Archive for August, 2017

Your Brain Can Only Take So Much Focus

The ability to focus is an important driver of excellence. But can the opposite be true as well?

This week we look at how “unfocus” can help build creativity and better decision making (along with a few ways you can add unfocus to your day!):

 

Focused techniques such as to-do lists, timetables, and calendar reminders all help people to stay on task. The problem is that excessive focus exhausts the focus circuits in your brain. As a result, decisions are poorly thought-out, and you become less collaborative.

In keeping with recent research, both focus and unfocus are vital. The brain operates optimally when it toggles between focus and unfocus, allowing you to develop resilience, enhance creativity, and make better decisions too.

When you unfocus, you engage a brain circuit called the “default mode network.” Under the brain’s conscious radar, it activates old memories, goes back and forth between the past, present, and future, and recombines different ideas. Using this new and previously inaccessible data, you develop enhanced self-awareness and a sense of personal relevance. And you can imagine creative solutions or predict the future, thereby leading to better decision-making too.

There are many simple and effective ways to activate this circuit in the course of a day.

Using positive constructive daydreaming (PCD): PCD is a type of mind-wandering different from slipping into a daydream or guiltily rehashing worries. When you build it into your day deliberately, it can boost your creativity, strengthen your leadership ability, and also-re-energize the brain.

Taking a nap: Not all naps are the same. When your brain is in a slump, your clarity and creativity are compromised. After a 10-minute nap, studies show that you become much clearer and more alert.

Pretending to be someone else: When you’re stuck in a creative process, unfocus may also come to the rescue when you embody and live out an entirely different personality.

 

Using these techniques to build unfocus into our day, we may be able to “preserve focus for when we need it, and use it much more efficiently too”.

Visit the Harvard Business Review for more.

Catch up on your favorite Friday Focus in our Archives page!

The Global Economy in July

July began with a scare of a potential selloff  in emerging market (EM) assets. This was triggered by talk of developed market Central Banks starting to end the era of monetary easing. Alongside the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes and balance sheet unwinding, the Canadian central bank raised rates and the European Central Bank signaled willingness to consider changes to its bond buying program. However, the switch in market sentiment was short lived thanks to Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen’s dovish statements in her testimony to the US Congress. The outflows reversed and the Institute of International Finance (IIF) reported $20 billion in portfolio inflows to EMs in July.

To some market commentators the episode of EM weakness signaled that international investors were ready to let go of their EM debt investments as soon as global markets wobble. This has prompted fund managers to be cautious of their investments especially in terms of market liquidity giving them space to exit. However, analysts saw the episode as a short period of time in which asset prices adjusted to reflect the hawkishness of developed market central banks.

While Emerging Markets were helped by a weakening US dollar, developed markets were helped by an improving Eurozone economy. In the IMF’s July World Economic Outlook report, it highlighted that global growth in 2017 was being driven by the EU alongside Japan and China. In the meantime it also downgraded US growth outlook slightly, citing the failure of the Trump administration to deliver on its promised fiscal stimulus. The IMF also indicated that the US dollar and British pound were overvalued, relative to fundamentals, while the euro, yen and yuan are seen as being in line with fundamentals.

Brent oil prices made gains in July and increased above the $50 mark reaching $52.65 on July 31st. This was largely driven by higher US demand and reductions in crude oil stockpiles in the US. It was also helped by outcomes of a meeting among major oil producers in St. Petersburg on the 24th, where Nigeria agreed to cap its output and Saudi indicated limits to their exports. But the gains were capped by high OPEC production, primarily due to Libyan and Nigerian output.

Use a Compass Not a Map for Future Success

The future is impossible to predict with perfect accuracy. So, how do leaders forge ahead into this uncharted territory? They ditch the map and use a compass!

This week, we look at how compass leadership may be the way forward:

 

Before the Internet, life seemed simpler, easier to grasp. People in positions of power gave their employees check lists to complete. And they would do their job and wait for next tasks.

Nowadays, life is increasingly unpredictable and even the idea of leaders with all the right responses seems old-fashioned. This is the big question searching for answers now, “How do I participate responsibly in a system almost impossible to predict.”

The excitement of today is that anyone with an idea can make it come alive. You can create it, publish it, pitch it, without proposals or permission. And, without a lot of money. It’s the end of the MBA era and the beginning of the design innovation era.

The reason for a compass not a map is…

Maps are stationary, may be dated and causes frustration when inaccurate.
Maps provide a description; a compass provides vision and direction.
Maps can slow you down when the path is not clear.
Maps cannot show you how to get on that road not traveled.
Maps are poor indicators of what is unfamiliar.

The older command and control style of leading is about maps. It’s about going on a chosen course and staying there, no deviations.

Compass leadership is about a process of discovery. It’s about learning as you go along. It’s about more than one right path. It’s about hunches and taking chances.

 

“Business is complex and volatile and those who don’t read the signs of the times will be left behind”.

Visit Inc.com for more like this.

Catch up on your favorite Friday Focus in our Archives page!

Snapshot of the Economy – July 2017

At Frontier, we love trying out new ways to help our audience make sense of the economy.

Here’s a quick look at how key economic indicators are performing so far in the year, with an easy-to-understand snapshot.

For this update we have chosen the variables we consider to be most important in understanding the health of the Sri Lankan economy.

*Please note this does not indicate our outlook on each of these variables, but provides our understanding of how it has been performing based on the latest available data.

The key to understanding their performance:

    Improving

   Manageable

   Worsening

 

Gross Official Reserves: Stable at US$6.9bn levels in June following inflows from the sovereign issue

Trade deficit: Imports growing at a faster pace than exports in the Jan to May period

Foreign holdings: Consistent inflows slowly trickling in; Rs. 40 bn inflows from mid-Feb to end-June

Global situation: Positive for EMs and FMs

USD/LKR: Gradual depreciation

 

Credit to private sector: Rs.300 bn absolute growth during the first half of 2017, despite YOY slowdown

Inflation: Easing from record-highs despite sustained supply side pressures

 

If you want a look at the underlying numbers on each of these variables, please click here

Tourism Insights – Interview transcripts


Topic: Outlook for the Tourism Sector

Video Link – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMnm0UbMasg

Speaker: Travis Gomez

Video length – 14:54 mins

0.30:      How was the tourism sectors performance in 2016?

  • Tourist arrivals close to 2.05 mn which was below government target
  • This was partly due to extraordinary events during the year such as flooding as well as slowdown in arrivals from Middle Eastern markets towards the 2H of the year
  • Nevertheless 2H2016 showed strong tourism growth of 12% YoY

1:30:      More Recent performance

  • A slowdown in arrivals was anticipated given the runway work taking place at the International airport
  • As a result growth in arrivals Slowdown in 3% in 1Q2017
  • But this was not as bad as was expected by hotel operators who expected a much greater slowdown

2:00 New developments in tourist arrivals

  • Composition of tourist arrivals shifting from traditional markets such as German, France towards Asian Markets
  • The Asian region accounts for 47% of tourist arrivals
  • India and China are the top two source markets for tourism to Sri Lanka
  • Shift in global spending power and the greater wiliness of tourists from China to travel further afield may account for this trend

4:00 Why are tourists spending less time in Colombo?

  • Foreign guest nights in Sri Lanka is 10 nights which has been fairly stable for 5 years
  • In contrast the foreign guest nights in Colombo is only 2.1 nights and has been slightly trending down over the same period
  • One possible reason is there is less of a need to spend time in Colombo for transit purposes (ie: getting to and from the airport) with the opening up of expressways to other parts of the Island
  • Another reason is that Colombo is not perceived as a tourist destination
  • This maybe due to a lack of awareness and a lack of marketing on the experiences and unique landmarks that can be visited and experienced in Colombo

6:20 How do we attract the high end tourists?

  • Tourism spending has grown from USD 89 per day 5-7 years ago to USD 160
  • This will naturally increase further due to the shift in the tourism mix to regional markets where tourists from these regions have a higher propensity to spend on things such as shopping
  • But In order to increase this even further, the focus should be on attracting more MICE tourists who typically have a higher spending power.
  • To attract more MICE tourists the general attractiveness of Colombo must be increased
  • In order to attract organizers of MICE events to pick Sri Lanka as a destination, there must be sufficient activities in Colombo to attract these tourists as they have limited time to spend in a country.

8:30 How to position Sri Lanka beyond a Sun & Sand destination?

  • The preferences of tourists are now shifting towards experiential/ adventure tourism
  • While the pristine beaches and natural beauty is a big draw for tourists, focusing exclusively on the resort aspect is not enough
  • If we want to tourists to spend a longer time in the country and encourage repeat visitors, we need to package Sri Lanka as having a multitude of attractions

9:45 Do we have enough capacity to accommodate higher tourist arrivals?

  • Don’t really see a problem on the supply side as many hotels and supplementary establishments are commencing operations
  • In Colombo alone around 1000 new rooms are going to be added in the next two years
  • It’s going to be a much more competitive environment as well with the entry of International hotel chains
  • Local hotel operators in Colombo would have to pa attention to these developments carefully as City Hotels have typically been the best performing category of hotels due to their ability to attract both foreign and domestic visitors.

A Face-to-Face Request Is 34 Times More Successful than an Email

Research suggests that requests made in person are more effective than those made over email. How much more effective? Well, according to this piece by Vanessa Bohns, 34 times more effective!

 

Despite the reach of email, asking in person is the significantly more effective approach; you need to ask six people in person to equal the power of a 200-recipient email blast. Still, most people tend to think the email ask will be more effective.

We found that people were much more likely to agree to complete a survey when they were asked in-person as opposed to over email. These findings are consistent with previous research showing that people are more likely to comply with requests in person than over email.

Why do people think of email as being equally effective when it is so clearly not? In our studies, participants were highly attuned to their own trustworthiness and the legitimacy of the action they were asking others to take when they sent their emails. Anchored on this information, they failed to anticipate what the recipients of their emails were likely to see: an untrustworthy email asking them to click on a suspicious link.

Indeed, when we replicated our results in a second study we found the nonverbal cues requesters conveyed during a face-to-face interaction made all the difference in how people viewed the legitimacy of their requests, but requesters were oblivious to this fact.

It is often more convenient and comfortable to use text-based communication than to approach someone in-person, but if you overestimate the effectiveness of such media, you may regularly—and unknowingly—choose inferior means of influence.

 

If your office runs on email and text-based communication, it’s worth considering whether you could be a more effective communicator by having conversations in person.

For more, visit the Harvard Business Review.

Catch up on your favorite Friday Focus in our Archives page!