Posts Tagged ‘Random’

What if . . . . . . .

Sunday,31 August, 2008

Not all relics of the industrial age are quite as ‘photogenic’ as this old tub!

By now, we are pretty familiar with the principle: ‘the polluter pays’.

Our cars must be disposed of responsibly, we have to pay to get rid of materials containing asbestos, and so on.

But could we, and should we, apply this principle to other aspects of our life?

Here’s a few ideas for starters.

  • There’s a clear link between fatty and sugar laden foods and obesity – which is set to cost our Health Service a fortune in the years to come.  Should such foods attract a special tax, both as a disincentive for consumption, and to make sure those eating these foods meet the total cost resulting from consumption?
  • Late night pubs and clubs spill people onto streets at times when shopkeepers are not around.  It costs money to provide police at this time, taking resources away from previous normal daytime duties.  And if a drunken fracas develops and a shop window gets broken in, it rests with the shopkeepers to answer a call in the early hours, arrange emergency repairs, and then install security shutters.  Should the cost of all this be met by taxing those who run licensed premises which serve areas where these problems occur?
  • People end up in hospital for all sorts of reasons – sometimes as a result of accidents caused by dangerous driving, sometimes because of violent assaults.  Expensive therapy may even be needed to help victims cope with the aftermath of criminal activity.  Should the costs be met by the perpetrator, rather than by the tax payer?
  • Disposing of household rubbish is increasingly expensive – whether for landfill or by recycling.  Most householders battle with junk mail they don’t want, as well as with unnecessarily elaborate packaging.  Shouldn’t those generating these materials, be expected to meet the cost of disposal?
  • How much money is spent on cleaning up after chewing gum?  Shouldn’t clean up costs be met by the companies who make and sell it?

What do you think?

Would this help people understand the full consequences of their actions?

Can you think of any other examples?

Mistakes are GOOD! Well, sometimes . . . . . .

Friday,25 July, 2008

These days we’re always being encouraged to innovate – to do things differently and improve.

Sometimes when we try to do things differently, we make mistakes. It seems that making mistakes is an essential part of innovation.

Sometimes the mistakes can be better than our first intentions! In 1928 Alexander Fleming was working with a bacterial culture which became contaminated and died. This ‘mistake’ led to the discovery of penicillin, which has saved countless lives ever since.

But unfortunately, sometimes the mistakes just make things worse, and then we have to learn from our mistakes and try again – what used to be called ‘learning by trial and error’.

In these days of extended accountabilities and media spotlights, risk is invariably seen as bad.

But if we can’t make mistakes, won’t we expose ourselves to the biggest risk of all – the risk of reducing our capacity to innovate and improve?

If we can’t learn from making mistakes, are we making a rod for our own backs?

So why don’t companies come right out and say “It’s ok to make mistakes”?

Of course there would have to be safeguards, but how would you feel if your employer said it’s ok to make mistakes:

  • Provided they are honest mistakes, made with the best of intentions and not because you were just being sloppy or negligent;
  • Provided you take responsibility for your mistakes;
  • Provided you learn from your mistakes, taking steps to make sure you don’t make the same mistake again; and
  • Provided you help your colleagues learn from your mistakes, sharing your experience with them in order to reduce the risk of them ever making the same mistake that you made.

If your company had a ‘Mistakes Policy’ like that, would you feel supported, more able to innovate and improve?

If this wouldn’t work for you, what would you need?

Happy 90th Birthday, Nelson Mandela!

Friday,18 July, 2008

Today’s the day to wish Nelson Mandela a “Very Happy 90th Birthday!”

A recent BBC Radio4 ‘Any Questions?’ programme was asked why established democracies don’t seem to get politicians of the stature of Nelson Mandela.
A great question!

It occurred to me that Nelson Mandela was locked in prison for 30 years, and then became a President for three years. In other words, he had 10 years to think, for every one year he practiced as a politician.

We are probably lucky if our politicians are given one year to think, for every 10 that they act.

Of course I am not suggesting that we lock all our aspiring politicians in gaol!

But the shear breathtaking audacity and generosity behind the concept of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, shows the power of thought – if only we can give ourselves sufficient time.

And action without sufficient thought, can be pretty dangerous – especially in the realm of world politics.

What would be YOUR answer be to the question “Why is it that established democracies don’t seem to get politicians of the stature of Nelson Mandela?”

Do share your thoughts.

Happy Independence Day, USA!

Friday,4 July, 2008

America is not just independent. America is very independent.

Why?

Is it something to do with the personalities of its people and/or its leaders?

Honey and Mumford reckoned people have four different ways of learning (often called ‘learning styles’):
Activists just get on and ‘do it’ – acting first, considering consequences later;
Reflectors observe and analyse – slow to reach conclusions;
Theorists think logically – fitting things into a pattern; and
Pragmatists put ideas into practice – shunning endless discussion.

Is America very independent, because Americans have a preponderance of particular learning styles?

Were the people who left Europe and sailed the high seas, more likely to be Activists? (Who else would cross the Atlantic under sail with no guarantee of success, and no likelihood of ever returning?) If so, can this pass down the generations?

What learning style do you need to become President, given that you can only run for office if you have substantial personal wealth?

Does this have any relevance to the conduct of international relations, where different peoples learning styles can come into conflict?

Does it even have a bearing on America’s foreign policy?

What do you think?  Of course how you approach this question, may just be coloured by your own learning style . . . . .

Happy Independence Day, USA and The World!

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.

Beyond price . . . . . . .

Saturday,31 May, 2008


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

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?