Weblog Entries for July 2005
July 28, 2005
When drivers no longer have the security of kerbs and traffic signals or signage, their behavior shifts accordingly; they exercise greater caution and restraint, becoming more observant and psychologically attuned to pedestrains. Less delivers more...Here's the underlying BBC article - can naked roads kill speed?
When customer service reps no longer have the security of scripted words and actions (or whatever else they depend upon for security), their behavior shifts accordingly; they exercise greater caution and restraint, becoming more observant and psychologically attuned to customers. Less delivers more...
I would like to propose an International No Flip Chart Week. During this period, no one will leap up in the middle of meetings and attempt to capture what's being discussed on a flip chart (or any high tech equivalent).
This often feels like a form of premature conceptualisation. A way of focussing too much on the explicit and measurable at the expense of the subtle stuff that happens when we allow ourselves to explore ideas together. Whilst on one level it appears to be a way of acknowledging ideas, at a deeper level I think it's a way of containing them, boxing them and avoiding being influenced by people.
Further reading: The tyranny of the explicit
Beware of approval
We are legitimately mystified, most of us confused between what we really want and what will gain approval. In our culture, based on Newtonian science and supported by mystification, we typically gain the approval we desire by not being ourselves, by not being artful.I think there's a deep seated fear that the loosening of control will tip us into chaos. One of the reasons I love Improv is that it keeps teaching me that when you let go of rules what emerges is not chaos but a new and often rather wonderful kind of order.
At work, to the extent that people are rewarded for being other than themselves, the company contributes to sustaining mystification and the wish for approval. This process precludes the possibility of artful work because artistry requires engagement of the self the true self, not the mystified self.
Our management technology, emerging as it does from the very paradigm it proposes to change, instead feeds the need for approval by focusing on reward systems, management style, recognition, and appraisal. This amounts to asking, How can we get people to do what we want them to do? The answer is, Encourage the need for approval. The implication is that, left to their own devices and free from the need for approval, people will do something destructive to the organization.
July 27, 2005
Lisa Haneberg is continuing her thoughts about stopping performance appraisals.
If you have a system that is damaging and everyone hates, why do you need a replacement? Why not just stop? Surely stopping the appraisal process would be helpful and a huge relief. I dont think we need an alternative to appraisals to discontinue their use.Makes sense to me. The people who suggest you can't get red of it without a replacement seem to fear the unknown. I'd suggest getting rid of it and see what emerges. Of course, this involves letting go of a command-and-control mindset. What a relief that could be.
July 26, 2005
$400,000 to stay the same
Stefan Liute points to the absurd story of Singapore authorities paying Interbrand $400,000 to rebrand Marina Bay... only to decide to leave the name unchanged. The really funny part of the coverage is this:
Finding the right name for the city-state's revised downtown, which will include the much-debated resort casino, a new business district and swanky retail outlets, was a process akin to parents deciding on a name for their child, [said, I assume] National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan.Well, most couples I know don't manage to spend $400,000 trying to think of a name for their child.
Interbrand, incidentally, position themselves as the authority on valuing brands. The words "lunatic", "in charge of" and "the asylum" come to mind.
Hugh, if you're reading, surely a cartoon comes to mind...
Haneberg confronts naked emperor
If you are expecting an objective journalistic article about the pros and cons of performance appraisals here, you have come to the wrong place. I don't think that would be a good use of time or space. Most people in their heart know that appraisals don't work, but the question is always what to do instead. The purpose of this series is to explore the scrap appraisals point of view and the potential alternatives. All week, I will go deep into this one topic.I have been out of corporate ville for such a long time now, I struggle to remember my last performance review. Personally, I wonder if HR folks have considered a new breakthrough technology: talking to people, finding time to reflect on how things are going, sharing experiences, appreciations, complaints etc day-to-day. But maybe they prefer the ritual of the appraisal and, of course, the exit interview? And of course, it's not so easy to sell an expensive consulting solution consisting of recommending honest conversation.
Making it up
Dan Gillmor has a good post about the standard PR practice of making up quotes. Snippet:
..it strains my brain to imagine that John Lee, senior vice president, CNN Newsource Sales, really told a PR person: "A more useful Web site continues CNN Newsources leadership position in communicating with affiliates, ensuring that they have all the information they need as quickly and reliably as possible from CNN. This newly designed interface is an easy-to-navigate portal that connects affiliates to the world of news. It is an efficient, intuitive, one-screen, information portal that lets each desktop user get immediate, topical information that they need from CNN to produce their local newscasts.
Freakonomics and complexity
Dave Pollard reviews Freakonomics. Like Dave, I think it's important to see the difference between complex and complicated. (This is the jumping-off point for my More Space chapter, to be published soon.)
By seeing systems as complicated, we leave the door open to "experts" to charge us lots of money for detailed analysis, as if problems can be solved if we know enough about them. The case study methodology of B Schools encourages this approach. If we see systems as complex, we can move beyond the quest for certainty and manage in the real world.
I fear, however, that some of the prophets of complexity are closted complicators. They manage to make complexity seem abstruse and difficult. They become experts in complexity. Which is fine I guess. But for the rest of us, a willingness to admit "I'm not sure" might be a more useful way to deal with complex problems.
July 23, 2005
Ogilvy Bloggers Guide
Ogilvy PR have published this guide to blogging (pdf 2.8MB). It's a well-produced introduction to blogging for the uninitiated - very well pitched for persuading corporates to take this seriously. Thanks to Declan Elliott for the tip.
Alternative perspective on blogging
The word "blog" is literally shorthand for "boring;" a vulgar, overused word that strikes your ear with the dull thud of a cudgel to the soft spot of a child. It's an abbreviation used by journalism drop outs to give legitimacy to their shallow opinions and amateur photography that seems to be permanently stuck in first draft hell.
July 22, 2005
Iomart and Easyspace
After my recent post about Iomart, a friend has emailed me. He was a happy client of Easyspace until they were taken over by Iomart last year. And recommends these three links to forums where users share their unhappy experiences. Dismal reading.
UPDATE In December 2005 my dispute with Internetters was resolved to my satisfaction. Credit where it's due, they have put things right now.
Compare and contrast
Howard Mann is the latest blogger to turn on Dell: Dell's Flat World Leaves Me Flat!. I'll put this in the box with my post of yesterday about Internetters/Iomart, who also have that same line about "I can put you through to someone else but they'll only tell you the same thing as me." Maybe we can add Earl Mardle's post on Optus as well.
In contrast, I'd like to report on my recent experiences with Movable Type and BlogBridge. For my modestly-priced MT licence, I get a software package that seems to be regularly improved and updated. Plus online tech support that is fast and thorough. They just fixed a problem with dynamic publishing for me.
And BlogBridge is an open source aggregator. So it's completely free as well as rather clever (it supports online synchronisation of feeds so I can switch between laptop and desktop and maintain the read or unread status of the entries in my feeds). I had install problems and left them a comment, not really expecting too much response cos, hey, the stuff is free. I get a personal, enthusiastic and helpful email from Aleksey Gureev, one of the developers, who says "We love our product and wish our users to be completely happy, that's why we are always happy to get any feedback."
It's a bit like the phenomenon where cheap hotels have free wifi, and the fancy ones charge you $10 a day.
That old adage about getting what you pay for is starting to look a bit rickety these days. I sure hope we can move from this subbrand of capitalism (shall we call it "CombatCapitalism"?) towards this more generous version.
UPDATE In December 2005 my dispute with Internetters was resolved to my satisfaction. Credit where it's due, they have put things right now.
July 21, 2005
The standard of service went into decline. In particular, the previously friendly telephone support became rude and unhelpful. I'm currently disputing a series of charges IOMART are trying to levy for accounts I still hold there.
I've noticed a number of angry comments online about IOMART.
Here's one thing that annoys me. They propose to charge £49 (thats around US$85) for the privilege of letting a customer transfer a domain away from them. This is a bit outrageous. (And given their hosting charges, I'd expect a lot of people to want to transfer away from them).
What's more, it's a flat contradiction of this promise, which still remains on the internetters web site here. Extract:
Domain name registration companies that have very low headline registration prices very often give you the domain name and nothing more... And if you want to move your domain name to another company for whatever reason, you may have to pay a release fee to the one you are leaving, even if you are actually doing all the transfer work yourself via an online Control Panel. This fee can be anything from £20 upwards - Internetters is aware of some companies that charge £100 plus VAT.Compare and contrast this statement within the internetters knowledgebase:
Some Internetters customers have also discovered that although the company they originally registered their domain with claimed to have "no hidden charges", in fact they were charged a release fee when moving the domain to us. You should specifically ask any prospective registration company whether or not they will charge you a release fee should you wish to leave them.
To transfer a domain from Internetters, for our customers' security all we ask is for the Registrant to send us a fax or letter on their company headed notepaper, or if the domain is registered to an individual, that they include some proof of identity such as a copy of their Internetters invoice / receipt.
If you have decided that you wish to transfer away, please ensure that you have all the information you require to hand and that you have followed your new Hosts instructions regarding domain transfers before proceeding past this stage.So a shabby change of policy, implemented incompetently.
If you are ready to transfer your domain away from us simply click "Proceed" which will take you to the secure online payment area. Please note that all domain transfers away incur an administration fee of £49.00 ex VAT.
You might have thought an internet company would be more aware than others that crappy behaviour like this gets noticed and talked about. I may be talking about them some more over the coming days...
UPDATE: In December 2005, after pursuing my complaint by post, Internetters wrote to me agreeing to release me from my contract without charge, and dropped some other charges I was disputing. They've also corrected the charging information for internetters customers. I think it's only fair to give them credit for sorting this out, even if it took a while.
July 20, 2005
The Business Experiment
Take a minute to check out The Business Experiment.
The Business Experiment is a site meant to explore three concepts: wisdom of crowds, open-source business, and the distributed nature of work. The goal is to have the registered users of this site collectively start and run a real business. Business plans will be written. Financing will be sought (if needed). Employees will be hired. Systems of accountability will be put into place.Rob's following the entrepreneurial principle of throwing mud at the wall. And I've thrown my first bit of mud by registering and as I write I'm taking part in my first poll - evaluating four business ideas.
Please go to the site and if you're remotely interested, register and let's see where this thing goes! (Interesting, I'm using "we" language, like I have a stake in this...)
July 19, 2005
Levelling the playing field
Vacuum or hot air ?
"The bikes used by cycling teams during their racing season are the most technologically advanced cycles in the world. From the strong, lightweight carbon frame to the 10-speed drive train, these machines have allowed the team to "sweep-up" the competition. But don't believe for a second the team has stopped striving to get better. Constant testing and tweaking are necessary if the team wants to stave-off the competition and stay on top.Like Katherine, I find this kind of rationalisation unconvincing. Actually, I find it absurd. It's a bit like kids at school that hang out with the cool people hoping that some of the cool will rub off on them. They'd do better to show some of their own personality.
Following that same line of thinking, BISSELL continues to create new and innovative cleaning machines to help you in your home. The BISSELL Lift-Off Vacuum with a detachable canister is the one vacuum for all your cleaning needs. The BISSELL Flip-It is a hard floor cleaner that easily "flips" sides for wet or dry cleaning! Always trying to meet your needs and help make cleaning easier, BISSELL innovation is second to none when it comes to cleaning your home!"
July 17, 2005
FT on blogging
July 16, 2005
Ton Zijlsta announces another blogwalk, this time in Seattle on September 2nd. Themes: "unconferencing, open space, and how on-line blogging exchanges migrate to face to face meetings". As Ton says, it's invitation-only but it's not hard to get invited.
July 15, 2005
Jeff Risley blogs that his firm is supporting a survey on cause-related marketing. He's looking for suggestions for questions.
They're talking to the causes as well as the marketing people. I'd be interested to know whether not-for-profits feel there is more to this than just generating revenue; do they feel there is an emotional impact on the company doing the marketing beyond extra sales? It would be interesting to get a comparison from them on the difference between campaigns that really satisfy them and those that feel hollow.
July 12, 2005
Podcast: English Cut
It was a very interesting chat, and I've edited it into a podcast. (Apologies - the sound quality is a little dodgy in places. I had to remove some background noise with Audacity and it makes it a bit weird at times.)
Tom makes a great case study for selling a premium product not by adding mystique and allure - the standard marketing approach - but by telling simpler and humbler stories about what the business is really like. What also comes across is an abundance mentality - reflected in the spirit of a business where people help each other out and where there's concern for the future of the sector as a whole, not just Tom's part of it. It's a refreshing approach to marketing - I hope you enjoy it.
Feed for MP3 podcasts for users of iPodder etc.
Show notes0.00 Introductions
0.22 Tom tells how the English Cut blog got started. He used to have a standard website. Then in chats with Hugh Macleod, he was told that his casual stories about the business were interesting, and weren't on any website. Hugh suggested a blog - something Tom had never heard of before. He started in January and response has been "through the roof".
0.57 Tom: "Its opened up a new market" Many potential customers had been intimidated by Savile Row. What's been marvellous is the effect of spelling things out about how the system works, giving more people the confidence to stroll in. Simple things like explaining the difference between being measured, and a fitting. "People feel better not dropping a clanger straight away."
2.19 James asks: is what works, stuff that Tom thought might be quite boring. Yes.
2.28 Johnnie: Marketing of high quality goods used to be about adding mystique... what Tom is doing seems to be the opposite of that. Tom: That is definitely true. People's taste in a lot of things is going that way. Because of the internet, people are learning more and less easily bowled over.
3.12 Tom tells of a friend who makes watches. His business suffered when quartz watches came out... but now there is a new market for the more traditional product. "I'd rather have something that's beautiful and loses 5 minutes a week."
3.41 Tom: It's the same with clothing. People want the story of the human being attached to the product, and the blog brings that element out.
3.49 James: People are more used to peering inside organisations, the blog allows people to do this.
4.06 Tom talks about the value of comments - no other marketing tool could have done this. He has had comments from 15 year-olds who want his product.
4.38 Jonathan talks about how some tailors try to keep the customer in the dark, but the reverse approach works better
5.07 Tom talks about the value in a bespoke suit. The amount of work involved, the style, the longevity.
5.52 James asks Tom to say more about the different customers he now attracts. Tom gets more of the existing types of customer, and some from a different market. Gives the example of a wealthy customer who found him through the blog.
6.54 Johnnie says some people see transparency as a threat to profitability - that doesn't seem to be happening here. "You're selling a premium product, more successfully, with more transparency." Tom explains that he doesn't see openness as a threat to making money; he looks for value for money and doesn't worry that people make a living out of a product.
7.58 James asks about the content Tom puts on the blog site. Tom explains how he put important things on the sidebar, for instance a section, "So you can't afford bespoke" which recommends Marks and Spencers over Hugo Boss. Then explains differences between ready-to-wear, made-to-measure and bespoke. And the work and skill that goes into bespoke: compare the cost of a roofing contractor doing two days on your roof to the effort to make a bespoke suit.
9.52 Tom also added a who's who of Savile Row, which people really liked. He talks about some of the differences between different tailors, not in terms of good vs bad but explaining qualitative differences in approaches. Getting beyond just labelling things as brilliant or not. He added an article about the different strengths and weaknesses of different cloths. "So people know, when they buying something special... the reasons they're buying it for."
12.02 Tom talks more about Savile Row as a people business. Gives an example of how people help each other out when there are problems. "The business is lovely, we do look after one another, there is plenty to go round."
12.46 Tom talks about the problems of attracting youngsters into the business, to spend 7 to 10 years learning the craft. The internet lifting the lid, and changing tastes, have created demand... now we need more tailors. The blog is now drawing potential students to the business. Tom talks about the superficial appeal of designer labels, but finds when teaching students that he can make bespoke tailoring sexy.
14.18 James asks Tom to summarise the difference between his blog and a conventional website. Tom: the personality of the author. A slight gossip element? Yes. Tom tells a story of the hierarchy at one of the tailoring firms - where you get a cup; a cup and saucer; a cup saucer and biscuit; or cup, saucer and biscuit on a little white tray - and its stories like this that make the blog interesting.
15.28 Johnnie reflects again on losing mystique in favour of a more interesting reality - and concludes.
This morning, I particularly liked Number 9:
Know why people often learn more from seeing the wrong thing than they do from seeing the right thing. Know why the brain spends far less time processing things that meet expectations, than it does on things that don't.This may be connected with my also liking points 11 and 12.
David Weinberger points to this good article byBritt Blaser. It's a challenge to the caffeinated coverage of recent attacks by mainstream meda - and by implication to our willingness to be stimulated by it: "we Americans admire the terrorism problem too much as a mass entertainment to wean ourselves off that particular drug." It's worth reading the whole thing; here's how he concludes:
Our brain - specifically the reticular formation (so-called "reptile brain") is set up to face threats first and only seek opportunities when not threatened. That bias for threat info sells stuff to us. To that end, the media has grabbed and holds our attention, robbing us of the chance to pay attention to something other than the media. The coverage has no content relevant to personal safety. Our obsession with every imaginable "threat" to our person has overwhelmed our ability to maintain our personal compass in the life we really live in. We forget that we're all going to die sometime.I certainly noticed I made a conscious effort to limit my viewing of broadcast news last week, addictive though it is, and, yes, I did find the alternative diet of bloggers relatively therapeutic.
But we're wired this way, so there's little chance we can talk our way out of this silliness, but we may be rescued by technology's steady march from broadcasting to narrowcasting. Broadcasters (a few sources casting broadly) must compete with each other for attention and ad revenue. Narrowcasters (many sources, beaming their message only to the few who tune in) report in a more human voice, uncluttered by inflated threat messages.
July 8, 2005
If you prick us, do we not bleed?
I went out to a meeting this afternoon, taking London buses in both directions. I won't pretend I didn't feel nervous; I did. There were a lot of buses with not many passengers and I sense my nervousness was quite general. Londoners are stoic - they are not without feeling.
Does this mean London has been cowed by the terrorists? No, I don't read it that way. I was thinking of Shakespeare: If you prick us do we not bleed? If you bomb our trains and buses, we will be hurt and we will feel fear. No need to pretend otherwise. Indeed, to the contrary, to feel fear under such viscious attack is the natural human response, it would be unnatural to pretend otherwise. We can leave the grandiose pretence of being above mere humanity to the deluded scum who perpetrated these acts.
On the bus home, at one point a disabled person in a wheelchair was helped aboard by the driver and a passenger. Later, after she alighted, a mother boarded with a three year old on one arm, and with a small baby in a pram. These are among the people who routinely use a London bus. They use it even in the wake of atrocities. We are a soft target, we don't pretend to be anything else. Only the most devious and twisted of imaginations could possibly regard bombing such people as proof of any kind of virtue.
And if you attack such people, we will be hurt and we will be frightened. Because we are in touch with our frail humanity. Please don't confuse the opposite of this, the denial of human vulnerability, with courage. That would be a big mistake.
And as well as fear, we will feel anger. This evening, no words can possibly convey the depth of my contempt for those who attacked London yesterday.
There's always one
Scoble points to Loic LeMeur:.John Gibson (Fox News) wishes the French would have suffered from the bombings
I usually find it helpful to separate a person's identity from his behaviour. This would guide me to criticise Gibson's comments rather than labelling him in an offensive way (for example calling him a slimy, blustering, irresponsible bigot). So I won't do that.
Instead, I'll say that I would not wish this tragedy on anyone. As a Londoner, I find it highly offensive for Gibson to use these events as mere material for ill-considered attacks on the French.
As I said in a comment on Loic's blog, "I know that the Brits and the French quite enjoy teasing each other but we also know when to show solidarity. As do most Americans. But not, it seems, this man."
UPDATE: There may be two. Media Matters reports Fox News Washington Editor Brit Hume's response to the bombings:
I mean, my first thought when I heard -- just on a personal basis, when I heard there had been this attack and I saw the futures this morning, which were really in the tank, I thought, "Hmmm, time to buy"UPDATE 2: Neil Turner points to News Hounds, a site which maintains a critical watch on Fox News and its eccentric world view.
July 7, 2005
We, Sokwanele, send our condolences to all the people of London at this frightening time. We encourage them to stand strong in the face of evil and to not let cowardly acts of terrorism destroy their optimism or belief in themselves, their country or their values. We are right behind you in spirit.So who are Sokanwele? Their blog bravely documents the daily suffering of Zimbabweans under Robert Mugabe. These are people who understand courage. Consider Flame Lily's story here, telling how she was arrested for selling her own clothes. or Faithful's report of a woman chased by police for four loaves of bread.
Or consider this:
Just look at the number of people in this picture attending the Live 8 concert in Hyde Park, London. How frightening it is to think that mugabe's cruel 'Operation Drive Out Trash' has succeeded in making MORE people than these depicted here homeless and destitute in the past month.I feel humbled, and touched, by a message of support from these brave souls.
You bomb us, we'll make tea
I have a prediction to make, that tomorrow we'll find out whether Britons are, still, in fact, Britons. Many years ago I was working in The City and there were two events that made travel into work almost impossible.(Turns out that Worstall is abroad too.) Sullivan also spots this, from the London News Review:
The first was a series of storms that brought down power lines, blocked train routes and so on. Not surprisingly, the place was empty the next day. Why bother to struggle through?
The other event was an IRA bomb which caused massive damage and loss of life. Trains were disrupted, travel to work the next day was horribly difficult and yet there were more people at work than on a normal day. There was no co-ordination to this, no instructions went out, but it appeared that people were crawling off their sick beds in order to be there at work the next day, thrusting their mewling and pewling infants into the arms of anyone at all so that they could be there.
Yes, we'll take an excuse for a day off, throw a sickie. But you threaten us, try to kill us? Kill and injure some of us?
Fuck you, sunshine.
We'll not be having that.
No grand demonstrations, few warlike chants, a desire for revenge, of course, but the reaction of the average man and woman in the street? Yes, you've tried it now bugger off. We're not scared, no, you won't change us. Even if we are scared, you can still bugger off.
What the fuck do you think you're doing? This is London. We've dealt with your sort before. You don't try and pull this on us.Here's Sullivan himself, with his pithy endorsement of British stoicsim:
Do you have any idea how many times our city has been attacked? Whatever you're trying to do, it's not going to work.
All you've done is end some of our lives, and ruin some more. How is that going to help you? You don't get rewarded for this kind of crap.
And if, as your MO indicates, you're an al-Qaeda group, then you're out of your tiny minds.Because if this is a message to Tony Blair, we've got news for you. We don't much like our government ourselves, or what they do in our name. But, listen very clearly. We'll deal with that ourselves. We're London, and we've got our own way of doing things, and it doesn't involve tossing bombs around where innocent people are going about their lives.
And that's because we're better than you. Everyone is better than you. Our city works. We rather like it. And we're going to go about our lives. We're going to take care of the lives you ruined. And then we're going to work. And we're going down the pub.
So you can pack up your bombs, put them in your arseholes, and get the fuck out of our city.
Brits regard the best response to outrage to carry on as if nothing has happened. Yes, they will fight back. But first, they will just carry on as normal. Right now, a million kettles are boiling.I'm not drinking tea these days, but I think I'll boil the kettle anyway.
Ok, an effort to return to business as usual.
The European Parliament has voted decisively against software patents. Good. But perhaps not as good as I thought, if Tim is right.
Business as not quite usual
I've just been out shopping. The roads round here are fairly quiet, but there are plenty of pedestrians, presumably displaced from public transport. Most of the buses that normally stream through Islington are missing, but I did see one loading up at Angel to head north. The shops were pretty quiet, with several closed, presumably because their staff could not get in. I'm still reflecting on the fact that bombs appear to have been placed at the two stations either side of the one I most often use, as well as, I believe, on a bus route I use from time to time. So quite close to home.
The Evening Standard on offer was obviously a preplanned Olympic celebration edition. An incongruity that Buddhists might see as representing the nature of existence.
I saw Red Ken (London's Mayor) on the TV, from Singapore. I thought he struck about the right note if slightly blustering at the end. I really liked that he emphasised how multi-ethnic London is, and emphasised the cowardice of an indiscriminate attack on people who would be of any number of faiths, beliefs, ages etc; an attack not on the powerful but on the vulnerable. Spot on.
I am hoping for a defiant return to business as usual soon, without being in denial of the shock and horror of what has happened here.
This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty and the powerful; it is not aimed at presidents or prime ministers; it was aimed at ordinary working class Londoners, black and white, Muslim and Christians, Hindu and Jew, young and old, indiscriminate attempt at slaughter irrespective of any considerations, of age, of class, of religion, whatever, that isn't an ideology, it isn't even a perverted faith, it's just indiscriminate attempt at mass murder...
(Addresing the perpertators) In the days that follow look at our airports, look at our sea ports and look at our railway stations and, even after your cowardly attack, you will see that people from the rest of Britain, people from around the world will arrive in London to become Londoners and to fulfil their dreams and achieve their potential.
They choose to come to London, as so many have come before because they come to be free, they come to live the life they choose, they come to be able to be themselves. They flee you because you tell them how they should live. They dont want that and nothing you do, however many of us you kill, will stop that flight to our city where freedom is strong and where people can live in harmony with one another. Whatever you do, however many you kill, you will fail.
I'm here... angry and anxious
The terrorists have returned to London.
I'm working from home this morning so relatively secure. And news travels ultra-fast - but is also confused and rumour-laden.
Already, I've had people contacting me to check I'm ok. Ton just rang from the Netherlands and Tony's on Skype at the moment from Melbourne. What a world we live in. Intimately connected and interdependent. Vulnerable to the behaviour of lunatics, yet also with the resilience of interconnection.
I'm sitting here trying NOT to follow every news bulletin. This is my current, possible futile, way of resisting being terrorised. And, of course, I am anxious, and concerned for all those who are suffering as a result of these bombers. It's hard to fathom the thinking of those who perpertrate these attacks and right now I'm way too angry to try.
I'm reminding myself that I've experienced this before living in London, though that doesn't right make me feel much better right now.
UPDATE: I'm now watching how this is being covered online and on TV. The TV is suffering already from rolling news syndrome: very high ratio of speculation to content. Jack Yan suggests New Zealand TV coverage is disproportionate. I think he's right. Watched a bit of Fox News and it was pretty dismal - some really ill-informed explanations of the London underground by an American wanting to sound like an expert but not actually having the facts.
I'm caught between my horror at what I see and a dislike of the way 24hr mainstream media sensationalises. Is this a stiff upper lip I'm starting to feel?
Lovely post by Chris Corrigan: Making Do. If you can't make do with this fillet, you might enjoy reading the whole thing.
Materialism and the acquistion of stuff infects so much of our lives, and goes way beyond simply acquiring material goods. We accumulate all kinds of other things too: practices, tools, ideas, paths, teachings. Sometimes, when we are most lost in this downward spiral, we think if I just had one more theory, one more facilitation tool, one more spiritual practice, I would be complete.
And the truth is, we rarely utilize all that we do have to it's fullest potential. We confuse span with depth, as Ken WIlber would put it: we think "more" equals "better."
You could for example acquire a whole range of meditation practices, or you could simply sit for twenty minutes a day for the rest of your life and be mindful of breathing...
"Making do" means stopping the act of skimming surfaces and settle down into deep appreciation of what we have around us.
Creativity: networks not stars?
First, I want to touch on the definition of creativity. I believe that it is more useful to approach creativity as cultural remixing that all kinds of people can do, than it is to label some professions as a creative class. Culture evolves through the recombination of existing elements into new, meaningful outcomes. Cities, who define creativity in terms of a specific class of professionals, risk turning a blind eye to the creative potential of, for instance, local hobbyists and teenagers, who are especially important creators of new culture.I strongly agree with that. I think it's useful to see creativity as a social phenomenon and get away from the genius-in-attic model. Working with teams, I try to highlight how we are all co-creators of our reality, and try to resist the notion that some people are inherently creative and others are not. This is not to discount the special talents of some people, nor is it to discount the research Richard Florida has done on what supports a creative climate in a city.
Jyri goes on to stress the value of creating easily accessible networks to support the recombination he talks about.
The creative city discussion could also benefit from a deeper appreciation of the role of technology. During the course of the last decade, computers have become the most important platform for remixing culture. It is likely that computer-based creativity will flourish in places where the ability to remix is supported by 1) a political climate that embraces online conversation; 2) cheap wireless access to the internet; and 3) regulation that sides with the new innovators against the interests of the established corporate elite. City officials can play an important role by launching creativity-enabling initiatives on the political, the technical, and the legal front.I agree. I think it's a major challenge for those in power to embrace this more democratic, bottom-up approach - and avoid the temptation of grandiose, celebrity-led schemes.
July 6, 2005
Olympics vs Mennonites
So London has won the 2012 Olympics. I have mixed feelings. I did not support our bid though I admire the skill with which Seb Coe and his team put the final bid together and presented it.
Among my concerns: the likely vast investment and the likelihood that it will mushroom, as public projects of this kind often do. The bid team talk about the wonderful things this will do for sport in Britain. I'd like to contrast this with this nugget that Rob Paterson reports today:
A study of Mennonite kids shows how having a life that has activity in it is much better for us than a life where physical activity is a separate program.At the moment, the media here are framing London's success through the tried-and-trusted frame of putting one over on the French. I'm excited to see London winning something, and I also fear we're being marketed a hyped and grandiose vision, where something humbler and simpler might be more satisfying.
"Even without gym classes and organized sports, old order Mennonite children are leaner, stronger and fitter than their counterparts in contemporary Canada, a new study suggested Tuesday.
The findings suggest that, even in the absence of formal exercise and sports programs, frequent physical activity during the course of everyday activities could be the key to achieving a fit and active life, researchers say.
These are the sorts of lessons we can learn from the old order Mennonites, Mark Tremblay, a kinesiology professor at the University of Saskatchewan who led the research, said in an interview.
They don't get up in the morning and say, I'm going to milk the cows for a workout.' It's just part of life and it keeps them healthy.
Is our approach of emphasizing organized and separate activity working? No it is is not. Time I think to look to a more active life. My little bit? Biking to town a few days a week and loading the wood in the winter
Call me a naysayer, I can live with it today.
UPDATE: I enjoyed quinparker's spam letter on the Olympic win. Here's the intro:
My name is LORD SEBASTIAN COE, chief International executeve of the London Team GB Olympics 2012 Bid, and I am writing to you to help regarding important matters of business that I hope may be of advantageous benefit to the both of us mutually.
Our organisation has become into money to the sum of (£) POUNDS TWO POINT FOUR BILLION (2.4bn £) for the purpses of holding a great Game in the city of Londons at supreme direction of famous IOC LTD.
In the podcast, he said mostly the big brewers had not seen him as a threat. Now he's planning an IPO, things may be changing...
Well it's started! As soon as we announce we're having a crack at the big boys, we get both the brewing duopoly here in Australia arcing up.Firstly, we get a call from the Australian Rugby Union telling us to remove the picture we have on our site www.brewtopia.com.au of 2 Australian Rugby players who are both holding our beers in their hands. We have to remove them as they are under contract to one of the Duopoly, Tooheys, even though the picture was taken at a charity event that WE sponsored.Let's hope he keeps up this irreverent style.
Next, if anyone has seen the NEW Blowfly Label we produced (and you voted for) you will notice its an old retro label with Blowfly Beer ORIGINAL on it.
Only this month has the OTHER brewing company re-released its most popular brand, Victoria Bitter (VB) as a retro label with Victoria Bitter ORIGINAL plastered across it, in a not dissimialr fashion to ours.Ah, imitation is the highest form of flattery.
Problems and solutions
Paul at Brand Autopsy writes
One of the earliest business rules I can recall that made a HUGE difference in my professional style was...Never present a problem to your boss without having a suggested solution ready. Don't be part of the problem, be part of the solution.It sounds like this rule has inspired and supported Paul in lots of ways. I'm curious to hear some examples as I know Paul to be a highly creative, positive kind of guy.
I also notice this rule alarms me.
Like most (all?) rules for human behaviour, I suggest this one needs to be broken, or at least reframed, sometimes. How do groups of people deal with really intractable but important problems if they can't start from where they are - and if where they are is confused, uncertain or feeling helpless - then what is so terrible for us about meeting them on that ground?
I dislike that formula, "don't be part of the problem, be part of the solution". I can see a positive intention, AND this sort of mantra can also be a great way to stifle doubt, criticism and evaluation; to prevent the kid from telling the emperor he's naked.
And there's a world of difference between my saying I see a problem and me being a problem. Muddling someone's behaviour with their identity is a great way to get a fight going but a poor way to support exploration. If the "boss" doesn't like what his subordinate says, he could own his own frustration instead of just labelling his colleague. Or, good heavens, maybe he could attempt to empathise with the problem-seer? Or perhaps they could both acknowledge they have different perspectives and that this might be the basis for an important conversation together.
And what is wrong with an interaction where one person sees a problem and another sees the solution? Suppose I have fallen off a boat and am about to drown. Behind me, out of my sight, someone has thrown a lifebelt. I cry out, in panic, "Oh my god, I'm drowning". Do you reply (A) "There you go again being negative, come back to me when you have a solution" or (B) "Look behind you, there's a lifebelt."
Sometimes the mere statement of a problem is a positive step towards finding a solution.
(For the intractable "wicked problems" of life, sometimes there are no "solutions"; the only sane course is to explore and feel our way through, never achieving absolute certainty. The demand for solutions in such situations can just lead to more trouble.)
Instead of lecturing the subordinate about being positive, maybe it's for the boss to have sufficient courage - compassion even - to recognise, and acknowledge, where the other is. If we're so damn full of positive feeling, let us lead by example, not start issuing orders to others. I am going to indulge in quoting myself here:
I think acknowledging other people's experience can be remarkably powerful, especially in situations of conflict. Yet it's something we as a race are incredibly bad at doing.
What we like to do is offer our interpretation of what someone tells us, or rush to suggestions on how to avoid having certain feelings, rather than simply acknowledge them.
Time and again, I find that when I stop and simply let someone know I've heard what they said, and the way they said it, the quality of conversation improves for both of us. And when others do it to me, the impact is similarly strong.
July 5, 2005
Perils of positioning wars
A good article by Jay Rosen about media coverage of the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice in the US. The story is of two sides of activists doing battle with each other where the battle itself seems to become more important than the issue allegedly at stake. Here's a snippet:
Reaching for her cliché gun, Robin Toner can say "nothing less than a national political campaign had begun," but she has no idea how it's supposed to work, either. Everyone parades around as if this mobilization of opposing armies makes perfect political sense, when in fact "all the time and money spent on campaigns may have little influence on the outcome."I think there's a moral here for marketers too. It's very easy to get sucked into positioning wars in which the focus is on the perceived competitor. What results is that what you have to say gets squeezed out in favour of negating the opposition, and the customer's needs and interests get forgotten. That mistake of defining ourselves by the other is a great way to stay in conflict with people, burn lots of energy, and end up disconnected from ourselves and the world.
Why does this go on? One reason is that activist groups, by opposing each other, use each other for mutual self-definition. They too don't know how their e-mail blasts and TV ads are supposed to work. Like spammers, they just send the stuff out. What they know is that the other side will be sending e-mail blasts and running TV ads. Spam must meet spam.
UPDATE: I thought later an example would be good, rather than just a general homily. In the UK, I'd pick on the mobile (cell) phone companies, who seem perpetually engaged in putting forward ever-more complicated pricing plans. It looks like they are all playing against each other, leaving customers bewildered. At some level it works because I give up trying to compare all these deals and stay put - and I think it must create an opportunity for someone to break through.
July 4, 2005
On Friday, I had a Skype conversation with Chris Corrigan and Rob Paterson. We discussed Unconferencing: how can we get away from unsatisfying conferences where the audience is often bored, towards much more engaging learning events?
Listen to the podcast:
Feed for MP3 podcasts for users of iPodder etc. (If you want a feed for .ogg versions, let me know)
Show notes0.00 Introductions
0.40 Chris reflects on the frustrations of conferences as usual, which have been highlighted by bloggers who are used to a more flexible way of sharing ideas and knowledge, yet find those processes seem to stop in conferences.
1.18 Chris talks about "keynote facilitation" instead of keynote speaking. How this changes the whole approach, and can work with low and high tech systems to help conferences reflect the social interaction of the blogosphere.
1.58 Rob describes a conference where he reinvented the role of keynote speaker at a conference to be more facilitative - and how this generated very lively conversation between participants, tapping into all the wisdom in the room - "that felt quite different from sitting, being presented at".
2.53 Rob continues to describe another conference Zap Your PRAM on Prince Edward Island, where "everybody was a presenter, everybody had content, everybody was heard."
3.08 Rob claims (cheekily)that Podcasting arose from that interaction, talking about how it fostered animated conversations between Dave Winer and the Exec Director of Trent University Radio (John Muir) about community radio.
3.46 Chris: "Conferences offer these amazing opportunities to link people who are in the room, and we rarely discover that kind of interaction except randomly and through coffee breaks... and that's a shame... and there's no reason for it." We have the means to make things better. Chris goes on to describe conference tools to help set up learning journeys for people in conferences, to really bring people's awareness to the fact this could be a quest for them.
4.51 Chris talks about people being on the Blackberries at conferences, doing their emails because they are bored. What if that sort of technology could be used to support conversations inside the conference room? For example to post to a virtual bulletin board for other delegates. "I'm the last person to say that we should get rid of the chaos, but to actually give more intention around that chaos" so that people can leave with some useful learning - which is what conferences are supposed to do. Johnnie talks about SpotMe by Shockfish - one example of this sort of tech.
6.27 Johnnie talks about the need for more human care in setting up conferences to be more interactive, maybe moving from keynote speakers to keynote listeners, helping to match people up according to their interest. And makes a plea for conferences to take more care of introverts!
7.20 Rob talks about the need for better physical space, getting away from the corporate style of hotels. An ideal conference would give tremendous consideration to the social environment and get away from the hotel environment.
8.11 Chris suggests we need to move away from conferencing as a teaching model, to conferencing as a learning model. "What we replicate very well in most conference settings is the teaching model... the teacher at the front of the room and people slip back into grade school... it's like high school with the Blackberries" So let's instead create a learning environment, and put the technology to that use. Create a collective pattern of what's happening. Example of World Cafe.
10.15 Johnnie talks about subverting the traditional role of speaker - can the audience teach the speaker things? And perhaps the most important "technology" we can bring to conferences is silence.
10.50 Rob expands on the idea of silence with an example from his work broadcasting for CBC.
11.40 Chris: "Silence is the fullness of possibility".
12.20 Rob asks Johnnie to tell the story of his experience around silence.. Johnnie talks about setting himself up as a keynote speaker to run out of material - and the lessons he learnt.
14.32 Rob talks about the importance of really allowing people to share their experience. The story of a former Green Beret sharing his Vietnam experiences and how if affected both the speaker and audience. This gives Rob an appetite for people being real: "I love to be entertained but I don't want to sit in front of somebody who is simply being clever."
16.06 Johnnie reflects on Rob's story: it's about spontaneity, and about a speaker and audience being joined in a sense of not knowing where things are going next, both being vulnerable. This would be part of moving from teaching to learning.
16.35 Chris: "If we're in the known all the time, there's nowhere to grow, nothing to do... beyond amusement and entertainment." "There's a tremendous collective intelligence to put to work for whatever end... It's disrespectful to invite people to come to something that is showcasing innovation or showcasing creativity... and then to put them into a standard conference setting."
17.21 Rob says there's a financial aspect to this, prompting a discussion of how the standard conference format seems to cost more, and cheaper events are often better.
18.35 Chris talks about creating a mutual uplift for people attending conferences, getting away from competitiveness and focussing more on shared issues. "Ask the question, what is it that the thousand of us who are here can do to bring us all up... to bring this entire field of enterprise.. to another level altogether?"
Listen to the podcast (20m 2s 18.3MB)
Podcast RSS feed (for podcast subscribers).
Who gave me permission to speak to students? Who gives me permission to broadcast my ideas to the world? Who gave me permission to talk about what I do and to open up about what I see both in my job and in the rest of my life?As Will puts it, "The Age of Disruption is upon us..."
I did. I have officially given myself permission to talk about where I work and what I do because that is where I work and what I do. I want the people I work with and work for to see what I do and know what I am thinking.
UPDATE (see comment below) Steve reports Crisis averted.
July 3, 2005
Join people where they are
Another great post by Patti Digh. She watches teams of people teaching a dog to pray, and draws some lessons for us mere mortals - Roll on the floor:
But how often when were trying to change someone's thinking or behavior about something important to us (trying to get them to be where we are) do we stand steadfastly where we are, repeatedly insisting they pray (insert your issue here) rather than looking at it from that person's perspective, going where they are to start the conversation?The whole thing is a good read, for facilitators and marketers.
I liked this article from Marketing Profs: The Worst Thing About Best Practices.
They rarely work
It's a follower's strategy
Change comes from within
They don't come with a manual
This is something I dwell on in my More Space chapter, of which more to follow in due course.
July 1, 2005
Do you speak Funagalo?
Having observed a lot of meetings and team activities I have concluded that many workers speak "Office Funagalo". Author McCall Smith tells us that Funagalo, a language invented for giving instructions in African mines, is good for telling people what to do: it has "many words for push, take, carry, load, and no words for happiness" (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency).Tony goes on to cite research which suggests higher performing teams have greater levels of appreciation, and more willingness to enquire than to advocate. I sometimes work with Virginia Satir's Temperature Reading approach, which creates room for appreciations and puzzles as well as information and complaints. In doing so, I think it helps teams create more space to escape the Funaglo trap.
Funagalo's limited repertoire restricts speakers' range of possible actions and responses. Researchers report that this kind of inflexible language narrows the range of behaviours that occur when a team works together.
Office Funagalo has no words to express support, acknowledgement or appreciation. Speakers can give or receive instructions, or criticise others. But such language leads to impoverished interactions among team members and damages performance.