Lazy, silly, bone idle

My, life partner, Mimi, like many Chileans, is addicted to radio – it’s on all the time in the background. Personally, I like silence, but having the radio on does mean that every so often I encounter something I might not otherwise have come across.
A while ago, I heard some snippets of conversation with a remarkable man, Graham Webb. Graham left school at fifteen with a final report that read, “Graham is lazy, silly, bone idle and apparently content to remain so”. After applying unsuccessfully for sixty two jobs in sales and marketing, he got a job as an apprentice to a local barber. Sometime later he did get sales job and gained the distinction of the man who sold the most rice pudding in the UK. Following that, despite being not very interested in hair, he built up a huge salon, hair care product and training business in the USA.
What came across on the radio was that he seems a thoroughly decent, likeable man, whose success may be an example of practising purposive drift. Though in his case, the sense of purpose must have been very intense, since he had to overcome the difficulties presented by incontinence and misshaped feet, the result of spina bifida that was not diagnosed until he was in his thirties and had already established a successful career.
You can hear Graham in conversation with Libby Purvis and others, here or buy his book about his experiences here .

A Glimmer of Light

“The head of the school that ranked top of today’s primary school league tables attributed her success to “ignoring” most of the Government’s flagship literacy and numeracy strategies.
Barbara Jones, head of Combe Church of England Primary School, a tiny village primary near Witney in Oxfordshire, urged teachers to trust their own professional judgement about how best to teach children to read, write and add up. Every 11-year-old at the school was at least three years ahead of their age group in this year’s English, maths and science tests – making it the top ranking primary out of more than 20,000 in England.”

She goes on to say:
“We don’t use the literacy or numeracy strategy as prescriptively as we have been asked to,” she said.
“We use a variety of approaches and that’s where I think the Government has got it wrong in that they advocate one way and then a few years later they suggest another way.
Phonics is not the only answer. There isn’t one ideal way of teaching reading. Children do not all learn in the same way because we are all different. It is a pity that people jump on these bandwagons and quote examples of schools that see their results increase.
You have got to use a bit of common sense. We don’t rush things. If it is going to take a fortnight to do something it is going to take a fortnight. The problem is when you take four days just because the literacy strategy or some other directive says you should. We have never done that. I think what they are doing is eroding teachers’ confidence.
I just feel that sometimes the baby is thrown out with the bath water.”

Dancing With Systems

I have just stumbled across the late Donella Meadows‘s “Dancing With Systems”. My first impressions are that it feels very much in the same stream as the concept of purposive drift .
As she says:
“For those who stake their identity on the role of omniscient conqueror, the uncertainty exposed by systems thinking is hard to take. If you can’t understand, predict, and control, what is there to do?
Systems thinking leads to another conclusion–however, waiting, shining, obvious as soon as we stop being blinded by the illusion of control. It says that there is plenty to do, of a different sort of “doing.” The future can’t be predicted, but it can be envisioned and brought lovingly into being. Systems can’t be controlled, but they can be designed and redesigned. We can’t surge forward with certainty into a world of no surprises, but we can expect surprises and learn from them and even profit from them. We can’t impose our will upon a system. We can listen to what the system tells us, and discover how its properties and our values can work together to bring forth something much better than could ever be produced by our will alone.
We can’t control systems or figure them out. But we can dance with them!”

She then goes on to give some tips about how to do it:

“The Dance
1. Get the beat.
2. Listen to the wisdom of the system.
3. Expose your mental models to the open air.
4. Stay humble. Stay a learner.
5. Honor and protect information.
6. Locate responsibility in the system.
7. Make feedback policies for feedback systems.
8. Pay attention to what is important, not just what is quantifiable.
9. Go for the good of the whole.
10. Expand time horizons.
11. Expand thought horizons.
12. Expand the boundary of caring.
13. Celebrate complexity.
14. Hold fast to the goal of goodness.”

I am certainly going to ponder on what she has to say and you may find it valuable too.