Saturday, 31 May 2008

Police Authorised To Use Common Sense

Someone once said The weird thing about common sense isn't. The good news is that at last one organisation in the UK The Surrey Police Force is trying to change all of that. In a bid to unlock themselves from the handcuffs of obsessive managerialist thinking Surrey and three other UK police forces seem to allowing integral thinking into their management.

So often organisational decision makers gullibly assume that there is a magic bullet or a singularly effective way of managing and controlling complex, dynamic entities and events. This managerial approach, typified in many cases by the underpinning philosophy, language, and concepts of the Master of Business Administration (MBA) has dominated much of the political pressure placed on public service organisations.

In this philosophy there is no place for professional judgement, what you measure is what you get, what you measure is what get's done, and what you reward get's done first. The same is true of education. You can't use professional judgement because that is 'subjective' and the positivistic philosophy that drives managerialism says that only dispassionate 'objective' facts can be used to base decision making.

Utter rubbish! Human beings are social animals that are equipped and to a large extent depend on navigating complex interpersonal situations by 'reading' feelings context and meanings. Rapport and relationships depend entirely on these skills. I am utterly confident that the Surrey Police approach will be hugely successful and that it is a tremendous example of thought leadership.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Earth Attacked by The Vuittons

Its official Earth has been attacked
by a race of aliens from another world!

Contrary to the expectations of most scientists The Vuittons as they are known are not a race of superior intelligence capable of transforming human kind for the better.

Appearing on the re-formatted TV quiz show The Weakest Blingk the female leaders of this fascinating species showed how their philosophy of 'acquire material benefit without effort' has taken their kind from the depths of anonymity and frugality to wealth and prominenence.

In order to study the species further BBC scientists carefully designed an experiment to uncover exactly how smart The Vuittons really are. They concluded that an invasion posed little threat due to a suprising lack of detailed local Earth knowledge.

Chief Scientist Anne Robinson has recommended that people, and especially those aged between 13 and 22 and a half are innoculated against celebophilia. Robinson commented:

"Whilst posing no immediate danger to life as whole there is a small risk of damage to the fabric of society. This occurs when a delusional fixation on unattainable wealth and status occurs." going on to say:

"The Vuittons have evolved in very special circumstances in which luck and timing have played a significant part. Assuming that their world view has general relevance here on Earth is misleading and can in the most serious of cases lead to an addictive sense of persistent under achievement, failure that results in crime to feed the habit"

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Blogging and the Real You

In the world of blogging the Persona is 'Quing' (great portmanteau RR btw) and much is written about 'finding your voice', finding the style and tone or writing that is unmistakeably YOU.

Think about any of your favourite Bloggers...Would you be able to tell if someone took over their Blog for a month? Is there something in their turn of phrase, the idiom they use that tells you the real from the false?

As social animals we seem to be designed to be able to sense lack of authenticity and when gullibility happens our ability to do this fails. I would recommend anyone interested in this topic to read Pine & Gilmore's book called spookily Authenticity. They have come up with a neat 2*2 matrix that helps you position things in terms of how real and false things are. They classify things as:

is or is not what it says it is and...

is or is not true to itself

In this way people, organisations products services etc can be positioned in one of four places. Something that is Real Real (truly authentic) is what is says it is and is true to itself. Something that is False False is the direct opposite. This Blogger could be classed as Fake Real because I blog as RR not my real name and so I am not what I say am I but I am true to myself. Pine and Gilmour use Disney as an example here. Real Fake is the world of the deceiver, the world of platitudes and company mission statements you know the sort of stuff like 'we are a people company', 'I'm here to help you, 'work hard and you'll be rewarded' etc this is the place where we are most gullibly vulnerable. Most of us can spot Fake Fake a mile off although the really uncritical can get seriously duped here.

Face to Face or Facade to Facade we rely on lots of sensory input to help us make our decisions about authenticity, often this is rolled up into the subject of body language although we do pick up on tonality and rhythm of the spoken voice too.

What happens with writing though?

Dr Tim Grant of Aston University UK is an expert in this area and has developed ways of telling who the author of a text is. This has proved invaluable in solving murders and terrorist offences.

In the slightly less life threatening environment of academia (although that is less certain claim these days!) there is a continual 'assignment arms race' being run to detect that wonderfully studious thing known asPlagiarism That's cheating to you and I. You probably know there are sites where you can buy pre-prepared assignments and in order to check submissions in this wonderfully open and digital world we live in the web service Turnitin has been created for well intentioned students and suspicious tutors to check work for originality.

Invariably those most susceptible to being tempted to cheat are non-english speaking students. However they fall fair and square into the Real Fake zone. Many fail to realise that after a 12 week semester a tutor has a pretty good feel for their spoken expression, their vocabulary and tonality. It should come as no surprise therefore that when you get a piece of work that says something like:

"Given the assertion that Black et al make in their conceptual review of a priori assumptions about the marketing philosophy" things don't stack up and they don't stack up because of the experience of the reader. A particular skill of tutors borne out of reading hundreds of assignments and scores of books is a sense of authors voice.. We all have that skill to some degree of other.

So which is the real me?

Blogging is a really wicked thing to do 'cos its on the edge.

Blogging implies a deep seated concern with fundamental philosophical forces

Blogging facilitates the unfettered expression of individual creativity

Blogging lets you blast off on the stuff that rocks your boat

Blogging is my window on the world and the fog horn of my feelings

Blogging is an awesome way to monetize your content and kick the day job

Blogging is a complex social phenomenon whose explanation remains confused and opaque

Blogging is the digital version of 'Can You Hear Me Mother'

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Work Has No Meaning

So it looks like we've well and truly duped by the system. A techno-commercial system that says your role and job title define who you are, a system that says your greatest achievements come from the ways in which you earn your living.

Not so if this BBC article The best way to find meaning at work? Don't look for it is anything to go by.

If you'd like to ponder on this topic further try this survey devised by Dr Ruth Garrett of Sheffield Hallam University in the UK.

My Life's Meaning and Purpose

I suppose the message is 'take charge' you have responsibility for giving your life its purpose and meaning. Don't abdicate this task to other people and institutions, even though they would like you to think you depended on them.

To paraphrase Clarice Starling's boss in Hannibal "the problem is Clarice you fell in love with the FBI - but the FBI didn't fall in love with you"

Friday, 23 May 2008

Religion Spirituality and Atheism

Deputy Chief Constable Tony Melville's explanation of the state of mind of Exeter UK bomber Nick Reilly suggests something about the possible state of mind and purpose underpinning alot of formal religion when he says:

"We believe that despite his weak and vulnerable state he was preyed upon, radicalised and taken advantage of"

Any instance where lack of critical thinking is impaired or supressed is surely evidence of gullibility and manipulation.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Which European City Do You Belong In?

Thanks to Daisy Puddock I found this fun link and should be living in Dublin!

Spooky! no questions about Guiness and it knew!!!! How did it do that?

You Belong in Dublin

Friendly and down to earth, you want to enjoy Europe without snobbery or pretensions.

You're the perfect person to go wild on a pub crawl... or enjoy a quiet bike ride through the old part of town.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Is the $100 Laptop A Fairy Story?

Once upon a time there was a Technologist called Smart Nick. He lived in the Land of Bright Ideas where everybody was happy. Everyone in in the Land of Bright Ideas thought Smart Nick was the cleverest of clever people who had ever been clever and when he designed a Magic Box of Tricks that would make all the poor people in the rest of the world very very happy they all clapped and cheered and threw a big party with lots of jelly and cakes.

Smart Nick was so pleased with his idea. He knew it was just what the people wanted because he'd asked everyone in the Land of Bright Ideas a very special question. It was known as The Philosophers Question and the question was this..."if he could make their wish come true what would it be?" After listening really really carefully to what everyone said he worked very very hard everyday and every night for a whole week so that his Magic Box of Tricks was just what the people in the Land of Bright Ideas wanted.

The day came when he had to go on a long and dangerous adventure. He would have to go over the hill and far away beyond the Gates of Bill that led from The Land of Bright Ideas to meet the people of a mysterious land called Afreeka. The people of Afreeka were very nice but they didn't have much money and this made Smart Nick very sad. So off he went with a big smile, his Magic Box of Tricks and knapsack with an Apple to eat on the way to make all of the people in Afreeka happy.

When he got there he was invited to tea with the King of Afreeka. He lived in a huge palace with lots of nice things but he was very very angry. "Why doesn't your Magic Box of Tricks make my people happy?" he thundered. "I was told that your were the cleverest of clever people and you are not!" Smart Nick explained that he had asked everyone in the Land of Bright Ideas what they wanted using the Philosophers Question and he couldn't understand why the people of Afreeka were still unhappy.

This made the King of Afreeka even more angry. He stood up and banged the table so hard that all the plates and cups jumped nearly a whole metre in the air. "Fetch me my Wizard" he boomed. With a loud bang the Wizard appeared through a big cloud of sparkling purple smoke. Smart Nick's knees began to knock, he'd heard of the Marketing Wizards of Afreeka and their potent magic. "You see..." said the King "I have been working on my own Philosophers Question...Wizard...what can you see?"

The Wizard pulled out a crystal ball from the huge pockets of his coat and stared at it muttering mystical incantations. Smart Nick could only just hear them..."what do you want?", "what's important for you?", "what do you value?"... "what is the benefit of", how do you choose?...", "what problems would you like to solve?" the end the Wizard shrieked and shouted out 'You've Put Lipstick on a Pig' The people of Afreeka will only be happy if the Magic Box of Tricks can do the things they want to make them happy"

The King stood up at once. "Smart Nick go away and come back with something our people want." he commanded. So Nick went away trudging back to the Land of Bright Ideas and he was very very sad. When he got home he sat by the fire and had lemonade and crumpets and then went back to work. He worked all alone for a hundred days, when suddenly he had a bright idea.

If his box of tricks could let the people of Afreeka have a Window on the World surely the King of Afreeka wouldn't be angry and his subjects would be more skilled & knowledgeable than the other tribes of the world, this would make them popular, which in turn would make them rich, which in turn would make them attractive, which in turn would let them get married and have children, which in turn would them very very very happy!

Soon he went back and showed the King of Afreeka his Magic Box of Tricks with its Window on the World and the King jumped for joy and danced around his palace doing a jig with his soldiers until his crown fell off. "You really are Smart Nick!" he said "You listened to my Marketing Wizard and look what you've done, you can marry my daughter the Princess." This made Smart Nick very very happy too and so Smart Nick, The Princess, The King and the people of Afreeka lived happily ever after.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Girl Crime and Gull Power

As a society we must be pretty gullible if we can't think through the factors that influencing young females to indulge in crime and violence. Dr Ann Hagel makes the stunning (sic) insight that "it's most likely to do with the way people spend their time

Now if I understand this correctly, adolescent females are indulging in crime and violence because that's how they spend their time????

As a description of what they 'do' that may be a triumphant truism, but how do they form their attitudes? There is a Void and it isn't just between the ears of the 'sugar and spice and all things nice' sisterhood.

Once again we have impressionable young minds having that Void filled with what might called a Post Madam (should that be little madam?)philosophy - an "I can do as I please WIV attitude"

These girls are Proud To Be Fick, and they are gulled by celebrity messages that say to get on in life you have to 'go for it' & 'take no crap'. What they aren't told is that often involves sacrificing dignity, compassion, and social responsibility.

Rock on Sisters - Gull Power!!

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

What's The Measure of Good Teaching?

When the dark side of Management philosophy meets the dark side of Educational psychology you can bet that something rather unpleasant will occur. Devising a 'technique' to train children in 8 minute bursts into performing so that their teachers and their employers can look good is a creation like Frankenstein's monster. Probably well intentioned, yet not very intelligent, ugly and uncontrollable.

Obsessive managerialism pervades much of the approach to education management, and so it should come as no suprise that bureaucratic fixation with administrative process rather than personal outcome takes over. Norton and Kaplan's well known phrase 'what you measure is what you get' is more profound than most people give it credit for, and in developments of that line of thinking from 'what get's measured gets done' on to 'what gets rewarded gets done first' it is easy to see the consequences of an un-thinking technical approach.

For an educational psychologist to devote time and energy (and money?) devising a mechanistic method for adding tenths of a percentage point to pupil performance as if he were training an Olympian is a betrayal of the educative process and an abuse of the pupils under his charge. Where is the benefit for the pupil in this? If you can't see one then it is clear that this is manipulation of the young, innocent and powerless for the gratification of others.

To change the action the driving philosophy needs to be modified. Public Service management is lagging years behind contemporary commercial practice. In a commendable attempt to provide transparent and helpful indicators of performance the baby has got thrown out with the bath water. Where are the measures of pupil or staff experience?

Teacher's need to be able to engage critically with this dominant management philosophy and take it on. For many it is part of their natural vocational attitude to be concerned with true learning outcomes, but as soon as they are introduced to the form of management training provided by their employers they are exposed to a dated and uniquely skewed Harvard MBA-esque version of what management is supposed to be about. i.e. management is a 'science' it deals dispassionately and un-emotionally with objective things that can be analysed and measured. This is NOT the only version of how to manage organisations and performance.

It seems there is a void in Thought Leadership. In concentrating on 'subjects', the opportunity for connected learning is missed, in merely processing pupils through the system scant attention is paid to developing their thinking capability, in seeing a school as a 'machine' no effort is put into the 'brain'. Is it any wonder that the gap in basic philosphical attitudes to life that this leaves is filled with the crap that gets pumped into young minds through the Idiots Lantern, the wall to wall violence and destruction on 24/7 news coverage and the vaccuous philosophising from half-baked Celebrities and then we wonder how it can be that young people are so keen take each others lives?

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Tags Posts Blogs and the art of Categorisation

I've just spent two days re categorising all of the tags for my posts to classify them into just 10 themes, and believe me its not something you should undertake lightly. I can hear many of you saying I should have thought that through right at the onset. The weird thing though is, it wasn't until a stepped back and looked at my posts that meaningful tag classifications began to appear.

The moment you enter the world of blogging you step into the arena of Categorisation. Blog experts emphasise the need to identify your niche, and as soon as you join a blogging community you are asked to classify the type of Blog you have. Sometimes the categories are strictly defined and sometimes you can define your own. All the time we have to think in 'categories'.

The purpose of this seems pretty self evident as it helps people wade through the mass of information that is created by blog authors. So the whole of the blogosphere is sorted by hierarchical levels of information.

It seems to me that subjects treated 'technically' are fairly straightforward to classify as they invariably talk about 'things' e.g. PCs, i-pods, MP3, or astronomy, solar system, nebulae, or marketing, branding, positioning, SEO, even Cats, moggies, pedigrees, Siamese, etc however when it comes to 'social' blogs things can be very different. Often the 'themes' being written about emerge retrospectively as the bloggers eye is 'cast back' over what s/he has written.

Originally I tagged every post with something generic and specific and ended up with a massive tag list with 1 item about this and 2 items about that. By chunking my categories up I was surprised to find just how easily my posts fitted into the tag groups, and how the tag groups reflected my typical sources of inspiration for writing blog posts. The key one for me was about the fundamental philosophy of Gullibility, in other words 'How Do I Stop People Taking Advantage of Me' which really expresses the essence of what I think my blog is all about. Gullibility is what something 'is' and 'How Do I...'is what it does.

As for the other tags they show that often my posts are inspired by current affairs, and always about how people behave, the things they say and the consequences of their actions. My commercial life was in Strategy and Marketing so no surprises there, although I take a rather more skeptical view of some of the things that are done in the name of my old profession these days! The same goes for my current concern with education and learning, and the bridge between the two. The highest 'hits' I've had and continue to regularly get is my post of advantages and disadvantages of a university degree This is a fascinating subject and one to which I will be returning.

Much of what I blog about concerns 'relationships'. In particular the abuse of power and the manipulation of information. Not so much like an Agony Aunt more in the way of giving examples of how people interact so that people can see connections to their own experiences.

So it seems clear to me that one of the arts of Blogging is deeply concerned with the classifications we make. In this way I hope my readers can now read posts grouped into meaningful themes and hopefully get more value from Gullibility. The tags are of course human made and you might find the fascinating area of Mereology of interest. I always love it when something that me and you do naturally is given a fancy name and studied! For some practical fun with this try this at the next BBQ or social gathering you're at. After a few beers (or not as the case may be) just ask the question.'How many things are on the table?' what you'll find is that people will begin with the obvious and then invent all sorts of new categories such as 'metal things', 'containers' and as time goes by things will become more and more conceptual. The categories become 'things' on the table too:)

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Austrian Police Face Sound of Music

Austria's Justice Minister Maria Berger has accused the nation's police force of gullibility
and gauranteed them a natural place on this blog. In fact I might just research a Gullible Hall of Fame as a result.

In doing so they provide a classic case study the key characteristics of which include:

Taking things at face value
Failing to ask probing questions
Failing to obtain evidence or proof
Being suckered by confident story telling
Failing to cross reference stories
Failing to notice unlikley coincidences

I reckon Columbo would have sussed the Austrian Noodle straightaway. Any offers on what his classic line might have been just as seemed to be leaving?

"Can I just check? did I hear you say sect or sex?"

Monday, 5 May 2008

The McCanns? It'll Never Happen to Me!

A key aspect of Gullibility is not taking personal responsibility for the events that affect us. So which pieces of the Portugal, Young Children, Holiday, Hotel, Left On Their Own, 'jigsaw' did these Non Parents or NOPES as I'll call them fail to put together? (Non Operational Parents who are Excessively Self-centered. Conveniently rhymes with Dope too)

Like some 21st Century Hogarthian subject matter these parents have shown a side of irresponsibility that seems to pervade certain aspects of British society. Only yesterday School Headteachers were making the point that a significant number of parents push the responsibility for their children onto others. Now I'm sure we can all come up with a raft of 'social pressures' that the NOPES have to deal with bless them, demanding jobs, worries about money, excessive temptations placed before them by Big Media, breakdown of the nuclear familiy etc.

Perhaps we should describe a new family phenomenon and call it the Unclear Family! The sort of family where the parents have no idea what their role and responsibilities are, where they are incapable of making the difference between themselves and alcohol guzzling independent 18-30 holiday teens, and who chase a fantasy of existing in a pan-eseque Never Land where they never have to grow up!

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Mad As A Box Of Frogs

Does a blog have to be of benefit to anybody or can you write utter Gobbledegookand people will flock to your blog like there's no tomorrow.

How do we actually make judgements about what is nonsense and what is prefectly reasonable to believe? Judging by the amount of stuff we read everyday how do we decide what we'll run with and what we won't?

Just check how many things you've been told today that are pure speculation and that you have no hope at all of proving without fail that it is true.

It's clear that the outer vandibscuular crotex is getting ifilclalifronted with some of the greater Tharg-like underwaftings of pleasant neo-pulcritude.Bananas I hear you chutter as the crease of lintelment reaches sideways. Breftlug spoke in a damp murkmur and swaded over the larksfin. I knew exactly at that moment this reeving barlmashing would graft a meeningly sweet jutter.