Archive for March, 2012

Havin’ pun!

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

I’ve always loved the art of playing with words, and this picture, pasted on the side of a temperamental printer, captures something lovely.  The jamming printer is clearly a bad thing, and a cause of much frustration.  Bob Marley was talking about a joyous thing when he was singing his song Jammin [click the picture to hear it.]  Same word with a totally different emotional meaning.  Language is so subjective and its meaning so ephemeral, you need to know the context to comprehend what was meant.  A traffic jam is a source of frustration and misery and strawberry jam on a scone a thing of beauty!

Email, texting and other instant forms of ‘communicating’ just make it easier and easier to misunderstand one another!  I’m not against them, simply suggesting that the meaning that others take from our words is not necessarily what we hoped!  So if it is important your audience really ‘gets’ you, then take the time to express your meaning clearly!

“Ooh, yeah! All right!
We’re jammin’:
I wanna jam it wid you.
We’re jammin’, jammin’,
And I hope you like jammin’, too.

Ain’t no rules, ain’t no vow, we can do it anyhow:
I’n’I will see you through,
‘Cos everyday we pay the price with a little sacrifice,
Jammin’ till the jam is through.

We’re jammin’ –
To think that jammin’ was a thing of the past;
We’re jammin’,
And I hope this jam is gonna last.”  

Bob Marley

The nature of Time

Friday, March 30th, 2012

I listened to a fascinating talk about the history of time keeping and clocks the other day.  It is a very rich area to explore as we take it so much for granted and assume that time is not only constant, but the very idea of time is equally so.  This simply isn’t the case.  Our relationship with this concept is a cultural one and like most cultural artefacts has evolved over time.  If we go back a thousand years, the only people very interested in time were monks who wanted to know when to pray.  The first primitive western clocks had no hands and simply sounded the time to let the monks know it was time for the next office.  The day was divided into 24 parts in the same way as a sundial and our 12 hour convention only emerged later.  The hands of the clock were designed to mimic the sundial which was what most people used to tell the time, and they travel in the same way as the sun travels in the northern hemisphere.  So if clocks had been invented in China first, clockwise would have been the opposite way round!  England didn’t have a standard time until the railways made it possible to travel far enough, fast enough to move from what were, in effect, one time zone to the next.  Each village merely took its time from the local church clock, and as no one could travel far enough, or communicate fast enough to deal with the next ‘time zone’ it didn’t affect anyone.  The only people for whom accurate time  was crucial was navigators, and the British Navy offered vast prizes to the inventors of a more accurate chronometer, as this provided competitive, strategic advantage to them.

All of this is fascinating in itself, but it is a wonderful example of how social and cultural constructs are not rigid and self-evident.  That as we talk to people from other cultures these things morph and we need to be aware of this.  The importance of punctuality and the rules that govern it change all over Europe.   This is just one tiny example of how complex communication is and why it is so hard to do it with precision.  The first rule is to be clear what you are really trying to say, then framing it in such a way as your audience can understand that.  Even this concept is apparently cultural.  In China and Germany there is an expectation that the audience will work to understand the meaning, in the UK the onus is on the speaker to adjust his message to his listeners! 

Communication is such a vital skill in life and business, and yet hangs on such a fragile thread…

“Behaviour in the human being is sometimes a defence, a way of concealing motives and thoughts, as language can be a way of hiding your thoughts and preventing communication.”   Abraham Maslow

“Communication is two-sided – vital and profound communication makes demands also on those who are to receive it… demands in the sense of concentration, of genuine effort to receive what is being communicated.”  Roger Sessions

New tunes from old instruments?

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

I visited a pub in Ticehurst called the Bell.  Imagine my surprise when I visited the loo to discover water music here has nothing to do with Handel!  They have converted, or should I say recycled, 3 old French horns into urinals!  They have used old hats as lamp shades and turned a pile of books into a pillar.  Looking at something and seeing a whole new use for it is quite a skill.  This applies in all aspects of life, especially work.  How could this person’s skills be better used elsewhere in the business?  How could this set of competences be used make a different product?  How could a different market sector be approached with our skill-set or products?

Sometimes Change is just about a new way of looking at something old.  There was a very good TV show called Whose line is it anyway, which gave a set of comedians a variety of objects, such as a traffic cones,  and they had to come up with all sorts of silly uses for them.  This kind of silly, playful exploration can be just the right way to explore the limitations which you have placed on yourselves.

“What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”  TS Elliot

Your tattoo is ringing!

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

Nokia recently patented a tattoo that uses a special ink that can generate a noticeable sensation in the skin when stimulated, so that it can vibrate when you get a phone call!  It is another step in the journey of exploring the edges of our new interfaces with computers and machines which is known as a brain–computer interface (BCI), or a direct neural interface or a brain–machine interface (BMI). Clearly this is cutting edge science which asks all sorts of questions of our ethical and moral choices.  Is this the beginning of the cyborg era?

The interesting thing is it is also just another way of us communicating and is the most ancient and foundational of human skills.  In this era where we can be instantly and globally connected 24/7 we can still struggle to get our message over to those who are most important to us, as every husband or wife, every boss, every parent knows to their cost!  Indeed, I’m sure we have all suffered from sending off a quick text or email, thinking we were just conveying an simple and innocent message, only to find we have suddenly become mired in the indignation of the recipient..?  It happened to me just the other day.  A well intentioned BBM caused all sorts of sibling upset.  I have yet to work in a company that hasn’t had issues with communication.  It seems the faster the technology moves the bigger the scope for miscommunicating.

Whether it be an email, text or piece of corporate communication you need to take a moment to decide:-

  1. What exactly you want to say
  2. Is the message appropriate to the audience?
  3. Is it clear?
  4. How do you want them to respond?  To feel?
  5. And in these days. when we drown in unnecessary emails, is it necessary for this particular reader?

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”   George Bernard Shaw

“Speak when you are angry – and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.”   Dr. Laurence J. Peter



  1. Mobile Gazette
  2. Telegraph

Bridging the gap

Monday, March 19th, 2012

Isn’t it interesting, the humble ant can bridge a gap many times its body size with a helping ‘hand’ from its fellows and yet it isn’t uncommon, even  in relatively highly performing teams for people not to receive this kind of support.  Indeed, challenge is seen as something of a virtue, as well as a measure of the size of one’s member!  Clearly it is all about balancing the need for support and challenge and this should be down to the leader to deliver, but too often the cultural norms of the team mirror his or her personal style.

You need to be able to depend on your team mates; to be able to achieve things with their help and support that perhaps are beyond you without them.  This enables the team to synergise.  Looking and listening for what is right in their proposal and building on it rather than trying to attack the faults within it.  Bosses need to look for what is right and praise it rather than simply trying to see mistakes and jumping on them.  A little recognition can go a long way and it is proven that people will work harder and longer for someone who makes them feel special, even if they aren’t earning top dollar.


“’Tis not enough to help the feeble up, but to support them after.”  William Shakespeare

“In a relationship each person should support the other; they should lift each other up.”  Taylor Swift

Different conversations

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

I was reminded yesterday in my personal life of an approach I use often in my work one.  As my job requires me to instigate and support Change, I will often suggest that meetings be held away from the workplace, and wearing different clothes.  Breaking these moulds can enable and facilitate new and different ways to communicate and think.  In themselves they are small things, but they are also powerful anchors to our habitual ways of thinking, being and talking.

As my family members each find our own ways forward from my wife’s death, we are all trying to find our way and adapt our roles within the family grouping.  I recently broke the news to the family that I had met someone special enough that I wanted them to know about her and not surprisingly this ‘hand grenade’ caused all sorts of shockwaves.  How do you even begin to discuss something as radical as someone new entering our intimate family circle, especially after what happened?

At home, we, like most families fall into well trodden groves and habits and that can get in the way of this kind of conversation.  So it is with real pleasure that I found when I met my eldest in town for tea and a chat that we began communicating in a much more unfettered way and discussing allsorts of interesting topics.  I certainly don’t think that this issue has been resolved but by creating new patterns of talking and listening it is easier to explore these dangerous new ideas.

“A good quartet is like a good conversation among friends interacting to each other’s ideas.”   Stan Getz

“A pas de deux is a dialogue of love. How can there be conversation if one partner is dumb?”   Rudolf Nureyev

Lessons from wild garlic

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

I was walking in the woods with a friend the other day and the ground was densely covered with wild garlic.  As I have another friend who is very partial to this, I noted its location and recollected that it could be difficult to find, and yet here it was growing abundantly.  It occurred to me that if you provide the right conditions, in this case moist, loamy & slightly  acidic soil, then things thrive. 

What, may you ask, does this teach us?  Well it got me thinking that in companies, if you want certain behaviours or values to thrive, then you have to provide the right conditions and culture for them to grow.  So many times the bosses will decide that they want x, y or z to happen but they fail to follow through with building an environment that encourages this.  Building a culture is a subtle and complex art but crucial to make Change root strongly.  Like so many other things, it starts at the top and requires modelling by the leaders.

“If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then unto me.”  Shakespeare

“A garden requires patient labour and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfil good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.”   Liberty Hyde Bailey

Today is Mine

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

I heard this song yesterday for the first time, being sung by Australian guitar maestro Tommy Emmanuel. The words speak for themselves but the thing that struck me was the title “Today is Mine”, so often we feel a victim of time and say things like “I don’t have time..” or “I can’t do that..” These statements ignore the fact that we are constantly making choices about what we do and what we attend to, what is important and what isn’t. We make something important by giving it our attention, those things we ignore we are, de facto,  making less important. So often, if you ask people, they would say the most important things to them are their family or their health, yet they spend their time & energy with other people doing unhealthy things!

I always say the only time you can make Change happen is today, and if you are not taking ownership of your day then, you are failing to attend to those things which are important to you. Maybe it is time to reclaim today and make it the day you want and the first day of a life you have chosen…