Archive for June, 2008

Humour – where DOES it come from?

Friday,27 June, 2008

In deep sleep I dreamt up a joke: the joke made me laugh out loud – so loud, that I woke myself up!

In the morning the joke still seemed quite good, so I shared it with work colleagues. They all laughed out loud as well!

Then I forgot the joke . . . . . . . . . .

Later on I could recall that I’d dreamt up a joke but, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t recall the joke itself.

Then one day in the bathroom I was listening to a radio programme in which someone was saying that Sigmund Freud reckoned that laughter was our way of dealing with stuff we didn’t really want to deal with, or unpleasant stuff – and that reminded me of the joke!

(The picture is of a scary lead mask, decorating the roof of a Japanese temple.)

So here is the dreamt up joke – with apologies in advance, as it does have a high ‘groan’ factor:

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Did you hear the one about the bloke who couldn’t say “toilet”?

He could only say “toilette”! (ie with a French accent.)

It turned out that the reason he could only say “toilette”, was because he suffered from Irritable Vowel Syndrome . . . . . . .

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Recently we have celebrated the life of Humphrey Littleton, whose chairing of the Radio 4 programme “I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue” was shear magic.

A recent radio clip recorded Humph’ speaking of meeting a man who described himself as “an orthinologist”. Apparently Humph’s great disappointment was that he did not realise until the next day that he should have replied “So you’re a ‘Word Botcher’ then.”

This is an astonishing feat of creativity, as “Word Botcher” is both:
• an accurate description of what the man had done in creating the term “orthinologist”; and
• a phonetic spoonerism of “Bird Watcher” (having a meaning in parallel with the intended term “ornithologist”.)

It’s interesting that this complex idea didn’t come to Humph’ until the next day – after a night’s sleep.

Perhaps humour, our sub-conscious, and creativity, are all connected?

What do you think?

What will be the next BIG challenge for technology?

Saturday,21 June, 2008

Standing on the back of a narrowboat, I got to thinking – it’s what you do when travelling at 3mph:

just how much technology has changed since the canal system was first built!

To start off with, the Industrial Revolution was all about big being best. A bigger machine was more powerful, could do more work, and could create more wealth.

(The picture shows Richard Arkwright’s Masson Mills in Derbyshire, built alongside the River Derwent in 1783.)

Huge mill buildings were built to harness the power of the big machines, and the large number of people who were needed to work the machines were housed in terraces which nestled under the shadow of the mills. Ultimately, whole families – generation after generation – went to work in the factories with their big, powerful machines.

So this technology generated social stability, with large numbers of people knowing their place (physically and socially) over a considerable period of time.

But in the world of technology the real power now seems to rest with the small – smaller and smaller micro-chips make computers more and more powerful, because they can process information the quickest. And ultimately, in our knowledge-based economies, the most powerful thing of all is a good idea – which has no material substance at all!

Unlike the big factory machines, this new technology is extremely mobile – responding to the demands of the market, and increasing the need for social mobility. This has created its own strains and stresses when compared with the ‘permanence’ of the old mill towns.

Both of these technologies have allowed us to massively extend our human capabilities:
• Firstly, because big powerful machines have grown our physical strength, and
• Secondly, because computerised data storage and manipulation has massively increased our knowledge to augment our brains.

After ‘strength’ and ‘knowledge’, what might be the next challenge for our technology?

At a recent conference held in Nottingham, the Dalai Lama was reported to say that the next big challenge for humanity, after ‘strength’ and ‘knowledge’, is that of ‘compassion’.

So can technology transform our capacity to be compassionate, in the way it transformed our strength and knowledge?

Could this help society manage growth in population, and the greater social mobility inherent in globalisation?

How could technology make us more compassionate?

Is it for technology to do more of the same: by applying mechanical strength or enhanced thinking and artificial intelligence for compassionate purposes?

Or is it for technology to create wealth which can then be applied to compassionate purposes?

Surely yes, but would that be good enough?

Would compassion expressed through technology be missing something – that something which can only be experienced direct from a compassionate person?

Compassion is suddenly big news. During the last week our Health Secretary Alan Johnson has announced government plans for nurses are to be rated according to the levels of care and empathy they give to patients.

No doubt there will also be additional training to improve performance; and as watching a video of one’s own working practices can be very instructive, (helping us to see ourselves as others see us) perhaps technology will help staff to change their behaviour into a more compassionate style?

So technology can help exert strength or grow knowledge for compassionate purposes, and it can even help with behavioural modification. But what of our motives – does the direct experience of someone else’s emotions, values and motivations make a real difference, which technology can never replace?

If motives really do matter, what if the breakthrough for technology would be something which, when applied (even ‘switched on?’) could make the user more compassionate than they otherwise would be?

After iTunes and iPods, could we buy an iHeart?

(And before you think this is all bonkers, it wasn’t long ago when a group visioning possible futures came up with the idea that men would have babies – and media reports suggest it’s already ‘happened’!)

Or is the concern for people’s motives just ‘touchy-feely’ nonsense, and it doesn’t matter as long as the necessary services are provided in a caring sort of way?

What do you think?

Creativity CAN help business!

Friday,13 June, 2008

Window displays have been the traditional way in which retailers use creativity to attract customers, especially at Christmas.

This is a Parisian window display in a large department store, attracting families at Christmas time. And we can still be surprised at the use of creative thinking at other times of the year.

This is not a shoe shop, but a Chocolatier demonstrating skill.

And how might a plumber use a shop front to attract business?

You wouldn’t want to wear the boots and jacket in this shop window – they are made from lead, skilfully beaten to shape!

Creativity can also be applied to what is done, (not just what is on display).

When travelling in Scotland, we saw a variety of clothing stores selling items made locally and using local materials. Of these stores, one stood out from the rest. As well as having an excellent range, the staff circulated easily through the shop, offering browsers a cup of coffee or tea, with upbeat music (not ‘muzak’) in the background. The atmosphere was informal and friendly, and the spirit was generous – avoiding any hint of commercial desperation. The customers were having a good time because the staff were, and vice versa. Not an easy trick to pull off, but applying creative thinking was clearly making a difference to their business.

Did you hear the one about the hairdressing salon who had been encouraged to do something really different, just for the sake of it? At noon the next Friday, all the cutters put their scissors down, took one step back, and sang together “Bring Me Sunshine” (of Morecombe & Wise fame)! The following week their phone didn’t stop ringing, with people asking “Is that where you sang ‘Bring Me Sunshine’? Can I book an appointment please?” Not a bad return on ‘advertising’ that had cost nothing.

The key principle is that there’s nothing in any Job Description to say work can’t be fun – and fun unlocks creativity!

Creative thinking really can help business, in more ways than one.

Politics, Marketing, Leadership & Management

Saturday,7 June, 2008

In the UK we have had experience of partnership working, involving people from different political parties, as well as involving people who are not involved in party politics. Things go well, and often a measure of agreement can be reached on difficult issues, UNTIL we get near election times. Then the reality of party politics requires that politicians exaggerate their differences because of the need to get elected ahead of the ‘other lot’ – using the language of the market place, they have to grow “market differentiation”.

But at the same time as the media demands conflict and differentiation between the parties, the media analysis and debate often narrows down the options available – leading to arguments about who came up with what ideas.

And if this wasn’t difficult enough, sometimes we may be in danger of Leadership and Management becoming inverted:

* Leadership – often defined as “doing the right thing”; and
* Management – usually “doing the thing right”.

Is Government, and its legislative processes, becoming too Managerial – focusing on “doing the thing right”?

Should Government have more trust in managers – so that our leaders can concentrate on making sure that we are “doing the right thing”?

How does this all look from your viewpoint?

If any of these concerns are valid, what does it mean for the future of politics and our society?

And what does all this mean for partnership working between politicians and non-politicians?

Of course, asking the questions is easier than giving the answers – that takes more than one brain!

Do share your thoughts . . . . . . . . .