Houses In Winchester

August 28, 2010

I went to Winchester last weekend to have a look around and came across this series of houses. Quite eye-catching, especially as the others were of the drab grey variety as seen on the right in the photo above.

I was wondering if they all belonged to the same person and they decided on the overall colour scheme or whether neighbours talked amongst themselves and agreed on who was going to have what colour. Or maybe the painters decided themselves?

Anyway, good to have some collective boldness!

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The GTD Merry-Go-Round

August 25, 2010

Amusing, honest and insightful post by Jack Baty on the perpetual rise and fall of ways of Getting Things Done (GTD) 🙂 It was nice to realise that I’m not alone in this!

I usually manage to make things a bit more complicated by alternating between a wide variety different software packages for carrying out (my version) of GTD.

I read somewhere that it doesn’t matter what system you use (notebook, fancy software) just so long as you keep using it – fat chance!

If you want to be pleasantly distracted and gleefully not get things done (and you’re on a mac) take a look at the treasure trove here (go down a few ‘pages’ to see the GTD list).

Aside: a previous post of his is good too!

Picture credit here.


What Business Aren’t You In?

August 20, 2010

See the discussion here.

So is Thrifty car rental an insurance company that uses rental cars as the way to get business, or is it really a rental car that happens to also sell insurance for its cars? Great question, but an even better question to ask yourself if you are really clear about your brand promise and what your customers want from you.

Picture link: see article above.


Open And Closed Thinking Modes

August 18, 2010

Interesting list of 55 quotes to ‘inspire creativity, innovation and action’.

One that I’d not come across before was:

“We all operate in two contrasting modes, which might be called open and closed. The open mode is more relaxed, more receptive, more exploratory, more democratic, more playful and more humorous. The closed mode is the tighter, more rigid, more hierarchical, more tunnel-visioned. Most people, unfortunately spend most of their time in the closed mode. Not that the closed mode cannot be helpful. If you are leaping a ravine, the moment of takeoff is a bad time for considering alternative strategies. When you charge the enemy machine-gun post, don’t waste energy trying to see the funny side of it. Do it in the “closed” mode. But the moment the action is over, try to return to the “open” mode—to open your mind again to all the feedback from our action that enables us to tell whether the action has been successful, or whether further action is need to improve on what we have done. In other words, we must return to the open mode, because in that mode we are the most aware, most receptive, most creative, and therefore at our most intelligent.” – John Cleese

It’s probably true that the closed mode of thinking dominates the open, often due to the pace and connectedness of life these days.

I like the words ‘playful and humorous’ which typify the mood required. It made me think back to some earlier posts I’d written (here and here) on knowledge cafes that described how the change in conversational mood and tone developed through the evening leading to more open results.

By coincidence, browsing through my newsfeeds recently, I came across this YouTube video with John Cleese talking on creativity. Some of the key points he makes (which we’re all familiar with but are interesting none the same):

  • try and learn something new each day
  • sleeping on problems can be very effective
  • losing something and then recreating it from scratch often yields a better result
  • no distractions (at all) – it’s hard to get back into the flow
  • no one knows where ideas come from
  • create a mood that encourages creativity (the ‘tortoise mind’)
  • establish boundaries in both space and time (an oasis where it is ‘safe’ to be creative)
  • being busy and being creative are probably at odds with each other
  • if you’re purely busy, it probably means that you don’t really appreciate creativity

There’s a true story that provides a really good example of this approach.

The picture above is of John Cleese and some of the cast from Fawlty Towers. This famous comedy series was inspired by a visit to Torquay (see here and here) which neighbours my home town of Paignton:

John Cleese was inspired to write what became Fawlty Towers after he and the rest of the Monty Python team were staying at a hotel in Torquay called the Gleneagles (not to be confused with the world-famous Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire) whilst filming Monty Python’s Flying Circus TV series in the early 1970s. The “wonderfully rude” hotel owner (Donald Sinclair) endeared himself to the Monty Python team by throwing Eric Idle’s briefcase out of the hotel “in case it contained a bomb,” complaining about Terry Gilliam’s table manners, and chucking a bus timetable at another guest after the guest dared to ask the time of the next bus to town.

The interesting part of the story is how this odd and presumably quite unpleasant situation was turned into a creative opportunity (providing an excellent example of closed and open thinking):

Whilst the rest of the Monty Python cast relocated to Torquay’s 5 star Imperial Hotel, John Cleese decided to stay to take notes and from this the series was born!

So, in cases where things are going dramatically wrong, there may occasionally lie the seeds of a significant step forward, if looked at in an open (‘playful, humorous’) rather than closed light. This is learning from failure but in a more imaginative way than usual.

Picture credit here.


The Demise Of The Internet Generation?

August 10, 2010

Fascinating article in Der Spiegel on the relationship of young people to the internet, giving quite different viewpoints than you commonly come across in the media.

Here’s the opening paragraph

They may have been dubbed the “Internet generation,” but young people are more interested in their real-world friends than Facebook. New research shows that the majority of children and teenagers are not the Web-savvy digital natives of legend. In fact, many of them don’t even know how to google properly.

and here are some snippets from the full 3-part article:

“Similarly, most young people in Germany ignore social bookmarking websites like Delicious and photo-sharing portals such as Flickr and Picasa. Apparently the netizens of the future couldn’t care less about the collaborative delights of Web 2.0 — that, at least, is the finding of a major study by the Hans Bredow Institute in Germany.”

“Numerous studies have since revealed how young people actually use the Internet. The findings show that the image of the “net generation” is almost completely false — as is the belief in the all-changing power of technology.”

“Recent research into the way people conduct Internet searches confirms Scheppler’s observations. A major study conducted by the British Library came to the sobering conclusion that the “net generation” hardly knows what to look for, quickly scans over results, and has a hard time assessing relevance.”

“So instead of tech-savvy young netizens challenging the school, the school itself is painstakingly teaching them how to benefit from the online medium.”

“For a brief transition period, the Web seemed to be tremendously new and different, a kind of revolutionary power that could do and reshape everything. Young people don’t feel that way. They hardly even use the word “Internet,” talking about “Google”, “YouTube” and “Facebook” instead. And they certainly no longer understand it when older generations speak of “going online.””

Always good to challenge assumptions and question prevalent views!

Picture credit here.


Knowledge And The City

August 2, 2010

Following on attending a recent Knowledge Café at Arup, last Thursday I took part in a meeting with the London Information and Knowledge Exchange (LIKE). Usually their meetings are in a pub in Bloomsbury but on this occasion it was a 2 hour conducted tour of The City plus some eating/networking at the end (in what was originally London’s first coffee house, the Jamaica Wine House).

It was a very enjoyable get-together, everyone very friendly and welcoming and a guide that was both informative and entertaining (in my experience you don’t always get the two characteristics together).

It made be realise (once again) how much there is to learn and appreciate even in quite small parts of major cities!

The LIKE website gives details of forthcoming events as well as some very insightful ‘hints and tips‘ on setting up a similar networking group.

Picture credit: here.


Banks And Patching Up Complexity

August 2, 2010

Interesting post today on banks, rules and principles by Robert Peston on his BBC blog, some extracts:

It is therefore odd that the future of banking is being decided as it has been done for more than 35 years, behind closed doors in the quaint Swiss town of Basel by a committee of unelected central bankers and regulators.

The consequences of carrying on like this will be profound.

Here’s the question: rather than a rulebook that’ll be even longer than the so-called comprehensive version of Basel ll – which runs to 347 opaque pages – wouldn’t it be far better to have some very simple easy-to-understand principles, that capture the spirit of the kind of risks that our society believes are appropriate for any institution that has been given the privilege of taking deposits.

Instead, regulators, central bankers and governments are patching up complexity. So, whether we like it or not, the rest of us will have to delegate even more responsibility in the coming years to the so-called experts at the FSA and in regulatory bodies around the world to prevent the system toppling over again.

He points out that agreeing principles would be hard (although not impossible) as the weaknesses of rules are often the very areas of high opportunity for banks. As the banks now seem to be doing quite well for themselves (although it is becoming increasingly dire for most others) there is going to be no stimulus for change from them and all the related and established institutions. An odd situation.

To really shake things up, it might be quite good to have some provocative entries from banks on WikiLeaks – at least a challenging conversation might result.

Comment: The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) is an international organisation which fosters international monetary and financial cooperation and serves as a bank for central banks (picture of part of HQ at Basel above). Established on 17 May 1930, the BIS is the world’s oldest international financial organisation.

Picture credit: here.