps happening around the world. And if you can’t find one in your neighbourhood, why not organize your own? Contact Luke and his team here.

Read the latest InfoQ interview with inventor of Innovation Games Luke Hohmann who’ll be keynoting as will I.

Hope to see you there! 

Sincere Seekers in Search of True Love


Years ago, I made a wish. A wish that one day, I’d be brave enough and mad enough to take part in the movement that is taking the world by storm, or should I say love? I’m, of course, referring to the Free Hugs Campaign started by one man in an attempt to reconnect with humanity.

I first came across “free hugging” during a visit to Helsinki back in December 2008. It was a bitterly cold winter, the kind that made you worry about losing a toe or two if you spent too long stomping the white pavement on your own.

I was wandering around the city after a jam-packed day of Agile training and who did I find beaming with warm smiles and arms wide open towards me but two young women at the train station?

Incredibly, these two young women were offering free hugs. To anyone and everyone.

A Wish Come True

After 6 long years, this random wish of mine finally came true. On Sunday, 18 January 2015, to my great fear and delight, I was offered the chance to give free hugs to the people frequenting Pimlico (home of Tate Britain) on a chilly winter afternoon.

And in spite of of the butterflies in my tummy screaming “No!!! Don’t do it!!!”, I knew my time had come. To connect with the rest of humanity like I’ve never dared to but have always longed to do.

Together with a bunch of well-wishing strangers in search of inner peace, I stomped the pavement and offered free hugs to anyone and everyone.

Between us, we hugged over 80 people in under an hour and didn’t get arrested.

For me, the most remarkable takeaway from that experience is that I learned more about what it means to be human in those 60 minutes than I have in my lifetime so far.

I learned that strangers can be kind and generous. That most of us want nothing more than to connect with one another. That we’re all in search of true love and when we find it, what better way to celebrate it than with a hug?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

The Boy Who Could Dream

Life is short make it worthwhile

Once upon a time, in a land not too far away, there lived a young man with a head full of dreams.

Every night he would fall asleep and tour castles in the air and see the world on one long magic carpet ride.

Every morning he would wake up, but instead of feeling refreshed, he felt sad. Sad that his dreams stayed only in his head while the carpet in his living room grew dustier by the day.

Then just before the young man’s wheeze developed into a dust allergy, he came across a rusty looking lamp at his local charity shop.

Intrigued by what the lamp would look like after a clean, he gave it a good rub.

And that’s the moment when everything changed.

The young man discovered the genie’s promise of three wishes was no more than a myth, one that the genie had herself made up to stop greedy people from wanting more without taking the time to figure out what they really needed.

And it was a long time before the young man made his first wish for he didn’t want to wish his life away.

And so it was and always will be that everything we dream of begins with a wish.

Living Agile in 2014

Christmas Message 2014

As Christmas Day draws near and 2015 beckons, it’s time to reflect on the past year before figuring out my answers to “what next?”.

Looking back, 2014 has been full of play, fun and laughter – much more than I’ve ever experienced, both at work and at home.

That’s not to say that it’s all been a lovely walk in the park. Being in the business of organisational change means there are plenty of draughts and floods, plagues and nightmares, and much more besides.

The thing that stands out most in 2014 for me is the importance of mindset. Set your heart and mind to something and magic happens.

Highlights at Work

  • Returning to work after a year of intense learning as a first time mother and discovering the Agile seeds I sowed a year ago still growing in my workplace!
  • Hearing pennies drop and seeing lightbulbs light up at an internal work conference “UBSTechConf” I helped co-chair – thanks to Ian Bond for co-chairing, the internal and external speakers for their inspiring talks and Skillsmatter for all their help and event-organising expertise!
  • Challenging people to define their own purpose at work in order to realise the goals of their organisation in an interactive talk I co-delivered at “UBSTechConf” – thanks to Tom Miller for his continued support and collaboration in growing Agile at work!
  • Achieving a life-work balance by defining goals and setting clear priorities that kept me going and growing!
  • Making many more friends who’ve helped make Enterprise Gardening more fun and rewarding than ever!

Highlights at Play

  • Getting a session on the topical subject of “Resilience” selected for BCS SPA 2015 and being invited back for an encore at Mini SPA – a recognition that “soft” topics are vital for success in IT
  • Playing with 130 participants at Agile Cambridge by giving my first ever keynote on my favourite topic: “The Power of Play” – thanks to Mark Dalgarno for the invitation!
  • Awaking Snow White at Agile Tour London by playing “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall… Why Me?”, one of my favourite Agile Fairytales!
  • Receiving feedback from readers of “The Dream Team Nightmare“, the first ever Agile novel written in the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure genre!

Making Magic Happen for You

What about you? What are your highlights in 2014? And what are your wishes for 2015?

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas! And thank you for reading!

Edge of Tomorrow Today

Love Your Life

Tom Cruise has been a continuous source of inspiration in my personal Agile journey in so many ways.

In Jerry Maguire, he emphasised the importance of “Show me the money!”, a quote I use whenever I talk about prioritisation by business value.

Then there are the diverse and dangerous missions he gets assigned to, to which he always responds with a purposeful smile and a gleam in his eye.

And now his latest film has proved to be the ultimate inspiration to people like us, agents of change for greater good.

The parallels between the hero’s conundrum in Edge of Tomorrow (aka Live Die Repeat) bears more than a canny resemblance to what many of us experience at work. Day after day after day. It’s no wonder then things eventually get us down.

That’s when I remember what Peter Drucker says, grand daddy of organisational culture. “Organisations form and deform people,” he said.

It seemed like such a bleak observation when I first heard it all those years ago, that I found myself boldly reply, “It takes two to tango. People allow themselves to be formed and deformed.”

I know that according to systems thinking a bad system beats good people every time, but what if those good people worked together to improve the system? To change the game for a better tomorrow?

I know how hard things can be when everything seems intent on catching you out or making you stumble.

In my experience, the trick is to keep playing when the going gets tough and make friends. Because you never know when you’ll need them. And a lifelong journey of change is best enjoyed in good company and laughter.

What if each of us could “re-set” and change the future by learning from each moment that passes?

Live. Love. Repeat.

The Edible Birthday

Birthday Cake

I’m a September baby and this year, I treated my friends at work to the most scrumptious cake I’ve ever seen. What better way to remind us of transformative journeys along the Yellow Brick Road than with the Rainbow Cake by Hummingbird Cafe.

Folks ummed and ahhed at the sight of the multi-coloured layers of this beautiful cake only to be further and pleasantly surprised by the bubble gum flavoured icing as they savoured their slice.

“If I still wrote software, this would be the kind of software I’d create,” I mused, drunken on sugary goodness.

“Don’t you think that would smack of over-engineering?” remarked a fellow cake-connoisseur.

Of course, what I really meant to say is that I marvel at the thought of creating something so thoughtful and thought-provoking as the Rainbow cake. A work of exquisite (and, optionally, edible) beauty that would brighten the world and remind us of what passion, creativity and craftsmanship can produce.

All this serves as a timely reminder that we need to live our dreams to make them come true.

Here’s to enjoying the rainbows on your journey of a lifetime. Happy Birthday one and all!

The Next 7 Habits of Highly Effective Coaches

Food for Thought

The Next 7 Habits of Highly Effective Coaches is the new addition to my mini series inspired by the style of Paul Coelho‘s “Manual of the Warrior of Light“. You can find the first 7 habits here.

BONUS: You can download the entire series published in the PragProg Magazine:

For more ideas on personal and team development, take a look at “The Dream Team Nightmare – Boost Team Productivity Using Agile Techniques“. Happy Coaching!