Friday, April 30, 2010


This has become a sort of organisational mantra that I hear trotted out as an article of faith on a regular basis. Like much received wisdom, I like to look for holes in it. Well this seems to have a gaping void in it.


Chris Cardell makes a good point:

In marketing there is no such thing as failure. There is only a
This makes sense to me on several levels - it maybe easier to embrace a result (and learn from it) than a failure; it's easier to be objective, and maybe it's easier to avoid a repetition. Or is this a semantic game along the lines of replacing the word "failure" with "deferred success" as a teachers' union suggested a while back?

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Dr. Paul Thomas from the University of Glamorgan wants to get rid of bosses and give the workers more responsibility. Last week's Ban the Boss showed us how he nearly didn't do it. The eye-opener for me was how the more entrenched opposition came from the workers... not the bosses!

His intervention flies in the face of virtually everything that organisations hold dear. And his most powerful argument is: trust me - it'll work.

The rationale behind the changes is easily undermined, but the practical outcomes are indisputable: productivity, creativity, engagement, energy, responsibility, fulfilment, humour, fun... all up; absenteeism, mistakes, moaning/whingeing, conflict, frustration, boredom...all down.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Shortly before Christmas, I was talking to my friend Alison about creativity. Before we knew how we'd got there, we found ourselves scheming a Creativity Workshop which included Alison's friend Tess, an accomplished portrait artist.

"We'll call it Freeing the Tiger",
said Alison.

I baulked silently - don't tigers eat people? Well yes, but perhaps so do some ideas. And in any case, tigers are rather beautiful, majestic creatures. And wouldn't one look great at the top of an email persuading organisations to part with their cash?

And then it struck me how ideas and tigers have something else in common: they don't thrive in captivity. Ideas are at their best when they can leap from one mind to the next, feed and grow, and move on. Take their freedom away and you lose the essence of what it is to be a tiger. Same for ideas - look at how Tim Berners-Lee's idea has the freedom to change the world. Imagine the world today if his idea had been unable to roam at will.

Well I couldn't be so thoughtful about tigers as a metaphor for ideas without consulting William Blake who waxed lyrical on tigers - even though he couldn't spell it!

Tech Tip: If the words are too small to read, type ctrl+ to zoom in and ctrl- to zoom out again.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I listen to Radio 4 in the morning - I can't stand music that early in the day. I'm generally not that enamoured of Thought for the Day either - but it thankfully only lasts a couple of minutes.

Now a few weeks ago I was listening to a typically preachy TftD when, right at the end, the speaker compared the notion of possessing something (and by implication someone) to relating to it.

A large penny dropped as I realised that, at times, I have put great energy into possessing things (and possibly people too), when relating to them instead would have been so much more rewarding.

I'm not suggesting that possession is bad and relation good - just that each has its place. And, of course, they're not mutually exclusive.

For me this has huge ramifications from house ownership to intimate relationships. So thank you TftD, though it still makes me wince.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010


William Blake wrote, painted and drew some great stuff.

Tyger! Tyger! explores the Beauty and Cruelty of the tiger as a perfect symmetry.

In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, he says:
Without contraries is no progression. Attraction and repulsion, reason and energy, love and hate, are necessary to human existence.
I think these abstract concepts have huge practical implications. They tell us not to be overly concerned with a single polarity. In any case, polarities have great difficulty in surviving on their own: cut a magnet in half and see what happens.

I had a salutary reminder of this the other day when a workshop I was facilitating got into choppy waters. Frustration and resentment against senior management, who were not present, built to fever pitch. I felt an urge to move on to more 'productive' territory where we'd started (the other polarity), but experience told me to embrace the sentiment in the room. We even got to the point where I invited the most disenchanted to leave if they thought that further debate was pointless. I should point out I put this to them in a constructive and positive way, with no edge or animosity.

At the end of the meeting the group resolved to make a formal representation to management and disclose everything that had been discussed. But the big win was that they all declared, to a man, that they now felt themselves to be a team, understood one another and were united in their common objectives. Not bad for a team comprising several different contractors and a council with a track record of poor collaboration.