Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Your Posture can Boost your Performance

What do you think about body language? Is it something that expresses your hidden feelings or internal states, to the outside world. Well, if it is then it can also work in reverse. You can use your gestures and posture to influence your mind and your audience.

As psychological research has shown, how we stand, move and gesture can drive your thoughts and feelings and boost your presentation performance.

1. Pose for power
If you want to feel more powerful then adopt a powerful posture. When people stand or sit in a powerful poses for one minute, (open limbs and expansive gestures) they not only felt more powerful but they also increased the levels of testosterone in their systems. Powerful posturing menas taking up more space, so spread your stance, expand your body and open up the arms or legs. When you dominate the space, your mind also gets the message that you have taken charge.

2. Tension increases willpower
Tensing your muscles can help increase your willpower. When people firm up their muscles they are better able to withstand pain, resist tempting food, take an unpleasant medicine and pay attention to disturbing information. So, if you need to increase your willpower, tense your muscles. It should help.

3. Cross arms for persistence
If you're stuck on a problem which needs persistence then try crossing your arms. Participants in psychological tests did just that and found they worked longer at a set of difficult anagrams. In fact about twice as long and their persistence led to more correct solutions.

4. Lie down for insight
If crossing your arms doesn't work then try lying down. When anagram solvers lie down, they solved problems faster. Since anagrams are a type of insight problem, lying down may help you reach creative solutions.

5. Napping aids performance
While you're lying down and gaining insight, why not have a nap? Napping performs a number of functions. If you nap too long, you may suffer from sleep inertia: the feeling of being drowsy for an extended period. But if your nap is too short you will not gain any benefit. You may need to experiment a little to find the ideal time.

Researchers compared 5, 10, 20 and 30 minute naps to find the best length. For increased cognitive performance, vigour and wakefulness, the best naps were 10 minutes long. Benefits were seen immediately after 10 minute naps but after longer naps it took longer to wake up. Five minute naps only provided half the benefit, but were better than nothing.

6. Gesture freely for persuasion
The way people's hands move and cut through the air while they talk is fascinating but it's more than just a by-product of communication. Hand-gestures help increase the power of a persuasive message when compared to no use of gesture. Most effective are gestures which make what you are saying more understandable. For example, when referring to the past, point behind you and for the future point ahead!

7. Gesture freely for understanding
Gestures aren't only helpful for persuading others, they also help us think. In a study of children, it was found that children who were encouraged to gesture while learning, retained more of what they learnt. Moving our hands may help us learn; more generally we actually seem to think with our hands.

8. Smile for happiness
The very act of smiling can make you feel happier, whether it's justified or not. Research participants holding pens in their mouths could either use the pens to activate the muscles responsible for smiling, or not. Those whose smiling muscles were activated, rated cartoons as funnier than others whose smiling muscles weren't activated by the pen in their mouth. So, forcing a smile really does make us see the world in a better light.

9. Mimic to empathise
If you want to get inside someone's head, you can try mirroring or copying their behaviour. Those who are good at empathising do it automatically: copying accent, posture, expressions and so on. If you can copy it, you will feel it yourself and then you'll get a hint of what others are feeling. It's what actors have known for years: mimicry is a great way of simulating others' emotional states.

10. Mirror to comprehend
The idea that mirroring or copying helps us understand others, works for thought as well as emotion. In an experiment, participants found it easier to decipher an unfamiliar accent if they tried to imitate it themselves. Some psychologists go further, claiming that imitating others helps us predict what they are going to do.

Embodied cognition
Many of these topics support a theory about human life (and indeed all life) called 'embodied cognition'. The idea is that we don't just think with our minds, we also reflect what we are thinking with our bodies. Our mind isn't a brain in a jar, it is connected to a body which moves around in an environment.

As life becomes increasingly virtual, played out on screens of varying sizes, we need reminding that the connection between mind and body is two-way. Human intelligence is more than abstract processing power; it's about the interaction between mind, body and the world around us.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Friday, March 25, 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has gained a lot of attention in recent years, but researchers and executives want to better understand in greater detail how today's companies are choosing to "do well by doing good."

They found that while the vast majority of companies continue to pursue traditional forms of charity, an increasing number of them are also incorporating cause-related marketing into their CSR efforts.

This seems to be on the upswing right now. Half of panelists surveyed reported cause-related marketing initiatives at their company. News reports have indicated that "cause-related marketing has become very popular", and surveys confirm it.

Unlike traditional philanthropy, which involves simple monetary donations, cause-related marketing often entails a co-branded partnership between a company and a nonprofit to promote an event or a social cause.

Companies such as American Express, Starbucks and The Gap partner with Product Red and agree to contribute a percentage of "Red" product sales to The Global Fund, a Geneva-based organization that funds programs to fight HIV and AIDS in Africa.

Such co-branding not only helps the social cause, but also creates a halo effect for the companies involved.

One counterintuitive finding of surveys indicate that most companies did not believe CSR efforts increased sales.

Despite the growing interest in cause-related marketing, less than 25% of survey respondents believe that: Pro-social actions directly affect sales and profits for our products and services.

By contrast, 75% believed that CSR directly affected brand image. They don't believe that CSR is going to help their sales in the short run, but they do think it's going to affect their brand image and corporate reputation in the long run.

Executives Speak Up, in Real-time, on Innovation, Financial Risk, Hiring and Other Concerns

For business executives, knowledge is power and time is money. So when information arrives too late, it isn't worth much. Yet many insights about business behaviour come in one of two forms: minute-by-minute anecdotes from news outlets or social media, or long-term, in-depth analysis and studies from industry groups and academia that take years to complete.

A new type of 'quick-win' survey /research attempts to uncover insights that are both timely and deep. Through brief online surveys of a wide spectrum of industry executives, researchers have compiled data about what these executives are thinking today.

A survey on the risk of innovation found that while most companies understand that it is important to learn from failures, only a small number do the due diligence and the important legwork that best helps prevent further occurences.

Another survey, on corporate social responsibility, found that companies are partnering with more social causes because they don't want to be out-of-the-loop but they don't believe it will boost short-term sales or earnings.

A third survey, on the global financial crisis, hints that employers want to hire but feel unable to, and are worried that existing talent will leave as soon as the economy turns around.

Read more at the Knowledge@Wharton site

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What happens when we dream?

From the ancient Egyptians to modern psychotherapists, the nature of dreaming has fascinated people for centuries. Now, neuroscience is giving us more rigorous methods to understand what dreams are, why we have them, and how we might depend on them for our very survival. Find out more in this short animated film.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Japan Tsunami: Nikkei Index plummets

Japanese stocks tumbled Monday and the central bank pumped a record amount of cash in a bid to soothe money markets shaken by Japan's biggest ever earthquake, a devastating tsunami and a nuclear emergency.

Major producers' stocks such as Sony and Toyota tumbled as power shortages prompted blackouts and factories remained closed, hurting production.

The Bank of Japan (BoJ) said it would pump a record 15 trillion yen ($184 billion) to help stabilise the short term-money market, making good on its pledge Sunday that it would unleash "massive" funds following the quake.

An additional 3 trillion yen will be deployed Wednesday. The BoJ will double a five trillion yen asset purchase scheme to buffer the economy from Japan's strongest ever quake, and left its key rate left at between zero and 0.1 percent.

But the move provided little relief for unnerved traders, with another explosion at Tokyo Electric Power's (TEPCO) Fukushima Number One nuclear plant helping push the index lower as economists eyed the impact on Japan's growth.

"Shares will be dragged down with Japan's March GDP figures expected to be sharply lower on a slump in economic activity, delays in distribution of goods on power cuts and loss of human lives," Shoji Hirakawa of UBS said.

Tokyo stocks plunged 6.18 percent Monday with the key Nikkei index tumbling below 10,000 to 9,620.49 as top Japanese firms suspended operations.

Automakers Toyota, Nissan and Honda have announced the suspension of production in Japan. At one point Toyota -- shutting production until at least Wednesday -- and Nissan slumped more than 10 percent.

TEPCO slumped 23.57 percent to 1,621 yen, following an explosion Monday in the building around the number three reactor at the troubled Fukushima plant.

Authorities have announced plans for scheduled rolling power cuts in areas served by TEPCO to make up for the loss of power from crippled nuclear plants.

Toshiba, which manufactures nuclear reactors, fell by its 16 percent daily limit to 411 yen. Sony, which has also shuttered plants, dived 9.12 percent to 2,550.

The yen briefly touched a four-month high before easing against the dollar on the massive liquidity injection. It surged to 80.60 against the greenback, the highest since November 9, and hovered around 82 after the fresh explosion at Fukushima as engineers battle to avoid a meltdown.

The government expects a "considerable" economic impact from the huge earthquake and devastating tsunami that plunged the nation into what Prime Minister Naoto Kan called its worst crisis since the Second World War.

The priority of the central bank is to ensure financial institutions in disaster-hit regions do not run out of funds. Over the weekend it provided them with 55 billion yen to ease the pressure before Monday's fresh fund move.

Monday's move was the BoJ's first since May, when European sovereign-debt fears pushed up the yen steeply and weighed on Tokyo shares, when it injected same-day funds to boost confidence.

Economists say it is still too early to assess the cost of the destruction from the record 8.9-magnitude quake and the 10-metre wall of water that laid waste to swathes of the northeastern coast and triggered an atomic emergency.

The official death toll is expected to rise substantially to more than 10,000.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

IT consultants! Who needs them?

Here are seven reasons why a prospect may resist the idea of engaging an IT consultant.

1: Consultants cost too much
You have to compare the cost of using a consultant with the cost of not using a consultant. The lost opportunities from not improving your operations could more than outweigh what you invest.

In IT, prospects might raise the objection that they can use their own employees instead. Given that excuse, you can raise the following questions in response:
  • Are the in-house employees capable of performing the proposed work? A consultant can provide specialised and focussed knowledge and experience, as well as a fresh and objective perspective.
  • Do the in-house employees have time to focus on it? If they’re going to try to conduct a separate project, in between their daily duties, there will be delays, shortcuts, stress and resentment of having more work piled on their plates, for no money.
  • Are employees really less expensive? Don’t forget to count the costs of benefits, vacation and sick time, the reduction on quality efforts and the overhead on HR and payroll.
2: Consultants’ advice is common sense
Many employees say “I could have told you that” about something I have advised my client. My response is: “Why didn’t you?” If they come back with “I did, but nobody listened,” then I reply “Well then I’m here to help make your point and to offer an objective and unbiased viewpoint.”

Also consultants are more experienced in collating data, structuring a coherent argument and writing clear communication documents and reports that will appeal, and are acceptable to, stakeholders.

They also have influencing and persuasive skills that are difficult to find in-house, which ties back to the providing an objective viewpoint.

In-house personnel are also open to criticism of mistrust because of their possible ambitions, career goals and targetted prospects. A consultant can stand outside the political cut and thrust of internal management teams and because of this they will have need to the backing and authority of the most senior executive.

3: Consultants Change things
That's their job. They are agents of Change. If things didn’t need changing, then the client would not have called on you.

Consultants do have to be careful to meld with the environment and their client’s operation in a way that promotes change but doesn’t disrupt the parts that are working.

We need to build trust and confidence with employees, so we can work together to avoid breaking things that don’t need breaking.

4: Consultants don’t fully understand our business
In the beginning this may or may not be the case. Consultants typically specialise in one business area, with a wide range of knowledge in most other areas. They need to be aware of their lack of knowledge and gaps in their client’s domain, and, because they are motivated, they will find ways to quickly bridge that gap.

You cannot be too specialised. Some consultants focus on serving very specific strong vertical markets. That only works, if the market provides enough business.

Most specialise by technology and can’t afford to further narrow our markets by being too focussed or too vertical. Instead, consultants need to have a thirst for knowledge and accept the limits of their expertise. They must be willing to receive input from and actively listen to others.

5: Hiring a consultant is too much work
The effort of interspection i.e. analysing and describing the business needs to a consultant, can be a large part of what the prospect needed to accomplish.

Hiring someone from the outside forces them into looking closely at what the organisation is all about. When only working with insiders, it’s easy to fall under the delusion that you fully understand all of your own requirements but you miss out on that different external perspective and the invaluable experience of what other similar organisations have tried.

6: Been successful to this point without them
Clients who say they are happy with the status quo are heading for a decline. Perhaps they lack the insight and imagination or knowledge, for what they might be able to accomplish, given the right support.

Part of your sales responsibility as a consultant is to describe the possibilities. Opportunities that are attainable because there is no benefit in overselling and promising impossible results. That's what gives consultants a bad name.

7: We’ve had bad experiences with consultants
Your challenge is to convince your prospect that all consultants aren’t the same. In contrast to “those other guys,” we’re committed to honesty, trust, establishing reasonable expectations and exceeding them, with the prospect of a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship.

In these occasions you are selling a trusted relationship to the client. A relationship that will last and grow over many years. Trust me I'm a consultant!

Monday, March 7, 2011

GPS chaos: How a $30 box can jam your life

IT WAS just after midday in San Diego, California, when the disruption started. In the tower at the airport, air-traffic controllers peered at their monitors only to find that their system for tracking incoming planes was malfunctioning.

At the Naval Medical Center, emergency pagers used for summoning doctors stopped working. Chaos threatened in the busy harbour, too, after the traffic-management system used for guiding boats failed. On the streets, people reaching for their cellphones found they had no signal and bank customers trying to withdraw cash from local ATMs were refused. Problems persisted for another 2 hours.

It took three days to find an explanation for this mysterious event in January 2007. Two navy ships in the San Diego harbour had been conducting a training exercise. To test procedures when communications were lost, technicians jammed radio signals. Unwittingly, they also blocked radio signals from GPS satellites across a swathe of the city.

Why would a GPS outage cause such disruption? These satellite signals now do a lot more than inform your car's satnav. GPS has become an "invisible utility" that we rely on without realising. Cellphone companies use GPS time signals to coordinate how your phone talks to their towers.

Energy suppliers turn to GPS for synchronising electricity grids when connecting them together. And banks and stock exchanges use the satellites for time-stamps that prevent fraud. Meanwhile, our societies' reliance on GPS navigation is growing by the year.

Some are worried that we are now leaning too heavily on a technology that can all too easily fail – and it doesn't need a freak navy training exercise to cause havoc. Their biggest concern is a GPS jammer – a plastic device that can sit on car dashboards.

These can be bought on the internet, and tend to be used by say, truckers who don't want their bosses to know where they are. Their increasing use has already caused problems at airports and blocked cellphone coverage in several cities.

One jammer can take out GPS from several kilometres away, if unobstructed. No surprise, then, that researchers across the world are scrambling to find ways to prevent disastrous GPS outages happening.

Read more here

Saturday, March 5, 2011

ENISA: EU cyber security agency warns of new cookies risk

The EU’s cyber security agency ENISA has published a position paper on the security and privacy concerns regarding new types of online cookies.

The advertising industry has led the drive for new, persistent and powerful cookies, with privacy-invasive features for marketing practices and profiling.

The Agency recommends that both the user browser and the origin server must assist informed consent; that users should be able to easily manage their cookies; and that users should be provided with another service channel if they do not accept cookies.

The Agency recommends a thorough study of different interpretations in the Member States, once the Directive 2009/136/EC has been implemented, by 25 May 2011.

The new Agency Position Paper identifies and analyses cookies in terms of security vulnerabilities and the relevant privacy concerns. Cookies were originally used to facilitate browser-server interaction.
Lately, driven by the advertising industry, they are used for other purposes; e.g. advertising management, profiling, tracking, etc. The possibilities to misuse cookies both exist and are being exploited.

The new type of cookies support user-identification in a persistent manner and do not have enough transparency of how they are being used. Therefore, their security and privacy implications are not easily quantifiable.

The Executive Director of ENISA, Prof. Udo Helmbrecht states:
”Much work is needed to make these next-generation cookies as transparent and user-controlled as regular HTTP cookies, to safeguard the privacy and security aspects of consumers and business alike”.

Social Media and Crisis Response

There has been a significant increase in the number of companies requesting specialised social media components in their Crisis Response training.

With the growing use and influence of social media and sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube changing the speed at which breaking news can travel around the world, the use of social media can play a significant role in the evolution of a crisis. Forward thinking companies are increasingly aware of this and requesting training in the management and potential use of social media in their crisis response.

A comprehensive communications and media response element needs to be a part of your crisis response exercises. Companies are requesting specialised social media components in the crisis communications traininge.

Many have seen how discussion on Twitter and other social networks has been filtering into national and international news coverage, and are seeking the best training to be able to not only handle the latest forms of global communication, but to use it to their advantage.

The US Airways flight 1549, which landed in the Hudson River in early 2009 is an excellent example of the critical role social media can play in a crisis. Eyewitnesses were taking pictures with their phones and uploading them to Twitter, meaning the images and news of the event were being watched and discussed in the public domain before the companies involved even knew about the outcome of the landing.

It took just under four minutes for the events to start unfolding on Twitter, whilst CNN took over 15 minutes to break the story. That demonstrates how swiftly reaction and commentary can begin following an incident, and why organisations are ensuring that sound, strategic and practical social media crisis communications are included in our crisis response training.

Enterprise Risk Management gaining ground

The seventh edition of Deloitte’s ‘Navigating in a changed world,’ surveyed chief risk officers from 131 financial institutions around the world, with aggregate assets of more than $17 trillion and representing a range of financial services sectors including banks, insurers and asset managers.

Major findings from the survey included:

* While the majority considered their institution to be either extremely or very effective in Risk Management overall, one-third (33%) of survey participants graded themselves below that level.
* Not only is the Chief Risk Officer (CRO) role more prevalent at financial institutions, but he or she is reporting to higher levels in the organisation. According to the survey, 86% of institutions had a CRO in place, up from 73% in 2008, and reports to the board level or to the CEO (or both) at 85% of institutions. In addition, they are playing a more strategic role.

* More institutions have adopted Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) programs: 79% of institutions reported having a program or equivalent in place or in progress, an increase from 59% in 2008.

* While the value of ERM has increased, so have the challenges of implementing the information and technology infrastructures to support a comprehensive program; the importance of information and technology management in effective risk management has only been emphasised by the events of the global financial crisis.

* The top-rated Risk Management technology challenge among those surveyed was integrating risk data across the organisation, which was rated as an extremely or very significant issue by 74% of executives.

Deloitte’s study also indicates that financial institutions may need their Risk Management programs to have greater flexibility to adapt to new business models and changing regulatory requirements.

“During the last few years, Risk Management assumptions and methods have been challenged as never before, and will be facing even more rigorous requirements in the future,” said Hida. “Regulators have numerous risk-focused efforts on the horizon including Basel III, systemic risk initiatives and various implementation efforts related to Dodd-Frank Act.

As a result, many institutions have been strengthening their Risk Management governance models, and there is likely to be a continued focus on enhancing Risk Management data and analytics capabilities. This is a very busy time for Risk Managers at financial institutions.”

The report can be found online at

Business continuity considerations missing from major change programmes

A new international survey of over 600 organisations by the Business Continuity Institute (BCI) reveals that the majority of companies are failing to include business continuity considerations when making major strategic decisions.

The study, ‘Engaging & Sustaining the Interest of the Board’, which was sponsored by Deloitte, found that 75% of organisations surveyed had taken one or more of the following major strategic decisions, yet fewer than 16% applied business continuity management as an integral part of the decision making process, and in these cases, the original decisions were modified and/or new strategies explored as a result.

The strategic decisions and the (%) percentage of respondents who had done this had:

47%: in-sourced or outsourced a key business process
41%: Merged, acquired or divested part of its business
54%: Introduced a new product or service
62%: Carried out a significant re-organisation
40%: Changed a key activity or key business process
50%: Reduced costs through downsizing (e.g. people or facilities).

Lyndon Bird, Technical Director at the BCI, commented: “What we can determine from the study is that business continuity management is an essential part of protecting reputation and value in a crisis. What is missing, however, is the ex ante link into corporate decision making.

Business continuity management provides a robust foundation to enable a business to adapt to change, and pursue new opportunities with the assurance that potential unintended consequences have been duly considered.”

Rick Cudworth, Partner and Head of Resilience at Deloitte, commented: “The survey has provided strongly correlated evidence to suggest that where Boards are engaged, the breadth and value of business continuity to the organisation is far greater.

It also indicates that failure to include business continuity as an integral part of decision making means many businesses are missing the opportunity to improve their risk and resilience levels. What is worse, is that many decisions may actually increase the risk and reduce resilience levels. Meaning, they are not only, more likely to have to deal with a severe event but also suffer greater consequences later.”

A copy of the study report can be obtained from here after registration.

Consultation on new UK CCTV code of practice

The Home Office is running a consultation into a proposed new UK code of practice related to CCTV usage.

The consultation is the first step towards establishing a formal Code of Practice as promised in the Government's Protection of Freedoms Bill.

The proposals include:
* Establishing a checklist of actions to be carried out by CCTV operators before installing new cameras to check whether they are absolutely necessary;
* Developing industry standards for equipment to ensure it is reliable, effective and gathers images that are of sufficient quality and in a useable format;
* Improving public knowledge about systems in communities through consultation by police and local authorities and better public information; and
* Considering whether further guidance is needed on how long data collected by CCTV should be retained.

Crime Prevention Minister James Brokenshire said that the code would be introduced on an incremental basis, with local authorities and police required to have due regard to it straightaway. The Government will consider whether the code should be extended to other organisations, such as businesses and private security firms, in due course.

The consultation will run for 12 weeks. For further information click here.

NIST Publication on Information Security - March 2011

The US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has published the final version of a special publication that can help organisations to more effectively integrate information security risk planning into their mission-critical functions and overall goals.

‘Managing Information Security Risk: Organization, Mission, and Information System View’ (NIST Special Publication 800-39) provides the groundwork for a three-tiered, risk-management approach that "fundamentally changes how we manage information security risk," according to Ron Ross, NIST Fellow and one of the principal authors of the publication.

For decades, organisations have managed risk at the information system level that resulted in a very narrow perspective that constrained risk-based decisions by senior management, Ross explains.

SP 800-39 calls for a holistic approach in which senior leaders determine what needs to be protected based on the organization's core missions and business functions. 

For example, managers of a power plant tied to the distribution grid need to ensure that its computer security keeps hackers from interfering with the plant's power generation or getting into the power grid to wreak greater havoc.

The publication is the fourth in the series of risk management and information security guidelines being developed by the Joint Task Force Transformation Initiative, a joint partnership among the Department of Defense, Intelligence Community, NIST and the Committee on National Security Systems.

SP 800-39 can be downloaded from here (PDF) or by clicking on the picture.

Review of business continuity plan activations

A recent review of 253 disaster recovery and business continuity plan activations classified the failures and shortcomings of those plans.

The most common issue, occurring in 62% of all recovery plans were basic errors in the plans. Mainly this was due to the plan not being kept up to date (47%), the unavailability or inaccurate passwords (34%), and failure of the initial restoration process (13%).

Additional reasons for failures were: insufficient backup power - 22%; communications not in place - 18%; personnel not adequately trained - 17%; system recovery priorities not identified - 14%; recovery processes not sufficiently documented - 13%; and disruption event not identified quickly enough and therefore the BC plan activation was late - 12%.

It may seem surprising to see a number of SMB companies moving their backup processes to the cloud, which can be a positive step; however some physical media and the control process, needs to be retained or strengthened by the organisations involved.

Three Laws of Business Continuity

You can communicate the concept of Risk management in Business Continuity quite simply by describing the Three Laws of Business Continuity. These three laws are aligned with Murphy's Law.

The First Law is generally well known and accepted:

“If it can go wrong, it will go wrong.”

Murphy’s First Law reminds us of the importance of risk assessment and the value of investment in risk prevention.

Murphy’s Second Law is not so well known, but is widely appreciated based upon individual experience:

“If it cannot possibly go wrong, it’ll still go wrong!”

However hard we try and however much we invest in risk prevention we never completely identify and eliminate all risks. The rules of mathematics are clear; regardless of how small the probability of risk occurrence, given enough time it is certain to happen.

So the Business Continuity’s Second Law reminds us of the need for a business continuity plan, which is our last ditch defence to enable recovery, once that unforeseen event has taken place.

So what is the Third Law? The Third Law reminds us of the fact that bad stuff happens and when it does there is always an impact that we have to deal with. This Third Law is a truism:

“In real life, bad things happen to good people… Get over it.”

When disasters occur, in spite of all of our planning and preparation there is always an impact. If there was no impact then it wouldn’t be a disaster and we wouldn’t require business continuity.

Your job is to put plans in place to make sure that the impact is contained to a level that your organisation can accept and survive. You need to communicate this level of acceptable risk to stakeholders and top management in your organisation and have their prior acceptance.

A structured and layered Business Continuity plan, agreed and accepted by stakeholders might help defend your otherwise pressurised budgets and provides you with the opportunity to dispel the myth that business continuity plans somehow guard us against all events and the subsequent impact stemming from a disaster.

Friday, March 4, 2011

H9N2 Avian flu and H1N1 pandemic: High genetic compatibility and increased pathogenicity of reassortants

H9N2 influenza viruses have been circulating worldwide in multiple avian species and repeatedly infecting mammals, including pigs and humans, posing a significant threat to public health.

The coexistence of H9N2 and pandemic influenza H1N1/2009 viruses in pigs and humans provides an opportunity for these viruses to reassort.

To evaluate the potential public risk of the reassortant viruses derived from these viruses, we used reverse genetics to generate 127 H9 reassortants derived from an avian H9N2 and a pandemic H1N1 virus, and evaluated their compatibility, replication ability, and virulence in mice.

These hybrid viruses showed high genetic compatibility and more than half replicated to a high titer in vitro. In vivo studies of 73 of 127 reassortants revealed that all viruses were able to infect mice without prior adaptation and 8 reassortants exhibited higher pathogenicity than both parental viruses.

All reassortants with higher virulence than parental viruses contained the PA gene from the 2009 pandemic virus, revealing the important role of the PA gene from the H1N1/2009 virus in generating a reassortant virus with high public health risk.

Analyses of the polymerase activity of the 16 ribonucleoprotein combinations in vitro suggested that the PA of H1N1/2009 origin also enhanced polymerase activity.

Our results indicate that some avian H9-pandemic reassortants could emerge with a potentially higher threat for humans and also highlight the importance of monitoring the H9-pandemic reassortant viruses that may arise, especially those that possess the PA gene of H1N1/2009 origin.

Read the full paper at PNAS website:
High genetic compatibility and increased pathogenicity of reassortants derived from avian H9N2 and pandemic H1N1/2009 influenza viruses

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Visualising WiFi Signals with Ligh

Have you ever wondered what the WiFi signal looks like around your office, school, or local café? In this video, Timo Arnall, Jørn Knutsen, and Einar Sneve Martinussen show you the invisible. And they pulled this off by building a WiFi measuring rod, measuring four meters in length, that can visualize WiFi signals around Oslo, Norway with the help of long exposure photography.

What’s fascinating to see is how the WiFi signals vary across the city. Away from residential buildings, the drop-off in WiFi strength is steep. On the other hand, the WiFi signal is dense around commercial and academic buildings. The amazing visualization gives us a glimpse into the complex relationships between WiFi networks and the physical environments underpinning them. For a deeper read about this project, see this blog post.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

How Introverts can Convey Confidence at Interviews

What can you do to convey confidence at interviews, both verbally and nonverbally? Improve their presentation skills and job interview skills, by following these ten tips, with some special insights for introverts.

1. Rest up, prepare, and practice.
This simple rule works for everyone and anyone. However, introverts benefit more by resting up during a sel imposed quiet or preparation time, to refuel their social energy.

Preparation and practice are essential for introverts, because they are more thoughtful in their responses and less inclined than extroverts, to respond quickly on our feet.

Also, they like to concentrate fully on one task ata time and are therfore, not multi-taskers by nature. So the better they prepare communications for job interviews, negotiations, presentations, and other meetings, the more likely you’ll come across as confident.

2. Make a positive first impression.
Decades of research in social psychology illustrate the surprising power of first impressions. From contexts as diverse as evaluating classroom teachers, selecting job applicants, or predicting the outcomes of court cases, human judgments made on the basis of a ‘thin slice’ of observational data can be highly predictive of subsequent evaluations.

This is particularly important for introverts who don’t make friendly connections quickly. Instead, they are more cautious, taking time to build relationships over a longer time.

That’s acceptable in normal life but at job interviews you nned to make an instant impact and consider how you come across, your appearance and demeanour or attitude, the moment you walk through the door.

3. Keep your emotions cool.
Great leaders are in control and don’t get agitated. They don’t shout and scream and they don’t have tantrums. They control and, in some way to conceal emotions. They are respectful and don’t belittle others in public, they are calm, responsive and empathetic. These things can be learned and practiced offline and fit comfortably with being introverted.

4. Listen attentively.
Introverts spend more time listening than talking. Use the information you are gathering to your advantage. Collate it and start forming intelligent questions to ask. Write them down as they occur, for future use and as an indication that you are being attentive. You’ll come across as interested, informed and more confident. We need to ask questions to learn more but also to show interest and empathy.

5. Stand up.
If you sitting at your desk and a more extroverted person enters your office. Stand up, it shows respect and puts you on an equal footing. How you stand is also important but that is a separate blog on it's own. Sufficient to say, this is your space, you control what happens there and you should stand your ground with relaxed confidence.

6. Command your space.
Take commnad of your space and use it confidently and comfortably. Don't coil up and shrink, spread out but don't sprawl. You can easily extend your space by gesturing and extending your arms. Practice this to get attention in a busy shop, you will be suprised as to how much more attention you will receive.

7. Stand with your feet slightly apart.
Some Psychologists recommend a wide stance with one foot forward pointing in a direction to suggest “some dynamic motion” If you want more excellent information on Body Language, do some research on Joe Navarro. His writing is a treasure trove of information on the language of the feet, legs, arms and hands.

Navarro believes that feet are the most honest part of the body because, as he says in the book, “the behaviour is a limbic brain response that has been hardwired into our nervous system during an evolutionary period that spans millions of years.” Consequently, our brains are unconsciously attentive and responsive to the position of other people's feet.

8. Interact and interject.
Extroverts enjoy the cut and thrust of boisterous meetings and lively networking events but these can be especially challenging for introverts.

How can you project confidence in these events? You need to be seen and heard. You need to join the throng! Interaction only comes from interjection, in these cases.

Lean forward, raise a finger, hand or arm, depending on the level of excitement at the event. Make good eye contact with the person speaking, say her or his name, smile, and just jump in.

You may not like to interrupt anymore than you like to be interrupted. However, if you don’t interject, you can appear worse than under-confident, you’ll become invisible and irrelevant.

9. Modulate your voice.
A simple mistake at job interviews is betraying their nervousness by speaking at a monotonous, boring and impassionate level. Relax your voice and practice “punching” key words. You’ll sound more compelling and you’ll come across as more passionate and confident.

10. Avoid verbal filler.
Speech hesitation is not the same as a pause. There is nothing worse than listening to someone um-ing and er-ing at an interview. Avoid punctuating your speech with um, er, you know, like, and other dialectic fillers, which makes you sound less than confident and more lightweight.

If you need extra time to compose your thoughts a little, which is not unusual for introverts, simply say, “Let me think about that for a moment” or “That’s a compelling question. Let me ponder on it for a moment.” You can also ask the interviewer for more information or to explain the question more.

If you are feeling a little lost or confused during the interview, try turning it back on the interviewer by asking; "Why is that issue so important to what you're trying to achieve in the organisation?" This should trigger a short respite for you and will provide you with more information to construct a response.

In conclusion, prepare well for any important events and look your best; arrive early and go through your confident relaxation routine; be aware of your posture and your voice; control your space and try to enjoy the opportunity to share your knowledge and views.