Reflections Sunday 16th August

What I’ve noticed.

I mentioned last week that I thought some of the changes we’re seeing to the ways we work are becoming embedded. This week suggests further evidence that the neat systems we had in place just won’t cope with the complex unintended consequences of the actions we’re taking.

The clear one today of a hapless education governance flailing around to make sure that somehow their already flawed system for categorising students retains some sort of authority. The irony of the statement by the Education minister that “we’ve got to make sure people don’t get into jobs they are not qualifed for” was not lost on me. Education department, heal thyself.

That said, we have to have some sympathy. Organisation charts and bureaucracies don’t do complex. And neither do simplistic algorithms put together in a hurry by a system under pressure, and you can’t blame the algorithm. Trying to define human beings, and their potential by exam results has always been tricky, with those annoying outliers like Musk, Branson and Jobs who recognise the correlation to effective performance is at best tenuous, like trying to judge the health of a plant by the packet its seeds came in. This needs leadership, judgement, communication and humility. Very human traits.

I was also interested in this post by Josia Nakash citing a piece by McKinsey on how CEO’s are reaching out to each other in the current uncertainty. I think this is to be welcomed at the same time as we realise its major limitations. We learn by reaching out to those different to us to get their worldviews and experience and see through their eyes. Reaching out to other CEO’s is more likely to create a giant echo chamber of those who are more likely to be wilfully blind. But its a start.

What I’ve been reading

Still catching up on my reading. It’s become remarkably busy, but I liked this.

Organisation in the mind. David Armstrong. We all see organisations differently, based on how we wan to see them far more than what was in the mind of the person creating it.

Things I’ve liked

Meditations on Attuning with the Rhythms of Life: Panarchy, Poiesis and Presence. A long title, but ann excellent read at a time when the old ways are struggling to survive and new ones are emerging. A short summary of Panarchy, a 20 minute read and well worth the effort.

3D Printed Coral. Nature and Science together. Picked this up via Scrapbook Chronicles

On Reflection. Maria Konnokova. We spend nowhere near enough time in reflection, and far too much in automatic action. Here’s 5 minutes on why we need to change that.

A quote

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

The Man in the Arena. Theodore Roosevelt.

What I’ve learned

That you can’t make something beautiful by using platic surgery. Beauty begins with the soul.

The same is true of businesses as they try to remain credible whilst being forced to trample over their stated values (often created in an away day, or worse by consultants) in the face of unexpected pressures.

What I’m up to.

This period of crisis has created real clarity for me in what I do next. What I have learned from bringing apparent opposites together and synthesising views has created real insight. The end result is two powerful projects looking at how we work to create new ways of generating what matters out of chronic uncertainty.

One of them is a virtual, pro bono conference in September. More details shortly.

Have a great week.


Published by Richard H Merrick

Complexity and volatility create enormous opportunities for those willing to go beyond the boundaries of "business as usual" to explore the edges of their business. I am an entrepreneur, a coach, a creative thinker, and above all, an explorer of possibility.

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