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Tag: Britain

Don’t achieve your goals! Enjoy them. They’ll be gone far too soon!

I Want Rhythm Not A To Do List

When I was young, I loved To Do lists. What a buzz! I would list everything I had to do, set a priority and set about ticking it off!

I loathe To Do Lists now. I threw away my diary years ago when I worked on an MBA programme and the lecture times changed so frequently that my diary looked like a dog’s breakfast!

Now I like a rhythm. I like to sense the time during the week, the month, the day, the year that I should be doing whatever I should be doing!

Rhythmless Britain Where Seasons  Take Us By Surprise

It is difficult to dance through life in Britain. Bills arrive at odd times and are paid at odder times. The tax year begins on the 6 April – why? Who knows. There is no rhythm to anything. People even seem surprised when winter approaches. “It’s cold”, people say. It’s December. What did they expect? I know what I expect.  “Good!  It is cold.  Now I can  .  .  .!”

My Seasons By The Bottle

I want my life to be a dance with my goals. Like these bottles at the Vesuvius Cafe on Canary Wharf in London. 52 bottles laid out in 12 sets, I want to mark the passing of the seasons with the right wine and the right food. I want to celebrate the seasons of life by going to the market to buy food in season and cook it with a sense of adventure.

I want my head around learning to dance with life. I don’t want to spend my time chasing the clock and ticking lists. Lists and clocks lower quality of life as surely as squalid air travel and grubby packaging around supermarket food!

It is not only Luddites who like to savor life

Now believe me, I am no Luddite. Never have been. I like progress. I like thinking up better ways of doing things.

But I want to savor life. I want to have time to listen to people. I want to notice the seasons and enjoy them, not complain about them.

To represent the season of my life, I have a handful of goals

I’m not sure I have the system right, but at any time in our lives, I think it is good to have 3 to 5 ‘goals’. When I was in New Zealand, I had 3.  I had my rather large university course.  I had settling in a new country.  And I had departing from an old country. That’s enough! What didn’t fit into those three folders had to be put aside.

Now I have five ‘goals’ ~ I wish I had three but I have 5!

  • I have settling in a new country
  • I have my writing ~ this blog mainly
  • I have my community and town of Olney
  • I have my next website supporting career decisions
  • And I have the website I want make – a gratitude site.

My goals change with the season of my life

In due course, the season of settling in (another) new country will pass and my goals will change.

For now, I can ask whether what I am doing helps me learn how to achieve these goals. What do I learn about my own thinking? What do I learn about my overall story from each of these goals and the way they come together?

It is the way I explore these 5 goals that will give me the rich life that I take into the next season as surely as my summer harvest must be full to provide a good autumn and a good Christmas supports an energetic spring.

I’ll achieve my goals better if I slow down and explore them well

My goals are a framework to coddle my efforts and softly support the tentative explorations of the land in which I live.

The way I explore my goals determines how well I meet them.  To explore them well, I must make plenty of space for them and stop rushing around being in a hurry.

Put that to do list aside!  What are your goals?  What are you learning about how to achieve them.  Enjoy!  In a few years, these goals will be gone from your life and replaced by others.

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Anger: I am angry so that I am important?

Active listening

I thought I had a post somewhere on basic active listening.  It seems not.

Active listening is often required when we least expect it

Active listening isn’t hard.  Provided we remember to do it!  When we are needed to listen, simply listen, we are often in a rush ourselves and it is the hardest ever to slow down and pay attention.

Three situations require active listening

There are three classical situations when we must pay attention and listen

  • Requests: Please may I have .   .  .!
  • Help:  Everything is going wrong!
  • Anger:  Life is unfair!

We rarely miss anger!

The third, anger, is the one we don’t miss.  Angry people get in our face.  They are bristling with rage.  They want something to change now and they’ve decided that it is all our fault!  Can’t miss it 🙂

It can be hard to react with applomb

Sadly, because other people’s anger often takes us by surprise, we don’t react well.

If we have a moment to catch our breath, we are probably OK.  We give the person the attention they crave so desperately and reassure them of their importance in the world.  They calm down and feeling a little sheepish, become our new best friend.

But what of our anger. What we we are angry?

It strikes me that England is an angry country.  And people enjoy being angry.

Anger in Britain is a treasured state

Anger in England isn’t an unpleasant temporary state that people want to get away from. It is a treasured state to be sought.  People even seem to feel important when they are angry.  “There!”, they seem to be saying, “I am angry too!” It is almost as if their status is restored by being angry.

I get angry so that I can be important enough to be insulted?

It’s a perversion.  Usually we are angry when our status is diminished, and we want it restored.  When an angry person also has a triumphant gleam in their eye, I wonder whether they are also delighted to have found a situation where they are important enough to have been insulted?

Someone needs some deep respect

If I am right, and there is no reason that I should be, then a way to reduce anger is to help people feel valued.  Courtesy and politeness do this in part – but they avoid “dissing” the other person.  Courtesy and politeness isn’t respect.

If we want to help people find status without resorting to some bizarre form of tantrums, then we need to take the trouble to find out what about them is deeply valuable to us ~ and tell them.  I found a great quotation from E E Cummings yesterday ~ we have to mirror to people what is so wonderful and why we would be so much poorer without them!

Extreme experiments in life

Try that as you are next on a commuter train and your neighbour is annoying you.  Pay them some attention. Yes, I know you are English, but try.  It will be a fun experiment, won’t it?

What will happen when you pick on the one point that is so important to them and that you would really miss if they weren’t part of your life?

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Positive psychology and an adult response to the financial crisis

The day I crossed the Rubicon to adulthood

It was a hot, in October. The rainy season was approaching but had not yet arrived. A fan was going full tilt in my office. Behind me, my windows were shut. Below my window, our lorries belched diesel fumes as they queued to exit the factory gate and take flour and maize meal for hundreds of miles around.

My phone rang and in the brisk and formal business culture of Zimbabwe, I answered it promptly: “Jo Jordan. Good afternoon.”

My caller came from outside the company. We had been at university together. And she had a lot to say about the local psychological association. I agreed. And said so.

Then I drew myself to a halt. I was the Secretary of the Association and had been for 3 months. If there was anything that needed to be done, it was my job to get it done.

And hence, I crossed an important Rubicon. I was no longer teenager/student/young adult . I was a citizen fully responsible for the way we ran our affairs.

When did you make the transition from adolescent to adulthood?

Some people never make that transition. Forever, everything is someone else’s responsibility.

Today, something in my feed caught my eye and jolted my memory of when I grew up on a stifling hot and dusty day when we were waiting for the rain and for the new agricultural season to begin.   The story was about the general loss of respect for employers in the wake of the banking crisis.

Employment is not a private activity

A feature of employment law is that the manager, representing the owner, knows best. It is an absurd assumption but some people insist upon it. When we do, we take on a mantle of responsibility, not just to the owners, but to people on whom we imposed our judgement. And to deliver, we have to manage events not just inside the company but outside too.

We cannot manage the rains, perhaps. But we are responsible for responding adequately to the weather, whatever it brings.

Our outrage at the bank failures and MP expenses

The reason why the bank failures and the MP scandals have shocked us so is not the professional errors themselves. Few people understand exactly what happened in the banks or the mysterious absence of accountants and auditors in the Houses of Parliament.

But we do understand that both groups claimed status that put their judgement above ours. And they weren’t able to deliver on their promises they made when they arrogated status about ours.

We are hearing arguments from bankers and MPs that the privileges of office must be sufficiently high to warrant the responsibility they carry.  So they do understand what they promised!  But their arguments are back to front, of course. First, they need to show they can carry out even the basic responsibilities of public office before we worry about awarding privileges!

All public office, being a prefect at school, being secretary of the sport club, and for that matter, being a director of a private company carries the same basic responsibilities.

Implicitly, we promise to

  • Speak up when something is blatantly wrong
  • Live up to the procedures of contract and documentation that our culture has worked out over the centuries
  • Understand where the world is going and make adequate provision for the range of events that might occur
  • Show uncompromising loyalty to the people we represent and presume to order about
  • Represent the whole team without whining and making excuses

There is a big difference between nitpicking and exercising our office responsibly

You may feel my argument is completely wrong

It may be that you see no connection between the behaviours I listed and things going right or wrong. If you don’t, I’d be happy to see a rebuttal but experience tells me that you will not advance a logical argument. You may argue that no one will notice any way. You will probably just dismiss me with contempt.

You may dislike nitpicking implied by rules

You may also have an inherent distrust of nitpicking. Exercising judgement and compassion, I would argue, is different. People who exercise judgement and compassion don’t hide behind rules. They judge the situation and manage it so that we achieve the outcome we want and help the person we assisted grow into a leader themselves – responsible, thoughtful, effective, loyal and with good moral & practical judgment.

You may feel you have no responsibility to anyone but yourself

It is also possible you see your job about looking after you and your own rather than every one around you and beyond. You are likely to have made up your mind on this point quite early in roles that you held at school, college and university. Early on, you will have decided how you would execute collective responsibilities.  Is the group there for you, or you for it? Did you speak up when things were plain wrong.  Or did you allow rubbish to accumulate thinking you would be out of the picture before the results became evident.

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing

You will know your own opinion, of that I am sure, and you might tell me here.

But it is likely that I have divided opinion. One group will dismiss me with contempt and pity.

They other would like to know more about acting responsibly and would like to work in environments where responsibility is more highly valued.

Is it too much to agree with Edmund Burke that we all allowed the system to drift into such disarray?

Where are doing exactly the same thing – keeping our heads-down because we believe so little in the people around us that we don’t believe they will listen or care?  Where are we speaking up contentiously and carping and whining rather than engaging on matters that we are responsible for?

Should we begin by ticking off parts of the system that work well and doing more of them?

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Create your job – don’t wait

Unusual ways to find a job

We have to take our hats off to the History Graduate who pounded Fleet Street with a sandwich-board offering himself on a free trial period of one month.

Employers with a sense of humor

We can also hat-tip the guy who hired him.

  • But wouldn’t it have been better if he had a portfolio of his work online before he graduated?
  • Wouldn’t if have been cool if he knew what he wanted to do?
  • Wouldn’t it have been cool if he had had targeted 10 specific people and gone to them with the same offer?

Ways for students to get good jobs after graduation

I suppose telling students to start early and to work on their career path little and often is about as silly as telling them to work consistently throughout the year.
Some do though.  @casperodj, @trudyYS, @dolphonia are well known in the community and they haven’t graduated yet.
None of the three has done anything eye-catching in a celebrity-way.  They’ve just showed up and joined.
I’ll put my money where my mouth is too.  If the History Graduate stumbles over this post, and wants a quick guide of online resources, the trick will be to comment below.  The comment will reach me same day and I will reply.
And for people already doing everything they can, some stunning creative resumes.
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Pithy comments from Social Media Convention, Oxford University, Session 1

Social Media Convention, Oxford Institute, #oxsmc09

From weblogs to Twitter: how did we get where we are today and what are the main impacts to date?


Dave Sifry, Technorati @dsifry

Bill Thompson, BBC @billt

Bill Dutton, Oxford University @billdutton

Nigel Shadbolt, University of Southampton @nigel_shadbolt

Chair: Kathryn Corrick @kcorrick

Although the dates of the earliest ‘weblog’ are a matter of some debate, the majority of their growth in popularity has arisen over the past ten years. What are the most important milestones in that process of evolution, and what are the factors that have shaped the successes and limitations of social media? Why (if at all) should we expect them to have an inherently democratising or egalitarian effect? Each speaker will be asked to conclude by identifying the most significant ways in which they think that blogs and social media have had any social, political or economic impact.
Dave Sifry

1. Web as library vs web as conversation.  What are people saying about me? [Technical issues].

Question from chair: real-time search?

Search interfaces vs filter interfaces [*]

Bill Thompson.

2.  Social media is not yet taken-for-granted but what has changed is that “I am no longer in charge”.  Permission is no longer need.  The internet is a facilitating service.  A new literacy is developing.  Innovation is possible because we have removed the requirement to ask.  We are waiting for the last 5bn to join the 1bn online.

Bill Dutton

3.  Constant reinvention of the internet day-to-day but it has always been social.  Email is the core application: social and under your control. 98% of people online go their to use email.  2007 17% of Britons over the age of 14 used a social network.  49% today. 22% [?] have created a blog and younger people are the most likely to have done so.  Technology reconfigures how we communicate with people.  Reinforce existing social networks.  But we also meet new people.  35% of internet users have met someone on line that they haven’t met before and many have gone on to meet them in person.

20% of newly married couples met their spouse on line.

Social networks are competing with search engines for referrals.  [?4 sources : adverts, real, social network, search ?]

Nigel Shadbolt

4.  Thirty years ago, it was easy to have a sense of overview of the internet.  The web demonstrates the unreasonable effectiveness of data.  When we have scale, remarkable emergent things happen.

AI has become augmented intelligence.

Semantic web:  infrastructure that is document-centre to something that gets behind into the data.

Why can’t we anticipate this stuff?  Why are we disarmed by what emerges.  See “Websites”.  Cannot understand cause and direction.  Why did blogs take off?  Social interaction scale allows things to take off.  Self-publication has always been there but pings and trackbacks seem to underly take off of blogs.

Why are we mopping up descriptively rather than anticipating what is to come?

Social media have an exquisite balance between enough features and sufficient?  How is this designed?  Or is it simply, Darwinian “try and discard”?

Social media activity in China varies from here [? details].

How do large scale structures like Wikipedia become stable? And will they pay for increasing amounts of oversite?

Or do societal structures emerge anyway?  Does the web support extremism? Or do people get pushed into the most influential part of the space?  Battle for our attention.

Kathryn Corrick

5.  Web is social.  Got more exciting as it got cheaper.  Reinvention and continuity. Emerging and augmented intelligence.  Problems:  How do we find out what is interesting?  How do we find out what is interesting in China and Africa?


6.  BT (non-twitterer):  Chinese urls will be come available.  Do we need to learn Chinese?  Bill Thompson:  the internet will translate?  The real issue will be our cultural expectations about what is interesting and what we will pay for.

Nigel Shadbolt:  Massive areas of the internet not available to us.  Spanish network is different.  “Bido” the Chinese search engine searchs material that Google doesn’t cover and includes micro-blogging.  We have good translation because stats does a fairly good job of translating.  And how will we communicate with people who are illiterate.

Kathryn Corrick: I only get English results.  Dave Sifry: you need to ask for the languages you want.  Enormous corpus of data has [trumped] rules.  .  .  .  Liberating and dangerous at the same time.  Did WoW expect to create a virtual market in China and India?  Will we encourage open access to tis information?  Democratizing and centralizing.  Globalizing and encouraging xenophobia.  Will the Chinese start building their own protocols?  What will happen to the openness we take for granted.


7.  ?? : Facebook compresses the space for first names.  Bill Dutton: Net English – unintended consequences.  Multiple identities.  Nicknames.

Bill Thompson:   Having one name is a relatively recent phenomenon.  Imperfections in the tools create serendipty.  Ideas are not linked because they are similar but becuase of deeper conceptual matching.

Nigel Shadbolt:  Structure and typology.  Condensed areas with weak links between.  Unanticipated arrivals in other places.

Dave Sifry: .  . . we don’t like to be challenged.  How easy or difficult is it to get attention to a  meaningful conversation? How can someone with quality ideas become heard without going through money and capital?

KathrynCorrick:  Doesn’t fragmentation make it difficult?

Dave Sifry:  Not sure that is a problem.  The larger issue is trust.  No singular person to [referencing Walter Cronkite].  Don’t have the same level of massive singular change – is that a bad thing.  We will find out from our friends.

Kathryn Corrick: e.g., Iran, difficult to verify.

William Dutton:  Remind everyone that TV/newspapers/mass media still exists.  More flexibility.  Institutional networks.  Individuals – news platforms on line.  Another independent source of accountability.  Not replacing mass media yet.

Bill Thompson:  Not sure I agree.  Something happening underneath.  Trust grows and is broken quickly.  Mass media challenged, checked and undermined.  Indefensible practices.  Is corrosive rather than additive?


??  Can we anticipate stuff better – raise quality of thinking.  Is concept broad enough?  Ppl don’t use tools like ping back etc.  Contemporary social phenomenon of self-expression.  I tweet therefore I am. IS this @Nico_Macdonald.  I find people who agree with what I say [I find people who can explain what I am interested in!] .  Politics is driving the web not the technology.  Is webscience broad enough in its engagement with societ?

Nigel Shadbolt:  Exteme nich opinion get marginalized.  Conversation about intentions drives people to consensual . . . Not a union of everything but more than an intersection – key areas that acccount for what we see.  Small differences in technology influence social interaction and can be invisible to ordinary user.

William Dutton:  Continuity and change.  A few years ago a few experts . . .  internt more central across all sectors and users reinventing the web as dramatically as computer scientists.  Cannot understand the internet except interdisciplinarily ..”{?]


@inkuna Free at point of use.  Does panel think #So.ME revolution spinning into public policy?  e.g. US health care debate.  Is free-at-point-of use (F) becoming the model?

KC: wonder whether anything

Dave Sifry: How related to US healthcare debate?  . . ..  Ah ……..I see!  Never really thought about it in those terms.  Gut . . . not really.  . . . Someone has got to pay . .  for sustainable business that lives beyond you.  In media around for a long time . . . tradeoffs . . . get users then figure out how to monetize . .  . interesting . .

Bill Thompson:  I destroyed the newspaper industry.  I am sorry.  It was a mistake.   . . Guardian  . . . 15 years  later paywalls are futile.  One more nail in the coffin.  If payments had been required earlier, it might have been different.  Businesses changing so fast maybe only investors are concerned.

William Dutton:  If you charge by use on internet, invisible. BBC online doing well. Advertising doing well – distribution of revenue is the issue.


Brian Kelly:   71 people using #oxsmc09.  The bankchannel is no longer private because on screen in front of us.  We know we are successul if we get spam – e.g., taxis asking us if we want a taxi at end.  Are we seeing commercialization of social media?

Kathryn Corrick:  Until technology gets ubiquitous, it doens’t get interesting.


Shane ?:

KC: Brave new world.

Nigel Shadbolt:  Ecology of applications, information types and needs – much richer shape than used to –  typical with [enriching] technologies.  .  Surprising ways that twitter is being appropriated.

Issue is trust -trust in media, content, services “someon not inspecting our packets”[?]


William Dutton: People who use internet trust it more than authorities.  Trust is based on experience.  More educated more skeptical but trust dependent on experience.

Bill Thompson:  Dream some more dreams.

Dave Sifry:  Clay Shirky – it is not social media if you can’t spam it.

Before: high signal to noise ratio.  The openness of a hashtag # is that it invites spam.

SEO – how to get traffic – have more interesting material.

Is it OK for a taxi cab to enter the twitter stream.  What are acceptable social mores?

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Is UK drifting towards a “nothing allowed” culture?

Idiosyncracies that we love

I am a serial migrant and one thing you learn “on the road” is that every community has phrases and ideas that are deeply coded.  They simply don’t mean what they sound as if they mean.

When I first arrived in UK, I heard people saying “Bless”, quite a lot.  I even asked someone what they meant.

It was a dumb thing to do, of course. When he said “Bless”, he was saying “Oh sod off, I can’t be bothered with your troubles.”  He certainly wasn’t going to translate accurately.

He said he was commiserating.  And no, he did not follow through on what I was asking him to do and what I though he was obliged to do. Lol.

Legal systems differ

I remember someone returning from UK to Zimbabwe after studying for four years here and he told us seriously that he was going to study face recognition because it was important in jury trials.

I remember looking around the room and thinking, “Who is going to tell him?”   No one spoke up, so I said as gently as I could, “X, we don’t have juries in Zimbabwe.”

And we don’t have juries in Zimbabwe not because of the current troubles but because we have Roman-Dutch law.  So does South Africa, and oddly Sri Lanka.

On the look out for deep differences

Because of this difference, I am always on the look out for things that I just “don’t get” – where I might be jumping the wrong way because I grew up in another system.

Look at this quotation from a famous US lawyer, Newton Minow.

“After 35 years, I have finished a comprehensive study of European comparative law. In Germany, under the law, everything is prohibited, except that which is permitted. In France, under the law, everything is permitted, except that which is prohibited. In the Soviet Union, under the law, everything is prohibited, including that which is permitted. And in Italy, under the law, everything is permitted, especially that which is prohibited.[9]

Which category does UK fit in to?

It is my understanding that Roman law fits into the German camp.  Unless I am allowed to do it, I can’t.

And it is my understanding, that English law (I am not sure about Scots law) is in the French category.  Do whatever you like.  We will say if you can’t.

An example of how these differences create confusion

This is how confusion arises in practice.

When I read a sign that says “Parking is Permitted with a Permit from 10-11 and 2-3”, my first reaction is puzzlement – followed by a eh? Why would I want to park here from 10-11 and 2-3?

No, it doesn’t mean that at all.  It means you can park here whenever you want, but you must

a) move your car between 10-11 and 2-3


b) buy a ticket.

I bet you thought that was obvious.  I am still confused every time I see that sign but as it only costs 40p to park there all day it is a confusion I will put up with.

Does this difference account for the nanny state and other British wonders?

When I heard the Unions negotiating for workers to go to work in shorts during this past very hot week, I got into a Twitter conversation about the nanny state and I started to wonder if this difference accounts for differences in management style as well.

The differences between Germanic and Anglo meetings

Meetings in Germanic countries are brisk.  You go in armed with facts and figures and MAKE DECISIONS, quickly and definitively.

Anglo meetings swirl around this way and that with no agenda and no outcome.  As an American-trained, Indian-born manager used to say in NZ (nudging me with his elbow and whispering out the side of his mouth):  “Sit back and wait. We will be here for the next hour discussing process and there will be no goal”.  Sure enough, for the next hour we discuss who wants what.  What we are trying to achieve collectively is not mentioned at all.  Who knows whate we were there for but we’ve had a spirited discussion about individual preferences.

What does it mean to ‘manage’ in the two systems?

I think I prefer a system where everything is allowed unless it is prohibited.

But possibly when you grow up in  system like that you aren’t used to designing systems or spaces where things happen.

And then you get a profileration of crazy rules.  10 signs per 100 yards, or whatever the figure is for British roads.

And it also means that one of your choices in life is to sit and do nothing.  Though some people are trying to prohibit that too.  This illustrates my point.  Designing and organizing for action is quite different from banning the few things that we may not do. Banning someone from doing X will not get them to do Y.


This thought process is starting to feel like ‘reaching’ to me.  But to try to illustrate my point.

What if you simply told people to drive safely and they will be accountable for what they smash into?

What if you told people to pay their taxes but that we would display online how much they paid?

Life can be made very simple if we choose.

And we shouldn’t have to tell people what to wear to work.  Really. If it is hot, wear shorts.  If it is cold, wear a jumper.

Of course, if you cannot afford a change of clothes, that would be my concern.  I’ve been brought up in system where managers are supposed to make things possible.  We are certainly accountable if people cannot see the way forward and don’t have the resources to get there.

Have a great weekend!

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Flu, Ghurkhas, 100 days and we the people

Day Two at Xoozya

Home!  A cup of tea! Hmm, no milk.  I took out a tea bag from the pot, made some black tea.

Interesting.  Fair Trade English Breakfast tea tastes much better black.  Ta da!  Been in the UK for two years and I’ve struggled to find a tea I like.  I’d been told it is the water that makes the tea taste funny.  Maybe it is the milk.  Black tea for me from now on.

News!  The world has moved on while I had my head down preparing proposals.

The words of 29 April 2009

  • Swine flu up to level 5 – pandemic imminent.  British troops departure from Iraq is also imminent.  Odd use of words don’t you think?  Why didn’t BBC say British troops are close to leaving Iraq? Or preparing to leave Iraq?
  • 27 Government MP’s broke ranks and voted against a Government proposal to restrict Ghurka residency in UK.  BBC is saying the vote challenged the PM’s ‘authority’.  Did they mean ‘control’?   Surely I elect my MP to represent me and Parliament has greater authority than the PM?  Authority = legitimate power and all the power is delegated ultimately from Parliament?  The PM answers to Parliament surely?  Well, I grew up in a republic so maybe I have this wrong.  Correct me if I am, please.
  • Obama’s 100 days.  This time I liked the BBC’s choice of words. Something like – the sentiment in America is that “we have chosen the right person for the job”.  Yes, much better.

We have chosen the right person for the job

Feel the tension fall away.  We have chosen the right person for the job.

We the people have chosen and we are happy not just that we are right, but because in our rightness, we see, hear and feel our collective competence.

We notice the 2 long years we put into making our choice was a good investment.  We notice the American people, man and woman, young and old have good judgment.  We notice that the American people despite their differences are able to sit down and thrash out what needs to be done.  We notice that even when times are hard and it would be oh, so, so easy to get it all wrong, the American people didn’t lose their nerve.  We notice the American people invest in a collective agreement even though their own view, temporarily, may not dominate.  And so our confidence rises that we can make another collective agreement, then another, and then another.  (Yes, for the first time in my long life, I’m in danger of becoming an American groupie!)

I don’t like the current tendency in British politics to “play the man and not the ball”.  I don’t like the rendition by BBC that MP’s triumphed “against” Parliament.  No. The MP’s triumphed because they worked with Parliament.

Today should have been a celebration that we are able to discuss serious matters (very serious for the Ghurkhas and their families) without coming to blows.  Today, we should be celebrating that Parliament works.  Today, we should be should be celebrating that our chosen representatives can go to the capital and present our views.  Our views.  We the people.

A man from a neighboring village won his case last year to erect a small memorial on the bridge connecting our settlements.  This memorial is to the soldiers of Richard II and Cromwell who lost their lives fighting for Parliament.  Parliament was hard-won in similar battles all over the UK.  Parliament is a hard-won right and should be cherished and celebrated with our cup of tea (without milk)!


A play on the Greek for authority.  We the people.  We the people are quite capable of sitting down to discuss our differences, even when our differences frighten us.

And we are going to need a little solidarity if this flu breaks out.  I hope HR departments across the land are stepping up hygiene.  Tissues and wipes everywhere.  Rubbish bins cleared more often.

Time to check the share price for tissue-makers!

We the people have chosen the right person for the job.

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Little known secrets about what a work and organizational psychologist will do for you in a recession

My job is to help you find forward momentum

I’m a psychologist. What this means, in short, is that you come to see me when you feel frustrated and it is my job to help you find a way forward.

Clinical psychology, social workers, lawyers & doctors

For some people getting out of a bad situation is complicated.  Quite often they are in extremely difficult circumstances and they need social workers, doctors, lawyers, etc. to help them solve practical problems.

They may also have lived in difficult circumstances for so long that they no longer recognize easy circumstances.  Helping them unravel their view of life and live an easier life is the work of clinical psychologists.

Work & organizational psychologists

Most people who come to see me are not in a bad situation.  They are at one of the normal turning points in life where they have to make a decision and they do not have sufficient information.  These turning points are often frustrating and scary, but they are essentially about questions like which organization should I join?  Or, how do I improve my status and my income?  Psychologists like me work less like clinical psychologists, who work with what is in your head, more like social workers, doctors and lawyers.  We help you understand and manage the external world, and in particular the world of organizations and work.

Indeed, we are quite often work for organizations rather than individuals and when we do, we are architects of systems.  We design selection systems.  We design disciplinary codes.  We design bonus systems.  HR systems are just formalized ways of making a lot of personal decisions about what we are doing and where we are going.  When we design the systems well, we give people an easy framework to make their own decisions well.  And we also strengthen the organization, by providing a place where we live and work comfortably and easily.

Work & organizational psychologists ask a lot of questions about work & business

To design good systems, we need to know a lot about jobs and business.  Of course, we don’t know as much as the people who run the business and who have worked in it all their lives.  Businesses and technologies change fast too.  So we are less in the business of knowing, and more in the business of asking questions.

Learning about the financial crisis

I started writing this post this morning after I read a post from the redoubtable Alice Cook, who provides a graph showing that financial debt has grown disproportionately to consumer and corporate debt in the UK.  I knew that generally but didn’t have a graph at my finger tips.  So thank you.  I like to have data stored away neatly.

Personal action during the financial crisis

I am amazed, though, that anyone is amazed by these figures.  Like many people, I feel that the managerial classes in the UK have a lot to answer for.  They should have known these figures intimately and acted accordingly.

The trouble is that blaming others is pretty useless as a psychological technique.  Professionals & business leaders may be to blame.  We might be right to hold them in contempt.  And personally, I wouldn’t feel unhappy if they were prosecuted.  But blaming others doesn’t help us feel better, and more importantly, it doesn’t help use get things right.  So I’ll leave that to others.

As a psychologist, what I have to say is this.

Until we are all a lot better informed, we will simply lurch from one crisis to another

Listed below are the bare bones of an information system that I am used to having at my disposal.

  • Trends in our industry
  • Current economic figures supplied monthly by our bank
  • People around me who read the figures
  • Key figures pertaining to our industry
  • Data on databases so that computer savvy people (including youngsters) can play with data and ask questions
  • Key figures that show the strength and resilience of our business
  • Key figures readily available so computer savvy people can play with them and ask questions

It is true I have not seen this information being made freely available to employees since I have arrived in the UK but I’ve lived elsewhere where a key player in the provision of information to people in business has been, ironically, British-listed banks.

If we want to get out of the biggest mess since the great Depression, we are going to have to do something. And to do something, we have to begin.  The first steps I will tell you, being a psychologist, is to ask questions.

Some easy no-cost first steps that individuals and small business owners should take

You have a computer and internet?  So let’s go.  If you haven’t already done it, it’s time to set up your own economic intelligence system.

FIVE steps will do it.  Set up folders on your email, feeds reader, bookmarkers and hard drive,  and a page on your blog.

1. Google Alerts.  Set up Google Alerts for your industry.

I have alerts for UK jobs and UK GDP and use a ‘rule’ to send them straight to my “intelligence” folder in email.  I read them once a week or when I need a break from other tasks.

2.  As you find useful blogs, subscribe in your feeds reader.

I scan these at my leisure and make a point of reading The Economist on Thursday evenings.

3. Bookmark articles you might want to come back to.

One big folder works better than many little ones.  Bookmarks saves you Google-time when you want to re-call something.

4.  Save useful graphs, data and pictures on your hard drive for the presentation you will make later!

5. Blog from time to time to organize your thoughts.

Then make an index of useful posts on a separate page where your readers can find all your writings on the future of your industry and local economy.

So will being economically-savvy help?

Keeping an eye on the economy does not stop other people from being foolish, of course.  And it can also make you feel panicky when you see a trend that no one else seems to care about.

I find that understanding the economy is like knowing the motorway ahead is congested.  I have created choice for myself.  I can keep driving and join the throngs inching along and losing their tempers.  Or I can pull off, and take a longer route through the back roads.

Neither may be a great outcome and it is also possible to put far too much effort into deciding the best alternative.  But I prefer a leisurely drive down the back roads enjoying the country view than boiling with frustration on an ugly motorway.

And I quite happy to leave behind badly run organizations for a business venture that is smaller and more likely to be here tomorrow.

Follow the good money

If you haven’t already done so, begin.  Spend a few hours a week following the economic data.  It gets easier.

And if we all do it, we won’t be routed by unscrupulous managers, at least for a while.

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Which firms in UK consult their employees?

Clio Springer linked to an article in the Times which says employees of big banks are being denied credit card and other insurance that we call on when we lose our livelihoods during the recession.

Informing and Consulting Employees (ICE)

I’m a noobe in the UK but in 18 months here I have not come across any one who consults employees about the financial prospects of their organization as provided by ICE.

For those who aren’t familiar with these regulations, as I understand them, in a firm with more than 50 employees, if 15 employees request consultation, employers must provide it.  That number drops to 10% at 150 employees and 2500 employees in the largest firms.  The consultation is fairly extensive and includes the profit-and-loss account.

You are tagged – tell me about ICE, please!

There are all sorts of frivolous memes on the internet.  This is a serious one.

British/UK HR practitioners –

  • Which companies operate ICE consultations?
  • Which unions insist upon ICE consultations?
  • Do/did the banks offer ICE consulations and if not, why not?

Tagged!  John Ingham, Scott Macarthur, Rick of Flipchart Fairy Tales, PJLaw, Michael Carty, and anyone else they tag to straighten me out on this question.

Which firms consult their employees fully viz. their financial futures?


Life on Market Day in Olney!

Life on Market Day in Olney

I had another delightful day in the village of Olney in Buckinghamshire or Bucks in England, UK.  That’s a long address, isn’t it?

Social Media

Hero of the hour, GarethLRoberts, tweeted well before morning tea that he was back from the markets in London.  A quick look at the blog of MuchAdo deli persuaded me that I was not going to eat noodles this week.  I am going to eat a fresh green salad with tropical fruit and to accompany this extravaganza, I am going to grill mackerel (for the first time in my life).  UPDATE: Catch MuchAdo on Facebook and see the ceiling mural by Lee Farmer unfold.

Market Day

Thursday is market day in Olney.  Market Place thronged with the regular array of butchers and greengrocers, haberdashers, cobblers, and gardeners.  The Coffee Cavern joined Olney100 today bringing their range of exotic teas and coffee.  The Happy Carrot, who are the most-glass-half-full people I know, were the ONLY stall to appear during our heavy snow.  I wish they would blog.  They have a philosophical turn of mind, a ready camera, and extensive knowledge of the whole Bucks area.  This is when I regret using Ning.  People can’t comment without logging in.

Housing Market

After the market, I headed for the eastern corner of Market Place and went to congratulate Taylor’s, the estate agent, for selling a house around the corner from me.  Did you hear that folks?  The market for housing in sought-after Olney ain’t dead.  Poke it with a stick!

Coffee Shops and Youthful Enterprise

A lively young man reminded me of how much fun it is to work with Gen Y – on-the-ball, optimisitic and conecting-connecting-connecting.  Next door at the coffee shop, Beans, young Charlie Ray (17) seized the opportunity to raise the profile of his business Mute . . . Anything but Quiet! – an online store for tie-and-dye shirts.  Charlie and his team will teach us a thing or two about websites and social media with connections to Facebook and Myspace.  He intends to go up to university in a few months to read broadcast journalism – mental note to myself – ask Euan Semple at Amplified09 if he knows any mentors around here.

Hair Salons

Energy levels continued to throb in the next store.  Well, it is a store within a store.  Olney is an old lace-making town and shops are tucked away romantically down alleys and warrens.  To reach Olney’s newest of five hair salons, we weave our way through a baby clothes store.  Secluded, airy, fresh, At the Salon is run by engaging proprietor, Rebecca Green, who also teaches hairdressing in Milton Keynes.


My rounds ended with a visit to the Phonebox – an extraordinary institution.  Ron, or Gandalf, got to the social media business model long before Google.  Funded entirely by advertisements, Phonebox prints and distributes around 50 000 copies of the must thumbed and read periodical in the Bedford – Milton Leynes – Northampton triangle.  Quick remarkable!

And amazingly, we aren’t tourists! We live here!

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