We caught the first swarm of bees for this season on Monday night. It was 18ft up in a bush in a nearby village – very late in the season for the first swarm because of all of the wet weather we have had in April. I had to use an extension to my long pole (used for painting) to get the box up high enough. Luckily Dennis (whose garden it was) had an additional 3 poles which I used both to extend my pole as well as get the smoker up there with a further two! Very Heath Robinson!
The photo looks as though I am trying to catch the sun!
Here is a close-up of the contraption holding the box that I caught the swarm in – the sun was a bit out of reach!
Having inspected the hives on the previous Saturday, the hive called Faith is still very weak from over-wintering and I somehow doubt will survive – as I have now tried to re-queen her twice. We therefore decided to call this swarm Hope to keep the spirit of our three first hives that we started back in 2004 – Faith, Hope and Charity. The original Hope and Charity hives died off in 2005/06, but Faith has kept going since then and has produced some of the finest honey-crops.
Oh – and it was luck that the place that we caught the hive in started with an H – so we stuck to the Bee Law of naming the hives from the first letter of the place that they were caught!
Hence we are losing Faith (although not all is lost) and we are gaining Hope! Not a bad place to bee!
Whilst away at Easter I started to read Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell’s book “Godhead: The Brain’s Big Bang” which was published last year. It is the latest accumulation of Griffin and Tyrell’s ideas on the Human Givens, and the importance of the REM state in sleep and the Universal Relaton Field. Yet to list out the other many ideas in the book is impossible.
What is impressive about the work is that it attempts to bring a set of organising ideas to some of the BIG questions that mankind has asked since the beginning of history such as: “What is consciousness?” and “How was time created?”. It gives some very interesting frameworks for understanding the universe by relating concepts like the big bang theory to the development of the human mind.
By drawing on their previous ideas of caetextia (or context blindness), the authors link the development of the human brain to the two very separate ways that we think: left-brained thinking and right-brained thinking. This is very similar to the System 1 and System 2 in Kahneman’s “Thinking, fast and slow” which I reviewed a few Thursdays ago.
However, Griffin and Tyrell (being psychoanalysts) bring out some very interesting new theories on how the human mind developed to become more conscious – both to become more objective (or left-brained) as well as subjective (right-brained). Each half of the brain (in balance) creates a rounded self-consciousness which connects both sides of the brain for human living. However, too much focus on the path towards objectivity (which they also call the arc of descent) creates a tendency towards scientific genius and autism. Too much focus on subjectivity (or the arc of ascent) creates art and a tendency for certain folk to become schizophrenic. They also suggest that mood swings, depression and bipolar disorder are, perhaps a mixture of both without the ability to create balance between the halves – and yet have also produced many of our most creative geniuses such as Robert Schumann, John Keates, William Blake, Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens, Peter Gabriel and Spike Milligan…..and their list goes on much longer (p.96)!
However, the book is far more than a set of ideas on the development of the physical brain and mental health. In the second and third parts of the book, the authors bring together a set of very powerful organising ideas on how human consciousness connects with the “one-ness” of the Universe through an invisible field of “relatons”. Since only 4% of the Universe is made up of matter that is visible (detectable by radiation), the authors believe that the field of relatons (or subjective matter) is contained somewhere within the remaining 96%. These relatons have some very interesting properties. They are undetectable (like all dark matter). They are also capable of relationships with solitons (objective matter) and are always generating consciousness (or information). And when two solitons are joined as matter, relatons are released!
The struggle that the mind has in balancing between objectivity and subjectivity (and the ability of such thinking to drive us mad in the process) was well narrated in the timeless classic “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”over 30 years ago – which had a major influence on my thinking at the time. The authors suggest that this balance-of-two-halves-in-time (between the two sides of the mind) appears to echo the same dance that plays out from the largest to the smallest objects in the Universe and that somehow time breathes in and out between objective and subjective states through states of probability.
The book is not just analytical and mind-stretchingly interesting. It intersperses spiritual stories and poems – and one of my favourites is here:
“How often do you sense that there is a profound meaning in a poem but, without an organising idea to consolidate it, you can’t hold on to it and it slips away from consciousness? T.S.Eliot knew this, as we see from other lines of his great “Burnt Norton”, where he reveals his intuitive grasp of the nature of truth but also that he is aware of the failure of words to hold on to what he has grasped:
Words, after speech reach
Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern,
Can words or music reach
The stillness, as a Chinese jar still
Moves perpetually in its stillness.
Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts,
Not that only, but the co-existence,
Or say that the end precedes the beginning,
And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.
And all is always now. Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still.”
Overall, the book presents a fascinating set of ideas and theories which draw on thinking from our latest understanding of the physical brain, quantum mechanics, spirituality, creativity and the development of mental illnesses – and much more besides. Big ideas which the book far better articulates on over 450 pages than I can in this short article.
I remain fascinated on how we can apply some of the ideas to the areas of Information Management and Organisational Design. My previous article on Organisational Caetextia started to explore some of these themes. Expect more to follow – particularly with colonies of bees interwoven in the stories!
I hope that it makes some of you interested enough to buy what I think is one of the best books I have read in the past year.
Picture: (c) iStockphoto not to be reproduced without licence.
I have spent the past twelve days in the Alps on a spring retreat doing a bit of skiing. Yesterday we had a enormous thunderstorm and the most beautiful rainbow – like the one above. Somehow, it got me reflecting on a conversation I had with John Varney, a reader of this blog, a few months ago. He told me that he often intersperses his organisational change work with Sufi Teaching Stories. So I went on the hunt for a good one and found the one below. I am interested to know what readers think of using this approach to unlock new meaning to our work in the reductionist world we live in.
The Story of the Locksmith by Idries Shah
Once there lived a metalworker, a locksmith, who was unjustly accused of crimes and was sentenced to a deep, dark prison. After he had been there awhile, his wife who loved him very much went to the King and beseeched him that she might at least give him a prayer rug so he could observe his five prostrations every day.
The King considered that a lawful request, so he let the woman bring her husband a prayer rug. The prisoner was thankful to get the rug from his wife, and every day he faithfully did his prostrations on the rug. Much later, the man escaped from prison, and when people asked him how he got out, he explained that after years of doing his prostrations and praying for deliverance from the prison, he began to see what was right in front of his nose.
One day he suddenly saw that his wife had woven into the prayer rug the pattern of the lock that imprisoned him. Once he realized this and understood that all the information he needed to escape was already in his possession, he began to make friends with his guards. He also persuaded the guards that they all would have a better life if they cooperated and escaped the prison together.
They agreed since, although they were guards, they realized that they were in prison, too. They also wished to escape, but they had no means to do so. So the locksmith and his guards decided on the following plan: they would bring him pieces of metal, and he would fashion useful items from them to sell in the marketplace. Together they would amass resources for their escape, and from the strongest piece of metal they could acquire, the locksmith would fashion a key.
One night, when everything had been prepared, the locksmith and his guards unlocked the prison and walked out into the cool night where his beloved wife was waiting for him. He left the prayer rug behind so that any other prisoner who was clever enough to read the pattern of the rug could also make his escape. Thus, the locksmith was reunited with his loving wife, his former guards became his friends, and everyone lived in harmony.
I have subscribed for several years now to a great site called ChangeThis – where anyone can publish a manifesto to change something that they think is important. So it was today that I was browsing the site and found out that it is World Water Day. Designated by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993, World Water Day is held annually on March 22. It’s a day to focus attention on the importance of freshwater and sustainable management of water resources that grew out of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro. With over half of the world’s population now living in cities, this year’s focus is understandably on water and urbanization, under the slogan “Water for cities: responding to the urban challenge.”
There are quite a few statistics and factoids listed (mostly U.S. centric) that come from a new book called the Big Thirst, being released on April 12 by Free Press. However, they still make you think:
Water is the oldest substance you’ll ever come in contact with. The water coming from your kitchen tap is about 4.3 billion years old.
A typical American uses 99 gallons of actual water a day–for cooking, washing, and the #1 personal use in the U.S., toilet flushing. But a typical American uses electricity at home that requires 250 gallons of water each day. And an American eating a diet of 1,700 calories a day is eating food that requires 450 gallons to produce–each day.
The average cost of water at home in the U.S.–for always-on, purified drinking water–is $1.12 per day, less than the cost of a single half liter of Evian at a convenience store.
Water and energy are intimately linked. Electric power plants in the U.S. consume 49 percent of the water used in the country. And water utilities are the single largest users of electricity in the U.S.–in California, 20 percent of all the electricity generated is used to move or treat water.
Water and food are also intimately linked. Worldwide, farmers use 70 percent of water. And agriculture is also one of the least efficient users of water. Half the water farmers use is wasted.
Americans spend almost as much each year on bottled water ($21 billion) as they do maintaining the nation’s entire water infrastructure ($29 billion).
Las Vegas has grown by 50 percent in population in the last 10 years–without using any more water now than it did back in 1999.
In the U.S., we use less water today than we did in 1980. As a nation, we’ve doubled the size of our economy while reducing total water use. We have literally increased our “water productivity” as a nation by more than 100 percent in the last 30 years.
Microchip factories require water that is so clean it is considered dangerous to drink.
The difference in price between home tap water and a half-liter bottle of water at the convenience store is a factor of 3,000–you could take the bottle of Poland Spring that you buy for $1.29 at the local 7-Eleven and refill it every day for 8 years before the cost of the tap water would equal that original price, $1.29.
We often hear that “only” 2 percent of the water on Earth is fresh and available for human use, outside of the polar ice caps. The “only” 2 percent comes to 1.5 billion liters of fresh water for each person on the planet. It’s 400 million gallons for every person alive. That’s a cube of fresh water for each us as long as a football field and as tall as a 30 story building.
The U.S. uses more water in a single day than it uses oil in a year. The U.S. uses more water in four days than the world uses oil in a year.
Enough water leaks from aging water pipes in the U.S. each day to supply all the residents of any of 30 states.
The city of London loses 25 percent of the water it pumps.
Seventy-one percent of earth is covered with water, but water is small compared to earth. If Earth were the size of a minivan, all the water on Earth would fit in a half-liter bottle in a single cup holder.
Not one of the 35 largest cities in India has 24-hour-a-day water service. Even the global brand-name cities like Hyderabad, Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai offer water service only an hour or two a day.
Treating diarrhea consumes 2 percent of the GDP of India. The nation spends $20 billion a year on diarrhea–$400 million a week–more than the total economies of half the nations in the world.
A common statistic is the 1 billion people in the world–one in six–don’t have access to clean, safe drinking water. But a less well-known statistic is equally stunning: 1.6 billion people in the world–one in four–have to walk at least 1 km each day to get water and carry it home, or depend on someone who does the water walk. Just the basic water needs of a family of four–50 gallons total–means carrying (on your head) 400 pounds of water, walking 1 km or more, for as many trips as required, each day.
Between 1900 and 1936, clean water in U.S. cities cut the rate of child deaths in half.
Water required to manufacture 1 ton of steel: 300 tons Water required to produce 2 liters of Coca-Cola: 5 liters
Cooling water a typical U.S. nuclear power plan requires: 30 million gallons per hour
Water that New York City requires: 46 million gallons per hour
Water required to maintain a typical Las Vegas golf course: 2,507 gallons for every 18-hole round of golf Each hole of golf, for each golfer, requires 139 gallons of irrigation water.
Average time a molecule of water spends in the atmosphere, after evaporating, before returning to Earth as rain or snow: 9 days
Amount of water that falls on a single acre of ground when it receives 1 inch of rain: 27,154 gallons
I was browsing the bookshelves in a provincial airport lounge last month. I really like browsing business books in these sorts of places (as opposed to ordering books from Amazon). You find things you would not normally find and you can pick them up and read the gist of what the book is about in a very tactile way. Something Kindle struggles with, I think.
Anyway, I came across a what looked like interesting title “Thinking, Fast and Slow”. Being one always on the look-out for new Thursday Thoughts, I bought it and have started to read it…
The book is written by Daniel Kahneman who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002 for his pioneering work, developed with Amos Tversky, on decision-making and uncertainty.
Interestingly, there is a quote on the front cover by Steven Pinker which says “(Kahneman is) certainly the most important psychologist alive today”. I thought the blend of economics and psychology would be interesting – and I have not been disappointed!
To begin with, Kahneman’s says that we all have two “systems” of thought. He adopts terms originally proposed by the psychologists Keith Stanovich and Richard West referring to two systems in the mind: System 1 and System 2. Thee labels of System 1 and System 2 are, apparently, widely used in psychology. For those of you, like me, who are mere lay-folk in the art of psycho-babble, this was news!
Here is an extract from the introduction which outlines the two systems:
“When we think of ourselves, we identify with System 2, the conscious, reasoning self that has beliefs, makes choices and decides what to think about and what to do. Although System 2 believes itself to be where the action is, the automatic System 1 is the hero of the book.”
Kahneman describes System 1 as: “effortlessly originating impressions and feelings that are the main sources of the explicit beliefs and deliberate choices of System 2”.
In rough order of complexity, he describes some examples of the automatic activities that are attributed to System 1:
Detect that one object is more distant than another
Orient to the source of a sudden sound
Complete the phrase “bread and…..”
Make a “disgust face” when shown a horrible picture
Detect hostility in a voice
Answer to 2 + 2 = ?
Read words on large billboards
Drive a car on an empty road
Find a strong move in chess (if you are a chess master)
Understand simple sentences
Recognise that a “meek and tidy soul with a passion for detail” resembles and occupational stereotype
The highly diverse operations of System 2 have one feature in common: the require attention and are disrupted when attention is drawn way. Here are some examples:
Brace for the starter-gun in a race
Focus attention on the clowns in the circus
Focus on the voice of a particular person in a crowded and noisy room
Look for a woman with white hair
Search memory to identify a surprising sound
Maintain a faster walking speed than is natural for you
Monitor the appropriateness of your behaviour in a social situation
Count the occurrences of the letter a in a page of text
Tell someone your phone number
Park in a narrow space (for oct people except garage attendants)
Campare two washing machines for overall value
Fill out a tax form
Check the validity of a complex logical argument
The interesting thing that I have learnt so far is that we use System 1 and System 2 interchangeably throughout the day – and each system performs very important and different functions. Kahneman’s main thesis is that the intuitive (System 1) often arrives at a conclusion or judgement without the detailed logical evidence for that decision being through by System 2. There are many examples he gives where this is so – and here is one of them from page 43 of the book:
“A disturbing demonstration of depletion effects in judgement was recently reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The unwitting participants in the study were eight parole judges in Israel. They spend entire days reviewing applications for parole. The cases are presented in random order, and the judges spend little time on each one, an average of 6 minutes. (The default decision is denial of parole; only 35% of requests are approved. The exact time of each decision is recorded, and the times of the judges’ three food breaks – morning break, lunch and afternoon break – during the day are recorded as well.)
The authors of the study plotted the proportion of approved requests against the time since the last food break. The proportion spikes after each meal, when about 65% of requests are granted. During the two hours or so until the next feeding, the approval rate drops steadily, to about zero just before the meal. As you might expect, this is an unwelcome result and the authors carefully checked many alternative explanations. The best possible account of the data provides bad news: tired and hungry judges tend to fall back on the easier default position of denying requests for parole. Both fatigue and hunger probably play a role.”
The book is certainly worth a read and I hope that even these small excerpts have make you think – even if only to understand we all have two systems of thinking that dance to the daily cycles of our more basic animal behaviours – and that, for all important decisions, gut-feel or intuition is not enough and that it is important to engage System 2. An aspect of thinking I sometimes struggle with! And it appears I am not alone – since the book highlights this as one of the main causes of human suffering in the world today.
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!
I have always been fascinated by what makes up a good story and the effect that is has on the way we think about the world and our place within it. I have only recently came across the work of Joseph Campbell and his seminal work “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”. In the book he explores the underlying pattern of the heroic struggle from each of the great myths from around the world. He then goes on to uncover an underlying sequence of typical “hero-actions” which are embedded in each of these stories.
George Lucas (the creator of StarWars) was so impressed by Cambpell’s work that he wrote the StarWars epic using his ideas. We are very fortunate that a series of six programmes summarising Campbell’s work and his ideas were recorded just before he died. You can see the first (and subsequent) videos on the (rather whacky) internet site below – though it is obviously much better to buy “The Power of Myth” DVD on Amazon or elsewhere and watch it legally:
Campbell neatly summarises one of the heoric struggles with phrase early-on in the six-part documentary:
“where we had thought to be alone, we will be with all the world”
The orphan archetype is possibly the most common storyline that Campbell uncovered. Moses, Romulus and Remus, Cinderella, Oliver Twist, Mowgli, Tarzan, Superman, Annie, King Arthur, Frodo Baggins, and yes, Harry Potter – as well as Luke Skywalker.
As Terry Windling so succinctly puts it:
“The orphaned hero is not, however, a mere fantasy cliché; it’s a mythic archetype, springing from some of the oldest stories of the world. This archetype includes not only those characters who are literally orphaned by the death of their parents, but also children who are lost, abandoned, cast out, disinherited by evil step–parents, raised in supernatural captivity, or reared by wild animals.”
Christopher Volger (in his book The Writer’s Journey) created twelve distinct stages to a good story:
1. Ordinary World
2. Call to Adventure
3. Refusal of the Call
4. Meeting the Mentor
5. Crossing the Frist Threshold
6. Tests, Allies and Enemies
10. The Road Back
11. Resurrection of the Hero
12. Return with the Elixir
So there you have it. The twelve stages to telling a good story based on Campbell’s “Monomyth” – or common pattern for all good stories. Try it. It really works. Whether you are narrating an important case study that is being used as an example to help you sell a product or service at work, or giving a bed-time story to children, the underlying drama always touches a chord. And it is fun to hold the attention when only you know where you are going to end up! Ah, yes. That is the other trick. It is important to know where you are going to end up (roughly) – though I find some of the fun of story-telling is that the story itself can unfold in unexpected ways. The Hero always finds his or her way through, though!
Oh, and by the way. Steve Jobs was an orphan. Which is probably why his real-life story has touched us in so many ways in the past week.
Last night I had a fascinating dinner with a few friends at the Frontline Club where we discussed how you influence the future. We ended up designing a system of brainstorming panels which had 3D glass shelves and used 3D icons that could change colour and show pictures and movies – all hitched to a reconfigurable database the cloud! By 10.30 my mind was totally boggled and we headed home!
The conversation was triggered by last week’s post where we explored the idea of Presence as being a better paradigm to describe effective organisations and trying to show that the current obsession of process reengineering is so lacking as an organising idea for the new internet era. This week I intend to look at whether or not we can predict the future – and we can influence outcomes at an individual, organisational and world level.
To start with, I love the quote by William Gibson: “The future is here. It’s just not widely distributed yet.” Since the beginning of recorded history mankind has held in some sort of reverence (or equal cynicism) those who say they can see the future. The oldest book in the world is based on the stories of the ancient prophets. Seers and clairvoyants have always held a deep romantic fascination for me as guides to some sort of futre picture (whether good or bad) and they seldom seem to be accountable for whether their predictions happen or not. Just as Gibson observes, seers and prophets might actually be in the future and are describing things that most of us can’t see yet because we are stuck in the past (perhaps tied up in processes that were invented by someone else long ago ;-)).
If you fancy your clairvoyant skills, then there is even an Australian website where you can enter them – and it keeps track of whether or not they come true! Here is a list of War on Experts’ top 10 best predictions. There is also an interesting podcast from Freakonomics on why we just love trying to predict the future and how louzy we are at it.
In my work, I find the basis of “back-to-front” thinking an absolutely critical tool when trying to find the best courses of action to achieve objectives. You can’t really be successful unless you know what success looks like – and you can’t get there unless you have worked out how to get there back-to-front. So, in many ways, the predicted (reinforced) path to get from where you are now to where you want to get to requires some sort of prediction and willing yourself into the future.
There is some fairly extraordinary research being run at Princeton University into human consciousness that records how the human race reacts to specific events around the world. With the help of correspondents around the world, events that can be expected to bring large numbers of people to a “shared or coherent emotional state”. The following is a partial, illustrative list of criteria and examples:
Suddenness or surprise. Terror attacks, especially where they are not usual.
Fear and compassion. Large natural disasters, typhoons, tsunamis, earthquakes.
Love and sharing. Celebrations and ceremonies like New Years, religious gatherings.
Powerful interest. Political and social events like elections, protests, demonstrations.
Deliberate focus. Organized meetings and meditations like Earth Day, World Peace Day.
There seems to be evidence that human consciousness actually changed a few seconds BEFORE any jet was rammed into the Twin Towers with the monitoring of these”eggs” placed round the planet by Princeton University which generate random numbers.
Results still show that one of the main ways to make the world more peaceful and better place is to get a group together and go into a group meditation. Forget about thinking. Just sit and meditate. So whether you believe we can see the future or not, by changing our own consciousness, it appears that we can actually make the future more peaceful!
As Niels Bohr is famously quoted: “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” but I am certain we can influence and make the future happen by our actions in the present and by envisioning the future back-to-front into our lives.
Beautiful day here. Hottest September afternoon in the UK on record, apparently. Off to go and meditate with the bees and raise the level of peace vibes on the planet!