Clyde Street

Learning, Teaching, Performing


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Game Changing

4849524717_39bb115d29_bA post by Terry Condon sent me off thinking.

Terry wrote about meeting Hans Muller-Wohlfahrt. Two paragraphs in particular caught my attention:

Many people move into their chosen field and ‘specialize’ in an area in order to become an expert. Hans’ is no different, most of the time he works with athletes.  However it seemed to me that Hans had acquired a bigger picture of healing. He had not subordinated to one industry paradigm of how things ‘should’ be done and limited his learning to one isolated body of research. Instead he actively took from various methods and disciplines what he felt was valuable and developed his own idea of healing.

the level of success you will have is directly correlated to the amount of criticism you are prepared to accept. In order to create the kind of results that will make you a leader, you need to first be prepared to become ‘the villain’ in many people’s eyes in the understanding that at the same time or eventually you will also become the ‘hero’ for many others.

Reflecting on Terry’s post helped me realise how fortunate I am. This year I have met and spent time with many game changers. All of them have energy and passion. All of them have big pictures of where they plan to be.

I like to read about game changers too. In addition to Terry’s post this week I found an interview with Alberto Cairo. In the interview, Alberto talks about changes in higher education:

What I saw happening in newspapers is awfully similar to what I am seeing in higher education: Drowsy institutions with inflexible procedures and obscure lore that are resistant to change just because they feel solidly rooted, stable, and essential. Why would you experiment when your current situation is so comfortable and your model has taken you a long way, up to the present? Because if you don’t seriously —let me stress the word seriously here— try to understand what all new developments, technologies, tools, are capable of, when one of them becomes the next big thing, you may suffer. It is not about burning your ships here; you need to keep using them in routine operations, after all. Instead, it is about taking a few of them and sending them to the open ocean to see if they find something useful. Most of them will be lost, but it may happen that one will stumble upon a treasure island.

I like the open ocean imagery. Yesterday, Stephen Downes was discussing opening doors.

I have been following Anil Dash’s discussions about the web. A couple of days ago he posted about rebuilding the web. In the post he talks about taking responsibility and accepting blame:

The biggest reason the social web drifted from many of the core values of that early era was the insularity and arrogance of many of us who created the tools of the time. I was certainly guilty of this, and many of my peers were as well. We took it as a self-evident and obvious goal that people would even want to participate in this medium, instead of doing the hard work necessary to make it a welcoming and rewarding place for the rest of the world. We favored obscure internecine battles about technical minutia over the hard, humbling work of engaging a billion people in connecting online, and setting the stage for the billions to come. To surpass the current generation of dominant social networks and apps, which have unsurprisingly become arrogant and inflexible during their own era of success, we’ll have to return to being as hungry and as humble as we were when the web was young. Because last time, we were both naive and self-absorbed enough that we deserved to fail.

I think that failure is a very important experience for game changers. It happens a lot when decision makers are unable to manage risk and prefer to avoid it.

I think game changers require great resilience. All the game changers I have met this year are self-evidently different. All of them have managed to overcome resistance to their vision. They all exhibit the characteristics of Sarah Horrigan’s learning technologists:

  • Curious
  • Playful
  • Connected
  • Proactive
  • Passionate
  • Learner

I think game changers are excellent communicators too. One of them, Charles Rosen, died last week. Earlier this year he wrote:

We do not learn language by reading a dictionary, and we do not think or speak in terms of dictionary definitions. Meaning is always more fluid. Nevertheless, we are hemmed in, even trapped, by common usage. Senses we wish to evade entrap us. The greatest escape route is not only humor, but poetry, or art in general. Art does not, of course, liberate us completely from meaning, but it gives a certain measure of freedom, provides elbow room.

I like the idea that the art of game changing creates elbow room and there are fluid ways to share vision.

Photo Credit

Horizons gyroscopiques II


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Leadership: Conversations with Neil Armstrong

I was driving home on Thursday evening and was listening in to Radio National’s PM program.

By coincidence I was think about some correspondence with a PhD student about authentic leadership.

Serendipity brought me news of a series of CPA interviews with Neil Armstrong.

Alex Malley, the CEO of CPA, interviewed Neil Armstrong and observed that:

Look he’s got an extraordinary humility, there’s no question about that and when you look at what they were able to do in ’69 in relation to the journey they went on; these are things we just haven’t seen for a long time.

His capability to constantly talk about team; to have shown the world something that was beyond their mind and just getting the balance right between initiative and entrepreneurship and risk management, whereas these days we seem to be telling each other we can’t do things because of the risk and yet they did that literally on a wing and a prayer.

What is special about the four interviews with Neil Armstrong is that they offer a rare insight into his thinking.

He does not do a lot of interviews so I believe these are outstanding resources with which to contemplate leadership, risk and humility.

Driving home in the twilight did not seem so arduous on Thursday particularly after I heard Neil Armstrong say of the lunar landing:

Then the computer showed us where it intended to land and it was a very bad location, it was on the side of a large crater about – I suppose 100 or 150 metres in diameter. So I took over manually and flew it like a helicopter out to the west direction; got into a smoother area with not so many rocks, found a level area and was able to get it down there safely before we ran out of fuel.

Photo Credit

Neil Armstrong


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Reading John Dickson: Humility and Leadership

A few weeks ago my daughter Beth alerted me to a Radio National program she had heard.

Richard Aedy interviewed John Dickson on Life Matters.

I followed Beth’s advice to listen to their discussion of humility. As a result I bought John Dickson‘s book Humiltas.

The subtitle to the book is A Lost Key to Life, Love and Leadership.

In it John suggests that “the most influential and inspiring people are often marked by humility”. He defines humility as “the noble choice to forgo your status, deploy your resources or use your influence for the good of others before yourself”.

John identifies leadership as “the art of inspiring others in a team to contribute their best to a goal”. Leaders have:

  • Ability
  • Authority
  • Persuasion
  • Example

Humility “enhances persuasiveness”. John concludes his discussion of humility and leadership with six steps:

  1. We are shaped by what we love.
  2. Reflect on the lives of the humble.
  3. Conduct thought experiments to enhance humility.
  4. Act humbly.
  5. Invite criticism.
  6. Forget about being humble.

In the last paragraph of the book John quotes CS Lewis:

If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realise one is proud. And a biggish step too. At least nothing can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.

I think that is a great way to end … and start.

Photo Credit

Humility


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Adaptation

This is a brief post about Tim Harford‘s book Adapt.

A trail for the book observes that:

In this groundbreaking book, Tim Harford shows us a new and inspiring approach to solving the most pressing problems in our lives. Harford argues that today’s challenges simply cannot be tackled with ready-made solutions and expert opinions; the world has become far too unpredictable and profoundly complex. Instead, we must adapt—improvise rather than plan, work from the bottom up rather than the top down, and take baby steps rather than great leaps forward.

I listened with great interest to Tim’s interview on Radio National’s Counterpoint. He discussed:

  • Planning failures in a complex world … even in relation to toasters!
  • Error correction … “success is about error correction”. “We tend not to acknowledge failure.”
  • Willingness to accept independent evaluation is a sign of strength not weakness.
  • Show humility in acknowledging error.
  • Adrian Hewitt and the Merton Rule.
  • Encouraging differences of opinion and dissent in the discussion of strategic initiatives: lessons from the US military. (This is a fascinating part of the interview that introduces Irving Janis, Solomon Asch, H R McMaster, David Patraeus, and Major General Jack Galvin.)

Tim’s interview concluded with three principles for an adaptive organisation:

1. Try new things: expose yourself to outside influences. Accept the failure of tools … that is why you need lots of tools.

2. Make sure failures do not finish you off: have survivable small bets.

3. Make sure you know the difference between success and failure.

Photo Credit

Adapt or Perish