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Archive for September, 2008

Cometh the hour

Posted by Andrew Cooper on September 29, 2008

An imaginary President

An imaginary President

I’ve just been watching Obama addressing a crowd live in the US following the House of Representatives’ rejection of Bush’s Wall Street bail-out plan. 

He was doing a good job, but he could have done better. He persists in using long words like ‘philosophy’ which, to my mind, is a bad idea when you’re addressing people in the Flyover States whose votes you need. He must have said it five times.

Jed Bartlet would never make that mistake. If only Jed, Josh, Toby, CJ and the rest were actually in the White House. Bartlet was a Nobel laureate in economics, no less.  He would have known exactly what to do. And he also had the common touch. He knew that when the President addressed the nation he needed to imagine that he was sitting in a bar with Homer Simpson and his chums, explaining how to put the world to rights.

A typical American voter

A typical American voter

Obama also needs to tell some stories and to use analogies that people will understand. My infants/teacher/delicious sweets story, for example (see below) to illustrate how the current US administration left Wall Street to regulate itself.  

So, stories and simple words.  Verbs optional.  Varied sentence length.  And, usually, one idea per sentence.  Plus idioms: words they use, not words you use.  ‘Big Idea’ not ‘philosophy’: ‘Bush’s big idea was to let Wall Street run itself.  That was it. That was his big idea.’

Words are powerful, but the gaps in between and pacing are just as important.  Long gaps, sometimes.  Listen to Churchill who not only used pauses to great effect but also used some very long sentences, almost stories in themselves, broken up by dramatic pauses.  The gaps are needed to let it sink in and, vitally, to let them complete your thoughts for you.  It’s in their heads that this is lost or won, not yours.  Everything Is Psychology.

He knows all this really, but in the heat of the moment he forgets it.  So if Senator Obama would like to hire me to join his team I’m available at very reasonable rates. Certainly less than the $2,000,000 that McCain’s top advisor was paid to ‘help financial giants avoid regulations‘. Contact details are in the left side bar when you’re ready, Senator.

Posted in Bush, government, obama, politics, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Take a look at this…

Posted by Andrew Cooper on September 28, 2008

… for a very brief glimpse of another world.

http://view.break.com/487339 – Watch more free videos

Scary, isn’t it?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

iTeme

Posted by Andrew Cooper on September 26, 2008

I was digging around on Google recently and, completely coincidentally, came across three sites in a row which looked as though they were WordPress powered.  I glanced at the source code pages and, hey presto, they were!  This is one of them.  According to a survey in March this year there were roughly 163 million websites at the time with the number growing rapidly.  I’ve registered quite a few URLs over the past few months, and am about to register another one, so take part of the blame myself.

WordPress sites are easy to spot.  There are many high profile ones, but the easy to spot ones are often really good looking sites which are obviously aimed at relatively small groups.

It’s not surprising that WordPress is popular: it’s good.

A while ago I mentioned in a post that psychologist Susan Blackmore had coined the word ‘teme’ as a variation on Richard Dawkins’ ‘meme’ which referred to “information that is copied outside of human brains by some kind of technology”.  Here she is, writing about the idea – she says, rather charmingly – ‘I don’t think “teme” is a very good word.’

Well, I’ve come up with an even worse word – iteme – It refers to information that is copied outside human brains by some kind of technology which is itself about technology.  Hah!  I see your teme, Ms Blackmore, and raise you.  I considered tteme – or maybe t’teme (which has to be said in a Yorkshire accent) – but iTeme goes along with Ipod, Iplayer, Itunes, iPM and all the rest.  Like it?  No, I didn’t think you would.

We also need a new word for a website which is a blog as well as a website, if you see what I mean.  Many WordPress sites aren’t used for blogging at all.  Some are just blogs.  Others are both.  Perhaps we just need to go back to weblog and re-define it.  Or maybe weblogweb.  Tricky.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Indistinguishable from magic

Posted by Andrew Cooper on September 22, 2008

A 1955 airliner

A 1955 airliner

Last week I bought one of the new Ipod Nanos.  I’m listening to a Mozart string quartet on it as I type.  I’ve owned MP3 players for as long as there have been MP3 players but had resisted Ipods until now.  What convinced me to buy one was a. the price/specification: 8Gbyte, 22 hour (claimed) battery life, excellent functionality, b. Itunes synching is far better than the WIndows Media Player based synching of my current Philips machine and c. well, it’s just magic.  And, like all Apple kit, it looks really good. Plus, I’m a chap and we chaps like gadgets.

According to Itunes, the player now contains enough music for 36.3 days of continuous listening pleasure (that number looks wrong to me, I think it’s more like 10 days but either way it’s quite enough) and If I get bored with that there’s also a 12 hour audio book, 14 hours worth of podcasts and vodcasts, and 4 games (one of which makes clever use of the player’s motion sensor).  The thing could hold 1600 copies of the complete works of Shakespeare in text files.  Gosh.  The flight to Dar es Salaam is only 8 hours.

I know, of course, that there’s no magic involved in delivering 300 year old music from my shirt pocket to my ears.  The Melos Quartet’s performance is being reproduced in my ears by zillions of bits moving very quickly indeed between registers and some very rapid arithmetic.  Having. on an OU IT course years ago, manually moved bits one at a time between a microprocessors registers to make LEDs switch on and off, there isn’t much mystery there.  It’s the same thing, only more so.  But it’s still quite magical.  

I was 53 in August and, technologically speaking, it’s certainly been an interesting time to be alive.  A mere 10 years and 3 days before I was born Japan surrendered, ending the second world war which gave us the stored program digital computer, rockets, the jet, radar and nuclear weapons as well as over 70 million dead.  My earliest memories, in the early 1960s, were of the space race (I was five when Gagarin whistled (literally!) around the Earth and I’ve blogged before about the excitement of living through Apollo as a teenager.  

I remember a friend of mine being given a pre-cassette player miniature tape recorder in the days when we wer only had reel-to-reels.  In those days I recorded pop music (this was before I discovered J Hendrix and, OK I’ll confess, Yes and Wishbone Ash) onto a reel-to-reel from the radio and then cut out the DJ’s with a razor blade, splicing the tape back together with sticky tape.  I’ve also mentioned before visiting a BOAC flight simulator at Heathrow and walking through the humming frames (as in main frame) of valves which powered it.   And so on.

Head back 53 years in the other direction from my birth and there were still 12 years to go until Franz Ferdinands’ assasination, Queen Victoria had only been dead for 18 months and the first powered flight was 16 months in the future.  

It was Arthur C Clarke, of course, who suggested that any sufficiently advanced technology would be indistinguishable from magic.  To my teenage self, my new Nano would also have seemed quite magical.  I know that I would have had an irresitable urge to dismantle the thing to find out what was going on inside, had one been teleported back in time to the village near Henley-on-Thames where we lived.  I guess I would have known enough to say that whatever it was, electricity was involved and I might have figured out that transistors were something to do with it, as there clearly weren’t any valves (I’d have been right about that, but I wouldn’t have been able to guess exactly how many or known what an integrated circuit was.)

Returning to the present, we know, as a species, a fair amount more than we did in the 60s.  But by then most of the technologies we depend on today were well on the way to being developed and in some ways (commercial supersonic flight, the ability for humans to leave the Earth’s orbit) we’ve moved backwards.  By far the biggest strides recently have been in applied biology, but the combined efforts of Franklin. Wilson, Watson and Crick (Rosalind Franklin having missed out on a Nobel prize because they aren’t awarded posthummously) made the pioneering breakthrough which started it all two years before my birth.

If I could go back a mere four and a third times my life span and meet Wolfgang Amadeus (if only!), hand him the Nano and invite him to plug in the ear buds …. well, I’ll leave his reaction as he listens to his own KV174 to your imagination.

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There’s no such thing as a sure thing

Posted by Andrew Cooper on September 19, 2008

A banker

A banker

Of course there isn’t.  We all knew that.  Even the investment bankers who have triggered, as G W Bush put it, some ‘adjustments’ to the world’s financial systems, knew it.  Why, then, did they behave as if there was?

Yet again, it’s all psychology.  Economics plays no part whatsoever.  If they had behaved rationally, they wouldn’t have built an enormous bubble of pretend money using financial instruments that the vast majority of them (including, critically, those at the top of the firms which have failed) didn’t understand.

The situation obviously wasn’t helped by deregulation or rather, self regulation.  (‘Now children, here’s a big box of delicious sweets.  I am going now, but I want you to make sure that none of them are eaten although frankly I’m not that bothered.’)  But at the root of it is good old cogintive dissonance.  If you’re paying yourself a few million (or tens of millions, in some cases) a year you really want to believe that the machine that’s generating all that pretend money is reliable, fault free and will continue to do so, even though deep down you have an uncomfortable feeling that it can’t.  Cognitive dissonance simply says that if you want to believe something you will, despite any evidence that your belief makes no sense whatsoever. 

If you come across a fact or argument that is ‘dissonant’ with your belief, you rationalise it away so that you can hold on to your beliefs.  Beliefs are very much more important to us than facts – they are a vital part of the mental models we use to understand the world around us.  And as I’ve mentioned in posts on cognitive behaviour therapy, you feel how you think.  These guys really did think that they’d mastered the system and it made them feel good.  They certainly didn’t want to think that they were wrong.

But they were, and spectacularly so.  Astonishing, isn’t it, that no one spotted this coming?  Actually, no: It’s not astonishing at all.  Most of those who might have spotted it, and done something about it – notably our governments, which deregulated financial markets in the first place – were subject to cognitive dissonance as well, of course.   They couldn’t afford to admit that they’d allowed far too much deregulation.  And they really did convince themselves that the children would behave, even when faced with a very large box of delicious sweets.  

Virtually everything seems obvious with hindsight.  But we often don’t spot obvious things in advance. There are good reasons for cognitive dissoance being part of our highly evolved mental software: we need well developed mental models to make sense of the world around us.  But these internal models can have dangerous side effects.   As Mark Twain said, we can easily end up ‘believing things that just ain’t true’.

Here’s the BBC’s Robert Peston writing on his blog this morning:

“The breathtaking rises in the price of bank shares this morning are symptomatic of a stock market that is bereft of reason and is being driven almost purely by hysteria and momentum.”

Posted in economic meltdown, economists, psychology, thinking | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

A Consultantese/English Dictionary

Posted by Andrew Cooper on September 16, 2008

A dictionary

A dictionary

Whitehall Webby Jeremy Gould has posted some excellent examples of the awful management jargon which messes up the minds and thinking of managers in organisations, including government departments.  It’s particulary tragic, as I noted in a previous post, to see this going on in Whitehall.

Many years of campaigning against this toxic misuse of language has failed and it seems that we are doomed to live with it forever.  So the best we can do is to attempt to understand what it all means, so far as that is possible.  With this in mind, in 1997 I wrote a Consultantese/English Dictionary.  I updated it a little in 2004 and I’ve just added a PS.

You can download a small PDF of the document here.  Please feel free to pass on a link to this post, or the PDF itself if you prefer, as I’m obviously doing this in an attempt at shameless self promotion.  (Unlike the mega-consultancies, I don’t have a mega advertising budget.)

As you’ll see, the PS is a request for more examples.  Unfortunately there are hundreds, if not thousands, in common use.  Only one of Jeremy’s top 5 actually appears in my dictionary, for example. Perhaps we should turn this into an open source project.  When I have a moment I might set up a wiki.

You would think, wouldn’t you, that organisations would be getting the message about this.  They aren’t. Take a look at this example which I came across only last week, but be warned: you’ll need a strong stomach if you’re going to get past the horrendous first paragraph.

Please ignore the odd typo: I’ll sort them out at, er, some point.  I actually quite like ‘…rather than the latte.’ and might leave it in, just for fun.

Posted in consultancy, consultantese, dictionary, jaron, psychology, thinking | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Chrome

Posted by Andrew Cooper on September 15, 2008

A new browser

A new browser

I installed Google’s new browser, Chrome, yesterday largely because the most recent release pf the usually reliable Firefox keeps crashing and contains some annoying bugs (it won’t allow me to add more than about 5 bookmarks to the bookmarks tooldbar nor will it install Delicious.com buttons). 

 

Chrome is blisteringly fast but appears to lack some basic browser functions.  In fact it will do most of what I want it to do and, importantly for me at least, the bookmarks toolbar is fine.  Dragging Delicious bookmarklets intended for Firefox onto the bookmarks folder provides me with an equivalent of the missing buttons in FF and there are various other workarounds: see this for example.  I wonder if those clever people at Google have hidden things like the bookmarks folder so that we can have the fun of discovering them.

Wouldn’t put it past them: could be some more cunning viral marketing (like the ‘accidental comic’ launch) and if we work out how to use it without being told we feel clever as well and want to tell others.  Remember how that felt when you were little? ‘Hey Dad, look what I can do!’.  

They’ve also launched an open source project called Chromium so lots of add-ons and widgets will, no doubt, be winging our way very soon.

I’ll let you know if/when it crashes, but as of now Firefox is relegated to second place here at Mindworks Global HQ.

Posted in Network of minds, technology, web | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Invention number 2: the genetically engineered, lawn mowing slug

Posted by Andrew Cooper on September 14, 2008

A while ago on this blog I invented the nuclear powered tea pot as a way of illustrating the difference between an invention and an innovation.

A slug

A slug

I’ve just been outside looking at our lawns (that makes them sound rather grand, they aren’t but there are two of them) and the slugs who, as it’s now dark, are happily grazing on them.  

It’s been a great summer for slugs, thanks to the fairly constant rain, and dozens of them have grazed our lawns every evening.  Unfortunately, they don’t graze sufficiently well to prevent me having to mow the lawns, which I did this afternoon.

I have, therefore, invented the lawn mowing slug.  This is a species of slug which has been genetically engineered to sleep harmlessly in flower beds (i.e. without eating all the flowers) during the day and then move onto the lawn in herds (or whatever the collective noun for slugs is) and graze systematically from one end to the other, thus obviating the need for mowing.  

Obvious, isn’t it?  Why has no one thought of this before?  Please feel free to patent and develop the idea, particularly if you are a genetic engineer.  Do drop me a line when you’ve cracked it.

Posted in innovation, psychology | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Why didn’t they tell us before?

Posted by Andrew Cooper on September 14, 2008

Some unpredictably nice weather

Some unpredictably nice weather

I’ve been wondering a bit recently why economists are so bad at forecasting things.  After all, the one thing you really want to economists to be good at is forecasting, isn’t it?  Perhaps something is going seriously wrong in our universities.  The one thing you’d want architects to be good at is designing buildings which have roofs that don’t leak, but all the large building projects around here recently (such as our PFI funded FE college and Vodafone’s Global HQ) have featured leaky roofs from day one.

Anyway, returning to economics, Alastair Darling, in his infamous interview with Decca Aitkenhead, confessed that the credit cruch had come as a complete suprise: I believe he said that the first time he knew about it he was on hoilday when he read about it in a newspaper.  

On holiday?  Read about it in a newspaper?  There he was, probably the best equipped person in the land when it comes to getting economic advice, and he has to read about it in a newspaper just like the rest of us. After all, who could possibly predicted, except in general terms, that the combination of runaway personal debt and massive increases in property prices would all end in tears?  And if they did, why didn’t they do anything about it?

On reflection it’s not surprising that economists are bad at telling us what’s about to happen.  I mentioned my former boss’s ‘for every economist there’s an equal and opposite economist’ crack in an earlier post and that probably explains some of it. Also, the global economy is very much like the climate: pretty much unpredictable if you try to look further ahead than next Tuesday.  Unless you count ‘cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer’ as a prediction.

I came across this guy recently.  As you’ll see, he’s the world’s first stand up economist.  An academic economist who is also a stand up comedian.  It sounds like an oxymoron but he’s very funny and, coincidentally, mentions one of my Desert Island Quotes in his first Youtube clip so he must be OK.  He says ‘microeconomists are wrong about specific things while macroeconomists are wrong about things in general’.  LOL!  Believe me, if you’ve ever worked in a building populated almost entirely by economists, as I have (see biog, it was the same building in which A Darling is currently working, although possibly not for much longer) you’ll think that that’s very funny indeed.  

I’ll try to remember to say something about pscychological research into the phenomenon of hindsight in a future post.  The main reason that economists are always wrong about the future is, in fact, all to do with psychology.  But you knew that already because in a previous post I pointed out that psychology is relevant to everything.  This is a bit ironic because some economists are trying to argue that all psychology is economics.  They are, without doubt, wrong about that: I’d draw you a Venn diagram if I had a whiteboard.

The photograph, incidentally, was taken durng a holiday in Cornwall in 2004.  Those of you who know Cornwall may be able to recognise the spot.

Here’s another photo, taken from the excellent and environmentally friendly National Trust cafe at Kynance.

Posted in economists, psychology | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Changes to the blog and an excellent comment

Posted by Andrew Cooper on September 13, 2008

Regular visitors will notice that I’m using a new WordPress theme – hopefully it will make navigation a bit easier.  On the day I changed the layout, I received an excellent comment on the ‘business of generals and a famous mountain‘ post.  As I noted in the new ‘sticky’ introduction, this blog is mainly for me but it’s wonderful to see another mind dropping in like this out of the blue.  If you are Tanzanian (or, like me, someone who loves Tanzania) be sure to visit Tanzania Meet, a forum to which the comment provides a link.

Here’s another photo of Tanzania: the Indian Ocean at sunrise with a cumulonimbus cloud drifting over Dar es Salaam and depositing large quantities of rain.

Posted in Kilimanjaro, management, systems thinking, Tanzania, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Councillors, MPs, thinking time and cognitive surplus

Posted by Andrew Cooper on September 13, 2008

Without going into the gory details, a Facebook group set up to save the building you can see here has helped to persuade our local council to turn down a planning application to demolish it and redevelop the site.  This has left a £5m hole in the budget for the brand new £40m school we’re supposed to be getting.  Regular readers will know our son is in his penultimate year at the school in question.

It’s a bit difficult to understand why the council, who are in the lead on the replacement project, turned down the application.  Clearly the Facebook group and a local petition had a massive influence on councillors when they voted, but I’d be surprised if the 700 or so people who objected represented the majority view.  The words ‘foot’ and ‘shoot’ spring to mind.

When I mentioned this to Sam – who has spent much of the last five years being taught in the building in question – he said ‘Why do they want to keep it?  It’s awful.’  I said I thought that nostalgia was probably a big factor as most of the objectors are former, rather than current, students.  Also, of course, there’s the fact that people do like objecting to things: it’s much easier than having to come up with creative solutions.

Over the past few years I’ve worked a lot with local councillors and have been very impressed by them as individuals.  The are passionate, committed to their lcommunities, willing to spend hours and hours in meetings (my idea of purgatory, if not hell, I must say) and generally spend masses of their own time attempting to make life better for local people.

They have much more difficult and demanding job than MPs – backbenchers, at least, don’t have any real responsibility at all, they get a very good salary (and an even better pension and allowances package) and work in the Palace of Westminster with with its wonderful library, restaurants and bars.  I’ve seen MPs up close too and, for those who want it to be, there’s is a cushy life.

The main problem that councillors face is, quite simply, overload.  They just don’t have time to think properly.  Much of what they do is very detailed – dealing with complaints, planning applications, the latest of (many) reports churned out by their officials (or consultants hired by them) on instructions from Whitehall, and so on.  Because they don’t have time to think, they occasionally (and in this case, very expensively: it’s costing £30K a week to keep the new school project on hold while a solution is found to the funding problem) end up in foot-shooting scenarios as a result.

So, how do we fix this?  Yep, it’s the good old cognitive surplus once again.  There’s lots of thinking power sitting around in the community, but at present it often gets used in rather destructive ways like, in my view, the Save Luker campaign.  People have a right to try to stop things they don’t like, but let’s try to make sure that they don’t like them for really good reasons, rather than simply because they don’t like them.

As Prof Shirky has pointed out, social media and modern technology generally can be used in much more productive ways than simply organising petitions.  We can use it to engage people’s brains in thinking creatively.  I’m doing some work locally which is aimed at achieving just that.  More on that story later, but first I have to finish building a website or two.

Posted in cognitive surplus, consultancy, creativity, government, innovation, thinking | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The business of generals and a famous mountain

Posted by Andrew Cooper on September 9, 2008

One of the things I love about the work I do is that it gives me a chance to think about a number of different interesting problems in parallel with one another.  The work I’ll shortly be starting in Tanzania involves helping the organisation which is, amongst other things, responsible for the registration of births, deaths, marriages and divorces to develop an information systems strategy.

The word strategy is derived from the Greek ‘strategos’ which means ‘army leader’.  Strategy is about the business of generals and the business of generals is to win wars.  (I’ve worked with the military on many occasions and staff college trained officers often talk about ‘winning wars’, which isn’t very surprising.

Winning wars is essentially about marshalling and deploying resources better than the opposition.  Whoever is best at it wins.  ‘Winning’, in terms of the project I’m about to work would involve significantly increasing the numbers of births, deaths and so on – the things I now know are called ‘key life events’ in the world of registrars – which get registered.  This is really important.  In Tanzania there are a number of factors which make it difficult to win this particular war.  It’s a huge and, at present, very poor country.  (Tanzanians say, quite rightly, that thecountry isn’t poor at all: it has large gold deposits which have only over the past few years been properly exploited.  It has huge reserves of natural gas, offshore oil, gemstones and diamonds. And that’s before you even think about its stunning national parks (including the Ngongoro Crater, which I’m determined to visit this autumn).

It also has lots of people – or human resources, as we are now called – but knowing exactly how many is rather problematic for a number of reasons which are all connected with registration.  The project will, I’m sure, be fascinating.  More on that story later.

Meanwhile here’s a photo I took of one of Tanzania’s most famous resources (some people still think it’s in Kenya, not least because tourists often used to approach the mountain from the Kenyan border).  It’s stunning, as you can see, both from the air and also from the ground.   The view of Kili from the surrounding plains is particularly impressive because 4,600 metres are visible from ‘ground’ level – see the article – at least they are when the clouds which often surround the summit part.

The photo was taken from a Swiss aircraft (as you can also see) which was routing to Dar es Salaam out of Nairobi.  All flights taking the most direct route fly near the mountain.  On this occasion, the captain obtained permission to fly those of us on board (there weren’t many) around the summit, so we circled perhaps 270 degrees before heading off south.  Breath taking.

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Flipping the Tour

Posted by Andrew Cooper on September 9, 2008

Yesterday the second stage of the Tour of Britain cycle race ended in Newbury so I went along equipped with my Flip camera (use the search facility in the sidebar to find previous Flip related posts) and shot a few videos.  It was tremendously exciting – you get some feel of it from the following, but the build up: with sirens wailing, a helicopter overhead then ninety five riders (plus numerous outriders, camera bikes and support vehicles racing flat out down our narrow high street … well, you had to be there.)

At the end, those of us at the north end of the High Street dashed through to the road where the race actually finished – you can see the mob heading off at the end of the clip and saw the cyclists (minus outriders etc.) sprint down the final 100 metres.

Posted in flip camera, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Sidetaker – yet another way to exploit the cognitive surplus

Posted by Andrew Cooper on September 8, 2008

What a clever idea.  Instead of shouting at each other for 34 minutes a day (see reference here) why not log into Sidetaker.com, air your grievance to a waiting world and let us use some of our cognitive surplus to decide who’s right.  Have only skimmed it but, it at first sight it looks really interesting.  People aren’t just taking sides, they are offering their opinions about the various domestic disputes that are being posted.  Much potential, I think, although whether it will increase or decrease that 34 minutes a day shouting I have no idea.  (‘Look at this, 3984 people agree that I’m right and you’re wrong!’)

OK, back to my rather impressive new online todo list courtesty of minddomo.com (see previous post) which has a lot of stuff on it. I’m more impressed by minddomo every time I use it.  It’s excellent for to do lists and project management as it has a ‘task’ function which enables you to give start and end dates for each activity on the ‘branches’ of the maps.  You can also insert symbols to show how much has been completed.  I’ve never got on with web based to-do lists in the past because they are all linear and mine are always mind maps.  Minddomo has solved that problem and taken things a step further: clever stuff and, as I mentioned, it’s from Romania.  Interesting things happening in Romania, it seems.

To find out more about cognitive surplus, visit my review blog, which is here, and to find out how I know about things like Sidetaker read the explanation of Bloglines.com on my changes page.

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Cognitive surplus – mind mapping

Posted by Andrew Cooper on September 6, 2008

I first came across mind maps in the 1970s at an Open University summer school and have been using them ever since.  According to this article, mind maps were being used back in 13th Century (and perhaps a lot earlier) but the man who is most associated with them these days is Tony Buzan who has published some good books on the subject (and also trade-marked the term ‘mind map’ – perhaps I should trade mark ‘er, but’ and make millions!).

Anyway, most of my mind maps are scribbled in note books: I use them questions for interviews, plans for reports and projects, to do lists, brainstorming and so on. I’ve never been much of a fan of computer based mind map generators and am not impressed by Buzan’s iMindmap product.  However I came across this online mind map generator, which hails from Rumania, last night and it looks very impressive.  Give it a go and see what you think

Posted in cognitive surplus, creativity, innovation, psychology, thinking | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Time, please

Posted by Andrew Cooper on September 4, 2008

A hostage taker

A hostage taker

I’d really like to post about two TLAs: CBT and NLP.  Regular readers will know what TLA and CBT stand for.  NLP is Neuro Linguistic Programming.  I’m not a fan of NLP (someone once tried to sell me something using some crude NLP techniques: nothing has ever made me angrier!) but many people are, and I’d like to compare and contrast the two approaches.  When I’ve completed my retail product – just one final push needed – I’ll get back to that.

Meanwhile, I see that the Whitehall Innovation Hub’s Google listing has finally overtaken mine.  Simon Dickson’s post is still one place ahead of them, and Google currently shows an extract of my comment on Simon’s post ‘not entirely sure why it’s a ‘Whitehall’ innovation ‘hub’ etc.’

Let’s hope they start innovating very soon.  The Chancellor’s attempt to drive the economy into recession even faster than it was already heading in that direction can’t have made him very popular with his next door neigbour, IMO.

Do you think, incidentally, that Darling might have been a victim of Stockholm syndrome, when he made those remarks?  Snuggled up around a peat fire with the lovely Decca Aitkenhead (see photo), perhaps sipping on a dram or two of a fine single malt (make mine a Laphroaig, if you’re buying), he’d not only been taken hostage by the enemy (as his former boss, T Blair, clearly saw journalists) but had begun to show signs of, er, loyalty to the hostage taker.

No doubt it’ll all come out in his memoirs, which he should be able to start writing fairly soon.  As Charles Clarke has pointed out, many Labour politicians are going to have a lot of spare time on their hands in the not too distant future.

If I had any confidence in any of the alternatives to New Labour I’d be happier, but – as I’ve pointed out before – it’s not the people who are at fault: the system is broken.  As the late, great, Douglas Adams almost said, the last people who should be put in positions of power are those who ask to be there.  We need a system that puts people who at least have some of the leadership qualities needed by those at the top of government.  Darling, Brown and – increasingly, I feel – Milliband ain’t got ’em.

There aren’t political points. I’m a management consultant.  I hate seeing things badly managed, whether it’s Dell’s online ordering system (of which more anon), hotels or the country.  If the UK were a major corporation shareholders would be calling, very urgently, for its board to be replaced.  As it is, the current crowd are going to stagger on for as long as they possibly can, as they system allows them to do, like a group of wounded wildebeest hunted by some very hungry lions.   And, as I say, the method we have for replacing the current board doesn’t guarantee that we’ll get a better team next time around.

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Psychology is everything

Posted by Andrew Cooper on September 3, 2008

Life is rather hectic at Mindworks Global HQ right now.  I could almost do with an employee, but I’ve been there and done that and, as a result, swore never, ever, to have employees again so that’s not possible.  (I was discussing the notion of having employees with our neigbour, a plumber whose surname is – I kid you not – ‘Hose’ and it turned out that he’d had exactly the same experiences in that area as I had and now also works for himself.)

The reasons that blogging is taking a second place at present are:

  • the emergency plan I’ve mentioned before is coming along nicely: I’ve suggested it should be called “Being Prepared” because it’s all about, er, being prepared;
  • I’m working on three different web related projects;
  • school is about to start again and there are various things I need to do as PA chairman over the next couple of weeks before we have our new parents’ welcome event;
  • my retail product is very close to completion but I’m keen to make it as good as possible before I unleash it on an unsuspecting world and keep shifting my self imposed deadline back a few days;
  • etc. etc. etc.

However, returning to the title of this post, I came across this article in the Guardian while we were on holiday.  As you’ll see, it suggests – based on a Yougov survey – that the average UK family spends 34 minutes a day shouting at each other.  If there was ever a case for compulsory CBT (see various previous posts) for all, this is it.  I’ve tried to dig into the numbers but yougov.com doesn’t provide any details.

I could witter on about this for a few hundred more words, but don’t have time (see above).  I’d also like to tell you about my tale of three laptops but don’t have time for that either (headline: don’t order from Dell unless you’re absolutely sure you want to buy from them – they make it as difficult as possible, in various hilarious ways, to cancel).  Will post on that (actually, will set up a new blog just for that) and other things later.

Second ‘Psychology is everything’ point.  Alastair Darling.  What’s going on inside his head?  Does he not understand that markets are all about psychology?  Enough said.

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