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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Self referential nonsense?

I notice that I have not blogged for a while.  In fact I didn't notice that I hadn't blogged for a while until I got an email from an old friend this morning saying she had enjoyed reading my blog...  I have a reader!

Co-incidentally this morning, I also stumbled across the fragment below which was written as a blog piece but not posted as I was away from wi-fi at the time of writing and then it was forgotten.  Given that its subject is about perspectives in time I think it just about still qualifies for sharing even though the events that provoked the thought happened almost 18 months ago.

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Speaking ill of the dead? Nov 2011

Recently I have been feeling like a stranger in my own place.  Things seem to be happening to British society and perhaps to society in general that suggest the emergence of a new orthodoxy[1] or group think.  There is one way to think and if you disagree with us then there is something wrong with you.

Take for example the recent death of Steve Jobs.  I know that he was an incredibly successful businessman and that Apple was briefly the biggest organisation on the planet.  But his obituaries have seemed more like hagiographies and I would not be surprised to hear that MBA curricula are being redesigned en masse to accommodate the supposed Jobs insights.

Yet Steve Jobs was far from a saint.  He appears to have been quite a troubled human being.  Whether these personal difficulties and his ways of dealing with them contributed to his and Apple’s success is probably too early to call.  Indeed it is too soon close the book on whether Apple triumphed in recent years because or in spite of Jobs; if we will ever really know.

We seem to be rushing towards conclusions ever faster, making up history as we go along.  I don’t know if this is because we crave more certainty or because we are asking fewer questions (intuitively I think it may be both) but I am fairly sure it is a bad thing.

The storm in a teacup over the remembrance day poppy seems to be another example of there being one right way to think.  In no way am I questioning the sacrifices of brave young men and women who gave their lives but this year there seemed to be some kind of moral obligation to wear the poppy.  You were a bad person if you didn’t rather than it being something you might chose to do in remembrance.

The issue over the English and Welsh football teams being initially banned from and then allowed to wear the poppy on their football strip is little more than absurd.  England had never worn a poppy on their shirts before. FIFA didn’t ban the poppy they simply have a long-standing rule against any messages (political, religious or otherwise) being displayed on shirts.  Why should it be an issue now? 

Then all the newspapers and politicians weighed in and it was not just the usual pre-frontal red tops and Eurosceptics asking whether we should tolerate this insult to those who had given their lives for freedom in two world wars, the Falklands, the Gulf and Afghanistan. 

Hang on a minute! Even a twelve year old will tell you that the first world war was not fought for freedom and as for the Gulf and Afghanistan I think we will need to wait at least 25 years before the release of documents sheds more light on the subject.

And this is my point.  The right answer today may not be the right answer tomorrow.  Assertions should always be and challenged and tested.  The way Steve Jobs ran Apple may have little or nothing with how to run your company.  If you want to keep learning you have to keep questioning rather than simply following.

I wonder with more and more “facts” being more and more quickly dispersed and shared throughout networks (which is essentially what social learning is about) whether wisdom may take longer to emerge?




[1] I am aware that the phrase “new orthodoxy” could be considered oxymoronic but I can’t think of a better way of putting it.