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.

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.

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.

Just what I wanted

Euen Semple

Today, as I sat in a large city office in London, with its glass and steel and modern furniture, discussing possible work in Hong Kong, I had to keep pinching myself as the couple of days before I had been driving a truck up and down the M1, staying overnight in a Premier Inn, and delivering in and around the Leeds and Bradford areas. I'm loving the fact that my two worlds of work are so very, very different

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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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Magical thinking

Euen Semple

One of my first jobs at the BBC was scheduling the use of video and film equipment. We had A3 planning sheets, coloured pencils, a ruler, and an eraser. Resources were arranged vertically down the side and time slots horizontally across the top. You visually could take in lots of information at a glance and make changes in an instant. And then the system was computerised!

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?

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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.

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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Bad weather

Euen Semple

This morning I woke up the sound of heavy rain on the window and felt excited. As I said recently - I love rain. On the other hand my wife woke up and said "what awful weather" Even on Friday when I drove my truck out of the yard with heavy rain obscuring the mirrors, car headlights sparkling and dazzling my view, it felt exciting. Terrifying, but exciting. I don't tend to do much mountaineering in the summer.

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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.

Drifting off

Euen Semple

Doing anything new always requires more attention than something we are familiar with. Once an activity has become routine it is so easy to slip into auto-pilot. Once the auto-pilot is on we can indulge in the endless chatter with which we fill so many of our waking hours. The constant churning of regrets about the past and worries about the future. Driving is for many of us the most common example of this.

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.

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Difference

Euen Semple

One of the pleasures of my work, both speaking and now driving, is the number and range of types of people that I meet. It struck me the other day how nice they all are. Watching a porter help a blind man into the hotel here in Washington yesterday; having someone call after me when I dropped something out of my pocket in NY; the amount of kindness I have been shown by pretty much everyone I have encountered as I learn the ropes of truck driving.

The Blockchain and the New Architecture Of Trust

Euen Semple

One of the best bits of the blockchain conference I hosted in Washington recently was hearing from people directly involved in practical implementations of the smart contract use of the technology. What was reassuring was the absence of hype and over selling of what blockchain can do. One of the most grounded, realistic, sceptical, yet positive, presentations came from Kevin Werbach, Associate Professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

Funny old things brains.

Euen Semple

Pulling a Marlboro soft pack from the chest pocket of my combat jacket while looking down at the wet cobbles of a Glasgow backstreet as they glisten in the early morning streetlights just bubbled up forty years after the event. Funny old things brains

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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.

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Presentation at CSPS

Euen Semple

Nicely shot video of me doing my bit at the Canadian School Of Public Service in Ottawa a couple of weeks ago. My talk starts at 2hrs 30mins in but before that, at around 1hr 2mins, there is a fantastic panel of four women from the school that is one of the best discussions of the real issues in tech that I have seen for a long time. The session was really well received and if you know anyone who is grappling with the issues I raise in my talk do, please, pass this on

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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.

Discomfort

Euen Semple

We naturally tend to avoid discomfort but without it we never learn or grow. If we are to change in any way we have to get out of our comfort zone. There are so many elements of freelance truck driving that are unfamiliar to me. In some ways the driving is the easy bit. Relating to agents and clients. learning the unwritten rules of what's expected and what's not. grasping the when and where of refuelling. I feel like I should be wearing a massive L plate on my back!

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Euen Semple - Untitled Article

Euen Semple

While sitting in the airport in Halifax, Nova Scotia, waiting for the second leg of my journey home from Ottawa, I became aware of what I thought was someone listening to a video on their mobile phone with the sound turned up loud. It was of an annoying child's whining voice, repeating over and over. I decided it was some YouTube video, or a video of a beloved grandchild. I thought that I had discovered the culprit, an older guy staring at his phone.

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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?

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.

Just checking.

Euen Semple

I am currently reading yet another book which claims that the internet is turning us all into dysfunctional narcissists, unable to determine true from false, and huddling together in tribal mobs for protection. This is not my experience. Is it yours? I mean really yours, as in your direct day to day experience?

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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.

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.

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.

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

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Love Island

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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

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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.

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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.

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.