Life-changing reading lists

Posted on Nov 7, 2019

The clock has gone back, the mid-term is over and the big
save is on for Christmas. So how are you going to pass the dark
evenings between now and party season?
For anyone who has watched the new Netflix show
Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates, you’ll know that the billionaire
philanthropist takes a large canvas bag with him wherever he goes.
And what’s in the bag? It’s not presents from Santa. It’s books – lots
and lots of books.
than too little,” says the Microsoft founder on his blog, Gates Notes.

Finding time

Fine for him, he has loads of time on his hands you might scoff, but
between solving sanitation and water hygiene problems in
developing countries and wiping out malaria, he probably has less
spare time than most of us.
A recent article in the Sunday Times (20 October, Culture
supplement) pointed out that, while most middle-aged people say
they lack time, what they really mean is they lack focus.
So, with the shorter days and longer nights upon us, why not read
even one life-changing book between now and Christmas, and see
what happens?

Where to start?

We’ve compiled a reading list for you, based on the
recommendations of some of the world’s greatest leaders and finest
minds, both Irish and international.

Bill Gates

Gates reads a lot and, once every summer and winter, he shares his
five favourite books on Gates Notes. Here are two of his favourite
books from 2018.
21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari
“If 2018 has left you overwhelmed by the state of the world, 21
Lessons offers a helpful framework for processing the news and
thinking about the challenges we face,” explains Gates.
The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness by Andy Puddicombe
“I’m sure 25-year-old me would scoff at this one, but Melinda and I

have gotten really into meditation lately. The book starts with
Puddicombe’s personal journey from a university student to a
Buddhist monk and then becomes an entertaining explainer on how
to meditate. If you’re thinking about trying mindfulness, this is the
perfect introduction,” according to the philanthropist.

Sinéad Burke


Moving closer to home – and to one of Broadly Speaking’s most-
listened-to podcast episodes ever – we checked in on the Instagram
account of powerhouse and global activist Sinéad Burke, where she regularly
posts about her reading materials.
Burke, host of the new podcast As Me– where she has interviewed the likes of Jamie Lee Curtis and
Victoria Beckham about their greatest vulnerabilities – has also
spoken at Davos, not once, but twice; walked the red carpet at the
Met Gala; and graced the cover of Meghan Markle’ edition of British
Vogue, and all at 3ft 5ins tall. So, whatever she’s reading is sure to
be of life-adding value.
What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton
Published in 2017, this story of being defeated by Donald Trump for
the White House is a lesson in humility, and finding strength and
hope in our so-called failures, both public and private.
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
This is the second novel of Indian author Arundhati Roy and comes
20 years after her Man Booker prize-winning novel The God of Small Things.
Her new book is fundamentally a story of hope, where the
lives of the novel’s heroes have been broken by the world they live
in, but they are ultimately rescued and restored by love.

Barack Obama

The former US president is also an avid reader and sharer of
recommendations. He even posts his reading lists on social media.
Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami
Obama says this book “examines what happens to characters
without important women in their lives; it’ll move you and confuse
you and sometimes leave you with more questions than answers”.
The Shallows by Nicholas Carr
“Its arguments on the internet’s impact on our brains, our lives and

our communities are still worthy of reflection, which is something we
all could use a little more of in this age,” according to Obama.

Trish Long

Trish Long is the vice-president of Disney (Ireland) and also the
guest on one of Broadly Speaking’s most popular podcast episodes.
Why? Because her story starts in a council estate in Limerick,
Ireland, where she had to bribe her dad to let her stay in school.
Now she’s VP of Disney (Ireland). Wherever she finds her wisdom
and inspiration from is sure to be a useful source.
Long shared three of her top books with us.
Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull
“It’s about Pixar and the culture of Pixar; the challenges they faced
and how they overcame them and changed in the process. But I
think it is an excellent business book, especially for anyone working
in ‘non-traditional’ business (such as media, entertainment, arts,
broadcasting etc) as it is really about how to encourage creativity to
thrive and to create the correct environment for people to develop,” Long says.
Blink by Malcom Gladwell
“Again, [this is] really useful in challenging the fact that most of us
are trained out of trusting our gut – with ever-increasing
bureaucracy, research and testing before one can develop ideas or
products. Each chapter engages with an incident/story in
environments as to when people did not trust their gut. It is also
about how important the gut is to leaders and having the confidence
to listen to it and how it is, in effect, really the result of years of
experience and knowledge and very valuable,” she explains.
Big Magic (Creative Living Beyond Fear) by Elizabeth Gilbert
According to Long: “This also challenges the perceptions of mystery
surrounding the process of creativity. [Gilbert] encourages one to
embrace our curiosity or, as the New York Times said, Big Magic
wants to help its readers live creatively, which does not necessarily
mean ‘pursuing a life that is professionally or exclusively devoted to
the arts’, but ‘living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity
than by fear’.”

Warren Buffet


This billionaire philanthropist is as well-known a reader as Bill Gates.

He regularly slips recommendations into media interviews and
shareholders’ letters or meetings.
Dream Big by Cristiane Correa
This is the story of the three Brazilians who founded 3G Capital, an
investment firm that joined Buffett in purchasing HJ Heinz in 2013.
Buffett recommended the book at his 2014 shareholder meeting. In
New York Times interview, its author explained the two tenets of
3G’s management style: meritocracy and cost-cutting.
“They trust in people and they let their teams work,” said Correa.
If you’d like more insights into your business please contact for more information on business model innovation and strategy workshops

The future is flexible

Posted on Oct 24, 2019

The future is flexible

If you believe the headlines, soon we’ll only have to work four days a week
and robots are going to take most of our jobs. Predicting the ‘future of work’ is
a difficult task, as most futurists, business journalists and industrial designers
will tell you.
There is one trend, however, that we stand behind at Broadly Speaking HQ –
virtual offices and do-it-whenever-you-like work schedules.
You see, we have no physical HQ. Fourteen years ago, when I set up our
mothership, Clear Ink, I insisted on no building, no office, no commute. We’ve
always been a virtual company.

Any time, any where

Our project team members work wherever and whenever they like. If they do
the work well and make our client’s deadlines, I don’t mind how they get there.
If they miss having an office environment, I’ll pay for them to have a desk at a
co-working space.
Team members have been based in Berlin; Barcelona; Paris; London; Beirut;
Singapore; the wilds of County Kerry, Ireland; and Dublin too. Those who want
to travel can write, design or plan from the road and still earn a decent crust.
We all stay connected by phone, email and teleconference. Instead of having
endless project meetings, we manage projects using Asana, Slack and
Dropbox. We go to clients’ offices when they need us or meet them in cafés and hotel lobbies,
or we hire conference rooms.

Competitive edge

This is the future for businesses who want to cut overheads, reduce their
climate change emissions, attract and keep employees, and contribute to a
very happy and loyal team.
We’re not the only ones who know this is the way to go. Bill Gates has

predicted that “companies that give extra flexibility to their employees will

have the edge” when it comes to fighting for and recruiting the best talent.
Research among workers backs up his futurology. According to a survey
from venture capital firm Accel Partners, 76% of millennials would take a pay cut of
at least 3% to work for a company that offers flexible office hours.
Meanwhile, Deloitte reported that millennials are more likely to stay in a role
for more than five years if their company is flexible about where and when they work.
Basically, younger employees like companies who trust them and treat them
like adults.

Happy, productive teams

But it’s not just about benefits to the employee; the employer benefits too.
A total of 91% of HR professionals said employees were more engaged and
satisfied when provided with flexible working arrangements – that’s according
to recent research from the UK’s Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas).
Surveys aside, changes to workplace structure actually work when trialled.
And it’s not just flexibility that employees are seeking, but few hours too.
Perpetual Guardian – a 240-staff company based in New Zealand that manages trusts, wills and estate
planning – trialled a four-day week in March and April 2018. All staff members
worked four eight-hour days, but got paid for five days.
Academic researchers studied the trial before, during and after its
implementation. It was hailed an unmitigated success for both employees’
health and their commitment to their employer. Work-life balance increased by
24%. Staff stress levels decreased by 7% and overall life satisfaction
increased by 5%.
While not all of your employees may have young children or elderly parents
who need help, family seems to be the biggest driver when it comes to their
need for flexibility.
According to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, both in Ireland and
for most of their lives, particularly during the phase of life when they have

Collaborative solutions

But how can you, as an employer, make flexibility and fewer hours actually
work? Your need to collaborate with your employees on potential solutions.
Talk to them about what they want instead of designing and then imposing a
solution on them.
Even if your flexible work practices are beautifully designed, they might not
work for everyone.
A total of 63% of workers in Brazil said remote working led to isolation from
their colleagues, according to 2017 research from Eurofound and the
International Labour Office. The blurred lines between home and work also led to stress for remote workers.

Support and oversight

To address these problems, greater support and oversight are needed, and
that was according to the workers themselves. Some 34% of workers said
they wanted to have contact with their direct supervisor weekly and 31% said
they wanted daily contact.
So, you’ll need to be open to tweaking things as you go along and ensure
your communication channels are always open.
You also need to be clear about the parameters of flexible working. Make sure
you have a clearly defined and agreed written policy.
Acas’s research found that consistency and fairness were key to effectively
managing flexible teams and keeping everyone happy.

Set an example

And that’s not all. You need to do it yourself too. Leaders must be role models
and advocates for flexible working. One large European organisation we work
with found that the staff members who used flexible working practices the
most were those who had a boss who did the same. And the percentage of
flexible working days closely matched those of the leader, even though there
was no requirement for them to follow this pattern. When their manager
worked one day a week from home, they worked one day from home and so
The virtual office works for us because we’re project-based and we mainly
work with creative people who prefer quiet work environments. Our team
members also like to work on many projects at a time – including their own.
Or they have other responsibilities or interests including competitive sports,
writing books, long-term travel, kids, older parents, campaigning or community
But most of all, they love avoiding the commute and getting back an extra 10
to 15 hours a week.
Flexible working doesn’t suit every industry. Can you imagine a hospital
without doctors or nurses? Although Japan has developed care robots, they
can’t do CPR or put in an IV… yet.
If this article interests you, get in touch with me at

Why good corporate governance is great for business

Posted on Oct 4, 2019

When the most famous investor in the world – who is also the third richest – says something about
business behaviours, most of us are inclined to listen. Billionaire Warren Buffet is beating one
major business drum these days – good corporate governance.
In recent years, business decisions have been made largely with only shareholders’ profits in
mind, but the tide is turning.
Successful institutional investors know bad corporate governance increases the risk of a business
going bankrupt or being caught up in a reputational scandal. But strong corporate governance
could mean the opposite – higher profits, greater efficiency and billions in potential capital

Turning a blind eye

In 2001, the scandal about American energy company Enron broke. The fallout resulted in the
largest bankruptcy reorganisation in American history at the time – and it was all about bad
corporate governance.
Yes, Enron had structures and mechanisms in place for good corporate governance, but its board

of directors turned a blind eye to open violations of code. And auditors failed to prevent
questionable accounting practices.
Enron’s shareholders were not happy and hit them where it hurts. They filed a $40 billion lawsuit
after the company’s stock price fell. Shares had fallen from a high of $90.75 per share in mid-2000
to $1 by the end of November 2001. Bankruptcy came on 2 December 2001.

Eyes wide open

Compare this disaster to the success of some large corporations in the Middle East and North
Africa (MENA), where good corporate governance has led to billions in capital, increased efficiency and productivity.
A recent report, Corporate Governance Success Stories, from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) at the World Bank Group, found consistent results for more than a dozen MENA companies that implemented and lived by strong governance codes.
Nearly all companies rated the corporate governance impact on their ability to access finance as “strong or substantial”. The changes helped these firms access significant financing over the past two years, ranging from $2.5 million in one company to $1.5 billion in another.
The corporations also reported that their reputations greatly improved with all market players, from customers and clients to investors and regulators. Business became easier to do when they were respected for keeping their eyes and ears open for bad practices.

And a majority of companies reported that the governance changes had a strong or substantial impact on organisational efficiency as well as profitability.
Warren Buffet knows that good corporate governance is good for business.

Working for the greater good

To get down to the nuts and the bolts of Mr Buffet’s why, he calls for better corporate governance for the sake of creating a secure financial future for all – consumers, citizens, employees and investors. So if you’re a director of a company or a shareholder in one, what is it that this billionaire wants of you?
In 2016, he and 12 other business titans wrote an open letter to the business world, outlining common-sense standards for better corporate governance. The group, which consisted of major CEOs such as Mary Barra from General Motors and Jamie Dimon from JP Morgan Chase, outlined governance principles in a nine-page open letter.
Here are just some of their guidelines:
  • A board must not be beholden to the CEO or management
  • All directors must have high integrity
  • When it comes to directors’ compensation, the group calls for a “substantial” (50% or more) portion of company stock to be used for this pay – the idea being that directors’ and investors’ goals would be better aligned as a result
  • Boards need diversity – they should be large enough to allow for a variety of perspectives
Over to you.
Since 2016, more big shot CEOs have signed up. Among the 23 signatories are CEOs from Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson.
In a more recent statement from Warren Buffet and his allies, he emphasised that their work was not an “academic exercise”. His group said: “We ask others to join us in committing to these principles and to a more secure financial future.”
Are you a member of board? Have you got what it takes to take on Mr Buffet’s challenge, not just for the sake of good corporate governance, but to attract more capital and increase your business’s efficiency and profitability?
If you’d like help transforming your board/ management culture with these principles in mind, please get in touch with to discuss your needs or ring 087 207 0495

Setting your priorities as a CEO

Posted on Sep 10, 2019

Two questions: Are you a CEO? Is your primary goal to maximise your shareholders’ profits?
If you are a CEO and you answered yes to that last question, you are
most definitely not alone.
Serving your investors’ needs first and foremost, and above all other
competing interests, is what we’ve come to know in corporate lingo
as “shareholder primacy”. This concept – that a corporation’s main
duty is to maximise value for the shareholder – while always to the
forefront, became very prominent in the mid-1980s. And from then
on, shareholder primacy became a widely accepted governance

Attitude shift

But this summer, dozens upon dozens of America’s most powerful
CEOs said otherwise. CEOs from the likes of IBM, Fox, VISA, Walmart,
JP Morgan Chase and Mastercard signed a manifesto-type statement
calling for a balancing of interests.
These CEOs are part of a 192-strong group called the Business
Roundtable and, on 19 August, 181 of them signed a document
called the Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation.
At the start of this article, we ask if your primary goal as a CEO is to
maximise your shareholders’ interests. Maybe you said no. Perhaps
you feel your business would not exist without your customers, so
that’s who you serve first. Or maybe you believe your organisation is
only as good as your employees, so their needs are paramount.

What’s your purpose?

The 181 CEOs in America believe a corporation has five equal
  • Delivering value to customers
  • Investing in employees
  • Dealing with suppliers fairly and ethically
  • Supporting the wider community
  • Generating long-term value for shareholders
Does this all seem too much to take on and a bit idealistic?
When these 181 CEOs made their declaration public, there was lots
of reaction.
Joe Kennedy, of the famous political dynasty and a member of the
US House of Representatives, said the CEOs’ statement was “a
welcome step toward a more moral capitalism” and the US Chamber
of Commerce said it “agreed wholeheartedly with the renewed

America’s longest-serving Independent politician, current Senator
and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders welcomed the statement,
but he also said America needed more than a “public relations
On the not-so-agreeable side, was the Council of Institutional
Investors, who “respectfully disagree[d]” with the statement.

Looking inwards

Also not so agreeable was academic Charles Elson from the
University of Delaware. This was not because he disagreed with the
sentiment of the statement, but because of who was saying it.
“They talk about their great concern for the workers – well they’re
the ones who’ve paid themselves so astronomically and created
these pay gaps that are so dramatic. I’d like each of them to
volunteer to cut their own salaries by two-thirds and give it back to
employees, if that’s the way they feel,” Mr Elson said.
And he’s not wrong. According to the Economic Policy Institute, CEO
compensation has grown by 940% since 1978, while employee
compensation rose just 12% in the same period.

CEO dilemma

So what’s a CEO to do? Would you take a cut and share out the
difference among your employees? How happy are you to pay into a
pension fund or give paid paternity, indeed even maternity, leave to
your staff? Would you give a percentage of your profit to offset a
negative and unintended consequence of your business’s operation?
Do you allow your employees to unionise?
Like anything in business – be that being proactive about data
protection or taking your environmental footprint seriously – there
are two ways to look at changes in culture. You can embrace the
change, invest accordingly and hopefully ride on a positive wave of
success; or you can resist, oppose and perhaps lose out in the long
Who you serve first as a CEO is a matter for you and your board but,
just like the 181 CEOs in America said, there are many actors who
contribute to the existence of your business.
It’s a balancing act. And like one of the world’s greatest minds,
Albert Einstein, said about balance: “Life is like riding a bicycle. To
keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

The keys to a successful digital transformation

Posted on Jul 26, 2019

76% of people living in the world’s 18 advanced economies own a smartphone.

Nearly every adult on this planet has a mobile phone. Out of 7.5 billion of us, five billion have phones, over half of which are smartphones. This has happened since 2007, when the first iPhone came on the market. The digital revolution has been rapid and unrelenting – and for most businesses, it’s meant survive or die.

How have you fared?

According to the Pew Research Centre, if your business is based in a country with an advanced economy, digital transformation isn’t just a matter of aspirational policy; it’s the difference between life and death.


Is poorly designed work reducing your workers’ productivity?

Posted on Jul 10, 2019

36% of millennials/Gen Z spend at least two hours of their working day on their phones, carrying out personal activities.

It’s the height of the summer and staff members are taking holidays. It may be September, or even October, before your entire team or workforce is back under the one roof.

Summer is often the time when staff members’ level of distraction is at its most obvious – but it is also the perfect time for management to tackle distraction and boredom in the workplace head-on. You can implement strategies that will stand to you for years to come.


Helping employees through change

Posted on Jun 18, 2019

Only about one in four transformations succeed.

The only constant we can be certain of is change. As we prepare to move into a new decade, the companies that will win in the 2020s are the ones that are proactively designed to adapt to the world’s constantly shifting realities.

These realities will include the wider roll out of artificial intelligence, a more diverse workforce, an ever-greater emphasis on data protection and strictly enforced regulations designed to protect the environment.


Leading the way to more family-friendly workplaces

Posted on Jun 4, 2019

The cost of childcare is often described as a “second mortgage”.

Childcare is the real glass ceiling. There are two key things that make this so. Firstly, men earn more than women in Ireland. The gender pay gap currently stands at 14% and, in some professions, that goes up to 30%.

Secondly, the cost of childcare is often described as a “second mortgage”. In some parts of the country, it costs as much as €308 a week for one child. So, when it comes to returning to work after having your child – faced with crèche fees versus your take-home pay each month – is it any wonder the job that brings in the lower salary, inevitably the woman’s, will be the one sacrificed when it comes to paying for childcare over doing it yourself?

Feargal Quinn’s big regret revealed in one of his final interviews

Posted on Apr 26, 2019

He revolutionised Irish retail, held five honorary doctorates, was father to five children and grandfather to 19 and, when he ‘retired’, he became a Senator and a broadcaster, but Feargal Quinn had one regret.

It was a regret he hoped would provide inspiration for other entrepreneurs. “I didn’t open my first shop until I was 23, I should have opened it at 21,” he told Margaret E. Ward on the Broadly Speaking podcast during the summer of 2017. “Start earlier than you’d planned,” he added.


Dressing for success is hard work

Posted on Apr 23, 2019

Dressing for success is hard work

In a business casual world, is the old adage of dressing for success obsolete? Not quite.

When getting dressed for the office, we’re beginning to take style tips from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, rather than Mad Men’s Don Draper. While sharp suits, fancy dresses and high heels may still be seen in some workplaces, employees are increasingly opting for a more casual style, with a greater focus on comfort. Suits are out and techie casual is in. (more…)

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