Monday 28 November 2011

Startling creativity

A while back we had a chap called Gordon Macsween as a guest speaker at Essex Futures.  He went down so well that we invited him back.  His talk was memorable, entertaining and of real practical use.

All of which could be said of his new product, just launched - a wii for wee, or pretty nearly...  You play games by directing your...  well, that's enough detail I think.  Suffice to say that it's a men only game, for very practical reasons.

Initially I wondered if it was a joke, but a quick glance at the company wwwsite persuaded me that it has real commercial possibilities.

Astonishingly creative idea - and yet...

Please remember to wash your hands.

Friday 18 November 2011


I have been reflecting a lot on resilience recently (which I am considering as the ability to work under increasing pressures without a stress response).  As preparation for some Stress Management workshops, I have been reviewing some of the most recent research (see for example Margaret Chesney’s lecture, available via iTunes University: “New Scientific Strategies for Managing Stress, Building Resilience and Bringing Balance to Life     [Show ID: 20631]”)

I have also been coaching a number of people experiencing both chronic and acute pressures, and reflecting on what has helped them - and in some cases their remarkable and humbling resilience.

What has proved interesting is the degree to which the most recent research gives ever-more solid underpinnings for the four-fold framework which I have been working with.  (Chesney talks explicitly about three strands, the physical (both physiological and behavioural) the mental, and the relational or social/emotional.  To these I add the existential/spiritual - dealing with issues of meaning and value.  That relates to my interest in Viktor Frankl, and also echoes Covey's framework in 7 Habits and First Things First.  And Chesney refers to it tacitly on several occasions: the importance of purpose, meaning and value.

Of course, this is all linked to my interest in narratives: the interpretations that people place upon their experiences, which can have a huge impact on positive affect - which is what all four strands are designed to support (and again, Chesney has the research to demonstrate the links between positive affect and resilience.)

And as someone who attended a recent workshop pointed out, there is nothing new under the sun.  The classic Christian virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity are a good bedrock for meaning, values, positive relationships, and positive affect generally - and similar underpinnings may be found in many other ancient and traditional wisdoms, with which I am less familiar.

The other area I am keen to explore, and possibly integrate more fully into my work on resilience, is humour. I have been intrigued by Metcalf's Humor Risk and Change programme and am sure he is onto something (though his presentation doesn't always play well with a British audience).  So I am on the look-out for any research on humour and resilience - any clues?

Thursday 10 November 2011

Brain Myths

Fascinating programme on the brain on Radio 4 yesterday afternoon - Mind Myths, still available on iplayer - busting popular myths about the brain.  Perhaps the most notable is the canard that we only use 10% of our brains, leaving the rest dormant (and of course full of potential for scammers selling techniques to activate or access it).  Dale Carnegie was, apparently, the first to put the 10% myth into print in his hugely influential How to win friends and influence people.    However, brain scanning demonstrates the fallacy of this myth; and is somewhat humbling in revealing that motor action tends to require more of our brain than high level thinking...

The style is somewhat irritating, with regular jingles put in, presumably on the assumption that our attention span is only 20 seconds (another myth, in my view...) but when the experts are allowed to speak, it is really interesting; not least in exploring the origins of some of these myths, and the degree to which they have some basis in reality.

The bit I found least convincing was the debunking of the left brain/right brain issue.  It seems to me, listening to the evidence, that there are significant differences between the different hemispheres (left brain is sensitive to language, right brain to melody, for example).  I thought that to some extent they set up a straw man by taking the most simplistic and exaggerated left brain/right brain ideas to attack.  Certainly the work on creative thinking that I have studied and which I work with all stresses the fact that it is the whole brain working effectively that is likely to be most creative; and further that talk of left brain as processing logic and right brain as dealing with relationship is a metaphor - but one based on the neuroscience.

Well worth a listen, though...