Reflections 4th April

Real insight happens at the edge of what we know or think, and of course what is beyond the edge is not nothing, just something we haven’t understood yet. That edge seems disorganised, and often absurd but it is where our next step forward lies. It is a link in a longer chain that stretches into invisibility.

This last week has been one of many really powerful conversations with intelligent, generous people who have given me time and shared thought, ideas and possibilities. It took though the absurd to bring them together. The absurd arrived in the form of Tyson the Dyson, our old floor warrior. With a two year old and a dog in the house, he had been working overtime, and fell over with a horrible groan mid battle. And so began the lessons.

First port of call was YouTube, looking for advice on how to save a dying Dyson. There is no shortage of advice out there, and the nature of the advice was the first lesson.

There are the slick videos, often made by manufacturers that seem to be a narrative of the booklet that comes with the product. Slickly produced, they are probably perfectly intelligible to the designers and engineers who built the product, but less so to us mere mortals. Then there are the shouty videos, made by people in baseball caps who make dealing with the Dyson seem like a call to battle. “LET’S DO THIS!!!” they go, pumped by the prospect of leading us into battle. Then there are, somewhere in the middle of all the others, the videos made by those who just want to help us. No noise, no great self promotion, no heroics, good helpings of humour. They take the parts that the slick videos miss – like how to unclip that clip that often just won’t, and how to use a teaspoon creatively to do it. They walk us through it slowly, so we can keep up and pause the video where we need to. They are considerate, patient and knowledgeable and there are not enough of them.

Lesson number one. Work with people who care about what they do and how they do it more than showing how clever or expert they are.

I found lesson number two in the process of doing the work. It lay in the things they don’t tell you to do, but are obvious when you do it. They are not part of fixing the problem, just things that are obvious. Finding a way to clean the inside of the brush tube, cleaning the inside of the pipes, and other such things. Not part of the problem, but perhaps something that respects the machine.

Lesson number two. The work is the client. Satisfaction in doing.

Lesson number three was an insight. As somebody who needs supervision even opening a toolbox, doing the work was a function of the current climate. It might otherwise have been a trip to the local service shop. I reflected how easily we call in help for the sake of convenience rather than necessity, when we can do much of the work ourselves, enjoy it, probably pay more attention to the secondary detail, and develop a better relationship with whatever we’re working with.

No, I wouldn’t tackle the electrics or the other things that require expertise I don’t have, but they are in reality only a small percentage of the whole, and normally very reliable. For the most part, servicing a Dyson is not rocket science. The insight for me was how easily we allow ourselves to be dissuaded from work we would be better doing ourselves. It becomes so easy to outsource that which is part of what we do. The same applies I think to our businesses. When we outsource, we create a supply chain, and as we have seen this year, supply chains can be real vulnerabilities in times of stress.

End result, a reinvigorated Tyson the Dyson, and a couple of hours of pleasurable distraction and satisfaction.

We also of course create a values chain as well as a value chain. When we outsource, we are making the ethics, standards and values of those to whom we outsource part of our system, and our responsibility. If we are the last link in the chain to the customer, we have responsibility for all the values that exist upstream. In times of change, that’s a sobering thought. Just as Jim Rohn observed that we become the average of the five people we most associate with, so do our businesses.

Lesson three was “understand who you are bringing into your customers lives without their knowledge”.

It is easy to give away more than we intend in a short term search for efficiency,

This Weeks Books

I said I’d concentrate on books I already have. That didn’t last long, I just like books too much, so this weeks pick is a mixture of old and new…

The Corrosion of Character. Richard Sennett. An old one for me, revisited. When we extend our supply chains, we share our character and the choices we make can either dilute or strengthen it. For those who care about their work over and above the money it makes, it’s important.

Camino. Leandro Herrero. A new one. I really like his work, and follow his daily thoughts. His new book is a collection of these over the years, and a great prompt. I reas them a couple at a time in the morning, and it helps set my day. Recommended

Emergent Strategy. Adrienne Maree Brown. A new one. A digression from my normal reading, recommended in a conversation during the week. Glad it was. See the quote below.


Coral Reefs. From the Atlantic.It took fifty million years, give or take a week or two, to form our coral reefs. We are heading to destroy them in fifty years. The reality of our short term selfishness,

Locus of Control. FS Blog. Locus of control came up in a conversation this week. A sixty year old idea around whether we see ourselves, or our circumstances as being in charge. Josh Kaufman covers it well here.

The benefits of Part Time Work. Bartleby in the Economist. The pandemic has shown us new ways of working. we do not have to go back to normal.

Lastly, a lovely 3 minute piece on what a great client a good piece of work can be. Thank you Andy Adler.


Emergence is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions. it emphasizes critical connections, authentic relationships, listening with the body and the mind. 

Adrienne Maree Brown. Emergent Strategy.

Have a great Easter. Enjoy the weather. Trust yourself more, Have a great week,

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