Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Midweek reflections

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It’s been a good start to the week: lots of items knocked off the to-do list, kept up with healthy resolutions for diet and exercise, and balanced convergent progress with divergent reading.  The diary is organized around half-term holiday next week, the first few days away in over a year. 

Small steps forward, but still some steps forward.  And accompanied by some ideas as I cross the week’s midpoint.

Einstein-IntuitionWhy is deductive knowledge prized over intuitive knowledge?

A hypothesis, backed by objective measurements and observed data, is considered ‘true’ evidence that settles discussions. 

But a hunch or feeling, based on experience or instinct, is suspect, not to be accepted without further investigation and verification.

Yet any breakthrough idea or creative concept, insight or epiphany, depends on intuition.  These can’t be deduced.

So, how best to use our intuition?  Should we be bolder about following solitary hunches?  Or more reflective in examining intuition for bias, for effect on others, and for alternatives?

Delaney - dualityIn mathematics a dual is defined as a pair of concepts that mirror one another.  People have been suggesting  various duals to me all month (or I may be seeing more because my mind is wearing this lens).

Risk / Reward is a constant theme in fundraising.

Anger / Fear is a way to rationalize the link between how people act and the feelings that motivate them.

Persistent / Aggressive is a reminder to consider how actions are perceived, especially across cultures.  Especially British culture.

listenLeaders should be better listeners.  Clegg, FT.com

“Managers can listen better by 1) Looking for ways to neutralise their biases, 2) Avoiding doing other things while listening, 3) Watching facial expression and lip movements to improve comprehension, and 4) Join observation to listening: weighing what people say against what they do.“

I know I should try to become a better listener. 

I can be too active and interactive in conversation, not open to enough to other’s ideas nor observant of their prosody.

Listening doesn’t come easily when situations are overloaded with significance and stress.  I have experience and knowledge, responsibility for making the right things happen and accountability for outcomes. 

And, as Heskett has observed, Unless the leader is good at listening, not much listening goes on, because people watch and emulate.

Falkner quoteOn long days traveling by car or train to pitches and meetings, my minds idles through worries and solutions, a healthy bit of war-gaming through scenarios so that I can take effective action in a variety of situations.  Since planning the future necessarily requires learning from the past, there is a certain amount of rumination as I watch the landscape scroll past.

Would having a friend in the car improve the process?

Anna North, writing in the NY Times, suggests not.  Sharing seems to intensify both positive and negative experiences; concern with friend’s possible opinions distorts the way we perceive and feel.  Consider ‘contagious anxiety’ where one person’s mood affects the other’s.

More delightfully, frequent discussion of the same problem can result in co-rumination, cyclic negative reinforcement of past problems that cause problems to persist longer than they otherwise would.  While this may also strengthen the bonds between friends, it may also make past events larger and emotional burdens heavier than they might be otherwise.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Autumn leaves and chestnuts

DSC09075 (1300x975)My days seem to grow longer as they actually get shorter.  I make coffee at 7 before the sun rises, reading the overnight news and sketching out the day while the warm rains spatter, unseen, against the kitchen windows.  I drive home from exercise at 7, headlights picking out the leaves and puddles, reflecting store windows and traffic signals.  A normal workday more than consumes the available daylight.

So I look forward to spending the weekends out in the sunshine, maybe a museum or a walk.  DSC09081 (1300x958)Today it was the South Hill Park Arts Centre in Berkshire.  ‘back in the day, I was a member of the Kirkland Arts Center, taking weekly classes in still life and charcoals, life drawing and pastel techniques.  This feels much the same, studios and student exhibitions, class announcements and seminars.  If it were closer, I’d be tempted back into the routine.

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The difference is the rambling mansion set into rolling grounds.  Three trails loop around the lakes and through the forests, wooden sculptures punctuating the turns.  DSC09085 (1300x1047)It’s not spectacular art, but the trees in autumn were lovely against the lakes and the ground was filled with spiny green chestnut casings crunching underfoot.

I needed a lesson. 

The first was in recognizing the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’, always my life’s work.  The good, Sweet chestnuts come in the spiny husks and have tassels at the tips.  The ‘bad’ horse chestnuts have simpler husks and shapes.  I confused the two, of course, but collected a good cup or two. 

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The second lesson, still pending, is in how to cook the nuts for use in recipes and snacks. 

The British are, admirably, superb naturalists:  But I needed to take time to slow down and observe.

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The Centre had a movie (Arthur and Mike,an innocent road romance)  and a decent Sunday Roast.  But mostly it was simply nice to be out and about while the sun was shinning.  The days may be shorter, but a day in the countryside, autumn colour and chestnuts, still restores the soul.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

You can tell I'm headed back….

DSC09048 (1300x958)…because I'm pointed the other way, as Snoopy observed from atop his doghouse.  I do it from within a ferry, but the idea is the same.

Its been a good week but a lot of road time.  A few days in Maastricht, followed by a long drive to Munich for a day of meetings, then another day’s journey back. 

The discussions were good, and we enjoyed some seasonal Bavarian beers and cuisine to celebrate progress.  Oktoberfest was just finished, so harvest soups and immense slabs of beef were on the menu.

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Germany was rainy and cool, typical fall weather, and the traffic was typically fast and aggressive.  There is still more construction per linear kilometer along the autobahn’s than anywhere else I go.  The worst seemed to be around Stuttgart: the ring road was clogged with accidents, and the DSC09018 (1300x710)short-cuts through the city followed steep and narrow roads.

Levity came from the mural in a restroom half way back.  Otherwise, I tunneled into podcasts and ruminated through the miles.

DSC09014 (1300x1170)In Maastricht, the Christmas lights were going up as the leaves were coming down.  I finished my VAT reporting, worked the fundraising, and caught up with friends.

The ferry back was considerably quieter than the ride over.  The boat was filled with school groups, all taking pictures.  The difference was the near-maniacal focus on individual and group selfies.

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DSC09025 (1300x1074)I take a lot of pictures, but most are outwardly directed, thinking of light, composition, and the feeling of the moment. 

Scenery is backdrop for them: it’s a completely different way of seeing the world.