Euen Semple

Thingification

Euen Semple

The process of thingification (turning a useful idea into the latest thing and thereby rendering it useless) appears unstoppable. In the context of work it happened with collaboration, innovation, and creativity. It is even happening with disruption! It happened with blogging, it happened with YouTube, it's happening with podcasting. All these potentially powerful attempts at building a new world using new tools being rendered safe by assimilation into the old.

Being brave

Euen Semple

Most of the organisations I work with have clearly defined groups whose needs they are intended to serve. Increasingly these days there is a desire reach out online to foster a real connection with those people, but most staff in most organisations find it ridiculously difficult to do so. As a participant in a workshop once said "How do you find your authentic voice while working in a stifling bureaucratic environment?"

Groups 126

Toxic workplaces

Euen Semple

Well, let's face it, it's not the workplaces that are toxic, it is people. Not just any people but particular people. And more often than not we all know who they are. But will anyone do anything about it? Will anyone have those early conversations about behaviour before it builds into an apparently insurmountable problem? Will anyone care enough to ask what is driving those troubled individuals to behave in ways that can do so much damage both to themselves and those around them?

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To see a world in a grain of sand

Euen Semple

Yesterday as I was filling my truck with diesel at the end of the day I looked down at the ground and started noticing the concrete surface of the petrol station forecourt. It wasn't just concrete, there were tiny flecks of stone in it. Differently shaped bits, varying in colour and likely origin. It was raining heavily so the surface was wet. It was glistening under the bright lights of the canopy above me.

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What do we mean by “social media”?

Euen Semple

I often wish we didn't have the phrase. We didn't in the beginning. There were tools that we used, different tools for different purposes at different times, and that was it. It was clear that it was an ecology rather than a single thing. We used the tools that helped us achieve our ends, in my case better conversations, and moved on when they stopped doing that. It was up to us what we used, how, and for what purpose.

Tools 149

Zen and the art of truck driving.

Euen Semple

"I am lost, I am useless, I will never be able to do this." " Sound familiar? This is what goes round and round in my head every time I fail to find a building site that I am meant to be delivering to. The locations are not always obvious, even with a sat nav, and they are often in busy and crowded parts of towns. So the pressure builds, the feeling of incompetence increases, you get tired, you get frightened.

Change 109

Happiness is.

Euen Semple

I know it is not everyone's cup of tea but as I negotiated my fully laden 32 tonne truck along the Chelsea embankment, into the centre of London and south to Elephant and Castle, negotiating tight narrow lanes, cyclists, pedestrians, everything London could throw at me, listening to my particularly good collection of bangin' house music on the truck's half decent speakers, I could not have been happier

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Lag time

Euen Semple

It is disconcerting how often ideas that I have been banging on about, for years in some cases, are only now beginning to emerge in mainstream media and podcasts. I list them here for handy reference: We all have a volume control on mob rule. The future is too important to leave to technologists. The ideology of algorithms is an inescapable challenge that we all have to address. We can all change our worlds, one conversation at a time. And of course, Organizations Don't Tweet, People Do

List 126

As the world turns

Euen Semple

Doing a night shift on New Years' Eve at the World Service was always fun as you got to celebrate on the hour each hour as the various time zones passed into the new year. Having as many friends as I do around the world these days means that birthday wishes on social media afford the same pleasure. First Australia, then Europe, then the US. Thanks everyone for your kind wishes

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Thoughts for a Sunday

Euen Semple

Religion is the structured process of steering and reinforcing the narrative of "him", "me", "us" , and ultimately "them" Despite reinforcing the idea of community this leads to separation. Spirituality is the challenging and slippery process of revealing what is left when the narratives stop. Despite being a personal and often lonely path this leads to unification

A Sufi Story worth remembering in our polarised times.

Euen Semple

“Upon entering a new country a traveler noticed an old man sitting under a tree. He approached him and asked about the people in his land. The old man answered by asking, ‘How are the people in your country?’. ‘Oh’ Oh’ said the traveler, ‘they are friendly, hospitable, and cheerful.’ Well,’ the old man said, ‘you’ll find them to be the same in my country.’.

Perception is reality

Euen Semple

Fake news is good news. It is making us question truth. It is making us less lazy. We are learning that we need to take responsibility for our perceptions. They are the only reality we will ever know

News 109

Zen and the art of HGV driving

Euen Semple

The other day I was headed to a location I hadn't visited before. The postcode that I was given wasn't recognised by the SatNav (it was a building site so the postcode was new) so I entered a nearby location and set off. On top of this imprecision I reckon there had also been an incident blocking a more obvious route because I and a couple of other HGVs ended up down this relatively small road and faced with a bridge with a 7.5 Tonne limit which our SatNavs appeared not to know about!

Skills 122

All you need is.

Euen Semple

Over the past few weeks I have had the privilege to be amongst Chinese families, indigenous Australian families, even half a village worth of Turkish families on the flight from Melbourne to Doha. All bantering amongst themselves, telling jokes, smiling at each other. Pretty much the same behaviours the world over.

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Mutual aid

Euen Semple

The main focus of my workshops over the last couple of weeks for Jobs Australia has been helping people to catch up with the impact of technology on how we live and work. In our conversations I was reminded yet again how people have varying levels of comfort and ability in even the most basic use of technology. There is a very real risk of an emerging digital "underclass" if we don't do something about it.

Civilisation?

Euen Semple

It is interesting to be back again in remote Australia where the incoming population exists pretty much in parallel with the indigenous one. These "first people" struggle to fit in with our modern world and are often disparaged for their lack of ambition and success. There is also a lot of alcoholism and drug use in their communities. Yet in their own past they were clearly deeply in tune with their environment and respectful of it in a way that we are only now beginning to learn.

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The Five Whats

Euen Semple

Some of you may be familiar with the idea of "The Five Whys" If you want to really uncover the reason for something ask why, ask why again, and keep doing so until by the fifth asking you are likely to be getting to the real reason. I reckon we need "The Five Whats" When someone in business comes out with a stream of nonsensical business bollocks ask them what they mean.

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Oh, it’s just a fly.

Euen Semple

The other day we noticed a bee buzzing around our house. We decided to take our chances and co-exist with it rather than throwing it outside where the freezing temperatures would certainly have killed it. This morning I heard a buzzing again and started to imagine a scenario where I found the bee, tried to look after it, feed it etc. But then I saw where the buzzing was coming from. It was just a fly. My caring instincts evaporated. It could look after itself and didn't matter.

Feed 136

My workplace

Euen Semple

As I am speaking at a workplace event soon I thought I'd talk about mine. This is my office at home but all of the tools in the photo can be put in a bag and seconds and the whole thing reassembled wherever I am. The various bits and how I use them are listed below.

The three Cs

Euen Semple

I recently wrote a post about the potential for systems to be self organising and the way that we compromise this ability by attempting to exercise control over the world around us. In order for systems to become self organising the networks that make them up have to be comprised of healthy cells. It occurred to me yesterday that in order to become healthy the cells need to be encouraged to work on the following three characteristics. Curiosity. Wondering why things are the way they are.

No news is good news

Euen Semple

I haven't watched or listened to news broadcasts for years. I became tired of being presented with a litany of things to be frightened about, that I could do nothing to prevent, and that had minimal direct impact on my life. I also lost confidence in journalists. With a few very rare exceptions they barely understand the subjects they write about, always have an agenda, and certainly in the case of podcasts get between me and the people I want to learn from.

News 116

Muddling along

Euen Semple

Over dinner last night someone used the phrase "muddling along" to express optimism about the future. It seems a particularly British, or to be more precise English, phrase and attitude. It goes with the landscape. It goes with the weather. It goes with the "nation of shopkeepers" image. I have often thought that one of the greatest strengths of The Church of England is it's non-dogmatic, village fete, muddling along attitude.

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Celebrating sameness

Euen Semple

I used to worry about the homogenising effect of modern culture - the fact that every shopping malI the world over is selling the same brand dominated tat - and I would still bemoan the loss of diverse and fascinatingly different cultures. And yet.here I am, sitting on the harbour front in Hong Kong, watching Chinese girls wearing ripped jeans taking selfies, and wondering if this will make it harder to start wars with countries whose daughters also wear ripped jeans

Wherever you go, there you are.

Euen Semple

It feels odd that I will set off for Hong Kong tomorrow. That I will think it sensible to sit in a metal tube, speeding through the air, thousands of feet off the ground. And then I will be there, somewhere else. Or will I? more than likely I will be stuck in my head - just like I am here. The odd truth of this always strikes me in the context of mountains. I spend a lot of my life wishing I was climbing a mountain. On the way up I wish it would end because it hurts so much.

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Keeping up standards

Euen Semple

It fascinates me how often people rant at me about the rubbish on Twitter or Facebook, invariably delivered in a tone intended to convey their intellectual superiority, but apparently unaware that what they are describing is their network and that managing that network is their responsibility!

Sticking our oars in

Euen Semple

Most systems have the potential to be self organising. With the right feedback and thoughtful, aware, tolerant, adaptive individual cells it is amazing what is possible. Just look at nature and the incredible complexity, and adaptability, that it achieves. Look at what our unbelievably sophisticated bodies achieve every day, often in spite of our attempts to derail them! So why do we get it so wrong?

Groups 154

Facing Fears

Euen Semple

Doing something new is always challenging. The possibility of screwing up, looking foolish, creating problems for others. It is invariably stretching. Taking a truck with a laden weight of 32 tonnes through tight winding London streets, with barely a foot clearance on either side, into busy and unpredictable building sites, and with potentially dangerous loading and unloading environments at either end, has pushed my limits.

Skills 122

On not having a job

Euen Semple

When we dropped Mollie off in Cambridge for the start of term I got to meet her best friend's parents for the first time. As the dad and I started chatting it became apparent that we actually worked in very similar, or at least related, fields. We hadn't realised this until we met and it occurred to us that neither of our daughters had been able to explain to the other what we did! People not being able to describe what I do is not new. I face that all the time.

Moments

Euen Semple

I don't get many breaks in my driving days. Although I enjoy having time to myself while driving my time is usually pretty tightly scheduled. Today though I had to wait for a client to arrive at a very pleasant business unit in rural Hampshire. It was a real delight to be on the phone making arrangements for my upcoming business trip to Hong Kong and Australia while enjoying the spring sunshine and watching horses grazing in lush green fields

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Today’s workplace

Euen Semple

First day of proper HGV driving (I'd previously done a day but in a 3.5 tonne van). Great fun. Lots of complicated reversing, having to unload gazillions of window frames on my own, and the general nervous wear and tear of manipulating 7.5

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Beginner’s mind

Euen Semple

I have a driving job coming up soon that, frankly, terrifies me. It pushes me way beyond my comfort zone. I already have a knot in my stomach and the work is days away. But what am I afraid of? If I am honest I'm afraid of looking a fool, of being incompetent, of being seen to have screwed up. The title of Shunryu Suzuki’s book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, has always meant to me something about aspiring to return to an open mind, to being a blank slate, being chilled and relaxed.

Getting annoyed

Euen Semple

One of the aims of mindfulness and practicing meditation is to get better at responding to things rather than reacting to them. To take calm, appropriate action when needed rather than to get bent out of shape because things aren't how we expect them to be. This isn't to say that you end up as some chilled out, passive, punch bag for the world.

Organisational sludge

Euen Semple

Working as I do with people trying to bring about change in their workplaces I am very conscious of what I have begun to call organisational sludge. The behaviours, attitudes, processes and policies that build up to create the enormous amounts of inertia that make change so difficult. Like real sludge, you can try to clear it away, push it back, stem the flow.

Being places

Euen Semple

I never take for granted the opportunities I have had to be places. Interesting places, different places. One of the appeals of truck driving is the opportunity to be lots of new places. But I am always reminded of Jon Kabat Zinn's "Wherever you go, there you are."

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Gentleness

Euen Semple

I have always been impressed by the unflappability of my friends who work as paramedics or in mountain rescue. If you are going to be able to help people in distress and facing extreme challenges you can't get bent out of shape by life yourself. Getting all macho and controlling because of your own fears would just make things worse. Paradoxically real strength exhibits itself as gentleness.

It's always the small things.

Euen Semple

In the current turmoil brought about by Brexit and Trump it is so easy to think that we need to do something, to take action, to do something grand, to join a movement, to wave banners. But if we see the world as dominated by grand things, big things, things that we have no control over, then we either go numb and feel powerless, or we overreact and provoke a counter-reaction.

Anti-social social media

Euen Semple

"What does the money machine eat? It eats youth, spontaneity, life, beauty, and, above all, it eats creativity. It eats quality and s s quantity." " - William Burroughs. I have just been reading about the Burger King influencer story. Well, I say reading it, I'm not that interested but I glanced at the headlines. Even a one paragraph article about influencers is tl:dr in my book.

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The challenges of Twitter

Euen Semple

Really interesting Joe Rogan podcast with Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter. link]. Fascinating to hear the two of them work out the challenges and ethics of this vast network of conversations. It was also fun to hear Dorsey talk about the early days when we were all making it up, and I mean all, Twitter felt very much a group effort in those days. But the monster that it has become has never been seen before and working out what to do, why, and when is clearly non- trivial.

Conditioning

Euen Semple

When I was a young teenager one of our neighbours worked for a "sporting goods" company. When I visited his son we pored over their catalogue which included air rifles. I couldn't afford a rifle but I did scrape the money together to buy a pistol. It was solid, heavy, like a real gun. It felt manly to hold it and point it at things. We went out into the fields behind where we lived to kill something. I heard a skylark above us, pointed my gun at it, and against all the odds hit it!

Buy 109

The gap

Euen Semple

Viktor E. Frankl once wrote: "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." " Hannah is currently studying Psychology as one of her A Levels and yesterday we were chatting about neuroscience's discovery that our subconscious reacts to stimuli before our conscious brain is aware that we have had that thought.

Class 131

Utopia, dystopia, or a more mundane truth in between?

Euen Semple

Every time someone sends me a link to an article about how the internet or social media are destroying the very fabric of civilisation I am struck that they wouldn't be able to send me the link without the internet and I wouldn't be able to maintain a connection to them without social media. I gave up on Cal Newport's books because I got so wearied with someone who I had only heard of through social media wasting half his books telling me what a negative force social media was!

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Deference and respect

Euen Semple

Especially here in Britain we are brought up to be deferential, to defer to the views of those of higher status and authority. But the problem is that deference is automatic, it is based on role and status and assumes that role and status are a sign of skill, wisdom and trustworthiness. Respect is different. It is earned. It comes about as a result of consistent behaviour. Without respect society falls apart. Without deference, it gets the chance to rise to a higher standard

Skills 109

Blockchain In Government

Euen Semple

Last week's Blockchain In Government conference that I hosted in Washington was great fun. Thanks to Jane Dysart and Information Today for taking the leap and organising it. We managed to pull together a really smart bunch of people directly involved in implementing blockchain in a number of interesting ways. It yet again reinforced my impression that once you get past the crypto currency hype there is much to be excited about with the advent of this new technology.