Friday, January 25, 2008


Vindication at last: today's Times states:
In derivatives trading winners exactly match the losers.

And so rogue trader Jerome Kerviel's loss of £3.7B is someone else's gain. I've always felt that some financial trading has a zero sum element to it, but my trader friends have always dismissed this as simply not true - giving me the impression that they are adding value in some way. Now it seems that derivatives trading is a zero sum game... with no added value. I'm now trying to think of any other profession where the overall status quo is left untouched by its efforts. Any ideas?

Friday, January 18, 2008


After years of entrepreneurial planning, scheming and fantasizing, in the past week so many possibilities have emerged that completely destroy the notion (in my mind at least) of any sort of linear cause and effect. Suddenly we're meeting the right people, finding the right spaces (see previous post) which could have happened a long time ago...or may never have happened at all. Is this a stochastic process or a tide in the affairs of men?


Looks like this is going to be our new work home for the next year or so. I went to the opening bash, got slightly sozzled on cheap champagne (pleasant nevertheless) and signed up. Unlike other alcohol-fuelled decisions, in the clear light of day and sobriety, I have no regrets.

Monday, January 14, 2008


At a recent Teambuilding workshop I asked the small team what kept them awake nights. One person replied that it was the fact of reporting to 2 bosses. Everyone sat up at the prospect of chewing on this juicy morsel. But after some careful digging, it transpired that the fact of having 2 bosses wasn't in itself an issue... in fact it all worked quite well.
So why had it been raised?
Answer: 'because I didn't want to be left out not having a problem to share'.
Now what's the problem?

Friday, January 11, 2008


Continuing from my preceeding post, I often wonder what I would do if I saw a group of youths up to no good. Would I intervene? I then ask myself what if the group was replaced by a tiger (yes, one of those stripy wild cats). Obviously I wouldn't attempt to tame the tiger and make it see the error of its ways. So why should I do the same with a bunch of feral teens? The result could be the same.
In other words why would I waste my time and jeopardise my wellbeing trying to change innate behaviour in an animal, a disconsolate youth or an unsympathetic boss?
Now this isn't meant to be a universal principle - I think a lot depends on the drivers: is someone else's welfare at stake and am I acting in their best interests? Or do I want the satisfaction of controlling the errant behaviour of a 3rd party?


I ran a Creative Problem Solving workshop the other day. After some work it transpired that the team's real problem was the boss, who was not present. But on further examination this was a smokescreen - the real problem was that the boss didn't do or say what the team wanted. Already we'd moved away from the person to the behaviour. Then it became clear that the boss's negative behaviour was a response to the team's behaviour - so the real problem became the relationship. Now relationships need 2 parties - 2 to tango. So the emphasis shifted from one person's personality to a network of relationships.
And the question changed from: how can we change our boss's behaviour? to: how can we work within these constraints to get what we want?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


My institution's management network is looking for a new Chair. Problem: no one's volunteering. And in their paradigm, this is a problem. Enter Orpheus the conductorless orchestra:

Instead of one person taking on the orchestra's artistic responsibility and leadership, we share leadership throughout the membership of the orchestra. Each piece sees a different concertmaster, rotating principle musician chairs, and a sharing of ideas and inspirations. This empowering formula creates a dynamic setting where each musician takes artistic ownership of the performance, not just his or her own part. When we feel personally connected to the music, we know you will too. This is the Orpheus Process.
If this sounds too good to be true, listen to the results:

Saturday, January 05, 2008


Andreas Scholl, the great German counter-tenor has a profound insight on learning:

"I have this phrase which sums up the process: imitation, contemplation, emancipation. You begin by imitating, you observe yourself doing the action and then you can move on and become free."
This really resonates with my experience but I only realised it reading this quote.


I've been re-reading Arthur Battram's 'Navigating Complexity' over the Christmas break. I do like the way it skims over the vast surface of this subject, quite happy to leave issues unresolved. It reminds me a favourite 'get out of jail' card that I've used recently: "The question is more important than the answer".


This week's Times reveals that 1 in 3 of us are bored at work. This occupational ennui is apparently due to the simplification and automation brought about by technology. Ironic that the deployment of technology itself is actually very interesting and stimulating (speaking as an engineer).
I wonder if the problem wouldn't be eased if those involved were considered not just as fleshy cogs in the machine, but as people with a need for challenge and meaning.
Henry Ford complained that he got a whole person when all he wanted was a pair of hands - that was a loooooong time ago.