A Weekend With the Stars

Last Thursday I was casually informed by a (very pleasant and professional) Press Officer of Queen’s University that UTV Life wanted me on Friday. It was to involve a ‘sofa chat’ with local presenter Frank Mitchell. Although it was my course on Jedi Training that sparked off their interest in me, the context was the big ‘Knights of the Empire’ event at the Odyssey at the weekend.

The show was due to go out live on Friday 3rd between 5:30 and 6 pm. I landed in the studio just before 5 and sat in the plush foyer wating patiently. When who walked in but David Prowse! Continue reading “A Weekend With the Stars”

Customer Experience Counts (Now, More Than Ever!)

It’s not often that airports lead the way in showcasing a commitment to excellence in customer service. I mean, come on, we’ve all been there – it’s as if any sign of a personality has been surgically removed. You have to remortgage your house to buy a sandwich, and then realign your taste buds in order to enjoy eating it.

It seems that a certain English airport is bucking the trend. East Midlands Airport recorded its busiest year on record in 2008, despite the tough economic climate (Airport has ‘busiest year ever’). This is against a backdrop of a weak pound, an economic downturn, and a growing distaste of air travel among the political elite (except when it comes to themselves). So did they achieve this feat? Continue reading “Customer Experience Counts (Now, More Than Ever!)”

Body to Body, Funk to Funky

So this week I’m resting frorm the rigours of teaching another public workshop at Queen’s University, Belfast. The subject? Body language. The title? Body to Body: How to Communicate Without Words.

It’s the second time I’ve led this workshop at Queen’s. Both times it’s been the largest, most popular course I’ve ever taught. Both times, the numbers have been well over the 40 mark. But there have been a few changes over the years.

Back in 2006 when I first taught the course I tried to lay a foundation of theory before offering some application and role-play. This time I launched straight into it with a ‘Top Ten Uses of Body Language in Evey-day Life’. Only after this I squeezed in a bit of theory before lunch, mentioning the likes of Mehrabian, Morris and Eckman. After lunch, I hit them with 10 ‘Special Techniques’ of nonverbal-communication they could try out upon unsuspecting friends and colleagues. The day finished with a test and ‘graduation’! Continue reading “Body to Body, Funk to Funky”

Automatic for the People


Automatic for the People is the name of an album by one of my favourite groups, REM. Critics said they “created an album that was musically subdued and dealt with mortality”. Indeed.

It also describes the way most people walk through life: acting without conscious control, mechanical, thoughtless. Psychologists call this automaticity. Some see it as a useful ability, a stage of learning in which ‘unconscious competence’ has been reached. Others, like Ellen Langer, see it as the opposite of a mindful approach to learning and life. Continue reading “Automatic for the People”

Jedi Workshop Goes International!


Well, kind of. I was interviewed this morning by Steve Chase of ABC Radio in Australia.

Media coverage for this course has snowballed at an unbelievable rate in the last week. Dawn mentioned some of the radio interviews I’ve done in the last blog, as well as the inital exposure with the Newsletter and the BBC.

This in addition to the national newspapers that were generous with their space… at least on-line. First of all there was the Guardian Educational Supplement, hotly pursued by the Times Higher Education Supplement. The latest treatment was by the Times Online, which is interesting because of the comments generated (not all of which are flattering). The Daily Telegraph is in on the act too.

Dopiest question award? Continue reading “Jedi Workshop Goes International!”

The E-Factor

The E Factor: Entrepreneurial Competencies for Person and Business Success

David Gibson (Queen ‘s University, Belfast)

It is not often that a book on entrepreneurship yanks my chain. Usually such books are either of the motivational variety nowadays penned by some TV ‘personality ‘ or the innocuous how to start a business kind. Both have their place, I suppose. The first provides entertainment wrapped as education, while the second passes on information of the sort that you would be hard-pressed not to classify as ‘textbook tedious ‘.

They both have their limitations. At best, a book about/by Richard Branson or some Dragon ‘s Den expert can show you where you want to go. And a start-a-business book can map out your first practical steps and keep you on the right side of the law. But how can you link the two realms together? How do you get from the starting blocks to the finish line? What sort of person do you need to become? Continue reading “The E-Factor”

A Positively Brilliant Workshop

On Saturday 6th December I delivered a 1-day workshop at Queen’s University called The Psychology of Happiness: How to Grow Your Happy Skills. Its purpose was to introduce the students to the new positive psychology movement, and to the thoughts of Martin Seligman and Mih√°ly Cs√≠kszentmih√°lyi in particular. Those who read the blog will know that I’ve reviewed Seligman’s latest work Authentic Happiness before, and I’ve also captured the two of them in a fascinating conversation.

In the workshop I did four things. First, I discussed Seligman’s analysis of the three types of happy life: the Pleasant Life, the Good Life, and the Meaningful Life. Then I explored the whole notion of optimism, perhaps Seligman’s main contribution to the field of academic psychology. After lunch, it was time to check out our signature strengths. Finally, we applied all this to the area of work, that most usual and difficult source of unhappiness. Continue reading “A Positively Brilliant Workshop”

The UK’s First University Jedi Course

Last Saturday (15th November) I delivered my long-anticipated university workshop on Star Wars called Feel the Force: How to Train in the Jedi Way. There was an excellent turn-out (over 30 apprentices from all ages, genders and species) with fabulous feedback. We had a great time together; lots of humour, lots of discussion, plenty of new ideas to ponder, students left hungry for more. All a training session should be.

Five interesting things came out of it:

(1) People from different employment sectors enquired if I could provide business training for them based on the workshop. Some wanted the Star Wars link, other were keen on the fact that I made standard training topics – Assertiveness, Emotional Intelligence, Ethics – interesting. I didn’t foresee this (so maybe I’m not much of a Jedi), but it’s an exciting development. I’m due to give a couple of Jedi-themed corporate talks in December for the Institute of Internal Auditors (in Belfast and Dublin). May the Force be with them!

(2) There was a contingent of journalists there, so the story still has resonance with the public-at-large. May the force be with them too! Continue reading “The UK’s First University Jedi Course”

Borat Comes to Queen’s University

As our regulars will know, Sensei does a fair amount of work with The Queen’s University of Belfast. We work with The School of Education, designing and delivering courses for the Open Learning and Continuing Professional Development programmes. The Queen’s academic year is divided up into three terms – Autumn, New Year, and Spring. You can see from the OL brochure that Dawn and I have courses running for the first two terms.

I got a letter from QUB a few days ago to remind me that they are currently receiving proposals now for the Spring programme. I’ve a few ideas already, but then I had a better one. Continue reading “Borat Comes to Queen’s University”

Mind-tricks, Magic, and the Media

Interest in my Jedi ‘university workshop’ has, I think, climaxed. I’ve mentioned that I was interviewed on ABC Radio in Oz. The latest is an interview on Danish Radio Station DR, who were pretty into it.

So it was comforting to learn that I’m not the only wacko innovative, lateral-thinking teacher around. Professor Richard Wiseman has told the British Association Science Festival that teaching magic tricks helps pupils perform better. They learn a cluster of social skills – like empathy, confidence, and social intelligence – that are otherwise difficult to teach.

For those of you interested to know what happening out there with the Jedi course Continue reading “Mind-tricks, Magic, and the Media”