Sometimes you get stuck. You can’t think of a way out.
Well, it’s not the first time! Mankind has a long history of innovation.
This video explains it beautifully – and gives us seven questions to ask when you get stuck:
Go on! Try it! Ask the seven questions:
1. What can we imagine?
2. What can we look at differently?
3. What can we use differently?
4. What can we move?
5. What can we interconnect?
6. What can we alter?
7. What can we make?
That’s all very well if you are a guy (like me) and trying to fix things to make things better. But what about the emotional side of the equation? Jason Headley has another (perhaps much more brilliant video) which should amuse those that find communication skills between the sexes more challenging:
The older I get, the more I believe in coincidences. And one of the strange coincidences that I have recently discovered is that there are a set of stories that are told in slightly different forms all around the world – as if they all had their roots in one story told many thousands of years ago. A fine example is the Story of the Broken Pot:
Once upon a time there lived a woman called Truhana. Not being very rich, she had to go yearly to the market to sell honey, the precious product of her hive.
Along the road she went, carrying the jar of honey upon her head, calculating as she walked the money she would get for the honey. “First”, she thought, “I will sell it, and buy eggs. The eggs I shall set under my fat brown hens, and in time there will be plenty of little chicks. These, in turn, will become chickens, and from the sale of these, lambs could be bought.”
Truhana then began to imagine how she could become richer than her neighbors, and look forward to marrying well her sons and daughters.
Trudging along, in the hot sun, she could see her fine sons and daughters-in-law, and how the people would say that it was remarkable how rich she had become, who was once so poverty-stricken.
Under the influence of these pleasurable thoughts, she began to laugh heartily, and preen herself, when, suddenly, striking the jar with her hand, it fell from her head, and smashed on the ground. The honey became a sticky mess upon the ground.
Seeing this, she was cast down as she had been excited, on seeing all her dreams lost for illusion.
Idres Shah in his book “World Tales” (which is where this story came from) notes:
“The tale is called a number of things like – “The Girl and the Pitcher of Milk”. Professor Max muller remarks how the tale has survived the rise and fall of empires and the change of languages, and the perishing of works of art. He stresses the attraction whereby “this simple children’s tale should have lived on and maintained its place of honor and its undisputed sway in every schoolroom of the East and every nursery of the West.”
“In the Eastern versions, it is always a man who is the fantasist and whose hopes come to grief: in the West it is almost always a woman. The man generally imagines that he will marry and have a son, while the woman tends to think of riches and marriage.”
And so it was, last week, I was visiting Telefonica’s incubator (which they call an Academy) in London. There are 19 startups (or eggs) being hatched – each into what will hopefully be new chickens. However, given the statistic that over 65% of companies fail in their first two years, I could not but think the question as to which ones might be successful, and which ones not. Which ones would hatch and which ones would be eaten before hatching? Talking to the head guy there, he said that it was surprising that some of the start-ups that showed no hope four months ago are now doing really well – and others that showed great potential have somehow stumbled. Each of the eggs will be moved out from the Academy at the end of March – and I wish them all the best of luck in moving from the egg stage to the chicken stage!
Oh, and just to round off this Thursday Thought, I visited my own beehives on Monday to give them some sugar cake food. All was well – each of the six hives had bees! I just hope they will all survive through February and March. No honey in the pot yet, but I still dream that their stories will make me rich and famous one day!
I am going to be exploring the power coincidence in a lot more detail in the coming months. If you are on Twitter you can read the regular tweets and observations on coincidence and business by following my new Tweet stream @coinmark.
Story from: “World Tales” collected by Idries Shah published by the Octagon Press 1991 – page 27
Picture – Copyright iStockPhoto – I bought it and if you want to use it you should buy it too!
Whilst exiting from the Underground Station at Canary Wharf yesterday, I saw an advertisement for a well-known global bank which said “The Future is Here”. How banal. How meaningless. How hollow, I thought, when the banks are in such a mess.
Last week I found a quotation which, for me describes the future in a far richer, more eloquent, more creative spirit – written in an age when true creativity mattered more than contrived cloud-based global bank adverts.
Here it is:
“The future is not a result of choices among alternative paths
offered by the present,
but a place that is created –
created first in the mind and will,
created next in activity.
The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating.
The paths are not to be found, but made,
and the activity of making them
changes both the maker
and the destinations.”
John Scharr, Futurist
The trouble is, the bank in question is my bank! What to do? Makes you think, anyway.
I had a meeting early yesterday morning at the Frontline Club in Paddington. As I was leaving, some NHS folk were outside the entrance to St Mary’s Hospital demonstrating and making a noise. I did not go up to them and chat – I just took a picture. The window in the top left corner is where Sir Alexander Fleming discovered Penicillin. As I walked away, I wondered what Fleming would have thought of all the noise?
I headed off to have lunch with an old friend at a restaurant in Paternoster Square – just by St Paul’s. It was a good lunch – and surprisingly crowded (when I had been told that all the traders in Paternoster Square had nearly gone out of business). After lunch, I had a bit of time before my next appointment, so I decided to walk from St Paul’s down to Victoria.
I could only leave Paternoster Square by one exit – which was the one I came in on. Normally crowded with tourists and city folk, the square has been blockaded in by a squad of policemen and other less official-looking people who seem to be from the tented camp of the Occupy Movement.
I was surprised to see the tented camp still pitched around St Pauls. I wondered how long they will hang on out there (particularly now the weather is turning)? Still, give the Occupy St Paul’s encampment some credit, they were pretty well organised and all seemed quite peaceful.
As I walked down towards The Aldwich, the whole of Fleet Street had been blocked by police cars, police vans and trucks with large sandbags. It was a very strange atmosphere which I later realised was the end of the TUC march down the embankment.
A bit further on some folk were clearing barriers and a strange tent-like contraption came around the corner that posed for some TV cameras. The banner said “Occupy Everywhere” obscuring the sign for the Royal Courts of Justice. And it got me thinking.
With the world’s population recently increasing to over 7,000,000,000 people (or 7bn for short), in a strange way, we DO occupy everywhere already! That’s the problem! And we aren’t doing too well at organising ourselves to reduce the population size. And there are now so many people getting heated up about all the problems that the planet itself is heating up more than we anticipated a few years ago.
So what’s to be done? The politicians can’t seem to fix it. The international banks and muti-national companies can’t seem to fix it. The Occupy Movement doesn’t seem to be fixing it. Yet we continue with the old patterns of marching, demonstrating (for pensions that will never appear) – and thinking that someone else will fix it.
So whilst we surely do Occupy Everywhere already, we need better ways to occupy ourselves so we all feel a sense of purpose and usefulness – without having to rely on the consumer-centric values that have held the Western world together for the past 50 years.
Interesting times. Not sure anyone has the answer. But I am sure we will work it out somehow! After all, Fleming discovered Penicillin by going on holiday. The story goes that some tropical medicine folk were researching on the floor below and penicillin floated up to his labs whilst he was away. Strange things happen when you bring diverse ideas together and go on holiday. Can’t wait for the Christmas break!
Slightly more than three years ago I was part of a worldwide team of volunteers within IBM researching the implications of climate change across every major industry sector on the planet. I led the Telecoms stream and discovered that although the Telecoms sector accounts for about 2% of man’s carbon footprint, this negative aspect was balanced by the associated benefits of reducing the impact of other more carbon-gulping industries such as Travel and Transport.
Yet through the whole study, IBM framed the study not in terms of carbon reduction – but in terms of sustainability. The pursuit of sustainability has confused me somewhat since then for a number of reasons. Firstly, nothing is sustainable for ever. Everything changes. Secondly, the whole carbon reduction movement has been (and continues to be) over-ridden by the world’s financial crisis. And thirdly – and perhaps most importantly – I had never taken the time to look into the principles behind sustainability so that I could explain it to someone else with clarity and simplicity.
All that changed last week. From my research into the future of money, I came across an excellent TED Talk – and website by Bernard Lietaer – a German Professor who specialises in another of my interests – Community Currencies. Lietaer’s pursuit for different models for money in the TED talk took him to ecology and a rather splendid discipline of “Ecological Economics”. Made sense to me (and the bees) – so I researched further.
Lietaer’s ideas originated from some earlier research from Robert. E. Ulanowicz – a Professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. He defined sustainability as a state between efficiency and diversity – elegantly shown by a green ball in balance at the top of a convex curve:
Lietaer further shows in his joint paper with Ulanowicz and their co-author Sally Goerner that this model is as equally valid in organic, biospheres as it is in economics. Lietaer proposes that the reason for the financial crisis is that the system became more and more efficient at the expense of diversity. Makes sense.
So the challenge is to move from the (left-brained) obsession with efficiency and cost-cutting and move to the right by encouraging diversity and communication (right brained stuff). Also makes sense.
So to get out of the current economic crisis we need – complementary (or local) currencies that build diversity back into the system. And quickly.
You can read more on Bernar Lietaer’s ideas on his website. And below is an abstract of the paper:
I’m off to see another lecture on the future of money at the RSA next Thursday. So next week’s Thursday Thought might be a hat-trick on this subject. Even if the authorities have removed the tents from StPauls by then!
A couple of weeks ago, I took one of my sons to London. He wanted to go and see the Occupy London site near St Paul’s – during time that the Church of England were digging deep into their consciences to work out how they should react. A few days later, I was in Edinburgh with my daughter and went to the equivalent tented camp. In both cases, I took the time to try to understand what was in the minds of those protesting. There was a peaceful atmosphere in both camps – but a surprising lack of practical things for people like me to do. However, the two experiences got me convinced that the system is broken and that things need to change.
A chance Tweet on Twitter this morning gave me the opportunity to explore the issues further. The Tweet alerted me to a new sort of Peer2Peer investment site called CrowdCube and a new sort of bank – called Civilised Money – who were looking for investors. The idea took my interest and I read to find out more.
I was particularly struck by the coincidence that the project is the brainchild of Neil Crofts. I have been a keen reader of Neil Croft’s weekly blog – and applaud his ideas on Authentic Leadership. On reading more about the Civilised Money idea, is struck me that this kind of Peer2Peer banking is just like Skype was in 2002 – only transposed onto the banking system. It made a heck of a lot of sense, so I took the plunge and invested!
By the way, I am definitely NOT an investment advisor. I am not even sure that by the time you read this, the investment opportunity will still be open. But I am so encouraged that there are those protesting (making the issues clear) as well as those who are trying to find new ways to design banks.
I hope it makes you think a bit more about what you opt in to – and out of.
Living in Kent in the UK, I have always been fascinated by local currencies and hop tokens. These were issued by local farmers to the hop pickers who came down from London – and could only be spent in the local village or on local beer (provided by the farmer!). However unfair, this really was localism in action!
So it is, as Europe and the US faces its currency crisis, trying to payoff old debts with a money system that is totally broken, it becomes so interesting to look to history and the so-called Wörgl experiment. This was conducted from July 1932 to November 1933 and is a classic example of the potential efficacy of local currencies in a time of financial crisis.
Wörgl, a small town in Austria with 4000 inhabitants, introduced a local scrip during the Great Depression. By 1932 unemployment in Wörgl had risen to 30%. The local government had amassed debts of 1.3 million Austrian schillings (AS) against cash reserves of 40,000 AS. Local construction and civic maintenance had come to a standstill. On the initiative of the town’s mayor, Michael Unterguggenberger, the local government printed 32,000 in labor certificates which carried a negative 1% monthly interest rate and could be converted into schillings at 98% of face value. An equivalent amount in schillings was deposited in the local bank as cover for the certificates in case of mass redemption and earned interest for the government.
The certificates circulated so rapidly that only 12,000 were ever actually put into circulation. According to reports by the mayor and economists of the day who studied the experiment, the scrip was readily accepted by local merchants and the local population. It utilized the scrip to carry out 100,000 AS in public works projects involving construction and repair of roads, bridges, tanks, drainage systems, factories, and buildings. The scrip was also accepted as legal tender for payment of local taxes.
In the one year that the currency was in circulation, it circulated 13 times faster than the official shilling and served as a catalyst to the local economy. The heavy arrears in local tax collection declined dramatically. Local government revenue rose from 2,400 AS in 1931 to 20,400 in 1932. Unemployment was eliminated, while it remained very high throughout the rest of the country. No increase in prices was observed. Based on the dramatic success of the Wörgl experiment, several other communities introduced similar scrips.
In spite of the tangible benefits of the programme, it met with stiff opposition from the regional socialist party and from the Austrian central bank, which opposed the local currency as an infringement on its powers over the currency. As a result the program was suspended, unemployment rose, and the local economy soon degenerated to the level of other communities in the country.
So there is a way out of the currency crisis – if only we looked to history and suppressed the central banking systems. I cannot see the dollar and euro surviving in their current state for much longer without some re-thinking. Makes you think what we could do if we took localism to the next stage of its natural development.