Reflections 9 May

On my Mind.

In a week that has seen elections here in the UK, an increasing level of noise about returning to work and holiday travel amidst a still explosive international situation, my mind has been on our relationship with ideas.

A mixture of apparent relationships has struck me. At one end, there are the dogmatists, those who insist they know what’s going on, what to do about it and don’t entertain discussion. On the other end are the dreamers, who believe that we can change our situation by willing it to happen. In the middle are the pragmatists, who work with what’s available. 

The dogmatists are easy to spot. They sit atop hierarchies, far away from the day to day realities of those further down. Whether they are preaching populist notions of sovereignty or advocating that a return to the office world is the only acceptable mode of working, they have high levels of propositional and practical power and will shape our short term future. They are those who are often wrong but never in doubt and whose often repeated mantra when it does go wrong is that “lessons will be learned”. 

The dreamers are also easy to spot. They are attractive people with high ideals, a strong sense of social justice, and a cause. They like to go head to head with the dogmatists, pointing out everything they consider wrong, but with only vague, sweeping answers as to possible alternatives. They construct potent scaffolds for their idea of the future but have not yet created the foundations.

We need to pay attention to the pragmatists. 

Some inhabit the world of the dogmatists, brokering the power and expertise that helps the obsolescent function. It is the world of the major banks, consultancies, political parties, lawyers and financiers whose personal interest is vested in the status quo changing as slowly as possible and even then only on their terms. 

Others are pragmatic dreamers. They understand what the dreamers are excited about simultaneously as they realise that to get to that possible future, we need to get unstuck from where we are first. The pragmatist in them recognises that we first need mobility – social, financial, technical and political. The direction takes second place to movement. Once things are moving, then they can set a direction. 

Pragmatic dreamers are tricksters. They inhabit a Schumpeterian world of creative destruction, and there are many of them out there right now. They harness experiential and artistic power. Harder to define than the stuff of dogmatists, but much easier to feel.

As what we have been taught to believe slowly, or maybe not so slowly, dissolves in the face of multiple, linked, complex issues from climate change to social justice, we need to pay attention to whose dreams we are buying.

What is happening is not something we’re watching; it’s something we’re part of and for which we are individually and collectively responsible.

Any dream will not do.

Books I’ve liked

Re-sounding. Rick Spann and Simon Martin. Published by the innovative TAOS institute, this short, well-referenced book offers an exciting alternative to conventional views on organisational change. It is also free to download. Provocative and, in my opinion, well worth reading.

The Fifth Hammer. Daniel Heller – Roazen. Based on the legend of Pythagoras’s discovery that we need apparent disharmony to induce harmony. I bought this to go alongside Re-sounding and Daniel Byrne’s “How music works” to see if it will help me leverage the insights from Re-Sounding.

The Artist’s Way. Julia Cameron. I hadn’t heard of this bestseller until introduced to it during an unhurried conversation hosted by Johnnie Moore. It’s about how we can best get out of our own way when doing something new and creative, and with a book on the blocks, I need that right now.

Articles I’ve liked

Efficiency is the Enemy. FS Blog. Efficiency is good at anchoring us where we are, not where we need to be—an excellent short article.

How to be excellent. From Psyche Magazine. Lessons from Plato and Aristotle. 

The Tragedy of the “Tragedy of the Commons” The idea of the “tragedy of the commons” entered economic folklore in 1968… Like all dogma, it’s worth challenging every so often.

Want to be a Samurai? 

And a Quote (well two actually – I liked them both)

He only takes portions of existence and fancies that the whole

William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

“It’s important to think. It’s what separates us from lentils.”

Jack. in The Fisher King

Have a great week. Pick your dreams carefully, but start moving anyway.

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