Alienation and the culture of terrorism

I flicked the TV on late last night just to have a few minutes with a cup of tea before I went to bed. Normal programs on every chanel except 7 which was showing live images from London. It didn’t look too good but it took a while to work out that there had been at least one further incident there.
I wonder what is happening in our world. My hairdresser thinks its something that’s always been with us in one form or another. David Wright-Neville, speaking on Jon Faine’s program this morning thinks it is just the most visible of a global phenomenom. The news reports like to refer to “Islamic Extremists” but Neville points out there are Hindu extremists in India doing much the same thing and a Christian Extremist in the US has just been jailed for blowing up an abortion clinic.
This got me to thinking about alienation. How so many young people in our world just cannot find a reason to keep living. The more “things’ we have, the less we seem to enjoy them.
Alienation is stronger amongst minority communities. In Australia this, to our shame, is greatest amongst our indigenous people, but is also rife in the lowest socio-economic groups where unemployment has grown to epidemic proportions and there is simply no reason for hope.
It must also be orders of magnitude stronger in non-Western based communities in a world so overwhelmingly dominated by the West. Power, prosperity and culture, it must seem, are the province of Western/Christian civilisation. This regardless of the fact that modern civilisation is most definitely not a western construct. So the people of the Middle East, in particular are not only devoid of power and mass prosperity, but their cultural impact on the growth of the world as a whole is ignored.
It would be little wonder that alienation would be the predominant outlook of young people in these cultures. Little wonder also, then that not only do they feel they have nothing to live for, they also seek glory in reaping revenge as their final act.
I despair that Australian Prime Minister Howard, has no sense of this alienation. He himself felt alienation in the Australian political landscape when his views where piloried by what he saw as political correctness. In response he has developed his own PC where any mention of the causes of terrorism and extremism are seen as excuses for these acts. In this he refuses to allow that there are any causes for these world views other than the pure evil of their proponents. The only thing to do with evil, in his view, is to root it out. In this way, he has succumbed to the world view of the extremist/fundamentalist.
While our reaction to extremism is itself extreme, those who hold power will continue to hold it whilst at the same time suffering increasingly at the hands of the culturally alienated.
Our only hope is that people of moral and intellectual rigour on both sides will stand up and argue for a different path.

What we think of our leaders

Leon Gettler wrote recently The Boss is an ass.
He was referring to a Melbourne Business School survey. He notes

Rankings of the chief’s competence and understanding of the business have plummeted over the past three years, from 4.36 per cent to 1.55 per cent. This was once the highest-rated quality, but is now the lowes

Interestingly, baby boomers are more likely to rate their boss higher than their Existentialist (born between 1955 and 1963) and Gen-X (born between 1964 and 1979) colleagues.
I wonder if this is a cultural difference rather than an actual difference. Perhaps baby boomers are still somehow attached to the idea that you should think highly of your boss. As more Gen Xers become managers, they are more prepared to call it as it is and say they think their boss is no good.
So the phenomenom the Melbourne Business School survey has identified has to do with increased honesty rather than decreasing levels of performance of CEOs?
Food for thought.

The dangers of culture change efforts

The Woodside culture chane program is over and some of those involved wonder whether it pushed to hard.

The quote is from Helen Trinca’s introduction to her article in the this month’s BOSS magazine. This was a lighthouse iniative[pdf] sponsored by former Woodside Petroleum CEO, John Akehurst and facilitated by McKinsey & Co program founder Michael Rennie
Internal Woodside program leader, David Rowell, reflects that

My feeling was we had pushed too hard … some people got left behind and became cynical, or they became extreme, they became evangelists for the program. Many of those [extremists] were not under our control and took it too far.

Rowell left Woodside about 18 months ago and McKinsey is nowhere to be seen having reportedly earned $30 million in fees for themselves and other consultants on the program.
It seems another sad reflection of organisations wanting results too fast. Nature says it takes 100 years to grow a mature alpine eucalyptus, but that’s too slow for boardrooms. “We have to be able to do better than nature” they say. Better than God? A sympton perhaps of false sense of omnipotence that comes from living in the rarified atmosphere of the board room.
Changing culture takes time. Sure, sometimes we need to change practices more quickly than we can change culture, but it we want to change culture and grow a lasting great company we have to give it the time it takes while making progress all the time.

An industrial relations dream

Finally someone is talking sense regarding the Australian federal government’s industrial relations reform agenda.
Tom Skotnicki [subscription required], writing in this week’s Business Review Weekly [Australia] makes the point that Federal Opposition Leader Kim Beazley might get a morale boost from his rousing speeches at the recent trade union protest rallies but it is likely to be personally counter productive to both him personally and his cause in forcing some changes to the government’s proposals.
Beazley is preaching to the converted and might just regain some eroded support from “Howard’s Battlers.” Skotnicki doesn’t accept it but Beazley needed to be there.
However, Big Kim’s address was largely symbolic. What he really needs to do, according to Skotnicki, is work the wavering government senators such as newly elected maverick National Party member Barnaby Joyce and get his message out to business groups.
Skotnicki argues that coming face to face with these employer groups would give Beazley the chance to demonstrate real courage and possibly also get his message across – ie “the changes are in his view unnecessary and will most benefit bad employers.”
Hear! Hear Tom!
It is just possible this is where real ground can be made in this debate and this is where the debate needs to be had. Employer groups are fair and square behind these changes. Anyone who has been in the place of an employer knows that we need to modernise our industrial relations system.
Equally, anyone who has worked in a union knows that workers need protection from bad employers.
Maybe, just maybe there is a leader somewhere out there who has the wherewithall to bring these two groups together.
Kim, have you got the ticker for it?

Extroverted Introvert

Calendar Girl remakrs that “she is as introverted as she is extroverted. ” never thought of that possibility before. For most of his life he has regarded himself as introverted on the basis of his shyness. More recently he has become convinced that he is extroverted on the basis that he loses energy whenever he is by himself for too long. He thrives on being with people.
But now, thanks to Calendar Girl, he is forced to think that he may be both introverted AND extroverted.

Time to be idle

Maybe it’s our age, but feels he needs more time to
be idle.

Don’t get us wrong. We don’t ever want to stop working. We have an
ambition to be still working into our 80s. However we want to do a different
type of work.

Sitting and thinking can be work. We love writing and we love sharing
what little wisdom we have picked up with others in workshops, consulting
and coaching. To do all that with any sort of accomplishment we need
to be profoundly self aware. To be self aware, we need idle time. Time
that is not taken up fulfilling deadlines, working late and not taking
the dog for a w-a-l-k. Idle time that is spent in reflection. Thinking
about why we do what we do. Idle time to talk, really talk, with others
who know us or who have ideas that may spark new ideas for us.

Sounds like the traditional ancient concept of university.

This profound thinking was prompted by comments by our co-bloggers
Bleeding Edge and
Leon Gettler
on the French book Bonjour Paresse (roughly "Hello
Laziness") by Corrine Maier which has just been
translated into English

We don’t know how serious Maier is but she taps into "common knowledge"
that all managers are useless, you may as well do as little work as
possible and what work you do do should be disguised laziness.

There is definitely a serious side to laziness. We once remarked to
a colleague in a well known consulting firm that we were frustrated
that we were not getting time to reflect. "Oh there’s never time
for reflection." he replied. We privately lamented the quality
of management advice most likely being given around the world by consultants
who do not have time to reflect.

We wonder just how effective our CEOs could be if they worked a little
less and idled a little more.

The world didn’t stop

The other day I saw a duck …
It was dead. But
The world didn’t stop
I did.
But everyone kept going
I laughed.
No-one else laughed
Because they though it
was funny
It was sad
Wasn’t it?

Chris Curnow, 1971