During the week, I prepared a post on HR and the recession. Turning to it today, I thought I couldn’t post it. The anguish of colleagues in India and the thoughtful and dignified ways they are responding to events in Mumbai are model enough for us all.
“She’ll be alright”. “Manyana, manyana”. We may not wear this attitude on our sleeves but we English are notorious short-term thinkers. Not for us, saving for a rainy day or a stitch in time.
Is it healthy though, to plan ahead? Isn’t planning ahead exactly the opposite of what is recommended by positive psychologists: be mindful and attentive to what is going on around us?
The difficulty with living in the present seems to me that we can be living in the past. Just as the ice hockey player skates to where the puck will be, we have to interpret the present in terms of the energy and dynamism that it represents. One of the beautiful phrases asked by positive organizational scholars emerging in the business schools in the US is: what is trying to emerge here?
What will the UK look like in 5 years’ time?
In some respects, I am sure the UK will not have changed muchin 5 years’ time. An endearing quality of the UK is that it piles layer over layer. A scratch below the surface is always interesting.
There will also be some trends that will stretch out linearly. For the most part, those people who already here will still be here. 5 year olds will be 10. 40 year olds will be 45. 75 year olds will be 80. Some people will be off exploring the world, but we will mostly be here. Even in Zimbabwe, most people are still there!
But some things will change qualitatively, fundamentally, or definitively.
I have just read a prediction that IN FIVE YEARS, Africa will overtake China as the supplier of low cost labor.
On line virtual laboratory
Being linked to universities, another prediction that caught my eye is that new ideas will no longer come out of US business schools. Nor will they come out of Chinese or Indian business schools. They will come out of ‘on line virtual laboratories’. There are obvious implications for universities who carry on treating the value chain as the long 7 year process of thinking up ideas, testing them, and publishing them.
Similar changes are being predicted in journalism. Jeff Jarvis predicts changes even deeper than those predicted for academia. Editors will no longer drive news policy. They will encourage the creation of better news.
So what is my time line?
From time-to-time, I play with Curriculum Illusione in which you input what you think will happen between now and the year you die (chosen by yourself). It is interesting how hard it is, particularly when you have to back up your ideas with photos.
So where are we exactly?
Or maybe, the question for today is what do we need to know?
Is it sufficient to get up and go to work and just hope for the best?
The early hours of this morning, Wednesday 5 November 2008, were one those times when we will ask “where were you when . . .”.
The long wait for the election results during the night was stomach-wrenching. I flipped from one service to another, trying to catch the results from whomever broke them first. Ultimately, I plumped for BBC, who seemed to be ahead of everyone most of the time, filling with intelligent analysis, and giving us good timings.
The countdown to the announcement of California’s results, adding 55 electoral votes for Obama, began. 9 minutes, 6 minutes, 30 seconds, and boom, it was done.
We waited a decent interval for McCain to telephone Obama, and then McCain came out to give his concession speech. He was brilliant. If he had spoken like that throughout the campaign, he might have had my vote. He was sincere, he was warm, and he showed great leadership setting the stage for working constructively with the Democrats to rebuild America. I believe his speech will be dissected by students of leadership for many years, along with the magnificant speeches made by Obama.
Winning for the young and the old
Back in Chicago, the groups at Grant Park waited for Obama. The cameras picked up more than human moments. Jesse Jackson stood very still, talking to none of cheering party faithful around him, tears rolling down his face. It was perhaps this image that helped me as a foreigner, understand how this election will heal the wounds of America, that are after all, a legacy of British rule.
The American dream
And then Obama spoke, and spoke to the great American dream – the belief that the US is strong precisely because they recognise their diverse interests. How important that is to us all!
This morning, when I awoke around 11am British time, it took me a moment to remember the events of the night, and I found myself not exhilarated but struck by awe. I checked out the chatter on line, and on Twitter particularly, and was struck by the sense of confusion. I was not alone. The only people in the world who treat the results uncomplicatedly are the Kenyans. They have declared Thursday a national holiday. What dazzling simplicity!
A quiet celebration of a new dawn
I spent a good two hours pondering the gamut of emotions we are feeling and then Twitter threw up this link to a song “Its a new dawn”. It’s mellow. Its soulful.
“It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, its’s a new life for me, and I am feeling good.” Thanks @sondernagel.
During the last general election in New Zealand, the National Party (conservatives) made a spirited move for power by offering sizeable tax cuts. So keen we all were to find out our share, we crashed the Nats’ site within hours of their announcement.
My share was considerable: NZD2000 or in purchasing power parity terms, twice what I spent on clothes per year. The Nats didn’t win though. And the big question was why not? We were obviously interested. And the amount was significant.
So why didn’t the Nats win? And is this story relevant to the UK as we climb out of the credit crunch and the threatened recession in a slow recovery?
People don’t like the bashing of people who are unemployed or on the benefit
Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee. There but for the grace of God, etc. etc. Both NZ and UK are individualistic, masculine cultures (each to his own) but both countries dislike power differentials and huge disparities of wealth. We knew full well what would pay for those tax cuts and in my case, NZD2K was not enough to persuade me to take bread off the table of someone who is unemployed.
Voters understand that our economic policy requires a million or so people to be out-of-work
Voters are not economics experts but most of us know the basics. We know that if everyone has a job, inflation would take off. Both NZ and UK have policies of keeping inflation down to around 3%. Our economic prosperity depends on several percentage of the population being out-of-work. So how can we take a blaming tone?
We have new attitudes to work and employment
Jane McGonigal, alternate reality games designer described games as “happiness engines”. And she asks an important question: why don’t we design work that is as compelling, engaging and as fun as games?
We do know how to design jobs that are enjoyable. Indeed the basic techniques have been in the textbooks on management and psychology for over 30 years. And games designers use these principles every day.
We want work that is so much fun we have to pay people NOT to work and to go home and play games! That is the doable demand from the citizenry of the 21st century!
Can politicians rise to the challenge of work that is more fun than games?
I think the first step is a social media solution: set up happiness surveys on the internet. When we feel so moved, we log on and say “I love this job”.
Then we will know which sectors are getting the thumbs-up from their employees, and as the saying goes, what gets measured gets done!
And we can worry about how much to pay people to stay at home!
What do you think?
Hat-tip to Sirona recruitment consultants who inspired this post.
One of the pleasures of living in the UK is long commutes on overfull trains. I am not talking overcrowding Mumbai-style (aka Bombay) to be sure. But there is a more than 50-50 chance in the UK that I will find myself standing for an hour, or finding a free wall and sitting on the carpet – damn the higher dry cleaning bills.
Two trips back, I plonked my teaching file down on the aisle carpet and sat on it, embarrassing the 50-something who had a seat next to me. When I declined his kind offer to change places, he retorted, so you can tell your friends about how things used to be better!
But I think it has got better
Actually, I don’t think things have got worse. I’ve been away from UK and because I pop in and out, I see change intermittently and I think have a less distorted view. UK is cleaner and quicker than it was 10 years ago and much cleaner and quicker than it was 20 years ago.
And more optimistic
I also don’t think things have got worse for another reason. I teach (college). And teaching brings me into contact with Gen Y twice a week.
Gen Y may be many things. What you can count on is that they want to do a good job. They ask questions. They are knowledgeable about what they have been in contact with. They want to run fair and decent businesses. They are intensely interested in any curriculum to do with being a good manager or a good leader. I can hear a pin drop when I get onto topics like charismatic leadership. It may be narcissism on their part (and mine), but I like to think differently.
So why have we done so well?
So lets pose a question. We see so much shocking leadership and management in today’s world. Steve Roesler pointed to the obvious today. Many of our workplaces seem to reward bad leadership. The collapse of the financial system seems to be a case in point. The post mortems will tell us eventually.
How is it that
We cannot provide decent commuting trains in the 6th richest country in the world, or fair mortgages in the 1st richest country,
We have raised our children to be intensely interested in being decent, fair and engaging?
Why did we do so well? I am asking sincerely. What did we do to bring up such a pleasant, decent, energetic, and fair generation of youngsters?
The eminent social scientist Karl Weick once said that social problems are often defined in ways that prevent us doing anything about them.
I have been watching the Zimbabwean elections closely. As facts emerge, I have been listing them on a “secondary” blog.
The situation in Zimbabwe is as dire any conflict in history. Can we move here? Can we move there? It seems the ultimate Catch 22. Whatever we do may create more damage.
I believe however that much of our hopelessness comes from our own representation of what is happening. Could we not, instead, look at difficult objective conditions that require resolution?
Today, people are starting close in, as the poet David Whyte would say.
Today, we are going to do something positive. Today we are going to say thank you. Today we are going to say we are with you. Today we are going to send emails to the President of Zambia who is the current chairman of SADC. Today, we are going to take 3 minutes to write a short, brief, courteous email saying,
Dear President Mwanawasa,
I write to thank you and the leaders of SADC sincerely for convening the extraordinary meeting concerning Zimbabwe and to extend my support and goodwill for a resolution that is satisfactory to all the people of Zimbabwe and her neighbours.
I am patching in a long excerpt of a post from Sokwanele that gives the email addresses of SADC. Zimbabwe for a positive future.
Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa has called an emergency meeting of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to discuss the Zimbabwean presidential poll delay. This is the first move by Zimbabwe’s regional neighbours to intervene since the elections on 29th March 2008. President Mwanawasa is the current Chairman of the 14-nation South African Development Community. This is what he said yesterday:
I wish to take this opportunity to commend the people of Zimbabwe for the calm and peaceful manner in which the elections were conducted.
Similarly, I appeal to them to maintain the same spirit of calmness which they exhibited during the elections as they await the results of the presidential elections.
However, given developments immediately following the elections, I have decided, as Chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to call an extraordinary summit on Saturday 12th April, 2008 to discuss ways and means of assisting the people of Zimbabwe with the current impasse as well as adopt a co-ordinated approach to the situation in that country.
Both President Morgan Tsvangirai and opposition leader Robert Mugabe will be attending the emergency meeting.
Support our democratically elected leader and take action.
What YOU can do
You can voice your feelings and SHOUT OUT for FREEDOM. Communicate with key SADC people attending the meeting.
Tell them that Zimbabweans have the right to live in a democratic, free and peaceful country. Tell them your personal experiences and why you want change. Make them understand what it is like to be in Zimbabwe today. Tell them we voted for change, we got change, and we want change now. Speak the TRUTH.
HOW you can do it
Email, fax or phone using the details provided below. Keep your messages real and honest but also short and to the point. Remember: thousands of us will be doing this so they will have a lot to read. Let’s make sure they can read and hear it all!
Be polite at all times. People don’t pay attention to angry messages (look at us: Mugabe has been angry with the people for many years now and we just ignored him and voted him out anyway). Anger does not work.
1. Call or fax or email the Zambian State House with a message for President Levy Mwanawasa:
Tel: +260 1 266147 or 262094
Fax: +260 1 266092
Send an email to Mr John Musukuma, Special Assistant to the President for Press and Public Relations: firstname.lastname@example.org
“Rumour rhymes with ‘ruma’, Shona for bite. Harare has literally been bitten by rumours. Our city is famed for many things but one thing specifically. The ability to turn no news into headlines. The skill of spinning no knowledge into street wisdom. The hustle of selling unconfirmed stories on a hungry parallel market. Our only non-state daily newspaper was bombed so the people’s paper is the people’s stories, nyayas that circulate like a whisper at a bottle store. Mugabe has fled to Malaysia. Morgan has 68% of the presidential vote. Mujuru has lost her seat. Morgan’s win is being broadcast live on TV. A people starved of truth begin to manufacture their own. So truths roam Harare like street kids, tapping your window at every robot. Like an undelivered text message notification ringing on your phone. Constantly.
But just minutes ago some rumours may have become reality. Our hopes may be backed up by facts. When Morgan held his press conference at the Meikles Hotel he told us that after years of struggle we have a new challenge – that of governance. The need to start to restructure and stabilize our country. MDC believe they have clinched victory. Morgan has never appeared so joyous. Once again the rumours begin to bite. MDC is said to be in talks with the armed forces and ZANU about negotiating a hand over of power. Morgan denies the rumours. So, many things are in the air. Hope and rumours. And once again the joy and the certainty of the press conference need to get out into the townships. The people need to taste the joy of a dream becoming reality. They need to be ready to defend their victorious dreams. Otherwise tomorrow will just be another day of spoken headlines and hustled truths.”
PS Zemantra found the picture on Flickr. I haven’t asked the photographer’s permission because I can’t find the contact link in Flickr. I hearby ask your permission and endorsement. Please let me know if you object. Many thanks.