Euen Semple

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

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

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 109

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.

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.

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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

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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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!

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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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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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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.

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.

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

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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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.

System 109

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?"

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

Technology

Euen Semple

I used to have to attend NAB, the largest broadcasting convention in the world, in Vegas every year when I worked at the BBC. The massive show floors spanning about six huge buildings, crammed with brash, noisy stands trying to entice you to look at the latest systems were such an assault on the senses. We used to chat with the guys on the stands about whether it was more stressful for us than them coping with the onslaught of the week.

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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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.

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?

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.

Groups 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.

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.

Skills 109

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.

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.

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 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.