Euen Semple

Blogging equals thinking

Euen Semple

Well, writing equals thinking. I can't remember who it was that said "I don't know what I think until I start writing " but certainly for me it has always rung true. I've not been writing much for a while, and it feels like I've not been thinking. Sure, ideas flit through my head and I can ruminate endlessly as we all do, but by not writing I've not focussed my thinking.

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.

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

Interconnected

Euen Semple

Most of the time I get excited about how interconnected we are becoming. The way technology helps us to realise that our actions have consequences to others as well as ourselves. A harsh word posted while in a bad mood sends out ripples that we can see coming back to us. We can choose to take responsibility for those consequences and adjust. But our interconnectedness can also have dire consequences.

Data 126

Your phone doesn't have to be your enemy.

Euen Semple

It has been interesting using the beta of iOS 12 for the past month or so and the new functionality that allows me to keep a track of my phone usage. By far the greatest use of my phone is reading books, followed by activities related to managing my work, then general productivity, and only then social media. My phone allows me to: Read more books than ever before. Maintain a task list that allows me to keep track of all the things I have to do. Monitor my sleep patterns.

Digital Transformation

Euen Semple

I heard recently that in response to their “emissions scandal” VW have unleashed a new set of rules on “proper legal and ethical behaviour” on their staff. The irony of those who created the culture that caused the problems in the first place being the ones to issue the rules is staggering. It’s the same with Digital Transformation. The biggest challenge is that the transition to a new world is in the hands of the old.

Conversations not content

Euen Semple

The internet still holds so much potential to helps us understand and improve ourselves and the world around us. Sadly much of it has been turned into one big content farm. It doesn't need to be this way. It is not too late. Each of us can ask our selves every time we share, like, or write something: Will this post trigger people to think more deeply about its topic? Have I written it in a way that is more likely to open up debate than close it down?

Put your own oxygen mask on first.

Euen Semple

Society is made up of multiple networks of individuals, operating individually or in consort. In order for those networks to operate effectively, to use a biological metaphor, the cells have to be healthy. We will only have a healthy society, or organisations, if we each become healthy, autonomous, tolerant, and sensitive to those around us. To do this we have to recover from being trained to be complacent, compliant, consumers. We have to to be sceptical of ideologies and -isms.

We can do this

Euen Semple

Sometimes I feel like giving up, conceding defeat to the marketers and "professional communicators" who have polluted our networks with industrialised social media. Sometimes our propensity to polarise online and beat each other up over our projected fears and failings seems likely to bring the promise of the internet to its knees.

Why I love Facebook

Euen Semple

Well, OK, perhaps that is overstating it a bit. What has always interested me about the internet is the possibility it affords for bloody good conversations with interesting people. For whatever reasons Facebook is where that currently happens most often for me. Take my last post on Supporting Change. A great comments thread on Facebook, in large measure due to Louise Robey's first response. And barely a flicker on LinkedIn.

Actionable Outcomes

Euen Semple

I often quote the inversion "don't just do something stand there" There is such a strong tendency, indeed cultural pressure, to be seen to be doing something in business. We used to joke at the BBC that when someone was promoted to a senior role they couldn't just look around and say "Everything looks fine to me I'll leave it alone." " They got more brownie points for screwing things up than for doing nothing.

Stormy weather

Euen Semple

We are off to Sweden tomorrow for our family holiday. Like us they have had a spectacularly hot summer. Like us the weather has broken. We are conditioned to expect summer holidays to be hot - to be disappointed if they are not. This week may be testing

100

Whenever you come to a fork in the path take it

Euen Semple

I have always loved this Yogi Berra saying. It says so much about a potential approach to life. Many of us get bent out of shape when things go wrong, when we feel we have made the wrong decision, when fate seems to be against us. We end up “fighting what is” to quote Byron Katie.

100

On driving and being driven

Euen Semple

This seems an appropriate post to write given that I sit my HGV theory test tomorrow but glancing through people’s Linkedin profiles it struck me how many of them describe themselves as “driven”. This is up there with “driving change” in its ability to make me recoil.

Little injections of energy

Euen Semple

It is easy to get overwhelmed these days; to take the "lists of things to be frightened of" that news media serve up every day seriously; to succumb to the waves of doom that ripple around the internet; to feel that we are too small and too powerless to do anything about it all. I remember reading somewhere that each of us should aspire to leave the people we talk to feeling a little bit better after a conversation with us, a little bit braver, a little bit more optimistic.

News 100

The era of the autodidact

Euen Semple

As I wrote elsewhere recently “fake news is good news because it is forcing us to make more effort to work out what is true and what isn’t”. I had someone say to me the other day “Wasn’t it better in the old days when life was simpler and the news told you the truth?”. Life was never simple, the news just simplified it, made it look like theirs was the only version of the truth, and we didn’t know any better. We can’t go back to those days.

News 100

Happenstance

Euen Semple

It's amazing how much of our lives comes about through chance or unexpected twists of fate. I am struck how often people end up in jobs they hadn't anticipated, how much organisational and business success is down to luck, and how we are forced to respond to the vast and mostly unpredictable complexity of life. We then feel an irresistible urge to retrofit meaning to maintain the illusion that we are in control.

A bit of a departure

Euen Semple

Well, lots of departures actually. I have always had a hankering to drive big trucks. I watch massive trucks delivering to our local supermarket and marvel at the skill of the drivers as they reverse to ridiculously tight spaces. When I worked with Volvo in Gothenburg I found their state of the art trucks incredibly glamorous. I clearly have a problem. So I've decided to do something about it.

All the world's a stage

Euen Semple

All the world's a stage. Our challenges at work almost always relate back to other people and our relationships with them. It is so easy to slip into thinking that if only other people were different then work would be easy. But it would also be boring! I often think what a privilege it is to get to play out our roles in the workplace and the opportunity that affords us to discover aspects of ourselves that would otherwise remain hidden or unchallenged.

100

Love Island

Euen Semple

I admit it. I'm hooked. I even watched Aftersun on Sunday to see how Samira got on after she left the villa! I've even welled up at a couple of moments during the show. I tell the kids to keep quiet in case we miss some of the dialogue! The programme editors are up there with Shakespeare in terms of exploring the highs and lows of human emotion. It's the emotional equivalent of The Hunger Games. There, I've confessed. That feels better

100

Flirting

Euen Semple

Over the weekend I had occasion to meet two women doctors. One was a local GP checking out a pulled muscle in my shoulder, the other was a private doctor conducting a medical examination in a drop-in surgery in East London. They couldn't have been physically more different. One was slightly gaunt, tanned, and Scandinavian looking. the other was a hijab wearing, Somali/French lady from Lyon. Both were witty, clever, and great fun to chat with.

What doesn't kill us

Euen Semple

I have spent most of the week with some very clever Americans. Watching them come to terms with the consequences of Trump and the reasons for his election gave me hope for the future. They are being forced to think hard and dig deep, to deal with things that have been hidden or buried and need dealing with.

100

A paradox

Euen Semple

It is through my social media platforms that I learn about how mitigate the consequences of people tracking my data. I am better informed about how it works and what to do to protect myself from it. It is also through those platforms that I am able to join with others concerned about this tracking and achieve a mass influence to do something about it.

Data 118

Long Form

Euen Semple

Who would have guessed that one day millions of people would listen to three hour long podcasts. Indeed the shortest podcasts I listen to regularly are between 90 minutes and two hours long. The topic of long form listening came up in the recent appearance by Jordan Peterson on the Joe Rogan Podcast, their third together.

Coherence

Euen Semple

Our brains crave coherence. They want our lives to make sense. To do this they make up stories. We then cling to those stories and make ourselves happy or unhappy as a result. If life doesn't fit our story we get frustrated and upset. If it does fit our story we feel pleased with ourselves. But then we worry that it won't last and things will change for the worse! In reality our thoughts, even about exactly the same situation, change all the time, moment to moment.

Change 118

Made up stories

Euen Semple

"What do you do?" " I hate myself for asking this when meeting someone for the first time but I keep doing it. It is such a social norm. And of course having asked the question I invariably get the standard response of a job title. But what does that mean? Do I really care that the other person is an accountant, a lorry driver, a marketer or a judge? They are all just labels. Shorthand that we all too readily slip into. Even to ourselves.

Don't panic, don't panic (to quote Corporal Jones)

Euen Semple

In spite of our best efforts we have little control over our lives. It terrifies us to admit it but from natural disasters, to twists of economic or political fate, to our relationships to our loved ones, we have no direct ability to control anything. Let's face it, most of us can't even control the thoughts running through our own heads! When we notice this, and try harder to exercise control, we invariably make things worse.

Digital Transformation

Euen Semple

The meaning of the word digital has become so broad as to be almost useless, and most organisations prefer tinkering to transformation, but Digital Transformation has clearly become a thing. To me it is about the pressure to change that organisations are experiencing due to the fact that their customers and staff are finding their voice. We are able to talk about them as never before. They don't own their brands, we do - their staff do.

Data 100

PowerPointless

Euen Semple

I marvel at the extent to which communication in the workplace has become about shuffling slide decks instead of talking to each other. Or writing good prose for that matter. Rather than engaging directly with people to convey the power of our ideas we hide behind the apparent professionalism of a polished presentation - or we clog up our IT systems sending each other bloated files rather than writing well crafted and effective emails.

Tools 100

What to do?

Euen Semple

There are probably two main themes to the conversations I have with people in organisations - how to deal with complexity, and what to do about staff who are increasingly disengaged. The two are inextricably linked. As work life becomes faster changing, less stable, more unpredictable, many managers attempt to exercise greater control. They do this by doing more of what they know, what they are comfortable with. More meetings, more communication campaigns, more technology.

Least worst options

Euen Semple

I am aware that I can sometimes appear overly critical of large organisations. Because I am asked to help with things that are wrong with them it is easy for me to lose sight of what they achieve. I am also very aware of the constraints they place on the people who work for them, and the high price those people pay in return for the stability they seek.

Price 109

Changing People

Euen Semple

I've expressed concern previously about use the phrase "driving change" but now realise that my true discomfort goes deeper. What bothers me is the underlying assumption that we can change other people - or have the right to try. We can't and we don't. We can change our own behaviours, we can change processes and structures, but we can’t change people - only they can. And they have to want to

Change 100

Letting go

Euen Semple

Many years ago I had the best ever sports massage in the spa at The Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego. It was so effective that I became really emotional. I was overwhelmed by the feeling of tension falling away and realised that I hadn't felt so relaxed since I was a youngster. We build up so many worries and tensions over the years, burdening ourselves with responsibilities, holding our fears in our bodies, becoming literally bent out of shape.

100

Letting things go

Euen Semple

I have read about the benefits of allowing emotions to pass through my body —not holding on to them, and recovering equilibrium more quickly — in many, many books, but had only ever understood it intellectually. Over the weekend on our long mountain walk I got to experience what it really feels like and to practice experiencing that feeling.

Course 109

Intimacy

Euen Semple

There is something profoundly intimate about the conversations that we have online. Our handheld devices are becoming extensions of our physical bodies and our interactions feel as if they are directly wired into our brains. These apparently trivial little chunks of text that we exchange rattle around inside our skulls like overexcited neurones. They affect our moods. They cause delight or distress. Collectively they bring to life Teilhard de Chardin's noosphere as never before.

How To 100

Not fighting what is

Euen Semple

Not fighting what is I love mountains and I love climbing them. In the past, having to cancel our walk up Foel Fras in Snowdonia yesterday due to the thundery weather, would have left me in a very bad mood. I would have felt sorry for myself and resentful that the weather wasn't what I wanted. I would have spent the day with a metaphorical, self induced, cloud over my head.

100

Driving change

Euen Semple

Every time I hear the word "driving" used in the context of business I wince. It reveals so many misconceptions: that the person using it is in charge; that people can be driven like cattle; that there aren't consequences to using the word. The false macho fools no one. The use of it distances those "being driven" and they disengage. And then to solve this problem you set up an "employee engagement programme"!

Change 100

Being cruel to be kind.

Euen Semple

After my Startup Stage presentation at Unleash last week, in which I talked about the importance of addressing managerial and cultural assumptions as part of "digital transformation", I was asked what to do if management don't change. I said that senior management had to take responsibility and move, or remove, people. In a previous comment thread on one of my posts someone said that in order to really bring about significant change you have to change key people. I think they are right.

Change 109

Resist!

Euen Semple

I recently installed Windows 10 on my Mac. Don't ask, but it had to be done! This has meant me not only touching the Windows world for the first time in many years but also encountering Microsoft's attempt to design an operating system that works on both a touch devices and conventional computers. My initial reaction was to recoil in horror. Everything seemed harder than it had to be, logic appeared to be an alien concept to the interface designers, and everything looked so damn ugly!

Death

Euen Semple

I finally got around to reading Carlo Rovelli's Seven Brief Lessons On Physics. Wonderful, mind blowing book. In it though he expresses doubt that we will last as a species. Given how many species, including our own ancestors, have come and gone - and combined with our current self destructive activities - he's pessimistic.

Be that person

Euen Semple

It occurred to me yet again recently how almost all successful attempts that I have seen to shift intranets from being passive content repositories to active places where work really gets done, and great conversations take place, have been down to one person.

Zombie Documents

Euen Semple

I remember David Weinberger once saying that "documents are dead" Would that things were that simple! I watch people in business struggling with the persistent idea that documents are how we convey information. We still think of them as real things, formatted for reading on paper, stored in pretend folders, lying on pretend desktops.

Being cruel to be kind.

Euen Semple

Change in large organisations is such a perennial challenge. How do you bring about change across multiple business units, diverse cultures, tribal rivalries? Real change calls on change at a personal level. Behaviours have to change and beliefs have to change with them, otherwise change is the proverbial lipstick on a pig. Do you plant seeds, ideas that propagate virally, and allow people to buy in to the proposed changes at a deep and personal level?