The Tough Meme: “Telling It The Way It Is.”

 

The changing political discourse around the world and the election of a new “Leader of The Free World” made me go looking for some thought bubbles I had written on people who like to present a tough face to the world. Here’s one:

There are people who define themselves* as blunt, direct, telling it the way it is, etcetera. They have the ‘tough’ meme and just as often it’s associated memes that assist in shaping their behaviour.  There are several possibilities to look for when explaining their behaviour. One is that they are  a little sociopathic and really don’t care what you think. A second is that they are low on ‘Agreeability’, one of the big five personality factors. Or perhaps you consider they have low ‘Emotional Intelligence’ and just don’t get how discussion works and generally screw up Continue reading

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The Unethical Reflex: Beyond the Cult of Personality

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The not so clean VW Diesel.

All of us lie and cheat … at least a bit (The Honest Truth About Dishonesty, Dan Ariely) and more than we care to admit. And it seems the things people learn about lying and cheating prepares them well for business and government. A part of the trick is determining just how far we will go. Regardless, it should be no surprise then that the reflex position of business is, ‘Ethics cost money and are therefore optional’. And despite the rhetoric, leadership training, policy and values statements and a few optional ethics classes in business schools, it would be reasonable to suggest that the business status quo is not about to change soon. That doesn’t mean we should give up but we do need to understand it better and explore new ways to deal with it.

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Science #4, The Prime Minister & ‘The Fixer’

Malcolm explains to Christopher what you can do with a disc.

Malcolm explains to Christopher what you can do with a disc.

Australia has a new Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.  Turnbull shows signs of being a political progressive and not at all technologically and science phobic. The later being defining platforms for the previous right wing, conservative Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. Under Abbott the University sector and relations with business remained in their kind of stagnant, patronising limbo. That is, we know we need an education system and some science, particularly if it serves business however, we really want you all to be compliant and not change things too much or challenge the values, status, power and wealth growth of those that already have it. This is not a formula for a happy, entrepreneurial and prosperous Australian future. Continue reading

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Business Strategy – 4 Reasons for more discussion!

presentation1-7-638You don’t have to look far to find high flying, hyper-successful, mega remunerated executives doing things they were warned not to do in Business School 101 – that is, acting stupidly. The VW or Glencore case studies come to mind immediately. A less public (not always) and less obvious act of stupidity occurs when it comes to sharing a businesses strategy. Despite years of experience senior executives very often miss opportunities to generate, communicate and implement strategy effectively (another way of saying they make rookie errors). Instead, they come off looking disengaged to the other employees of the enterprise, less intellectually competent than their resumé might suggest and less in control than they would like. Here are 4 reasons why: Continue reading

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12 (Not 11) Things I Have Learnt About Change Management

I have spent my whole professional career working in what could be called ‘change management’. In recent years the term and it’s practices have been more widely adopted and in some cases has been productised by consultancy providers (ADKAR, KOTTER, Agile). Here is just a few things I have learnt and had reinforced along the way:

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Bad Behaviour & Being Happily Unhappy At Work

Businessman with shield.Ask people what is wrong in their workplace and you can get an avalanche of woes and with just a little push, as many ideas for fixing them. At least that’s what it sounds like when nobody up the management hierarchy is present. Professor Chris Argyris of Harvard wrote about this a long time ago and frankly the cleaner could have told us that (An Interview with Chris Argyris). What he added were his observations of behaviours that seemed to maintain this situation – behaviours that undermined the ability of the organisation to learn and make appropriate changes. Behaviours that reinforced the social, power structure (hierarchy) and just as often the beliefs and attitudes people held about others. He called these behaviours ‘Organisational Defensive Routines’. Argyris identified that it took a lot of skill to use and maintain these routines. (They can be used to resist change.)

It has struck me that Argyris’s observations has similarities to the observations of Dr. Eric Berne who developed Transactional Analysis (TA) – an approach management trainers flirted with about three to four decades ago. Berne documented interactions in people’s lives that he referred to as ‘Games’. See ‘Games People Play’. Some of the games are relevant to work life and I’m sure we could identify a few that Dr. Berne has missed. One of the fun and obvious games is ‘Harassed’. Here people spend time complaining about workloads and how stressed the situation is. Importantly the participants never take positive steps to rationalise the work and will even take on new tasks. There can be auxiliary games like ‘Lunchbox’ which revolves around eating at your desk, avoiding structured breaks and appearing very committed. The games have a number of benefits including ready-made explanations for any failures/delays/poor standards and evidence of irrational managerial indifference to staff and workloads etcetera. At some point everybody is unhappy with the situation, however in the way that they are supposed to be, leading to the paradoxical conclusion that everybody is happily unhappy. Continue reading

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March 26, 2015 · 9:18 am

(Australian) Science #3 Barry Jones, Politics and the Future

Barry Jones is a rare man. He is an intellectual, an ex-politician (Federal Minister and President of the Labor Party), a lifelong supporter of rationalism, science and humanism. Here is a recent article published in The Conversation, “We must defend science if we want a prosperous future.”

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Barry Jones: Victoria University, Author provided to The Conversation

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The Ukraine # 2 Respect, Brinksmanship and Cold War Tactics?

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The RAF escort a Russian Bear bomber off the coast of the UK. 19th Feb 2015 Image: RAF/EPA

(Not a corporate topic but interesting from a culture perspective)

Russia is demanding the Wests attention when there are lots of distractions. What is it that Putin is up to and should we be listening?

Some time ago I skimmed across the events evolving in the Crimea, the Ukraine and Russia. Since then the East Ukraine has become the hotspot with Russian backed separatists (and Russians) fighting the Ukrainian army. In the meanwhile there has been a disaster when hundreds are murdered on Malaysian Airlines MH17. For a country supporting an undeclared civil and state war this disaster turns out to be just an irritating distraction from the real business. On top of that, the Russian currency and economy is imploding not least because of the fall in gas and oil revenue. So what’s changed? Nothing really. The paranoid Military Class (Note 1) Putin belongs to is still in charge and threatened by NATO encroachment through EU expansion. They were buoyed by their success in Crimea reinforcing Putin’s power, tactics and egotistical self. As the economy withered there was a moment when the political class and the Commercial class seemed like they might be heard. But it was just a moment as the rich (commercial class) and the citizens are still secondary and they know it – An Enclave of Powerful Russians.

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Australian Science #2 A Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist Comes To Town

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CSIRO Image: Earth Receiving Satellite Dish in Tasmania

Australia’s premier public applied science institution, the CSIRO, is appointing a new CEO, Dr. Larry Marshall. He seems an impressive man with an impressive resume. An Australian Physicist (excellent) that has become a serial entrepreneur (fantastic, a true hero of capitalism) and venture capitalist (the angels and the predators of capitalism) based in Palo Alto, Silicon Valley (ahhh!). Kind of begs the question why he has come back to a public institution in Australia? Well he did and he has history with CSIRO (or at least it’s associated enterprises) as a cadet and understands the position is ‘kind of like being handed a national treasure’. Good start. There is a stated and clear intention to be more commercial. Fair enough, especially given the governments view of the relationship between science and business. In fact, on the surface he appears to be  a poster boy for what the government believes and wants. At Dr. Marshall’s first public interview since accepting the position he made clear some of his personal worldview. Scientists need to, and indeed have an obligation to be entrepreneurs. In short, they have an obligation to be more like him. It seems he is not only to be their CEO, he is to be the role model for our scientists. Of course, he is not saying the CSIRO scientists are failures and haven’t met their obligations, though I’m guessing a few of them will think this is exactly what they heard. I’m also sure he doesn’t mean the scientists should all leave Australia and start businesses in other countries that have more entrepreneurial cultures. What we can be thankful for is that he is not a colorless grey suit.

Context Drives Behavior

Dr. Marshall  took himself off to the entrepreneurial, venture, technology startup capital of the Western World. That is very adventurous! He with time became an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurial organizations are driven by a need for survival, to find the Continue reading

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Australian Science – If it was just more like sport!

Science  (Noun): the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.

Science Is To Be Ruled & Managed

In Australia lawyers, economists and accountants rule, while the media (journalists, bloggers, talk back radio and others) filter and shape opinion (see The Corporate Classes). Scientists do not rule and are therefore ruled. Hence, science is not judged in the non-scientific community by the peer review of other scientists but by those in power – the lawyers, economists etcetera. The media love an Aussie winning a science prize because for just a few minutes it seems like sport.Then it is back to business as usual. This situation is made easier for the public by one important characteristic of science. That is despite all the benefits science has delivered, including economic, health, lifestyle and aesthetic, it is not directly associated with most of the benefits. People do not look at their iPhone and see all the amazing science that was done to make it possible or for that matter the engineering. What most people do see is a consumer product defined by it’s function, ‘Apple’ PR & marketing and popular culture. (Medical science may be an exception because of certain characteristics – more on that later.)

Is Science Progressive?

Science by it’s nature implies progression and change and the possibility that what we now believe to be true is possibly wrong. Could it be that at the heart of science is a ‘progressive’ philosophy? Could it be that political conservatives conflate the ‘progressive’  nature of science with a ‘progressive’ political view – and if so, then if you are a scientist, you are by definition a ‘progressive’ and so you might as well be a lefty. Is it any wonder that conservative Australians, starting with the conservative government, treat science with suspicion – especially any ‘soft’, social science (it’s even worse for disciplines not considered science such as philosophy, history and art which can be openly mocked). Until science has been bought under managerial control, evaluated using managerial values (e.g. efficiency, productivity, profitability etc.) and turned into ‘moneytorised’ technology or activity it is treated as a marginal, lefty activity for nerdy eccentrics and the socially challenged with no legitimate experience of the real world. Only when plainly obvious to an investment banker how research will create financial benefits does it become of value.* This is not done at all well in Australia (2011 OECD rankings: 21st for R&D expenditure,26th for % large firms with new to market products and only 2.6% of innovations are University research related). Business and University partnerships are much touted by governments but in reality are very shallow. As such many if not most opportunities are lost or taken up by other countries including areas such as solar power and renewable energy.

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