Thursday, 20 December 2012

David Lomas sketches his way to an Innovative Future at The Travel Convention 2012

Image courtesy of Ohmega1982/

A thumbnail sketch of a decade of changes in the travel industry would include: ever more affordable prices as the budget airline phenomenon continues to grow, do-it-yourself holiday planning via the internet and much more. To compete, travel agents need to be at the cutting edge. Each year travel agents get a chance to meet other members of the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) at the The Travel Convention. They hear from experts and have an exchange of ideas about the holiday business. The, and this was one convention This year they made sure that everyone got on the correct flight to Travel Convention 2012 in Turkey.

Pentacle's Dr David Lomas led an engaging session on “Innovating for lasting impact”. David illustrated his key points, live drawing on a white on black screen to the delight of several delegates. Tweets from his session are probably the best summary...

You can see a clip of David in action in the video below:

Monday, 19 November 2012

Thinking rationally? OK, great. What now?

You've probably come to this blog having watched Prof Eddie Obeng's TED video, “Smart failure for a fast-changing world”. You may even have visited the World After Midnight website, which goes further in explaining how the world switched from relative stability to constant change. It's quite likely that you're now thinking: “OK, so the world changes too fast to keep up with. What do I do now?”

The next step is to see if you and your organisation are ready for the New WorldTM. The easy way to check is to find out whether you're following Pentacle's 12 New Rules for the New World:

  1. Is your solution integrative? Say AND, not OR.
  2. Does your solution recognise the need to tailor actions to meet different populations/needs? FAIR = DIFFERENT.
  3. Is your solution capable of self-governance? Change DEPENDENCE to INTERDEPENDENCE.
  4. Is your solution designed to ensure focus on delivering to your goal of making money (delivering benefit to society)? Do NOTHING of NO USE.
  5. Is your solution designed around the people who have to deliver it and live with the results? STAKEHOLDERS RULE OK!
  6. To what extent have you made or scoped your solution to the possible rather than the ‘nice to have’ impossible. Make Time FIT.
  7. Have you reduced the scope to de-risk your solution appropriately? CHUNK it or JUNK it.
  8. Have you ensured that your solution appropriately uses new technologies? All constraints into TOUCH SPACE.
  9. Have you ensured that your solution appropriately uses new knowledge? Unlearn EVERYTHING.
  10. Have you taken into Account the overall impact of change on your ability to deliver results? Don't Change ANYTHING.
  11. Is your solution self-sustaining? LOOP it UP.
  12. Have you developed a solution with powerful results, which relies on an approach, which is not popularly adopted? Go VIRTUAL.

If you'd like to learn more about each of these rules and how to implement them, you can read the full story here: New Rules for the New World: Cautionary Tales for the New World Manager.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Qubots Cubed

Here's one for you - a picture, taken on QUBE, of qubots on QUBE, looking a picture of a qubot in real life and... oh no, I've gone cross-eyed.

Find out how you can become a qubot, and how it can benefit your organisation, at

Out of Africa, Inspiration, and Then Back Again

Good leaders are hard to find, so when you do come across one, you need to make sure they're nurtured. That's the role of the African Leadership Institute, a not-for-profit body who's goal to encourage a new generation to helm Africa to success in business, government and civil society. Recently, 23 participants from across Africa met in Oxford to partake in a series of inspiring sessions. They got the excitement of meeting former Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the institute's patron, and then the apprehension of meeting Prof Eddie Obeng, the “archangel” of change.

On Saturday morning, the bleary-eyed delegates woke up to a two hour session with Eddie. Not to be daunted by what's traditionally a dead slot, Eddie explored the idea of leadership with the participants, particularly looking at the idea of using technology to make the most of the great opportunities available in Africa. He also helped the young social entrepreneurs further develop their exciting ideas, like a co-operative abattoir. With such sound guidance, these leaders will turn the Birthplace of Humanity into a birthplace for innovation.

Follow in the Footprint of Other New World Thinkers

We're the first to admit, the Pentacle website hasn't always been the easiest to navigate. And that's with good reason – we wanted to replicate the feeling of uncertainty that permeates the modern world, and also encourage exploration rather than just heading straight for the information you're looking for.

However, we understand that you don't always have a free hour or two to spend browsing, so we recently redesigned the site to be more user-friendly, as well as reflect our latest work. In particular, we wanted to share the Footprint page with you.

The Footprint page is the gateway to Pentacle's presence across the wider web. It has links to our Twitter feed, YouTube channel and LinkedIn group, as well as this blog. But the coolest part of the page is that it replicates the experience of being on QUBE, our 3D online learning medium...

I won't spoil it for you. Click here to see what I mean.

The Footprint page is also the place to go to find out about our Inspiration Monthly virtual events. So if you've heard us talking about our free online workshops, but you're not quite sure what they entail, visit the Footprint page to find out everything you need to know.

Anyway, enough chatter. Have a look for yourself:

My First Day in the “Real” World

Well, that was strange.

I'd just been minding my own business, having a drink and a nice stimulating chat in the New World Cafe, as per usual. Then suddenly a door I'd never seen before appeared. I figured I might as well go through it – after all, I could just click the link to get back to where I'd been before.

But when I came out on the other side of the door, I didn't recognise the room I was in. In fact, I had a suspicion that I wasn't on QUBE at all. If I wanted to sit down on a chair I had to go all the way over to it, rather than just being able to click on it and zip straight there. There were screens all around the room, but you had to attach a little computer to them to get them to show things, rather than just dragging your document on to it.

The weirdest thing were the people everywhere. They were all different shapes and sizes from each other! And instead of being nice bright colours, they were a hodgepodge of boring colours, like pinks and browns and greys. For some reason, they had long things coming out of the sides of their bodies that they used to carry things around (why they didn't just make things move things through the air is beyond me). It also looked like no one had taught them how to hover, because they were “walking” around on things called “feet”. And worst of all, I had to do it too.

I eventually found out that I was at a conference for the Association of Project Management, which was a relief, as project management is one of my specialities. It was also cheered me up seeing Pentacle there, as they understand the New World, which is where I live. Susan, Katie and David were all very helpful, explaining to people who I was and how they could benefit from becoming a virtual avatar like me. Some people even asked if they could have their photo taken with me – I felt like a bit of a celebrity.

So it was odd day, and I don't know what I'm going to do next in the “real” world, but for now at least I'm a happy qubot.

This is guest post written by one of our qubots, who somehow managed to escape the virtual world to join as at the APM Conference. You can view more pictures of what he got up to here. To find out more about QUBE, the virtual learning medium where tutors and course members can interact as qubots, visit

Can you see the new "World After Midnight"?

 Have you ever experienced that moment, when the drawing of the old witch transforms into a young lady? Or stared at a Magic Eye picture of coloured dots to suddenly see a butterfly emerge? Or that moment in the film The Matrix when Neo sees the data that makes the world in zeros and ones?

The next nine minutes will transform how you see the business and economic world around you. Things will never be quite the same again.

Welcome to the New World After Midnight...

NOTE: You can download a version of this video from

ATS Tyre Eddie Out

There are over 400,000 lorries on Britain's roads, a vital backbone of trade that keeps the country running. But that all falls apart if the lorries themselves aren't running. That's where ATS Euromaster comes in. They provide top-quality servicing and branded tyres, not just for heavy goods vehicles, but for normal cars, vans and motorbikes as well. Now they've decided to “raise the bar” and take the passion and energy of their team to a new level.

ATS arranged an intense two day course for their employees, hosted by several members of senior management, including CEO Ian Stuart. Following an engaging and dynamic first day with Paul Bennett of Henley Business School, Prof Eddie Obeng kept up the traction with a session on being a courageous leader. Rather than a re-tread of previous ideas, Eddie acted as ATS's “how guy”, showing them how to transform deeply-held values and solid strategy into future success. It may have been tyring, but now that ATS have a firm grip on New World thinking it should be a Goodyear for them.

Teaching Heineken in the Places Other Business Schools Can't Reach

The Red Hats that Edward de Bono famously uses to represent intuition share their name with the Rode Hoed (Dutch for “red hat”). Once a hat shop, it was later the gateway to a big secret. Tucked away in the streets of Amsterdam, hidden inside three different houses, is the largest remaining secret church in the Netherlands. Dating back to the 17th century, when the Remonstrantist branch of Christianity was outlawed in the country, the followers kept this huge church secret from the authorities. Today it's a discussion centre, and this year it played host to the annual Heineken Idea Contest.

Every year Heineken challenge their best and brightest to come up with ingenious and inventive new concepts, with the cream of the crop being presented at the Heineken Innovation Experience (INEX), where they go through a workshop to transform them from interesting thoughts to truly radical breakthroughs. Learning consultant Wiebe Buising and community manager for innovation Lois Ding invited Prof Eddie Obeng to help with this process. Eddie worked with Heineken in the chief focus stage, with an emphasis on engaging commitment and using the R.A.B.B.I.T. ModelTM to improve ideas rather than kill them. The participants thought that Eddie's SlizedBreadTM strategy for achieving focus was the best thing since... well, you can probably guess, and the 5 Bunny HopsTM approach helped jump the hurdles standing in the way of innovation. It seems very appropriate that a building that used to house a secret was now the place to reveal the secrets of innovation.

You simply must meet Middleton Burgess...

There's an old saying we've all heard: “it's not what you know, it's who you know”. But if you don't know as many whos as you'd like to know, how do you get to know more? Well, if you know Middleton Burgess, they may be able to help. Middleton Burgess are a business-to-business events company, allowing a veritable who's who of executives to meet, mingle and network in formal and informal settings. It's an invaluable service, even in this age of emails and LinkedIn.

Middleton Burgess's Strategic HR Network held their 7th Annual Conference at the Radisson Blu Portman Hotel in London, with the theme being Driving Agility and Resilience Through Strategic HR. The conference had six streams of content, allowing delegates to pick the panels most relevant to them, but there were also keynote presentations for everyone present from Terry Morgan, chairman of Crossrail, Graeme Codrington, co-founder of Tomorrowtoday, and of course, Prof Eddie Obeng. Eddie closed the conference by talking about practical ways to deliver agility and resilience – it's not about the choices of the individual, but the choices of the support network. Technology needs to be used to take the stress off of people.

To prove this point, Eddie used QUBE to allow Dr David Lomas and Toby Scott to run a tutorial – despite being hundreds of miles away. The audience watched amazed as David's “Qubot” explained to them how to GapLeapTM, while Eddie told them that travelling long distances (or any distances for that matter) was one gap they didn't have to leap any more, as QUBE combines a nice environment to meet in with the convenience of virtual communication. So maybe it's not so important who you know as QUBE you know.

BIS Find the Grass is Greener on the Virtual Side

Everyone in the UK is changing - they have to, because if they can't adapt to the New World and meet the challenges of uncertain times then they'll become extinct. Leading this change is the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, which has the heavy responsibility of helping businesses and individuals improve themselves, work better, and in turn grow the economy. But while the department works hard to help build the skills of others, they're also engaged in internal activities to build the skills of their own workforce.

Prof Eddie Obeng was invited to to run a session on Leading to Successful Change. 70 participants were introduced to Eddie by Bernadette Kelly, director general of market frameworks at BIS, who sponsors the programme. Eddie began by using Hopes&FearsTM to create a user-centred, one hour rollercoaster of a course that covered tips and tricks on avoiding pitfalls and discovering new ways of working. This included leading them out of their offices and into the Pentacle virtual world – the business department staff got the chance to be among the first to visit the recently-opened New World Cafe. Because after all, even government departments need to take some time every now and again to just sit on the grass.

What is the New World Cafe? How can it be virtual and yet have grass to sit on? Keep checking New World Times, as all will be revealed soon...

Eddie Goes Down a Tweet at UCISA 2012

The Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association represents the IT services of all the major universities in the UK – no mean feat in this day and age, when electronic resources and communication are playing an increasingly bigger part in the lives of students and lecturers. Nevertheless, UCISA manages to stay on the cutting edge of technology, ensuring that computers are an aid to education, not a barrier.

The UCISA Annual Management Conference was held this year in Celtic Manor in Newport, Wales. Prof Eddie Obeng was invited to give the closing keynote speech, in a panel chaired by Kathy McCabe, UCISA Secretary. The subject of Eddie's talk was Surviving and Thriving in a World of Challenge. He told the delegates that change was coming faster, and with less precedent, and that this was not the time for “business as usual” if they wanted to succeed.

Judging by the tweets coming from the event (hashtag #ucisa12), Eddie's speech was well received:

@mcockshoot: Eddie Obeng very entertaining final speaker at #ucisa12

@RIsaacsdi: Professor Eddie Obeng Surviving and thriving in a new would of challenge. This guy is good #ucisa12 @sdi_institute

@Davie_T: #ucisa12 has met its match no on can tweet at the speed of Mr Obeng's speech lol

@daviewhall: Eddie Obeng. One world only. WOW #ucisa12

New trends in a rising tide – solving the challenge of corporate learning in ambiguous and uncertain times

This article was written by Prof Eddie Obeng for Training Journal, and posted on his personal blog.

In a recent article in Training Journal, Peter Honey argued articulately that classroom learning should not be written off yet and still has a lot to contribute. His focus was on the softer side of classroom learning arguing that they are ‘ring-fenced spaces with learning the explicit purpose’ and that ‘It is far easier for classrooms to be learning-friendly than everyday workplaces’. He points out thatThey allow people to meet together to share experiences and indulge in reciprocal learning. They are cheerful, off-the-record places with relaxed laughter.’

In spite of this, e-learning continues its steady growth – estimated to reach a value of £45 billion by 2014 with growth rates of around 30% in Eastern Countries. In this rising tide the focus of e-learning continues to be cost and convenience rather than quality, although recent trends towards using interactive (serious) games and ice breakers,1 the continued effort to merge classroom and online sessions mean that increasingly studies of the quality of the learning suggest less and less of a gap.2 In particular, corporate e-learning continues to grow in an economy where the business cases can be made for change.

The pace of global change continues to increase at the same time as there is an increased need to deliver results and new outcomes even faster. New Processes put in place quickly become obsolete and must rely on the inventiveness and goodwill, cemented by relationships between colleagues, to provide the glue and sticking plaster which ensures continued delivery of the organisation’s goals and products. Customer demands for service and quality continue to rise not as fast as the average player in the market but at the speed of the fastest. Through collaboration, merger or acquisition, even small scale enterprises and local government institutions are drawn into having to think and work at a global scale, crossing cultures, and time-zones.

The use of the classroom described by Peter Honey above would be an ideal way of forging the new cross cultural relationships. The use of traditional e-learning as a way to re-equip and re-skill at the speed required. But both have within them constraints which prevent them providing the solution to the demands of the 21st century. The figure below highlights the challenge:

E-learning ends up relegated to the bottom half of the set of cubes whilst the classroom is stuck in the front half. Even newer e-learning approaches remain stuck in broadcast mode and because at the end of the webinar there is ‘nothing to see’ the lack of persistence keeps them as events rather than as captures of knowledge for life long application.

In the corporate environment there is an increasing demand that the learning is not only learned but put into practice. This simple need means that three new areas will begin to quickly rise to absorb the old worlds of e-learning and classroom learning.

The first is the use of Augmented Learning. My favourite example of this concept is the way in which certain Duracell batteries can tell you whether they still hold a charge or not. Augmented learning is a way in which to attach answers to the questions which arise from real life objects. An accountant looking at a balance sheet should instantly have access to the set of questions he should ask and calculations to carry out. In fact the accountant need not learn anything at all! In areas where conventions are strong, and the process is repetitive this type of learning will steadily come to dominate. It is easily updatable for all users at the same time and does not require re-training or a human change management process.

The second area is Mobile Learning. My favourite example of this is happened a few months ago when after I had completed a IRL conference presentation I was surrounded by people waiting to ask questions and noticed that one person was ‘Googling’ me on his phone and reading the background article while queueing up. Mobile learning will enable the learning to cross the boundary from the classroom/webinar into the workplace.

The third is Enterprise Led Learning. My favorite example is the use of 3D internet (fully-functional, immersive environments). For example, on QUBE, the ‘classroom’ (where avatars interact, work in syndicates, brainstorm with post-its, specialists give short talks, etc.) is just across the virtual hall from the Team/ Project room where the global execution team, from several countries, keep their PowerPoints, Excel spreadsheets and plans and all meet for an hour twice a week (although the individuals come and go frequently since such environments offer ‘persistence’- everything stays where you left it.). The classroom agenda is set by the needs of the Enterprise but there is no functional distinction between learning and application. In addition the demand to develop people across the globe is met without disruption. The learning and the activity all share the same purpose of delivering the goals. This type of learning best solves the challenges at the top/executive levels of the organisation, in the innovative and creative centres and the areas of complex change and project execution. What is common to these three environments are that the people face challenges of high uncertainty and ambiguity, full of unknown-unknowns.

So strangely although the tide of e-learning is still in full flood, by acknowledging the softer, relational and emotional advantages of classrooms to cross cultural boundaries and build relationships three new solutions emerge. One which removes the need for learning, another which provides it when & where you need it, and a third which merges learning and working seamlessly using learning simply as another resource in the delivery of challenging enterprise goals.

1 The Corporate Learning Factbook 2011 Karen O’Leonard.
2 Class Differences - Online Education in the United States, 2010 I. Elaine Allen, Jeff Seaman, Ph.D.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

UPDATE: Eddie Obeng's TED Talk Now Live!

We previously mentioned on the New World Times blog that Prof Eddie Obeng's presentation from TEDGlobal 2012 would be available to watch on some time in October. Well, we are proud to announce that the video is now live. Click here to watch the talk.

Once you've watched the video, why not join us for a special (virtual) event to discuss it? Whether you agree or disagree with the presentation, you can meet Eddie Obeng and others to share your opinions and discover more about the New World and the rules it operates on. The event will take place between 12.30pm and 2pm UK time on Wednesday 24 October in the New World Cafe on Pentacle QUBE (visit to find out how to get to QUBE). To register, contact Josh Cheesman (; +44 [0] 1494 678555] who will provide you with an entry pass.

Monday, 15 October 2012

"Thinking rationally? Think again" – Eddie Obeng's Presentation from TEDGlobal 2012

Chris Anderson, Bruno Guissani and the team at have allowed an enormously diverse group of people to share ideas packaged into short, bite-size chunks – using the Pentacle new world Rule “Chunk it or Junk it!”. Over the years, speakers from Bill Clinton to Ken Robinson and Richard Dawkins have participated in TED conferences. TEDGlobal 2012 was no exception and included Pentacle’s Eddie Obeng sandwiched between Ruby Wax and Macy Gray at one end and Don Tapscott and Antony Gormley at the other.

There was obviously a good reason for Eddie to give his talk, although the title, Thinking Rationally? Think Again makes his motivation for participating intriguing. Insisting that “The real 21st century is not so obvious to us, so instead we spend our time responding and reacting to a world we know and understand but which no longer exists”, he guides us through a 12-minute whirlwind of turning well-regarded beliefs, orthodoxy and ideas upside down.

The video, out in October, can be watched at, or if you prefer reading blogs the TED Blog summarises it beautifully.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Say “cheese”! Or “queijo”! Or “formaggio”! - March's Inspiration Monthly Event

A crowd of people are stood listening intently. Some of them nod in agreement. Some are even jumping up and down in excitement. They shift around and jostle with each to get a better view of the whiteboard the presenter, Prof Eddie Obeng, is pointing at – despite being thousands of miles apart.

This is Inspiration Monthly, a regular event hosted by Pentacle on QUBE. Users anywhere in the world can log on to QUBE and participate fully with others as if they were actually there through their personal avatar (we call them Qubots). This month participants from the UK, Ireland, France, Italy and Brazil got together to chat and learn.

The theme this month was innovation in a risk averse culture. Try this question that Eddie asked in the session: would you rather toss a coin and get £1 million for heads and £0.5 million for tails, or toss a coin and get £20 million for heads and nothing for tails? Your answer? Well, if you chose the first one then it shows that you're risk averse; if you picked the second option then you're risk loving. Eddie then talked about the two reasons we fear taking risks, and everyone present discussed how they could overcome these fears.

Alex Higgins from Red Bee Media said that he found QUBE “really interesting”, and Leonardo Teixeira from Cata Vento said it was a “great learning environment”. One participant even said it was “almost impossible to describe. Experience is everything.”

At the end there was just time to take a virtual group photo of everyone present, which you can see above. The only tricky part was deciding what language to say “cheese” in.

If you want to take part in the next Inspiration Monthly event, which will be held on QUBE on Thursday 19 April, go to

Friday, 23 March 2012

Atkins Goes Around the World in Foggy Times

WS Atkins is certainly no stranger to delivering on the international stage – this year millions of people around the world will watch Olympic events in venues designed by the engineering consultancy. But nevertheless they're working on further developing themselves as a truly global company, one who can carry out projects crossing global boundaries without breaking into a sweat.

Prof Eddie Obeng contributed to a one-week programme (Orchestrating Exceptional Performance) for 13 project managers from the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, India, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Eddie discussed how to run programmes even as the world changes around them – he compared it to trying to run on a treadmill that's constantly speeding up. The programme and project managers explored how to overcome their fears of, and discovered the joy of, uncertainty. In particular they liked the idea of “foggy change”: not giving up even when the next step is unclear. Hopefully Atkins will span the globe in spite of the fog of change.

Helping B&Q to be More Helpful

Picture: Renjith Krishnan
In a tough, challenging world, we could all do with a little help. And just as there's always a bit more DIY you can do around the house, B&Q, who already serve 3 million people every week, are going to do more to give us that help. They've decided that they want to be “the most helpful home improvement retailer in the UK”, improving the friendliness and utility of their staff.

The NEC in Birmingham was the venue for Prof Eddie Obeng, introduced by Martyn Phillips, CEO of B&Q, to select helpful champions in a drive to improve service. Eddie showed the participants how to engage more people, and therefore be more helpful. It was a rollercoaster event, covering the IDQBTM method of communication (Issue, Data, Question, Build) and Stepping Forward to Lead – which ended in everyone stepping forward to dance.

It just goes to show: when helpful people need help becoming more helpful, they turn to Pentacle.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Bringing Project Managers Out of Their Shell

Shell's project managers have a lot to deal with. Not just in the scale of the major projects, but also in the abundance of incertitude that they face. Nowadays not only do they have to tackle huge tasks like developing oil fields in difficult places and the alchemy of turning gas into liquids, they must also cope with the uncertainty and ambiguity of geopolitics and local issues. The excellent Shell Project Academy in Rijswijk, the Netherlands, invited Prof Eddie Obeng to join the Managing Complex Projects course. The course, run in collaboration with Cranfield and accredited by the Association for Project Management (of which Eddie is a Fellow), is designed to transform highly competent and very experienced project managers into leaders of complex foggy programmes of multiple competing stakeholders set in a world of confusion

Eddie introduced them to the World After Midnight, and took them on a journey to make complexity more simple by engaging shareholders early and being suspicious of certainty and painting by numbers. They explored how to not only feel comfortable being ‘lost in the Fog’ but to be suspicious if it all looks too straight forward. For the participants who have a track record of delivering in certainty, this should help them come out of their Shell.