Category Archives: General Thoughts


Disagreement-the key to good decision making?

I caught up on BBC Question Time this morning as my youngest (so far) grandchild napped on my shoulder. There was much talk of Brexit, the Chilcot report and the position the Labour Party finds itself in & a really interesting point was made about how Tony Blair ran his Cabinet & government. The Chilcot report showed that many decisions, not just the one to go to war, were made in individual meetings rather than full group cabinets. I can only guess why Tony Blair liked to do things this way but I would presume it was because it’s far easier to persuade people to your point of view if you’re speaking one on one.

As human beings we are more likely to stick with our views if we have people who agree with us in the group, it makes us feel stronger & more able to argue back with things we disagree with. That’s human nature. It’s also, when done correctly, a great way to make sure you make good decisions.

We all like to surround ourselves with people who think the same way as we do, who have the same values and beliefs. Frankly it makes us feel good. It also makes us feel right. And that’s the problem. We live in a world of varying shades of grey where there is rarely an absolute right or wrong answer. A world of nuances and shades. If we surround ourselves completely with people who think the same way as us, with roughly the same experiences as us we risk losing the ability to really see the world as it is. Some might say the political elite in London have done just this & are now in such crisis because of it.

The Brexit referendum was certainly an interesting time for me on Social Media. As I explained in a previous blog  I had decided, after much thought, to vote to leave the EU.  Many of my Facebook friends voted to remain & I respect that. I also appreciate what their different opinion brings to my decision making. I am still very comfortable with the way I voted because I know I saw lots of the arguments against that vote & thought them through. They may not have persuaded me to vote remain but they did get me to question my leave vote & I’m pleased they did.

If we stop listening to each other, if we stop discussing the things we disagree about, if we make really important decisions without taking all views into account then I believe we’ll make bad decisions. Ones we haven’t thought through & challenged. So let’s embrace the nuances of human value systems & discuss the things that we disagree about with respect for those who disagree with us. The world will be a better place for it I’m sure.

EU referendum

Should we stay or should we go?

Everywhere we look in the UK there’s talk of the EU referendum, from pages upon pages in the papers & long segments of the news to social media posts from those we’re connected to,  the EU referendum is never far from our eyes.

Now I started this campaign desperate for information to help me make a decision, I was totally undecided ( I’m still not 100% sure) but I quickly realised that trying to access unbiased facts was like searching for the Holy Grail. I found myself questioning my thoughts on all the areas being talked about, here’s the process I went through:

  • Immigration. I see immigration as a positive thing for our country. All the research shows that the most diverse businesses are the most successful ones and I believe the same holds true for countries providing we all treat each other with respect. Are there issues with immigration? Of course there are, no system is perfect & we should always try to work on those but we will never get a perfect system. That’s just life. So this would indicate a “remain” vote for me.
  • Economy. I have no idea whether our economy will be better if we stay or go. Frankly we’ll never know what the alternative vote would have given us. Ultimately I believe the success of our economy has more to do with our skills and attitudes as a country than whether we’re in the EU or not. So this is a neutral issue for me.
  • Sovereignty. Do we want our decision made in Westminster or Brussels? To be honest Westminster feels as remote from my life as Brussels does most of the time so does it make a difference for me? Do we lose some of our national identity because we’re in Europe? For me purely as an emotional decision this is a neutral with a lean towards Leave. 
  • Refugees. If someone is so desperate they will pay everything they have left to put themselves and their families on one of those tiny boats to cross the Mediterranean we shouldn’t be treating them like criminals. I believe we’ll look back on how we’ve acted in the refugee crisis with shame. Do some militants hide among them? I’m sure they do but does that mean we should abandon the thousands of true refugees because a small minority are a threat? Not in any society I want to be part of. We helped create this problem, we need to help solve it. I’m putting this as a neutral because neither the Remain or Leave campaign are dealing with this properly for me.

    A terrified child clings to a rock on the shore as a group of Syrian refugees arrive on the island after travelling by inflatable raft from Turkey. The Eastern Mediterranean route from Turkey to Greece has overtaken the central Mediterranean route, from North Africa to Italy, as the primary one for arrivals by sea. From January to June this year, 68,000 people arrived in Greece, compared with 67,500 in Italy, accounting for nearly all the arrivals in the period.

    A terrified child clings to a rock on the shore as a group of Syrian refugees arrive on the island after travelling by inflatable raft from Turkey. The Eastern Mediterranean route from Turkey to Greece has overtaken the central Mediterranean route, from North Africa to Italy, as the primary one for arrivals by sea. From January to June this year, 68,000 people arrived in Greece, compared with 67,500 in Italy, accounting for nearly all the arrivals in the period. (from

  • Security.  Are we safer inside or outside Europe? Does being part of the system help us share useful information. I have to think it does, although whether we’re part of the EU or not we should all be cooperating on this one. Remain
  • The Apocalypse. Seriously while this is a big decision the world is not going to end & the sky fall in whichever way we vote. It’s such a shame that the national debate is such a negative one. I understand why, marketeers have known for a long time that fear sells better than any other emotion & so it’s being used to try & sell both sides of this debate to us. Positivity doesn’t have the same effect on us as human beings, which is such a shame.
  • My tribe. We all have a tribe, people who tend to think like us, share our values and beliefs. They are a huge influence on us & my tribe are overwhelmingly remain. The leave campaign, concentrating as it does on immigration,  feels less tolerant to me. What has shocked me though is seeing posts on social media from people I thought were tolerant labelling all “leave” voters as uneducated and intolerant thereby displaying an intolerance themselves. If we cannot, as a society, respect another’s right to disagree with us, and their reasons for doing so without being judgmental that worries me more than whether we stay in the EU or not. This is, to me, the most British of values-to respect and defend someone’s right to free speech whether we agree with them or not. 

After spending a long time thinking about these issues I realised I was asking myself the wrong questions. If we have this once in a lifetime opportunity to think about whether we should be in the EU the question I think we should be asking ourselves is:

“Is the EU the right institution for the world we live in?In a world where geography is so much less important that it ever was should we be building stronger links with countries because they happen to be located next to us or should we be building links with countries who share our values and aspirations?”

If we had known in 1973 that technology and the internet was going to produce the world we now live in would we still have voted to join? Knowing the world we now live in should we vote to stay?

Asking myself this question has led me towards a leave vote despite the attendant associations around immigration. Am I certain of this decision? No-the concerns around negative views on immigration of the leave campaign weigh on my mind. It may well be that I don’t decide until I enter the voting station and that’s fine, in the end I know I’ve given this decision a lot of thought and that’s what we all need to do for a vote as important as this.

Big Sleep

Which is colder: a Lake District Mountain or Manchester City Centre?

I have led a privileged life, I have never been homeless, indeed I’ve never been under threat of homelessness. Living in West Cumbria I’ve had little contact with anyone who’s homeless either as they tend to borrow a sofa for a night from a friend in this area rather than sleep in shop doorways and so are a hidden problem.

A colleague of mine, Eamon Rodgers,  spent last night sleeping rough in Manchester City Centre to raise funds for the Booth Centre, looking at the weather here I’m hoping it wasn’t quite as wet in Manchester. I mentioned his sleep out to a colleague who took part in the Cumbria Community Foundation’s Big Sleep this year who commented jokingly that sleeping rough in Manchester was comparable to sleeping indoors when compared to a mountain top. Having seen a photo from last year showing the frost on the ground I know what they meant!

It struck me then that cold isn’t just about temperature, that sitting in the middle of a busy, prosperous city in the lead up to Xmas, being ignored by passers by who are worried that you’re a professional beggar & going home to a mansion tonight or who just feel plain awkward (something I admit to myself) so don’t smile or talk to you would feel colder than sleeping on a mountain top where there’s no-one to ignore you.

When I organised TEDxWhitehaven last year with my son, Luke, one of our speakers was Steve Houghton-Burnett and his talk got me thinking differently. As we now approach Black Friday , an American tradition I sincerely wish we hadn’t imported, his cure, Rainbow Saturday, is also approaching. To find out more watch the video:


If you live near Manchester why not have a sort out of your wardrobe & not only give someone warm clothing for winter but also choice, something many homeless people feel they lost a long time ago.

As I said earlier I tend to feel awkward when I visit the cities & see homeless people but from now on I’m going to give myself a shake, remember how privileged my life is & offer to buy them a hot drink & sandwich with a smile.


James Bond and equality

As I prepared to go & see the new James Bond film, Spectre, at my local cinema yesterday I felt a little guilty. Why? Well there’s been a lot of talk in the press lately about James Bond and equality, his treatment of women and whether he suits our modern day views. As someone who firmly believes in equality should I feel guilty for contributing to the success of such a film?

As I sat watching it though I began to wonder if our view of society was colouring how we view the lovely James? Does the fact that we expect it to be the man that treats the woman badly affect our judgment?

Let’s be honest ladies James Bond is a sexy, attractive man but he isn’t husband material is he? He’s never going to be there to change nappies or do night feeds because he’ll be dashing off at a moment’s notice to save the world. The female characters in all the films, even going back into the 60’s & 70’s have, in my opinion, been strong women. They haven’t been viewed as such because they’ve been seduced by Bond but what if it was them who were doing the seducing?

What if they saw James Bond as sexy, attractive and frankly great for casual sex (not something I endorse I hasten to add!). What if we change our view of the plot and see them taking advantage of him & never really wanting a long-term relationship with him as has always been assumed? Did our expectations that it would always be the women who would want marriage and children make us see only one side of the story?

Let’s not forget too that James had a female boss in M, the character expertly played by Judi Dench. I would argue that of all the M’s in the history of Bond she was the most expert in getting thedench_2376525b best from him as a line manager. She knew when to trust him, when to pull him back, when to praise & when to push harder. I really loved seeing the role developed in this way and thought the way Judi Dench (such an amazing actress!) played a tough character but could still show the feminine traits that are so often under valued in the workplace was such a positive for the equality argument.

You may have guessed that I really like the James Bond movies. I don’t believe we should have a female Bond, I’d far rather see a strong female role developed with the same level of investment into the movie, stunts and special effects than see a female actress put into a role that was written for a man.

So what do you think? Have my thoughts got you looking differently at the Bond women? Or do you believe, as the papers have been saying, that the Bond character is anti-equality? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Dogs together resized

Selfies-a lonely road or a group endeavour?

Until last year I had never taken a selfie. This may be a generational thing, as my daughter is something of a selfie queen it’s obviously not a genes thing! So what prompted me to finally take a selfie? Probably like a lot of women my age it was the “No Make Up Selfie” campaign for Breast Cancer. For me appearing without make up wasn’t an issue as I’m often make up free outside work. Taking a selfie for the first time though? That completely stressed me out.

I mean how do youngsters know how to get that angle just right to be flattering? Any attempt I made was, to say the least, unflattering. My daughter couldn’t understand it, for her it’s completely natural. Anyway I did my charitable duty, managed to take a photo which didn’t make me look like the Gringe (just) and made my donation. You may notice I am not sharing the image here!

Dianne with RozFunnily enough though this was the start of something because I’ve been involved in many selfies since but not in the way you might think. You see none of these selfies have just been of me. They have always involved other people. Whether at family dos, business events or social events all the selfies have involved either other people or my dog (I know but she is marvellous even if she’s demented-see post below)

So that got me wondering whether the younger generation have just got this selfie thing wrong? As scientists debate the impact of selfies on mental health or visa versa  do youngsters just need to follow their parents lead and take group selfies instead of lonely ones?

I’ve always found taking group selfies great fun, from trying to pick positions to dropping the phone we always have a smile on our faces whoever I’m with. So perhaps this week, as it’s Mental Health Awareness Week  we should encourage everyone to find the fun in group selfies because we always have more fun with others.

What do you think? Are you a selfie queen like my daughter? Or are you like me & only do group selfies? Perhaps you’ve never taken a selfie? I’d love to hear your selfie stories.

Dianne with Roz

Seriously, this could only happen to me!

We all have moments in our life where we wonder how exactly did this happen don’t we? Those mornings where weird things happen & we think “this could only happen to me”. Well this morning was one of those for me. Let me tell you more.

The sun has finally come out in West Cumbria so this morning so, thinking about the shorts coming out & the tights going away, I decided I’d better do the world a favour & sort out the hairs on my legs. Ladies you know where I’m coming from here don’t you? Gentlemen, fear not it is safe for you to read on.

I should explain at this point that my beautiful dog Roz is unfortunately in the early stages of dementia, this can be horrible at times but can also, as today, provide some moments of hilarity. One of the symptoms is that the umbilical cord between her & I has become even shorter. If I’m peeling veg at the kitchen sink she will fit her body between my legs and the cupboards. If I’m wandering round the house doing stuff she’s wandering around with me.

So back to this morning & I quite happily pop the Veet onto my legs (for my gentleman readers this is a hair removal cream) & take a note of the time to give it the required 5 minutes. At this point Roz follows her natural instincts & rubs herself against my legs resulting in more Veet on her than on me. With an image of a dog with bald spots I grab a pack of wipes & reach for her collar. Seeing the wipes & the look on my face Roz decides the umbilical cord can stretch further than she thought & heads off down the stairs with me in pursuit, still covered in Veet! Bearing in mind:

  1.  for a dog with the human equivalent age of 96 she can still move incredibly fast when she wants to
  2.  the curtains downstairs were open

I am incredibly proud to tell you the story ended happily. The dog, as you can see here:


has no bald patches, though she is still sulking because I used wipes on her & no neighbours saw anything they shouldn’t have.

What “it could only happen to me” moments have you had lately? I’d love to hear about them.



Policy or Personality?

As I watched the leaders debate last night I got to wondering whether we vote on the basis of policy or personality? Do we, in this age of reduced attention spans, take the time to investigate the parties policies or do we react to soundbites and our reaction to the leaders characters? Or do we not even do that but simply vote for whichever party our parents voted for?

I’ve been watching the political parties trying to “market” themselves to us in the lead up to the election with interest. The major parties spend a lot of money on marketing and communication advice so why are they failing to connect with us? Why are we turning to the smaller parties for a new voice? Are we tuning out from their policies or their personalities?

I’m giving away my age here but I grew up in the days of Margaret Thatcher, MIchael Foot and Neil Kinnock when there was a definite left and right to British politics. Although there are still ideological differences now the two main parties have undoubtedly both grown closer to the centre in order to appeal to the mass of the population and this has made it harder to see the space between them. Hard as they try to ignore it the fact that the major politicians tend to come from a similar background and area also doesn’t help.

Their communications experts have obviously told them to push their “key message” which is why we keep hearing David Cameron talking about the long-term economic plan & Ed Milliband talking about supporting the working man not big business. This constant pushing of their message goes against virtually everything in marketing nowadays. Modern marketing is much more about pull than push, much more about human connection and shared empathy. Are our potential Prime Ministers getting so caught up in their own message that they’re failing to see how potential voters are tuning out?

So the question I’m asking myself is: are we turning to the smaller parties not because we’re looking for something different in politics but because their leaders seem more human? In which case what matters most? Their policies or their personal likeability and trust factor?

So how do you decide? Is it policies or personality that you base your decision on? Or do you always follow the family tradition?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Event Evaluation? It’s in the Ladies Toilets!

I love running events & I’ve been lucky enough to run a number of highly successful ones, most recently co-curating Cumbria’s first TEDx event, TEDxWhitehaven, with my son Luke.  I’m often asked how I evaluate the success (or not) of an event & there are a number of ways you can do this. The most effective,as I say in the title, is in the ladies toilet. More of that later though, let’s look first at some of the more “accepted” evaluation measures.

So you could evaluate on the number of attendees.  This is definitely a measurement that matters. After all if you haven’t attracted people you either haven’t got the content of your event right or you haven’t communicated that content effectively to your potential audience. Have you used the right kind of marketing? Are the social media platforms the ones your target attendees use? Unfortunately you may have got the marketing right & the content wrong in which case I’m afraid it’s back to the drawing board.

How about attendee evaluation? Of course you should survey your attendees afterwards & ask them if they’ve enjoyed the event. This can take some time & you do need to make sure you ask them the right questions though. It’s very easy if you’re setting up the survey yourself using free useful tools such as Survey Monkey  to ask questions which give you the answers you want rather than the ones you need. Get someone who’s not been involved in the event to take a look at the survey before you issue it. The great thing about running a TEDx event is that they do they survey for you, this prevents this kind of mistake & also should encourage honest feedback.

What about the conversations you have with attendees on the day? This is immediate feedback so you don’t have to wait for it but lets be honest who’s going to tell you to your face that they’re not enjoying the event you’ve spent months putting together? We were all brought up to tell those little white lies to spare people’s feeling weren’t we?

So that’s where the ladies toilets come in. Now I’m not being sexist, the men’s toilets may be just as informative but I’ve no access to them, perhaps the men reading this can let me know if they are as informative?

At every event I run when I visit the ladies toilets I keep very quiet & listen. Not in a creepy way & I’m aware I’m starting to sound a little odd here but when ladies visit the facilities they also tend to have a little chat with each other as they wash their hands, check their make-up etc & those conversations are what tell me I’ve got a success or failure on my hands. If they don’t know I’m there & they’re saying “Isn’t this great, I hope they run another one!” as they were at TEDxWhitehaven I can relax in the knowledge I’ve provided what they were looking for & hopefully more. This litmus test has never failed me so far, any time I’ve heard this conversation in the ladies the survey evaluation has come back with a high rating.

Now I’ve given my secret away I’m sure any ladies at future events will be checking the cubicles before saying anything & I’ll have to find another way to get immediate evaluation…….so how do you decide if your events a success? Do you have a stranger way of doing it than me? I’d love to hear about it.



Are you a NHS customer?

If you live in the UK that may seem like a rather silly question but I’ve been thinking a lot about the NHS recently and I’m not sure it’s such a straightforward answer.

Let’s get a couple of things out of the way first:

  1. we all have an emotional reaction to the NHS, as an institution it is well loved.
  2. we nearly all also accept it isn’t performing to it’s best ability at the moment & needs to change.

So taking those two things as read ( if you disagree on either please let me know by commenting) let’s have a look at who the NHS’s customers actually are. Continue reading


The language of mental illness: is it all madness?

It was World Mental Health Day on Friday of last week and I got to thinking about how much has changed since mental health issues first affected my family over 30 years ago but then also how much hasn’t. Some of the stigma of mental health illness has lifted but there are still a lot of people who are scared of sufferers and also many who believe they should just pull themselves together.

I was listening to something on the news and realised that we use completely different, and often negative, language when we talk about illnesses that affect our brains. The very word mental has very negative connotations yet illnesses like depression are just as life changing and life threatening as cancer, an illness which suffered the same sort of stigma years ago but which is now widely talked about. Ironically the chances of suffering from either type of illness are roughly the same, 1 in 3. Any one of us can be affected at any time. Continue reading