As the honeybee swarming season is ending, I have been reflecting on the four swarms we have caught this season and the phenomenon that some call “swarm consciousness”. In researching more about the subject, I came across this short set of PBS videos describing a new way of thinking described as “emergence”. It not only describes the magic forces of nature that science somehow struggles with, it also gives a great explanation on how we learn. It is encouraging to hear that current computer design has a long way to go – and that the human brain still wins on its “connectedness”. Encouraging to think that swarm intelligence in humans is FAR greater than any political leader or dictator. Worth watching both clips and reflecting on them:
We have all had it. That frustrating blankness that hits you when you want to write something. Those who know me, know that I have been trying to write a book on bees since 1986. I am not sure if this is worthy of an entry in the Guinness Book of Records – but this work of art has been a long time in the womb!
Coincidentally today, I had an extraordinarily energetic meeting brainstorming out a new marketing strategy for a company. We really got “in the flow”. At the end of the meeting I had to take 5 minutes out just to re-tune to normality. One of the people at the meeting started talking about left-brained and right-brained thinking – and pointed me to the work and theories of Gabriele Rico. Gabrielle has written a book that has sold over 500,000 copies called “Writing the Natural Way”.
On investigating the theories, I was struck by how similar they are to many of the methods I use in my work. I use Spider Diagrams or Mind Maps a lot to brainstorm-out ideas – and then clump or cluster them into patterns or blocks of ideas – before finally looking for a natural sequence or flow that works well for the problem set in question. I really liked Gabriele’s names for the two sides of the brain – “Sign Mind” and “Design Mind“. Sign mind (left hemisphere) thinks linearly, parts-specifically, logically, one step at a time, while the Design mind (right hemisphere) thinks in whole patterns, drawing on images, emotional webs, sensory patterns, as in a memory that suddenly flashes into consciousness as a complex whole. So similar to the attributes missing in the Organisational Caetextia article I wrote with Mark Richards last year.
So it got me thinking – why don’t I actually use this very effective technique to help me write the book? And it made me realise that my my work and other activities at home are so time-consuming that the real issue wasn’t so much writers block, but time deficiency! Although I have already created the chapters, the themes, the plot, I just need to sit down and write. But I am not a natural writer. I prefer telling stories aloud. I prefer drawing pictures. Anything but writing. Gabrielle’s theory says I should be using my right brain (or Design Mind) first – and then start writing…
Actually, this problem is really why I started to blog. Because I thought: if I write regularly in small chunks about things that interest me, then I hope to overcome this writer’s block that I have. I set up another blog – http:/beelore.com – a few years ago. And it really does seem to work – this blogging thing. Little and often is better than being blocked and producing nothing at all.
Which means that I don’t currently plan to finish the book – because by the time I have done everything else, I actually don’t want to find the time to write the book.
I would rather work, play and blog; and go with the flow. For the moment – anyway. Than write a massive book. On bees. That probably few will read. And certainly not over 500,000! The rough numbers that read Gabriele’s book!
In fact I called beelore a “blook” – sort of cross of a book and a blog. So maybe I havn’t got writer’s block…..I have simply replaced it with a new age, Web 2.0 writer’s blook!
I spent yesterday at Vanguard Consulting’s Leaders Summit on Systems Thinking. John Seddon chaired the day brilliantly, with eight case studies on Systems Thinking. It is not really systems thinking the way that Peter Senge created – it is more a method for improving service organisations – with roots in Demming and Taichi Ohno (the master behind the Toyota Production System).
It is difficult to describe each of the cases in such a small space, but one animated video was shown to everyone by Advice UK that is fun to watch and gives a real-life example of Systems Thinking as applied to the public sector. Enjoy!
It is so important that we get more organisations both understanding and using these ideas and I will be digging deeper into John Seddon’s work in later posts.
I got up yesterday morning questioning why it was that BT will take at least another five and possibly ten years to upgrade my broadband from 2MB to 10 or perhaps even 40 (on their current unpublished, un-thought-about plans). I run an information intensive business from home and I need faster broadband – now. And I am not alone! Why should I wait? And I thought who owns this problem anyway?
It triggered a thought. A Thursday Thought!
In the early days of Telecoms deregulation, BT was forced to move the ownership of the (plain-old-bog-standard-you-can-have-it-in-any-colour-so-long-as-it-is-black) Telephone to the person owning the number. Standards were created and innovation thrived with new types of telephone being connected to the network – so long as they conformed to standards.
When Openreach was created, management of the equipment on the end of the line was handed over to other so-called “Service Providers” and (a little known fact), BT was forced to auction-off the actually ownership of about 60% of their lines – which were predominantly won by the French company, Orange. However, for those in the Final Third, this line ownership trick is irrelevant. We are still at the beck-and-call of BT Openreach’s exchange upgrade programme.
A few weeks ago I had lunch with the Chief Engineer at BT Openreach (George Williamson). I asked him how it was possible to unlock BT’s investment bottleneck and accelerate the rollout of broadband to the final third. But he simply said the current plans for upgrading would take all of BT’s resources in the next three years and that the programme put BT’s implementation teams at maximum stretch. So there is an implementation capacity problem here too. Which is why more local infrastructure building (with or without BT) looks interesting. There is a market for it, if only BT Openreach were prepared to publish their plans of where (and where not) they intend to go.
So I thought, what about me owning my own line – like in the days when I ownership of the telephone passed from BT to the private sector? What if I could then do a deal with BT (or another service provider) to pay them double to upgrade the line (rather than pay Sky to watch football). What if I paid them treble (and not buy a new car)? What if I bought new shares in a community bond scheme which would partner with BT (or another builder) to accelerate the rollout? What if (like in some parts of Europe) a mortgage company will extend a mortgage to include the cost of a Next Generation connection? What if there were people in my community who would underwrite the scheme? What if….
So I leave the question hanging – why shouldn’t I be able to by and own my own line? I don’t want it owned by some service provider or some company that themselves are totally dependent on a part of BT Group that is not the slightest bit interested in my line – until about 2108 if I am lucky!
Time to re-think “home ownership” and what a connected home really means in the connected kingdom!
Most of the past week has been taken up with me trying to connect my right leg back to my body.
However, my leg has not been cut off – nor have I been involved in any domestic violence or serious accidents.
Let me explain…
Last Thursday, I had been suffering from a cramping pain in my leg for over a week. The leg had been swollen for a while and felt quite detached from the rest of my body. So I decided to go to the doctors on Friday – just before the long Bank Holiday weekend. He suspected some sort of Thrombosis (or a blood-clot in a vein) and I started a course of medication to thin the blood.
A scan on Tuesday confirmed that I had Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT. The sort of things they get worried about when you are old and go on long-haul flights. So I am now on blood-thinning medicines for 6 months to get rid of the clot.
I suppose it is strange to you that I am writing about such a personal experience on my blog, but this blog is designed to make you think. It has certainly made me think hard about the more important things in life like family, friends, fitness and general work-life balance. Even my own mortality!
I have always taken good health for granted and I have not had to go to the doctor for anything serious for years. But, more importantly, I was thinking how important good circulation or FLOW is in any organism….and I started to wonder what “Organisational DVT” might look like.
If you look for natural flows in an organisation, then there is deal flow and cash flow and the flow of information to fix a problem. There is also the flow of planning information to coordinate future plans and get everyone (especially suppliers and customers) in-sync. If things really go wrong, then we can end up with burst pipes and oil disasters.
So the concept of one of these flows within an organisation getting blocked becomes quite interesting to me in the work that I do.
In many ways, if things are flowing, then life is as it is meant to be. If things are blocked, then life becomes a struggle and the consultants get called in – both medically and managerially!
So if the analogy can be taken further, then it is interesting to wonder what the equivalent of blood-thinning agents are to organisational DVT… One of the most important is cash – and if you can’t borrow it, then parts of the organisation will surely become blocked and unhealthy. But there are probably many more examples.
Now I know what is wrong with my leg, then I hope it will start to reattach itself to the rest of my body, as it were, so that I feel whole again as the clot dissolves.
After all, you only have one body – and selling-off parts or divisions to the highest bidder is not the answer in this particular case! That is where the analogy between human bodies and organisational bodies perhaps starts to break down.
All the same, it is an interesting analogy and one that I may well explore further in future Thursday Thoughts.