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Month: March 2011

Our lives but a poetry of place?

Birmingham Central Mosque by george daley via flickr“Birmingham’s what I think with.  It’s not made for that sort of job, but it’s what they gave me.”
Roy Fisher

    Is it true that thinking about the objects around us helps us see opportunity and choice?

    Are our lives poetry of ‘our place’?  Even if we not conciously writing its poems?

    • What thoughts did I have today because of my surroundings?
    • Did I even notice my surroundings?

    Would I think differently if I rearranged my surroundings and made them more attention?

    Would I enjoy thinking that way?

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    3 simple ideas for leading in today’s turbulent workplaces

    Walk-this-way-by-garryknight-via-Flickr.jpgDespite waves of change, life stood still

    We were at war

    I went to university at a time of radical social change.  Not to put too fine a point on it, we were in the middle of a revolutionary war.

    But psychology was cruising a plateau

    My nation might have been at war with itself, but profession was not undergoing great change.  Being a student was a matter of learning about behaviorism and functionalism and Marxism and   .  .  . and  .  .  .

    And psychology continued to cruise even when real change had happened

    It was only later that cognition made sufficient impact to affect professional life and one look at textbooks will tell you that psychologists were so complacent about the permanency of their approach that they simply edited cognition out of the applied text books.

    An astonishing number of people have been left behind

    Wave after wave of students have graduated without knowing how to do cognitive task analysis and if they have a glimmer, they do cognitive task analysis without agency.

    If you believe the typical psychologist, people do work without knowing what they are doing or caring about what they do.

    Mindfulness means the story of here & now

    Students don’t even study management because organizations “just are”.    It doesn’t even seem to occur to psychologists that context is king.  Mindfulness does not seem to suggest that paying attention to the moment may be important because the moment is important.  We look for generalizations because we believe that generalizations hold and following perfect recipes is the formula for the good life.

    How deadening.  How certain to create depression and ill health.  How certain to lead to economic and financial disaster.

    How odd.

    From paying attention to action in the moment


    • Context
    • Attention
    • Visualizing (not planning) and getting feedback (not making assumptions)

    are both better descriptions and prescriptions of life at work, then what are the actions?

    Last night, I read Gail Fairhurst’s paper on new ways of understanding leadership.  She describes new ways of thinking about work.

    1. “Delve deep into context” and be content with understanding all the different ways that the people present understand and talk about the issues.
    2. “carve out room for maneuver while others remain stymied by disparate or oppositional Discourses (Huspek, 2000)”
    3. “draw upon alternative Discourses” to have fun

    OK, the have fun bit was mine.  But, the remainder of the 3 points are from Gail T. Fairhurst.

    This is very different from the psychology and management of my youth which assumed:

    • There is a good way to do this
    • The old guard know best
    • This is what you have to do (and please leave mind, spirit and sense of humour at the door!)

    To recap: The action of  here & now

    1. The truth is in the wide range of realities described by people who are present.
    2. Some views  will be mind-hoovering, locked in old conflicts and defining the world as impossible.  Find the way forward.  There always is one.
    3. Present (and act out) alternatives in a spirit of fun.

    In thirty years’ time, people may think differently again. And so they should.  What counts are the views of people who are there at the time!



    Fairhust, G. T. (2009).  Considering context in discursive leadership research. Human Relations, 62(11), 1607-1633.

    Download a copy fast because Journals don’t give away freebies all that often.

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    Fumblings with poetry

    (Notes take largely from James Rother’s blog)

    Poetry to the rhythm of a heart beat

    “The iambs’s not a normal way of speech”

    Te Tum Te Tum Te Tum Te Tum Te Tum

    Poetry to the rhythm of our breaths

    “so much depends

    a red wheel

    glazed with rain

    beside the white

    William Carlos Williams


    [Breaking at breaths of American speech (at the time); each line advancing the action; the paragraph being a self-contained form – a second paragraph might have had a different form]


    Which captures the imagination more readily?

    Which is easier to remember?

    Which allows fresh and surprising pairing of words?

    My questions

    Which offers possibility and what sort?

    Which affirms identity and whose?

    Rhythmic poetry or free-verse?

    Poetry : a rope bridge of vowels

    Prose: a causeway of consonants

    The metrical poem : begins with an assumption of human life which takes place in a pattern of orderly recurrence with which the poet must come to terms (Hass)

    The free-verse poem : begins with an assumption of openness or chaos in which order must be discovered (Hass)

    Most metrical poems : by establishing an order so quickly, move almost immediately from the stage of listening for an order to the stage of hearing it in dialogue with itself. They suppress animal attention in the rush to psychic magic and they do so by laying claim to art and the traditions of art at the beginning.  (Hass)

    The free-verse poem : insists on the first stage of sensual attention, of possibility and emergence—which is one of the reasons why it seemed fresher and more individual to the twentieth century. . . . (Hass)


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    Sour grapes or dog in the manger or cutting off your nose?

    Split Rock Lighthouse in the Late Afternoon Sun by pmarkham via FlickrStatue at Tsarskoe Selo

    Having dropped an urn with water, a maiden shattered it against a cliff.
    The maiden sits sadly, holding the empty crock.
    Miracle! the water doesn’t run dry, flowing out of the shattered urn;
    The maiden, above the eternal stream, sits eternally sad.


    I found this translation of a Russian poem and think it so appropriate to times of great societal change.  What is the equivalent in English – sour grapes or dog in the manger or cutting off your nose to spite your face?

    And if one doesn’t want to be defensive or sulk in the face of unwelcome change, what is the alternative – in poetry or fable?

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    How fast can you play Social Chocolate?

    Oliver shares with Maeve

    So you have social graphs and networks aced?

    So you understand social graphs and social networks?  If you do, please check this and educate me and together we can pass our knowledge on to others.

    If not, I’ve set up an A/B test for you here.  I can guarantee that by the time you have played Social Chocolate, read the short tutorial, and played Social Chocolate a second time that you will radically improve your ability to influence your network.

    Play Social Chocolate

    To test your initial knowledge of social graphs, play Social Chocolate.  Your goal is to complete 12 quests, or levels, and be given the key to the secret wall.

    It’s hard.  You have to persist.  And of course, note your start and finish times!  You want to beat your time next time you play!

    Tutorial in social graphs

    Even after playing Social Chocolate a few times, I was still struggling with a few quests.  So I looked up the theory.

    Connections of a node, vertex, or person in a social graph or network

    The number of connections to any node or vertex or person is a measure of popularity.

    We all understand that.  How many followers do we have on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter?

    Closeness of a node, vertex, or person in a social graph or network

    Mathematicians calculate our closeness in a network as the shortest path to reach everyone

    The person with the lowest closeness can reach everyone the quickest.  If they put out a message , it will reach everyone in the shortest route.

    Obviously, if the routes are short, there is not only a time & cost saving.  The network is also less prone to failure and messages are less prone to distortion.

    Interestingly, closeness is not equal to connections and the reason is that social networks are not homogenous in shape or density.

    Someone with a high profile is connected with part of the network – but may have distant ties to other important parts of the network.  A big fish in a small pond phenomenon.

    Closeness means a short path to a lot of people not just having a lot of first degree connections.  Think 150x150x150 not 450 x 50 x 15 x 10.

    Betweenness in a social graph

    A person has a high betweenness rating links two otherwise unconnected groups.  Simply, if you take the person away, two people would no longer be able to reach each other.

    Betweenness ratings are actually calculated, like the closeness rating, to reflect the shortest paths in the network.  We have a high betweenness rating if a lot of people reach each other in the shortest way through us.

    A person who is not particular “popular” within a group may be a valuable connection to a world over the group’s natural horizon.

    The question to ask is whom do we connect who could not reach each other without us.

    Eigenvector of a node, vertex, or person in a social graph or network

    The eigenvector that most of us is familiar with is Google Pagerank.  An eigenvector sums up not only the number of our links but the quality of the links to us.

    A web page has a high page rank if other highly ranked pages connect to it.

    Likely closeness, eigenvector isn’t everything.  Betweenness adds unique value and tells us about the edge and the potential of our network.

    Which role do you play in your network and which role do you prefer?  Close knit, between or eigenvector connecting to powerful players?

    Clustering or cliqueness in social graphs and networks

    And of course, we have cliques.  We know cliques from high school because they are unwelcoming and dismissive of outsiders.

    What we don’t always grasp as teenagers is that cliques are redundant.  If Jane tells everything to Mary and to Elizabeth, and they do the same, one of the three girls is actually redundant.  As teenagers, we understand this vulnerability to exclusion and intuit why cliques are such bitchy groups.  Now we know why in mathematical terms.

    We need to note the cliques in our network but why belong to a group with redundant connections?  The network is putting a lot of effort into duplication where they could be spreading out and connecting.

    Most of us are still scared of being rejected by a clique but they only matter if they are very well connected to other people too.  While that is possible on paper, it is less possible in real life where time is a real constraint.  Because cliques are closed to other members, they can often be lost without damaging the network as a whole  Contrast this with the damage of losing the mediation value of someon with “betweenness”  or the contagion value of someone with “closeness”.

    Taking action with knowledge about your social graph

    When you draw your social graph on paper, you are probably concerned with the most obvious feature – how many connections do I have?

    What you also want to know is

    • What is the shortest path to everyone in the network?  Who is contagious?
    • Who connects to whom through me, and who connects me to others? What is my mediation value and who are the mediators in this group?
    • Where are the cliques and are they useful cliques or neurotically redundant?
    • Where is the shortest path between powerful players?  It is quite possible that a relatively “unclose” or “unbetween” player connects two powerful players!

    Test B: Replay Social Chocolate

    Now replay Social Chocolate.

    Even allowing for your earlier experience of the game, are you playing it any better?  Are you more thoughtful and controlled?

    I did the whole game in 7 minutes this time. How about you?


    And comments for me?  How can we improve the tutorial so that people develop an thoughtful approach to their social graph?


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    Are you grasping for the moon in the water?

    die Nacht des Werwolfs by itta mar via FlickrWhat is the moon in the water for you?

    My profession is riddled with questions that were once as compelling as the moon in the water.

    • Leaders are born
    • Leaders are made
    • Intelligence comes in bigger and smaller packages.

    It took us some time to realise that what we wanted so badly wasn’t unattainable – it was an illusion.

    It’s not so bad, though, to lie back on the grass and look at the moon overhead, is it?

    We’ve just got to let go and let the universe whisper its secrets to us.


    I watch the people in the world

    I watch people in the world
    Throw away their lives lusting after things,
    Never able to satisfy their desires,
    Falling into deeper despair
    And torturing themselves.
    Even if they get what they want
    How long will they be able to enjoy it?
    For one heavenly pleasure
    They suffer ten torments of hell,
    Binding themselves more firmly to the grindstone.
    Such people are like monkeys
    Frantically grasping for the moon in the water
    And then falling into a whirlpool.
    How endlessly those caught up in the floating world suffer.
    Despite myself, I fret over them all night
    And cannot staunch my flow of tears.


    Taigu Ryokan (1758-1831)

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    3 advanced tips for marketing professional services

    In the spirit of Who's on First ny twm1340 via FlickrI broke my toe and learned 3 ways advanced tips for marketing professional services

    The back story

    Two weeks ago, in the middle of the night, I stubbed my little toe.  Hard.  It hurt a lot.  And it really didn’t look good.  Sticking out sideways  just didn’t seem like a “just grin and bear it thing.”

    Being a good twenty-first centurerer, I did what all citizens of the internet do.  I hobbled over to the computer, switched it on and began.

    1.       I wanted to solve a problem: where could I get medical attention in small town England in the early hours of Sunday morning.

    2.       What medical attention did I need?  What should I be doing, if anything?  What do I need to arrange to have done?

    Getting my toe fixed turned out to be a long story but I didn’t want it this to be a “whinge” story.  Britain has enough whinging poms.   So I wrote down what I experience in detail as excrutiating as the pain in my toe and extracted

    • Three ways that I don’t want to do business
    • Three ways I do want to do business

    #1  Keep the conversation on the expert thinking that the customer came to you to buy

    When I arrived at A&E, I was told that I could wait one hour for “triage” and then two hours to see a doctor.

    I was already ambivalent about being in A&E and the decision was thrown back to me as if I was a naughty child who was being offered strawberry ice-cream or nothing.   What was this conversation about, exactly?

    I think that what should have been communicated to me was this:

    • We need a doctor to look at your toe.
    • Because a bust toe is not life threatening, you will be in the “minor queue” and it takes one hour to get to see the nurse who will take some notes (I refuse to call that triage as they did) and then another another two hours to see a doctor.
    • Please make arrangements to stay here for 3.5 hours.

    That would have communicated their decision in medical terms, explained to me quite adequately why I would have to wait, and directed my attention to what I could do to help.

    My main takeaway of this experience was that until I reached a doctor – more than 12 hours after the event  and 10th interaction into the process – I had no medical conversation at all.  The first nine interactions, beginning with the website, were simply not about medicine.

    Takeaway : Where is the expert thinking?

    How quickly do customers reach the expert thinking that they hire me for?  Or are they getting tangled up in god knows what other considerations that are really not their concern?

    #2 Dominate the top SEO on “how to buy” for your industry

    I made some effort to get medical help at 2 am in the morning because information on the internet suggested I should (within 4 hours).

    If we are gleaning what we can from this website and that, this is not good for NHS as a business.  It is not good for any business.

    It’s best to make sure that the general method of making a buying decision in our segment gets good SEO and if we aren’t big enough to make it happen, we should ensure that our trade body does!

    Takeaway: How good is our public information service?

    How does the ‘public’ understand our sector and what questions do they put into Google?  Let’s answer them and drive those posts to the number 1 spot on the page.  It’s foolhardy to leave public understanding to chance.

    #3  Match the conversion process to the profit level of the sale

    Ultimately, a fully qualified surgeon strapped my toe.  He explained that he would not even Xray it because no matter what he saw, the treatment is the same.

    By the time I spoke to him, he was my 10th point of contact with the NHS.  Four of those points actively tried to not make a decision and thus left we with one choice only – to stay in the queue.  One gave me flagrantly incorrect information (postal code) and another corrected it.  Three we helpful  (3/9).

    To use Google’s language, there is a system of “conversion” that took me deeper and deeper into the system.  Each conversion step costs the NHS (and me) and ultimately, the service was delivered very expertly but very expensively.  My foot was strapped by someone with 30 years of education and training and 10 years’ international experience.

    Of course, this formula might make sense in some way when we look at the whole picture of the NHS.  I’ll leave running them to them.

    What I learned was to track the whole conversion process and make sure the ROI makes sense at track level.   The truth is that getting a busted toe strapped is akin to buying a coffee at the railway station.  I would like it to be better than the coffee I can buy in a British Railway Station – so let’s make that akin to buying a cold beer or coke.

    It needs to be quick and easy.  There shouldn’t be a lot of queuing.  S’truth, if you can buy fresh crab from a vending machine, there should be some way for light injuries to be seen to quickly and easily without requiring people to be treated by massively expensive people.

    Takeaway: Have we bundled our service correctly?

    Let’s begin at the value of the sale and work backwards.  We have to devise marketing techniques that match our profit levels.  Coke can do it. So can we.


    So that’s what I learned from along expensive saga of stubbing my toe at 2am on a Sunday morning .  Given that I am a psychologist

    • How quickly can someone ask a question about a psychological problem in their business and get a clear answer about their choices?
    • If they put that question into Google, would the no 1 position be dominated by advice that I agree with?
    • What is this sale actually worth (to my customers and me) and are we delivering the service where they need it at the right price?

    Well, I can’t answer these three questions that easily myself.  So I will store them away and watch myself.  Maybe 12 hours with the NHS will lead me to improve my business.

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    7 reasons why your employees won’t tell you bad news

    Me, Guy Kawasaki and Robert Scoble by scriptingnews via FlickrThe problem: Employees not delivering bad news

    Someone asked me today –

    “If, for argument sake, a head waiter in a restaurant knows there is a problem but either can’t, won’t or fears telling the chef, would that reflect top-down management?

    If not, what would you call a system that prevents workers, lower managers or civil servants  .  .   .  .  .  .  . from alerting upper management, problem solvers or decision makers?”

    Answer: 7 reasons why an employee might withhold information

    There 7  main reasons why a subordinate in an organization does not tell their boss bad news.

    #1 Personality

    We have different styles in the way we communicate.  Some people are open and blunt. Some are open and diplomatic.  Some are considerate yet complicated.

    Some are just cagey and careful.

    #2 History of the Relationship

    The way we approach a relationship depends upon our basic personality but, of course, once we are in a working relationship with our boss, we have a history.

    When we delivered bad news before, what happened?  When other people delivered bad news, what happened?

    #3 Opportunity

    Over and above our basic personalities and relationships, we need a time and place to deliver bad news.  Sometimes, we simply have no time as everyone rushes for the door to catch their transport home.

    It’s good to have a relaxed casual place where people can bring up bad news, often sideways.   Not even the bravest wants to be shot for “being the messenger”.

    #4 Understanding

    Quite often, we don’t communicate bad news because we didn’t even notice that anything is wrong.  We walk past a problem, day-after-day, noticing nothing, because we are inexperienced juniors.

    An experienced person might notice in a flash, but until we have the experience and training ourselves, we don’t  even notice.

    #5 Compartments

    Very often, work has been compartmentalized in a way that people doing the work are not responsible for it.  We are missing the skill, or the authority, or the resources, to get the job done.

    We do what we can, but the person who holds the “key” is not there.  They don’t know what is happening.  Possibly,  they don’t care.  Above all, they might hold the answer but it is “not their job”.

    # 6 Internal feedback

    Management is often seen as giving orders, but in reality, management is about coordination.  Managers are feedback slurpers and digesters.  We have to notice what is happening, make sense of it, and replay events to people in judicious mix of summary, highlights and “next”.  If the management doesn’t watch key aspects of coordination, then coordination doesn’t happen.

    The Toyota system attributes 80% of faults to poor coordination between work units (not the units themselves).  A customer might notice that something is amiss, for example, but none of the workers will notice because things are hunky-dory in their own section.  The only person, other than the customer who can notice poor coordination between work units is the person responsible for passing information between work units –the manager.

    When a customer complains, the manager should initially, read the complaint as two work units are not dancing in step – and that happens from time-to-time – so fix, apologize to the customer and apologize to the work units.  Keep everyone sweet.

    If more than once complaint seems to have the same cause – two work units getting out of step – have a look at the feedback we slurp, digest and render.  The problem is likely to be in what we attend to, and the sense we make of it.

    # 7 Politics

    And lastly, at the end of the day, employees aren’t guests.  We’ve made a deal part of which is on paper and part of which is in our heads.  The real deal is the political posturing to get a better deal.   The Hawthorne effect is famous for showing us that people care less about the money than they do about their relationship with us and with each other.

    When it is not our structure or  our feedback slurping system that is at fault, we probably have a complicated political system where people have adjusted to each other like old married couples.  Stubbornness, and paying people back for perceived transgressions, becomes the goal.  Resetting such a system is hard work.  In the long term, people have to be given the opportunity to pursue goals that lead to flourishing rather than withering.  But, in the short term, groups rule, and there is little one can do except allocate more resources to keep the customers happy.

    Possible people are just cross.  Solving that is a long term project.  If the organization has become inward-looking, we need a temporary “sticking plaster” of additional resources to solve pressing problems while we restore good humor.


    I hope this list answers the question of why junior employees sometimes appear reluctant to pass on messages from customers that something around here needs to change.

    • They might be cagey individuals.
    • They know what happens to messengers who bring bad news.
    • They never have a chance to talk to their boss except during the press of daily work.
    • They didn’t understand a word that you said and are just smiling at you.
    • They would but they know how the system works.  Their boss doesn’t have the authority – someone else does and they don’t care.
    • They feel sort of offended. They do their job really well but they do their job.  They cannot see the whole picture because they have their heads down.  You need to speak to someone who sees the whole picture because that is their job.
    • Well, they could speak to their boss but actually they are not going to because it is more fun to pay him (or her) out for some perceived misdeed and settling scores has become thing “we do around here”.

    Pray it is No 6.  It’s always easier to deal with something that is squarely “our fault.”  Or, to find someone in the system whose job it is to hold the whole picture in their heads.

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    Complexity theory – “getting it” through literature

    Algal-falls by neurmadic aesthetic via FlickrComplexity theory, emergence and you

    Boids, emergence, there being no plan to the universe – it’s all very hard to grasp.

    Here is a line from Robin Yassin-Kassab’s novel the road from DAMASCUS that explains it all.

    “No cell in your body is the same cell as when you were a boy. “

    “You aren’t matter, you organize it.  You are an organizing principle.  The flesh and blood is produced by you , a temporary pattern you’ve made.  It isn’t you.”

    (p. 197)

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    If Big Society is the answer, what is the question?

    Eureka by Ben+Sam via FlickrMake yourself lucky, be happy, BS?

    If you hang out with management theorists, you will know by now the essence of the prevailing zeitgeist.  Whether Richard Wiseman is talking about luck; whether Martin Seligman is talking about happiness; or John Seeley Brown is talking about edge, we have a common formula that is applied over, and over.

    Following are some notes I made reading a paper by Keith Grint of Warwick Business School on leadership in local government.  He begins with a great question 🙂

    If Big Society is the answer, what is the question?

    Keith Grint of Warwick Business School asks:

    If Big Society is the answer, what is the question?

    The questions (I think) are

    • How do we do local?
    • Why is doing local better than doing central?
    • And, does ‘doing local’ work better than doing central?  After all, surely the whole idea of politics is to seize the commanding position and dictate terms?

    To answer the how, why, what and whether of local

    To answer the how, why, what and whether of local, at least to answer the how, why, what and whether of local using theory, we need to begin with the theory.   Let’s check our assumptions first.   At the same time, we’ll see that we are assuming, rather than proposing in scientific sense, that local is the “dog not the tail”.  (If anyone knows a non-dog metaphor that will work as well, please let me know!)

    Once we’ve grasped, the idea that we are dog, and political change is the tail, then we want to know “how”.  And the task of popular writers is to explain the “how” well enough to stop people disappearing into the bottomless pit of despair and victimhood that is part of the self-story when we think of ourselves as the tail.  That Brits love the victim story is a different post.

    Today, I’ll try only to explain how we start change at a local level which is what I think Keith Grint was talking about and what management scholars and their ilk can tell you a lot about.

    The theory of act local

    The theory of “act local: begins with some beliefs about leadership.  If you have differing ideas about leadership, nothing else I write will make any sense at all.  So, try these on for fit.  If they don’t fit, all else will be a logical exercise. If they do meld with your beliefs, you might find a sense of relief in the account of “lead local” that follows.

    Two basic beliefs about leadership

    Leadership is not air; it is the wind.  When leadership is there, it is there. We might be able to see it coming.  We might in odd circumstances be able to build a wind tunnel.  But for the most part it is ephemeral, situational and transitory.  Nonetheless we know it when we feel it and we know it when we see its effects.

    Leadership is not a map; it is a place.  When you are there, you are there.  When you are not, you are not.  You are not a leader-in-waiting.  You aren’t leadership-material.  You are either leading right now in this place with these people.  Or, you are not.

    One basic proposition about national leadership

    UK’s future is not made in Whitehall.

    It is made by us. Because leadership is like place and wind, the UK is made and led through our local squabbles and the place-by-place, moment-by-moment decisions we make where we are, where ever we are and whomever we are with.

    So, how do we set about making UK’s future at local level?

    So far so good – if we believe that leadership, of necessity, of its very essence, is a local, situational and transitory phenomenon with nonetheless real consequences, how do we act as a local politician?

    One basic assumption about politics

    Politics is about defining space.  Politics is about defining who gets to be here and who get to talk.

    One basic proposition about leading the politics of radical change.

    Cynically, party politics is a device for keeping us apart.  Defining history is about connecting with people we don’t normally talk to.

    I’ll repeat that.  The politics of change, the politics of defining history, is about connecting, not with people like us, but with people we don’t normally talk to.

    The nexus of leadership and politics

    So, to pull together ideas about leadership and politics – we believe leadership is in its very essence local but nonetheless we have political structures which determine who is in and who is out – or in plain terms, who gets to be part of the conversation.

    To set off radical change, we have to change who talks to whom.  Or natural instinct is to huddle with people with ‘common interests’.  Actually, we must do something else. We must expand the conversation to a ‘complete world’ of everyone who has an interest.

    To take a stark example, if I were campaigning to reduce immigration (which I am not), the intelligent political approach would be to include the immigrants (and their employers).  That the campaigners don’t shows us that they aren’t really serious and that they will always be somewhat surprised by the results of their political initiatives.  They simply haven’t done the work of connecting people who have an interest.

    Changing the future of our country, then, is changing who we speak to!

    The “how to” of modern politics

    And now to the “how to” because after all, the reason why I am writing this at all is because people think they are not able to affect the future of their country (preferring to whinge but that’s another post.)

    Is politics viral?

    Sometimes it seems that politics can be viral.

    Take Egypt.  Wael Ghonim puts up a Facebook page at just the right moment.

    But, was the page just timing or relevance?  Without being a historian of Egypt, I think the page became a lever on a fulcrum of wide-spread concern among people who have generally have neither need nor opportunity to speak to each other on a daily basis.

    And with lever and fulcrum, as Archimedes said it would, the world moved.

    The page was the lever.  The fulcrum was the concerns of many people partially connected and ready to be connected further.

    Is viral politics enough?

    Some people thing viral politics is enough.  I don’t think so.  We still have to do the ‘foot slogging’ of door-step politics. We have to build relationships painstakingly.  We have to build our coalition (woops, dirty word in UK).

    Simply, if defining history is building new connections with people we don’t normally talk to, we have to build those connections.  We have to initiate the connections and we have to sustain them with repeated contact and mutual respect.

    What’s more, we have to engage with people who not want to connect with us.  It might take a while to build the connections we need.  But of course we don’t mind if we really believe in the future we are imagining!

    Is success assured?

    Again, without being a historian, the Facebook page in Egypt came at the end of an era of making connections and making connections and making connections.  Wael Ghonim didn’t intend to start a revolution.  He put up a Facebook page, and while he wanted to connect with others, he had no idea how important those connections were to become.  The Facebook page might not have succeeded.  There had been many attempts to rally Egyptians.  This was the rally cry that came when the connections were enough.

    Simply, change will not happen unless we believe in it enough to begin without any guarantee of success.  If we don’t believe in our people enough to begin, if we don’t believe that we are enough; we will never make enough connections and we won’t have the Facebook page, or whatever happens to be the lever in our movement that tips the final balance.

    We never know exactly when the tipping point will be.  We have to begin in faith of our dream and our people.

    And is one big viral event is enough?

    Sadly, not.  A big viral event may give us a head-start.  A big viral event like Tahrir Square dramatically improves the self-efficacy of everyone takes part.  They will volunteer readily next time and won’t be easily put off by challenges.

    But as one swallow only makes us think of summer, we need many successful events for active citizenry to be the norm.  Actually, we need many successful events to trust each other.  We need success to offset the disappointments and to build the momentum.

    If we believe in the future that we say we want, we need to do the hard slog of building the connections and maintaining them over the challenges, triumphs, disappointments and tears of real world politics before we will be rewarded with deep and longstanding change.

    So if you are banking on one big viral event, you will squander the benefits of the event, for benefits are huge but not enough on their own.

    And should we wait for politicians?

    I wouldn’t!   Old guard politics will produce more of the same.

    What can you and I do?

    What has to happen is you and I connecting to people we think are worth listening to.  No proclamation from Whitehall will ever make that happen.  This depends on whom we believe are worth listening to and whether we can be a****d to make the connections.

    What we get back depends on what we are willing to do.  England, Britain, United Kingdom is us. If we want change and we haven’t changed something small today, we are simply talking BS (oh dear, what did I say?) 🙂

    Change something today – get lucky!

    The advice for starting change at local level is the same advice that psychologists will give you for making yourself lucky (and happy) (and indeed for giving up smoking or losing weight!)

    The advice from psychologists is simply this.

    Do something different today.  Drive to work a different route. Speak to the person next to you on the train.  Give up your seat for someone on the tube.

    Mix it up.  Connect.  Connect.  Connect.

    • Complete your world by connecting with everyone you need to take part in the conversations you know are just waiting to happen.
    • Start to tell the collective story.  Start to tell the story of your collective .
    • Learn what other people want too.  See where you can help them and see where they are delighted to help you.
    • And, include the people you think you can’t stand (But talk to them later! Start with someone who is just new or different!)

    How long will it take?

    I don’t know for sure. Psychologists aren’t  hot on time.  But, the poets and gurus say you will see results in three months and life-changing experiences in a year.

    Will you begin to lead locally?

    What have you got to lose by trying?  You only have to talk to someone new each day and do something different like take a new route to work?

    What will you gain?

    A more interesting day for a start.

    A life experiment second.

    Maybe something bigger third.  The curious will go for that I think.


    Leading questions: If ‘Total Place’, ‘Big Society’ and local leadership are the answers: What’s the question? Leadership February 2011 7: 85-98,

    To get a copy of the paper, you’ll have to email the author Keith.Grint at wbs dot ac uk.

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