Friday, October 23, 2009

An Inconvenient Truth

We’re in an interesting time, there’s no doubt about it. With the financial collapse of the traditional mechanisms and the landscape changing at an exponential rate how prepared are we to construct and think differently about the future, how are we preparing future generations for this different landscape. As Phyllis Grummon of the Society for College and University Planning states “we are in a ‘neutral zone’ – a time of maximum uncertainty and time for creative possibility between the ending of the way things have been and the beginning of the way they will be”. The important aspect of this is that the “re-arranging the deck chairs approach” needs some serious reconsideration.

Too often we place technology as a driver for this reconsidered approach as if technology is driving it, I disagree, technology is an enabler of this change, it makes certain things possible efficiently and effectively, but it is not a driver. We have to look at why we need to change our approaches and a great deal resides in the purest elements of human motivation and ability; we have to question our logic of carrying forward the educational and management principles of the industrial age into the knowledge age. This is at the root of the change.
I think Sir Ken Robinson eloquently raises some very key principles to this change in his excellent book “The Element” that queries and examines many of our pre-conceived notions about education and management principles, illustrated very succinctly in this clip:

I strongly recommend watching the entire talk here
I believe Sir Ken is very right in his summation of how humans work and learn best and that the management hierarchies and educational structures put in place for the industrial revolution no longer hold water. I hear so much debate about returning to good educational principles, good teaching etc, but seldom hear anybody analyse how sound those principles were in the first place. The history of the grade and assessment system in education was never born out of good educational theory, it was born out of an industrial practice of paying teachers piece meal based on the number of students they had in their class, an entrepreneurial teacher therefore invented a system that allowed him to teach larger numbers in order to be paid more.

As Marshall McLuhan pointed out “We drive into the future using only our rear view mirror” and “Our age of anxiety is, in great part, the result of trying to do today’s job with yesterday’s tools and yesterday’s concepts”. With this in mind, what does the future require of us, how do we rethink our preconceived notions on how to structure education and management hierarchies and systems? I explored many of these questions in my Did You Know? video below by taking information and quotes from leading research and thought leaders on these matters, there is a great deal of research in cognitive science on how the brain learns that we did not know before and new theories of education emerging from this, connectivism being just one. Additionally, management principles are being reassessed along with business models, the global economic meltdown may now be the catalyst or “tipping point” to enable this change beyond the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rhetoric of the past that has viewed these ideas as “happy clappy”. The notion that you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube is probably a correct analogy. As with education, it is time to re-assess the motivation dynamics of business, as Daniel Pink eloquently does here in his TED conference speech from July this year at Oxford:

Phyliss Grummon’s assertion above is just as applicable to the world of work as it is the world of education, we are at an important time and we need to landscape and plan for possible futures, something Price Waterhouse Cooper explored very well in their Future of Work 2020 project. These are all seeds of thought, the big question is how we grow them because we can’t build them in an industrial manner, this is our climate change issue within the human climate and we’re at just as critical a point as we are with the environment and it shouldn’t be an inconvenient truth.

BNP Rebranded?

This week saw a heated debate as to whether Nick Griffin of the BNP should be given a platform on the BBC’s Question Time last night, the outcome of the debate was fairly clear for all about how effectively he used the platform to promote his vision and manifesto and the other panellist’s did what should be relatively easy and pulled apart his thoughts and expose them for what they are, the protestations of a xenophobic mindset that individually has a low self opinion and thus needs mob rule to have a sense of identity and be part of something, a common recruitment policy for extremist groups of all colours and creeds. Anyway, I’m happy and support the decision of the BBC to give the platform for this debate, it is only through aired debate and confrontation that the BNP will be shown up for what it is, as demonstrated in this old episode of Re:Brand, whatever you think of Russell Brand, I will always admire him for his confrontation of the BNP mindset:

I also liked Cassetteboy's edited highlights of last night:

and the inevitable Downfall remix:

Griffin is now seeking to sue the BBC for alleged unfair treatment, maybe he could get Carter Ruck to represent him?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Word of Mouth on Steroids

As I reflect on the Twitter and Blogosphere phenomenon of the last day relating to The Guardian gagging injunction from Carter Ruck to protect their client Trafigura, it flags up a number of interesting thoughts about the role of social media in news and how our existing structures simply can't cater for the disintermediation of mainstream media. Before I look at this, for good insight into the specifics of this case go to the excellent analysis and podcast at CharonQC with Carl Gardner.

Putting aside the legal facts of the case and how an injunction was served on something that was raised in parliament, there was a basic assumption that this could be buried because companies and lawyers have become adept at knowing how to close down mainstream media reporting. Conversely mainstream media has done it's self no favours. There is a prevailing misconception in news media that they are reporting news, this is a flawed concept because news travels at an exponential rate now, much faster than a news agency can deal with. So it's not about news, it's about contextualising the news and this is then where the flaws come in with the approach Carter Ruck took over the Guardian story and the Judge made in awarding the injunction, in a world of social media, my grandmother's old saying  prevails "Truth will out". When crowd sourcing news and spreading the conversation can be done at such an exponential rate, the spin doctor angle doesn't work and neither does the injunction. Social Media is word of mouth on steroids. It's time businesses, firms and mainstream media started to actually take this on board rather than dismissing as flights of fancy and irrelevant. How are media lawyers going to advise their clients on how to deal with social media phenomenon, the landscape has changed massively in a short period of time, people will need to start actually exploring what all of it actually means sooner rather than later, here are some useful starter tips etc:

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A National Identity Crisis

I recently added a comment to Charon QC's blog about the state of the nation following the terrible story of Fiona Pilkington.
In the comment I asserted that the culture of this country is broken and we seem to keep trying to deal with the symptoms of the situation rather than the cause. This of course, doesn’t fit for political posturing during party conference season, prior to the general election.
Additionally I nodded to how Scandinavia seems to have got many things right in terms of culture and attitude and saw this week with interest that once again the UN stipulates that Norway is the number 1 country to live in.
Being a frequent visitor of Norway due to family connection, I have always been struck by the cultural values and national identity there that seems alien in this country and this I believe to be at the core of our systemic problem. We can’t just copy their system tactically; we have to understand it culturally too. Why do they have a system that is so much more open for abuse than we have, yet far less abused by their populace, the reason is it is abhorrent in their nature and there lies a clue, they have a national conscience and a concept of collective responsibility.
We seem to have fallen into a culture where we have decided to abdicate our collective responsibility to authorities and thus blame them entirely when society doesn’t work; we rely upon our government to legislate our behaviour and then protest of a “nanny state” when they apply it. When systems fail because of a lack of regulation we once again blame the state, but where are we taking some of the responsibility? When the world economy collapsed due to the relaxed lending principles of most banks, primarily with mortgages, I still cannot understand how so many were taken by surprise.
So many people were borrowing way and above what were truly affordable for them and they must have known that. I know from personal experience that I was offered much higher value mortgages than I knew I could comfortably afford, and only status anxiety and postcode snobbery could have overridden that fact. Which I think is the root cause of our cultural psyche at the moment; we are still in a post-Thatcherite era of self obsession and identity crisis. This is often evidenced in the extreme narcissism of reality TV, but can be witnessed across the board in our behaviour in multiple arenas. There is a fascinating history to this within the excellent documentary series by Adam Curtis "The Century of the Self" and "The Trap", additionally Alain DeBotton’s book "Status Anxiety", within  these examinations are some fascinating insights into how we became what we are and what we need to evaluate before trying to cure the symptoms.