As a species, it seems we often like to simplify challenges – not just as this is the era of the soundbite when complex issues must be reduced to ‘elevator pitches’ to get others to engage, but perhaps because a simple challenge feels easier to dismiss. But it depends what we mean by ‘dismiss’, doesn’t it: do we mean despatch (deal with, send away, render obsolete), or do we mean ‘park in the long grass’ (ie out of sight = out of mind).
When it comes to the issue of women in leadership, and women’s progression in the workplace generally, are we doing the same thing by referring to ‘the glass ceiling’? It makes it sounds as if there’s just a single obstacle, and if we can only find the right hammer and land a powerful blow in the right area of the glass …
Forgive us for hanging a broader point off a recent political headline (especially as we’ve apologised for this already this month), but the reshuffles of both the government ministers and their Shadow counterparts – and the media commentary on them – does beg a larger question or two.
The headlines (see, for example, The Daily Express, Daily Mail, New Statesman, Sky and BBC News) tell us as much about the commentators as they do about the content, although The Spectator deserves an honourable mention for a deadpan headline that may more accurately reflect general public interest: Small Reshuffle in Britain; Not Many Dead.
What’s interesting about the interpretations and responses is the factionalism – looking for signs as to what the changes mean in terms of which interests, tendencies and allegiances are being advantaged. Accepting – naturally – that organisations are not political parties, there are important points here about diversity and strength, sustainability and vanity (and possibly also the difference between product and branding).
If you’re reading on a tablet or a phone, the opening lines of two recent Strategy + Business articles might raise an ironic smile. The first begins:
The “always on” nature of our society has generated a variety of warnings about the dangers of staying connected all the time.”
It proceeds to link backwards in time to the second, which begins:
Do you ever disconnect, even for just a few minutes? Think about the last time you used your “off button.”
If you haven’t already succumbed to temptation, you might however wish to read a third article: an interview with Loran Nordgren, in which “the cofounder of unconscious thought theory explains how taking a break and distracting the mind can lead to higher-quality decision making.” Perhaps you are already nodding in agreement – or perhaps your unconscious mind is silently thinking that you should.
As an organisation that embraces life-long learning and recognises our ability to learn from each other in the moment and in our daily lives, ASK has always supported Adult Learning Fortnight and 2013 is no exception. Colleagues at ASK have organised and taken part in sessions and activities that cover everything from Business Development Styles and Proposal Costing to Recipes using Brain Foods and a Biodiversity Walk exploring the landscape around our offices. In this post, however, I will write about the Introduction to Somatic Coaching, delivered by Jo Manton.
While an introductory session – and a subsequent brief blog – can only scratch at a surface, the first task is definition. The word ‘somatic’ is likely to be unfamiliar to most readers: the link is not to ‘soma’ (the fictional pleasure-drug in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, albeit that Huxley was drawing on ancient Indian practise), but comes from the Greek, meaning ‘of the body’. In the context of Somatic Coaching, this does not refer, however, simply to sports coaching but to coaching that recognises the unity of mind and body and points out that our lived experience comes from and is ‘felt’ not in one or the other but in – to use a phrase from the discipline itself – “the living body in its wholeness”.
I know you don’t really have the time, so I’ll try to keep this short. Is 1,000 words ok? You have a window?
I am, of course, addressing what Ed Smith recently described as ‘the theatre of busyness’ in his New Statesman column: that nagging doubt that we should be filling our time – with work, of course – as hectically as possible. Or at the very least being seen to do so. Despite admitting his past life as a competitive sportsman, he is pretty much agin it, as Geoff Boycott might say. But the general situation is pretty endemic for those of us in employment. (Although the use of the adjective ‘gainful’ might be rather more subjective.)
The BBC recently sidled alongside the issue in a two part Radio 4 series, Slow Coach. There was a play at aligning the programme content – looking at the pressures of time, life but mostly work on three participants – with the broader Slow Movement, not least in the involvement of Carl Honore, best known for his book In Praise of Slowness: How A Worldwide Movement Is Challenging the Cult of Speed. This was the first book to review the octopus-like spread of The Slow Movement, to use its popular umbrella term: for a broader overview, visit the website of the World Institute of Slowness.
It’s probably ignorance more than anything else, but I don’t tend to think of Norway as the sort of country that’s big on what we might call pranks: lovely people, but generally quite sensible. Perhaps that’s one reason why the move that saw Norwegian prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg, ‘work’ a shift as a taxi driver has captured the attention of news editors rather further afield than Oslo. One of the other reasons, less wittily, is that the move was organised by an advertising agency that are working on the forthcoming Norwegian general election campaign, in which Mr Stoltenberg’s party current trails the main opposition by 3%.
The idea – that people will say things more openly to a complete stranger, especially in the sealed confines of a cab – is a nice one, if slightly cutesy (although it stands one British cliché on its head: here it is usually the mythical cab driver stereotype who expresses opinions rather freely). And it is at least a humorous update on two other ideas: ‘the boss working on the factory floor for first-hand observation and feedback’ – often used on UK TV and maybe in other countries too, and Managing By Walking About. Or, in this case, Managing By Driving About. After all, you don’t expect your uniformed, sunglass-wearing cabbie to turn out to be your Prime Minister.
Just the title above might drop a quiet hint about literacy in its old-fashioned sense. That ‘8’ – phonetically speaking – already contains the ‘t’. Sure, he typed casually, part of the joy of language is the way it evolves in such playful ways, but you’d think someone wanting to squeeze as much as possible into 140 characters would be a bit more watchful. These are, of course, the words of an old fogey, even if the fogey in question has stopped phubbing his m8s long enough to tap out a blog. But it’s another kind of literacy I’m really thinking about, and one I’m going to point out by misquoting Shakespeare:
Tweet mercy is nobility’s true badge.”
The latest outcries about social media – certainly not the first, and undoubtedly not the last – are about threats of violence to women in the wake of Jane Austen being selected to appear on £10 notes (it would be interesting to poll those posting the threats to ask them if they can name the people appearing on the tenners currently in their pockets, as I suspect Jane Austen may not be their true grievance with the world) and cyber-bullying. In the wake of the most recent revelations of what can only be called despicable – and as Tech Radar reminds us – illegal behaviour, there is inevitably a sense that Something Must Be Done.
After commenters and interviewees on at least three unrelated topics on Radio 4 mentioned the word ‘authenticity’, I found myself quietly wondering why this abstract quality seems to be such a draw for so many of us. And I can’t be the only one to have noticed the ‘authentic’ angle in so many marketing and branding campaigns. I was fairly confident that the quip “if you can fake that, you’ve got it made” was originally uttered (and I’m almost certainly using the word ‘originally’ very loosely there) as a joke about sincerity. With only the Internet to guide me to the source, I quickly came to the conclusion that if the truth is out there, a search engine might not be the best tool for locating it. And that if the truth isn’t authentically slippery, it’s certainly wearing an awful lot of baby oil.
Until I started digging, I’d believed – or perhaps I should say ‘bought into the idea that’ – that the original source was George Burns, whose preceding words were “The secret of acting is sincerity.” The wily folks at The Quote Investigator have been on the case, however, and it seems likely to have been anonymous, and about honesty rather than sincerity – and about success rather than acting. At which point, I had to suppress my inner cynic, who was bouncing up and down vigorously and saying “Ok, so tell me the difference …”
The tension in my living room is electrifying. Well, it’s not every day you find out you have a bumblebee colony in your back-garden, is it? Only an hour to go, and I can go back to watch them woozily float in and out of their nest, paralytic on nectar, and quietly congratulating myself on allowing them to live in harmony with nature. A quick whizz through The Apprentice Final and I can go back to doing something positive about sustainability …
The first relief comes when Dara O’Briain appears to explain that, despite the TV listings, there won’t actually be two hours of this: the show runs straight into the ‘You’re Hired/Fired’ sequence, where there will be plentiful opportunities for those of us in the remedial stream to revisit the copious learning opportunities that Series 9 has brought us. And demonstrating the serious commitment to business education and the antipathy towards mockery that epitomises the show, the panel includes business gurus and ethical masterminds, Lorraine Kelly and Hugh Dennis. (Has anyone else noticed the percentage of comedians on the You’re Fired panels – I know we’re making entertainment here, but making entertainment of what exactly?)
Five green candidates, hanging on the phone … Yes, it’s the favourite televisual moment of every misanthrope from Maidstone to Motherwell: The Apprentice Interviews, where we get to see someone deluded enough to buy their dreams off eBay proposing a business that consists of other people doing the same. Only with some very dodgy maths, some porky-pie revelations and a welcome return to our screens of Margaret Mountford. (Ma’am, you’re too classy for this, but thank you for dropping by.) If the series is a long canter round a rather predictable track, this episode is the unexpectedly massive water-jump 20 furlongs from the finishing line. And it’s surprising how wet some people can be.