Archive for May, 2008

Beyond price . . . . . . .

Saturday,31 May, 2008


The most beautiful sleep of all, is the sleep of someone who knows he is really loved.

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Moving Targets – Planning for the Future!

Thursday,29 May, 2008

If someone is out shooting at a moving target, they would never think of trying to hit the target where it is now. They would try to hit the target where it’s going to be by the time the bullet or arrow gets there! (Apologies to the seagull – it’s not intended to be the target, just an example of something moving freely and unpredictably . . . . . . . .)

And yet, so often, we can be so impressed by information – especially if it’s technical and in the form of statistics, or called “evidence” – that we base our plans for the future on such information, which may already be out of date.

What we should be doing is looking at trends, and thinking about what changes might be happening to our world in the future, so as to help us guess where our plans need to take us by the time they are delivered.

As an example, if we are planning to remove a percentage of the population out of fuel poverty by a given date, it’s no use basing this on current energy prices. We should assume that energy costs will be running ahead of general inflation, and therefore countering fuel poverty will need a higher level of investment than might otherwise be assumed.

It’s true that the past cannot automatically predict the future. But thinking creatively about how things have changed in the past, can help us develop ideas about how the future might be. And no matter how imperfect our efforts to predict the future, we’re likely to get much closer to the target by thinking differently about the future, than if we point all our efforts at how things are now!

Fortunately there’s help available for thinking differently about the future: see “The Tomorrow Project” in “Interesting Links”.

Managing all this information requires us to make the best possible use of our sub-conscious, as referred to in previous blogs, particularly the one headed “Problem Solving, Creativity, Brains, and Co-Coaching”.

Statistics, Evidence, and Creativity

Friday,23 May, 2008

Statistics can be dangerous, creating traps for the unwary.

For instance, even if I have my feet in the ‘fridge and my head in the oven, my average temperature might still be ok. But shouldn’t I be worried?

Representing these Russian dolls by their average height, would really miss the point.

And then there’s the matter of evidence, which is increasingly used to support the development of strategies, aims and policies. But surely, proper evidence is essential if we are to move organisations, businesses and society in the right direction, isn’t it? Well, yes and no!

After all, we should build our future on proper evidence wherever possible, but working with ‘evidence’ to determine strategic aims can also carry dangers. ‘Evidence’ needs to be intensely rational – so working with it will make use of the left, rational side of our brains. But it is likely that the best strategic aims will be developed when we access the right, creative side of our brains.

So having considered the evidence, we should engage in discussion and other visioning activity, so as to unleash our creative faculties. An excellent example of this approach, is the Derby Primary Care NHS Trust’s aim to save 2,000 lives in the next 10 years. Devised to meet the challenges thrown up by evidence, the strategic thought processes went well beyond just focusing on the (rational) ‘evidence’. The Trust’s aim is not only an example of creative thinking, but the resulting aim is also empowering – and therefore much more likely to achieve success! Using both sides of our brains really does make practical sense – the evidence clearly shows it . . . . . . . . . .

Living Derby

Sunday,18 May, 2008

Derby is a friendly place.

Apparently, most places like Derby lose about 7% of their population every year because some people choose to move on. But the actual figure for Derby is only half that amount.

In spite of Derby’s friendliness, Derby still has communities and businesses who know little of each other. This is not unusual. Analysis of trends suggests that this will become a bigger issue as time goes by.

Social geographers have reported that, when people choose where to live, they find themselves increasingly living with others who are just like them. Radio 4’s Talking Allowed gave the example of someone who moved into Crouch End, London, only to discover a number of mums at the school gate who were in marketing and PR, just like her!

It will become increasingly difficult for towns and cities to work well and be good places to live, if their populations know less and less about each other, as ignorance usually breeds suspicion and ultimately fear. So what can we do about it?

Enter Living Derby – a group of successful individuals and companies, mostly from the creative industries in Derby (graphic design, literature, fine art etc) – who have experience of creative projects, from local to nationwide in scale, that have achieved a great deal in building communities. Living Derby wants to use that experience for the long-term benefit of Derby, by delivering creative and social programmes, keeping records of all of this in a growing online archive which the people of Derby can access – so that none of the work is lost. (For more information about Living Derby, click on “Living Derby” in “Interesting Links”.)

In his book Affluenza, Oliver James cites four fundamental human needs: feeling secure, being part of a community, feeling competent, and being autonomous and authentic.

Wouldn’t it be great if Living Derby can help individuals to feel secure, be part of a community, feel competent, and be autonomous and authentic? And by helping individuals, also help communities organisations and businesses as well – and ultimately our city of Derby?

Wouldn’t it be great if Living Derby helped our city to flower?

The Gift of Irritation

Friday,16 May, 2008

How on earth can irritation be a gift?

Frequently, when dog walking, I get irritated by a stone in the bottom of my shoe. I know that, left unattended, the stone will create a painful blister, and ultimately stop me walking. So I take time to remove the stone from my shoe.

But we don’t always take action to remove irritations in other parts of our lives – usually because the irritation is experienced by our minds, rather than by our bodies.

Perhaps the irritation might be our subconscious telling us something important? Why wait until the irritating problem grows, and has an even greater impact on our health or our lives with colleagues, family or friends?

GoreTex water proof liners in walking boots and Post-It Notes help reduce different sorts of irritation. So we could say that some people have made a very good living from the gift of irritation.

I recently received an automatic reply to an e-mail I’d sent. The reply explained that the recipient only looked at his e-mails once a day, at 1pm, so as to make best use of his time. I was told the number I should ring if the matter was urgent. That’s a great way to reduce the irritation of being distracted by incoming e-mails. What should we do though, if we find ourselves bombarded with more and more automatic replies from those to whom we send e-mails? Perhaps someone might design some clever software to manage that for us, and make even more use of the gift of irritation?

Problem Solving, Creativity, Brains, & Co-coaching

Thursday,8 May, 2008

For some time it has been recognised that problem solving tends to work through four stages:

  • Play – when a problem and all its parts are analysed, stirred up, and understood, whether systematically or by a process akin to a child playing with food on a plate;
  • Incubation – when the problem solver’s attention is turned away from the problem in hand, whether by getting up from the desk in search of a drink, or by having a good night’s sleep;
  • Illumination – when the solution suddenly presents itself, often with a sense of certainty as to its rightness; and
  • Verification – when the solution is tested against the problem and, more often than not, found to be the right answer.

What is going on here?

How can it be that ‘doing nothing’ (during “incubation”) can be so effective?

Our brains are made of two halves:

  • The left side, which controls the right side of our bodies and is generally responsible for rational thought; and
  • The right side, which controls the left side of our bodies and is generally responsible for creative and artistic activity.

So when we are ‘incubating’ a problem, it’s not that we are doing nothing, but rather we are giving the right side of our brains a chance to chip in and help out. Thus it can be very helpful to create distance between us and a problem, and this is well articulated in Prof’ Richard Wiseman’s book “Did You Spot the Gorilla?” The book makes clear that this can have major business benefits, as well as personal ones: consequently it’s not about Rational VERSUS Creativity but, by using both sides of our brains, its about harnessing Rationality AND Creativity.

Of course creating this distance can be difficult for those not used to it – but help could be at hand through co-coaching. Co-coaching is the process where people, working in pairs, support each other to improve their performance. From my experience as a participant in trials, co-coaching does help create distance between self and a problem. It also helps build urgency to get on and just do it!

For more information on co-coaching, see “cococo” in ‘Interesting Links”.

Accessing the benefits of both sides of our brains, can be a bit like using a campervan. The left (rational) side of our brains looks after maintenance, and keeps us within the law and the Highway Code. But that’s all a bit boring, and not why we buy a van.

The right (creative/artistic) side of our brains can help us decide where to go with the van, so we can wake up somewhere spectacular, and then fully appreciate the beauty of the moment.

As the advert’ puts it: “priceless”.