Tuesday 30 November 2010

Defeated by the snow...

The closure of the A 66 meant I couldn't get across to Durham for a morning meeting, and so I also cancelled another couple in Newcastle in the afternoon, as it seemed too much to try to battle through the weather (and risk not getting home again).  But I hate that: I guess it's pride...

However, it did mean I had an unexpected day at home, and I was able to use it to develop some ideas for another bid I'm going for - including workshops on Manager as Coach, Leadership, Change Management, Presentation Skills, Negotiating and Influencing: interesting seeing how my interest in narrative approaches feeds in to all of these.

I also refreshed a lot of my materials for an outplacement support workshop on Friday - not least because I suspect there may be more of these to come in the current (economic) climate.  I think I'll travel on Thursday evening to make sure I'm there for the workshop...

Monday 29 November 2010

Too busy to blog...

It has been a really busy period recently, with book interviews, and the development of a number of new programmes for various clients, old and new.

Somehow I am still misled by the diary (which shows a few days at home) into thinking it will be a quiet week: and then I try to fit in all the things I've committed to...

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Fascinating Stuff

I have now interviewed half a dozen people for my book - and it has been a fascinating process.  Already the scope of the book and my understanding of the issues have both expanded rapidly - I need to put some boundaries around the project or it will grow for ever...

So far I have spoken to academics, leaders of organisations large and small, and HR people.  Every one of them has contributed not only the anecdotes and perspectives I was expecting, but also a fresh angle, question or insight that took me by surprise.

And I have another 30 or so people lined up to interview.  Truly exciting times - but don't hold your breath waiting for the book, as it could be a while yet...

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Social Inclusion through the Digital Economy

The SIDE project is officially launched tomorrow, and is already producing some impressive work, ranging from digital jewellery that can bring tangible benefits for people dealing with dementia, to  research assisting older drivers in driving safer for longer, to the Ambient Kitchen.

The centre is directed by the impressive Paul Watson with a very strong team, and is one of the largest research projects of its type (ie not Medical etc research).  Its overall aim is to tackle social exclusion  by making it easier for people to access the life-changing benefits offered by digital technologies. 

Moving Mountains

Good Moving Mountains (influencing and negotiating skills) Workshop yesterday at Durham University.

Very perceptive group: really liked the stuff on narratives and how important they can be in this context!

Several went away resolved to re-author their stories about some of their more difficult working relationships and difficult colleagues.

Friday 5 November 2010

In defence of truth (again....)

An interesting discussion with someone else - an academic this time - who can’t see how I reconcile believing in the possibility of absolute truth with working with multiple subjectivities or narratives.
I genuinely can’t see the problem, but we’ll come back to that.
It seems one of her concerns, inter alia, is that a belief in absolute truth has led, historically, to terrible persecution, oppression, totalitarianism, fascism and so on - none of which I would deny.
Oddly my adherence to the possibility of talking about truth in part springs from the same concern.  I believe it is important that we can say both that the Holocaust really happened (a claim to truth about the past) and that the Holocaust was a bad thing (a claim to truth about a value judgement).
And the fact that a belief in absolute truth has led to terrible things does not demonstrate that it is false or bad, merely that it is dangerous or powerful.  Just as the fact that religious belief has led to all sorts of attrocities does not prove it to be false, any more than the fact that in others religious belief leads to behaviours we may regard as good proves it to be true.  It was probably Augustine or someone like that who first postulated that Abusus non tollit usum (the abuse of something does not render its correct use impossible).
In fact, I would posit that it is the best things which become the worst when abused.  Thus the abuse of human love is one of the most terrible things (and my interlocutor made a pretty absolute claim about rape being always wrong), but that does not mean that human love is a bad thing.
My two principle concerns about the absolutely relativist approach are:
One is the inherent illogicality of the claim that there is no such thing as absolute truth - which is itself a claim to know absolute truth.
The other is the risk that if all value-judgements are seen a subjective social constructs, then one can easily opt out of them.  I may say the Holocaust was a bad thing, but someone else may say that from their perspective it was not, it’s only a late 20th century social construct to interpret it in that way.
I think people sometimes confuse my insistence on the possibility of absolute truth with the idea that I think I know what it is;  or conversely, that my recognition of multiple subjectivities means that I cannot possibly believe in objective truth.
My view is that, as we all know, the map is not the territory: our understanding of reality is not reality itself.  However, to map a territory is to recognise that the territory exists, and a map that says ‘here is America’ is more truthful than one that says ‘here be dragons’ - although it is clearly still a map, not the reality it represents.  Further, multiple maps may be useful for different people or different purposes - none of which are the reality, but all of which tell us something about it.  But to say that there is no such reality, and that we are making the maps up simply as consensual constructs with no basis in what is truly ‘out there’ seems to me a nonsense.

Thursday 4 November 2010

Essex Futures '10-'11

Just returning from the kick off event for the next Essex Futures programme.  Each year, Colin Riordan the VC, and I wonder if the new group can possibly meet the high standards of previous groups.

This year, once again, we were delighted to find that they could.  After two days of hard work, they have come up with very thoughtful presentations on leadership, forged real relationships with colleagues hitherto unknown, and developed startlingly creative and exciting proposals for the projects they will work on through the year.

We also had a very thought-provoking session with Essex alumna Philippa Stokes, who has just left a senior Personnel role at British Airways, and shared her perceptions and insights in a very open and honest way.

So I'm already looking forward to the next day of the programme, in December, where I'm sure they will attack the potentially dry subject of Financial Management with similar verve and enthusiasm!