I’ve been anticipating the release of the film Hugo this week.  So I enjoyed reading this post by David Herbert and his cogitations on horological spare parts.

What if there are no spare parts? What if every part of our biodiversified universe has its part to play? What if nothing or no-one is redundant? While our human drives are shaped by the principles of the “survival of the fitting” our organisational thinking should be challenged by working out the role of the square peg, and not just the round peg for the round hole. Neither round pegs or square pegs are spare parts.There are no misfits. Even the orphan in his secret hideaway in the clock tower is no misfit, but has his vital part to play.

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This morning I began to wonder about focus groups.  As I am not a product researcher or marketer, I have only questions.  I’ve found no leads as to how and where focus groups originated.  My instinct tells me that the first of their kind may have taken place in the United States and that they were focused on the effectiveness of particular soap powders or why certain breakfast cereals, jeans or vehicles are purchased.

In Australia today, focus groups are being used to assist political parties to develop policy and national responses to problems much more complex than my preference for a particular brand of chocolate.

Things I wonder if focus groups are held in a political context.

- do focus groups represent the whole community or only those who live in marginal electorates?

- when did we become customers instead of citizens?

- how do people get selected for focus groups?  Is the method different depending on the topic?

- who frames the questions and what kinds of questions are asked, for example, if we’re talking about immigration policy or climate change or aged care

- what weight do focus groups have on decision making?

- do governments ever ignore the outcome of a focus group they have commissioned?  If so, why?

- do focus groups in this context spend time on one issue (focus) on one or many (scatter gun) issues?

- who runs the focus groups and how is the material reported back to the decision makers?

I’d be interested to know.

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Yesterday when I looked up, this is what I saw.  Today and tomorrow and the next day it will be different.

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From time to time, I come across rules in organisations that have been made in response to one incident or because one person has transgressed in some way, shape or form.  This approach doesn’t do a lot for morale.

On a short break last weekend, we stayed in a motel along the way.  I was amused to see this laminated notice in the corner of the bathroom mirror.  I wondered what was the trigger for someone to take time to print off and laminate copies of this sign – one for every bathroom so that all guests could see it.

“I’m curious”, I asked when checking out.  “What caused you to put those signs in the bathrooms?”   “They were cleaning their car engines with the towels”.

Welcome to our motel.  We just know you’re all going to take the towels out and stain them up beyond recognition with car oil just like ‘they’ did.  And it’s gonna cost you when you do……

Lynn Walsh – workshop and meeting facilitator – Sydney, Australia

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I always wanted a happy ending.  Now I’ve learned the hard way that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end.  Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it without knowing what’s going to happen next.  Delicious ambiguity. Gilda Radner

Lynn Walsh – workshop and meeting facilitator, Sydney

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A Sunday afternoon on the island of La Grande Jatte

One of the paintings I was keen to see on a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago was Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat, the French Pointillist painter.  This is the work that inspired Stephen Sondheim to write the musical, Sunday in the Park with George.

Thanks to The History Blog, I noticed this.  To commemorate the 125th Anniversary of the painting the Institute has an adopt a dot fund raiser.  It’s such a creative idea to enable as many people as possible to support such great collections and keep them accessible to us all.

Lynn Walsh – workshop and meeting facilitator – Sydney

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iStock - pure water

This BBC profile of Brian Eno was broadcast last Saturday afternoon on ABC Radio National’s Into the Music program.  There’s so much in this 50 minutes of listening – about creating and spontaneity, on letting go of categories and labels, about what emerges (or doesn’t) from exploring and experimenting.  David Bowie, David Byrne and others talk about collaborating with Eno in his years as a music producer.  Then there’s the highly sought after Eno as consultant, demonstrating the value to organisations of a creative and playful mind.

Here are some of the ideas that caught my attention as they might apply to facilitation and writing.

on remembering thoughts that you have and using them

Very early on, Eno wrote down his thoughts in a list to capture them.  The paper list became too large to manage, so he created a set of cards which he called the oblique strategies.  Whenever he was stuck for inspiration, he’d grab the card and do what it told him to do. What are you really thinking about just now.  Incorporate – In total darkness, in a very large room, quietly – Who should be doing this job?  How would they do it?

on mistakes

Eno’s first oblique strategy was Honour thy error as a hidden intention.  “Working fast [as he did] there is a danger of overlooking interesting accidents. [Instead] … it’s an accident. I’ll pay some attention to it and see what emerges”.

on control

You can “be almost on the edge of control”.   The process is not chaotic, not completely lost, but “not so over-controlled that I’m bored by it”.  Eno likens it to surfing – the skill and unpredictability of being just on the edge of falling over.

on being asked to talk to people about ideas – his consultancy work

“The focus of having to articulate something to a group of people really makes you think about it. If ideas are just rattling around in your head without ever having to be articulated you can think you understand a lot more than you do”.

If you are the least bit interested in playing with ideas and thoughts and seeing what emerges, listen.  Some great music history is a bonus!

Lynn Walsh – workshop and meeting facilitator – Sydney

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yellow umbrellaPatti Digh‘s post Write to them goes to the assumption many of us make that someone we don’t know personally would not respond to acknowledgement of how their work has inspired, touched or made a difference in our lives.

It reminded me of a friend’s story.  Years ago, she attended a function.   As the event commenced, she was invited to join the official table.  She started chatting with the man next to her.   Before too long,  they were laughing and sharing stories about their children.  Among other things they talked about the joy that small boys get from all manner of embarrassing things.

As the meal concluded, the guest of honour was invited to give his speech.  My friend’s jaw dropped as she realised that she’d been speaking to the guest of honour, the head of state of a newly emerging country.

After he returned to his seat, he said to my friend,  “You didn’t know who I was, did you?”  “No”.  He smiled.  “Would you have shared those stories with me if you had known?”   “Probably not”, she responded honestly.

What is it that stops us connecting with people who’ve found some level of fame in their lives through their work?  What are they missing from not having honest and regular conversations with others of us having the same human experiences?

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                                                                       Czech Republic - Prague - poster wall

The photo of this poster wall in Prague got me thinking about the temporary nature of things.  In a previous (temporary) existence, I was a librarian.  Posters, from a librarian’s perspective, are collected as ephemera – printed material of passing interest.  Careful retention of ephemera helps tell stories of particular times and places, of fashions and passions, of design and culture.

This wall would have looked different if I had returned to it a few days or weeks later.  The posters are intended to be short-lived – temporary delights.

I’m a bit of a keeper when it comes to ephemera.  I have theatre tickets, postcards and brochures that hold memories of people and things that held some importance in another time and place - reminders of temporary experiences and those connections that didn’t last.

If you happen to be a mayfly, the description as ephemera (derived from Greek – epi – and New Latin – hemera – to mean one day) has a particularly poignant impact on you.  Scientists have classified mayflies in the Order Ephemeroptera, a short-lived thing on the wing as it were.  As such, adult mayflies really have to make the most of the time available.  The fact of here one day, gone the next, forces them to live in the moment and pay attention.Ephemeroptera - source Wikipedia - temporary

There are reminders everywhere that our lives are transitory.  I’m thinking it would be a good idea to live like the mayfly – grab a whole lot of temporary delights, fast ones, still ones, moments where I pay full attention and string them all together into one amazing time – however long that turns out to be.

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