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Goldman Sachs run the world

In wrapping up my TEDx Wall Street experience, there were a few other presenters who intrigued me. 

First was Rahaf Harfoush, who talked about the future of protest.

Rahaf is an author and ‘innovation strategist’, whatever that is, and focused upon the Occupy Wall Street, Arab Spring, Molly Katchpole and similar movements in the Year of the Protester.

The core of her speech about protest is the fact that as we now have the interconnectedness of everyone on the planet – seven billion people tweeting, texting and typing P2P – it changes everything.

It’s a subject close to my heart and that I blog and present on regularly.

But the slide that jumped out of Rahaf’s presentation is the one that showed all the American Federal Authorities have been infiltrated by former leaders of Goldman Sachs.


That’s something that’s well-known if you read books like “Too Big To Fail” and it’s no shock, as most of Europe is run by former Goldman Sachs bankers.

Goldman Europe

This means that no matter how much we doth protest, we will find it very hard to change anything when finance and government are forever intertwined (and don’t forget the muppets!).

Another session that intrigued me was Jeff Hoffman, founder of ColorJar, former CEO of Enable Holdings and co-founder of Priceline.com.


He talked about how to transform a business by thinking like a five year old.

This came about because he was looking after his grand-daughter one day who asked all the silly questions no-one knows how to answer:

  • Why is the sky blue?
  • Where does the Sun go when it disappears?
  • How do they make glass?
  • Why do you never see baby pigeons?

… and more.

He took the wee girl into the office and she looked around for ten minutes, and then asked a load of difficult questions like:

  • Why does that girl spend all the time on the telephone?
  • Why do you have that machine over there and what does it do?
  • Why does the post arrive after everyone is in the office?
  • How do you know where the calls go?

… and more.

Jeff said that he sat listening and was going to ignore all she said … and then thought:

  • Why does that girl spend all the time on the telephone?
  • Why do we have that machine over there and what does it do?
  • Why does the post arrive after everyone is in the office?
  • How do we  know where the calls go?

… and more.

He realised he had no answers and so asked folks to go find out.  The result was a massive business improvement.

I guess that’s the key to transforming a business: ask the stupid questions as, quite often, you’ll find the answers aren’t what you think.

It’s also to do with the three ages of homo sapiens:

  • Child: Why?
  • Teen: Why can’t?
  • Adult: Because …

I use this quite often when looking at futurism, which is to look towards teens an children for future trends.

Children rush towards the future which is why they are 8 ½ and 13 ¾ … adults are trying to avoid the future which is why we’re forever 21 or 35 or whatever.

Children want the cheese to move, whilst adults don’t want anyone to move their cheese.

And that’s the key for trasnfomrtion – challenge everything and think outside-in.

Here’s the twitter stream from Jeff’s session:

Chris Skinner ‏ @Chris_Skinner: Jeff Hoffman of ColorJar and Priceline on stage now #TEDxWS

NYSE Money Sense ‏ @nysemoneysense: @ColorJar Founder Jeff Hoffman got totally schooled by a 5-year old. Only at #TEDxWS.

@Chris_Skinner: If you lose your child-like wonder because you’re busy, you stop seeing things clearly. #JeffHoffman #TEDxWS #TEDxWallStreet

@nysemoneysense: I lost my childlike wonder, because I was busy. We see the same things every day, so we stop seeing them. -@ColorJar’s Jeff Hoffman #TEDxWS

@Chris_Skinner: “You see the same things every day and, as a result, you stop seeing anything. Think like a five-year old.” #JeffHoffman #TEDxWS

Mona Ahmed ‏ @MsMonaAhmed: How do we lose the ability to wonder? @ColorJar brings us to reality and makes us think like a child! #tedxws

@nysemoneysense: It is important to wonder about everything like a child does. Successful and innovative people do this. -@ColorJar’s Jeff Hoffman #TEDxWS

EI digital ‏ @EIdigital: I want you to think like a child and question everything you do. #JeffHoffman #tedxws

@nysemoneysense: The world’s most successful people remove all their filters and open their minds. -@ColorJar’s Jeff Hoffman #TEDxWS

@Chris_Skinner: “Remove the filters from your mind” if you want to reinvent things #JeffHoffman #TEDxWS #TEDxWallStreet

@nysemoneysense: The world’s most successful and innovative people don’t just wonder about their own domain. -@ColorJar’s Jeff Hoffman #TEDxWS

Stephane Guittet ‏ @sguittet: Let’s do Info-Sponging = let your mind wander -Jeff Hoffman #TEDxWS #TEDxWallstreet

Ali O’Rourke ‏ @NYSEAli: Info-sponging. Hoffman spends first 20 min of day looking at stuff totally unrelated to his daily world. @colorjar #TEDxWS

@nysemoneysense: Infosponging: For 20 mins, leave your industy mentally and let your mind wander. -@ColorJar’s Jeff Hoffman #TEDxWS

David Adler, BizBash ‏ @DavidAdler: Jeff Hoffman -Tedx talks abt Info-Sponging – Look out side yr domain. Gather Data & connect dots- innovative ppl do it….. #TEDxWS #bizbash

@nysemoneysense: There’s a lot of data out there. How to decide what to pay attention to? -@ColorJar’s Jeff Hoffman #tedxws

@Chris_Skinner: The key is to absorb all that information and connect the dots #JeffHoffman #TEDxWS #TEDxWallStreet

@Chris_Skinner: You have to filter out a data intense world. That’s a lesson I learned from Sam Walton, founder of wal-mart #JeffHoffman #TEDxWS

@NYSEAli: Filter data by getting rid of the stuff that’s not important to your customers. @colorjar #TEDxWS

Russell Fugett ‏ @JRussellFugett: #Infospunging -“Gather information from a world bigger then your own. Jot it down & #connectTheDots.” – Jeff Hoffman #TEDxWS #TEDxWallStreet

@Chris_Skinner: Priceline has a $35bn valuation and was launched by connecting disparate pieces of information from many industries #JeffHoffman #TEDxWS

@Chris_Skinner: How can you design products for customers if you never live in their shoes? #JeffHoffman #TEDxWS #TEDxWallStreet

@NYSEAli: #jeffhoffman is my favorite speaker so far today. Lessons I can use. #TEDxWS

@Chris_Skinner: Great speech – key lessons are think like a five year old with a spirit of wonder #JeffHoffman #TEDxWS #TEDxWallStreet

Now there’s a happy thought for Easter.

Talking of which, there are many other sessions worth a full write-up if I had more time, but it’s Easter and so I’m going to go underground for a few days and grunge with chocolate till Tuesday.

Having said that, there is one other moment of worth.

Matt Gould and Griffin Matthews were, we all agreed, the most viral moment of TEDx Wall Street.

Matt and Griffin have written a musical opus called Witness Uganda, and performed some of this on stage.

Witness uganda

They rocked the place.

We were all singing and clapping along to the final refrain of Bella Hosana, and all agreed that this would be the TEDx Wall Street video clip that would go viral as the message was that “if you think you can’t change things, just try … be the light”.

You can watch this clip if you like (16 minutes):

A nice way to leave for an Easter break.

Have a great holiday and see y’all next week.





About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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