The Leadership of the Radical Centre

May 28, 2007

There’s a great analysis of a recent Noel Pearson essay on Club TroppoNoel Pearson is an advocate for indigenous people in Australia and he has commanded great interest with his recent pronouncements on greater responsibility by the indigenous community to their own future.

His essay contrasts the positions of the extremes and implores the progression of the radical centre.  He investigates the denialists who are defensive of their own identity and heritage and who believe that they should not be made to feel guilty for past behaviours.  There is the other extreme who wish us to be sorry for what has happened, to advocate large-scale social policy interventions and to in-effect, take responsibility for the situation. 

Pearson contends that either of these extremes is wrong and that a radical centre position needs to be adopted, that holds the dialectic between the two extremes in tension and resolves them at the point where pragmatism and idealism meet, not through weak compromise but through strong leadership as “best leadership occurs at the point of highest tension between ideals and reality”.  I think that this is a wonderful understanding of leadership that focuses not just on the notion of transcend-and-include but also on how to implement this on the ground in a meaningful manner.

He suggests that “there are at least ten classic dialectical tensions in human policy: idealism vs realism, rights vs responsibilities, social order vs liberty, individual vs community, efficiency vs equality, structure vs behaviour, opportunity vs choice, unity vs diversity, nature vs man, and peace vs war.”  What a great list!   The focus is not to choose between each of these as that will lead to failure but embrace both and leaning to one or the other at different stages as “a progressive measure at one time can produce regressive results later. Policy must take account of the effluxion of time and the stage of historical development”. 

I co-wrote a paper about 5 years ago with Richard Vines which outlined tensions that need to be overcome from understanding the context of a situation, gathering information and ultimately resulting in a judgement call when a decision has to be made.  We used the term “context management” as the process to define these tensions and identify the most appropriate response for that particular situation. 

Understanding of staged development, cultural contexts and the political milieu is necessary to generate and position the leadership required to transcend and resolve tensions at the juncture between idealism and pragmatism.  Such leadership is indeed, radical!


A-Frame of Trust Revisited

May 24, 2007

I’ve had a bit of a rethink of the structure of the A-Frame of Trust. This arose on reflection from a comment that I had made to a post by Jack Vinson on this subject.

I now think that the structure of the A-Frame would be better served by having adventure and authenticity as the two supports, with agreement and accountability balancing each other and actually touching each other at the apex of the house.  This makes more sense to me as the supports are the cultural intersubjective elements with the social structures (agreement and accountability) sitting on top of these base elements.

The revised diagram then looks like this. 


May 23, 2007

Last night I organised a group of people to attend the hilarious Keating! at the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne.  It is one of the best productions that I have seen; very professionally performed, incredibly funny, highly satirical and very irreverent.  No one was spared – except perhaps Keating himself.  (warning below gives away some plotlines).

For those outside of Australia, the actors take off Australian politicians of the early to mid 1990s, of the rise and fall of the invective wittiness of Paul Keating, Australia’s last Labor Prime Minister.  This is the last week of the show in Melbourne after touring the country for the last two years.  The backing band is simply superb.

My highlights were the reggae hit “I’m the Man”, the rap between Keating and Hewson followed by “I Wanna Do You Slowly”, the outrageous Downer act of “Freaky” of which I will never be able to take Downer seriously again, the duet between Gareth and Cheryl (the line “My Peril, Cheryl” is very funny), the election night multimedia presentation, Howard’s “The Mateship” with some excellent costume changes and impersonations – especially the wave, and the finale.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, try and get to it wherever it plays.  Good political satire in Australia has been scant of late with few shows since the time of Max Gillies.  Keating! reengages with the genre in a delicious manner. 

For other reviews, see wikipedia, The Age, SMH.

The A-Frame of Trust

May 20, 2007

I’ve had to do a fair bit of thinking about trust over the past couple of weeks.  It’s an issue that constantly raises its head quite a few times, but one that I have not really grappled with, or only in passing.  It’s obviously something incredibly important to successful relationships, working and social.

I like Dave Snowden’s view that trust is an emergent property of relationships – it develops through the actions and behaviours we observe of each other.  It is also an expectation that one can believe that another will be competent or hold their end of the bargain, etc.  So as an expectation  it has a future dimension, and as an emergent property it has a historical dimension.

But how do we build trust?  What are its elements?  Trust is like building a house, or more precisely, an A-frame house.  In the interests of alliteration (it’s easier sometimes to remember things that way), and along with a fellow co-designer (Ann whose name just happens to start with “A” as well!), we came up with the five items that make up the A-frame of Trust.

Adventure – trust requires someone to be vulnerable in some way, of being open to something that might affect them and of the possibility of being hurt or embarrassed. 

Agreement – trust requires an agreement between two or more people.  Trust can be lost when that agreement is broken.

Authenticity – trust develops when people act with integrity, are true to their word, and are authentic in their dealings.

Accountability – trust further develops when people understand that they will be held to account for their actions or inactions.

Apology – in order to restore trust, there needs to be understanding that trust has been broken, that there could either be fault or at a minimum a serious difference of perspective, that a conflict has arisen which is best overcome through an apology.

The arrangement of the five items in the A-Frame is intended.  Apology is the bridging device, Adventure and Accountability are the key supports, and agreement and authenticity help balance each other.

Thanks for Shawn at Anecdote for his interesting note on Trust which served as some inspiration. 

Peak Oil – a priority Risk Management issue.

May 15, 2007

I went to a very interesting presentation recently provided by Phil Hart who is one of the working group convenors for the Australian Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas and has a nice introductory overview of the issue on his website. 

The “heat” has risen in the political arena on climate change over the past 9 months so that this issue will now be important in shaping the upcoming Federal Election.  Al Gore, the drought, 4 Corners, bushfires and the water crisis have all played a role in increasing the profile of climate change.  Yet while climate change has become a hot topic, there is little public debate yet about the issue of Peak Oil.

Broadly speaking, peak oil does not refer to the running out of oil but that production capacity of extracting oil will peak.  Some people believe that we are past that peak, others that we are a couple of years away, and others who believe that it won’t happen for at least another 20 years.  But there can be no doubt that it will happen.

A Senate report last year inquired into Australia’s future oil supply and alternative transport fuels.  It concluded that the essence of the peak oil issue is risk management, particularly if economies cannot adapt quickly enough to a post-peak decline.  This is the same conclusion as that of Robert Hirsch in his reports to the US Department of Energy who states that viable risk mitigation needs to start early and that Government intervention will be required.  The uncertainty lies in whether one believes the stated reserves of oil in Middle East countries or whether one believes that these figures have been inflated to increase production quotas or for geo-political strategic advantage.

This issue has been stuck in my mind for quite some time.  As a futurist, it is the classic wild card that could cause the global economy to become unstuck and cause a radical shift in local social structures.  Outer urban areas away from public transport could see their house prices drop while increasing numbers of people choose local work places or work from home.  Frank Fisher’s article recently in The Age provides some solutions towards clean power for the future. 

The era of cheap hydrocarbons will end: it’s a matter of when, not if.  At this stage, there is no viable cheap non-polluting alternative for transport. Solar power is insufficient, biofuels are possible but will have serious implications on food production capacity.  If climate change is a major issue for the 2007 election, Peak Oil could well be similarly placed for the 2010 election.

Of course, all this could be countered if a clean, constant and free energy becomes available – sounds intriguing!  Some people like Steorn claim that they have found it!

Model of Behavioural Change

May 5, 2007

Last year, I came across a great little model of behavioural change that features 7 steps.   I’m not sure of the source any more than what I have here – would appreciate it if anyone can enlighten me. I like it due to its simplicity and that it starts with knowledge – this means of course that it misses the precontemplation stage of behaviour change, ie the original state.

It clearly shows the social role that others play in encouraging, stimulating, facilitating and reinforcing behavioural change.  While the model is simple, actually changing behaviours is not!  It also shows how many government programs aimed at encouraging behaviour change fail as they may concentrate on the front-end (educating or skilling up) but don’t follow through with aspects of social encouragement at the community level.

The model can be reversed to identify areas where behavioural change fails. behaviour-inertia-model.jpg

Each of these stages needs to be overcome as it could block the embedding of behaviour change in individuals, workgroups, organisations and societies.

MORE :  Some other people have blogged on these models include Jack Vinson at Knowledge Jolt and Lauchlan McKinnon who has a great blog on creativity and innovation in organisations.  Lauchlan sources the above diagram to Les Robinson of Social Change Media – thanks Lauchlan.

EVEN MORE:  And thanks Helen for pointing to the website of Les Robinson where you can go for more details of his updated change model.

Alpha Males in Knowledge Management – A Poem or 2

May 4, 2007

A couple of weeks ago, there was quite a discussion on the actKM listserv about the role of alpha males.  I had a spare moment and thought I would pen a poem about them.  So I came up with a couple of wee limericks…

There is an archetype known as alpha male
Who thinks they are right and never fail
They are literate and use no profanity
While they display precious little vanity
“Tone it Down” say the lurkers – to no avail.

There is an archetype known as alpha males
Who seem to enjoy chasing each other’s tails
Their posts are quite pointed
As if they are ‘The Anointed’
Which makes the rest us – Omega Females?

I’ll post something a bit more serious next!