Brightwave Conference: 18th June 2012 Edinburgh

Why innovation is no luxury in Corporate Learning.

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Gordon Brown and Authentic Leadership

If ever there was a moment when Gordon Brown lost this election it was today at lunchtime when he finished talking to a pensioner Gillian Duffy and stepped into his car with the radio mike still on, and launched, much to the amazement of  to the waiting possee of journalists, into a irritated outburst about the interview with Mrs Duffy. Among the priceless moments, he told his staff that she was a bigoted women, this encounter was a disaster, and the interview should never have taken place.  His staff in the car are heard to mumble apologies.

If you actually listen to Gordon Brown’s discussion with Mrs Duffy, you feel that, as  things go, it went quite well.  Brown is all smiles, and charmingly answers Mrs Duffy’s questions.  She emerges from the interview feeling that Mr Brown is a nice guy and she confirms her labour vote. Job done.

His reaction back inside – what he thought was – the sanctity of his car is nothing short of astonishing.  To say the interview should never have happened, that it was a disaster, and Mrs Duffy was a bigot, are three exaggerations out of all proportion to what actually took place.  The interview was not – by any means – a disaster, she was by no means a bigot and there was no reason on earth for the encounter  to have been vetoed. This is an election after all!  And compared to Cameron’s ambush by the man with a disabled child, chicken feed for a man of Brown’s experience.

So what was going on?  Brown – ever the control freak – was caught slightly off guard by the immigration question.  He reacts in a classic way:  find someone to blame and get the nature of the incident totally out of proportion.   He is actually a long way from the charming, joking ‘I am a nice guy’ Gordon on display for the cameras. If you look at the footage, the moment between the final smile and wave, to the diatribe, is about 4 seconds. He turns instantly into a paranoid, unpleasant, and out of control boss looking for someone to blame amongst his staff and getting completely over-wrought in the process. Not for one second does he blame his performance on himself; it is ALL someone else’s fault. And his reaction before the apology, when confronted by journalists about the incident, is to blame them for broadcasting it in the first place. It beggars belief.

It is very poor leadership on Brown’s behalf.  He wants people to believe in him, and wants credibility BUT someone who so obvioulsy has a ‘front’ for the public and a real self for his staff, is doomed to never achieve that. He is no different from the CEO who stands up in a public forum and tells his or her staff how important they are and how supportive he or she is of them, and then yells at the first person to put a foot out of line. Long ago Tom Peters told us to ‘Walk the Talk’. It still applies, and it applies to politicians as well as company executives.  What a gift to the opposition and on the day before the final, decisive leadership debate.  As I said, this was a defining moment.

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James Martin: The Meaning of the C21st

‘We are at an extraordinary crossroads of human history. Our actions, or failure to act, during the next 20 years will determine the fate of the Earth and human civilization for centuries to come. This is a make-or-break century.’

These are the opening words of James Martin’s 11 minute film called: The Meaning of the C21st which is a synopsis of his book of the same name. James Martin founded and runs the C21st School at the University of Oxford.  You can watch the film here.

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It’s 1914 (What on Earth Can Go Wrong?)

I was at a play at the splendid Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne a couople of days ago. It was about the decline of vaudeville and was set in a slightly mythical Melbourne in 1914 just on the point where vaudeville begins to collapse (and much more beside). The opening song is a wonderful upbeat pastiche celebrating all the great things about it being the year 1914. Not only was the irony of 1914 not lost on the audience, but the irony of 2008 was also running through the rather edgy laughter. What if we are on the edge of a similar precipice?

I then read Tom Friedman’s column in the New York times the next day. And there he is saying that we are now in August 1914, 9/12 or the day after Pearl Harbour. Two things have come together: an ecological crisis and an economic crisis that will prevent business as usual ever again. He calls it the Great Disruption that will live on in the imaginations of furture generations as the Great Depression has now.

He asks the simple question:

“What if it’s telling us that the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall — when Mother Nature and the market both said: “No more.”

It is hard and necessary reflection.

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Rolling Stone Magazine Seeks a Younger Readership!

Forgive this cross-posting but I loved it! Rolling Stone broke the news about the leak of an excerpt from U2’s new single:  Get on Your Boots on iTunes. U2 promptly responded by releasing the whole of the single on their website. Check it out here.

In the Rolling Stone website commentary on this story, I loved Agnes’ posting:

Great Dance Track | 1/23/2009, 9:59 am EST

Hi My name is Agnes.

And at the senior center we bring
in songs to dance to and Betty
brought in this U2 song that her daughter had been playing and we
mature folk have been dancing something silly to this new song
I hope there whole record is like this we are having a blast.
Keep up the good work u2 these
are some nice boys making great
dance music and everyone should
not post anything but nice comments
about these wonderful boys who
bring a little fun to the senior

Get Your Go Go Boots on and disco dance like its 1976

U2 simply appeals to new audiences again and again!  I would love to meet Agnes.

For your information, the single is released onto iTunes in mid-February and the new album: No Line on the Horizon is released in five formats in early March. U2 are putting up a spirited battle against the dominance of down-loading, not by refusing to play ball, but by offering some really terrific alternative packages to the  vanilla CD.  Well done U2.  You really do pays your money here and takes your choice.

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A Good Man and True

Dominic Lawson has written a brilliant piece in the Independent on the root causes of the financial crisis. It is well worth reading. It castigates the belief that held sway, that risk could be predicted in complex algorhythms, so no debt was totally toxic if you counted in the risk. The smart number crunchers build more and more complex financial instruments that noone understood, least of all the Boards who were suposedly looking after shareholders interests. When panic set in, no human being would touch the debt, whatever the computers said, and the rest is a long, sorry story.

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Letter to My Daughters

Barack Obama has written a letter to his children on the eve of his inauguration. You can read the full text here. It is a touching piece: emotional, vivid and full of love for Sacha and Malia. He explains what his vision is, of the future, and why he embarked on the journey he did, which led ultimately to the White House.

It made me think of W.B. Yeats’ poem: ‘A Prayer for my Daughter’ which he published in June 1919. You can read the full poem here, and let me know if you agee that, fundamentally, both men wish the same thing for their children.

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Ada Lovelace Day: 24th March 2009

Suw Charman-Anderson used PledgeBank to set up a 1000 strong group who have pledged to blog about a female technologist whom they admire on 24th March to commemorate  Ada Lovelace one of the computing pioneers who worked with Charles Babbage and is credited with writing the world’s first computer program. She was also the daughter of Lord Byron.

Suw allowed 77 days to achieve her target of 1000 people signing the pledge:  she reached it in 7 days!  But it is not too late to join up.  Just click here and pledge away.  1000 or more people focusing their energies on women in technology will surely cause a ripple in the blogosphere?

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BEST OF 2008

Here are my top five films. Astonishingly (and never before) three are British! Followed by top five novels and plays seen or read during 2008.

In no particular order:

Lust Caution


Slumdog Millionaire

It’s a Free World

Burn After Reading

The five best novels I have read:

Restless by William Boyd

Silent River by Kate Grenville

Song Before it is Sung Justin Cartwright

Deaf Sentence David Lodge

What Was Lost Catherine O’Flynn

Top Five Plays

Ivanov Chekhov at Donmar (Wyndhams) London

Frost Nixonby Peter Morgan, Melbourne Theatre Group, Playhouse Melbourne

The Norman Conquests by Alan Ayckbourn at the Old Vic, London

Waste Harley Granville Barker, Almeida London

Creditors August Strindberg Donmar London


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Yes We Can!

What does Obama’s Campaign tell us about Leadership in the C21st?

  • The importance of vision and consistent values.
  • The importance of resiliance and consistency.
  • Humility and determination.
  • The simple need to thank people and recognise their contribution
  • The massive leverage of the internet and its role in building a social coalition
  • The need for passion and belief.
  • Not being driven off course by day-to-day rumpus
  • Communicating, consistently all the time.
  • AND don’t stop now you have won

This is an email he sent to his supporters in the minutes before his acceptance speech:

Mary —

I’m about to head to Grant Park to talk to everyone gathered there, but I wanted to write to you first.

We just made history.

And I don’t want you to forget how we did it.

You made history every single day during this campaign — every day you knocked on doors, made a donation, or talked to your family, friends, and neighbors about why you believe it’s time for change.

I want to thank all of you who gave your time, talent, and passion to this campaign.

We have a lot of work to do to get our country back on track, and I’ll be in touch soon about what comes next.

But I want to be very clear about one thing…

All of this happened because of you.

Thank you,



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Learning 2008: The Screen

A few posts will follow.  But this one is about THE SCREEN!  55 foot hi-def screen and 6 hi def projectors to display it.  Every pixel writable which gives massive flexibility and an awesome appearence.

Here are a few illustrations to make the point using the ABBA tribute band as a colourful backdrop.  Note the giant image of the drum kit is being generated by the tiny, static HD Camera at the very front of the stage.  The image is as good as either of the large cameras that were used to capture the other images.

The guy at the front of the stage is the original ABBA lead guitarist.  He is making a guest appearance and played fantastically well using his 1956 Gibson Les Paul.  The same guitar that he used in all the ABBA recordings.

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ANZAC Day 2008

I was up at 4.14 am on the 25th.  And like about 50,000 others I went down to the Shrine of Remembrance on St Kilda Road for the annual Dawn Service of Remembrance.  It is very moving and is an emotionally highly charged half an hour as the dawn slowly breaks. It dates back 93 years to the beaches of Gallipoli were 12, 000 Australian, 3,000 New Zealand soldiers  (and 85,000 Turks too) were killed in a futile attempt to establish a bridge head in northern Turkey.  It now commemorates all those Australian and New Zealand men and women who died in all conflicts since then. 

 This photo was taken as the crowds dispersed.dawnservice.jpg

If you want a flavour of Gallipoli, then this letter from the front is extraordinarily powerful.
The service helps us all make some kind of meaning with something meaningless and connects us across the decades with people whose lives never grew into fulfillment. A great morning.

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Just Back From New Zealand

Had two very special weeks in New Zealand:  a week in North Island and a week in South Island.  It included an invitation from the Business Round Table to listen to Nigel Lawson’s brilliant and challenging  Sir Ronald Trotter Lecture :  " A Cool Look at Global Warming" which tried to cut the emotion from the facts and think logically and cooly about the causes and consequences of global warming. A transcript will be available soon but the previous lectures are available as pdfs from such luminaries as: Francis Fukuyama  and Martin Wolf.

I have posted a selection of photos here, not of the lecture but of the astonishing New Zealand landscape. 

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