I was mending fences at the weekend; quite literally. In the UK, we had some heavy winds over the holiday and new year period, which finally put an end to fencing that was on borrowed time. Events can do this to relationships too. And while I was doing it, it struck me that the expression, […]

Duncker's Candle, matches and thumb tacks

  There is a classic psychology test, known as Duncker’s candle problem, in which subjects are given a candle, a box of matches and some drawing pins (thumb tacks). The task is to fix a lit candle onto a cork-board on the wall so the candle won’t drip wax onto the table below. The test […]

Blow your own trumpet

When you score a success in anything, it can be hard to resist a little sense of pride in your effectiveness and productivity. Indeed, in terms of motivation, this pride is a good thing: becoming more conscious of what you achieve can boost your self-confidence, possibly leading to better performance and thus more success. But […]


We all know that ‘after-lunch’ feeling, when our bodies slow down, our brains go mushy and we’d rather just take a nap. Some call it ‘food coma’, ‘siesta time’ or, in the medical trade, ‘postprandial somnolence’. Whatever you call it, it drains your productivity, so how can you avoid it? I have deliberately constructed the […]

5 Powerhouse Thinking Modes

The human brain has a number of different modes of thinking, which I characterize as Click, Bubble, Hum, Squeak and Sigh. These are just a helpful model of complex set of brain functions that, we continue to discover, are deeply interconnected. Take, for example, an experiment carried out by researchers at the University of Amsterdam, […]


In a simple experiment conducted at Michigan State University, students were set a repetitive task and their brain responses were monitored whenever they made a mistake (about 9 per cent of the time). After the test, the students were also asked if they thought that intelligence is fixed or is learned. It turned out that […]

People like me, who train speakers and write books like ‘How to Speak so People Listen’ are fond of the advice to use metaphors to spice up your language and make people more receptive to your message. And I stand by that advice. But I recently came upon some experimental data that ups the stakes […]

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