Euen Semple

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.

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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.

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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Invisible chains

Euen Semple

When I posted the other day about wriggle room I quoted the oft heard phrase "my boss would never let me do that." " Is this really true? Or is it just imagined? So often we limit ourselves through our assumptions about what other people think. We assume the worst because that lets us off the hook. It's not our fault we havent been what we could have been. It was him, it was them, it was the system.

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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.

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.

Wriggle room

Euen Semple

I know I am not normal. I can work when I want, where I want, using the tools I want. The ways I am able to work are different from those available to most people. The choices I have made have led to me moving away from the apparent security and stability of a corporate job. It is not for everyone. I am also aware that I make some of my living talking to people who are still in those corporate jobs. I am sure they often think "It's all right for him?"

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.

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.

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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Remembering

Euen Semple

Sharing the story about Joe and Billy Connolly the other day reminded me of this post that I shared on my blog a few years ago. Joe was such a good friend. Remembering Old Joe April 20, 2014. I can see him now in his brown, zipped up, seventies style windproof. Walking towards me down Ashton Lane with his John Wayne swagger, hair newly Brylcreemed back, flask of tea and box of sandwiches in his plastic carrier bag, fag in mouth, a mischievous smile on his face. I loved Joe. I still do.

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.

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.

Old Joe and Billy Connolly

Euen Semple

Prompted by my last post about "the middle" Sean Trainor shared a great skit from Billie Connolly that makes the same point. This brought back a memory of Joe Wilson, one of the great guys I used to work with in the summer as a landscaping and grounds maintenance labourer. Joe, like me, also worked in the winter with the brother of the family who had a florists business. Sandy was "upwardly mobile" in Glasgow society and very conscious of it.

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The middle

Euen Semple

I have often told this story of being a student at St Andrew's and then working as a labourer in Glasgow during the holidays so forgive me if you have heard it before. At St Andrew's I encountered lots of old money people, people who had always had money, didn't think about money, and had loads of confidence. During the holidays I worked with people who were often alcoholic, living in digs, had no money, never ever had, and never expected to.

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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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Important lessons

Euen Semple

I have been enjoying the fact that our younger daughter is doing Sociology, Psychology, and Politics as her A Levels. We have been having really interesting conversations, particularly about Politics, as you can imagine.

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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.

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.

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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On writing

Euen Semple

I write every day, whether blog posts, longer articles, journaling, or even working on another book. The tools I use, Scrivener and Drafts, allow me to write in chunks and get ideas down quickly and easily. Pretty much all of my writing is intended for the web. As a result, the idea of documents, especially documents printed out on paper, is for me a thing of the past.

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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Fear, and loss of control

Euen Semple

We love the idea that we have control over our lives and the world around us. A lot of work goes into maintaining this fiction. How much time and effort is spent in business attempting to convince ourselves that we know what is going to happen next and the reasons why? But do we? How many ten year, even five year, strategies come to pass as so confidently predicted? How many carefully spreadsheeted cashflow predictions turn out exactly as planned?

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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The sound of silence

Euen Semple

I enjoy the comment threads I get on my posts on Facebook. It is these sort of interactions that attracted me to the social web in the first place. Interestingly I get much less response on LinkedIn and Twitter despite the fact that I am connected to many more people on those two platforms. And my blog is the place where I get least response as the numbers of people using RSS aggregators has diminished over the years. But of all them, it is my blog that I will keep going.

Getting your hands dirty

Euen Semple

Like it or lump it technology plays an increasingly important role in all of our lives. It also plays an increasingly important role in business and our organisations. And yet it is still held at arms length by most management, certainly most senior management. This isn't good enough. Don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting that they all need to learn to code. There was a flurry of interest in that about a year ago to little effect.

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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Reality

Euen Semple

I will assume that, like me, you are currently looking at an electronic device of some sort, reading the words that I am typing. But then as I type you are not there, and as you read I am not here. So we are neither here nor there but it feels like we are having a conversation. More and more of us do this more and more of the time. We think it is normal and rather take it for granted. Is it normal? Is it real?

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Capital T Truth

Euen Semple

I have just started reading The Patterning Instinct by Jeremy Lent, described as "A cognitive history of man's search for meaning." " - Right up my street! Reading the opening chapters on how language developed, how communal thinking came to be a thing, and the anthropological approaches currently being combined with recent advances in neuroscience, made me realise yet again what a malleable thing the truth is.

Questioning things

Euen Semple

Last night I watched a documentary about King George VI which contained lots of archive footage of political events and state occasions many of them during the war. It struck me that, despite the turmoil of the times, society, in terms of its attitudes to power and the establishment, was so much more trusting and compliant than the attitudes we are experiencing now.

Doing the right thing

Euen Semple

One of the first questions in BBC staff surveys used to be "Would you defend the BBC?" " My first thought was always "That depends on whether we screwed up or not" It seemed such a stupid question that I struggled to take the rest of the survey seriously. But how often do we really think about whether our organisations are doing the right thing or not? And do we do anything about it if we feel that they aren't?

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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.

Digital Ethics

Euen Semple

Digital Ethics is fast becoming the latest victim of what I call thingification - the tendency to turn a good idea into a thing that gets oversold, underdelivered and becomes a displacement activity that distracts us from the need for real change. But I think it is important that we hold onto the idea that technology amplifies our human characteristics, both good and bad, and literally hard wires them into the tools that increasingly shape our world.

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.

Life imitating art

Euen Semple

Having been learning a lot about consciousness, psychedelics, and the origins of computing recently I had my head done in this afternoon by Brandersnatch, the first episode of the new Black Mirror series. Watching the gob smacking programme I wondered what the origin of the word Brandersnatch was. Apparently unconnected, recently read references to Alice in Wonderland in Jed McKenna's Theory Of Everything mean that my unread copy of The Annotated Alice is on my desk.

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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.

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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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!

Magic in our hands

Euen Semple

It never ceases to amaze me how much technological power is at our fingertips these days. One of the benefits of my alternative career in driving is having time on my own to think, and being able to capture thoughts simply by raising my watch on my wrist and dictating to Siri is incredible. In fact most of my writing these days is done either by dictation or, as is the case now, by handwriting on my iPad which Good Notes then automatically converts into text. Like I said, magic.

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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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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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.

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.