Sunday, April 30, 2006

Receive "Leadership Issues" in the email

I recently decided I wouldn't keep on with my old Communicate! newsletter for two reasons:

  1. After switching hosts, I lost most of my list (ie they didn't resubscribe). From 500 subscribers down to about 40. Not to worry, because...
  2. I'm not writing newsletters any more. I'm blogging!
That's why you can now subscribe to this blog by email. Either click here or just fill in the form over there ->


Friday, April 28, 2006


Take all steps necessary to see Tsotsi. It is great.

From a leadership point of view, the eponymous main character's journey is interesting, but what really impressed me were the actions of John, father of the abducted child. Look out for him when you see it.

I've written a full review in a little notebook and also, thankfully, online at my DIY Film School blog.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Book review: The Truth About Lies

It's a fascinating premise: two former cops, one of whom is FBI-trained, dish the dirt on how to tell if someone is lying.

And it's the compelling substance of this book that helps me overlook the errors of style that make this book a sometimes annoying read.

The Truth About Lies covers methods of truth-detecting in the past and present, looking at the blood-curdling ordeals of the dark ages, the kind-of science phrenology that, while maligned now, gave physiologists and psychologists some valuable clues to how our brains work.

There's a tour through the parts of the brain that light up when you lie, the polygraph and how it works, and some of the latest scientific methods to uncover the truth.

That's all very interesting, but not so practical unless you're going to join the police. So the book also looks at visual and verbal clues people drop to unwittingly show their deceit. The book also repeats a warning several times: none of these methods are foolproof. Sometimes nervous people who are telling the truth come across as deceptive. Sometimes liars are so accomplished that they can fly right over your internal radar (although not the polygraph, not if the questions are being asked right).

The most useful part for me was a guide to conducting an interview - something I do regularly as a journalist. They use the acronym INTERACTIVE to help prepare for an interview:

I - introduce yourself
N - non-judgemental
T - truth-telling environment
E - explain the process
R - remove distractions
A - actively listen
C - consider physical distance or closeness
T - tea, coffee or water
I - interviewee - are they comfortable?
V - verbal and non-verbal behaviours
E - encourage the interviewee

It's good stuff, whether you're a police interviewer, journo or counsellor.

The Truth about Lies fell short for me in its style of writing. It feels under-edited. Some chapters feel like a very long introduction with no substance, other sections feel like repetitions of the same point over and over again.

Some points in the book reminded me of high school essays - or, in fact, some magazine articles. You get the feeling the authors have a word or page quota to meet, and they're padding like crazy to get there. Consider this at the end:
"This is it, the last few words, in the last moments of our journey. The time has come for a fitting conclusion, some powerful closing words. Something that will have you thinking about this journey long after you've finished this book. Something political, perhaps.."
They then do go on with a political message, which to my mind has only peripheral bearing on the story.

Failings and ramblings aside, The Truth About Lies gives you inside information from the people who should know how to get the truth.

The other end of this link says they're out of stock, so perhaps try your local bookstore in Australia or New Zealand. If you're elsewhere, the publisher is ABC Books, and maybe contacting them directly will get you to the bottom of things.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Promise vs. Reality

Jack keeps on coming up with great responses to my posts, which in turn spawn other posts. Thanks Jack!

His latest comment had a point I wanted to pick up on:
" I do not ultimately worry about which way [virtual vs. real world] we go provided people are taught the notions of responsibility and honour."
Therein lies the rub. Technology promises a lot, but what we receive from it is largely determined by how well we are educated to deal with it.

The same goes for democracy - an appropriate topic on the day Aussies and Kiwis celebrate those of us who have fallen in battle (usually for the sake of freedom and democracy), and so soon after Iraq actually has a government.
(A side note on that: it's actually really hard to find news on this very significant development; instead there are tons of reports on the mounting casualty list, car bombings, etc. Biased media? Surely not...)
Anyway, the more I've learnt about democracy, the more I agree with Winston Churchill when he said "Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried."

It's got it's shortcomings, but democracy is intended to ensure fairness and freedom. But I, an individual citizen, can't do much with my freedom unless I understand how the system works. And unfortunately, it can only be dumbed down so much.

Same with technology. It's incredibly powerful, and, like democracy, it exists in a free market. So there's Mac and/or PC, Internet Explorer and/or Firefox.

If simplicity were all that mattered, we would only be allowed to have one OS and one browser. That way, everyone would understand what it's all about, and be able to use technology to it's full potential.

As it is, we have a competitive system where price, features and benefits all collide, and, as Roy Williams' Jetsons-like story shows (start from "Let me tell you how screwed up I am...") getting them to work together creates all kinds of problems we never had before.

So, what am I saying? Education is the key. Or at least a key. But it must be an education unlike anything we've seen or identified before. Who knows what form it might take? Any ideas?

Psychology Today: Press for Success

Psychology Today: Press for Success

Monday, April 24, 2006

Continuing the conversation with Wilf Jarvis

Last time, I published part of an email discussion between myself and Wilf Jarvis, founder of four quadrant leadership.

He said something that bothered me:

"We cannot have personal-relationships with electronic devices; but, for countless children, adolescents and adults, captivity to things is diminishing close, dependable relationships with people."

So I asked him:

Is it not possible that technology is actually facilitating closer relationships between people? Relationships that couldn't have taken place previously, for example, this conversation we're having now by email?

He said:

"This kind of interaction is better than none at all, but I would not call this a conversation. We could have benefited more through a phone link, or could improve that interaction via video conference. But the best “meeting” would be in a face-to-face conversation where we exchanged not only words, but also inflections, vocal signals, bodily mannerisms in our endeavour to achieve a true meeting, and thus a genuine conversation. Subsequent to that kind of relationship, our emails would allow us to feel far closer to each other, and much more adequate in translating the meanings of our electronic interchange, than we can now.

During my drive to work this morning, halted by traffic lights, I saw four girls, same age and from the same school, waiting for their bus. Each stood in psychological solitary confinement, listening to their separate iPods. Research evidence from Sydney secondary schools predicts that, during recess times today, girls of their age will be more concerned about receiving or not receiving text messages on their cell phones than about spontaneous conversations.

A recent study of three hundred sons of senior executives showed that, on average, they experienced about thirty five minutes in one-on-one conversations with their dad each week, and about twenty hours with electronic devices. The boys were aged 13-15. Which of those two sets of “communications” will be more powerful in shaping the value systems of those adolescent males? Another local study has shown that teenagers prefer TV shows depict that people competing with each other in “I-win-you-lose contests,” or so-called “reality TV” presentations where victims of the groups are eliminated sadistically.

Numerous wives of executives complain to me about their husbands’ “addictions” to emails and mobile phones!!

One student in my class asked me, “Wilf, do you remember when there was no TV?” The group disbelieved my reply. “I remember when nobody I knew had a radio!” After some hilarity the questioner followed with. “Well, before TV, when the family sat in the lounge room, where did you look?”

I could go on for a long time with illustrations that confirm an axiom I have studied and taught for fifty-five years. It is this. Societies can remain stable systems indefinitely if technology does not change. (EG Australian aboriginals, NZ Maori etc. etc.) But when technology alters, so does society. We have not been successful in accepting thousands of beneficial technological innovations without sacrificing needs that are essential for our growth and progress as humans.

have become needs, and many needs have been sacrificed in the endless pursuit for more newly invented and widely publicised wants.

Read the article in “Time”, April 10. It is headed. “Are kids too wired for their own good?”

I'm usually a technology optimist. I'm far more likely to agree with Vincent Heeringa, who in the latest Idealog has written about "Generation C" - wired youths for whom the C stands for 'Community'.

But it's hard to simply reject what Wilf is saying because he's of an older generation. This is a behavioural scientist, someone who has not only thought about but studied and observed the issues.

Adding fuel to the fire is the current discussion at Virtual Chautaqua, where Bob Seidensticker is dissing the hype around technology and - among other things - saying that technology can enslave as much as it can enrich.

Of course, these are not Luddites. After all, it is a virtual discussion taking place on the internet. But as with so many things, the burden of knowledge is heavy. And if we don't take up that burden, that responsibility of understanding how things work, those things end up running us.

PS: These things come in threes... Wizard of Ads agrees with all of the above!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A conversation with Wilfred Jarvis

Coming up in next month's Management Magazine is a piece I've written about the future of management education. (If I say so myself, it's a goodie - be on the watch for it.)

I had hoped to get the views of Wilfred Jarvis, founder of four quadrant leadership and recognised as Australia's most experienced behavioural scientist. Unfortunately we weren't able to connect before deadline, but we were able to have an email exchange.

We began discussing the future and so on by email, but then he said something that kind of startled me:

" major theme is obvious to me. People are becoming less important, and things are being given and will be given far greater priorities than the leadership of people."

Really? In this world of emotional intelligence, spiritual capital etc. etc... ? Jarvis thinks so, and continues...

"In most organisations, (private enterprise or civil service), those priorities are already obvious. The distinctions will be given further emphases in the coming years.

Regrettably then, I don’t predict a growing focus on leadership. But I am sure that those rare organisations that defy universal trends, by requiring leadership, will gain substantial advantages from that ethos.


On-line training is escalating everywhere. Because its processes are not confined to national boundaries, a galaxy of quick-fix programs will multiply. Those revolutions will further diminish educational processes in which instructors and students experience face-to-face relationships.

Those changes are already norms in multitudes of classrooms. We cannot have personal-relationships with electronic devices; but, for countless children, adolescents and adults, captivity to things is diminishing close, dependable relationships with people."

Regular readers of this blog will know that I'm quite a fan of the connections that can be forged through technology; connections that couldn't be forged in the past. Tomorrow I'll post my question on that to Wilfred Jarvis, and his answer.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

MashupCamp--a new kind of get-together | CNET

MashupCamp--a new kind of get-together | CNET

This is totally weird and kind of cool. A meeting with no attendance fees, no schedule as such, a whole lot of nothing, in fact, except a lot of people there.

It starts with a session where people with different mashups - I presume a mashup of different software applications; the term is not explained in the article - have 30 seconds to pitch their ideas to the crowd.

Then comes the impromptu scheduling. Who wants to lead a discussion? Come up on stage, tell us briefly what it is, we'll see if there are enough people interested and then claim your time and space and away you go.

Very, very interesting.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


I subscribe to the daily meditation from the Henri Nouwen Society for some interesting insights on life from a spiritual perspective. Today's message really struck a chord:

The Authority of Compassion

Mostly we think of people with great authority as higher up, far away, hard to reach. But spiritual authority comes from compassion and emerges from deep inner solidarity with those who are "subject" to authority. The one who is fully like us, who deeply understands our joys and pains or hopes and desires, and who is willing and able to walk with us, that is the one to whom we gladly give authority and whose "subjects" we are willing to be.

It is the compassionate authority that empowers, encourages, calls forth hidden gifts, and enables great things to happen. True spiritual authorities are located in the point of an upside-down triangle, supporting and holding into the light everyone they offer their leadership to.

As I post this I've just returned from a PR industry event, and I noticed, despite not wanting to, the superficiality of the industry. Not to say that most of the people I met aren't nice people, but I didn't get the sense I was meeting the real person most of the time.

How does this relate to what I've posted? Because sometimes our perceptions of success, like authority, are of something that is necessarily far away and hard to reach. At least that's the impression I got. I'd like to think there's a different way.

Monday, April 10, 2006

NZ businesses see China as threat - survey

New Zealand's source for business, stock market & currency news on NZ businesses see China as threat - survey

I wonder what really makes the difference between opportunity and threat.

That's the thing with surveys, they're a scientific measure of opinion, but that opinion is always necessarily subjective. Are these Kiwi businesses who see China as a threat acting on real data, or on our national inferiority complex?

I guess it's kind of pointless asking that kind of question. But interesting nonetheless.

Friday, April 07, 2006

A thought for the weekend - being creative and wise

I was just reading Acting Up on Fastcompany and found this marvellous quote which I'll leave with you for the weekend:

What qualities are most important to succeed in a creative industry?

Almost everybody who gets into this field at some point had some higher artistic or altruistic goal, and that can be lost over time because it's a field dictated by commerce. But the person who's able to maintain that certain degree of integrity, sensibility, business ethics, and a moral approach to their work inspires a greater degree of confidence and devotion.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A plan to replace the welfare state?!

Charles Murray: In our hands: A plan to replace the welfare state - 31 Mar 2006 - Books

Very interesting book review. I wish I'd written it :)

The book reviewed has a startling idea, but one that I can really imagine working:

"First, Murray proposes to do away with all government transfer payments, including such social welfare programs as Medicare and Social Security, with agricultural and corporate subsidies.

This much should be expected, I suppose, from the author of Why I Am a Libertarian.

But wait. Then comes the second part.

Murray proposes a radical, and completely un-libertarian, redistribution of wealth. All the money that now funds the nation's welfare programmes (social and corporate) would be returned in the form of a $10,000 annual cash payment to every American over the age of 21."

I think it's precisely because I can imagine it working that it would work. It's kind of out-there, but it is understandable, both to economists and to the everyday people who would receive such a payment.

And that's the thing. Some solutions to problems can be fantastic, but they can also be complex. Only when the solution can be articulated in a simple format will it catch on.

Monday, April 03, 2006


Everything stopped at around 11am this morning. No power. The whole of West Auckland was out for around an hour and a half.

Amazing. Power cuts happen rarely around here, and I was astounded just how few useful options I had left.

Work? Only on paper, which is good, but limited usefulness.

Cook some lunch? Er, no.

Have a shower? As long as the hot water lasts. (Delaying showers till after 11am is one of the 'benefits' of working from home)

Watch TV? Duh!

Listen to some music? Unless I make it, ain't nothing happening.

Even the phone wouldn't work, because it's a fax/phone which plugs into the power.

Incredible experience. We should all go through it sometimes.

Interestingly, at the time the power went off I was reading this article from The Future of Work Agenda newsletter about how we're all crazy busy, and yet not getting much done. It's very interesting - I recommend you read it while the power's still on!