Monthly Archives: February 2012









You shouldn’t have to choose between being a fireman, a horse-rider, a truck driver and spiderman. You can do all of them. A fireman that knows trucks and can climb like spiderman would be an asset to the profession.

Why are we made to specialize? You can study law OR politics OR finance OR psychology OR art OR drama OR accounting…and most students pick fairly randomly because who knows what they want to do at 18 years old? And many people stay stuck in a field because it’s expensive and time consuming to change direction. Yes, there are certainly some issues with the concept of the Renaissance Man (or woman). One could argue that if you have serfs running your farmlands then of course you’d have time to learn archery and how to write poetry. I don’t want to get into that debate. I just want to make the point that it’s time to stop separating disciplines so rigidly.  The world is calling for multi-disciplinary thinkers – not just people trained in engineering or economics or law or biology. All of the above.

We should all be studying lots of different things and bringing the diversity of that knowledge and those skills to all we do.

I love the fact there’s a growing trend towards multi-disciplinary thinking all over the world. I’m so inspired by the stuff I’ve been reading by Ken Wilber, Peter Senge, Joseph Jaworksi, Betty-Sue Flowers, Richard Barrett, Prof Henry Mintzberg.

Here’s just one example of the trend in this article I found through twitter (tweeted by the Graduate School of Business of the University of Cape Town). It’s by Ken Starkey, professor of management and organisational learning at Nottingham University Business School. You can read the whole article here:

Encouraging this type of leadership requires us to integrate management and education best practice, eastern and western philosophy, psychology, the arts and humanities, systems thinking, action and narrative inquiry, story-telling, life histories, scenario planning, management learning and personal development.

Our overarching goal should be to facilitate the creation of more humane, more inclusive narratives of self, business and society that acknowledge that the social responsibility of business is much more than just increasing its profits.

I’m a lawyer and a lecturer and a writer and a consultant in organisational consciousness and a counsellor and a philanthropist and a blogger and a mountainbiker and a wannabe triathlete. And that’s just today. 

It doesn’t matter what you do, just try new things and you will develop new skills and new perspectives. My friend who’s a trauma surgeon is an excellent chef  – she can cook a 5 course dinner for 20 without breaking a bead of sweat. Why? Because remaining aware of a timeline and focusing on 10 things simultaneously, all of them critical, is what she is trained to do. Surgery helps her cook and her cooking probably helps her surgery!

Tending plants might make you a more patient maths teacher.

Mountainbiking helped me become a more decisive lawyer.

The world’s your oyster.  Why not try scuba diving?


The Smorgasboard of Workplace Tools

How does one choose between the thousands of emotional/ social/ relationship/ multiple intelligence tools aimed at corporates? Many are trademarked and most are expensive.

I came across Relationship Systems Intelligence™ this week.  You can download an article on it here. It’s got me thinking about the proliferation of this stuff on the market and how one can assess it.

I’m still forming my thoughts about this but so far I think the effectiveness of any training will depend on:

  1.  the level of consciousness of the facilitator
  2. the participants’ willingness/ readiness to learn the tools being offered.

Of course “consciousness” is a complex term. I’m trying to find some way to capture the concept of multiple intelligences here, rather than using the word “intelligence” because I’m not referring to cognitive ability. There are plenty of smart people useless at facilitating or teaching. My old maths teacher was one of them. Clearly she understood the maths, but most classes she looked at us in bafflement and said “what do you mean you DON’T understand?”.

On the one hand I applaud the multiplicity of new products!  Rather than roll our eyes at another seminar or tool that develops emotional intelligence, we should celebrate the fact that a term like “emotional intelligence” has become mass market. Yes, it is a GOOD thing. Yay for Daniel Goleman! Sure he may have got rich in the process, but his books (bless the publishers) are on the shelves of some of the most neanderthal managers and headmasters out there!   Emotional intelligence is being ever-increasingly recognised  as a vital aspect of successful relationships, and of corporate life, even of government decision making and this is wonderful.

I suppose my “distaste” is the capitalist aspect of trade-marking various products for commercial gain. Billions of leadership courses, values courses, psychometric testing tools – all with clever names and acronyms and the little TM sign…the cynic in me says the sign stands for “we want money for this, even though we’ve kind of just taken a lot of thinking out there and re-packaged it”. But the cynic in me is tempered by the idealist who is aware that many of these tools create leaps in consciousness for many people personally and for the organisations in which they work. This is good for us all – it is good for humanity, it is good for our planet.

So what am I saying? Perhaps we have to examine the integrity with which these products are created.  But integrity is a nebulous concept,  so hard to measure or define – how can you look at a new product or programme and evaluate its integrity? I think as a civilization we haven’t evolved to that point yet – so I would probably use good old common sense and intellect to determine whether I believe a product has integrity (very subjective, yes) and then maybe use kinesiology to calibrate the product’s consciousness.

Whoa, yes, I lost some people there. Applied Kinesiology is considered way out or “new age” now, but could quite possibly be in common use in 100 years time. Only once humanity stops thinking we can figure everything out through our senses. But I don’t want to get lost in a discussion of that now.

I’ve spent some time looking at different organisational development consultancies and each has their own products though many are very similar. Perhaps it’s just an aspect of how this industry functions within the legal constraints of today’s business environment. You’re not allowed to use others ideas so everyone is forced to re-package and make a “new” product.  It’s all about marketing.

I admit that my thinking today is influenced by the wonderful lecture I attended recently by Prof Henry Mintzberg, and also by the week-long facilitation course I’ve just completed. The course included a 200 page manual, repeating stuff from a bunch of books on facilitation. Both have, in different ways, inspired me to eschew mediocrity and continue to question whatever is put before me.

So my advice, if faced with a smorgasboard of tools that will enhance employee engagement and develop leadership potential is this:

  1. read it, learn it, absorb it. Reflect.
  2. See what else is being offered that is similar.
  3. Don’t believe the hype “our product has been proven 78% more effective than all our competitors”. Mostly it’s bollocks.  This stuff is highly subjective.
  4. Choose the smartest, most switched on, conscious facilitators for any programme you do decide to offer – you cannot solve a problem using the same level of thinking as that which created the problem.
  5. Have a look into Spiral Dynamics – it may help you meet your employees where they are. There are many boardrooms where any mention of meditation or kinesiology will have eye balls rolling so far back you’ll think you’re in a roomful of Zombies.  Assess the culture and worldview of your employees and pick a product that’s aligned.

PS when I try to sell your company my DEEP (Deeply Engaged Employees Programme*) next month, don’t laugh. Just go back to the 5 points and decide for yourself!

*real name withheld to protect programme’s identity.

** this is a joke. I don’t have a programme…YET.